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MSP - weekend trip

Hello Minneapolis hounds!

I am traveling to Minneapolis for the first time for a short visit next weekend, coming from Madison. I lived in Chicago for many years, although I have only truly embraced my chowish side since moving to WI (ironic, no?) We're staying at the Hilton downtown. My SO is not quite as foodie as I (he enjoys great food, but not to the point of waiting in hour-long lines or eating at odd times). I'll travel for food (when we visit Chicago, a mandatory bruch-time stop is at Happy Chef for dim sum...a twenty-minute train ride from downtown), but since I don't know Minneapolis at all, it'll be fairly cold, and it's a short visit, closer to the hotel is probably best. We're both trying to watch our diet, and although this'll be a special weekend, I'm not really looking to do sausages, Jucy Lucys, and biscuits and gravy the whole time we're there. Ethnic and spicy eats are fun; (a favorite restaurant in Madison is the great Laotian place, Lao Laan-Xang); but I certainly appreciate well-prepared food of any sort. Here's what I've managed to comb off the (extensive and well-researched, I might add) MSP boards so far: any thoughts?

Hell's Kitchen, with a reservation.
Midtown Global Market for tamales one morning.

Cue at the Guthrie
Jasmine Deli
Bombay Bistro

Solera (Friday night...we have a reservation.)
Vincent (We have a reservation for Saturday night, but would we be better served by Alma? or some other place? 112 Eatery and La Belle Vie are both booked, sadly. I really wanted to eat at 112.)

Saturday we're probably just going to bum around a bit. I was thinking about the Midtown Global Market, going to Nye's Polannaise for a drink, doing Quang or Jasmine Deli for lunch, perhaps driving around to look at the sights. Sunday we'll probably head over to the Walker (hitting Hell's Kitchen for brunch?) before driving back home. (I assume the Walker will be packed on Saturday, as that's the free day).

Thanks for your help!

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  1. Lots of good research! Well done.

    I wasn't impressed with the tamales at Midtown Global Market the two times I tried them (and I've tried all of the varieties of fillings they offer)--I think the original location of Las Lomas in Mercado Central (which is in Minneapolis on Lake Street) is better, but I'm not sure even then I recommend you go out of your way for them. http://www.lalomatamales.com/

    But, Midtown Global Market is a definite destination. If you want Mexican there, I heartily recommend instead of the tamales the whole fried tilapia from La Sirena Gorda or the al pastor huaraches from Taqueria Los Ocampo. Both are outstanding.


    If you're looking for a BREAKFAST replacement for the tamales, then I think Al's Breakfast is glaringly missing from your list. It's a Twin Cities institution and won a James Beard American classics award. It's a 14-seat counter and you should expect to wait. If that's not your style (it sounds more casual than your other choices), maybe Colossal Cafe --a new board favorite--or even Birchwood. Lots of posts on the board about these two spots.




    Lenny Russo, the executive chef at Cue left on Monday. The kitchen might be in disarray. Maybe try Lucia's instead. Also, just a side-note, there's also a cafe in the Guthrie called Level 5th. I assume it's the same kitchen of course, but it's just an alternative if you want something more casual. If you're just trying to eat at a Lenny Russo restaurant, his restaurant "Heartland" is in St. Paul, (which may not meet your location requirements.) http://www.heartlandrestaurant.com/

    But, I think you'd like Lucia's. (She was nominated for a James Beard award last year).


    Also, if you're in the vicinity of Spoonriver/Cue, and you're looking for fun chowish things to do, I really recommend the Mill City Museum--it's a chowish stop since it's in the ruins of an old flour mill and traces Minneapolis' past as flour-milling capital of the world. It's next door to the Guthrie. Even if all you do is the flour-tower tour, which is a multi-media presentation on the history of the mill that ends with a spectacular view of Minneapolis, it's pretty cool. I like the new movie "Minneapolis in 19 minutes flat," though it's not especially chowish. The Mill City Museum has won a fair amount of acclaim for design.


    The Walker is fabulous, but only the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture http://garden.walkerart.org/artwork.wac is remotely chowish. Actually, that's not true--the Walker does have a Wolfgang Puck restaurant 20.21 (as well as a cafe-Gallery 8-you have to get there early though.) I like the Walker on the free days--it has a nice community vibe to it, even if it's a little more crowded.


    Too bad about 112 Eatery. I love that place. You might try to go at an off-time and see if you can score a spot at the bar, if you're really motivated and have time. Maybe Sunday dinner right before you leave town?


    1 Reply
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      It's a good thing the chef at Cue left, they got a SCATHING review from the Star-Tribune, and the reviewer mentioned they'd been there three times! Food undercooked after being sent back for being undercooked, horrible taste combinations...good news indeed the chef is gone! It's a beautiful space.

    2. They serve food at the bar at both 112 and La Belle Vie.

      Some other recommendations in the area:
      Peninsula (Malaysian) on 26th and Nicollet
      Yummy (Dim Sum and seafood) on 25th and Nicollet
      Actually, the stretch on Nicollet between 24th and the 29th St Greenway is full of options for lunch from hip diner fare at the Bad Waitress to Jasmine Deli and Quang which you mentioned and the ones I just wrote above. It's right near the Minneapolis Institute of Arts too.

