A first look at 5 of the newest restaurants in the Twin Cities – Star Tribune | Candle Made Easy

From first light at St. Paul’s Kalsada, where latte art and brightly colored Ube pancakes reign supreme, to late at night on the North Loop Terrace at Guacaya Bistreaux, where Panama and New Orleans mingle in hearty and flavorful dishes, or even after dinner drinks and late-night munchies at Little Tijuana, a new restaurant vying for your attention.

This summer saw a slew of new mid-year openings in the metro area – here’s a first look at five of them. Note: First Looks are not intended as restaurant reviews, but rather as a pulse check to give readers the information they need to decide where to spend their restaurant dollars.


Like any national dish, adobo chicken is a very personal recipe. The enticing flavors of soy sauce and vinegar are constants, but how it all comes together varies from chef to chef. At Kalsada, owners Leah Raymundo and John Occhiato’s new all-day dining restaurant, the dish is truffled and braised, served as a sandwich for lunch or as an entree for dinner. Just like their unconventional take on the national dish, Raymundo and Occhiato don’t follow the rules of how a Filipino restaurant should look or serve. Mornings feature French pastries, along with stunning latte art and purple yam ube pancakes. In the evening, Instagrammers scramble for the perfect vantage point over craft cocktails and artful dishes. Ultimately, this is a unique neighborhood restaurant on the cusp of a national trend of phenomenal Filipino restaurants.

Location: 1668 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-340-0496, kalsada-stpaul.com

The food: A true all-day café, Kalsada wakes up the neighborhood with creative coffee drinks alongside fresh pastries. The breakfast menu is a mix of American and Filipino fare, with lively ube pancakes and golden congee with broth parading the kitchen alongside eggs and bacon.

Lunch features sandwiches (with skinny fries) like the adobo chicken ($16), a longganisa burger with mild pork sausage ($13), crispy finger-sized lumpia stuffed with plump raisins ($10), and the ukoy, a crunchy ball stir-fried veggies and shrimp ($12) dipped in soy vinegar sauce or patis mayo — or both.

A worthy dinner entree is the adobo chicken, served with rice doused in cooking juices, sautéed vegetables, and a hard-boiled egg. There are also delightful cocktails for tropical nights, mixing strong spirits with fresh citrus.

The atmosphere: The room has a timeless feel with vintage wall hangings, vibrant wallpaper, and cozy wooden floors and furnishings. During the day it is a counter operation, with the counter in the background. During dinner, waiters come to tend the tables, often a mix of young families and students. Daily orders should be taken to the back where the cash register is hidden. There’s also limited patio seating and a few convenient parking spaces in a small lot.

Guacaya Bistreaux

Pedro Wolcott grew up in Panama and cooked in New Orleans before moving to Minneapolis, and food seems to follow him wherever he goes. Sample the places he’s been on the menu at his new fast-casual restaurant in Minneapolis’ North Loop. Guacaya Bistreaux blends Pan-Latin-Caribbean cuisine with Big Easy influences, all served in a small window display or on an expansive terrace off Washington Avenue.

Location: 337 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-345-4981, guacayabistreaux.com

The food: A colorful selection of soothing, yet fresh and vibrant tapas set the scene like postcards from Wolcott’s past. The standout is the maiz a la plancha ($12), a large creamy bowl of corn on the cob topped with roasted tomatoes and cilantro-garlic aiolis. It’s a dish inspired by a Panamanian roadside snack that Wolcott grew up eating. Crispy little cornmeal pies, arepitas de lechon ($14), are topped with a hearty pulled pork and generously drizzled with crema. Empanada-shaped puff pastries are filled with an intriguing crawfish stew ($15) that evokes Wolcott’s time in the Crescent City, cooked at the Commander’s Palace, Cochon Butcher and NOLA Restaurant by Emeril Lagasse. Plato’s fuertes are hearty, especially the churrasco ($32) — grilled skirt steak draped over a campfire-like stack of yuca fries, with lots of spicy chimichurri and aji sauce for dipping. These fries can — and should — also be ordered as a side ($9).

The drinks: Flavors of the tropics are at play in the 10 cocktails ($12) on offer, some of which are customizable; choose your ghost or none at all. However, rum is the obvious choice, especially with Tattersall Single Barrel Rum as an option. Mezcal is a close second. Wine and beer are also available.

The atmosphere: No need to check in with a host – just take a seat as you head out to the terrace. QR codes are on each black metal table; Order food as you go (it comes out fast). Inside, tables are located at either end of a narrow, windowed dining room that aligns heavily with the motif of tropical palm trees — tables at the north end overlook the Cedar Lake Trail. If you crave interaction with the staff, grab one of a handful of bar stools.

Riva terrace

Attention was paid to Mara, Gavin Kaysen’s Mediterranean restaurant anchoring the gleaming new Four Seasons in downtown Minneapolis. But look up, to the fourth floor pool spot to be precise, and you’ll find another way to gain access to a five-star hotel restaurant. Uruguayan-born chef Martín Morelli, the hotel’s executive chef, oversees the menu at this Italian-inspired alfresco cafe, which is open to the public (but the pool isn’t).

