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Philly Chowhound needs Minneapolis suggestions

My husband and I will be spending four days in Minneapolis/St. Paul at the beginning of June, and I love planning ahead. I've been reading your Board and enjoying it!

Here is our schedule:

We'll arrive on a Monday, probably late afternoon, staying at the Graves601 Hotel. It would be nice to have dinner not too far away; we could walk or take public transportation. I'm sure we won't feel like getting dressed up. (We will have a car, but we'll be tired.)

Tuesday: we have a free evening and can enjoy a leisurely dinner. Would you suggest Chambers Kitchen? Somewhere you like better?

Wednesday: we have 7;30 tickets for the Guthrie. I think we would be comfortable if we could eat fairly close to it, probably about 5:30.

Thursday: we have 7:30 tickets for your wonderful orchestra. Again, we would like to eat somewhere near the performance, if that is possible.

Breakfast: any suggestions near our hotel? I know we will get to Hell's Kitchen, even if it's not very close. We're not much for big lunches since we'll be eating all those dinners out.

About us: we're seniors, and not too interested in places that are hugely noisy and a "scene." We eat all kinds of things - Philly is a great restaurant town these days - but don't prefer Mexican or Indian. (I'm not good at spicy.)
Asian is okay if it's really wonderful, because we get such good Asian food at home.
Fusion is always fine, as is Italian, French, Continental, etc.

Hope you can help! Thanks.

Sylvia in Philly

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  1. Let's see...

    On Monday night I would head to 112 Eatery. It's only a couple of blocks away from the Graves (which is an incredible hotel - we've stayed there 2x and we live in the city!)

    I've never been to Chambers but for a leisurely dinner I would recommend Alma. The 3 course dinner is $42 plus it allows you to relax and hang out for the evening while you're enjoying your courses. I think it's also much more the atmosphere you're looking for. You'll want to drive there since walking would take about 40 minutes to walk from the hotel.

    As far as near the Guthrie, I've never been to Cue so I'll let someone else speak up for it. I'm also not impressed by Spoonriver next door, but many others are (see my thread :) You could take a chance and try Spill the Wine, the new wine bar across Washington Ave. Then report back to us!

    Hm, near the Orchestra... Vincent would be a great choice.

    As far as breakfasts I would definitely drive down to Lucia's at 31st and Hennepin.

    1. Sylvia, welcome to the Twin Cities! Sounds as though you have a wonderful itinerary lined up. Truly, if you like to walk you can go nearly everywhere you've mentioned on foot from the Graves 601, though the Guthrie is a bit of a hike in dress shoes. Here are some recommendations for downtown Minneapolis that you might enjoy:

      Monday -- Chambers and Graves are within walking distance of one another, and this might be a good evening to relax over dinner in their lounge
      Tuesday -- This open evening could be a perfect opportunity to visit another neighborhood and treat yourself to Restaurant Alma, which is a local gem.
      Wednesday -- Make reservations now for Spoon River, right next door to the Guthrie.
      Thursday -- Vincent's is a lovely French Restuarant just across the plaza from Orchestra Hall. Reservations would be prudent here as well.
      Breakfasts -- Hell's Kitchen is within walking distance. Spoon River is nice for breakfast, too. If the Farmers' Market is up & running, maybe a Thursday morning option would be to pick up some baked goods from a local artisan?

      1. Monday: I like katebauer's suggestion of 112 eatery as a place to eat. A great room and great food. I understand, though, that reservations can be hard to come by and I don't know how far in advance you can make a reservation. The few times I've gone, I've been lucky to grab a seat at the bar and order from the menu there.

        Another idea would be to eat at Cosmos in the hotel. I've only had great meals there.

        Tuesday: I've had good experiences at Chambers. It is, however, one of the "it" places and can be loud and a scene. (Not as bad as the bar at the top of the building, though.)

        Since you'll be here in early June, I'd try to find a place where you might be able to sit outside. I'm partial to both Lucias (already mentioned) and Cafe Barbette in Uptown. Both would be quick and easy drives from the Graves. Another possibility -- Cafe Lurcat on Loring Park. I love this restaurant, although I know there are others who think it's only so-so. The setting is lovely. You could retire to the bar after your dinner for a leisurely evening. (Of course, you could drop by the bar after dinner somewhere else too.)

        Wednesday: I can't add anything to katebauer's comments. I enjoyed my lunch at Spoonriver, but that's only one data point. I would say that I was not thrilled with Wasabi, which is right nearby, but it sounds like you probably would not be heading for Asian anyway.

