b*local :: BRASA

Time for another helping of good local grub. I was traveling for the holidays, so I only have one place to share this time. But it’s a good one. So I hope you’re hungry.

I went to BRASA on a Saturday night with a large group of friends, and it was packed. In my mind, this is always a good sign. We waited for a table, but let me just say now, the food was worth every minute we spent jammed into the entryway chatting and killing time.

BRASA is most known for their premium rotisserie chicken, but that’s just the beginning. There were eight of us around the table that night, and we decided to go family style so we could sample several things off their diverse menu. It was a good call. We ordered the whole-roasted rotisserie chicken with a Creole style dry rub, a helping of slow roasted pulled pork with garlic and lime, and a pile of smoked beef, braised and seasoned with sweet-spicy BBQ sauce. The sides were plentiful and unique. Fried plantains, rustic grits with cheddar, collard greens with smoked turkey, cornbread muffins with honey glaze, crispy yuca with citrus and garlic… each more tasty than the last.

Bottom line. The food is filling and hearty and soul-satisfying. Space is limited, but it’s a fun place to go with friends. There are a few locations (I went to the one on Hennepin in Minneapolis). Prices are good, especially if you go family style and share. Five stars in my book!!

BRASA :: 600 E. Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55414

b*local :: loring kitchen & bar AND masu sushi

Surprise! I’m back with more great local eats. This time we’re heading to Minneapolis. First up, we’ll hit the west side of downtown, specially, Loring Kitchen & Bar.

Located on Loring Park, this place easily combines the vibe of a neighborhood eatery with one of a slick, urban destination. It’s both polished and inviting. It’s the place city dwellers gather for Sunday brunch or a late night drink with friends and neighbors. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and have a full bar. Every single thing I’ve tried is delicious. Their cuisine is contemporary American, with a few surprises thrown in. I love the pizzas and desserts (pictured above is nutella gelato and a house-made cheesecake), had the walleye in the summer (fantastic!), and have heard rave reviews of their mini burgers. Every time I go, I get the sweet potato fries. They literally melt in your mouth. Perfectly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, they are worth a visit all on their own.

LORING KITCHEN & BAR :: 1359 Willow Street, Minneapolis

When it comes to food, sushi is one of those things I enjoy with great naivety. I know very little about it, but I find it entirely intriguing. My rule of “I’ll try anything once” comes in very handy when reaching for an eel roll, or some such thing. Last week, I headed to Masu Sushi and Robata for some adventurous eating with a few friends. We crammed six into a booth for four, and proceeded to down sake, beef udon, tonkatsu curry ramen, and four sushi rolls, including a dynamite, BLT, California and firecracker roll. The atmosphere of the places is energetic and fun. It’s Northeast location attracts a young crowd, and it’s open sushi kitchen makes for great chef-watching. Ask your server for recommendations if you are a clueless sushi-eater (like me). Our dude was super helpful, and definitely pointed us in the direction of some tasty selections!

MASU SUSHI AND ROBATA :: 330 East Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis

Happy Friday!! Go. Eat. Well!

b*local :: broder’s & paper hat

Broder’s Pasta Bar. It is one of my favorite places in the city. It’s intimate, rustic, good Italian food. Their house-made pastas are truly some of the best around. Their sauces are exquisite. Their food is prepared with quality ingredients and great care. I’ve been going there for years, which is saying something because I love trying NEW places. It takes something special to bring me back over and over again. Broder’s has that something.

I recently visited for a food tasting. The “Fresh Off the Boot” tasting featured meats, cheeses, antipastos, wines, oils, vinegars, sweets, and more, all straight from Italy. On a normal visit, however, I head to the Pasta Bar for something like the tagliarini di Locanda del Lupo, which is a housemade pasta with prosciutto di Parma, truffle pesto and cream. Yes, it’s quite nice. Beyond, really.

If you are in the mood for something more casual, however, you can head over to Broder’s Cucina Italiana. This deli-style eatery is also owned by the Broder’s family, and is just across the street. The Cucina features grab-and-go salads, sandwiches, meats, cheeses and pizzas. Their store is also jam-packed with all the awesome stuff I wrote about on Tuesday.

Yes, if you like Italian food, you must go to Broder’s.

BRODER’S PASTA BAR & CUCINA ITALIANA:: 5000 Penn Ave, Minneapolis | Final notes: go to the Pasta Bar on date night, and the Cucina with the family • stock up on Italian provisions at the store • eat on the patio on a summer’s night • buy a bottle… their  wine list is impressive! • save room for dessert

If you happen to visit Broder’s during normal business hours, I’d encourage a stop into Paper Hat Co. just next door. This brand new shop is something like a brick and mortar Etsy. It features made by hand goods that are original, fun, and totally fresh.

b*local :: soprano’s kitchen & mozza mia

HEY! It’s Friday. And that, my friends, is reason to celebrate. And, really, what better way to celebrate than with dinner out. Right!? Okay. So, today, I’m back with another edition in the b*local series. This time, I have two restaurants to write about. I hope you’re hungry!

