If you’re coming from afar, perhaps try restaurants that focus on locally-sourced ingredients? Here’s a recent thread:
Of those mentioned, Lucias and Alma are noteworthy because their restaurants and/or chefs were nominated for James Beard awards in the last year or two. Lucias has a wine bar (with a patio in summer!) and a bakery, too.
If you’re willing to cross into St. Paul, Heartland does a nice job, too, and also has a wine bar for a more casual experience.
For locally-sourced breakfast, if you want a neighborhoody experience, the Birchwood Café has a patio in summer.
Al’s Breakfast, already mentioned, won a James Beard American classics award. It’s open for breakfast only and there is often a wait because there are only 14 seats. Try the pancakes or the eggs benedict. Al’s would be convenient, if you happen to be wandering around the UofMN campus (walking distance), or the nearby’ish Weisman Art Museum. Parking would likely be a challenge.
I recall a dearth of good German restaurants in Northern CA; Black Forest Inn on “Eat Street” (Nicollet) in Minneapolis has a lovely patio in summer:
Eat Street/Nicollet would be nearby to the Walker Art Center/Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and Swedish Art Institute. Another great spot along Eat Street would be Quang (Vietnamese) or Jasmine Deli for bahn mi. I know Northern California has a lot of Asian cuisine, but the Twin Cities are blessed with exceptional Vietnamese food.
Also for German food, no patio alas, would be Glockenspiel on West 7th in St. Paul (this wouldn’t be too far out of your way—you’d have to drive, if you were at the Science Museum on Kellogg). It looks like an old German beer hall. I think their appetizer platters are fun. Usually I recommend ordering the special of the day because that tends to be what’s best.
If you were going to be visiting the State Capitol, History Center, or Cathedral in St. Paul, you might check out University Avenue; it’s not upscale or charming or anything, but it’s got some great mom and pop places. I haven’t tried it yet, but Va Lor is getting some buzz for its authentic Hmong and Cambodian food. (The Twin Cities has the largest Hmong population in North America.) http://www.chowhound.com/topics/389014#2457094 and Ngon Vietnamese Bistro http://www.chowhound.com/topics/381260 . Saigon has great bahn mi.
If you were visiting the Cathedral in St. Paul, WA Frost down the street on St. Paul would is a lovely upscale spot and has a nice patio in summer. http://www.wafrost.com/ Not too far from the Cathedral would be Izzy’s handcrafted ice cream—every cone comes with a tiny, cherry tomato sized scoop of any flavor of your choice called an Izzy. Izzy’s was featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay last year:
Wild rice is a particular specialty in Minnesota, so if you see it on the menu somewhere, I recommend trying it. Hells Kitchen in Minneapolis has a pretty renowned wild rice breakfast dish (Mahnomin Porridge
Walleye is the regional fish here—you might order it if you see it on a menu. One place that’s guaranteed to have it on the menu all the time is Tavern on Grand (on Grand Avenue near Selby in St. Paul.) Tavern on Grand isn’t fine dining, it’s just a neighborhood bar and the traditional “Minnesotan” preparation of the walleye would be breaded and deep fried. Tavern on Grand would be convenient if you were looking at the grand old homes on Summit Avenue (one block north), the Cathedral, or MN history center. http://www.tavernongrand.com/ Oh, if you’re at the MN History Center (love the tornado simulator), Café Minnesota makes a pretty good wild rice soup (cream-based), which would be something that makes an appearance at practically every winter potluck I’ve been to in MN. http://www.mnhs.org/historycenter/cafemn/index.htm
Grand Ole Creamery is just a few doors down from Tavern on Grand and makes lovely handcrafted ice cream served on homemade waffle cones.
