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Industry Experts Name the Top Newcomers of 2014

Who was best in class this year?

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Katie Cannon

As we put a cap on 2014, Eater surveyed our favorite local critics and writers for their take on the past year. We asked them eight questions: from Top Standbys to Top Newcomers, from Best Meals to Biggest Restaurant Grievance.

What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2014?

James Norton, editor of Heavy Table and author of the "Wendigo's Credit Card": "Top of my list is the whole Zentral constellation - Brasserie Zentral, Cafe Zentral, and Foreign Legion Wine Bar. Few places so perfectly capture the old-school Continental ideal of hospitality and teamwork, and the brioche and foie-gras stuffed whole roast chicken I ate at Zentral is on my shortlist of best things I ate all year."

Stephanie March senior food editor Mpls. St. Paul Magazine. "Heyday hands down wins for creativity and originality, Spoon & Stable wins for biggest splash and my new favorite drink (Crusta!!), Cook St. Paul wins for the simple and beautiful pleasure behind a solid breakfast, and Rookery/Travail wins for being the best show on earth."

A cocktail at Lyn 65. Photo by Joy Summers

Jason DeRusha anchor, WCCO; contributing editor Mpls. St. Paul Magazine. "Heyday!, Corner Table 2.0, Paddy Shack at Half Time Rec, Lyn 65, Cafe Zentral, and what's it called again?  Spoon & Stable."

Jessica Fleming food critic, Pioneer Press. "As unpopular as it might be with my many St. Paul readers, my favorite newcomer has to be Heyday. I haven't had such a playful, delicious meal in a long time. Brasserie Zentral is pretty amazing, too. Solid, well-crafted dishes in a beautiful atmosphere.

That said, Payne Avenue on St. Paul's up-and-coming East Side got a boost with both Cook St. Paul and Tongue in Cheek opening this year. Both are great for different reasons."

Mecca Bos, food critic City Pages. "Heyday is the most exciting, innovative place in all the land, Brasserie Zentral has the Midas touch for finery, Tongue in Cheek gets my vote for the best, most surprising thing to happen to the neighborhood I grew up in, Corner Table buckles my knees, I want to move in and live with Birk and Christina at Hola Arepa and humbly, gratefully receive their brunch each morning; Travail 2.0 is as always, the most fun, anywhere, and Spoon and Stable-- what's left to say?"

Josie Franske, editorial assistant Minnesota Monthly. "Heyday for refined, unexpected dishes. Libertine for affordable steak and dinners that can go high-end or lowbrow at the snap of a finger. Brasserie Zentral for bringing a lesser-known cuisine to the Cities. Hola Arepa was the perfect summer hang spot, and it’s cozy enough that I want to be there all winter, too—killer, no-frills food and such a fun atmosphere. Also, this little new place opened called Spoon and Stable, but you probably haven’t read anything about it at all.

Joy Summers, editor Eater Minneapolis. "Hola Arepa made my summer and I've already snuggled in during snowy, cold nights and been able to squeeze my eyes really tightly and pretend it's still summer. It totally worked. Plus, the Corner Table move into the roomier, more elegant room suits that gorgeous food so perfectly. Brasserie Zentral manages to be all things to all people with their different spaces (and just order the speck spaghetti - do it!) Plus, it may not be a restaurant, but the new Five Watt Coffee is a winner for coffee drinks that taste like cocktails with an incredibly appealing all around vibe. I clearly need to move.