Today, the process of choosing this year’s stars in the Twin Cities restaurant world — the Eater Awards winners for 2019 — continues apace. After fielding many solid ideas from readers during the course of our month-long nomination period, it’s time to narrow the playing field. There are four finalists in three categories: Restaurant of the Year, Design of the Year, and Chef of the Year.
Here they are:
Restaurant of the Year:
Demi Gavin Kaysen has shifted the conversation about what it means to dine in Minneapolis and with his newest restaurant, he remakes the chef’s tasting menu. With two dining options, these menus are intently focused on every minute detail of the dining experience. Dishes are made with items foraged by cooks, on serving pieces designed to his specifications. Meals move through flavors like the edible equivalent of gazing at a masterwork of art for the first time. There are discoveries, delight, and a hushed awe of witnessing something great take shape. Reservations are incredibly exclusive. The tiny restaurant is open several nights a week and the books open just once a month, for a few minutes, before completely selling out.
Colita Daniel del Prado’s second restaurant, opened within a year of his first, and is packed nightly — just like the first. The mix of Mexican, barbecue, and fermented cocktails are as attractive as they are tasty. Each item here conjures late nights in some sophisticated hacienda, with convivial atmosphere, and deeply comforting, fresh takes on dishes.
Travail’s Minneapolis Residency It’s a tough thing to pull off opening one new restaurant, but Travail does this with aplomb every few months inside a temporary location on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. The location has hosted several pop-ups, each differently focused from 90s nostalgia to the flavors of Mexico city to Spain by way of Minneapolis. Each restaurant has drawn excited crowds and praise unique to the setting. Only the chef collective of Travail could pull off something so unwieldily and joyous with such ease. That this was all just a precursor to their opening of a newly constructed permanent home in downtown Robbinsdale make it all that much more astounding.
Willards Chef Erick Harcey’s return to his hometown of Cambridge has been an excellent reason to hit the open road this year. From the breakfast rolls to the evening cocktails, this new eatery inside a 100 year old department store on main street has proven a consistently wonderful draw all day long. Fans of Harcey’s former Minneapolis restaurants are thrilled for find the Perfect Burger still serving perfection, but the seasonal dishes are the real draw for dining here time after time.
Design of the Year:
PS Steak The 510 Building was already gorgeous thanks to its historic prominence, but the back dining room transformation has been a breathtaking addition, making P.S. Steak a total stunner. Dark walls, rich leather, a myriad of Victorian-inspired art touches, all are an ideal backdrop to this new steakhouse.
Demi Those lucky enough to snag a reservation at this exclusive restaurant from Gavin Kaysen are treated to a room built entirely towards the guest experience. Even the art is made from details significant to the eatery and the meal. From handmade dish details to statement floral arrangements, every detail has a purpose and a place inside this small room.
Colita The plant wall trend arrived in Minneapolis with the advent of Colita. It’s not just that plush backdrop to the bar that’s a design delight. The entire remade service station has become this desert-y chill-vibe hangout with a gorgeous indoor/outdoor feel with walls of glass that open in warm months and cacti planted along the edges year-round.
Hope Breakfast Bar This historic fire station received a glamorous restyling as it became this new all-day breakfast restaurant that St. Paul is loving. There’s a small plant wall at the back of this open, small dining room.
Chef of the Year:
Justin Sutherland of Madison Restaurant Group: From his star-making turn on Top Chef to his continual churn of new restaurants and new menus, it’s been hard to talk about 2019 without mentioning Justin Sutherland. He charmed the world with his warm humor and quips on season 16 of the Bravo hit and then came home to open/revamp OxCart, Gray Duck, Pearl & the Thief, Public, and more. He’s also been traveling the country as a representative of the new St. Paul, one that doesn’t necessarily go to bed by 8 p.m.
Yia Vang of Union Kitchen: From a pop-up to a semi-permanent home outside Sociable Ciderworks, Vang and his co-chef Chris Herr have been telling the tale of Hmong history and food with dishes that are now nearing on classic Minneapolis eats: Hilltribe chicken, Mama Vang’s hot sauce (made by his mother,) and more. Vang just launched a new web series on TPT called Relish exploring Minnesota cuisine through ingredients.
Jamie Malone of Eastside and Grand Cafe: No one else can meld the quirk of a Wes Anderson movie, the cerebral wit of a Dorothy Park quote, and the refined technique of Escoffier with the ease of Jamie Malone. Last year she unleashed a new version of Eastside on Minneapolis and the result is an unmissable opportunity to feast with friends. Whether enjoying the onslaught of a parade of snacks, ordering an utterly perfect whole fish with a side of punchbowl cocktails family style, or just creating a swank setting for elegant sips, the chef proves a master at taking over existing restaurants and representing them in a wondrous way
Daniel del Prado of Colita and Martina His first restaurant was an immediate hit with Martina, creating a gorgeous setting for Argentinian/Italian/whatever-he-wants-to-make food. Then, just a matter of months later came another stunner with Colita, an entirely fresh take on what it means to be a Mexican restaurant. Now, he’s eyeing a third restaurant at the back of Martina, set to open some time next year. Del Prado can’t seem to be helped in his need to open incredible, gorgeous, restaurants for the Twin Cities to fall in love with.
All of these finalists have either opened or come into their own in a new way since we declared the winners last year. All of them were key contributors to making 2019 a great year of eating in the Twin Cities. So please, take a moment to give these brave finalists a round of applause. Winners will be crowned, with much fanfare, on December 10, 2019.