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  • n

Hi all,

I'm an LA 'hound who will be in Minneapolis next week. I'm looking for places to go for dinner that are unique to the place, have great food, and will provide some local color. Places close to downtown would be great. I'm not sure how easy it is to get around the city. Thanks very much!


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  1. Just north of downtown on E. Hennepin are a couple of worthwhile places: Kramarcyk's Sausages (there is a sit down restaurant which has excellent Polish/German sausage-based cuisine), Nye's Polonaise Room (can't say much for the food but it's long on local color), Gardens of Salonika (excellent Greek). If you want to venture a few blocks into the Nordeast neighborhood you can try Emily's Lebanese Delicatessen (best tabouli and spinach pies ever).

    Just south of downtown is Nicollet Ave, aka Eat Street, a treasure trove of ethnic restaurants. Vietnamese is 1st rate here (Quang's, Jasmine Deli). Also good are Chan's Seafood, Black Forest (German), Rainbow Chinese. There's a new upscale Asian Fusion place at Nicollet and 26th that I haven't tried.

    Enjoy your stay.

    1. b
      Brad Ballinger

      You've been provided with a list of good recommendations that will give you plenty of "local color." Here are some more.

      Auriga - just SW of downtown on Hennepin Avenue. Attention to detail using fresh, local ingredients. Packed with locals from the neighborhood.

      Aquavit - this is downtown. Although you'll find some of the business expense crowd here, the restaurant is still a good one for Minnesota. Scandanavian haute cuisine done very well. It also boasts the best lunch deal going - the $10 three course lunch.

      Goodfellows - also downtown, and also upscale in terms of price and clientele. But the emphasis here is on foods from the area. The wine list is all domestic (United States, not Minnesota, fortunately), and many of the ingredients are sourced locally.

      Modern Cafe - NE of downtown at University and 13th Ave NE. Comfort food in a retro setting. Good wine list and great pot roast.

      And, on Nicollet, south of downtown, but before you get to the places Plautus recommended is a new soul food place that is yet to be "discovered." The name escapes me at the moment. But maybe another chowhound knows the name of it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Brad Ballinger

        The new soul food restaurant is called Big E's Soul Food. Website: www.bigesoul.com.

      2. Coming from out of town, the places I would probably recommend:

        - Heartland (Saint Paul)
        Great fixed-price menus with midwestern influence.

        - Vincent (downtown
        Ok, not unique cuisine but extremely well done French food. Brilliant chef.

        - Zander (Saint Paul
        Friendly neighborhood joint with great live music and emphasis on local ingredients.

        - Oceanaire (downtown
        Folks will mention Aquavit, but if I'm going high end I'd rather hit Oceanaire for the superior seafood and more interesting atmosphere.

        Don't worry about the driving here- it's very easy to find your way around. Also, the citysearch links are just for reference. If you look at citysearch for rankings, you'll end up at places like Applebee's.

        Other places worth thinking about are Alma, Auriga, Loring Pasta Bar, and Lucia's.

        1. Avoid Kramarcyk's and Nye's if you're looking for tasty food. The former cooks everything in a microwave, and it shows. The food at the latter is mediocre at best, and the 'local color' is more tacky than anything else. I DO heartily second the opinion on Quang. You're not going to find better Pho anywhere in the cities. You might try Manny's if you're in the mood for a steak. It's pricy, but quite good.

          1. Aquavit has been closed for nearly 5 years and I think Big E's too.

            1. Since this post has been resurrected, I'll try to help bring the recommendtions up to date.

              1) Gardens of Salonika has (in my opinion at least) gone way down hill in the last few years. It used to be my favorite Greek restaurant, but after 2-3 really bad experiences in a row, I'll probably not return again.

              2) Chan's Seafood has come and gone and been replaced by another Chinese restaurant, Yummy Chinese Restaurant. I've only had one meal there and it was neither remarkably good or bad. (I can't remember anything about it.)

              3) The Asian fusion restaurant's name is Azia. It seems to be very popular. I think it's hit or miss. The owners have just opened up a sushi bar next door that has gotten good reviews.

              3) Aquavit, Goodfellows, and Big E's are closed.

              4) Heartland's chef and owner, Lenny Russo, is now in charge of the food at the new Guthrie. I don't think he's cooking at Heartland any more, but I assume he's still got an eye on what's going on there. I've had 3 great meals there in the past year, but not since it was announced that he was leaving.

              5) I haven't been to the new Guthrie yet, but I would be interested in checking it out. I HAVE been to Spoonriver for drinks and appetizers, which is across the street from the Guthrie. The menu looks very good and I'm hoping to get back for a full meal soon. I'd check out either place for more local color.

              6) Lucia's now has a bakery that also serves light meals, salads, etc. It's great for a quick casual meal if you are in Uptown.

              7) I'd also recommend Cafe Barbette for a nice meal in Uptown.

              13 Replies
              1. re: bob s

                What makes a thread from 2003 reappear again anyway? I don't understand this new system halfl the time.

                I'll put in my 2 cents again for Solera and Belle Notte happy hours.

                1. re: Joanie

                  It looks like someone (jcksrbetter) chose to update the old thread for one reason or another and that brought it to the front.

                2. re: bob s

                  Wait, is this true? That Lenny Russo is no longer cooking at Heartland now that Cue's opened? Oh no! Has anyone tried Heartland since Cue's opened to see if it's still great?


