HOME > Chowhound > General Midwest Archive >


Top Five TC Eateries

If for some reason you were limited to eating at just five Twin Cities restaurant for the rest of your life. Which would they be?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Sakura for sushi. In reality I would like more sushi variety over a lifetime but if I had to pick one place...

    Pho Tau Bay for Vietnamese. While not the best for specific Vietnamese items, it's the best overall I believe.

    Town Talk Diner for fun food and friendly atmosphere. Plus those alcoholic shakes are to die for.

    Holy Land - good for something healthy or completely stuffing your face :) Plus we love their take out rotissere chicken dinners when we're not up for cooking.

    India Palace for when you need filling, spicy foods.

    As you see, I'm an Asian foods kind of girl. I might replace 112 Eatery with one of those for their creativity and for something that feels a little more special.

    1. Do Midtown Global Market and Mercado Central each count as one?


      1. Saigon Star in Roseville
        Jerebek's Bakery in St. Paul
        Pineda Tacos in West St. Paul ('cause its close)
        The Nook in St. Paul
        Al's Breakfast in Mpls

        16 Replies
        1. re: Sven

          Jerebek's bakery is in St. Paul? How is it that I've not been to this place? I thought I'd explored every nook and cranny of this town. What's especially good there, Sven?


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            The cream puffs are wonderful (when fresh), they have some of the best (and most adffordable) chocolate cakes around and the apricot kolaches are outstanding. Plus, you can pick up little something for your favorite 20-something Hipster Chick in the adjoining vintage clothes room.

            Jerabek's (otherwise known and The New Bohemian Cafe) is located on Styker and Winnifred just up the hill from St. Matt's on the West Side.

            1. re: Sven

              I can't really imagine where that is, except, I think I've had AYCE fish fry in the basement of St. Matt's during Lent. Hmmm...will need to investigate.


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                That's because unless you live in that neighborhood there would be no other reason to be there. Unless you were a Brown Derby patron. I've heard they make a mean pancake but I've never been. Let me know how it goes.

            2. re: The Dairy Queen

              Oh you have to go to Jerebek's. The problem, if you don't live in West St. Paul, is the inconveience. Man, try the pasties. Homemade. They have a variety of baked goods and also meal-y things like soups. All baked goods are homemade and coffee shop baked goods are completely my bugaboo. They almost always take like a chemical melange to me because that is, in fact, what they are. Another friend calls coffee shop cookies lard cookies.

              But not at Jerebek's. And they have crumbles such as blueberry and actual crockery they serve it on and antique tables and chairs, so you feel as if you're eating in your grandmother's kitchen (well, not my grandmother's).

              But the best, very best, is the vintage clothing and other oddities (wacky cookbooks and mismashed dishes) for sale around the fringe of the two-room shop. It's really wonderful. Now I wonder why we don't go there more often (the inconvenience).

              But my husband, a UPer, or however you say that, from the upper peninsul of Michigan, swears by the pasties and he's very hard to please.


              1. re: jeanmt

                I believe the correct spelling is Yooper...at least that's what I learned in my time @ Michigan State.

                1. re: g rote

                  Good to see another Spartan in the TC. Now, any ideas on where to get an official Detroit Coney here?

                  Go Green!

                  1. re: fruitbooter

                    Fruitbooter...are you from metro Detroit or parts W or N? The best coneys I've had here are Bullwinkle's, Bulldog, and best of all the Gopher Bar on E. 7th in St. Paul. I don't eat them sober, so my take on which is best is unreliable...but if you pressed me I'd say the Gopher. Now if we could just get a Topopo Salad or Bilbo Sticks!

                    1. re: g rote

                      I grew up in the north Metro. I've heard a few reports on the Gopher Bar, I'll have to make it there at some point. I finally broke down and order a National Coney Island kit. It provided a quick fix but I've never been a huge National fan.

                      I miss Bilbo's. I was back in EL a couple years ago and I was astonished to see it gone. I hung my head and took solace in a bucket at Crunchy's.

                      1. re: fruitbooter

                        NW Metro...School & Year? I'm wild guessing you're from Troy or Rochester and graduated high school about '90.

