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May 24, 2007 05:34 AM

MSP - Downtown Minneapolis Vegetarian Dinner

What recommendations do people have for downtown Minneapolis - meeting the needs of both omnivores and vegetarians? This is for dinner - and could be in either downtown or warehouse district area. This is for a team (of 8) dinner during mid-week.

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  1. Cafe Brenda in the Warehouse District caters specifically to veggies but also has meat dishes (lamb, cage-free chicken, fish).

    Most places downtown will have at least 1 or 2 vegetarian entrees as well, provided it's not a steakhouse or seafood specific joint. But to be on the safe side, Spoonriver (Mill District) and Cafe Brenda are good choices for a business dinner.

    1. I'd give a call to either Sapor or Saffron.

      I had a great meal there recently, and I bet with a little advance prep, the kitchen might be able to do more than their usual single vegetarian entree.

      I have not tried Saffron, but hope to soon. The web site for Saffron noted "vegetarian dishes upon request."


      4 Replies
      1. re: bob s

        I second the call for Sapor. The risotto they have now is vegetarian and excellent!

        1. re: faith

          Agreed -- it is great. However, I think a call ahead might permit a vegetarian to escape the "vegetarian dish=pasta" trap that one finds at a lot of restaurants.


          1. re: bob s

            Just for the record, I agree about calling ahead- but risotto is not pasta, it's rice.

            1. re: faith

              Understood and agreed. My point, however, was that the typical response of most restaurants caught unawares is to suggest pasta primavera or some other variation to vegetarians.

      2. On 14th and Nicollet (bordering downtown) I recommend New Delhi. Very good Indian food and I've seen them serve large groups who look very happy.

        1. If Indian is on your radar, Bombay Bistro on Marquette is excellent and is a more formal setting than your average Indian restaurant.

          1. As an MSP veggie, I would second Spoonriver for there to be a lot of choices and a nice atmosphere. My meat eating friends just don't "love" it though.

            However, there are some other restaurants that do a nice job having creative vegetarian options:
            Chambers Kitchen has an incredible Tofu and Lily Bulb entree and there are several veggie starters also.
            Solera has a number of tapas that are meatless
            Azia isn't downtown but they are on Eat Street, have a nicer atmosphere, and a number of options
            Nami has decent sushi and Japanese appa and they do make vegetarian versions of sushi too

            Places that have "Something": Zelo, Palemino, Newsroom, Bellanotte, 20.21, La Belle Vie

            Places to Avoid: Steakhouses (Manny's, Murphy's), Fish Houses (McCormick, Oceanaire), MASA (no veggie entree), 112 Eatery (no veggie entree and mean about it)

            9 Replies
            1. re: RedPepper

              For the record, I have been to 112 Eatery with a vegetarian and while I agree with RedPepper that none of the "big" main course dishes are vegetarian, my experience was that the staff would cheerfully (they certainly weren't mean!) make adjustments to accomodate the vegetarian. Also, two of the "small" main course dishes, the Chinese fried eggs and the gougère & fried mortadella sandwich are veggie friendly.

              Furthermore, in my opinion, the best dishes at 112 Eatery tend to be the sides, many of which are vegetarian, including my personal favorites the farro w/ gorgonzola piccante, the cauliflower fritters, and the pan-fried gnocchi w/ parmesan reggiano.

              There are two lovely salads among the starters and the wonderful desserts shouldn't be a problem, either. Plus, the two little dishes (of spiced almonds and of olives) they bring prior to the start of the meal and the spiced caramel corn they being at the end of the meal/after dessert are vegetarian.

              I do believe that a vegetarian can fare just fine at 112 Eatery.


              While not in downtown Minneapolis, but, rather, in St. Paul, for the sake of the search engine for folks seeking veggie friendly in the future, I'm going to mention that Heartland on St. Clair does a vegetarian ("flora" they call it) prix fixe dinner nightly. I haven't tried it, but it alway sounds wonderful.



              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                TDQ -

                While I do believe that a vegetarian can fare "just fine" at 112, when you are out with 7 business colleagues and the menu is not descriptive (you need explanation of Chinese fried eggs for example) and it looks like the mains section has no vegetarian options, it is awkward and uncomfortable for a vegetarian to have to ask a lot of questions and look like they are being difficult. It just doesn't look good especially in front of a boss.

                And, the staff at 112 was certainly not friendly to me about it. But that is my personal experience.

                BTW Mortadella is a salami so no on that being vegetarian friendly.

                1. re: RedPepper

                  RedPepper, that sounds like a pretty uncomfortable experience. I'm very sorry that happened to you. Uh, mortadella, yeah, how did I get that so glaringly wrong? I'm pretty sure someone at our table had a fancy grilled cheese on one of my visits and I was thinking that was it. But, now I don't see it on the menu at all. Maybe it was a special? Now I don't really recall. :( Such are the hazards of posting while multitasking.

