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Apr 27, 2007 09:25 PM

Memorial Day Weekend in MSP-5 days

Greetings from Philly!

My fiancé and I will be spending 5 days (Sat.-Wed) in "slim pickin's" Bloomington for a conference and for leisure. Our initial idea was that we wanted this to be a culinary experience and would give up the 4-star for a 3-star and eat well in exchange for a modest hotel.
Please give us feedback from our itinerary below from previous posts...any “insider info”—and is what we have logistically possible??? What does a 15 minute drive REALLY mean in MN......we’re used to awful traffic here in Philly…. !

Saturday: from airport
Sea Salt Eatery
Dinner: Alma or La Belle Vie

Sunday: Mall of America—
Lunch hole in the wall?
Local favorite?

Sunday Dinner-Asian—
Thai, Vietnamese, what’s authentic or close?
Thai Basil or Amazing Thai—OR
Jasmine Deli, Quang

Monday (memorial day)—
Breakfast-Hell’s Kitchen
(suggestions for a "MUST TRY" item?)

Monday night-
No clue. we like asian

Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ll need to be at the Convention Center from morning until about noon. Seafood suggestions? A good salad place maybe, light fare….(for lunch)

And dinner both these nights……I’m out of ideas. I have a feeling by Tues and Wed we will be winding down and want to spend time closer to our hotel—maybe a 10 minute cab ride tops…unless we get a car.

About Us:
We love food. We are not picky. We are both South East Asian foodies and will try anything at least once. We’re in our mid-20’s, and our idea of a great time is going out to a new restaurant, ordering a bunch of different items and sharing.

We will be in town for the NAFSA (International Educator’s Association) conference, there will be people from all over the world, over 9000, I believe, but it would be nice to be able to pass along information to my colleagues and others who will be looking for local restaurants…and support the local economy in MN! They have touristy things planned like this Mississippi Riverboat Dinner Cruise and tours…etc….-what are your thoughts on this? What are some must must must sees…… Lake Minnetonka?—My fiancé LOVES fishing.

I am soooooooo sorry for this long email. Thank you in advance for sharing your wonderful knowledge, I look forward to hearing your responses and of course, reporting back after our visit!

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  1. wow - what a great start! See a recent discussion from another philly hound visiting soon...still should be on the first page. Many good options discussed.

    So you won't have a car? or you are undecided?
    Are you staying close enough to the light rail?

    If you are going to rely on cabs you will have to plan on calling from some spots - Alma for example. You can't just walk outside and hail a cab - unless you are right near a hotel.

    What does a 15 minute drive REALLY mean in MN......we’re used to awful traffic here in Philly…. !

    Traffic is reasonable here! Rush hour can mean 30 mins instead of 15.

    Saturday: from airport
    Sea Salt Eatery
    Dinner: Alma or La Belle Vie

    You can't go wrong! Personally, I'd choose Alma. LBV is very good, outstanding and a MN chow fave - but for the price I can have 3 fab meals at Alma.

    I'm going to let the other hounds give you guidance on lunches, asian etc. My options would most likely require a cab or rental car! So if you are renting a car your going to get better chow. IMHO.

    A good salad place maybe, light fare….(for lunch) - Zelo in downtown minneapolis has great options for lunch. salad & fish, or pasta etc - good for dinner as well.

    A good Tues or Weds option would be broder's pasta bar, excellent food, not too far of a cab ride, casual & might be a good option at this point in your trip. - from bloomington - 494, west, north on penn, SW corner of Penn & 50th - and a few blocks south of Lake Harriet which is a nice place to check out.

    1. I need to ask you a clarifying question before I make some food suggestions. Why are you staying in Bloomington? You say you'll be at the Convention Center, but that is downtown Mpls. Are you staying in Bloomington for cheaper hotels?

      A cab back and forth from Bloomington is not cheap. I would rent a car for sure if you are going to stay in Bloomington. You'll only pay for parking when you're in downtown Mpls or so, and even then the car rental would be cheaper all around.

      Our rush hours are not too bad, but Mpls is not 'compact' so to speak, a cab from the MOA (mall of america) to downtown will likely run you $25. You could take the light rail, but that gets old if your trying to 'see' more than what is on this short spur.

      Fill us in, the MN chowhounds are the nicest when it comes to recommendations!