                        1. re: g rote

                          Really close. Rochester and 96. You?

                      2. re: g rote

                        I've yet to try the Gopher Bar. Isn't it kinda unreliable as to hours? I've seen it closed on some regular bar nights.

                        A friend was in Gopher Bar while she waited for another appointment in downtown St. Paul. The bartender was enjoying a few right next to her. A friend of the bartender hopped over the bar to get a beer for my friend. Rather casual atmosphere, but enjoyed.

                        Meaning to have one of those coneys one of these days. Is drinking a pre-requisite to enjoying them?

                  2. re: jeanmt

                    "Another friend calls coffee shop cookies lard cookies. But not at Jerebek's."

                    That's because Jerabek's is first and foremost a bakery. And they have been, in the same location, for 100 years. The coffee shop idea came later to attract the goatee crowd.


                    1. re: Sven

                      And I'd read something somewhere (Minnesota Monthly?) about how a hipster chick inherited the bakery from her grandfather (or something) and implemented the coffee shop/hipster do'ings. I'm getting this kinda wrong, but that's the general idea. She knew how to get the hipsters in.

                    2. re: jeanmt

                      I love Jerabeks and am glad that they are celebrating their first 100 years this year. Be aware that they have chosen to shorten their hours so this is a before 3pm kind of place. I like most of their food but my mother really dislikes their tortiere or, as we call it, touché pie. Not good spicing and wrong kind of pork for her. I was there last week and my friend raved about their lunch torta. The beef barley soup was homemade and quite good, if a bit salty. Their coffee is adequate, but go for the pastries. They also make Bohemian specialties at Xmas time, but you have to know to ask for them/order them. They make a stunning looking (although a bit dry for my taste) Bohemian Christmas egg/fruit bread called "hoska" also known as "vanitcha". That thing is almost the size of a baseball bat and elaborately braided.

                2. If I were limited to five restaurants (oh, what a nightmare!) it would have to be my everyday take-out or casual-drop-in places.

                  - Birchwood

                  - Punch

                  - U Garden (I'm addicted to the orange chicken and the chinese brocolli in garlic sauce)

                  - Puerta Azul (another addiction - this time, to the black beans)

                  - Midori's for the grilled mackerel or salmon dinner

                  But this leaves out some of my very, very favorites that I don't get to that often, like Alma's, True Thai, and Jasmine Deli. I'm not sure I could survive without them. And Al's Breakfast, which I almost never go to because of logistical reasons, but which I love passionately.


                  6 Replies
                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                    I think the "5" restriction is too severe. We live in a harsh climate; I think we should be allowed "5" per season.

                    Then you could have all your warm comfort food soup places, like Saigon Star and Little Szechuan and Tanpopo and such, AND your breezy, farmers-markety summery food places like Sea Salt Eatery, and the patio at Longfellow Grill, and Izzy's and such.

                    112 Eatery can stay on my list all year long.

                    And, I think we should all get VIP passes (so reservations and waiting in line are not issues), plus some kind of Star Trekish beaming technology so the exhausting drive between Minneapolis and St. Paul isn't a factor. I mean, why not?


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      TDQ - I love 112 Eatery - I recommend it all the time to people who want a new place to go. My only complaint (and this is why it is no longer in my top 5) is that their menu is so small but it doesn't change frequently enough for me. I get bored with it too easily. However, their burger is the best I've ever had and if that's all I could eat for the rest of my life, so be it.

                      my top 5:
                      JP American Bistro
                      Town Talk Diner
                      Sushi Tango

                      1. re: Pip

                        I love that burger. Also, the cauliflower.


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          The cauliflower is amazing. Did you ever try the creamed corn? They had it on their menu probably a year and a half ago, maybe 2 years I can't remember. It was the most delicious version of corn I've had. It was cooked like risotto and it was dairy free - made with fresh sweet corn.

                          I wish they would bring that back.

                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                        "plus some kind of Star Trekish beaming technology so the exhausting drive between Minneapolis and St. Paul isn't a factor."

                        For some of us, the exhausting drive from Wayzata to ANYPLACE where there are good restos. LOL!

