Monday, May 25, 2009

Cafe Klatch

- A half-century of coffee culture comes together when the city’s espresso pioneer meets the next great barista.

The first cup of commercial espresso ever poured in the Twin Cities was brewed nearly a half-century ago on University Avenue S.E. by a former circus aerialist and comedy impresario. Today, one of the best cups of coffee you’ll find anywhere is brewed in South St. Paul by a former actor and professional disc golfer who, in his spare time, makes didgeridoos. This is the story of how they met.

Dudley Riggs is a living legend in the Twin Cities and beyond. His Instant Theater (later called Brave New Workshop) in Minneapolis and Bernie Sahlin’s Second City in Chicago, both inaugurated in the 1950s, are generally acknowledged as the origins of modern improvisational comedy. Brave New Workshop alumni such as Louie Anderson, Peter McNichol, and Pat Proft went on to great fame in film and TV.

I first became aware of Dudley as a 9-year-old, when my big brother took me to see the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in my hometown of Erie, Pa. Among the attractions I enjoyed that day was a dazzling trapeze act. The young star aerialist, I would later learn, was Dudley himself. (I still have the circus program, which features a large black-and-white photograph of Dudley on the trapeze.

Dudley, born into a family of English and American circus entertainers, had been a boy juggler in Vichy France, and then toured the world as a circus performer before joining Ringling Brothers. He later traveled with the first circus troupe to appear in occupied Japan in 1952, and was presented to Crown Prince Akihito (who was the same age as Dudley). Nervous and excited, the exuberant Riggs reached out and shook the royal hand. At that time, touching the emperor or crown prince was a capital crime, and those who trespassed were usually beheaded on the spot. Dudley was detained by the Japanese police, but Royal Palace decided to use the situation to demonstrate that the old taboos had been relaxed, and the young aerialist was released.

After a serious fall during his second season with Ringling Brothers, Dudley left the circus to attend the University of Minnesota. That was when he founded his comedy club in what is now the upscale East Hennepin business district. In addition to comedy, he served up the city’s first espresso coffee drinks. (He also introduced pizza to the Twin Cities in collaboration with restaurateur David Bongiorno, who later founded Mama Rosa’s Restaurant in Minneapolis’s West Bank neighborhood.)

Only a few coffee houses existed in the Twin Cities for decades after that. Finally, as I noted in a 1993 City Pages article, the coffeehouse movement — aided by chains like Starbuck’s — really began to take off. Today, there are more than 300 coffee houses in the Twin Cities alone; capuccinos, lattes, and ristrettos are routine morning amd afternoon beverages for many urban Minnesotans.

In fact, a new generation of coffee aficionados has emerged in recent years, and they treat African, South American, and Asian arabica beans as oenophiles treat rare wines. But quantity has not always been accompanied by quality. Dudley’s Cafe Espresso on the West Bank closed years ago, and finding a truly great cup of espresso has often become problematic — unless one travels to Chicago, New York, Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco (or Italy).

A few years ago, I did notice that Crema Café on Lyndale Avenue South in Minneapolis (home of Sonny’s Ice Cream) served a very good espresso. That coffee was a product of Torrefazione from Perugia, Italy (via Seattle) and the skills of a young barista named Andrew Kopplin.

Kopplin later opened his own coffeehouse in St Paul near Cretin-Derham Hall High School. I visited him there recently after returning from a trip to the West Coast, where I had routinely enjoyed outstanding coffee virtually everywhere I went. I asked Kopplin: Was there was any place in the Twin Cities besides his tiny café where I could get a great cup of coffee?

There was one, he replied, but it was out in South St. Paul, 14 miles from where I live. As a bona fide “coffee tourist” (what they call those of us who will go miles out of our way for a special cup of coffee), I soon made the trek to the Black Sheep Coffee Cafe at 705 Southview Boulevard in otherwise unremarkable (and tiny) downtown South St. Paul.