      1 Reply
      1. re: MayrMN

        HAHA! I thought my first post was wayyy too long, funny that you ask for more information......yes to the cheap hotel. We inadvertently booked at the sheraton bloomington outside of downtown b/c of the conference--most of the nice hotels were booked AND they were way too expensive. Plus, I was under the impression that we would rent a car----which, as it stands--thanks to your honest post--- is our plan for now.

        We don't need to be downtown until Tuesday and Wednesday morning for the conference so from Sat to Mon we definitely want to, cruising, parks....even beach?-is it true?.......but everything revolving around our meals of course.
        Thank you SO much for your responses!

      2. One note: Hell's Kitchen is downtown, so it would be worth a call to double-check whether they will be open on Memorial Day.

        1. One note on Sea Salt Eatery, I love the place, the location is outstanding and the food darn good (oyster po boys! Sebastian Joe's ice cream!), but on a really nice weekend day you can expect to wait in line for 45 minutes to place your order, and wait another 45 minutes for your food. It's a teensy "kitchen" in the picnic pavillion in a public park. Be prepared to be ultra-leisurely and don't arrive already famished. I get the impression that, if you order appetizers, they will bring them sooner than 45 minutes and ahead of the rest of your meal. I've never done this there, but I'm going to try to next time. Be sure to go out the back door and have a peek at the fabled Minnehaha Falls while you're there. Fun too, to rent a bike.

          You mentioned you'll be in the Mall of America--City Pages (the local "alt weekly," which has a beloved, James Beard awarding winning, food writer, Dara Moskowitz,) just named Napa Valley Grille one of the MOA restaurants as having the "best burger" in the Twin Cities. Go figure. I haven't tried it myself (I've only had the breakfasts, which were fine, actually, nothing spectacular), but I have to say, NVG has a "patio" (indoors, remember) overlooking the amusement park. I get a kick out of sitting there and watching the rollercoaster pass.

          Also, Famous Dave's Barbeque in MOA has decent pulled-pork sandwiches if you really get stuck in MOA. Famous Dave's is a chain, but, at least it's a Minnesota-based chain.

          For Chinese, my personal favorite lately is Little Szechuan in St. Paul on University. From Bloomington, easiest way take 494 to 35WN to 94E and exit Dale (North). Named by City Pages as "best chinese.' (Their "best of" issue came out last week, which is why I'm fixated on it.) I really love their dan dan noodles, fish fillet and tofu in spicy tasty broth, and the green beans in special sauce.

          You mentioned you love SE Asian food. St. Paul has the largest urban Hmong population in the world. We have some great SE Asian food, especially if you like hole in the wall places, and University Avenue in St. Paul has a lot of them. Here's a recent thread on that same topic, which itself has a link to another recent thread on the topic:

          Easy to get to for dim sum for you would be Jun Bo--it's right off of the 494 freeway in Richfield, the neighboring town to Bloomington. Jun Bo's not exceptional, by say, San Francisco/Hong Kong/Vancouver standards but it's pretty good and is open really late in the evening.

          15 minutes can get you pretty far, in the Twin Cities, especially 15 minutes of freeway driving, as long as you aren't at peak rush hour, or you don't hit road construction (possible, this time of year) or a giant pile of snow(unlikely this time of year.


          Have fun! Please report back!


          1 Reply
          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Renting a car is the way to go!

            Things to do.....
            Check out loring park near downtown, and across the street is the outdoor part of the walker art center.

            Walking around the lakes in minneapolis is popular, walking around "uptown" area is nice too - many places to eat & drink or sip coffee. Other hounds can give you food recommendations for that area. Lucia's is a fave.

            Walking up and down grand avenue in st paul is nice as well - mix of shops, coffee, bars, etc. Parking on top of Jcrew & pottery barn at grand and victoria is a good central location. Caffe Latte for a reasonable lunch or dinner is a nice option.

            Lake Minnetonka boat cruise is fun. I have found the Mississsippi River paddleboat cruises fun & informative - one leaves from Minneapolis - Boom Island & you go thru a lock and dam & go right by the new Guthrie. There is one in St Paul as well - leaves form Harriet Island. I don't think that one goes to thru a lock & dam? I can't recall.