More shopping for “local” food-type gifts, farther down on Grand Avenue (which is an upscale commercial district, similar to Union Street in San Francisco), is a tiny little store called Golden River and Fig Chocolate:
If you were in the Uptown Area in Minneapolis (say, at Calhoun Lake to rent a canoe for an hour or two, swim, or just walk around the lake), you might have a look at this link
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/404043?query=uptown Also, there’s a little “snack shack” on Lake Calhoun that makes a nice stop if you happen to be at the lake and want a small meal (summer only of course). http://www.thetinfish.net/
If you’re at Minnehaha Falls (because you’re a fan of Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha or because you want to rent a fringed surrey to ride around the park), Sea Salt Eatery is a summer favorite in the Twin Cities—it’s just a small snack shack in a picnic shelter with a few tables. The waits are long, half hour to 45 minutes to order and another ½ hour for your food, (and I don’t normally recommend seafood to someone from CA), but it is a fun atmosphere and the seafood is flown in fresh daily. If you’re not up to the wait, you can just walk up to the ice cream counter (minimal wait) and score a cone of Sebastian Joe’s ice cream, more locally-crafted ice cream.
As Anne mentioned, you can pick up some nice gifts at Midtown Global Market on Lake Street in Minneapolis—the individual stands are very small, but Birchberry has lovely Native American cookbooks, hand-harvested wild rice, and chokeberry jams. Café Finspang, the stand next to Birchberry, is your best shot at trying lefse or other Scandinavian treats. Alas, no Hmong food at MGMkt, just a nice crafts stand. There is a East African food vendor (the Twin Cities also have a large Somali immigrant population) called Starlight Café. They make these deep fried meat pies called (I think) sambusi, that are fantastic. There’s also a place called Safari Express that serves East African food. http://www.safariexpresstogo.com/
A little farther down on Lake Street is a Norwegian Deli/shop called Ingebretsen’s—again, if you want to shop for Scandinavian food products and gifts. It’s owned by the Café Finspang folks.
If you’re in a convenience store or gas station, look for Pearson’s Salted Nut rolls. They’re made here in St. Paul.
Finally, the jucy lucy—a cheese-stuffed burger-- was invented here in the Twin Cities, most say at Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis. Matt’s is pretty good, but my favorite is at the Nook in St. Paul on Hamline at Randolph (some say Kopplin’s, a few doors down, has the best coffee in the Twin Cities, too.) The Nook’s fries are hand-cut and the bun is from a local bakery. If you want a neighborhood bar experience, it can be a fun stop.
Finally, if you’re in the area of the new Guthrie theater, Stone Arch Bridge, or Mill City Museum (a chowish stop in itself— chronicles Minneapolis’ heritage as flour milling capital of the world), or at the Metrodome for a Twin’s Game, there’s Cue (full-service) in the Guthrie, which has outdoor dining in summer or Level 5 Café. http://www.guthrietheater.org/visit/dining The Mill City Farmers Market is located between the Mill City Museum and the Guthrie and is fun to explore. http://www.millcityfarmersmarket.org/ Spoonriver is right there, too, and has a nice fridge case if you want something “to go” to eat at the nearby Gold Medal Park. http://www.spoonriverrestaurant.com/
If you're literally at a Twin's Game, a pulled pork sandwich from Famous Dave's is probably your best choice. Not spectacular, but there aren't a lot of chowish options otherwise. http://www.famousdaves.com/ (At least it's a local chain.) If you order a "dome dog," it will be a Hormel dog (Hormel is a company hq'd in Austin, MN) with "Old Dutch" potato chips. Old Dutch is HQ'd in Roseville, MN (a suburb of St. Paul.) Gluek's (an acquired taste) and Summit are the local brands of beer they'll have on tap.
Have fun! Please report back on where you end up going and what you thought about it.
re: The Dairy Queen
A few more thoughts: if you happen to be in Apple Valley to visit the Minnesota Zoo, satay2go is a good "to go" spot--http://www.satay2go.com/ (they do have a little picnic area outside the zoo entrance, though, it's not glamourous.)
And, if you find yourself wandering the Mall of America in need of chow (it happens, even to the best of us--especially on blistering hot days or bone-chillingly cold ones), City Pages (our local weekly "alt mag" whose food writer just won her third James Beard award for food writing) has declared the burger at Napa Valley Grille the best in the Twin Cities. http://bestof.citypages.com/2007/foodstuff/70015/ I haven't tried the burger there, but I admit to getting some strange pleasure dining on the faux terrace overlooking the rollercoaster at the indoor amusement park.
There's a Famous Dave's at the MOA, too--pulled pork sandwich, the other desperation chow.
