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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. www.highlandgrill.com

        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. www.seasalteatery.com

        For your nights out on the town, I recommend 112 Eatery in Minneapolis and the Strip Club in St. Paul. www.112eatery.com www.domeats.com 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 http://www.chowhound.com/topics/42954....


              1. Welcome, Laura! I have a well-behaved 2 y/o too - at that age, no matter how well-behaved they are, you can count on some unpredictable, embarrassing outbursts, especially when you're traveling - but I think you'll find that most casual places in the MSP area are pretty kid-friendly. We bring our daughter to lots of places, but our family's "regular" spots for good chow with the kiddo are:

                Birchwood Cafe - a cafeteria-style nestled in a residential part of the Seward neighborhood in Mpls. They use lots of locally sourced and organic products. The menu is creative and changes weekly. There's always plenty on the menu that our child enjoys (pizza, soup, bread, fruit, etc.). It can get kind of noisy, but then you don't have to fret so much about the occasional whine or screech.

                Saigon - a Vietnamese place on University Ave. in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul. Many chowhounds agree that they have the best banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) in town. Their pho is also quite good. It can be a bit more challenging to find food to satisfy my daughter, but usually she's satisfied with noodles out of our soup, eggrolls, and/or or a sandwich roll - they also have fried rice and noodle dishes, if that's something your chowkid would be interested in. Ambience is very casual and noisy, and on the dirty side. Service is extremely fast. Go up to the cash register when you're ready to pay - they don't always bring your bill to your table.

                Shamrock's Irish Nook - a fab burger place in the West Seventh neighborhood in St. Paul (this is a spinoff of the original Nook, which is about a mile up the hill in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood). Great burgers, great fries, OK other stuff, good beer choices, and a kids menu. They're one of the places in town to get a "Jucy Lucy" (a burger with molten cheese inside) if that's your thing. Personally, I prefer a regular bacon cheeseburger. Kids eat free on Sundays, but you might want to call ahead - it can be very busy on Sunday nights.

                I have to go now, but if I think of others I'll add another post. Do report back after your visit!

                Birchwood Cafe
                3311 E 25th St, Minneapolis, MN 55406

                Shamrock Grill
                995 7th St W, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                Saigon Restaurant & Bakery - duplicate
                601 University Ave, W St Paul, MN

                1 Reply
                1. re: diesel

                  Where in Arizona are you from? I grew up in Tempe, an lived there till I was 18. I've ben in the Twin Cities for the last 12 years, and have loved it, although I miss wearing shorts in February! I would try Craftsman. Wonderful dinners, especially if you can eat outside. The time that I went there was several people with children, and it was no big deal at all. It's a neighborhood bistro in South Minneapolis, and everything is local and wonderful.

                2. you've got great recs from all of the others. is there any type of cuisine you'd like to sample while you are here? or do you want to look at neighborhoods in proximity to local food markets of any type? anything you're looking for in particular?

                  1. There are some great suggestions here.

                    For your night on the town, I'd recommend Restaurant Alma. Wonderful cooking with locally sourced ingredients. Check some of the reviews and their web site for more info. We've never been disappointed there.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: karykat

                      I think there are much better choices. Although Alma is widely praised, there are several here (myself included) who have found it disappointing. Consider La Belle Vie (very high-end, though not pricy compared to restaurants in major cities), Fugaise, Saffron, 112 Eatery, Vincent, or the Chambers Kitchen.

                      1. re: Jordan

                        I concur with Jordan's list (and with his assessment of Alma). I'd also say that Porter and Frye is getting good initial reviews, although I haven't tried it.

                        Outside of the downtown Minneapolis area, I'd suggest Cafe Levain (South Minneapolis), Barbette or Lucia's (both in the Uptown neighborhood), Craftsman (South Minneapolis near the river - note, however that there have been a few very recent reports of less than stellar meals here), or Heartland (St. Paul - Mac/Groveland-ish). These will be a little cheaper than many of the places that Jordan has recommended and may give you a feel for different parts of the Cities. Also, Lucia's and Heartland try to showcase local foods.

