We scoured our archives for the best dishes featured in Southwest Metro Magazine throughout the past year, added some tweaks and updates from these local restaurants—many of which are finalists in this year’s Best of the Southwest Metro categories as well—and pulled together one delectable dining guide that crosses all categories of cuisine. Bon appétit!
Mac & Cheese Pizza
When you think pizza, you probably think of pepperoni, black olives, maybe even anchovies. But we’ll bet that you don’t think “mac and cheese” when visualizing a slice of your favorite pizza pie. Before you cringe in foodie horror, just give it a try. The mac and cheese pizza at Unhinged Pizza is a winner with kids and adults alike, boasting a delicious, flaky crust topped with garlic butter sauce, creamy mac and cheese—and, well, more cheese ($3.99–$15.99). Unhinged Pizza offers its pies in a variety of sizes. Be sure to check the website for daily specials. Waconia Marketplace, Waconia; 952.442.2030.
The famous Brisket Chili packs two southwestern specialties into one dish: Fresh-smoked brisket swims in a flavorful tomato base and comes decorated with scallions, cheese, cilantro and spicy jalapeños for an extra kick ($5.95 per bowl). $2.95 cup, $4.95 bowl. 545 78th St. W., Chanhassen; 952.767.2929.
Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Fusion
Locally owned by Mitch and Kris Thayer, this make-your-own pasta shop boasts fresh sauces and noodles, along with a variety of meats and veggies. Picture creamy Alfredo sauce infused with bright roasted red pepper pesto draped over curly, swirly, corkscrew-shaped Cavatappi pasta. Italian sausage adds a little spice “but not too much,” says Mitch Thayer. Served in a classic take-out box, the pasta stays hot all the way to the bottom. $4.59, 16-ounce. $5.59, 26-ounce. 8251 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie; 952.583.8074.
We love this dish for its rich, buttery flavors. The shrimp is sautéed in garlic butter, and then tossed with fresh mushrooms, garlic and diced tomatoes. Served over a bed of perfectly tender linguini and topped with scallions, this is one you won’t forget. ($18.99) 7795 Laketown Parkway, Waconia; 952.442.2956.
The “bread” of an arepa is a soft-centered, crispy-edged grilled corn cake, split like a hot dog bun and filled with all kinds of delectables. We ordered the pabellon, which combines key elements of the typical Venezuelan diet: black beans, slow-cooked shredded beef, crumbly white cheese and fried sweet plantains. The spice-adverse can relax: Venezuelan cuisine, unlike that of some of its neighboring countries, is quite mild. $6.25. 7733 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie; 952.405.8092.
Som Tum, AKA green papaya salad, is a classic Thai dish that’s as refreshing as a dash through the sprinkler. The spicy-sour Thai seasonings, crushed peanuts and tart bits of exotic fruit commingle in a sexy (and gluten-free!) health bomb. Herbs frolic on the plate with cucumber, lettuce, bean sprouts and lime juice while the young papaya has a tart, almost floral aspect. $8. 1330 Technology Drive, Eden Prairie; 952.641.5777.
Prairie Tap House
This eight-ounce burger is grilled in a Baltimore-style pit (with beef marinated in spices for three days) and includes one of our favorite toppings, a fried egg, oozing yolk with each bite. This brilliant coupling is celebrated by the addition of bacon, shaved parmesan, pickled onions and dressed greens. $11.95. 8251 Flying Cloud Drive; Eden Prairie; 952.217.4054.
Beef Bulgogi Tacos
A Korean-style marinade tenderizes the beef in this contemporary take on tacos with a sweet hoisin sauce. Not-so-traditional puff pastry shells and a side of Asian slaw make this two-taco appetizer a memorable one. $10.50. 11997 Singletree Lane, Eden Prairie; 952.941.3262.