                        Granted, there are a couple of decent places out here - and Punch is opening up an outpost here (YAY!), but it tends to be a major excursion to go to any of the places that are regular recommendations here... (I have yet to make it too 112 Eatery... don't tell anybody)

                        1. re: djohnson22

                          Do we need to have a Chowdown at 112 Eatery? Ha!

                          I actually don't understand the dearth of good restaurants out Wayzata way, but I agree with you that it's slim pickings.


                    2. TDQ - the exhausting drive - that is 100% something I've said -

                      I really try to stay w/in a 3 mile radius of my house - except downtown minnie - which is like a whopping 6-7 miles away

                      5 places

                      Punch (not that I go there that often but If I'm only going to
                      have one pizza option I like that one)

                      King & I thai - same reason as above


                      Mannys or the Lexington

                      Alma - I love that place.....

                      have a chowish day!

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: St Paul Susie

                        I'd say interesting you pick Manny's and Oceanaire since my opinion is that they're only a couple notches above TGIF chain restaurants. I don't care for any of the Parasole restaurants other than Muffaletta to begin with.

                        If you're looking for great fish, go to JP American Bistro. If you're looking for a great steak, have you tried the one at Zelo? It's not only all natural and raised in southern MN but it's phenomenal.

                        1. re: Pip

                          I've been thinking about those 2 choices as well - I think I'd leave oceanarie on the list - since I adore all seafood and the "one seafood place" on my list would have to have a wide variety and not be a place that has one or 2 fish dishes done well.....

                          Manny's is off - Lexington is on since I like the bar and they give you a large glass of wine. not a measly 2 oz mouthful. Lexington isn't exciting or sexy but reliable and close to me.

                          1. re: St Paul Susie

                            Funny since I am average on Muffaletta (but now you've reminded me that I have a nice $ gift card for there somewhere!)

                        2. re: St Paul Susie

                          So now I have

                          Oceanarie (& yes I've had a lot of meals & a lot of fish at zelo....but I like the overall selection of fish at O)

                          King & I



                          Broders (instead of punch)

                          1. re: St Paul Susie

                            Awesome! I'm happy to see Broders on your list. Their pizza is so incredible and fresh. The pasta bar is always a winner. And I must also say that the deli is one of my favorite places to be in MPLS. The energy and specialized food selection is right up my alley.

                            1. re: Pip

                              Pip - I used to go there at least once a week & I'm very sad that I haven't crossed the river for a #12 at the pasta bar in far too long - I'm glad you reminded me of it! Thanks

                        3. Interesting that you picked Manny's and Oceanaire, since, at least at Oceanaire they can cook you a steak from Manny's. Don't know if you want to consolidate and add another :)

                          1. Quang
                            True Thai

                            crap...no middle eastern and I already have 6...I can't do it.

                            1. I've lived lots of places, and I've picked these because they compare favorably to the best places I've enjoyed elsewhere (e.g. DC, Atlanta, Seattle)

                              "Fine dining" - 112 Eatery

                              Sushi - Koyi

                              Indian - New Delhi

                              Mexican - Pancho Villa

                              Pizza - Psycho Suzi's (and if they close, Nea)

                              It's sad to think that this town doesn't have Thai, Viet, or Chinese that rates my only five, despite how some MSP 'hounds feel about True Thai or Mandarin Kitchen ;-)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Loren3

                                suzi's is closing?? rumor starting or actual knowledge....?

                              2. Really? Pizza at Psycho Suzi's? Huh.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: katebauer

                                  The pizza at Psycho Suzi's is actually quite good. Although I'd say Broder's is my favorite and Punch is a close second.

                                  1. re: Pip

                                    I've had the pizza there several times and it never did anything for me. I like Psycho Suzi's for their patio area and mixed drinks but that's about it.

                                    1. re: Pip

                                      Broders needs to be on my list as well - used to go 1x a week at the least pre kids when I was on the other side of the river.

                                      This is an excellent topic!