It was a dazzling experience from the first cup of espresso. Founded in 2006 by then 26-year-old Peter Middlecamp (with support from his mother and an investor), Black Sheep Cafe has already become a local institution. Not only serving fine regular coffees (using a $12,000 Clover drip coffee piston brewer, the best in the world) and espresso drinks from another top-of-the-line machine, Middlecamp also serves fine teas, and delicatessen-style food, all of which is made in his own kitchen. A bowl of organic, steel-cut oatmeal (with raisins and brown sugar) goes for $2.65. The excellent sandwiches, deli salads, pastries, pies, cakes and scones are all delicious and similarly reasonably priced.

Middlecamp, it turns out, is quite a character himself. Before opening Black Sheep Cafe, the South St. Paul native earned a degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield and began a graduate program at New York University. He then became an actor and a disc golfer. The latter, he tells me, is the fastest growing participatory sport in the United States. Middlecamp, in fact, was amateur national champion before turning professional and touring in 30 states. In his first year as a pro, he was named national “rookie of the year.”

He is also makes and plays the didgeridoo, or yidaki, an Australian aboriginal woodwind instrument. He performs whenever he can, trying to increase the instrument’s popularity, especially among children.

But coffee is his first “obsession,” as he puts it. In 2007, he entered the International Barista competition and made the finals, ending up in sixth place. He also competed in the 2008 competition, when the worldwide coffee event was held in Minneapolis.

I was so struck by Middlecamp’s story — and the quality of his coffee — that it seemed imperative that the “father” of espresso and the coffeehouse in Minnesota should meet the new master of the trade. So, on a recent Friday morning, I picked up my 77-year-old friend Dudley at the St. Paul house he shares with his wife, psychotherapist and grief counselor/author Pauline Boss, and together we drove to South St. Paul.

Peter Middlecamp could not have been more gracious and attentive. Treating Dudley as the coffee celebrity he is, he gave us a tour of the spacious café, including a demonstration of his $15,000 Dietrich Roaster (the finest in the world), and also brewed for us some extraordinary cups of coffee on the Clover using his latest and rarest coffee bean imports from around the world.

Explaining carefully and passionately his brewing methods, Middlecamp had an appreciative audience in Dudley, who had labored for years to promote good coffee in the Twin Cities, and was fascinated by the latest coffee techniques and technology. Dudley told Peter, "I got out of the espresso business just
as it was taking off," adding with a laugh, "With espresso, just as with comedy, timing is everything."

It was, I realized, a historic culinary moment — two remarkable characters whose devotion to the little but amazing coffee bean connect one generation to the next.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Coup De Guerre in Minnesota

It’s political war these days between the two major political parties, and recently most of the battles have ended in wins for the Democrats. But this past week has seen a remarkable come-from-behind triumph in Minnesota where the lone standing Republican statewide officeholder, Governor Tim Pawlenty, snatched an unexpected victory from the jaws of lip-smacking Democrats (called locally Democratic-Farmer-Laborites or DFLers) who control both houses of the state legislature.

Although this feat may not be duplicated in other states, demoralized GOP partisans across the nation are likely to take inspiration from this bold coup de guerre by the two-term conservative governor who vowed, even in the severe current recession, not to raise taxes.

Here is the background to this turning-point series of events: Pawlenty was elected to his second term in 2006 by a plurality when the Independence Party candidate took enough votes from his DFL opponent gave him the win for the second straight election. In 2002, Pawlenty won his first term under similar circumstances. Also in 2002, Republican Norm Coleman won a U.S. senate seat over Walter Mondale, a last-minute DFL candidate who replaced incumbent DFL Senator Paul Wellstone who had died tragically a few days before the election in a plane crash.. Nationally that year, President George W. Bush was at the height of his popularity following September 11. Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and one house of the Minnesota legislature. Republicans also held most of the other statewide Minnesota offices that year. By 2006, however, Republican fortunes were in clear decline in this state and across the nation.

Norm Coleman’s senate re-election race is still not resolved seven months after election day, and Pawlenty had become an isolated figure in state government. Last year, his veto of a major transportation bill was overriden. In 2005, the governor and the legislature had come to a stand-off on raising taxes, a partial shutdown of state government followed, and an unpopular special session was called in which the governor agreed to increased “fees” to balance the state budget (although these fees were seen as actually new taxes, and the governor’s reputation with conservatives took a dip). The 2008 election brought new defeats to the state GOP, and to Republicans across the nation, accompanied by a popular new liberal Democratic president and an even larger lead for Democrats in the Congress. Talk a significant new income taxes to respond to the sharp current recession has been commonplace and new federal taxes are expected to be passed.

