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What Was Awesome (and Awful) in 2016

Professional eaters and drinkers weigh in on the year that was.

Digging into the year that was (and a slice of Mucci’s pizza.)
Katie Cannon

As we dive into 2017, brimming with all the promise of a bucket of fried chicken and the end of a bender, it’s time to pause and look back at 2016 all there was to eat.

Speaking of chicken, this might just be the year of Revival. The fried chicken juggernaut in South Minneapolis expanded to St. Paul (starting real business hours December 26) and is now serving a succulent selection of barbecue in addition to the poultry and that burger that fans freak out about. 2016 saw Nick Rancone and Thomas Boemer open at the new Vikings Stadium, take over the Cheeky Monkey space and 2017 will be filled with even more from these two with an expansion of the Minneapolis location and then major work on a new restaurant and food hall in the former Schmidt Brewery.

However, we can’t talk about restaurants this year without noting the significant closures: Vincent A Restaurant at the end of last year, Nye’s Polonaise Room, Ichiban, Brasserie Zentral, Saffron, Heartland and Piccolo (who will close at the end of this year.) These restaurants changed our eating landscape for the better and for that, we will be forever grateful.

In addition to these and all the other major headlines of the year, we turn to the areas critics and tastemakers to find out what those who eat and drink for a living have to say about this crazy year.

The newest, newcomer: Revival St. Paul
Katie Cannon

Today we ask, what were the top newcomers of this year?

Sue Zelickson of Minnesota Monthly Magazine and founder of the Charlie Awards:

“Cafe Alma and Eastside (if that still counts as this year).”

James Norton, editor Heavy Table

Young Joni, Milkjam Creamery, and Tullibee. Two of these (Young Joni and Milkjam) are extensions of existing restaurant groups by experienced local chefs (Ann Kim and Sameh Wadi respectively) and the third is an Austin chef who has quite ably parachuted into the hottest part of town and established a dynamic presence.

Frank Haataja of The Minnesota Skinny

“The Hi Lo Diner.”

John Garland, editor The Growler

“Cafe Alma is the most singular achievement of the year. Tori Ramen is a huge step up for St. Paul neighborhood dining. Handsome Hog is the powerhouse southern joint St. Paul badly needed. And everything about Hi-Lo Diner makes me giddy.”

Milk
Ice cream for every meal.
Katie Cannon

Molly Mogren, Hey Elenor

“Is Milkjam a restaurant? I've never been a big ice cream person, but I'd eat breakfast, lunch and dinner there.”

Nancy Ngo, the Pioneer Press

“Mucci’s Italian, Handsome Hog, Tori Ramen, Upton 43, and St. Genevieve.”

Erik Eastman co-owner of Easy & Oskey

“Tori Ramen. Their concept is clear, their food is ultra crave-able, and the space matches both those components perfectly. Home run.”

Q Fantatic
The spread at Q Fanatic.
Katie Cannon

Jason DeRusha, WCCO and Minnesota Monthly

“Mucci’s, The Dirty Bird, Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, Q Fanatic’s Minneapolis location, Alma’s Cafe: the big wins of 2016 were all about casual dining with big flavors and big heart.”

Joy Summers, editor Eater Minneapolis

“Mucci’s, Upton 43 and St. Genevieve are all equally fantastic at what they do. I’m also thrilled to dig into Tori Ramen and Revival St. Paul.”

Mike Marcotte, Local Guy About Town for KSTP, Twin Cities Live

“PinKu is a hidden gem, so don’t tell anyone about it. The potstickers are amazing. I’m also a fan of Spitz in Northeast Minneapolis. Four words: sweet potato waffle fries. These fast casual models are taking over from the elegant, sit down experiences of 2015 and before.”

Alex Lodner, contributor Eater Minneapolis

“Revival 2.0, Young Joni and Tori Ramen.”

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