First up, Soprano’s Italian Kitchen. This place is fairly new, and despite the cheesy name, it’s worth a visit. I don’t love the location (it’s in the Shops at West End complex in St. Louis Park), and portions of our meal were downright unremarkable, BUT, this place wins when it comes to atmosphere. It’s dark, bold, and inviting. Warm, without feeling claustrophobic. They sell wine by the litre, which was a fun twist. Presentation is top-notch, too.

SOPRANOS ITALIAN KITCHEN :: 5331 West 16th Street, St. Louis Park, MN 55416 | Final notes: great for couples or small groups of friends • order vino by the litre! • save room for dessert • the calamari wasn’t great • pasta for $18ish… large portions (we all brought home leftovers) • worth a visit, but i’m not sure that i’ll return anytime soon

Mozza Mia had me at “Pizza Pie and Mozzarella Bar”. I spotted this place while shopping on Black Friday. Since we weren’t rushing to get the 98% off gadget at some big box, over-crowded store, we wandered in and settled down for a leisurely lunch. I seriously love this place. I could go on and on. But I’ll keep it brief. Order the mozza tasting. They make their own fresh mozza in-house, and every bite is a little taste of heaven. I didn’t try their pizza pies, but that just means I’ll have to go back another time.

SOPRANOS ITALIAN KITCHEN :: 3910 WEST 50TH ST., EDINA, MN 55424 | Final notes: great for families, couples, friends • try the mozza tasting!! it’s downright amazing • the proscuitto gorgonzola salad was fantastic! • fresh ingredients, creative pairings • eclectic, open atmosphere • fun & yum!

b*local :: pizzeria lola

Happy Friday, dears! I am super excited today because I’m introducing a BRAND NEW FEATURE here on b*spoke. This one has been rattling around in my head for awhile, and so I decided to make it happen.

As most of you know, I am obsessed with good food. I love to explore the city by trying new places on a regular basis. Discovering a hidden gem of a restaurant is on par with getting new shoes. I know the b*spoke following is diverse–even international–but I also know that I have many local readers. With that in mind, I’d like to announce “b*local”. Within this category, I’ll be writing about local (as in Minneapolis / St. Paul) eats, art shows, concerts and the like. I’ll be drawing from date nights with my hubby, outings with friends, etc. Hopefully I will give you some ideas for your own wanderings, even if you aren’t local. My desire is to inspire you to get out, try new things, eat well, and explore your city with the ones you love. Go. Do. Play. Eat. Love. Live. ENJOY!

To kick things off, I’m going to let you tag along on a date I took with my husband earlier this week. It was Tuesday night, and we hopped in the car and headed to southwest Minneapolis for dinner at Pizzeria Lola. I’d read great reviews of this new pizza joint, and after a quick visit to their website, I knew we HAD to check it out. Go to the site now. Watch the video. Seriously, how cute is that??

As soon as we walked in, I was in love. Warm, cozy, and filled with a divine aroma, this place had me at hello. We were seated at a small corner table, where I was able to take in the whole scene before me. A huge copper wood-fired oven is the central feature of the restaurant. Tin can lights are suspended from the ceiling, and a small disco ball casts subtle specks of lights around the room. Playful, magical, fun.

The menu is eclectic and gourmet, but still down to earth. We ordered The Forager, which features sauteed crimini & oyster mushrooms, truffle cheese and truffle oil. Oh yes, it was amazing. We ate with weighty utensils off vintage china… a perfect picture of the contrasts of Pizzeria Lola. Modern, edgy, urban, yet sweet, whimsical, and homey.

Dessert was warm chocolate chip cookies (baked in the copper oven) with house-made soft serve vanilla ice cream that had a swath of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt on top. Sounds strange, right? It was sinfully delicious. After dinner, we headed for the photo booth. Oh yes, there is a photo booth. It’s three bucks a pop, but totally worth it.

We like to be a bit dramatic. Can you tell?

On our way out, with a belly full of delicious eats and a warm glow in my heart, I snagged a box of matches from the hostess. Can anyone spell a-d-o-r-a-b-l-e? Yeah. Totally cute, right?? In a nod to the Korean-born owner and founder, Kim, the front of the box features “I Love Pizza” in Korean. Nothing makes my heart happier than great design paired with good food. It’s almost more yummy than a great wine pairing! Really. And that, as they say, is that.

PIZZERIA LOLA :: 5557 Xerxes Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55410 | Final notes: a smashing success • well worth the visit • good for couples or families • $$ – moderately priced ($10 salad, $15 pizza, $5 dessert, $3 photo booth) • get the ice cream with olive oil • photo booth – a must • fun, fun, fun!!

All for today! Happy weekend, dears. Be back Monday…I think.

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