La Belle Vie, Lucia's, the Nook, and more: 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.
At La Belle Vie, you can't go wrong with the halibut
LA BELLE VIE
Most popular: "I'd say it's the halibut right now," says Mike DeCamp, chef de cuisine at the Cities' toniest restaurant. The fish ($29) comes sauteed with artichoke ravioi, a green pasta filled with artichoke cream, artichoke chips, and espelette (a Basque pepper).
Chef's choice: DeCamp is a fan of the foie gras ($18), which comes from Minnesota's Au Bon Canard. At La Belle Vie, it is prepared with one piece seared and one piece as a terrine served cold, with gingerbread, hazelnuts, pears, and watercress. "I also like the duck on this menu," DeCamp says. Also from Au Bon Canard, it's a seared duck breast served with piperade (a Basque pepper mixture) and potato mille-feuille ($36).
Most popular: "The one standard that our customers love is the day-boat scallops [$23.95]," says Lucia's chef de cuisine Annette Colon. She serves them with Bordeaux spinach risotto ("or whatever spinach we have on hand"). The scallops come from a small family in Maine, Colon says. "We sear them in butter, and then we turn them over and turn the fire off so they're nicely caramelized" and perfectly tender. Because Lucia's menu is constantly changing, the scallops only appear every couple of months. Another recent big seller: Pan-seared Copper River salmon with a fingerling potato salad and garlic scapes ($24.95).
Chef's choice: "A dish I really love to cook is fideau from Catalonia," Colon says. It's a type of paella, but made with vermicelli noodles instead of rice. The mix of seafood might include cod, bass, or halibut and clams, mussels, and shrimp ($22.95).
Most popular: At this Vietnamese institution, one of the best-selling dishes is a vermicelli salad called the Bun Thit Cha Gio (No. 310 on the extensive menu; $6.95), according to manager Sen Reed. Vermicelli noodles are served with grilled beef and eggroll, with mixed vegetables, peanuts, and fish sauce. Also popular: The Pho Tai noodle soup with sliced beef (No. 505; $6.95), and the shrimp and pork spring rolls (No. 101; $3.25). "I think our spring rolls are the best in town," Reed says.
Chef's favorite: "My personal favorite is the 510," says Reed, a pho with chicken breast and quail eggs.
CASPER'S & RUNYON'S NOOK
Most popular: At the esteemed hole-in-the-wall in St. Paul, customers most often order the Juicy Nooky and the Paul Molitor Burger, two of the stuffed burgers, says shift manager Ethan O'Donnell. The Nooky is filled with American cheese; the Molitor with pepper jack (both run $7.95 and come with fries).
Chef's choice: "I really like the Triple B Burger [$6.95]," O'Donnell says. "It's a regular burger patty that's got a thick slice of smoked cheddar cheese, bacon, and it's got a bourbon reduction sauce. I put some lettuce and tomato on there too."
Most popular: The lavender-and-sage-rubbed Fischer Farms pork chop is the biggest hit with customers at Northeast Social, says owner Joe Wagner. It's being served with an onion and potato gratin and grilled broccolini ($25).
Chef's choice: Wagner's favorite dish at the moment? The steelhead trout, with confit red potatoes and a cucumber-chile salad ($20).