                                  2. Hmm...

                                    La Belle Vie -- for the best fine dining in town
                                    Al Vento -- for when you want a nice three-course meal in the neighborhood
                                    True Thai -- my favorite Thai in town
                                    Jakeeno's Pizza -- I need a pizza fix and if I have to choose just one, I want it old school, not Neapolitan or Californian. Actually, my top choice would be Lou Malnati's, but they're only in Chicagoland.
                                    Town Talk Diner -- for the great burgers

                                    If I had a few more slots, I could add sushi, Chinese, tapas, breakfast ... but, the rules of the game say five only, so there they are.

                                    1. No one has mentioned Lucia's. We don't live in the TC, but our daughter does. Lucia's is one of our favorites. If I had to choose the five we love the most when visiting they would be, in no particular order:

                                      1. Hell's Kitchen
                                      2. 112 Eatery
                                      3. Pho Tau Bay/ Jasmine Deli/ Quang - it's a three way tie
                                      4. Origami
                                      5. Lucia's

                                      But I can't really narrow it down. I like certain places for certain items. Punch for pizza, for instance, Fasika for Ethiopian, Solera for tapas, Manny's Torta's, La Loma, etc, etc. We just love to eat in Minneapolis/St. Paul. You guys are so lucky!

                                      1. Five huh?


                                        1. Breakfast - Al's Breakfast
                                        2. Lunch - The Lagoon ($5 hot & spicy chicken, rice and egg roll)
                                        3. Dinner (new american) - 112 Eatery
                                        4. Dinner (not new american) - Babalu (for paella)
                                        5. After dinner - Chatterbox in St. Paul

                                        1. Being limited to five restaurants - that takes me back to living in North Carolina...

                                          1. Lucia's (would also be my choice if I could only have one)
                                          2. 112
                                          3. True Thai
                                          4. Holy Land
                                          5. La Belle Vie

                                          1. Modern
                                            Sabor Latino

                                            5 is tough. I feel guilty leaving out LBV, Town Talk, Puerto Veracruz, The Springer, Pho 79, Tango, Broders (oh god the tagliarini di Locanda del Lupo), Lucias, Cosmos, Ikes, Punch, Nea, Auriga, Bombay2Deli, blah blah blah

                                            PS, am I wrong in thinking its tacky to give someone static for their "favorite" anything?

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: Foureyes137

                                              Where is Puerto Veracruz? It sounds like the kind of place I'd like. (I need to check it out to see if it belongs on my top 5...)


                                              1. re: AnneInMpls

                                                It's on 2400 block of Central NE across from Chaipas and next to Adelita's.

                                                It used to be called La Tortuga and still has tortoises painted on the walls.

                                                It appears to change owners often and the service is spotty, but the same guy is always cooking so the food is great. I recommend the sopes and tacos mexicanos.

                                                1. re: Foureyes137

                                                  Aha! I haven't been there since La Tortuga was very new. Clearly, I don't get to that area enough. I'll check it out!


                                              2. re: Foureyes137

                                                Can you remind me again what Ike's is?


                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  Isn't Ikes the bar/steak/burger place on south 6th street near M&S grill? & lyon's (I can still smell the smoke in here) pub?

                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                    It's a tiny place between Murray's and M&S. A throwback mid-century supper club concept with well mixed Manhattans, pillowy lobster corndogs, and my favorite burger in town (medium, widmers cheddar, fried onions). Also, best men's room downtown (probably ladies as well).

                                                    And AMEN to the smoking ban.

                                                    1. re: Foureyes137

                                                      I'm not sure one was ever able to smoke at Ike's, actually.

                                                2. Taste of Thailand
                                                  Crescent Moon
                                                  The Sample Room

                                                  1. and....to be honest both DH and I were underwhelmed by LBV.

                                                    It hurts to say that. & I certainly don't want to rip on anyone's favorites, but we were not loving it for many many hundreds of dollars spent.

