Ten great new restaurants in the east metro suburbs (2023)

So many restaurants open and close in a given month that it’s hard for even us to keep up with all the churn, especially in the suburbs.

But as always, some new and notable places have opened recently outside the core Twin Cities.

In an attempt to showcase them all in one spot, here are some of our favorite east metro suburban restaurants that have opened within the past year.

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Änna’s Bistro

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In the new wood-fired kitchen in Marine on St. Croix that celebrates its first birthday this summer, I’ve found one of my new favorite restaurants in the state.

The restaurant, in the historic Lumberyard building, has fewer than 30 seats inside. Walking to the bathroom — which, as owner Änna Hagstrom chronicled on Instagram, she personally DIY’d — you pass by an open food prep space where dishes are finished in the wood-fire oven. Sitting at our table, we almost felt like we were in Änna’s living room.

The menu, which changes regularly, is often vegan-friendly and gluten-free, and the wine and cocktail lists are small and well-curated. On an evening in April, we opted for a citrusy and light hamachi crudo to start, then sampled both entrees: hearty and maple-sweet portobello mushroom (or shrimp), served with roasted vegetables and a perfect triangle of crispy polenta, and ricotta gnocchi in a house tomato sauce. Both were stunningly well-executed, and the high quality of the ingredients was apparent. Desserts, too, are simple and elegant.

Änna’s Bistro is typically only open Fridays and Saturdays, but they have special first-anniversary events on the calendar over the next month, too.

Änna’s Bistro: 11 Judd St, Marine on St Croix; 651-433-0222; annasbistromn.com

— Jared Kaufman

The Better Half

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There are not enough all-day diners in the world, and this cute, modern spot in downtown Lakeville definitely fills that void.

Breakfast is served until 2 p.m. daily and there’s a full coffee program plus decent craft cocktails, many of which are breakfast appropriate.

The space gracefully transitions into lunch with a few sandwiches and salads, and dinner with a handful of entrees, including a house-smoked ribeye.

We were fans of the Parmesan-crusted walleye and the very trendy, very good smash burger, of which there are three varieties.

The place is not a secret among locals, though, and they don’t take traditional reservations, so we recommend checking the online waitlist and adding your name before you head out, especially on weekends.

The Better Half: 20851 Holyoke Ave., Lakeville; 952-214-7402; thebetterhalfmn.com

— Jess Fleming

Betty’s Kitchen

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I love Ethiopian food, especially a good vegetable platter, and the south metro is definitely lacking in this area — until now.

Betty’s is located on Dodd Road in West St. Paul in a former dance studio. The owners have added a trendy green wall with neon, and there are African prints on the walls. We really, really wish that the owners would change out the harsh fluorescent lighting, but you can’t win them all.

The staff here is really small — our server was working in the kitchen, too — but the veggie platter, with the usual three kinds of lentils, greens and cabbage and carrot mixture, was something we’ll definitely be back for. The meat dishes were good, too, though a few of them were a little oily for our tastes.

The restaurant also brings you a complimentary order of bread and berbere sauce for dipping to start the meal, which is a nice touch. There is a children’s menu, too, and they serve breakfast, which I will be investigating soon.

Betty’s Kitchen: 1049 Dodd Road, West St. Paul; 651-330-6629; food.orders.co/bettyskitchenethiopiankitchen

— J.F.

Donut Star

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On the outside, strip-mall shop Donut Star is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. But inside, the bakery is all new — a result of a recent colorful and modern overhaul. The wall-to-wall astronaut rock band mural really sets the shop’s eclectic new tone, which comes courtesy of Peter Sebastian, the co-owner of St. Paul new-classics Estelle and Mario’s, who bought the donut shop last year.

In a way, it’s a metaphor for Donut Star’s donuts themselves, too. Sure, the pastries behind the glass may look like any other bakery’s. But under Sebastian and pastry chef Emily Poole, previously of Cardigan Donuts, the recipes are retooled and newly all scratch-made. Like their Bismarks, whose flavors rotate monthly; this month’s is a perfectly tart strawberry rhubarb custard.

They’re not going crazy with flavors and toppings, but — as our favorite of their donuts, the simple pink-glazed with sprinkles, demonstrates — there’s beauty in Donut Star’s meticulous simplicity.

(Also: The shop recently started serving weekend breakfast sandwiches on savory rolls made from their donut dough, which I’m kicking myself for having missed. I’ll be back.)

Donut Star: 2901 Cliff Rd E, Burnsville; 952-890-3810; donutstarmn.com

— J.K.

Kitchen and Rail

This newish Eagan spot is the brainchild of industry vets Victor Salamone and chef Charlie Torgerson, and the bites are eclectic and full of flavor. There are pretty decent craft cocktails, too — a relative rarity in this area. Our favorite dishes were the very classic, very delicious Nana’s meatballs, Salamone’s grandmother’s recipe, and the smoky, juicy drop pork sliders. The atmosphere here transcends its strip-mall space, and service was spot-on the day we visited. It’s a great option for happy hour, when there are food options for just $5 apiece, and $1 off glasses of wine.

Kitchen and Rail: 3344 Promenade Ave., Eagan; kitchenandrail.com

— J.F.

Matt’s Basement

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Matt’s Basement is a nostalgic basement in spirit; luckily, the space in downtown Stillwater is bright with plenty of nooks to hang out. Classic consoles like Nintendo 64s are available to rent, as are other video games, board games, and TV remotes. I have to keep practicing my Pac-Man skills, apparently!