                  I do hope that wasn't your one and only experience at 112 Eatery and, even though it wasn't a particularly good one, that you someday muster up a reason to go back, maybe with a group of friends (rather than with your boss!) and see if you can't have another try. I really love those side dishes and I can't imagine anyone, even a vegetarian, who wouldn't! The gnocci was so tender. I've had the cauliflower every time I've gone and loved it every time. I keep tellling myself that I should skip it on my next visit to leave room for something new, but I never do. And that farro, wow!, I wasn't even sure I'd had farro before but I tried it anyway (after the server explained it to me) and couldn't stop eating it. It was like candy, if candy were creamy and cheesy.

                  That's one thing that surprises me about your experience--the times I've gone I've always been encouraged by my server to ask lots of questions about the menu. In fact, I think they take a little pride in the fact that their menu has so many unusual things on it and they dig it when you ask questions. You must have really gotten a server who was off his/her game. :(

                  P.S. You can definitely make a meal out of combining a couple of side dishes and/or appetizers. Some of them even come in small and large portions.


                  1. re: RedPepper

                    RedPepper, you are so right about appearing the freaky and difficult vegetarian at a business dinner. Having read your blog about your two tries at 112 I concur it should be avoided for any business function where a vegetarian will be attending. There are other venues.

                    For my one recent visit to 112 I ate exactly the same two dishes you've had and I felt left out and disappointed. Man I miss Auriga for a celebratory special dinner.

                    1. re: MplsM ary

                      Dense me, I must have missed the part (or at least the implication) about how the OP is seeking a place to dine with business associates. 112 Eatery is a place I go with friends, mostly because I like to share dishes and sample a lot of different things. I think the side dishes, appetizers, and small entrees at 112 Eatery lend themselves to almost a tapas-style meal and my best experiences there have been like that.

                      But, I agree with you, I'm not sure 112 Eatery is the best place to go with business associates or just with people you don't know that well.


                    2. re: RedPepper

                      Yeah, the 112 menu isn't all that friendly to carnivores, either. There's cutesy, and then there's obscure. I guess this is part of my ongoing grudge with minimalist menus ... I don't want to spend fifteen minutes with the waiter explaining every item on the menu to me, so I just ask a few questions, then order. How are us non-cool kids supposed to know that "Cold cuts & pickles" is actually worth ordering?

                      1. re: Jordan

                        "How are us non-cool kids supposed to know that "Cold cuts & pickles" is actually worth ordering? "

                        The same way the cool kids presumably do: search on chowhound before going out to eat and see what the dishes other folks seem to like; ask your server for a recommendation; or do exactly as you do, ask a few questions, then order. Unless you have some specific dietary requirements (like being a vegetarian), what's wrong with taking a leap of faith and just trying a dish that sounds interesting? I know chowhounds are supposed to be terrified at the thought of a bad meal, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

                        But, I don't especially love minimalist menus, either. It certainly does make it difficult to choose if you're really trying to adhere to any kind of diet or if you simply have some very specific, very strong likes or dislikes. Why not do us all a favor and list all of the key ingredients in the dish and take a stab at describing the preparation? It seems pretty basic.

                        I've tried their cold cuts and pickles (once) and (DEFINITELY NOT A VEGETARIAN FRIENDLY DISH, BTW) I thought it was fantastic. It's loaded with a huge variety of things, all made in-house. Worth ordering for sure, though, I recall it being pretty large for an appetizer.


                        1. re: Jordan

                          Its cold cuts and pickles!? How could it be bad? (Their are better charcuterie plates in town.)

                          PS. the "cool kids" just pretend to know what everything is and order it with crossed fingers. Best of luck to them figuring out it was thymus or pancreas they just really liked when they ordered fried sweetbreads. "This chicken is super good!"

                    3. re: RedPepper

                      This is months later, but I just came on this discussion today... I see 112 Eatery still has that fried mortadella sandwich on their menu, and want to point out that mortadella is an Italian SAUSAGE (pork, I believe)-- sort of the fancier ancestor of balogna. Definitely NOT a vegetarian product, fried or not!

                      Also, I've had the "flora" prix fixe menu at Heartland, and can vouch for it being excellent!

                      One more thought-- I was at Ciao Bella recently (on 494), and had several terrific vegetarian dises. Much better choices than I recall form my last visit at least two years ago. There was a great chopped salad featuring farro, avocado, provolone, hearts of palm and spinach (I'm still thinking about it!!), three wonderful bruschette, all meatless, and a superb side dish of chick peas with farro and broccoli rabe. Their menu is the same as Bacio (Ridgedale) and Zelo (downtown).