Ryan Nelson opened his first solo restaurant four years ago, but escaping the northside shopping grind in his sleek yet woodsy strip-mall supper club never gets old. How many times have we stashed a bag under one of the barstools inside the foyer to sip a kicky tequila Sancho and gaze past the glass shelves at tables of regulars doted on by an apron-clad staff? And while Nelson branched out into the smoked-meat business in 2014 with his popular North End Barbecue & Moonshine in Nora, it’s clear where his true polish and panache lie. He even returned the North End’s earthy Kennebec fries, shimmering with bone-marrow butter and jalapeños, to his flagship enterprise, where diners had lamented their disappearance. If you dine here but once a year, you can bet on comfy, well-constructed standards such as the salt-cod brandade, the caviar pie, or whole fish boned tableside. But Nelson works in enough of-the-moment creations to keep things interesting for those who drop in more often: venison carpaccio with a french-fry salad, toasted cauliflower with raisins and almonds, or delicately seasoned rabbit biscuits and gravy with carrots and shiitake mushrooms. The rich, elegant dishes may want for an earthy Italian red or a local brew, but bartender James Foust’s cocktails are some of the most aromatic and balanced in town, including the fruity, gin-based Summers in Rangoon, and the refreshingly floral Roundabout.
TIP: Despite its placement in a former Smith & Hawken store in the middle of a shopping district, Late Harvest’s patio is one of the city’s most charming outdoor spots.
DON’T MISS: A side of the potatoes Minneapolis, a massive, perfectly crisped hash brown topped with sour cream and bacon lardons.
8605 River Crossing Blvd., 663-8063, lateharvestkitchen.com
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