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    That is true. Heartland has been closed the last two weeks while the switchover happened. The word is that Lenny's wife will now cook at Heartland. I hope she can keep it up. The place had really hit its stride and we were going there quite often. The wine bar is really nice too.

                    1. re: Michael Florey

                      I knew they had closed it down during the switchover, but I managed to miss the part about Lenny focusing on Cue now. Was Lenny's wife previously part of the crew at Heartland? I'm so sad!


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        I may have gotten that wrong about his wife cooking. One of the local mags I received yesterday reports that the former sous-chef is taking over the Kitchen. Maybe his wife will be manager. I know she will have some sort of top-level role.

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          The "shut down" was a normal holiday taken at Heartland because of the annual slow down in business. Mega, Lenny's wife, has always been the front manager and there she will remain. Lenny's sous is now executing the menu and has the reins. The culinary staff remains greatly in place.

                          Heartland was an occasional hangout for execs from BAMCO, the company that now employs Russo at the Guthrie. Their corporate philosophy about sourcing ingredients made Russo a lighthouse in the T.C. market. The ingredients sourcing at the Guthrie is greatly influenced by Russo.

                          In the Chowhound spirit of disclosure, I work at Cue.

                    2. re: bob s

                      I am SO sad that Goodfellows closed down! When!!?

                      I was planning on having lunch there August 4, 2006. Can you give me another option - it needs to be within easy walking distance of the downtown Hilton. I was REALLY looking forward to Goodfellows!!

                      Thanks in advance for any help you can give me --

                      1. re: naniboujou

                        I think Solera is close, and gets all kinds of raves here.

                        1. re: AliceS

                          According to Solera's website (http://www.solera-restaurant.com/) they are not open for lunch. Would be a great dinner choice, though!

                        2. re: naniboujou

                          Unfortunately, Goodfellows closed last year.

                          If you would consider one mile "easy walking distance", I would recommend La Belle Vie. If you loved Goodfellows, you would love LBV. The walk will take you past the Convention Center and around the south side of Loring Park -- quite a pleasant urban walk. I can't imagine the Hilton wouldn't quickly shuttle you over there if the walk is of no interest.

                          510 Groveland Avenue

                          1. re: MSPD

                            I am very familiar with 510 Groveland - isn't that across from the Gutherie and an upscale apartment/condo building? A good friend used to live there. But they are not open for lunch either. Where, oh where, to have the best lunch on a weekday downtown???

                            1. re: naniboujou

                              Oops...I guess that lunch option won't work.

                              Again, a little stretch for walking but about 1/4 mile past the north edge of downtown is Fugaise. I *know* they are open for lunch. Similar genre to LBV and Goodfellows but scaled back lunch menu (including prices).

                              308 E Hennepin Ave

                              I've heard great things about lunch at Cosmos too -- haven't been for lunch, but I love the restaurant for dinner. A little more contemporary than LBV, Fugaise and Goodfellows.

                              601 First Ave N (in the Graves 601 hotel)

                      2. I'm also an LA 'hound that's originally from Mpls. There's lots of good recommendations above, particularly Heartland, Zander, Modern Cafe, Auriga, and all the great Vietnamese places on Nicollet Ave.

                        But I was just home over 4th of July weekend and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention 112 Eatery or Sea Salt. 112 Eatery is downtown and it's basically a place by chefs for chefs/foodies. Great simple food that's fresh, seasonal, tastes amazing and won't break the bank. Throw in a wine list full of undiscovered gems and a great, laid back atmosphere and you can't beat it. Go.

                        Sea Salt is in a park and run by two guys that used to work at Coastal Seafoods, Minneapolis' leading fish market/restaurant supplier. They volunteer to unload each morning's shipment and get to pick through the inventory for the best stuff.

                        Both places are killer.

                        And for breakfast make sure to hit Hell's Kitchen (get the bison sausage or wild rice porridge) or any of the great places on Lyndale Ave in uptown.

                        Have a great trip.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: rskubic

                          //They volunteer to unload each morning's shipment and get to pick through the inventory for the best stuff.

                          Are you paraphrasing Dara Moskowitz's article in the City Pages weekly? They pick & pack their own order, but I'll bet Chris & Jon would be quite surprised to hear they are now unloading each of the several daily shipments that arrive at Coastal from the MSP airport.

                        2. I would not avoid Kramarcyk's. Rather it would be high on my list. Many of the side-dish's are unremarkable. However, the reason to go there is for the house-made sausages, which are among the best in the country. They are grilled and served plain or on a bun. They also are very appropriately local, as Minnesota is inhabited by various tribes of sausage-eating peoples; Germans, Swedes, Czechs, etc. The Ukrainian garlic sausage is incredible.

                          1. So Karl G and everyone else, how is the food at Cue and/or
                            the other restaurant at the new Guthrie? I've looked at the
                            menus and they sounded good enough to eat. Does the food meet
                            the menu?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: faith

                              I had lunch at Cue last week. It's a beautiful room. The lunch menu is small but interesting, and the prices are very reasonable. (Most things are $10 and under.) I had an elk tenderloin sandwich with (I think) a horseradish sauce. The sandwich came with polenta fries and a dipping aioli. It was a very nice and unusual lunch option. My only complaint is a minor one -- the bread on the sandwich was too heavy and took focus away from the tender, delicate elk.

                            2. I don't know if it is still as good as it was back when I lived there (77-97), but Broadway's Pizza made some of the best thin crust pizza I've ever had.