The 10 best things A&E ate this year

From a locally-owned fast food chain to a chic spot for Japanese-Italian fusion, here are the 10 best things A&E reporters ate around the Twin Cities in 2022

by A&E Staff

In a year full of restaurant closures, we ate at our favorite spots like it was our last chance to do so.

Alas, three college kids do not have the time nor the money to eat at every highly-rated restaurant in the metro. The following list’s bias toward Minneapolis speaks more to the realities of student life than to a lack of depth across the Twin Cities’ abnormally strong foodie scene.

In part because of those restraints, we did not vote and rank on our findings, like with our other year-end lists. Instead, we put our favorite restaurants in alphabetical order.

The restaurants and their standout dishes that did rank in our top ten are surefire recommendations we would stand by no matter our logistical restrictions. Bon appétit! -James Schaak

Somali steak sandwich, $8.99 – Afro Deli (multiple locations, including 720 Washington Ave. SE, Minneapolis)
Fans of Somali spaghetti, a popular menu item at East African restaurants around the Twin Cities and beyond, might discover their new favorite sandwich at Afro Deli. The Somali steak sandwich combines “African spices” with the likes of mozzarella and focaccia, byproduct ingredients from Italy’s colonial presence in the Horn of Africa. Much like Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, the Somali steak sandwich showcases the resilience and adaptability of non-Western culinary traditions in the face of colonialism. -James Schaak

Encocado, $17.50 – Chimborazo (2851 NE Central Ave., Minneapolis)
I firmly believe one of the best feelings is finding a dish somewhere that continuously calls your name. Over the last few years, this mahi-mahi in coconut sauce with red peppers, onions, rice and sweet plantains has sung that siren song for me. That and the tres leches cake, among other things, keep me coming back to this Ecuadorian joint time and time again. -Sophia Zimmerman

Thai banana blossom salad, $14.50 – Hai Hai (2121 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis)
My parents love eating at Hai Hai and grabbing a beer at Grumpy’s afterward (spiritually, they’re like trendy Northeast millennials), so every time they visit, we try to do exactly that. The last time we visited Hai Hai, things went wonderfully haywire as the Thai banana blossom salad started to make us sweat, laugh and cry. We love spice and often seek it for our chicken wings, curries, margaritas, etc. but we also raised an eyebrow at the idea of a spicy salad. How is that possible? After one sinus-clearing meal, we now know. -James Schaak

Luxe burger, $21 – Lake and Irving (1513 W Lake St., Minneapolis)
This is easily the best burger I have ever had. I will admit that I am a less-adventurous restaurant patron who usually likes to keep her orders simple, but a friend of mine had spoken quite highly of this beef burger served with black truffle, foie gras butter, cheese and shallot aioli. If you too have no idea what foie gras butter is and probably wouldn’t order this burger because of that, I can assure you, it is nothing to fear. This artfully crafted spin on an American classic did not disappoint. -Victoria Schutz

Chicken pho, $7 – Lotus Restaurant (113 W Grant St., Minneapolis)
As a former rural Minnesotan, I had a delayed introduction to Vietnamese cuisine. But after discovering the chicken pho at Lotus, I immediately became a regular there. There is nothing better than a warm bowl of savory soup served with fresh garnishes during these brutal Minnesota winters. Not to mention the size of the pho bowls they serve. The “small” size usually leaves me with enough leftovers to cover another meal for the following day, perfect for a girl who dislikes cooking. -Victoria Schutz

Literally everything, prices vary – Owamni (420 1st St. S, Minneapolis)
Owamni has earned Sean Sherman, better known as the Sioux Chef, a long list of accolades since its opening in 2021. For better or worse, this means getting a coveted seat at this hotspot requires strategizing. I recommend walking in right at 11 a.m. for lunch or right at 4 p.m. for dinner and asking the host if there are any openings for two. Otherwise, look for midday openings on random weekdays months in advance, gather a group of your best foodie friends and request off of work. That’s what I did and literally everything I ate there made it more than worth the hassle. -James Schaak

Beef carpaccio, $19 – Sanjusan (33 N 1st Ave., Minneapolis)
Head to this Japanese-Italian spot in the North Loop for an intimate, inspired evening out. The beef carpaccio (wagyu, prosciutto, umeboshi, fried garlic) is the ideal small plate to share. Sliced so thin it nearly melts in your mouth, the umeboshi (pickled ume fruits) compliments with just the right amount of tang. Honorable mention goes to the yakitori. -Sophia Zimmerman

Salty caramel ice cream $4.90 – Sebastian Joe’s (multiple locations, including 1007 W Franklin Ave., Minneapolis)
Whenever I crave something sweet, I crave the salty caramel ice cream from Sebastian Joe’s. This ice cream shop delivers the perfect balance of salty and sweet in this flavor. I hate driving down Hennepin Avenue, and there are very few things I would make the drive for. A scoop of this handcrafted sugary goodness is one of them. -Victoria Schutz

Baklava croissant, $5 – Socca Café (245 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis)
Among all of Gavin Kaysen’s contributions to the Twin Cities dining scene over the years, his pastries continue to stand out for me. While I’ve long believed that Bellecour Bakery’s ham and cheese croissant is the one for me, Socca Café’s baklava croissant has given the former a run for its money. Between the oh-so-delicate flaky layers of croissant and its sticky sweetness, the Mediterranean-inspired pastry has made its way into my regular repertoire. – Sophia Zimmerman

Bali ramen, $17 – Tori Ramen (603 7th St. W, St. Paul)
Ground chicken, Szechuan pepper, chili oil, poached egg, fried leeks, green onion and sesame, all swimming in a creamy tahini-based broth? I promise this bowl of ramen is just as good as it sounds. Everything at Tori is made from scratch, and also happens to be pork-free. If you venture over to Tori 44, the Minneapolis location with a slightly more extensive menu, try the fried kimchi. – Sophia Zimmerman