In Minnesota, DFL legislative leaders argued over how large the tax increases would be, and who would pay for them. It was expected that most of the taxes would fall on those with highest incomes and on businesses. But the DFL legislature (in its hubris?) went a further step, and decided it would propose tax increases across the boards. Pawlenty vowed none of them would get past his desk. Probably short of enough votes to override most of his vetoes, DFLers angled for an end-of-session showdown, assuming Pawently would have to compromise on the tax issue to avoid another very unpopular special session. Trying to paint Pawlenty as someone not facing reality, the DFL put maximum pressure on the stubborn governor.

Then Pawlenty dropped a political bombshell.

Invoking his constitutional powers, Pawlenty said there would be no new taxes and no special session, If the DFL did not cut spending to his liking, he would use his power of line item veto and the little used executive right of “unallotment” to balance the budget unilaterally. The legislature, if this happened, would not be able to override the governor, and his new budget would automatically take effect.

DFL leaders cried foul. The DFL speaker of the house (and the DFL’s leading candidate for governor in 2010) whined that the governor was trying to “bully” the legislature. Other DFLer screamed and hollered, but as one statewide political newsletter, Politics in Minnesota, proclaimed it: “Point, set and match” for Pawlenty.

On Monday night at midnight, the current session ended. The DFL majorities defiantly passed legislation to balance the budget by raising significant new taxes. The governor then stated he would veto the legislation and keep his promise to balance the budget himself, and not call a special session.

The dimensions of Pawlenty’s action are not yet visible, but it is a rare and potentially huge victory for those who want reduce the size, influence and financial cost of government. The line item vetoes will cut welfare aid and entitlements to many groups, and cut government aid to the arts and other special interests which had come to expect increased government help before the recession hit. The unallotment is likely to dramatically alter past funding assumptions.

Pawlenty’s cuts will be unpopular with some voters, most of whom always vote for the DFL. Most importantly, Pawlenty’s actions will likely be perceived, and opinion polls so far support this, as a necessary and good thing by many independent voters and taxpayers who have come to believe that the state’s income taxes and fees are already too high, especially in an economic recession where individual net worth has been diminished by lower home real estate values and the lower stock market on which IRAs and pensions are based.

The DFL leadership has seemed to be living in a pre-Ronald Reagan liberal fantasy where voters and taxpayers expect and even welcome higher taxes to pay for ever increasing state services, welfare (and now for recession deficits). Pawlenty’s coup would seem to bring this policy reverie to an end with a political thud.

In 2008, Pawlenty was the finalist with the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, to be John McCain’s vice presidential running mate. Then a fresh face nationally, with obvious communication skills, an attractive working class background, and conservative credentials, he was reportedly keenly disappointed he was passed over. But it may have been a blessing in disguise. With his unexpected triumph on the tax issue in Minnesota, he could easily become the poster candidate for a Republican rebirth of economically conservative principles nationwide. Keep an eye on developments in Minnesota.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tom Ridge Redux?

Although I grew up only a few blocks from where Tom Ridge grew up, and at about the same time, I did not meet the man until he was a new congressman and I was living a thousand miles away, and back visiting my home town.

From that first meeting, I sensed that Ridge was not just an ordinary politician from Erie, Pennsylvania. Although this small industrial city had been settled before 1800, and had a notable share in early American history, it had not ever had a truly nationally-known political figure emerge from it. But Ridge has a distinctive way of filling political vacuums. Growing up in public housing after World War II. he had obtained a scholarship to Harvard, and after graduating, enlisted in the U.S. Army, fought with distinction (and received two bronze stars) in Viet Nam, gone to law school, passed the bar, and had become assistant district attorney in the city of Erie.

By 1982, Erie was passed its industrial prime, Its many plants of tools, metal parts, paper, steel and plastics manufacturing were being bought out, merged or closed, unemployment was high, and its “rust belt” appearance was obvious. Ethnic politics now dominated the city as Polish and Italian working class immigrants filled the voting booths and elected their own to high and low office. Erie politics had been notorious for its corruption and lack of leadership for decades. Bribery charges and indictments were all too frequent. To complicate matters, the city, located in the far northwestern corner of the state, had been largely ignored in the capital city of Harrisburg which understandably paid more attention to the larger population centers of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and central Pennsylvania.

