Breakfast sandwich from Wee Claddagh
A bodega-style breakfast sandwich can go a long way toward making even the gloomiest of mornings a bit brighter. I stumbled onto this one recently when I stopped at Wee Claddagh coffee shop on Selby Avenue near Dale Street for my favorite morning coffee kick and saw this new(ish) item on the menu. The original, much larger Claddagh Coffee — with its fully equipped kitchen on W. 7th Street — has sold these, but this tiny outpost is my local shop. Up until the arrival of this savory handheld meal, most of Wee's baked goods were made in its small kitchen.
But now I have a new breakfast sandwich obsession. Piled onto a plush kaiser roll are an egg, just-melted-enough cheddar and a choice of meat. (I went with the correct answer: bacon.) The whole meal is only $6.80, which is a nice break when it seems like there isn't much in the way of a meal for under $10 these days. By the time I unfurled the foil, the egg yolk oozed ever so slightly into the bread, soaking up and melding all the flavors into one bright burst of optimism that made getting through the day a little easier. (Joy Summers)
612 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-493-7455, claddaghcoffeecafe.com
Alsatian tarte flambée at Chloe by Vincent
I once lived in Germany on the border with Alsace, France, and one of my favorite bar snacks on either side of the Rhine was flammekueche, aka tarte flambée. A cracker-thin flatbread is topped with sour cream, crumbles of crisp bacon and sautéed onions. It might not sound like much, but all together, the flavors combine into a distinct kind of French-German pizza that always transports me right back to sunny Schwarzwald.
Which is why I was elated to see it on the menu ($13) at Chloe, Vincent Francoual's new French spot in downtown Minneapolis. You'll find it, along with many other greatest hits of French taverns, cafes, bistros and rustic farmstead kitchens, from hearty cassoulet (pork and beans) to savory Breton crêpes. My dining companions and I ordered most of the appetizers on the menu — escargot, duck pâté, baguette and butter — for a little Gallic bar feast of our own, leaving us almost too full for our entrees. Almost. (Sharyn Jackson)
700 S. 3rd St., Mpls., 612-200-8041, chloebyvincent.com
Doughnuts from Donut Star
Taking over a beloved bakery can be tricky. Change too much and risk alienating an established customer base. Don't change enough and risk becoming stagnant. Peter Sebastian, co-owner of St. Paul's Estelle and Mario's, hit the sweet spot when he bought this Burnsville doughnut shop last spring.
One of the first orders of business was bringing in Emily Poole, formerly of Cardigan Donuts, as executive pastry chef to return the shop to a scratch-made bakery. Another, getting the word out that production has increased, so they're no longer sold out by 9 a.m. (A boon for late risers.) And finally, a remodeling that took the quaint but dated shop and made it bright and colorful — like adding sprinkles.
Then there's the doughnuts. Follow Donut Star on Instagram and you'll be instantly smitten. The mainstays are all there: cake, old fashioned, raised, glazed, frosted, filled, sprinkled, sugared. There's also Cruller Fridays, fritters, cookies and cheesecake cups. I dashed over after seeing an early-morning caramel roll post; they were already sold out. It's probably for the best, as I ordered a selection of doughnuts and they were true bliss. I've always been a frosted cake doughnut fan, but Poole's raised, berry-iced doughnut ($2) has me second-guessing that allegiance. Light, airy and pure, it's exactly what a doughnut should be. No preservative aftertaste, no corn syrup, just a really good doughnut. And, at a reasonable price point. (Classic doughnuts are $2 or less; specialty items top out at $3.25.) Pro tip: It's a busy bakery; avoid sellouts by ordering your favorites online the night before. Be sure to add sprinkles — they make everything better. (Nicole Hvidsten)
2901 E. Cliff Road, Burnsville, 952-890-3810, donutstarmn.com
Travail's Umami burger from Nouvelle Brewing
The latest phase in Travail's continuous reinvention takes the restaurant back to an earlier time, when it operated Umami, a pan-Asian tasting menu in a north Minneapolis fried chicken restaurant. That concept resurfaced as a pop-up in 2019. And now, it's inhabiting the basement bar at Travail's Robbinsdale complex, complete with dim sum carts and sake bombs.
But a hefty Travail price tag isn't required entry at their casual Nouvelle Brewing across the street, where one Umami dish has landed on the menu. The Umami Burger ($13) is, as expected, a flavor explosion. Two crisp-edged patties are piled up with roasted onions and bacon, crowned with white American cheese and drizzled with sake miso emulsion. Absolutely necessary chow chow (pickled veggies) and jalapeños cut the richness while making every bite pop. This is burger fireworks.
The Umami Burger is one of three burgers on the menu at Nouvelle. It joins the Broadway Burger, which dates back to when this place was Pig Ate My Pizza, and the Dream Burger, which comes by way of Travail affiliate Dream Creamery, the northeast Minneapolis ice cream shop. This burger trio is just begging for a side-by-side tasting. (S.J.)
4124 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale, 763-537-7267, nouvellebrewing.com
Hmong sausage from Kramarczuk's (by way of Union Hmong Kitchen)
Laotian- and Hmong-style pork sausages have become a favorite ingredient in my household as a wonderfully porky, herbaceous quick-cooking meat for weeknight dinners. Normally, we pick them up at our local Asian market, but recently we found a new brand to add to the mix. Chef Yia Vang of Union Hmong Kitchen has launched a collaboration with Kramarczuk's, the sausage king of meat counters in Minneapolis, to sell his recipe for Hmong sausages.
These uncooked and uncured sausages ($8.49 per pound) are just one of many varieties inside the case. Cooking them up brought me right back to last summer and the State Fair debut of Vang's Union Hmong Kitchen; one bite and I remembered the worthwhile wait in line, relentless sunshine and sipping coconutty beverages to temper the heat. These sausages are just like the ones from the fair: filled with galangal and lemongrass flavors with a really pleasant slow-burn chili spice.
They can be cooked as is, or removed from the casings, crumbed and crisped, like I did. We scramble them into eggs, place them atop a bed of rice and douse it in ginger scallion sauce or just nibble the sausage straight from the pan with abandon. (J.S.)
Kramarczuk's, 215 E. Hennepin Av., Mpls., 612-379-3018, kramarczuks.com