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Twin Cities: Looking for real good American food

I read in the Strib that A Rebours co-owner Doug Anderson is planning a new restaurant for which he promises an American classics menu "with no trace of irony," featuring roast chicken, chopped liver, potato pancakes, and more (but "no Ahi tuna").

After I stopped laughing, I started wondering... Where can I go right now for good, un-ironic American food, especially for lunch and dinner?

I don't want burger joints, pizza, or palaces of short-order, high-fat cooking. Or cookie-cutter restaurants with chain-like food. And I'm not looking for upscale gourmet (much as I love them, Alma's and 112 Eatery don't fit the bill for this quest).

Basically, I'm looking for something better than Key's and less fancy than Jax.



P.S. Here's a link to the aforementioned Strib article:

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  1. I was going to say Jax.....until I got to that point in your post.

    How about the town talk diner? I have not personally made it there yet.

    I'm still thinking......

    and thanks a lot - now you have me thinking of Alma.

    1 Reply
    1. re: St Paul Susie

      Isn't Alma wonderful? If I were independently weathly, I think I'd eat there every day. (My problem is that I always order three courses with wine, which adds up...)

      And yes, Jax is great, and completely un-ironic. I took a visiting friend there last week - a midwestern meat-and-potatoes guy - and he was delighted. Me, I had the pan-fried trout, which was truly amazing; fish lovers - check out Jax for trout!

      I haven't been to the Town Talk Diner yet; I worry that there's too much irony (aka upscale trendy food) on the menu. I mean, I ask you - booze in the malts?!?!?!? But really, it's just that I've heard that the place is too noisy for conversation. That's ironic.


    2. One resto that comes to mind is The Monte Carlo - dishes like pork chops, chopped liver, potato salad, and I don't recall ever seeing seared ahi on their menu (even Murray's has seared ahi... so sad).

      Nye's also has American as well as Polish on their menu. Again, no seared ahi.

      Speaking of which, when did people forget how to cook tuna? (but that's another rant for the general topics board)

      1 Reply
      1. re: Loren3

        I've never been to the Monte Carlo - I must check it out. Is it a "dress-up" place? (I have to plan ahead if I'm going to dress up.)

        Nye's? Hmmmm.... My in-laws had a birthday dinner there, years ago, and the food was terrible. The drinks were great, but not great enough to make up for the bad food. Is it better these days? Or is the booze and the retro atmosphere the main draw?

        Me, I love tuna - especially when it's cooked well. (I agree, that's increasingly hard to find.) A restaurant that reliably cooks fish is a treasure - but that's a separate post...


      2. How about The Craftsman?

        Or the Modern Cafe in NE Minneapolis?

        I do like Town Talk Diner quite a bit.

        The Chatterbox Pub is good as well.

        I've heard excellent things about The Corner Table, though I haven't been there yet.

        The Longfellow Grill (as well as the Edina Grill and Highland Grill, all the same owner) is pretty decent.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Mill City Modern

          Chatterbox Pub, while comfortable and kid-friendly is 0 for 3 for us on food. We always get something that sounds good but the execution is sorely lacking: inferno burger not spicy and not very tasty, french dip overly precious (ciabatta?!) and also not very good, breakfast mediocre at best. Plus we always feel weighted down afterwards.
          What about The Modern? Or is that ironic?

          1. re: AliceS

            Concur with your assessment of Chatterbox Pub. They don't know when to stop. Everything is just. too. much. Way overdone.


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I've only been to the Chatterbox a couple of times, but I thought it was just fine. Then again, I do tend to order simpler fare, staying away from anything that requires a paragraph long description.

              1. re: Mill City Modern

                Well, that must limit you to the frickles at Chatterbox, then. :) I'm very intrigued by the frickles there. I'm not sure whether I like them or not. Mostly, I find them very curious. Who would think to deep fry pickles?


                1. re: Mill City Modern

                  I didn't think "french dip" was particularly complicated, nor was Paz's burger, but they were pretty mediocre to bad and again, made us feel like we had lead in our guts.

            2. re: Mill City Modern

              The OP was specifically looking for American standards. I, too was going to recommend Longfellow, but I checked their menu again. Yep. Seared ahi. And other nouvelle and fusion dishes. Yes, it a decent place, but not necessarily for American standards.

              1. re: Loren3

                Sure, but they also do yummy breakfast waffles, decent burgers, pork chops, etc...I don't know if it's still on the menu (I heard they changed it not too long ago) but they also used to make chicken and waffles. Yum.