With its heavily blue collar Catholic population and strong labor unions, Erie was a Democratic town. Rural Erie Country was agricultural and Republican, as were the neighboring counties which had composed Erie’s congressional district over the years. Two Republicans and one Democrat had represented the area in previous decades, but none of them had made much of a mark. (one of them, indeed, had been named by a DC publication as the “dumbest member of Congress”). When the Erie seat came open in 1982, it was expected that a Democratic Italian-American with labor support would win the seat.

But it was an Irish-Ruthenian-American Indian Republican prosecutor who beat all comers by a narrow margin that year in his first election, surprising almost everyone. After that first race, Ridge won re-election four times by huge margins, winning the support of Democrats and union members. Then Ridge was elected governor of Pennsylvania (to the surprise of most political observers, and re-elected by the largest margin in state history before being picked as the first Secretary of Homeland Security after September 11 by President George W. Bush. Ridge retired, undefeated in any election (including running for president of his class at Harvard) at the age of 58 in 2005. Three times (in 1996 by Bob Dole, in 2000 by George W. Bush, and in 2008 by John McCain) he had been a finalist in the consideration to be his party’s vice presidential nominee.

Since that time, Ridge has devoted most of his efforts to creating a worldwide consulting firm providing governance and security advice to governments and large companies. For Ridge, his family, and to the political entourage accumulated around him over the years, his days as an elected public official were considered over. He had made quite a mark, becoming Erie’s most prominent and important politician ever. A major environmental center, a college building and Erie’s international airport has already been named after him. His two children were college age, and it seemed time for new directions.

Then last week, Arlen Specter, the 80 year-old, four-term Republican U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, announced he would switch parties back to the Democrats in order to run for a fifth term. Specter, a Philadelphia prosecutor, had switched from the Democrats to the Republicans to run for district attorney, and then became almost a perennial losing candidate for high office in the state until he finally won the senate seat in 1984. Considered a “liberal” Republican, Specter often voted with Democrats in Washington, DC, and had almost been defeated in the GOP primary in 2002 by a conservative congressman. After voting for President Obama’s stimulus bill earlier this year, Specter’s standing among Republican voters plummeted, and polls indicated he would lose a GOP primary next year by a wide margin. Recovering from serious illness, and clearly in his senior years, Specter nevertheless has tried to hold on to his office, and switched parties was self-admittedly a desperate measure.

One vote short of absolute control of the U.S. Senate, President Obama and Democratic senate leaders have welcomed Specter into their fold. But backbenchers in the Senate have chafed at the “deal” made to bring him in, that is, giving him seniority for chairmanships in the 2010 session, leapfrogging him over several veteran Democratic senators. As well, several Pennsylvaniapolitical figures who were planning on running for the senate may not step aside for Specter, and it is unclear yet how the state’s Democratic voters feel about the former Republican.

Notwithstanding these problems, Specter was an early favorite to win re-election against former Congressman Pat Toomey, the Republican who had almost beat him in 2004 and now was the president of the conservative group Club for Growth. Specter was also expected to win a Democratic primary.

But there is one figure in the state who beats Specter, and that’s Tom Ridge. Immediately, state and national Republicans began calling the former governor to see if he would run. A just-published Quinnipiac Poll demonstrates Ridge’s strength in a race against Spector. While Specter beats Toomey by 20 points, he only leads Ridge by 3 points, and is well under 50%. Ridge, who has not run in an election campaign in Pennsylvania for almost 10 years, but is a legendary hard campaigner, could easily pull ahead in this race.

As someone who has known him for almost three decades, my guess would have been that Ridge would say “no,” having already embarked on the next phase of his life. I was surprised to learn after speaking with him, however, that he is seriously considering it.

