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Apr 16, 2008 03:56 PM

MSP - family friendly - but still GOOD food?

We will be visiting the Twin Cities this summer, and will have our two year old child with us. He is fairly well behaved, but he's obviously too young to sit through an extended meal at a white table cloth restaurant. None-the-less, we still want really good food while we are visiting - and DON'T want to be stuck at chain restaurants the whole time. Hopefully some of you locals have some child-friendly spots to recommend.

Also, one or two restaurant recommendations for a great child-free dinner would be good too, as we'll have a babysitter for a couple nights out on the town.

Location doesn't matter - we will have a car, and we'll be driving ALL over the cities (checking out neighborhoods for a potential move!). Any help would be great :)


Laura - from AZ

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  1. Welcome, I hope!

    I look forward to others' replies, as I am always hunting for a place where we'll be comfortable with my niece and nephew. They're toddlers and are both pretty good in restaurants, but he's a wildly active 2-1/2 year old who needs room to move. As long as he can explore, he's mostly quiet. Mostly.

    We've had good luck at U Garden (Mpls, near the U of M East Bank campus). It's a neighborhood Chinese restaurant with an above-average buffet (try the steamed fish with ginger and onions, if it's available), tasty menu selections (I like the orange chicken and the stir-fried green beans), and a very understanding owner with small kids of his own. The place is big, and it's never very full (except for lunch at prime-time), so there's plenty of space for The Roaming One. And there's a fish tank with crabs and lobsters (tho The R.O. isn't interested in such stationary critters yet).

    A great place for a snack or lunch is Gigi's Cafe (Mpls, at 36th & Bryant). It's a very casual coffeehouse with pastries, soup, and good spinach pie. [EDIT: And wine!] Half of the place is a bright playroom - the owners have small kids who are often there. My niece and nephew love the playroom and adore the spinach pie.

    Here's are some other threads for more ideas:

    Kids in Uptown Minneapolis

    Far South Minneapolis Suggestions

    And here's a thread on how to choose a place to live based on the restaurants nearby:


    Gigi's Cafe
    822 W 36th St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

    U Garden Restaurant
    2725 University Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

    1. P.S. How could I forget to mention the Midtown Global Market? It's a group of food stands (as well as bakeries, groceries, and non-food shops) in an old Sears building. There's a play area in the NE (?) corner, and lots of great food. And it's so noisy (lots of echos from the hard concrete surfaces and high ceilings) that a rambunctious child would barely be noticed.

      Follow the Places link below for threads with specific tips on what to eat - or just wander and sample what looks good to you!


      Midtown Global Market
      920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

      2 Replies
      1. re: AnneInMpls

        Thanks for the tips! Sounds great :)

        1. re: lauralovesfood

          Oops - correction!!!! The astoundingly kid-friendly coffee house that I was thinking of is Sovereign Grounds at 48th & Chicago. This is the place with the fabulous playroom and the great spinach pie.

          Gigi's has great food, but is more "adult" in tone, and there's no playroom.


          Sovereign Grounds
          813 E 48th St, Minneapolis, MN 55417

      2. I have a number of standard, tried-and-true recommendations for these kinds of visits. One of our standards for family dining (myself, wife and kids 6, 4 and 1.5) are the Highland Grill and its sister the Longfellow Grill. They are centrally located near the river, and strike a perfect balance between kid friendliness and a satisfying experience for adults. The menu isn't going to shock and awe, but they put honest thought and effort into their food. They often have some creative specials as well.

        As you are visiting in the summer, I would recommend a visit to the Sea Salt Eatery in Minnehaha Park. It's a seasonal seafood "shack" in a park building, great surroundings for families, and ice cream from one of the excellent ice cream shops in MSP, Sebastian Joe's. We don't get quite as many warm months up here -- for me, there's something uplifting about relaxing in a park, having a good meal and watching the throngs of cyclists, walkers, runners and families enjoying the day amid the canopy of trees.

        For your nights out on the town, I recommend 112 Eatery in Minneapolis and the Strip Club in St. Paul. It's nearly impossible to not have an enjoyable evening with delicious meals at either/both. Top notch food, casual unfussy atmosphere and the view of St. Paul from the Strip Club is fantastic.

        I know you said you'd be all over the cities but if you have any specific suburbs or neighborhoods, feel free to include as your trip gets closer -- there are very few place in MSP that don't have at least a couple great restaurants.


        4 Replies
        1. re: MSPD

          Oh yeah, Sea Salt rocks! Nice night and the water fall....

          1. re: MSPD

            I suggest only going to the Sea Salt Eatery if you have at least two adults with you. One can watch the kids while the other stands in line. I've spent more than half an hour waiting in line just to order. Then, another half an hour, or more, waiting for food.

            But, with two adults, there are lots of fun and cool things around for the kids to do, and the adult in line can pass the time drinking beer/wine.

            1. re: churchka

              We'll actually have three adults, so that should work out well (we're bringing my sister along to help out with the baby while we "neighborhood shop"). Sounds like a fantastic spot - we'll give it a try!

              1. re: lauralovesfood

                Also, it's a different story on weekdays and/or off-hours if you have that flexibility. I used to go for lunches on weekdays when I worked closer -- even on the nicest days, the line was never more than a couple people.

          2. Los Ocampos #3 at Lake & Chicago. Really nice mexican food, mexican style, not tex-mex. Fine with kids. Dicey after dark. You can probably do better in AZ.

            Brasa on E. Hennepin works for kids. Think 3-star chef opens a latin american meat and 3 and you're not far off. Not too expensive, good wine choices.

            Highland Grill works well for kids in St. Paul or Edina Grill in Edina. Interesting modestly upscale diner food.

            Kramacyzks for some extraordinary sausages and ukranian food will work for kids.

            Punch Pizza...I like the NE Mpls store because it's fast fast fast compared to Highland Park. Fast with kids is good. This is neapolitan style pizza baked in an 800 degree wood oven. It's really really good.

            Deep Dish pie at Italian Pie Shoppe is pretty good for this town. It's not Chicago. But it works with kids and beats the heck out of Domino's or Pizza Hut.

            1. Welcome, Laura from AZ--The Twin Cities with all its sports teams and parks and museums is very family-friendly. And lots of great chow for folks with kids. Here's another great post "Critique my Minneapolis list" from someone visiting from out of town with a toddler. His "report" buried at the bottom'ish of the thread is terrific