        Thursday: I'd highly recommend Vincent's as well. Its neighbor, Brit's, will be packed on a Thursday evening. The food there is so-so, but it's a pleasant place to be on a nice summer evening. I haven't been to Masa, but it's also within walking distance of Orchestra Hall.

        Breakfasts: The best breakfast downtown is Hell's Kitchen, in my opinion. If you're up for the feel of it, Al's Breakfast by the University is an experience. It's probably about 15 minutes away from the Graves if you don't get on the highways.

        Bob

        1 Reply
        1. re: bob s

          You can never go wrong with Alma.

          I've been to Cue & it was pretty bad. I've heard more recent opinions that its still pretty bad.

          I don't think Cafe Lurcat is good, but I know plently of people who adore it. However, everyone always talks about the donuts for desert. So maybe is a great place for post dinner, coffee & desert?

          Brits is loud & fun for a beer, don't eat there.

          Hell's Kitchen is one of the all time best breakfast spots.

          Have a great trip - hoping that you get wonderful weather.

        2. For your symphony night, I recommend Vincent for a delicious French meal. It's right across the street, and it's calm and refined, so it's perfect for a pre- or post-concert meal. If you go early, they have a great happy hour with reduced prices on the bar menu.

          http://www.vincentarestaurant.com/

          Re your other evenings: I'm a huge fan of Alma - it's my favorite restaurant (Vincent is my second favorite). 112 Eatery is great, too. Alma in particular is also quiet and refined, and as expensive as you want it to be - but it doesn't have to be outlandish.

          http://www.restaurantalma.com/

          For a casual ethnic lunch, visit the Midtown Global Market. The best food, in my opinion, is from La Serena Gorda, a Mexican seafood booth run by a chef who used to work at a swanky restaurant. But everything else is good, too. (I would recommend the Safari Express for Somali food, but it's pretty spicy; although the vegetable-coconut dish is not hot at all - and is delicious!) And the MGM is a great place to buy gifts for your kids/neighbors/house-sitters. Free parking on weekends, too.

          http://www.midtownglobalmarket.com/

          Enjoy your trip!

          Anne

          1 Reply
          1. re: AnneInMpls

            I can't contribute much to the terrific restaurant advice you've already been given, but I will echo Anne's recommendation for hitting MGMkt for ethnic food stands and food-related gifts to take home, if you find yourself with a free couple of hours when you don't mind being indoors. (Note, the free off-hours parking is on the open lot to the West of MGMkt. During weekday/business day, the lots are all paid lots.)

            Birchberry in MGM has a few Native American foodstuffs (and cookbooks,) including several products with Minnesota hand-harvested wild rice. This stuff is the best. Cafe Finspang next to Birchberry celebrates Minnesota's Scandinavian heritage, but it's more of a sweets counter than anything (their lefse makes a nice snack). Not particularly food-related, but very local/unique to the Twin Cities, is the Hmong crafts stand just a food doors down from Birchberry.

            However, early June is bound to be lovely and lush and green in the Twin Cities, so if it were me, I would steer myself to all of the outdoors spots--such as MSPD's Sea Salt Eatery recommendation--athough, that's probably just me, because I've been cooped up all winter. RE: Sea Salt Eatery, let me re-emphasize the "very casual" atmosphere--it's in a park and located right next to the fabled Minnehaha Falls. It makes for a nice walk. Also, as MSPD mentioned, don't forget to have a cone of Sebastian Joe's locally produced ice cream while you're at Sea Salt Eatery or for your stroll around the falls.

            Another outdoors option that has been mentioned is the Mill City Farmers Market:

            http://www.millcityfarmersmarket.org/...

            It's sandwiched right between the Guthrie and the Mill City Museum--open on Thursdays and Saturdays--they open May 12 for the season. Some wonderful shopping/gift options there.

            http://www.millcityfarmersmarket.org/...

            I will also put a plug in for the Mill City Museum itself--which can be a very chowish stop in a way, if you have another day you want to be indoors for a bit. The MCM is located in the (very renovated) ruins of an old flour mill and chronicles Minneapolis' history as the flour milling capital of the world. The Flour Tower Tour is fantastic and is alone worth the price of the admission. The Flour Tower Tour ends in the Betty Crocker kitchen and they always time it so there's something baked and delicious coming hot out of the oven for you to taste. I love looking at the collection of old cookbooks in the Betty Crocker kitchen. The gift shop at the MCM is pretty good, too, and they have a nice collection of cookbooks and nostalgia-type cooking items/gifts. (You don't need to pay admission to get into the gift shop).

            http://www.millcitymuseum.org/

            Also, if you happen to run across them, and I'm not sure you will on this trip given your itinerary, another fun gift to take home are Pearson's Salted Nut Rolls--made right here in St. Paul--if you can find them. (They are normally at Gas Stations and grocery stores. They might be in the "Minnesota" themed stores at the airport, too).

            http://www.pearsonscandy.com/index.html

            Have a wonderful visit!