It turns out that his running is not only important to Republicans in Pennsylvania, but to his party nationally which has suffered huge defeats in the last two elections. Specter was what is called a “RINO” or a Republican In Name Only. Although he is moderately pro-choice on the abortion issue, and irritated some of his GOP colleagues when he sometimes voted for labor when he was in Congress, Ridge is by contrast with Specter a solid economic conservative Republican. (His rapport with blue collar Democrats and independents is a very large plus in this race.) His military, prosecutorial and homeland security background does not fit any “liberal” stereotype. He has not lost any election in the state of Pennsylvania (nor anywhere else). He is 63, but seems to be in his late 40′s. He is, if he wants to be, a political force to be reckoned with.

Most importantly, Tom Ridge, if elected to the U.S. senate in 2010, would help restore his party’s image as the popular conservative centrist party, the place where the GOP, under Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich, brought the “party of Lincoln” back to power in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and where, many political observers contend, it must be if it is have a chance to win back the Congress and White House in the decade that looms ahead.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Ten Best Lunches in the Twin Cities

Lunch in the Twin Cities can be boring, time-consuming and frustrating trying to find a parking place. Lunch here can also be wonderful. I have chosen my ten favorites below because in addition to outstanding food, they are conveniently located, good values, and you can eat a first-rate meal with reasonable speed if you need to do so.

MODERN CAFE - 337 13th Avenue N.E., 612-378-9882

This unpretentious Nordeast barfront has serious food inside. The menu is creatively prepared, eclectic, quite reasonably priced, and simply delicious. Lunches are a terrific value, with the Cafe’s signature pot roast, meatloaf and gourmet macaroni and cheese always on the menu. There are seasonal specialties with French, Italian and Middle Eastern flavors. Friendly and good service. Lots of free parking nearby.

RISOTTO - 610 W. Lake Street, 612-823-4338

A chef/owner from Genoa gives this attractive, small dining room and its menu a distinctive character. Lunches are an outstanding value (although the chef’s made-to-order special risottos are only available at dinner). Savory sandwiches, including one with Parma ham and imported cheese, are only $7-$9, and include a bowl of excellent tomato basil soup. The linguini with pesto, potatoes and green beans is as authentic a Genovese dish as you can find, as are the tasty appetizers. Free parking nearby.

MASA - 1070 Nicollet Mall, 612-338-6272

This is one of the few Twin Cities restaurants where you can find the truly interesting cuisine of Mexico (not Sonoran snack food). It’s normally a bit pricy for lunch and dinner, but Masa now serves a remarkable three-course lunch plus salsa and chips for $10. There are plenty of entree choices for this lunch, and the food is genuinely outstanding. Friendly service in a bright downtown dining room facing Nicollet Mall. Meter parking nearby.

M STREET CAFE - 350 Market Street, St. Paul, 651-228-3856

This is probably the best lunch value in St. Paul, and all the more interesting because it’s located in the basement of the tony St. Paul Hotel with its expensive St. Paul Grill upstairs. Downstairs, however, there is a fine buffet lunch, with your choice of hot dishes or a salad bar with soup. Or you can do both. There are always a seafood entree, a carvery meat special, pasta, vegetable, potato or risotto at the hot table, carefully watched over by a chef so nothing gets cold or stale. Meat items include fresh roast turkey, roast sirloin of beef, salmon, corned beef and cabbage. A St. Paul promotion now gives you three hours of free parking a half a block away.

CAFE ISTANBUL - 15718 Wayzata Boulevard, 952-476-7997

This friendly Turkish outpost near Wayzata offers a buffet lunch featuring chicken, lamb, stuffed grape leaves, two marvelous Turkish soups, pilafs, salads and dessert. At about $10 for the buffet, you can’t beat the value in this mallfront restaurant on the frontage road off Highway 394. There is free parking.

BE’WICHED - 800 Washington Avenue N., 612-767-4300

This unexpected and contemporary dining room was one of the pioneers on the North Washington Avenue strip, and it was created by two talented young chefs who were veterans of some of the Twin Cities top upscale restaurants. It’s self-serve and deli-style, but everything here is organic and imaginative, including the soups, sandwiches and salads. They make their own pastrami, and it’s a relatively quick and cheap lunch. Parking meters in front.

