Well, it’s that time of year again — time to look back on the year that was and reflect on what we’ve learned, the new places we’ve enjoyed and the events that made up 2011. That’s right, it’s time for the obligatory holiday slump blog post.

But beyond the sarcasm and cynicism, there are several things of note that made up 2011 in the world of Twin Cities entertainment and by golly, why not relive just a few of them before we embark upon a new year, right?

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Here’s my hodge-podge of what topped my list in 2011:


It was certainly a great year for new food and killer new restaurants. While we lost a few great spots — Cake Eater Bakery, 20.21, The Inn — we gained a bunch of fabulous dining options in the Twin Cities. Here are just a few of my favorites.

(credit: Ryan Jensen)

Pizzeria Lola
5557 Xerxes Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN

In August, I finally got the chance to visit Pizzeria Lola. I called it a slice of heaven and it truly was. Take everything you thought you knew about your typical pizza joint and throw it out the window. Here, the more adventurous the toppings, the bigger the success of flavors. It’s become one of my favorite places for a slice — and one of my top picks for new restaurants.

2726 W. 43rd St.
Minneapolis, MN

Tilia definitely wins the award for seemingly simple dishes packed with complex, crazy flavors. My first visit to this Linden Hills gem was perhaps my most memorable new dining experience of the year. The menu had so much to offer and everything was prepared to perfection. To walk away and months later, still remember the incredible taste of a simple side of leeks means you’ve certainly done something right.

(credit: CBS)

330 E. Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of Tim McKee’s contemporary new sushi and robata restaurant, Masu back in April and while it was still in its infant stages, it was certainly entertaining enough to entice me back for several visits throughout the year. The funky atmosphere, somewhat hipster crowd and inventive, yet delicious, food and cocktails make Masu one of the best restaurants of the year.


From Adele’s year of rescheduling to U2’s somewhat over-hyped TCF Bank performance, it was certainly an interesting time to be a music fan in the Twin Cities. And while I wasn’t able to get to nearly enough concerts (sorry, but no thank you, Katy Perry), there were more than enough that competed for my best of the year.

Adele At Xcel
Aug. 24
St. Paul

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Quote from review: “There’s a quality to Adele that is absolutely delightful and immensely refreshing. While she fully admits to being beyond nervous in the limelight, she has a calming presence that makes her incredibly lovable and gives her a down-to-earth charm that can’t be faked. In fact, there’s nothing fake about her. She sits on a simple stage — adorned with retro lampshades — in a plain, black dress (she notes she’s “been wearing black since she discovered Johnny Cash) and she lets her talent do the talking. There’s no need for flashy dancers, bright and colorful costume changes or one piece of pyrotechnics. Just a microphone and that goosebump-raising voice.”

(credit: Sacks & Co.)

Ben Folds, MN Orchestra and First Ave.
Jan. 23 (First Ave.)
Sept. 18 (Minnesota Orchestra)

Ben Folds stopped not once but twice last year in the Twin Cities. The first time, he rocked a sold-out crowd at First Ave. with “Sing Off” competitors Street Corner Symphony. When he came back eight months later, he performed to a slightly more calm and collected crowd at the Minnesota Orchestra. Both shows had their own flair and both shows were incredible.


Between the fishnet-clad Don Shelby, the rickety George Hamilton and the classic crooning styles of the ‘Jersey Boys,’ it seems 2011 was all about the men — for better or worse. While there were plenty of positives this year in theater, there weren’t many all-out-jaw-dropping performances. Still, there was certainly a show or two that stood out from the rest.

(credit: CBS)

Rocky Horror
Sept. 15 to Oct. 31
The Lab

So yes, Don Shelby clearly was the driving force of this show (and yes, WCCO probably did a total of six stories in some fashion or another on this drag spectacular) but beyond the hype, beyond the Don, this show — at its core — was simply fantastic. Here’s a snippet from the review: “I was a little disappointed to skip out on the spinny seats but then I saw the cast treat one woman’s hoo-hoo like a working fireplace.”

Jersey Boys
April 21 to May 8
Orpheum Theatre

While a number of musicals stole the stage this year, my personal favorite was “Jersey Boys” — perhaps more for the nostalgic undertones than anything else. Quote from review: “One of my favorite aspects of this show is the flawless movement between scenes. From a basement bar performance to a roving drummer on wheels and even a music industry exec whooshing in on his desk chair, the creativity used in the blocking of this performance is brilliant.”

Honorable Mention: Best Interview
Vincent Kartheiser, From Minn. Man To ‘Mad Men’
April 19

As an honorable mention, I have to give props to Vincent Kartheiser, our Minnesota-grown ‘Mad Man,’ who not only kept me laughing but was quite candid about his love of theater, Minnesota and yes, addressing those weird rumors that he didn’t have a toilet in his home.

While I’m sure I’ve missed a number of notable 2011 hap-happenings, these are just a few that topped my list. After recapping a magnificent year, I can’t help but be curious and anxious to see what 2012 will hold.

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Happy New Year!