The Star Tribune comment section is a reliable source of lively input with no shortage of strong opinions. But some stories grab onto the zeitgeist and throttle it for a couple of days with wry observations and at least a few critical curiosities. These are some of our most shared restaurant stories that we — and readers — couldn't stop talking about.
We didn't know it at the time, but the lady formerly known as Stefani Germanotta was likely visiting Minnesota with boyfriend Michael Polansky, though we're still fuzzy on how exactly they chose Loring Park's Lurcat for dinner. Maybe it was the beautiful lighting and elegant appeal. Maybe she loves a floor-to-ceiling window moment? Whatever the reason, the comment section was on fire talking about it.
Commenter Sigh One said, "For a city that is really on the innovative and memorable music map, it makes sense that Gaga would be here often. Good connection to one of Minneapolis' selling points."
On Facebook, the notes had a different tone. Of the 218 comments, Jared Lanning summed it up the general reaction, "I don't care about this so much that I'm going to comment on it."
If there's a burger on your menu, we're going to order it. And there's a strong likelihood a burger will be present at most Midwestern restaurants. After a run of tasty, beefy bites, we knew we had to share the best of the bunch. From messy, crusty goods at Nova Bar in Hudson and the buttery on butter classic wagyu burger on brioche making its debut at David Fhima's then-new Maison Margaux to the sesame seed-crusted kofta burger at World Street Kitchen proving there's always a good reason to revisit an old favorite eatery, we were in burger heaven.
We could talk about all the discussion in the comments, but we'll just let Tiny Sota sum it up best: "Great list! It wouldn't be a Star Tribune comment section without these classic takes: 'I can't believe you didn't mention such-and-such burger' or 'My favorite burger is the best and this article is completely biased.' However, I'm confused about comments regarding the "messiness" of the burgers in these photos. These comments are really challenging my philosophical perspective on burgers: Do people like neat burgers? Do people hold the taste and organization of McDonald's burgers in high regard?? Do people think other burgers are good for intestinal health??"
There were several calls for a list of best veggie burgers, and that's definitely on the agenda for 2024.
More year-end restaurant stories
Whether the winter wind is whipping or the summer sun is baking the day away, there's always a good reason to duck into a dark and welcoming dive bar. The Twin Cities is filled with great watering holes, where the bartender is quick with a pour and fellow patrons know enough to mind their own business. In February, as part of our two-year Iconic Eats series, we celebrated those iconic dive bars, including such storied taverns as the CC Club, Dusty's, the Spot and more. We also poured out a Primo for the dives of the past that we miss, Lyle's, Nye's and more.
In addition to inspiring a lively debate on the merits of a dive bar, commenters had a few great reminisces of drinks well spent.
Nerowolf said, "The first time I played with a band at O'Gara's, I hit my head on the beam running the length of the stage so hard that I saw stars for two songs. ... Best night ever."
And Big Drone said, "Great thing about the Uptown Bar was the 'morning' after when you could get a cheap, but great Bloody Mary and a giant Denver omelet for $4.99. But you forgot the smell. It's got to have that old beer, kinda pukey smell to be a real dive bar."
Reporter Sharyn Jackson had a dream: to track down and report on every restaurant that serves pizza in the metro area. It sounded crazy, but that's our kind of crazy. Soon we discovered a core difference in the Taste team's restaurant reporters: Jackson is from New Jersey and spent her formative years working in a pizza restaurant. Her opinions about what constitutes a great slice are exacting. Meanwhile, reporter Joy Summers grew up frequenting the dark and divey bar/pizzerias of northern Minnesota — these were square-cut slices with super thin crust. They were split on the very definition of great pizza.
Thus began a monthslong search for the best of each kind of pizza found in the corners of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. There were discussions about char level, leavening methods, crust formation and all benefits of good toppings. The result was a full-on showdown of which pizza reigns supreme: from New York-style to the beloved Minnesota thin-crust (no one here is giving that credit to Chicago).
Taste fans were just as easily worked up about pizza as we were — and as steeped in nostalgia for the spots we miss.
Commenter Nerowolf recalled, "For the year that I worked in St. Paul in the mid-80s, we went to the old Red's Savoy every weekend, drank Grain Belt Beer from water glasses filled from a plastic pitcher; ate square cut pies on wax paper and served on a cafeteria tray. It was the very definition of happiness."
It's also worth noting that readers love it when others recognize our pizza greatness. Another top story was Wrecktangle's appearance on "Good Morning America," where it was named the country's best pizzeria in the show's United States of Pizza contest.
The ability to have access to restaurant recommendations is a perk of being friends with (or even friend-adjacent to) a food writer. We also extend that perk to loyal Star Tribune readers, who on occasion will email requesting advice on everything from eating out with gluten-free friends to where to dine for special occasions without breaking the bank.
Throughout the year, restaurant critic Jon Cheng anticipates and answers questions like that, and they've become some of our most popular features, whether it's tacos, the best Thai restaurant or ranking the area's best steakhouses. One that struck a chord with readers was Cheng's recent — and very full — weekend entertaining an out-of-town guest. He may have gone overboard, but we get very excited to show off the local food scene.
Many commenters were happy to see their favorites on the list, others were dutifully taking notes to create their own list, and still others were lobbying for their favorites to be on our lists (duly noted). But one commenter said what we all were thinking: "For your next article, take a local who has lived here all her life to new restaurants that she's never been to. ME!!!"