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Aug 23, 2000 10:51 PM

MPLS Recommendations

  • b

My husband and I will be spending 2 short days in MPLS and would like to have at least one memorable meal. Any type of cuisine is ok, but we'd like something imaginative, fresh, not too too pricey, with a nice atmosphere and good service.

If there are any places we absolutely MUST try (like a hole-in-the-wall cafe or breakfast spot), please let us know that too!

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  1. I spent 9 months in the Twin Cities over a 2 year period. This was very tough duty for a San Franciscan food-wise. I had a very nice lunch at the Walker Museum cafe - the sculpture garden is a must if you're a tourist. I also liked Table of Contents - maybe it was the most California-like.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong
      barbara marshall

      Thanks for your input. We are also transplanted Californians, so I can relate!

      1. re: barbara marshall

        One of the defensive measures I learned was to ask whether a particular dish had cheese in it. It was amazing to me how many times a 1/2 cup of cheese would turn up on salads, etc. where it was not wanted by me. Of course, then they look at you like you're a communist for not liking cheese. I do love cheese and had my fair share of fried cheese curd and am still stretching out enjoyment of my chunk of 5 y.o. cheddar I brought back, but I don't want it in everything!

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I've found that to be a good strategy in most of my travels in the USA. There seems to be consensus in certain types of restaurant kitchens that customers want half an inch of melted cheese on everything.

          The scary thing is that, about 75% of the time, I imagine this could be correct.

          1. re: MU
            Melanie Wong

            I appreciate the commentary!

            Reminds me of the time a few years ago that I was hosting business colleagues from Singapore. It was hard to find food that was spicy enough for them. One night I took them to Cafe Marimba which was spicy enough, but in my effort to find chili-laden food had forgotten about the cheese factor. The specialty is Oaxacan style mol├ęs but many of the items are normally served with cheese which we had to ask them to omit. The staff were very accommodating, and even asked whether sour cream would be a problem. Funny thing is, when it comes time to order dessert, the Singaporeans were disappointed that there was no cheesecake on the menu! They told me they love the stuff, and it doesn't taste like cheese!

    2. Go to Al's Breakfast in Dinkytown near the University for nice pancakes, omlettes, and loud, slang-laden staff banter. This is a narrow dining car style diner with counter seating only. Be prepared to wait in line -- there are only ten seats. The food is really good (whole wheat blueberry pancakes and well-planned omelettes are specialties), and the distinctive scene makes it worth the extra wait.

      Also, check out Grand Ole Creamery in St. Paul for the absolute best waffle cones you will find anywhere. These are not oversized facsimiles of sugar cones, but actual, crisp-cooked, substantial waffles, which are so good that they sell "cone bags" -- bags of broken cones -- without the ice cream. You get a malted milk ball in the bottom of your waffle cone to prevent drips. The ice cream there is the old-fashioned ice cream parlor variety, tasty but not so rich that it leaves a butter film in your mouth. My favorite flavor: Coffee Break, coffee ice cream with oreos.

      5 Replies
      1. re: MU

        Moooove over Grand Ol' Creamery... There's a new spot for ice cream in St. Paul that is fab! It's Izzy's. The waffle cones are lighter, and the ice cream flavors include Cinnamon Basil, Key Lime sorbet, and the coffee has beans in it. The best thing is you get to add an "izzy" onto the cone you choose. (It's a tiny scoop -- just a taste.)

        1. re: Joan.

          Everybody and their brother sells light, wafer-like waffle cones which are no big deal. The substantiality of the cones at Grand Ol' Creamery is what makes them special. They are great in and of themselves, not just as ice cream receptacles.

          Also, you sound like you own, or have come kind of a stake in this Izzy's joint.

          1. re: MU

            MU--thanks for looking out, but I have reason to think Joan's on the up-and-up on this (though I can't be positive).


            1. re: MU

              Sorry, MU, I thought this place was for people who are interested in NEW tastes... Everybody and their brother has probably been to Grand Ol' Creamery -- Don't get me wrong, we love their Banana Chocolate Malt almost as well as any ice cream you can get at Univ. of Wisc. Babcock Hall ... Rest assured, I am on the up and up... and have no stake here.

              1. re: Joan

                Everybody who _lives in St. Paul_ has been to Grand Ole Creamery. If you follow this thread to its beginning, you'll notice that my recommendation was in response to a question from out-of-town visitors.

        2. g
          Gregory White

          The real finds are in St Paul. Ristorante Luci and it's sister restaurant across the street, Luci Ancora, serve Tuscan and Piedmontese Italian ( reservations are recommended). Just up the street is Cafe 128; they do both noveau cuisine and comfort food. Also worth mention are Zander Cafe, Punch Woodfire Pizza and The Glockenspiel (a shameless plug; I'm the sous chef there). All of the above listed restaurants serve food cooked from scratch at a reasonable price.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Gregory White
            Steve Drucker

            I absolutely agree that as a rule, 'The real finds are in St Paul. '

            And if you like herbs in your bread, you should enjoy these two places. Ristorante Luci and it's sister restaurant across the street--Luci Ancora, however, are more form than substance, and over priced for what you get. That said, Ristorante Luci has some well priced wines.

            MSP seems to be the easternmost outpost of California restaurant style, the capital of the prairie and the food scene shows it. But as everywhere else these days, there is always pho.

            For white tablecloth real food, try Auriga (see previous post).

            For home made Ukrainian pierogie and sausage retro snarfing incredibly cheaply, try Kramarczuk (see previous post).

            We've got a bunch of MSP visits coming up this fall. I would love to try some new places, and would really appreciate any first hand reports on new places.

            1. re: Steve Drucker
              Gregory White

              Out of curiousity, Steve, how many times have you eaten at each Luci, and when? The chefs of both restaurants are friends of mine and are always interested in feedback, good or bad. Particularly, what exactly do you mean by "more form than substance"? Every menu that is served at these restaurants first has to pass by Lucille Smith (one of the owners), a native Italian. I don't think that any of us could presume to know more about Italian food than an Italian.

              1. re: Gregory White
                Steve Drucker

                twice at Luci, once at Ancora; last visit was summer 1998, I think.

                Both places were packed and a table was hard to get each week night we dined there.

                Most of our MSP visits come with a Chicago visit attached: I think we've been spoiled.

              2. re: Steve Drucker
                barbara marshall

                Thanks for the suggestions. We were dying to try Auriga, but they will be CLOSED the entire Labor Day weekend because some chef is getting married! Of all the luck . . . .We will report back on our food discoveries.

              3. re: Gregory White
                Barbara Marshall

                Thanks for your recommendations. Our visit will be only 2 nights, but we will try to include at least one of these restaurants in St. Paul. I'll report back on our food experiences!