                    2. What a great time to buy a house in the Twin Cities! welcome

                      I finally went to Shamrocks this past weekend and it was great! bar food - good noise level etc. My kids enjoyed it.

                      I'd add a few of my local faves - Shish on Grand in St Paul (note, no booze) and Coffee News Cafe also on Grand in St Paul. (beer & wine) - you order at the counter and your food is delivered to your table..... Shish is a middle eastern spot and Coffee News has great breakfast, lunch and dinner - wide variety of salads, sandwiches etc. Both have a nice kids menu and a relaxing vibe.

                      I've had great meals at Midori's Floating world cafe mid week with my kids! (sushi, japanese favorites, beer & I think wine)

                      I'd take a kid to Signature Cafe as well - especially if you can get an outdoor table & go midweek. (be prepared to chat about politics) (I know they have beer and wine - they might have full liquor as well - can't recall)


                      Coffee News Cafe
                      1662 Grand Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105

                      Shish Mediterranean Grill
                      1668 Grand Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105

                      Signature Cafe & Catering
                      130 Warwick St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

                      1. took Mr. Sidekick to Brasa for lunch- he was like a rip saw through cheap paneling with the roasted chicken! He loved the cornbread (we ordered an extra one to take-away) Really laid back place but excellent food and there were a number of children there while we ate..

                        I bought lunch for Dad and Sister too, and the tab was under 40 including tip. (no beer on that trip)

                        And I know it isn't new to you, but new to us is the Strip Club in St.Small. Cool view, good cocktails and a creative menu... sorta like tapas (not spanish at all) and a couple great steaks with a dozen "sauces" to choose from. The night we were there they had a special osso-bucco for two.

                        I wouldn't suggest looking in that neighborhood for a move tho- there are some nice pockets of homes, but more areas where there is a lot of congestion and homes that need much attention. (prices are super on the otherhand!). We live over in the Selby/Dale neighborhood and love it's attractions and nearby restaurants and proximity to a good co-op.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: 67.p.car

                          On a second thought, there is Swede Hollow Cafe over there and I have always liked that coffee shop. decent pastries and good strong coffee in a pleasant environment. I really like the veggie garden outside in the summer, it is run by Community Design Center kids.

                          If you are staying downtown SP it would be worth a breakfast trip up 7th Street with the heir apparent, he could run around the fountain and you could read the paper in peace (ha, we both know that never happens!)

                        2. i think bryant lake bowl would be a great place for the op's family to have a casual meal. lots of uptowny action, decent food & prices, kid friendly.

                          for parent's night out i would rec 112, alma, strip club, and the usual suspects

                          Restaurant Alma
                          528 University Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

                          112 Eatery
                          112 N 3rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401

                          The Strip Club
                          378 Maria Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55106

                          Bryant Lake Bowl
                          810 W Lake St, Minneapolis, MN

                          1. Welcome to MN! We just moved here a few months ago, and the Chow people couldn't have been more helpful! We have Chow-ed our way (with 6 year-old in tow) through most of the city, and we have found that POP! is a lovely place to take a kid and still get a glass of wine and adult food. tons of chowish people and children running and playing and coloring on the menu just for them!

                            PLUS they have loads of odd soda's. Our kid won't touch soda, but we liked the touch.

                            1. Posting again to report on my proof that the Midtown Global Market is GREAT for small kids. We took the Wild Roaming One (2-1/2) and his barely toddling sister (15 mos) on Saturday. It was wonderful. They loved the play area, and they liked most of the food we got. Best of all, there are high chairs available (look around, especially near the play area).

                              It helped that we had four adults, so two could stay with the kids and two could go off to get the food. There's a MGM brochure that lists each food booth's menu - look in the center area by the produce market, or ask at any booth if they have any - so you can choose your food without going through the whole place. (But then you'd miss the fun of going through the whole place!)

                              In summary, I can't stress enough that this place is perfect for kids. In fact, I'm going to take my niece and nephew back again soon. (One at a time - my skills aren't up to handling both on my own...)


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: AnneInMpls

                                You've got some great recommendations so far! I agree with Anne that Midtown Global Market is great for kids. Also, the "cafe" side of Lucia's in Uptown is a stroller-parade over lunch hours on weekdays...