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Best sloppy snack: Tuk Tuk
Miang kam, a popular Thai street food snack, is a real challenge to eat gracefully. Grasp lettuce leaves piled with sweet coconut, lime, peanuts, ginger, shrimp and bell pepper, then fold and dip into the kitchen’s electrifying tamarind sauce. The result? A sublime reward for your efforts.
Best Cuban cuisine: Sol Cubano
Order the lechon asado (garlicky roast pork), platanos maduros fritos (fried sweet plantains) or Moros y Cristianos (Cuban rice and beans).
Best dumpling: Bamiyan
I lust for Bamiyan’s mantoo: steamed dumplings stuffed with spiced ground beef and soft yellow onions. Festooned with yellow split peas, these Afghani delights are served with a bracing, tangy yogurt and zingy garlic-mint sauce.
Best finger food: Queen Sheba
Grab a piece of tangy enjera, the traditional Ethiopian flatbread that resembles a thin, flexible pancake, and scoop up the restaurant’s delicious, saucy fare.
Best banchan: Pine Tree House
Banchan are the colorful vegetable side dishes (including kimchee, an often-fiery pickled cabbage) served with Korean entrées. These are first rate.
Best kabob: Shahrzad Fine Persian Cuisine
The moist chicken koobedeh—skewered fresh ground chicken with onions, herbs and spices—is a delight for the senses. Pair it with fragrant kashkeh bodemjan (fried eggplant with garlic and fresh mint).
Best lamb dish: East West Junction
At this tiny restaurant, sample the marvelous, unbelievably tender lamb boti kabob (tandoori oven-roasted boneless lamb cubes).
Best spread: Maalouf’s Taste of Lebanon
Scoop up a big mound of Maalouf’s foul muddamas (crushed fava beans mixed with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil) and spread it on warm pita bread for a satisfying nibble.
FOR THE KIDDIES
Best French toast: Mangos at Arden Hills
The cinnamon-swirl French toast is dipped in crushed corn flakes, which contribute a delightful crunch to the dish. Darned good breakfast eating.
Best healthful pizza: Zelda’s
Here’s a great way to get your kids to eat their vegetables: Order the deep-dish Spinoccoli pizza, made with garlicky spinach and broccoli.
Best gelato: Hot Italian
Yes, the pizzas are great, but so is the luscious gelato selection. And the best part is ordering it from the sidewalk through the restaurant’s walk-up window.
Best place to be entertained while dining: Benihana
Yes, it’s kind of cheesy, but who doesn’t love watching the expert antics of their Benihana chef as he chops and flings food into the air like an overzealous circus performer?
Best place for artisan tequila: Tres Agaves
The restaurant has an excellent artisan tequila inventory. Try one of the fantastic margaritas, made fresh, with hand-squeezed lime juice, aged tequila and organic agave nectar.
Best drink for a hot day: Shady Lady Saloon
Order a Bourbon Smash (bourbon, fresh muddled mint leaves, simple syrup and lots of ice) when it’s too hot to think. It’s guaranteed to rejuvenate.
Best handcrafted cocktail: Lounge on 20
The Feminine Mystique, made with vodka, pear liqueur, elderflower liqueur and lemon juice, is just plain sexy.
Best place to sip a cocktail with fabulous people: L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen
This sleek midtown watering hole attracts a young, beautiful crowd who gather to enjoy the happy hour (4–7 p.m. daily) and interesting wine list.
Best place to drink with your dog: Rubicon Brewing Company
What could be better than slurping a cold, refreshing Monkey Knife Fight pale ale on Rubicon’s patio with your pooch?
Best place for Belgian ale: The Shack
This well-worn establishment has an exciting lineup of Belgian ales to wash down its excellent sandwiches. On pleasant afternoons, grab a table on the overgrown but charming patio.
Best Vietnamese appetizer: Quan Nem Ninh Hoa
For $7.99, you get everything you need to assemble your own spring rolls: dried rice papers, a big bowl of hot water to dunk them in, and fillings, including charbroiled skewers of marinated pork, deep-fried egg rolls, pickled carrots, daikon, and a frothy mountain of fresh greens and herbs.
Best shabu-shabu: Shabu Japanese Fondue
Roll up your sleeves, take a big gulp of sake and plunge those cubes of Kobe beef, doll-size enoki mushrooms and crinkly spinach leaves into a pot of bubbling broth, then sprinkle it all with chopped daikon and ponzu sauce.