      Chai on the West Bank (Cedar Avenue) has excellent Thai food.

      Near your hotel, the Bar at Vincent (on Nicollet Mall) is good, try the burgers. Safari is an East African restaurant on Nicollet (at 15th) in the Loring Park area.

      Also, I'd recommend a cocktail at the Chambers Hotel (9th and Hennepin).

      1. 112 Eatery only dedicates a percentage of the restaurant to reservations. If you call early (around 5:30) you can get yourselves on a list and they do a pretty good job of estimating the time.

        Note that eating at the bar is also an option but it is crowded and can be difficult for 2 people.

        1. Fine choices.

          Hell's Kitchen would be my top choice for breakfast. You will need to make a reservation if you want to avoid waiting.

          Vincent is excellent -- I'd rate it well above Alma. The tasting menu is always worthwhile.

          1. I've noticed some confusion on these boards between Bombay 2 Deli on Central Ave. and Bombay Bistro on Marquette (which is downtown). Bombay 2 Deli is great, all-vegetarian, and gets raves here, but it's a bit further from downtown (maybe 5-10 minutes) and lacking ambience as it's more of a takeaway--although you certainly can eat there as well. Further down Central is The Vegetarian, which I assume would have a (non-mandatory) lunch buffet. Both restaurants are more South Indian and I know The Vegetarian has dosas, utthapam, etc. I think Bombay Bistro is more expensive, Americanized, and--based on second-hand evidence--far inferior to the other two.

            Sorry if I seem to be rambling about this but I'm a huge fan of Indian food and most of it here is so bad.

            1. Show up at 112 a few minutes before the doors open at 5:00, and you should be able to get in - even if it is to sit at the bar.

              1. i think your picks are all fine and you should have a lot of fun and a big variety of food, so even if hubby doesn't love lunch he'll dig dinner. my 2 cents is that i prefer alma to vincent-- i don't mean to contradict a different rec, it's just that i love alma, its huge committment to seasonal and local foods, the high quality of service & what they do with FOOD make it really special & memorable. not that i'm trying to say one pace is better than another, just that preferences are different. both vincent and alma are good. if you try vincent this time, don't miss alma next time!

                1. Two thoughts, I've been really disappointed with Spoonriver recently. I went last night for drinks and appetizers and again thought everything was really bland. I've never been there for breakfast, and imagine it would be fun when the farmer's market is running, but I just wanted to add my recent experiences.

                  Also, I think Solera is nothing special. Again, I expect really bold tastes when I'm having tapas (especially extreme garlic), and they don't seem to deliver.

                  In the spirit of adding positives, I would definitely do Lucia's and Alma. Lucia's has a fantastic brunch if you want to do that in place of Spoonriver and Alma is the best restaurant in the cities right now, in my opinion.

                  1. My only Spoonriver experiences have been breakfast, and those were all outstanding. Looking at the dinner menus online hasn't particularly excited me, so we've stuck to breakfasts there. (Menus are here: http://www.spoonriverrestaurant.com/m... )

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Danny

                      Good to hear. I work two blocks from there so maybe I'll swing by one day when I have to work on the weekend :(

                    2. I second the opinion that Los Ocampo would be the place to go to in the Midtown Global Market, and I also feel that Alma is the best restaurant in the Twin Cities, although Vincent is certainly not too shabby. The Walker's restaurant 20.21 serves a very lovely brunch buffet on Sunday.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Quince

                        los ocampo is my fave in mgm too-- probably should put this in a new post but st. paul chowhounds should go to their original strip-mall locale & try their bigger menu-- just don't expect anybody working to speak english. they have an amazing $10 cuban sandwich that can feed 4 people which is a wicked weekend indulgence sometimes at my house.

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          Where is Los Ocampo in St. Paul? I'm sorry if this has been discussed before. Can't find thread about the strip mall location.

                          1. re: jeanmt

                            it's on arcade, north of east 7th street, in a strip mall across the street from the big rainbow foods grocery. sorry i don't have an exact address. it is probably not worth a long drive but if you are in the area it's YUMMY. it is an oasis of good takeout in an area of otherwise slim pickins close to my house.

                      2. Keep in mind that 112 is open until 1 a.m. It is a great place and if you want to try it you can go late.

                        Vincent is quite nice and the room is beautiful. Will be a lovely dinner if we get the big snow being predicted.

                        Alma is superb. We will be there Saturday night.

                        1. agreed...112 is best when you get a bit of the raucous industry crowd around 11pm after most other dining rooms have closed.