Another specialty of the upper midwest, certainly a state fair staple, would be deep fried cheese curds, served, usually, with catsup. Town Talk Diner on Lake Street in Minneapolis (not cheap and a little loud) serves them and has great chow. http://towntalkdiner.com/pdfs/TTD_Dinner_Menu.pdf Also, in summer only (imagine a Dairy Queen or A&W type hut), Conny's Creamy Cone soft-serve ice cream mixed on the premises in a rainbow's array of flavors) at 1197 Dale Street N (at Maryland) in St. Paul is supposed to have great cheese curds, too. You'd need a car and it's not fancy, just a neighborhood hangout. It would be nearish to Lake Phalen. I like the peach or berry ice cream flavors.
Another dish I hadn't had before I came to the Twin Cities is a hot Italian sandwich, the Dari-ette Drive-in (way, way out there on the East Side of St. Paul--a car and a sense of whimsy or at least nostalgia is a must) has a version with thick slices of white bread, spicy Italian sausage links, marinara sauce, gooey mozzarella cheese and a side of spaghetti if you wish. I'm not sure who decided this would be good "car food," but it is indeed a traditional drive-in with carside service and a lot of fun.
Another great version of the hot "dago" (yes, it still appears that way on some menus locally), not so far flung, would be at DeGidio's on West 7th in St. Paul. Their version is more of a spicy sausage patty. http://degidios.com/menudetails.php?catID=9 I don't know whether anything else on their menu is good. Again West 7th wouldn't be a bad choice (in terms of convenience) if you were on your way to or from the Science Museum, Xcel Energy Center (hockey in winter), or Children's Museum.
Another local treat would be smoked lake (Superior) trout or smoked whitefish. The Dakota has the smoked fish, as well as walleye, on its lunch menu--I haven't tried it and I'm not sure it's from Superior. http://www.dakotacooks.com/pages/lunch_menu.html There is a chain of upscale grocery stores in the Twin Cities (in the suburbs, for the most part) Lunds & Byerly's and I know they carry it. http://www.lundsandbyerlys.com/stores...
re: The Dairy Queen
There are some decent food items at the dome, if you are willing to look. The Macho Nachos are a huge plate of tortilla chips with beef, jalepenos, real cheese, nacho cheese, sour cream and more. They are pretty great.
Also, there is a hot dog on steroids available. A foot long with all the fixing and more including jalepenos, cheese, onions, kraut.
While both are still stadium food, they are definately worth looking for.
re: The Dairy Queen
A couple of places to recommend besides the usual.
Right across the street from the 112 Eatery is Saffron. Brand new place (4 mths) that serves great North African inspired food … think Moroccan … that’s innovative without being experimental. If you’re here on Monday through Wednesday, try their happy hour … half-price bottles of wine. If you go there for lunch and like BLT’s, then try their house cured lamb bacon BLT. If they have their smoky tomato-paprika soup that day, go for the soup & sandwich combo. Simply amazing.
The Modern is way more than its pot roast … which is good … BUT. Their pastas are handmade 90% of the time, light and very flavorful. If they have ravioli or dumplings on their menu, you have to be a fool not to try them. Anything with mussels is a sure hit. Their fries are hard to beat. Ask if they have truffle salt for them. The chef never overcooks the fish, the sauces and purees are subtle and rich at the same time. If you go for lunch and they have the mac & cheese (maybe not during the hot months) it beats your mom’s hands down … ain’t gooey, homemade stock as base, cream, butter, pancetta … fantastic. Try it with a glass of white. You won’t get food like this at near this price point. Ask Aimee for wine pairing recommendations.
re: The Dairy Queen
I'm linking to a bunch of Twin Cities places mentioned in this thread to faciliate folks (who want to) to start fleshing out the Wiki's for their favorite (or not so favorite) places. It's easy, just click on the link for the place to open up the Wiki and then click the "edit" buttons to start filling in the details. Certain details like address "automatically" come in, but if you want to add details about the type of cuisine, restaurant history, website url, etc. we've got to do that ourselves. Don't forget to save! Chowhound asks that they be written in a neutral point of view. (NPOV.)
