#4 – Try 4 new restaurants

Who doesn’t love trying new restaurants? Living in the Twin Cities makes it really simple, too, because it’s easy to bypass an Outback Steakhouse when there are fantastic places like Joan’s in the Park. How do they make such a good steak in a pizza oven?

So #4 on my 40 in 40 list is actually a pretty easy one for me. I’m going to visit at least 4 new restaurants a year, so this is kind of a gimme on my list.

The first new restaurant I checked out was on my birthday in February. The Highland Cafe & Bakery is a little diner in a strip mall on Ford Parkway in St. Paul. I’ve driven by it a million times and never ventured in, and I’ve been missing the best french fries ever. I’m not even a huge french fry fan, but whatever you do, if you go to Highland Cafe & Bakery, you must get something with french fries. They’re battered (beer battered, maybe?) and they’re so good. The waitress told me that a few years go they changed the recipe and there was backlash, so they went back. Thanks, angry customers, because the fries are delicious. I also liked the ambiance here, because it’s like a small-town diner, including a waitress who called me “dear” and “darling” and wrote our order on those old green guest check booklets, carbon paper and all.

The next place I tried was Corner Table in Minneapolis, and sadly, I don’t remember what I ate, but it’s not because it was bad. It was chicken something or other, and it was delicious, but that’s about all I’ve got. I really should’ve taken notes or a picture of something.

Then it was onto Augustine’s Bar & Bakery in St. Paul, which is in a building that used to be a laundromat. I drove by the laundromat almost every day when I went to my old job and I had no idea it went away until my co-worker suggested we try Augustine’s. We both shared the tator tots, which were the weirdest tator tots I’ve ever had, but in a good way. It was potatoes and broccoli and more all mushed together in giant tator tots. I’d definitely try them again. For my entree I had Augustine’s Burger, and while their fries were no where near as good as the ones at Highland Cafe & Bakery, the burger was pretty good.

The last restaurant I explored this past weekend when my mom was visiting. In┬áthe Pioneer Press I read about a new Inver Grove Heights place called 1.2.3 Pasta, so I was excited to check it out. From the owners of La Grolla, 1.2.3 Pasta has a casual dining feel with fancy restaurant food. We shared the Arancini, the rice and cheese balls in the picture, and then we split the Diavola Pizza and the special for the evening, grilled chicken and asparagus on top of the largest plate of risotto I’ve ever seen. Needless to say, we didn’t finish everything, but I was so happy to have leftovers from this place. I’ll definitely be back.