              2. re: Mill City Modern

                Actually, the Longfelllow Grill is closer than Craftman to I'm looking for. Unfortunately, it's too heavy on the burgers, high-fat, and short-order cooking.

                Craftsman, in particular, is extremely trendy - not that this is a bad thing, but it's not what I'm in the mood for.

                I haven't been to the Modern Cafe for years (I got out of the habit back when they allowed smoking), but I remember it as being kinda upscale and pricy.

                But I should try the Modern again, now that I can breathe while I'm eating.


              3. Although I haven't been there in a few years, I have liked the pork chops at J.D. Hoyt's on Washington Avenue in the Warehouse District in Minneapolis. I haven't seen any mention of it on chowhound, so I don't know how the food is now. They seem to have a straight-ahead menu.

                2 Replies
                1. re: bob s

                  I live near both Hoyt's and the Monte. Me and all of my nabes go to Hoyt's once in a while, and the food is good, but we always end up back at the Monte.

                  Some nights, Hoyt's is very much a high-roller sports bar. Limos. Threads. Not so much for casual dining as a place to see and be seen, which is cool if you're into that scene.

                  1. re: Loren3

                    Sounds like Hoyt's is worth a try, but it seems to be up near the Jax level. Me, I'm pining for a casual, moderately-priced place with traditional - but good - American food.


                2. 2nd the hoyts. Excellent trad. chow.

                  Craftsman - a little average last time I went....fyi. won't be rushing back.

                  1. What about Erte, in Nordeast? They do nice steaks, fish, pork chops, etc., along with side-dishes like terrific hash browns, honeyed carrots, and creamed spinach. The traditional salad dressings are all house-made with good quality ingredients (I'm particularly partial to the zingy green goddess).


                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Jordan

                      Erté is one of the few places in town that does good salads. It seems like it would be simple thing to do, but so many places just can't get it right.

                      Also, most times I've been in there it's been dead, so no problems getting a table.

                      1. re: Mill City Modern

                        I've been thinking of Erté as just a steak joint (I'm not a steak eater), but I should give it another try for the salads and side dishes.


                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                          Erte has much more than steaks. I lean mostly toward fishatarian and vegetarian, and found lots of options at Erte. I really enjoyed it when my friend and I ate there after the Art-a-Whirl this year.

                    2. The Town Talk is, in fact, drenched in irony -- the champagne service for forties pretty much makes it as arch as you can go. But if you can get over that, the American food (from burgers to fried pickles to milkshakes to FANTASTIC fried cheese curds) is really quite terrific.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: jrnorton23

                        Does the Town Talk have anything other than ironic 50s-diner food? If not, the reports of an insane noise level would be enough to keep me away. (I'm waiting for a city-shutdown blizzard to try place.)


                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                          If you follow the link I posted above, Town Talk has their menus posted on the website, along with their delightfully reasonable wine list.

                          As for the noise level, yes, it can be quite loud, but it seems that the construction on Lake St has lessened the crowds. A couple of weeks ago we had dinner on a Saturday night next door (at the excellent East African restaurant, Dashen), and Town Talk looked to be at least half empty.

                          1. re: AnneInMpls


                            Just go. I've been there several times and only noticed the noise the first time when it was absolutely full, and only then because I had just read another post about the noise. It was nowhere near the noise level at 20.21 if you're familiar with that place. For sure it's fine on a weekday evening and, as strange as it sounds, is quieter in the bar area if you're dining alone.

                            As mentioned in other posts, you can view the menu on their website.

                        2. Town Talk - most definitelya great AMERICAN grub. but go alone or only with one or two companiona ao you can sit at the bar. we did it tonight, and it just PERFECT. the service was awesome, with some extra special attention ("try this wine and tell me what you think...") The food was great, from the fresh salad to the light & tasty cheese curds to the fish + pumpkin and the pasta. wow. the apple crisp + ice cream for dessert was so "home made" that i almost washed my own dish =)
                          try it asap! but sit at the bar!

                          1. How about Pracna? They have great burgers and are open late.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: baconstrip

                              Just to clarify - I'm not looking for a burger joint. I want to avoid burger joints. (I don't eat burgers.)

                              Nor do I want a steak joint. I'm searching for places that use real ingredients, cook from scratch, and specialize in classic American standards. Or places with great hot Turkey sandwiches (perhaps that's another thread...)


                              1. re: AnneInMpls

                                For a great hot turkey sandwich, try the Little Wagon on the east edge of downtown. They only have it on the menu Wednesdays. Thick slices of turkey roasted in the house, the usual trimmings. Sadly, there's not much else to recommend the place, unless you like eavesdropping on City Hall and Strib workers during their lunch break.

