Jason DeRusha: Midwest Restaurants With Delicious Design

It’s no joke. Jason DeRusha reported his first story for WCCO-TV on April Fools Day. Nearly 10 years later, the guy who became known as the “Good Question” reporter has amassed a giant social media following (upwards of 30,000 followers between his two Twitter accounts) and now sits on the morning and noon anchor desk.

“Sometimes in life I think you just need to throw everything up in the air and do something totally different,” DeRusha said. “I’ve spent my life reporting. [Now] I’m anchoring three hours of news a day.”

But even with his early morning schedule, the five time Emmy-winning reporter and anchor still has time for one thing: food. It started with a guest judging stint at Minnesota Monthly magazine’s local chef challenge, and turned into a monthly food column for the Twin Cities publication.

“I don’t go to movies, I don’t go to concerts,” DeRusha said. “I go out to eat. That’s what my wife and I do for fun.”

The two have wined and dined together across the Midwest (they’ve lived and worked in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota) ever since they met at Marquette University in Wisconsin.

“I’m a reporter so when I get interested in something I start asking questions and doing research about it. That’s what happened with food,” DeRusha said. “I think my interest in great restaurants has grown with the explosion of great restaurants in the Twin Cities. Over the past 10 years the quality of cooking and the inventiveness from the kitchens has just exploded.”

With better food came better design, something both DeRusha and his wife Alyssa appreciate (the two live in a modern home in the suburbs with their kids and are avid glass collectors).

As our Pin Partner, DeRusha takes us on a food tour through the Midwest, highlighting some of his favorite restaurants.

“All of these places have great food, great service, great people. But all of them have done something interesting with the design,” DeRusha said. “What makes these places noteworthy is the modern sense of style.”

That doesn’t mean cold white walls, stark design or even concrete buildings. For DeRusha, the modern aesthetic is something different.

“It’s about a sense of place. It’s about design with a purpose,” DeRusha said. “It’s about sending a message visually that is cohesive, so you have the inside look of a restaurant that is somehow reflective of what shows up on the plate.”

Bon appetit!


This is the sexiest restaurant in Minneapolis right now. Design that hits all my hot buttons: reclaimed wood generates warmth, modern metals bring you into the now. The first time I walked in I thought, “I can’t believe this is in Minneapolis! This feels very New York!” The food is incredible, the cocktails are inventive, and oh yeah – it’s an amazing space for live music. —J.D.


Reclaimed wood and inventive cocktails at Icehouse, Minneapolis


At Piccolo, the modern design is on the plate. Chef Doug Flicker and his team have such an eye for artistry: the food is plated in an almost architectural manner – the braised octopus or the chanterelles forming the foundation for plates that make you go: wow! —J.D.


Plates almost too pretty to eat at Piccolo, Minneapolis


Graze is in the middle of a rather unimpressive office tower right on the capitol square in Madison, but when you’re inside the design is inspiring. A huge curtain of windows looks out onto the iconic Wisconsin dome (no building within a mile can be taller). Chef Tory Miller’s food is all sourced from local farmers, and the beer is all from Wisconsin. Any menu with craft beer from the “state of beer” at $4.50 a pint – that’s a design I can get behind! —J.D.


A bar room with a view at Graze, Madison

 Au Cheval

Au Cheval is dark, in a good way. It’s a chef’s diner: a greasy spoon with food crafted by people who really know what they’re doing. The music pumps from a reel-to-reel tape player. The booths feel well-worn, but you know they’re fairly new. I love the textures and colors in here – deep greys and purples. The tile on the floor was laid with the same care the chefs take with the food on the plate. Don’t miss brunch, or their legendary cheeseburger.” – Jason DeRusha

Au Cheval

The dark horse: Au Cheval, Chicago



Butcher And The Boar

Inside this place looks and feels like the modern man: lots of dark woods, leather and a floor made from more than 12,000 pennies. What used to be a nondescript office for a local law firm has become a gleaming temple to meat. But miraculously, the outside beer garden has design elements that look ripped from a California poolside: modern, crisp, fresh. The exterior of the building has a dynamic mural by artist Adam Turman with a real sense of humor. Minneapolis design firm Shea hits a modernist home run, and Chef Jack Riebel makes sure the food lives up to the surroundings. —J.D.

Butcher and the Boar

A California-inspired patio at Butcher and The Boar, Minneapolis

The Publican

I love that modern design doesn’t mean cold and metallic today. Chicago’s The Publican’s use of strong architectural lines and rustic decor is very fresh. I love the large walnut communal table, set up to seat more than 100 people, all with a view of the open kitchen. The lighting is one fixture repeated more than 100 times in the room, clustered together. Oh, and chef Paul Kahan won the James Beard Award in 2013: it’s not just the room that looks amazing. —J.D.


The Publican

The signature communal table at The Publican, Chicago


World Street Kitchen

Brothers Sameh and Saed Wadi wanted a “raw urban vibe” at World Street Kitchen. All the light fixtures are repurposed items, including old carbon dioxide canisters that were used to pump beer out of kegs into the taps, champagne buckets and olive baskets. It’s urban, but warm. The reclaimed wood on the floor and the bar is from a snow fence somewhere in South Dakota. WSK started as a food truck; the photos on the wall are tight shots of the truck, taken by Saed. It’s a DIY feel done in a sophisticated, modern way; much like the urban street food served by the kitchen. —J.D.

World Street Kitchen

From food truck to brick and mortar at World Street Kitchen, Minneapolis