EL MESON - 3450 Lyndale Avenue S., 612-8062

A more bountiful lunch buffet cannot be found in the Twin Cities, and this one features delicious Central American cuisine There are three buffet tables. The salad bar includes wild greens with aq house dressing, fresh fruit, guacamole, cold vegetables and the best coriander cole slaw I’ve ever had. The hot table features pork, beef, chicken and seafood entrees which vary from day to day, plus soups and the tradional bean dishes. A dessert table offers a rice pudding, Mexican flan and fried bananas. For about $10, you can’t beat this bargain. Free parking nearby, although there is some construction going on summer-long on Lyndale Avenue.

COSETTA’S - 211 W. 7th Street, St. Paul, 651-222-3709

A St, Paul institution for good reason, this colorful downtown restaurant serves a terrific range of Italian specialties cafeteria-style at most reasonable prices. The food is carefully and well-prepared. A lunch here is an experience. Although very popular, there is rarely a long wait in line. And next to the dining room, is the largest and best Italian deli in the state for delicacies to take home. Cosetta’s has its own free parking lot.

FOGO DE CHAO (salad bar) - 645 Hennepin Avenue, 612-338-1344

The Twin Cities only Brazilian steak house, is not inexpensive at dinner with its 15 all-you-can-eat cuts of beef, chicken, pork and lamb, and its fabulous salad bar (which is a meal in itself). As a matter of fact, you can have the salad bar-only at lunch for $19.50. That’s not cheap, but it features smoked salmon, Italian deli meats, cheeses, fresh fruit, hearts of palm, great vegetables and numerous superb salads, many of them Brazilian, plus the hot meal side dishes of polenta and fried bananas. Paid parking or meters nearby this large Hennepin Avenue dining room.

KRAMARCZUK’S - (215 E. Hennepin Avenue, 612-379-3018)

A little bit of Eastern Europe and Ukraine can be found at this long-time East Hennepin cafeteria and meat market, and you won’t go hungry after trying one of their lunches of home-made sausages with sauerkraut, stuffed cabbage, goulashes, salads, soups and borscht. There’s fancy desserts, too, and beer and wine. Prices are low, and they have their own free parking lot next to the restaurant.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ten Best Breakfasts in the Twin Cities

Nutritionists and physicians often say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Americans don’t always heed this counsel, especially if they regard the breakfast menu uninteresting and not very tasty, AND they are in a hurry to get to work. But we do have some excellent breakfast dining rooms here, with delicious fare. Here’s my list of the ten best daily breakfasts. (I will post a separate list of best weekend brunches.)

WILDE ROAST CAFE - 518 Hennepin Avenue East (Minneapolis) 612-331-4544

This attractively decorated and warm space has, in addition to coffee/espresso drinks, fine teas, and extravagant hot chocolates, a full breakfast menu including fluffy omelets, corn meal and buckwheat pancakes, waffles, “creme brule” French toast, eggs Benedict, and made-to-order oatmeal. There are also a few unusual items such as a breakfast “burro” tortilla and a breakfast pizza. A terrific breakfast special for $3.00 is available until 9 a.m. every day. The service here is especially friendly and helpful. This cafe has its own free parking lot.

VICTOR’S CAFE - 3756 Grand Avenue South(Minneapolis) 612-827-8948

Victor’s Cafe offers an excellent Cuban-style breakfast in a funky Old-Havana-style series of rooms. The mango pancakes are sublime, and many of the traditional Caribbean specialties are outstanding. It’s noisy, crowded, but fun to eat here. Friendly service, and the kitschy pictorial decor recreating pre-Castro Cuba is worth the trip alone. Prices in this South Minneapolis diner are quite reasonable. Lots of free parking on the street.

BLACK SHEEP CAFE - 705 Southview Boulevard (South St. Paul) 651-554-0155

This comfortable space and excellent coffeehouse also offers outstanding and made-on-the premises breakfasts that include steel-cut organic oatmeal, egg dishes, a selection of morning baked goods and fine teas. The coffee selection and service is world-class. It's a bit of a trek to South St. Paul, but relatively easy to
get to via the thruways. Lots of free parking in their own lot and on the street.

