Barbette, La Grassa, and more: The most popular dishes at your favorite restaurants
When you go out to eat, do you ever stare at the menu for minutes on end, waffling over what to order? Do you ever wonder if the restaurant's regulars know something you don't? Here's a handy guide to what customers order most at some of the Twin Cities' most popular eateries, plus recommendations from the chefs. Check in next week for more restaurants.
Most popular: "Anything fish. Fish are definitely our top sales item," says chef Kevin Kathman. Barbette's fish specials change daily, but a regular staple is Alaskan cod. It's served with pea leaves sautéed in brown butter, a salad of raw green beans and radishes, and a cherry tomato compote ($26).
Chef's choice: Kathman's personal favorite is the weekly lamb special. "I get in a whole lamb a week. Then we'll do a tasting of lamb. We'll do anywhere from five to six preparations on a single plate." For example, a plate might include a grilled, marinated chop, a butter-braised T-bone, lamb bacon, a little disk of braised short ribs, or something Kathman describes as a "lamb and black truffle explosion": braised lamb shank and black truffles are mixed and lightly breaded with smoked paprika and a gelatinous sauce that liquefies when heated. The disk is fried "like a tiny hockey puck," and creates a sensual explosion of flavors when it's punctured.
BAR LA GRASSA
Most popular: "I'd say one thing for sure is the soft egg and lobster," says head chef Erik Sather. It's a bruschetta appetizer, served on grilled bread, with poached lobster, a soft egg scramble, white truffle oil, and chives ($13). Another favorite: the gnocchi with cauliflower and orange zest ($8 or $16).
Chef's choice: Sather is partial to the orecchiette with braised rabbit, served with pancetta and porcini mushrooms ($8 or $16). "The cold pork plate is really good, too," he says. "It varies, but it's a charcuterie plate" ($6).
BRODER'S PASTA BAR
Most popular: "It's our No. 11, " says general manager Charlie Broder: the quadrucci con pollo. The dish is house-made pasta with fresh greens, chicken, prosciutto, almonds, asparagus, balsamic vinegar, and mascarpone ($16.25).
Chef's favorite: Executive chef Michael Rostance loves the fettuccine alla Bolognese, a house-made pasta with classic meat sauce ($11.25).
TOWN TALK DINER
Most popular: The Kitchen Sink Burger, a half-pound burger with bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato, and a Kitchen Sink Sauce of mayonnaise, house-made harissa, grilled onions, pickles, and jalapenos ($11). The cheese curds appetizer is also a big seller ($7.50; $4 at happy hour).
Chef's choice: Chef Tommy Begnaud is big on anything with pork, such as the pulled pork sandwich, made with slow-roasted pork shoulder and a smoky barbecue sauce ($10.50). He is also the inspiration for the menu's Begnaud Burger, a play on the Reuben with a corned beef patty, Gruyere cheese, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing on a pumpernickel bun ($11).
THE BULLDOG, ST. PAUL
Most popular: "Our most popular appetizer by far are cheese curds [$7.50]," says Tim Favre, the Bulldog's district kitchen manager. And not surprisingly, "we do a large amount of hot dogs and burgers. We do a Chicago-style dog that's probably our biggest seller--all-natural casing, all beef [$5.50]." The top burger, he says, is likely the Tillamook & Bacon burger, with smoked Tillamook cheddar and double-smoked bacon ($8.50).
Chef's choice: "We do a game sausage of the week," Favre says, "and they let me run wild on it. This week we're doing smoked bison sausage, with a blueberry barbecue and preserved-lemon aioli [$7.50]."