                            2. I'll voice my support for Town Talk. The cheese curds were lovely, as was the pulled pork sandwich. There are some fancy touches, but nothing too over the top.

                              I'll also add 128 Cafe to the list (http://www.128cafe.net/). I would describe it as American and, boy, is it good.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Uisge

                                Okay, I have to say it. The Town Talk is pretentious, overpriced, and just generally way too full of itself. The first time we went, the server was friendly and eager, but totally inexperienced. The second and final time we went, the server was annoying and did everything possible to talk us *out* of ordering anything but the most expensive dishes. It is loud, too. The Town Talk? Don't bother.

                                Now, would someone please open a really great diner in South Minneapolis, please?

                              2. What about Carol's in Blaine? I hear that their food is good. Anyone been there?


                                1. The current issue of Mpls-St. Paul magazine has a cover story about good comfort food places, many of them classic American. (It also has a related tangent on good ethnic comfort food like pho, etc.) Turkey dinner at the Lexington, for ex... Might be a good source of ideas.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: dahlsk

                                    Perfect! Dahlsk, thanks so much for letting me know about this information; it's just what I was looking for.

                                    And here's a link to the article, as long as I have it up on my screen:



                                  2. try Trotter's in St Paul, Anne

                                    everyone seems to forget about it, but it's unpretentious & irony-free!

                                    1. Last night, The Chowish Lurker and I had dinner at the Triple Rock Social Club. I know the weekend brunch has been discussed a few times, but while reading the menu, I kept coming back to this thread.

                                      There's a lot of American Classics on their menu, from burgers to meatloaf, to chili, to homemade mac and cheese. (And an awful lot more.) All of these things are available vegetarian or vegan - probably the only vegan mac and cheese in the twin cities)

                                      I ordered "Cooks Revenge" (pay $8, and get whatever they feel like serving you. It's a risk, but it can be spectacular) and got something very much resembling chicken a la king. There were a couple of pieces of garlic toast, a HUGE pile of their garlic mashed potatoes (I'm tempted to put garlic in all caps... holy garlic!) all smothered in a white gravy with diced chicken breast and a TON of peas. That fit right in with the American Classics that were already in my mind.

                                      And, since it is also a punk bar, it is as unpretentious and irony-free as they come. If you're put off by mohawks, tattoos, and piercings, the place isn't for you. If you want great food, low prices, and a killer juke box, however - it's perfect. (The Chowish Lurker's 90 year old grandmother can enjoy a meal there, so can you.)

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Danny

                                        Danny, you took your grandmother-in-law to a punk bar? for a meatloaf dinner? and she liked it? Whoooooaaa. I don't know whom to congratulate first.

                                        1. re: KTFoley

                                          Actually, we took her there for breakfast. Her coffee was cold when she first got it, so she sent it back. When we asked her what she thought of the place she said, "It sure was an interesting joint, but the food was good."

                                          That's about as glowing of a compliment as you'll get from her. And it beat the heck out of taking her to her favorite breakfast place - Perkins.

                                          I should also add that we've taken both of my parents there, as well as TCL's parents. All have enjoyed their meals.

                                      2. It's true.. My Grandma did like the Triple Rock. I just thought it would be fun to take Grandma there because she can have some funny comments about places she doesn't like. I thought the Triple Rock would be an instant classic Grandma-ism but besides the coffee, she really enjoyed it. Who knew?

                                        Danny's not kidding about the GARLIC mashed potatoes. I had one bite of them and whoa! These were no wimpy well-we-do-use-garlic-powder kind of mashed potatoes. I could smell the garlic on Danny for hours after dinner. Really quite bizarre.

                                        I had the veggie burger. I would not order the veggie burger from the Triple Rock again. It was kinda dry, kinda bland. I can't really describe it other than bland. I have had much better.

                                        I have had the macaroni and cheese on other visits and it is very good. The mac and cheese is creamy with a dusting of bread crumbs on the top. yum.

                                        1. We've been going to McCoy's a lot at Excelsior & Grand in St Louis Park. The menu is a mix of stuff but includes some comfort-food items like mac-and-cheese; they do a tasty meatloaf special on Mondays and a prime rib special on Wednesdays. We've been there twice for the prime rib. Overcooked a bit the first time, undercooked the second time, and the potato/veg were a bit cold -- but the service is attentive, so we had no problem sending the undercooked ones back, and they comped dessert for our trouble. Despite the doneness issues the prime rib was tender and delicious, with a nice crust on the outside, and we will happily be going back again.