Later, whenever you talk about a place in a post, you can just use the "link to a place" button to add a link to this Wiki. I love this feature!
Note: Ngon Bistro is now where Pho Anh used to be.
I can't get 112 Eatery, the Dari-ette, Va Lor or Mill City Farmers Market to link in. Weird, eh?
Midtown Global Market
920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407
80 South 9th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402
Sea Salt Eatery
4801 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55417
3311 E 25th St, Minneapolis, MN 55406
750 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401
Ingebretsens Scandinavian Gifts
1601 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407
Cue At the Guthrie
818 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55415
3500 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55407
The Tin Fish
3000 E Calhoun Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55408
Black Forest Inn
1 E 26th St, Minneapolis, MN 55404
Town Talk Diner
2707 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55406
Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant
1010 Nicollet, Minneapolis, MN 55403
1806 St. Clair Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105
605 7th St W, Saint Paul, MN 55102
Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
799 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104
Little Szechuan - West End
5377 16th Street, St. Louis Park, MN 55416
Saigon Restaurant & Bakery
704 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104
Trung Nam French Bakery
739 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55104
W.A. Frost & Co
374 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102
Izzy's Ice Cream Cafe
2034 Marshall Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55104
Grand Ole Creamery
750 Grand Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105
413 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
Quang Pastry & Deli
2719 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408
2532 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404
Tavern On Grand
656 Grand Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105
Cafe Minnesota, Minnesota History Center
345 Kellogg Blvd W, St Paul, MN 55102
790 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55105
492 Hamline Ave S, Saint Paul, MN 55116
490 Hamline Ave S, St Paul, MN 55116
DeGidio's Restaurant & Bar
425 7th St W, Saint Paul, MN 55102
Try Gardens of Salonica for authentic Greek in a sweet, busy setting (about a 10-15 minute walk). If the weather is nice, stop at Surdyk's for picnic supplies--they're having a cheese sale starting the 31st and you can grab hot or cold stuff from the deli and a fresh baguette to take down to the river. I love the almond palmiers. You can also head down University to the Modern Cafe--amazing potroast and good diner breakfasts.
With all due respect to cinnamongirl, I would STRONGLY disagree with her about Gardens of Salonica. It was one of my wife's and my favorite restaurants and, I thought, the best Greek food in town. However, the quality of both the food and the service really went downhill in the last few years -- so much so that I won't go back. I had three or four bad (a few were just ok, but the others were actually bad) meals there in a row.
Now I haven't been back there in almost a year - perhaps things have picked up again. If this is the case, I'd love to be corrected.
re: bob s
Ditto. I would definitely avoid Gardens of Salonica. I don't like the mediocre food or the extremely poor service. (There are only a few restaurants where I've had service so bad that I won't go back - Gardens of Salonica is one of them.) Perhaps regulars get better treatment, but a visitor wouldn't be treated as a regular.
Surdyk's is a good recommendation for picnic supplies and wine. But visitors should note that there's a "no open bottle" law in the Twin Cities, which means you can't drink outdoors, unless you discretely hide your wine. (Not that I would recommend this!)
For a legal indoors drink, go Toast wine bar, across the river and a few blocks north of downtown. It has great food and a lovely wine selection in a very charming setting. And it's not as crowded as it ought to be.
I resemble those opinions as well. About 18 months ago, two friends and I were there to eat and the food was good. The restaurant was fairly empty and the new room was completely empty. The foursome seated next to us apparently had friends coming so one of the managers/owners of the restaurant actually had the audacity to ask the three of us to move to a free table anywhere in the restaurant (pretty much anywhere we wanted) to finish "our" conversation while the foursome next to us could gain some space for their friends to join "them" at a table (rather than all of them moving elsewhere to joined tables in an empty restaurant). That was VERY insulting to us so we left and I only returned for "tapas" once about 9 months later. I used to like the food, but with managment rudeness like that, who cares about food quality there? That experience left me with a terrible taste in my mouth! It's a shame because I used to recommend the place a lot and visited it with friends (introduced a lot of them to the place), but tell them why I don't go anymore as well.
Try Moscow On The Hill for Russian. Ask to sit in Chris's section. Good Russian food and a large vodka selection.