                          1. Hi! I've noticed that many people are suggesting restaurants not near where you are staying...and since you wanted to stay mostly downtown, I'll give you my two cents on your choices and some of the other's recommendations. I work in downtown Mpls and actually park at the Hilton. Hell's Kitchen is an excellent choice for breakfast or lunch (can get breakfast items on the lunch menu as well) and is very close to the Hilton. Another breakfast spot I personally love is the French Meadow Bakery on Lyndale Ave. You'd have to drive, but it's not far (about 5-10 min). Never heard of Spoonriver. Recently heard of Al's...sounds like it has a good reputation but is located across the river by the U of M and you would have to drive. I hear the Midtown Global Market is supposed to be great, but I no of no one that's been there. It's not in the best area of mpls, so if you don't mind that then it's a good option. I recently had lunch at Cosmos. Very good, smaller portions, nice selection, and love the atmosphere. However I was surprised at how dead it was on a week day. I think it's more of a night spot. Bombay Bistro is great and very close to the Hilton. I did see the other review that didn't like it, but I work w/many people from India and they all say this Indian restaurant is the best in the TC area. A couple more ethnic places I love are Dashen Restaurant & Bar (ethiopian) in SE Mpls (about a 5-10min drive), and Everest on Grand (Himalayan) on Grand Ave in St. Paul (about 20 min). As far as the Cue at the Gutherie, I've been there for dinner and thought it was good, but nothing special. The ambiance is fantastic though, and again you'll have to drive. Yummy is supposed to be very good. I believe it's in the eat street area (about 5-10 min drive just south of downtown). Nye's has gotten national recognition, but it's a night spot...you probably wouldn't benefit from stopping by for a drink during the day. But I did meet Jim Belushi in the polka room when he was in town w/his band a few years ago. It's a fun place that draws a wide variety of people and ages. Chambers is an excellent spot for a drink and appetizer. The street level is very chic and the bar on the top level has excellent views. Definitely worth stopping by there...not to mention that they have art exhibits as well. Vincent is great and has a good atmosphere as well. Definitely a dressier place and typically a little older crowd as it is expensive. But I loved it! Also, it's very close to the Hilton. Across the street at Masa they have very good margarita's. Otherwise, Britt's (next to Vincent's) is a fun place for a drink as well. A couple more places for a drink that are close are the Dakota Jazz Club, Zelo's and Rossi's (jazz room). Lucia's is Italian...never been there. I'm sure it's good, but for some reason I do not know of a single person that's been there. Perhaps because it's been around for so long, but it's just not on the top of anyone's list to go...but I have been there for a glass of wine and they have an excellent selection. I love Solera! It has a great atmosphere. Many people don't like it because they order the tapas which although great can add up in a hurry because the portions are small. However the entree prices are pretty normal compared to any nice restaurant. If concerned about money just stick to the entrees, but I always get the tapas. Oh, one more place that's a fun drink spot downtown is Palomino's. They have some really great martini's - love the Lavender Martini!

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: ellecm

                              I can't resist a small correction. Lucia's isn't Italian, they consider themselves to serve American food and often ensure they're using local, fresh produce. It's an amazing restaurant, you really should try it.

                              You should go to MGMarket - I've always felt 100% safe in that neighborhood and they have free and easy parking.

                              1. re: katebauer

                                I agree--I've never felt threatened in the Midtown Global Market area. The free easy parking (weekends and evenings only) is the surface lot to the WEST of Midtown Global Market. The covered ramp on the east side of the MGMkt is a pay lot much of the time.

                                Lucia's has a nice bakery, too.


                              2. re: ellecm

                                //Never heard of Spoonriver.

                                It's right next door to the Guthrie, i.e. one door down from Cue. Reviewed quite a bit recently since those two opened about the same time. A good breakfast to boot.

                                1. re: ellecm

                                  Palomino is a national chain that was pretty well played out in the early 90's--it isn't particularly unique to Minneapolis. I don't know about the martinis, but I wouldn't recommend it for the chow if you have other local choices available.


                                  Also, Everest on Grand in St. Paul is a bit out of the OP's way if she's trying to limit herself to Minneapolis. In my opinion, the very best menu items at Everest on Grand are the momos--the good news for Minneapolitans is, you don't have to cross the river into St. Paul to get them: they serve their lovely momos at their "Everest Cafe" location in, again, Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. I love their vegetarian momos.



                                  1. re: ellecm

                                    1) Bombay Bistro: It's perfectly solid, but I don't think it's head and shoulders above much. In fact, I think that New Delhi (a few blocks from the Hilton) is better. (Neither is especially good Indian food, IMHO.)

                                    2) The food at the Dakota is pretty good and they have music every night. I haven't heard music at Rossi's, but the food is solid -- if not spectacular -- there. I understand Rossi's has a fun happy hour with good food.

                                  2. i think that the area around midtown global market is now "officially gentrified" and is as safe as going to church-- safer during flu season. keep in mind that a lot of the best new & emerging small restaurants and cafes are in transitioning neighborhoods where the rent is cheap and not in big$ corporate buildouts downtown. give em a break and TRY them! might be really happy you did :)

                                    i'd like to second the love directed at our great independant places: Lucia's, 112, Spoonriver, Quang, Al's (tiny, famous breakfast place & quite an experience to boot, see recent thread), and to repeat myself, Alma.

                                    1. I highly recommend Alma or Lucia's for dinner- both wonderful, chef-driven restaurants with the focus on local organic dishes.

                                      Quang has the best egg rolls in the Cities, hands down. However, Jasmine (accross the street) can't be beat when it comes to huge portions that are reasonably priced- the soups are incredible!