The main attractions, menu-wise, are boba tea and waffles, of which there are plenty of options for both. All their bubble teas are nondairy, and many, like the enjoyable “Nothin’ but Mango,” include chunks of fruit along with the tapioca pearls.

The waffles are also unique: One contains matcha batter and ube syrup, and another features banana batter with sliced banana and caramel sauce. We were fans of the traditional boba waffle, which had brown sugar pearls baked into the waffle and piled on top, plus some whipped cream and syrup.

Boba prices are between $5.99 and $6.75 for 16-ounce and $7.99 and $8.75 for a 24-ounce. Waffles are $9.99 to $12.99. Plus, they’re open late — till 9 p.m. every day.

Matt’s Basement: 413 E. Nelson St., Stillwater; 651-342-0721; matts-basement-lounge.business.site

— J.K.

Melt Pizza Company

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Melt Pizza Company moved from a pop-up in Hudson to the former Lolito space in Stillwater earlier this year, and we’re happy to have the Detroit-style pizza place on our side of the river. (Don’t worry, Lolito just moved — a block or so down Main Street, closer to sister restaurants LoLo American Kitchen and Stillwater Proper.)

Detroit-style pizzas have a bready, rectangular crust with caramelized edges, and Melt’s very good pizzas are notably much lighter and airier than a certain other local Detroit-style pizza shop who shall not be named. We especially loved the Freak-a-Leek, with a garlic confit cream sauce and leeks.

At about 8×10, the pizzas are the right size for one hungry person, or two to split along with one of Melt’s more Filipino and Thai-influenced appetizers. The menu also contains pasta plates with an Italian flair, and a drink menu of cheeky but flavorful cocktails curated by the LoLo team.

Luckily we stopped by for an early dinner: On a recent Saturday, my group of two was seated immediately at 4:30, and by the time we left, the wait had crept up to over an hour and a half. Reservations are available Sunday through Thursday, but not Friday and Saturday; they also stop taking to-go orders if things get too busy.

Melt Pizza Company: 112 Main St N, Stillwater; 651-342-0246; meltpizzacompany.com

— J.K.


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OK, fine — Pagoda isn’t new, per se, just a recent arrival to our side of town. The restaurant was a Dinkytown fixture for more than a decade and a half before closing in 2021, but they reopened last year in Roseville, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

Their strip-mall location is simple and spacious, perfect for dim sum carts to bustle around the tables. The traditional cart service takes place weekends from 10 to 3, but the entire menu — from their popular pork and shrimp sui mai dumplings to the egg custard buns I simply could eat a million of — is available a la carte all day when the carts aren’t in action. The restaurant also offers a plated menu with more classic Chinese-restaurant fare.

Speaking of dumplings, the steamed chicken ones in particular are fantastic. That jet of savory broth when you bite into one is the stuff of my dreams. Their garlic green beans are a delight, and we were also big fans of the fried fish filets — sole fish, with garlic and chili crisp — which were so light and airy and a touch briny.

When the dim sum carts are out, it’s all-you-can-eat for $38.99 for adults and $18.99 for kids 5–12. Otherwise, items are priced individually from $5.95 to $8.95.

Pagoda: 2401 Fairview Ave N #133, Roseville; 612-378-4710; pagodaroseville.com

— J.K.

Pizza Karma

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We are so happy that this local chain, started by the late cookbook author and chef Rhagavan Iyer, is finally in the east metro! Pizzas here start with a crisp-chewy crust made in a tandoor oven, which is topped with everything from traditional (but fenugreek-spiked) tomato sauce, pepperoni and cheese, to chicken or paneer tikka to lamb meatballs.

The pizzas, each of which feeds one hungry teenager, are very good, but perhaps best taken home to eat, as the vibe at this strip-mall location is very fast-casual.

There are also wraps, salads, sandwiches and a few appetizers, including springy, lightly battered paneer poppers, which my teenage son described as “Indian cheese curds.” No alcohol is served, and a portion of the proceeds is donated to local charitable groups.

Pizza Karma: Locations in Eden Prairie, Maple Grove and 15265 Galaxie Ave # 200, Apple Valley; 952-800-4540; pizzakarma.com

— J.F.

You & Me Cafe

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Sarah and Dariush Moslemi seemingly do everything in Stillwater — the couple runs a yoga studio, candle shop, restaurant, and speakeasy bar. And now, a delightfully bright and airy cafe, attached to a bike shop.

Gotta start with their signature coffee drinks: The “Before Sunrise,” an almond milk latte with maple, vanilla, and cinnamon, is served in a handmade ceramic mug. And with cold brew, banana, and coconut milk, the “Reality Bites” has a subtle fruitiness.

The breakfast menu is available every day from 7 to 11 a.m., and lunch from then until 3 p.m. We’d just barely missed breakfast, so we opted for a couple of their lunch flatbreads and a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup, their selection of the day. The black pepper cream cheese and spicy raspberry glaze on the jalapeño popper flatbread were both particularly enjoyable, and although I wish the roasted green peppers on the Greco flatbread were more flavorful, you can’t go wrong with feta, honey and mint.

You & Me Cafe: 826 4th St S, Stillwater; 651-342-0854; youandmecafemn.com

— J.K.

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