Charlies: Celebration With a Cause

The twin cities culinary scene has a lot to celebrate and that’s just what we plan to do—just a little bit later than usual—on February 25, 2018, to be exact.

The Charlie Awards came about when philanthropist and food reporter Sue Zelickson attended the Ivey Awards for local theater, and wondered out loud why the restaurant industry didn’t have something like that to honor its hardworking performers. Fortunately, the person she said it to was Scott Mayer, who produced the Iveys at the time. The two formed a committee to bring that cache to the Twin Cities food and beverages community. Now in its seventh year, the awards still honor the tradition started by Charlie’s Café Exceptionale, a restaurant that after a 49-year run, closed its doors in July of 1982. It still remains a beacon of fine dining and exceptional service. It attracted celebrities of its time and had a rabid following for its potato salad. While the focus of the Charlies is on celebrating the exceptional talent in the Twin Cities food scene, there’s another equally important component to the celebration. Proceeds from the event go to Open Arms, an agency that delivers home-cooked meals to people with life-threatening illnesses. The nonprofit was started in 1986, just four years after Charlie’s Café served its final steaks. Stay tuned to this page in the coming months for more information on the Charlies, such as how to vote for your favorites, how to buy tickets for the event and after-party and how to sponsor or volunteer. On tap for the seventh annual event, we’ll be bringing back the ProStart students, signature cocktails, entertainment and recognition of the hardest-working, most creative people to ever cook a meal, make a drink, or donate time to worthwhile causes. The 2018 event will be at the Pantages, but to keep you out of the cold, the afterparty will be next door at the newly revamped Seven.

The Charlie Awards is an annual event that celebrates the exceptional contributions of the Twin Cities area restaurant, food and beverage industry. The 7th annual Charlie Awards will be held on Sunday, February 25th at the Pantages Theatre in downtown Minneapolis.

The Charlie Awards recognizes the exceptional contributions of the new Twin Cities metro area food and restaurant industry, including:

• Restaurants
• Corporations and businesses (e.g. food suppliers, vendors, retailers, wholesalers)
• Institutions (e.g. hospitals and schools)
• Beverage manufacturers and suppliers (e.g. breweries, wineries, distillers, coffee, beer and wine crafters)
• Culinary schools
• Chefs
• Restaurant staff (e.g. wait staff, bartenders, maitre de, pastry chef)
• Breweries and Distilleries
• Bartenders
• Food Trucks
• Coffee Shops

The awards consist of two components – individuals and businesses honored by their peers and outstanding food and drink recognized by the public and industry leaders. Other than the award for outstanding restaurant (which is determined by a vote of all Twin Cities area restaurateurs), the awards for individuals and businesses are determined by a vote of past Charlie Awards honorees.

Lifetime Achievement
Community Hero
Outstanding Chef
Outstanding Emerging Chef (a professional working for less than five years)
Outstanding Service
Outstanding Bakery
Outstanding Bartender
Outstanding Food Truck

The Twin Cities/ St. Paul area restaurants determine the following honor:

Outstanding Restaurant

A panel of professionals determines the following honors:

Outstanding Brewery

Outstanding Distillery

History of The Charlie Awards

The awards are named after the legendary restaurant, Charlie’s Café Exceptionale, which was a mainstay in downtown Minneapolis until the 1980s. The Charlie Awards are created to recognize the organizations, businesses and individuals that comprise that our metro area restaurant, food and beverage industry to ensure a diverse, vibrant and creative lifestyle and economy.

Congratulations to the 2016 Charlie Award Honorees!


Lynne Rosetto Kasper, longtime and award-winning host of “The Splendid Table” which airs on American Public Radio.


Fernando Silva, lifesaving marrow donor and owner/chef at Harriet Brasserie in Linden Hills, Minneapolis.


J.D. Fratzke of Saint Dinette and Strip Club Meat & Fish


Eddie Wu, owner of COOK St. Paul


Patisserie 46


Joan’s in the Park


MidNord Empanada


Nathaniel Smith of Spoon & Stable


Tattersall Distilling


Town Hall Brewery