                                                    1. Auriga (I will forever be loyal to Doug and Mel)
                                                      Tea House (best Chinese for me)
                                                      Ike's (my favorite burger in town)
                                                      Jasmine (have to have the sandiwiches)
                                                      Dolono's (The Kurtz special is my favorite pizza, ever)

                                                      1. I claim to hate these kinds of lists--but I secretly do enjoy them so I should probably share mine. In no real order...
                                                        1.)Fasika--I love eating with all kinds of cabbies.
                                                        2.) Pho Ca Dau--Even less atmosphore than most of the pho joints on University. But the pho beats even my beloved Saigon.
                                                        3.) Tea House--same as Fish--best Chinese for my tastes.
                                                        4.) The Nook--I love the burgers and always wondering if Ran-Ham bowl will be open or not.
                                                        5.) The lady who sells tamales out of her trunk near Burrito Mercado in spring and summer. I love her and I love her pork tamales even more.


                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: justhans

                                                          Hey, is that tamale lady married? The last time I was Burrito Mercado - mid December - there was a nice man selling tamales out of a blue minivan. But I was so distracted with by up-and-running corn roaster that I didn't buy any tamales. I won't make that mistake again.

                                                          The corn was only a pale shadow of the summer version, but the chili and cheese was as good as always!


                                                          1. re: justhans

                                                            If it's the same tamale lady who trolls the bars up and down Concord St. in South St. Paul I love her too.

                                                            1. re: Sven

                                                              We used to have a tamale lady in SF. I loved her, too. What a funny phenomenon.

                                                              What days of the week and what time is our Twin Cities tamale lady near Burrito Mercado? Is it only spring and summer? Anne mentions a December possibility.


                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                From what I understand "tamale ladies" and even tamale guys are pretty common in places south. My daughter reports seeing them in Austin, TX.

                                                                I've got a friend who was seriously disturbed when the tamale lady at Burrito Mercado leaned out the door of her minivan and inquired about the purchase of her tamales...

                                                                I've not tried them yet, but with all the recommendations, I think I am going to have to make that clandestine transaction.

                                                          2. Why do I love MN? Where else are you going to get 2 dudes named Hans & Sven discussing street tamales?

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: g rote

                                                              Thank you, g rote for recognizing that - I think "no where else" is the answer. :)

                                                            2. Here goes my Top 5:

                                                              Lucia's (if I can have the nicer side, the wine bar AND the Bakery)
                                                              Tum Rup Thai (a Thai fix is a necessity)
                                                              Punch (Pizza is a food group)
                                                              Chamber's Kitchen (the trendy, fun side of good eating)
                                                              Broder's (carb-loading on the high end)

                                                              All the Coney Dog talk has me fondly remembering my high school days in Detroit eating french fries at National Coney Island because they didn't always kick out the teenagers like the Big Boy had no problem doing. Then we got the appropriate IDs to hang out in Windsor on the weekends... (drinking age ambiguous). Ahhh, the good old days.

                                                              1. This clearly ain't NYC, but it is refreshingly advanced in terms of dining options per capita when compared to metro Detroit. Where in D are you from, and what years were you there?

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: g rote

                                                                  Detroit only saw me until I turned 18 and could escape to the East Coast for college. I go back to see my parents a couple of times a year and that is it... You are right the food scene there isn't very vibrant. Although I have fond memories of Eastern Market. I grew up in Grosse Pointe, right on the border of the city so lots of fun escapades that I still haven't told my parents about. I left in 1997.

                                                                2. did you ever eat / party @ the Majestic or Garden Bowl / Magic Stick?

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: g rote

                                                                    I went there a couple of times in 2001. Great atmosphere.

                                                                    I have a friend that reportedly was there the night Jack White turned on Jason Blah'blah of the VonBondies

                                                                    1. re: fruitbooter

                                                                      I used to manage the place 95-98, and we seemed to have a lot of underage partyers from GP, especially GPP.

                                                                  2. Pane Vino Dolce (so dang good)
                                                                    Chai( hidden Thai gem, I'm thai and its by far the best)
                                                                    Origami(I love me some sushi.)
                                                                    Pizza Nea (try the pizza with the fresh arugula)

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: tingerbell

                                                                      I think Pane Vino Dolce has gone out of business. The shop looked papered up when I drove past last week.

                                                                      1. re: Jordan

                                                                        I actually just (coincidentally) drove by here a few minutes ago and the candles on the tables were burning and no paper on the windows. The Caribou location next door was all papered over but not PVD.