MANNY’S [Hotel W] - 9th and Marquette Avenues (Minneapolis) 612-339-9900

This is Minneapolis’ power breakfast dining room which serves the Hotel W where it is located. It is also the Twin Cities best steak house at night. Being the only restaurant in the hotel, it must serve breakfast (something Manny’s did not do at its former location). But making a gem out of necessity, the kitchen serves a first-rate breakfast steak, short ribs eggs Benedict (a cardiologist should call at your table if you order this delicious version of the classic dish), outrageously wonderful hash browns, fresh squeezed orange juice (promptly refilled by your waitperson) and many other breakfast specialties. Expensive, but large portions and exceptional service. Usual downtown parking problems, but easy to get to if you walk there from your office.

GOOD DAY CAFE - 5410 Wayzata Boulevard (Golden Valley) 763-544-0205

This was designed as a breakfast restaurant (it also serves lunch) next to The Metropolitan, and has a very large selection of traditional breakfast dishes, generously served and well-prepared. The dining room is large and noisy, but this is an excellent and convenient place for breakfast if you are going downtown for work from the western suburbs. A large dining room is frequently full, a bit noisy, but the prices are reasonable. Lots of free parking in its own lot just off Highway 394.

PORTER & FRYE [Hotel Ivy] - 1115 2nd Avenue South (Minneapolis) 612-353-3500

Another upscale hotel fine dining room which must serve breakfast for its guests, and has made its breakfast menu into something special. This is a chef-driven breakfast, a bit pricey as might be expected, but unusual and very delicious dishes, including the best and richest oatmeal in town, home-made breakfast baked goods, and a number of special items. Exceptional fine tea selection. Located close to Orchestra Hall and the Minneapolis Convention Center, there is valet parking, downtown meters, or walk from your office.

CHEZ COLETTE/MARKET KIOSK [Hotel Sofitel] - 5601 W. 78th Street (Bloomington) 952-835-199

The hotel serves distinctive and delicious (if pricey) French-styled breakfasts in its main dining room, but adjoining this large main dining space is a small espresso bar and pastry kiosk (offering take-out) with tables and chairs. (You can also take your food to nearby outdoor cafe seating.) Here you can have an espresso drink, regular coffee or fine tea with a very large selection of delicious brioches, French pastries and baked goods at a very reasonable price. I don’t know if it’s worth a special trip to the 494 strip, but if you’re in the neighborhood, the kiosk is a great place for a quick, civilized and tasty small breakfast. Free parking in the hotel lot.

THE NORMANDY KITCHEN [Normandy Inn] - 405 S. 8th Street (Minneapolis) (612) 370-1400

This was once the most important place for breakfast in Minneapolis (in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s), and the grandson of the man who opened it has just recreated it with a first-class chef and an ambitious menu. Specialties include scrambled eggs with smoked trout, banana French toast, yogurt parfait with granola and berries, baked oatmeal with fresh fruit and nuts, and their own pecan coffee cake. It’s a hotel dining room, and pricey, but a delicious and comfortable place to start the day with business associates or friends. Lots of inexpensive meter parking nearby, or a for-pay hotel lot.

LOBBY BAR “LB” (Hotel Minneapolis) - 215 S. 4th Street (Minneapolis) 612-340-2000

Perhaps the best of the daily breakfast buffets in town, this lobby restaurant (not to be confused with the large adjoining Restaurant Max that serves lunch and dinner) offers a substantial buffet every weekday, and it includes an omelet and waffle bar, plus most of the breakfast specialties, including juices, fresh fruit, hot and cold cereals, beverages, and Danish pastries. It’s $15 a head, but if you have a mammoth appetite in the morning (and might want to skip lunch), this is the place. Until downtown street construction is completed, however, it may be difficult to get here except by foot.

DAY BY DAY CAFE - 477 W. 7th Street (St. Paul) 651-227-0654

A bit out of the way, but well worth regular visits is this rustic and friendly restaurant serving hearty breakfasts with a large number of choices. If you can get there between 6 and 7 a.m., a very early bird special includes two eggs, hashbrowns, bacon or sausage and toast for $4.75. After 7 a.m., the same meal is $6.95. Home-made oatmeal with a fresh-made bakery item and juice is only $7.50. There is a variety of egg dishes, pancakes, omelets, cereals, fresh fruit, baked goods,and even a breakfast pork chop or 6-ounce choice steak. The indoor rooms are unpretentiously attractive, but the outdoor dining patio is intimate and splendid. Free parking in front of the restaurant.