            ~TDQ

          2. Sylvia,

            Here is my two cents:

            Two options for when you arrive. If you generally step off the plane hungry and want a casual snack, Sea Salt Eatery is very convenient. It's within a mile of the airport and very easy to get to. ( www.seasalteatery.com ). On a June afternoon, you'll get a nice introduction to the urban parkland of Minneapolis. I love going there and watching the families, joggers and cyclists. This is a "healthy" city, but ironically, they serve some of the Twin Cities' best and most decadent ice cream from Sebastian Joe's. I favor their halibut tacos and crab cakes, and the calamari is very good. Starting there will ease "downtown overload" of the rest of your trip.

            If you would rather check in to the hotel first, 112 Eatery, as others have mentioned would be a nice place to start. ( www.112eatery.com ) Just freshen up and go as you are -- it's very relaxed, as you can see from their web site photo. It can be a bit crowded and noisy though. You can't go wrong with anything there -- the last time the scallop and oyster mushroom appetizer was a standout if there was one.

            For a quieter place, Willie's Wine Bar is close to your hotel. It's a gem that flies a bit under the radar, maybe due to a quirky location (also maybe due to their tacky looking website www.experiencewillies.com ) I have been a fan of the chef there (Bruno Oakman) for a number of years.

            For Tuesday night, based on no "hugely noisy and scene" I would pass on Chambers. Especially if you are familiar with any of Jean Georges' restaurants out east, you will likely find more style than substance.

            Taking "leisurely" literally, Alma is a good recommendation. ( www.restaurantalma.com ) This would be a long (and bothersome in my opinion) walk. A cab ride should only cost about $5 each way. Alma is a relaxed upscale venue on the outskirts of the University of Minnesota campus. You'll dine among influential stewards of the land, young grassroots politicians (my last meal there was next to our now U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar), locals from the neighborhood and maybe even Ruth Reichl or a couple of U students on a first date. The menu changes with the seasons so no specific recommendations, but if you like cheese, they'll likely have an excellent cheese plate.

            Plan B would be Cosmos Restaurant in your hotel ( www.cosmosrestaurant.com ) Cosmos has been delivering one of the Cities' top dining experiences for quite some time now, although they have very recently changed chefs. I have no experience with the new guy, Stephen Trojahn, though he brings impressive credentials to MSP.

            On Wednesday, I'll throw out something not yet mentioned, Fugaise ( www.fugaise.com and pronounced foo-gayze). It amazes me that a place with this level of cuisine and wonderful a chef gets so little mention locally. You will be happily sated with intriguing food, yet not too stuffed to enjoy the show. Fugaise is convenient to the Guthrie and opens at 5:00 -- plenty of time to accommodate pre-theater dining. The atmosphere lends to theater attire as well.

            This might also be a night to enjoy MSP's most acclaimed restaurant, La Belle Vie ( www.labellevie.us ). LBV is a mile from your hotel, albeit in the other direction of the Guthrie, but they start serving at 5:00. If you've searched this board, you've probably found a lot of information on La Belle Vie. It's a truly special place, in my opinion one of the only restaurants here that compares to dining on the coasts. This is the "anti-scene" -- classic, elegant and you may run into Walter Mondale on your way in or out.

            Stop off at the Nicollet Island Inn for a drink and/or carriage ride after the show. ( www.nicolletislandinn.com ) The restaurant has unfortunately fallen out of the top echelon of fine dining here, but this is a beautiful spot to stroll or sit. (I proposed to my wife nearby before dinner there, for what it's worth, and she still puts up with me

            )

            For Thursday, I will concur with Vincent. It's adjacent to Orchestra Hall and wonderful -- a perfect recommendation for an orchestra night. ( www.vincentarestaurant.com ).

            (By the way, you are seeing the Mahler Symphony, right? I'm jealous...one of my absolute favorites. You're in for a wild one!)

            At risk of "entertainment overload", The Dakota is a fantastic restaurant and jazz venue on Nicollet Mall, very close to your hotel. ( www.dakotacooks.com ). In late May, you should be able to view their June music schedule on their web site. The Dakota attracts top-notch national acts.