You cannot visit MSP without going to Nye's Polonaise for dinner at least once. If Phil is working the back bar, stop there and have a drink or two before your dinner.
Nye's is a blast. Nye's is actually good food, if you're looking for a certain type of food - Polish. They do Polish food better than any other. As far as their regular cuisine goes, you're right that many other places do it better. One goes there either for Polish food, or for the experience.
I don't know how high up on my list Nye's would be, though. Esquire voted it to the best bars list last year, though.
Although it's not strictly Polish, I would say the food at Kramarczuk's is a million times better than the food at Nye's. Their pirogies, among other things, actually have flavor. Whenever I'm at Nye's I wish they would just run across the street to Kramarczuk's for their ingredients. Then you could experience the fun atmosphere and food that actually tastes like something.
I have to give Kramarczuk's a big, hearty endorsement. I haven't eaten there since they redid the dining side, but I love getting stuff from the meat market side. Terrific sausages. Even if the big K has better Polish food, I'll still endorse Nye's Polish dishes. To me, they are at least good enough to eat while taking in the festivities there. I'm not always about the best possible dish - I prefer to consider the whole package. Another upside - portions that are more than generous. Go hungry. I could be wrong (since I haven't dined in at Kramarczok's since the remodel) but it seems to me that Nye's menu is notably larger. They are sort of well known for their prime rib, too.
That said, I would tend to eat at Kramarczuk's or places like it for a meal before going to Nye's strictly for a meal. I usually don't eat at all when at Nye's. But if you want to eat while you're there, I think it's fine.
Best of both worlds? Eat at K, and then cross the street for drinks and polka when you're done.
i'm not nuts about nye's food either-- kramarczuk's is far and away better-- taking in "the world's most dangerous polka band" with an app, shots of polish brandy & a couple of brews is one thing; however, eating a full meal at nye's can be a disappointment, and a high-priced one at that. as far as old-school supper clubs go, you can get a better, more interesting meal, chances are at a better price, certainly better service, at jax or the mote carlo or mancini's. stop by nye's for a drink and a turn at the piano bar--it IS an experience; but imo save your dining dollar & your appetite for a place that's had more than 1 or 2 menu changes in the past 20 years. . .
Al's Breakfast is a must! It's a 14-seat counter in an amazingly narrow building. Going to Al's is a theatrical as well as culinary experience. But expect a wait and don't go with more than three people.
I recommend the wally blues (blueberry-walnut pancakes), eggs benedict, and the hash browns.
Enjoy your visit!
Another interesting/fun place to eat is the Midtown Global Market (Chicago Ave & E. Lake Street).
There are lots of little food booths serving all types of food - burgers, Mexican, Somali, Middle Eastern, Nepali, Asian, Jamaican, and much more (including two sit-down restaurants).
See these threads for some specific info on places and dishes:
And if you need souvenirs or presents, check out the hand-harvested wild rice from Native Harvest, which is available at the Birchberry booth (you can also get it at the Wedge co-op).
Anne--I was just re-reading this post and it reminded me--the last time I was at Midtown Global Market (a few weeks ago), I'm pretty sure Birchberry, which used to be right next to Cafe Finspang, was gone! Whatever seems to have replaced was closed for the day and was all enclosed in that chain netting, but I stared and stared trying to figure out what, exactly, has replaced it (clothing booth??) and am convinced Birchberry is no longer there. I went to Midtown Global Market's website and don't see Birchberry listed there anymore either.
Someone tell me I'm wrong. I loved shopping at that little place for gifts!
re: The Dairy Queen
You know, I think you're right. There's now a Turkish/middle eastern pottery vendor right when you walk in the east doors. I don't know if Birchberry is gone or just moved though.
Have you tried the little shop next to Maria's for American Indian goods? We found chokecherry jam there, they might also have other food products, I can't remember.
re: The Dairy Queen
If you like pancakes, make it over to Maria's. The batter is quite different from that of other breakfast places. I want to branch out from the mango pancakes, but can't bring myself to order something else.
Their plantains are great too. However, they're not always on the menu. On the weekends, I think they're served on Saturdays and yucca is served on Sundays.
1113 E Franklin Ave Ste 102, Minneapolis, MN 55404