90: Boiled Peanut Hummus at 4 Bells

The 4 Bells twist on classic hummus is based on boiled peanuts instead of chickpeas.

The 4 Bells twist on classic hummus is based on boiled peanuts instead of chickpeas.

As a countdown to the Best of the Twin Cities 2016, coming April 20, we're serving up 100 of our favorite local dishes. Here are the best dishes, drinks, snacks, and sweet treats we encountered over the last year.

Hummus has gone from a humble incarnation of garbanzos, tahini, garlic, and lemon to an entire product line unto itself – jalapeno, basil pesto, chipotle, olive tapenade, spinach and artichoke. What’s a restaurant to do to make its hummus stand apart from all the others out there?

At 4 Bells, the answer is to nix the garbanzo beans altogether and use boiled peanuts as the base for their down home take on this co-op staple. It’s a Middle East meets the Deep South duet that produces a dip that is at once familiar yet not what you were expecting.

The menu description doesn’t give you much to go on, providing only the basic information: “boiled peanut hummus, aged Cheddar crackers, crisp vegetables.” Luckily, a server recommended it, saying he would be happy to eat nothing but those crackers for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

He’ll get no argument from us. The crackers are flaky, but not quite crispy, due to the cheese which keeps them on the soft side. And there’s just a hint of spice to keep things interesting. The spice nicely plays up the more subtle sensibility of the hummus, which has a pleasing earthiness and a smooth, whipped yet substantial texture. The peanut flavor comes through, but not in an in-your-face way. If you didn’t know the dip was made with boiled peanuts, you’d be hard pressed to put your finger on the main ingredient. A splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika provide the finishing touches. And the crisp vegetables? Let’s just call them garnish, shall we? At least until we run out of crackers.

100: Caramel-Bacon Puffcorn at Red Cow

99: Pappadams from the Curry Diva

98: The Kingfield at Five Watt

97: Raspberry Cream Scone at Sun Street Breads

96: Bacon and Bourbon from 6Smith

95: Biscuits and Gravy at Ward 6

94: Burgers from Peppers and Fries

93: The Everything Bagel from Rise Bagel Co.

92: Bent River Camembert from Alemar Cheese

91: Two large pizzas and a pitcher of beer, Original Red's Savoy