Today we announce the winners of the 2021 Eater Awards, celebrating the new restaurants and pop-ups that made the biggest impact in the Twin Cities since January 2020.
Eater paused the awards last year as the industry reconciled with compounding challenges during an ongoing pandemic, but through the last 20 months, restaurants have shown resiliency by welcoming the idea of a new normal. Establishments that made ambitious debuts during the pandemic have set the bar for the future of the industry and how it operates. Choosing these recipients is always a tough task, made even more difficult this year by the extenuating circumstances brought on by a global health crisis. With that, congratulations to the Twin Cities’ winners for Best New Restaurant, Best New Design, Best New Bar, and Best New Bakery. Each winner receives Eater’s illustrious tomato can trophy to put on display.
Best New Restaurant
Owamni by The Sioux Chef
420 1st St S., Minneapolis
Sean Sherman’s love letter to Indigenous cuisine is seven years in the making, when he first started The Sioux chef as a catering and food education business for the Twin Cities community. But the venture spans some 300 years longer if one counts the Indigenous land on which Sherman’s namesake restaurant sits along the Mississippi River. Now, he reclaims an important piece of history with dishes made from decolonized ingredients — wheat, flour, cane sugar, and dairy are out of the picture and replaced by a mix of Indigenous game, lake fish, birds, and insects along with wild plants, Native American heirloom farm varieties, and locally grown produce. While the menu is free from European influence, much of Owamni’s foods are familiar to anyone who has reveled in the seasons in Minnesota: toasty wild rice with that singular texture, dandelions made from pesto, and cornbread served with wojape, a sauce made from native chokecherries.
Best New Restaurant Design
A-Side Public House
754 Randolph Ave, Saint Paul
A former fire station in the booming West 7th neighborhood of St. Paul got a new life in August as a neighborhood attraction for small plates. The historic building dates back to 1885 and housed the oldest functioning firehouse in St. Paul until its decommissioning in 2010. When the city put the property for grabs in 2017, F-Town Brewing alum Travis Temke swooped in and won the rights to flip the storied site into a restaurant. The ambitious 135-seat project makes use of its red roll-up windows to reveal a 40-seat patio spilling out into the street. A 5,000-square-foot event space upstairs called Gatherings at Station 10 reminds partygoers of its former life. A well-rounded American menu is also reason to visit, filled with mussels, charcuterie, salads, soups, burgers, mussels, and sizable mains like chicken pot pie, branzino, and short ribs.
Best New Bar
3800 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis
This reborn neighborhood bistro sports a small but mighty bar where co-owner Travis Serbus’ bar staff goes deep into each season to craft cocktails with unexpected flavors. Serbus, who made his name working at Lyn65, stretches his skills to bring Kingfield a new destination for sophisticated, fun drinks that lean into tropical flavors. A vegetal refresher of mezcal, aquavit, tomatillo, pineapple, lime, and cava was the perfect way to celebrate the end of the shutdown this summer. Drinks are designed to complement a Mexican-leaning menu from its award-winning chef Jorge Guzmán, who showcases his Yucatan roots in a spot-on pollo al carbon.
Best New Bakery
Bellecour Bakery at Cooks
210 N 1st Street, Minneapolis
Minneapolis’s beloved bakery Bellecour joined forces with cookware company Cooks of Crocus Hill during the pandemic, and what started as a pop-up pivot quickly became a popular North Loop fixture. When Bellecour’s James Beard Award-winning chef Gavin Kaysen and pastry chef Diane Moua brought their French-influenced baked goods into Cooks of Crocus Hill’s Minneapolis location in summer 2020, lines stretched down the block for their laminated croissants, Moua’s ultra-popular crepe cakes, and unpretentious sandwiches. The fledgling partnership didn’t stop there, and St. Paul got its own shop-within-shop a year later. Cooks’ flagship location carved out a creative counter inside for Bellecour’s grab-and-go favorites like pastries, wraps, salads, and crepe cakes to go along with freshly brewed coffee and espresso drinks daily.