Location: 245 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-895-5700, fourseasons.com/minneapolis/dining/restaurants/riva/

The food: A decent menu, casually Italian, leans heavily on the fryer in the first course and meat mains in the second. This may or may not be appealing depending on the weather. A day in the mid-’80s was too hot to fully enjoy the thick Riva Burger smothered in garlic aioli and sprinkled with crunchy onions ($22). A panini with mortadella, fontina, and arugula pesto was a crunchy and comforting option for lunch ($20). For starters, spaghetti-like pea sprouts coated in Caesar dressing were as tasty as they were awkward to flip on a fork ($15). Panko-Crusted, Melt-in-the-mouth Eggplant ($15) showcased Morelli’s deft attention to detail, turning the nightshade into something akin to a mozzarella stick; even eggplant avoiders loved it.

The drinks: Adam Witherspoon, who oversees Mara’s bar program, is the creative mind behind the reflective pool bar, where chilling concoctions are served over crushed ice like grown-up slushies ($15). The Crystal Palace, a Prosecco-based soft drink with raspberry, rose and lychee, was a snuffer during the recent heatwave.

The atmosphere: You’ll see downtown Minneapolis in a new way surrounded by glass towers from a sunny plaza above Nicollet Mall. Find some shade under a rust-colored umbrella at tables or settle into a sofa and watch happy hotel guests enjoy the exclusive azure pool just out of reach.

Little Tijuana

The only thing this new iteration carries over to the previous incarnation is the awning, the address and the promise of a good time. Little T’s opened in June with great cooking and bar talent. Travis Serbus and Chef Dan Manosack are part of the same group of owners behind the critically acclaimed Petite Leon. They worked with Bennett Johnson, who helped open Tattersall. All three have worked at highly regarded restaurants, but Little Tijuana is as far from fine dining as you can get — and that’s how they like it.

Location: 17 E. 26th St., Mpls., 612-385-4212, littletijuanaampls.com

The food: Think bar snacks for a modern era. There are plenty of gluten-free and vegetarian options, along with meaty bites for those who just want something delicious to soak up the booze. And all this at reasonable prices. The cauliflower takoyaki ($13) are crispy chunks of cauliflower fried and topped like the Japanese bar snack. The pelmeni ($13), pillowy dumplings stuffed with potatoes and topped with sour cream and a spoonful of chili crisp, are a throwback to Manosack’s days in Madison, Wisconsin. The chopped cheese sandwich ($10) is a tantalizing mess of beef and orange cheese.

The drinks: While there’s an eminent cocktail pedigree between Serbus and Johnson, the drinks here make no effort. A margarita is a margarita in a salt-rimmed plastic glass. The slushie machine churns out summery piña coladas and a variant of Fernet and Cola (except Amaro and Diet Coke with lime zest).

The atmosphere: The restaurant fills up quickly in the later hours and on Monday nights, with hospitality professionals watching as these friends have the time of their lives over martinis, fancy Long Island iced tea, and oddly cerebral slushie drinks. The space is divided in two, one side with alcoves and the other with a bar and some seating. While they try to limit the number of people inside it gets crowded. How cozy you want to be depends on your COVID comfort level. All in all it’s a pub for pub lovers.

Noyes & Cutler

The former Public Bar & Kitchen has been converted into a new steakhouse overlooking St Paul’s Mears Park. Slight modern touches have been added to the historic building while maintaining the layout, including the long bar and expansive dining room. Behind the project is Madison Restaurant Group, the same company that owns Handsome Hog, Eagle Street Grill, Ox Cart and Gray Duck. Justin Sutherland is culinary director; Chef Aaron Cave, a frequent Sutherland collaborator, mans the kitchen while Jorge Robertson oversees hospitality and creates the drinks menu.

Location: 229 E. 6th St., St. Paul, 651-968-1050, noyescutler.com

The food: The steakhouse menu includes several cuts of beef and numerous fish dishes. Starters include classic crab cakes, octopus tostada, and beef tartare. Entrees also include sandwiches, like a Wagyu burger ($18), stuffed trout in prosciutto ($24), and a variety of vegetable sides ($12).

Steaks ($28-$70) come a la carte, with sauces (Béarnaise, chimichurri) and sides (sautéed mushrooms, grilled broccolini) at an additional cost. In true steakhouse fashion, there’s a weekend prime rib special. Also at weekends: brunch and lunch menus.

The drinks: Cocktails are subtle twists on classics like a 4 Roses Bourbon Old Fashioned or an Aviation called Violet Pilot, using Far North’s seasonal Anna’s Garden Gin. All are $14. Wines are accessible in price and taste; Beer is a mix of local and national beers.

The atmosphere: The wide, open interior is impressive but can be overwhelming. The host booth is at the back, which can cause confusion for people wandering around looking for a seat on the patio. The terrace is out on the sidewalk across from Mears Park and is an excellent vantage point for people-watching.

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