          2. We love Minneapolis! I will try to be detailed but there is sooo much to report! If you want more specific details let me know but I will do my best below...
            Places we visited:

            Jun Bo
            Jasmine Deli
            Pho 79
            Mai Village
            Chambers Kitchen
            112 Eatery
            Chino Latino
            Lucia's Wine Bar
            Cue at the Guthrie
            Hell's Kitchen
            Crepe Stand

            ASIAN-------> Some of the most wonderful S.east Asian cuisine we have had! We had Dim Sum at Jun Bo and Mai Village. MV was the most beautiful decor I have seen at a VIETNAMESE restaurant. The Dim Sum was much more fresh than JB. We had the same at both: braised chicken feet, braised spare ribs, beef stomach, tripe. And they were DELICIOUS. Also had the sticky rice, wide noodles with shrimp and porridge with 1000year old egg and pork.

            The service in all the above restaurants is beyond wonderful. Everyone is helpful, patient, friendly and aim to please.--Unlike what I am used to here. It was nice to not be rushed esp. during dim sum.

            The banh mi at Jasmine Deli was crispy, light, airy, exactly how I remember it in Vietnam. The filling was a little on the light side, not that they are supposed to be stuffed but a bit more meet would have been great. Still, banh mi in MSP rocks! The best ones I have had.

            Pho at Pho79-broth was wonderful, aromatic-as it should be. meat could have been sliced thinner, still yummy. che trai cay was AWESOME, the only restaurant I have been to that has this!

            Quang had friendly service and a vast menu. The only thing I did not like was the nuoc mam (fish sauce) was off balance with the fishy-ness and sour and sweet...something...and in many dishes, the fish sauce makes the dish, so when this is not made right it takes away from the dish. We would definitely give it another shot.

            Chambers Kitchen
            112 Eatery
            Chino Latino-hip, happenin', great happy hour specials!
            Lucia's Wine Bar-cheese selection was not so great but for a wine bar, I expected a bit more...
            Cue at the Guthrie-:(

            Wine in MSP is ridiculous! We did not realize how high the markup was! We feel for you...regardless, we were here for a good time so we had wine which cost us an arm and a leg. Chambers Kitchen was quite an experience, the tenderloin melts in your mouth, we have nothing to complain about. We had two apps, two entrees, one dessert and a bottle for $200.

            112 Eatery-perfect. The only place we would NOT come back to was Cue. The raviolis were not fully cooked and it was overpriced for the quality of the food.

            Hell's Kitchen-seriously, what everyone has said and more. yummy. creative. porridge was awesome, sweet and creamy. Sausage was tasty and the hash was out of this world!

            Crepe Stand-at the Mall of America- we hated the MOA but we found a crepe stand that was AMAZING! not too sweet! fresh and perfect!


            MSP was wonderful, we loved the people! Everyone is so nice! Enjoyed the play at the Guthrie, the mill city museum, chain of lakes area, mississippi mile and driving around, getting lost but finding amazing restaurants was fun.

            Negatives: expensive wine, and food overall was more expensive than I thought; something I did not expect from the midwest. But the experience we had was worth it!

            6 Replies
            1. re: Pheebee

              Hey, thank you for reporting back. I'm glad you had fun. We'll have to make a note of that crepe place in MOA.


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                I am almost certain that the crepe stand at the mall is run by the same fellow who runs the crepe stand at the State Fair. The crepes are always perfectly tender at both.

                1. re: clepro

                  I doubt it. The crepe place at the MoA is owned by Lettuce Entertain You, a Chicago-based restaurant empire.

              2. re: Pheebee

                This might be too late, but BYO is a great wine bet since we have some terrific wine shops with great prices. Something to keep it in mind the next time you're in town.

                1. re: Pheebee

                  Yup, the restaurant prices for wine are insane. A 300-400% mark-up is not uncommon. (And $10 for a GLASS of wine? Come on!!!)

                  The best strategy for handling our ridiculously high wine prices is to hit the half-price bottle nights. Almost any night of the week, you can find a nice restaurant that offers their bottles of wine for half price. That's the only time I get more than a glass or two.


                  There - now you've got a tip for your next visit!


                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                    I was just considering how often I might have more than one glass if the price per glass wasn't so steep. I guess I'm more likely to have two glasses at $5 each, but I'll only get one glass if the price is $7 a glass. It might sounds cheap, but I honestly think about price when I decide to have another glass or not. Am I alone?