                                                                        1. re: BeckyEO

                                                                          Thanks -- I wasn't sure which storefront it was when I drove past.

                                                                    2. Top five? Going to be difficult.

                                                                      Two of my absolute favorites and sites of our frequent returns are:

                                                                      Saigon on University and Dale in St. Paul
                                                                      Krua Thailand, also on University

                                                                      I can't believe either of those haven't been mentioned yet! I'm always dragging people in those two places. They inevitably become converts.

                                                                      We tried Supatra's at the location of a former Sawatdee in lowertown and found it amazingly superior to the former occupant's cuisine. Will be returning.

                                                                      Trung Nam (again, University in St. Paul) for croissants. Hours only early in the morning and not on Sundays. They know us now.

                                                                      One of the best meals I've had was at the Heartland.

                                                                      And one more St. Paul place I can't forget: Bon Vie on Selby. Excellent breakfasts and the best pull-apart I've ever had.

                                                                      I'm a St. Paul girl in case you can't tell. And I can't count because that's six. And I want to talk about more!

                                                                      Oooo, Muddy Pig for beer!
                                                                      And Saji Ya had some decent, okay really good, sashimi last week, but I do find that place to be hit or miss.

                                                                      Someone stop me!

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: s.again

                                                                        I love Bon Vie. And, the truth is, I list my favorites in my profile--and I can't narrow it down to five there, either. Not even five a season. But, Trung Nam and Heartland are both there.


                                                                        1. re: s.again

                                                                          The Muddy Pig does have a nice beer list doesn't it? That's where I fell in love with Old Speckled Hen.

                                                                        2. My first restaurant meal in the twin cities was 112 Eatery (lucky me!) and I will always have 112 at the top of my list. The charm, the service, the gorgeously spicy almonds, the cauliflower and the lamb, and the sandwiches, ... Yum.

                                                                          My second and third choices are in dinkytown - where I spend a lot of time - Al's and Kafe 421. What can I say about Al's? Oh yeah, it feels like a second home and the pancakes, omelettes, and sizzling bacon never fail to please. Kafe 421 is seldom on the radar for top restaurants because it is so well hidden - just a couple of doors down from Al's. Georgia's mezze platter is refreshingly challenging and delightful and there is usually a pleasing lamb dish. Do save room for dessert. The cannoli-like pastry is filled with a creamy and luscious custard.

                                                                          My last two would have to be my neighborhood places (well, close enough): Lucia's and Quang's. Quang's phos are revivifying and feel fresh on the palate while Lucia is not afraid to serve adult sweets and bold salads.

                                                                          But I would also need a lifetime supply of Hell's Kitchen's peanut butter. :-)

                                                                          1. Just 5 for the rest of my life....hmmm?

                                                                            La Belle Vie is always going to be my all time favorite. food, service and wine are all above top notch.

                                                                            112 - nothing needs to be said that hasnt been said a hundred times in as many threads.

                                                                            Sample Room - it is always a perfect fall back restaurant. we have been able to take picky eaters and foodies alike and both have liked it.

                                                                            Alma - I just want to do their Bonny Doon wine dinner again. One of the most fun dining experiences I have ever had.

                                                                            The Spring Street - gotta have a place to have breakfast after a wine dinner. It is perfect. Their eggs benedict are amazing.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: jaysin612

                                                                              Jaysin, You're a peach for including the Springer on your list. See you there Saturday morning?

                                                                            2. Hmmm... after giving this a bit of thought, I think this would be my list:

                                                                              Big 10 (Stadium Village) - I still think they are the best Subs around, though I don't think they are quite as good as they used to be (unless you ask for a little extra mayo and oil)

                                                                              Loring Pasta Bar (Dinkytown) - The ambience is spectacular, and they have a fairly decent wine list

                                                                              Sea Salt Eatery (Minnehaha Falls) - Great seafood in a nice setting (even though it is only open part of the year)

                                                                              Istanbul Bistro (Minnetonka/Wayzata) - it is only about a mile from where I live, so major bonus points for that!

                                                                              Punch Pizza (Highland Park) - Has to be my absolute favorite "destination" pizza place... and they are opening one in Wayzata soon - yay!