I will be in St. Paul for 3 days at the beginning of July. I am on a somewhat tight budget as I just finished grad school, but I'd like to eat as much awesome Twin Cities food as possible while I'm there. I tried searching the board, but since this board covers the entire midwest and the current chowhound search function is difficult, I figured I would just ask.
I'm visiting from Boston and would especially like to eat things I can't get here or that are better there. If there are any regional specialties, I'd love to hear about them. I love Vietnamese, Japanese (esp. hamachi kama and vegetable sushi), pizza (not cracker crust but most other pizza if it's good), duck, and really good bread and baked goods. I tend to not like foods involving lots of cheese or cream, and I love most vegetables.
I'm really excited to finally visit the Twin Cities (I lived in Wisconsin for 5 years without ever going) and check out the awesome food there. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
I have just returned to MSP after five years in Tokyo. One of the first places I go to is Cafe Latte on Grand Avenue in St. Paul.
Also, just had a great lunch on Lake Calhoun at an outdoors cafe called Tin Fish. A fish and chips place with a school of fish tacos. Best of all, with the good weather, you are in a fun location for people-watching and enjoying the wind-surfers on Lake Calhoun.
Do also consider Eat Street in South Minneapolis on Nicollet Avenue around 26-28th Streets. Plenty of budget options there too.
Sounds like fun. Here's a recent post about some chow that is unique'ish to the Twin Cities. Vietnamese and other South East Asian food is especially good here. And there are lots of wonderful bakeries, too, (which I am certain others will chime in on.) RE: pizza, you might want to give more detail on what defines "good to you" as there a couple of ways to go there.
Have a great time. Please do report back on what you end up trying and what you thought of it.
You're in luck. The South Asian food (I think the best is on University in St. Paul) is really inexpensive, so you'll be able to eat well. It might be fun for you to check out some of the asian markets in that area, too.
TDQ's link has LOTS of good suggestions. I'd especially recommend checking out some of our ice cream, since we take it as seriously as MA folks do. I'm torn between Izzys and Sonny's (at Crema Cafe) as which is best.
If you are in town over a weekend and you like to browse, I'd recommend hitting either the St Paul Farmer's Market (sat or sun) or the Mill City Market (sat only). Lots of good local stuff and most folks have things to taste. There's more "prepared" foods at Mill City Market (like tarts and a yummy watermelon tomato gazpacho). Of course, if you went to the St Paul market, you could stop by Tanpopo (Japanese noodle soups and more) afterwards - which is pretty much bliss in a bowl.
I want to throw in a recommendation for Heartland. It's in St Paul, it's more upscale, and they focus on midwestern cuisine and ingredients.
If you like pizza, the original Punch pizzeria in St. Paul on Cleveland Ave is outstanding. It is made in the VPN (authentic Neapolitan) tradition; in Boston, Bertucci's makes a VPN-certified pie, but really Punch is on a different plane of existence than Bertucci's.
For really good bread, if you like the rustic/crisp crust style of baking, Rustica bakery in Minneapolis would probably be my favorite -- better than any bread I've had in Boston. For good baked goods, I would suggest Rustica, Lucia's-to-go in Uptown Minneapolis, or Birchwood cafe in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis.
I don't think you will get better Japanese in Minneapolis than you would find in Boston. We have some good Japanese options, but I don't think they are particularly unique to our region.
Vietnamese is a specialty of the Twin Cities, however. There are a bunch of recent threads about Vietnamese options here, which will probably cover the choices in more detail than we can here. If you're looking for inexpensive Vietnamese, Quang on Eat Street is a great value.
I personally like eating at Yukari's suggestion Tin Fish, but if you're coming from Boston, you might be better served focusing on river fishes of the Midwest (walleye, trout, etc.), which would be different than the seafood fare you would find in Boston. FWIW, Lucia's cooks a mean river fish.
Given the timing of your visit (early July), you may be tempted to go to Taste of Minnesota, thinking that it may prove to be inexpensive, chow-worthy, and local. I don't think you will find an abundance of what you are looking for there; just a warning.
Ehh, can you bring us some cannoli from the North End? :)
re: Chris Mitra
Thanks for the suggestions. I love Neapolitan pizza and crusty bread (both of which are lacking in Boston). River fish sounds good. Man, I am definitely going to have to come back out for a longer visit!
I generally avoid going to Taste of [Anything], but thanks for the warning.
Pre-filled cannolis are no good! You'll just have to come visit Boston. :)
The wine bar at Heartland is a good choice. Much less expensive than the main restaurant, and they have over 20 small-plate selections organized by type. They are excellent and mostly local. Wine is decent too. The bison bratwurst is outstanding.