It’s been a delicious year in Minneapolis and St. Paul dominated by cozy neighborhood eateries popping up all over with warm service, pretty rooms and plenty of craft brews on tap. Restauranteurs and chefs have reached back to their roots to create fresh and modern restaurants that we can help, but love. And now, without further ado (drumroll, please), we are thrilled to announce the Eater Award winners for 2016.
Restaurant of the Year: Mucci’s
No one creates the warmth and hospitality like Tim Niver. His other restaurant, The Strip Club Meat and Fish in St. Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood has long felt like an every night dinner party thrown by some of your most tasteful friends. Mucci’s takes it another step into the heart of this master of service and style. It’s a more personal experience. He reached back into his Italian roots and the food his mother used to serve to share those flavors with us. In the kitchen, Chris Uhrich is taking classic comfort foods and serving them up deliciously. Not only is the humble red sauce divine, but there is also the new discovery of the incredible pizzas. (Get the one with the fried chicken on it. It only sounds crazy - most genius ideas do.) The knowledgeable, friendly staff are pretty much the exact same people that were working at the restaurant on Day 1, a remarkable feat in this industry. It makes sense that they treat guests like family. Mucci’s is exactly how and where we want to dine right now.
Readers Choice: Upton 43
Chef of the Year: Erick Harcey
Who knew Minnesota food could be so beautiful? Who could have ever imagined that lutefisk could even be palatable? When Erick Harcey first opened Upton 43, the chef’s second restaurant in addition to Victory 44, the idea of going to back to his Scandinavian, rural Minnesota roots sounds like something that might be better in theory rather than practice. Instead, the chef drew inspiration from his grandfather, funneled it through his modern technique and what came out were plates of art, scattered with subtle flavors that astounded diners from near and far. Eater’s own Bill Addison rightly included the restaurant amongst his 21 Best New Restaurants in America, and other national critics have followed suit, raving over his skill and flavors. His most ambitious project also pulls in some of the Twin Cities best chefs into his kitchen for what has become an intriguing culinary playground at special chef table events. Upton 43 simultaneously celebrates our regional past while paving the way towards a more delicious future. Chef Harcey cooks with all of his heart and the evidence is there on the plate.
Reader’s choice: Erick Harcey
Restaurant Design of the Year: Hi-Lo Diner
The glinting chrome, bright turquoise booths and chairs with wood accents makes this piece of living restaurant history feel fresh for modern times. The refurbished diner car arrived with much fanfare on East Lake Street and this Instagram bait is even more beautiful than we could have anticipated. From the mirrors on the ceiling to the walls of windows, it’s hard not to feel pretty by proxy while sitting inside the Hi-Lo Diner.
Readers choice: Hi-Lo Diner
Best Wine Program/Somm: St. Genevieve’s Brie Roland
There is apparently an entire world’s worth of bubbly wine to discover and we might never have known we needed it without Brie Roland, St. Genevieve’s general manager and wine director. The French buvette in South Minneapolis not only offers a wide-array of effervescent wines, but all kinds of varieties just waiting to be discovered. Take yourself on a tour with the eminently affordable half-pours or treat your table to a bottle of something special. It’s easy to find plenty of affordable pours alongside really spectacular, special bottles. Not sure what to order? Roland makes drinking fine wine as easy as sipping a soda (but much more classy.) Just give her a little information on what you like and maybe what you’re eating and she will pair it with something spectacular to sip every damn time.
Readers Choice: St. Genevieve