            As for breakfast, (here goes my credibility), I'm a suburbanite and now work out here too....so...I don't eat breakfast downtown! Hell's Kitchen ( www.hellskitcheninc.com ) is certainly a consensus favorite.

            Enjoy your time here and please let us know how it goes.

            5 Replies
            1. re: MSPD

              Wow, I am very impressed with all of the lovely posts, so all I have to add is that another
              reason to check out the Midtown Global Market is that it was modeled after one of the
              places I most miss since moving here from Philly, the Reading Terminal Market! I don't
              think ours is as huge as Reading Terminal, but it's fun to see something similar. And
              you could take the new Light Rail over there- it runs on 5th St downtown and gets to
              a spot several blocks from the market on Lake St in about 9 minutes. You could take
              a Lake St bus the rest of the way- they run pretty often. Have fun!

              1. re: faith

                I thing it's important to keep in mind though when comparing MGMkt to Reading Market is that MGMkt is 1 year old, so not nearly as big or busy as Reading Market. Please don't think that we think we even compare, Reading Market is amazing!

                1. re: katebauer

                  I was resisting the urge to say something about mgm being much lesser than
                  Reading Terminal. I think MGM has its own unique charms and reflects the
                  predominant ethnic groups from this region, which are a bit different from Philly.
                  And I think it is notable that the overall layout was influenced by Reading Terminal.

                  1. re: faith

                    That's why I thought we'd steer them towards the most uniquely Minnesotan of the stands at MGMkt...

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: faith

                      I love MGMkt, but I didn't want anyone to expect anything similar to Reading Market. My impression of Reading Market, along with Pike Street Market in Seattle is that they've been around for ever and have evolved into what they are today. MGMkt is just a baby. I clearly remember a hot turkey meal I had at Reading Market about 5 years ago. I wish we could get that vendor into MGMkt (along with the one that servers Oprah's favorite mac and cheese) :)

              2. Another good breakfast place not too too far from your hotel is Moose & Sadie's. It's a charming coffeeshop in an old mercantile building in the warehouse district. You could walk from the Graves - it's about 6 blocks. Best huevos rancheros in town, excellent coffee, two homemade quiches a day. It's one of my regulars. And it fits your profile of not being hugely noisy and a "scene" (for which reason I would recommend against Al's). And, they have a nice outdoor seating area in front.

                If you do stroll over to 112 and absolutely can't get in, then just across the street is Cafe Brenda. She's big on organic, locally produced. Nice wine selection, peaceful ambience, and casual enough your needs on the first night here.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Loren3

                  My two suggestions:

                  Great breakfast place is Al's Diner in Dinkytown - by the U. Pretty quick trip from downtown (less than 10 minutes). Mapquest it. Local institution, hole in the wall.

                  http://twincities.citysearch.com/prof...?

                  Masa is the newest restaurant from the D'Amico dynasty, and was voted best new restaurant last year. I love it. It's on 11th and Nicollet - very close to your hotel. Right next to Vincent. Shouldn't have trouble getting a table, unlike 112 Eatery (which I love). It's very upscale Mexican, with the kitchen trained in Mexico. The baby chicken is to do for, and the churros and chocolate sauce is transcendant.

                  http://www.masa-restaurant.com/

                  1. re: pgokey

                    what is a baby chicken exactly?

                    1. re: faith

                      Just what it sounds like...young chicken. Their online menu isn't as descriptive as their menu in the restaurant. It's called pollito, I think, on the menu. I can't be anything too young, though, because it's a pretty good sized breast they serve. It's remarkably tender.

                    2. re: pgokey

                      Be prepared to wait in line for Al's (open only for breakfast.) Their pancakes are great, as is their hollandaise sauce.

                      It's an institution (it won a James Beard "American Classics" award), but it's only a 14 -seat counter and is cramped. I love the food, but you have to be in the right mood for it.

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: pgokey

                        Sylvia, if you don't prefer Mexican as you said in your original post, then skip Masa.

                    3. Looks like you've got lots of ideas already thrown your way, but I will add my votes for:

                      -Sea Salt Eatery near the airport oin Minnehaha Falls Park-fab seafood, get the clam fries to start.
                      -112 Eatery; haven't had a bad meal yet, and it's not really a scene.
                      -Solera hasn't been mentioned, perhaps because the bar can get pretty noisy, but they have a lovely outdoor patio. Tapas.
                      -Alma: everyone raves
                      -Cafe Barbette and Lucia's are both good uptown options, if you drive
                      -Vincent is also a good choice for your Orchestra evening

                      enjoy!