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A month in Minneapolis - need advice

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I'm a Los Angeles hound. My girlfriend will be in Minneapolis for a month for work. She'll be staying downtown, without a car - on Eighth near Hennepin to be precise.

What are you recommendations for:

Good, cheap to moderate places she can walk to for lunch, breakfast, casual dinners?

Some fancy places that are nearby for fancier dinners with some friends who will be visiting?

Don't miss places anywhere in Minneapolis-St. Paul for the weekend that I'll be visiting and renting a car?

Good ethnic, particularly Asian or Middle Eastern places?

Is there anywhere that does a particularly great job with locally raised or produced ingredients? Minnesota-cuisine, so to speak?

Thanks very much. Let me know when you need help in L.A.

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  1. Well, downtown Minneapolis is not L.A., but your girlfriend will be OK, foodwise. Most of us need a car to survive, but the bus and light-rail service is pretty decent for the downtown area.

    Cheap-to-moderate places:
    - Hell's Kitchen for great breakfasts (or lunch).
    - Vincent for gourmet happy-hour delights (or a more expensive dinner).
    - Bewiched Deli for a long lunch - it's about 1.5 miles away, up Washington Ave., but is well worth the trip on a nice day for great sandwiches and mind-blowing soups.
    - Various places in the skyway - see these threads: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/426817
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/356253

    Fancy(ish) places:
    - 112 Eatery
    - Saffron
    - Toast (a bit of a trek up to the Warehouse district, but again worth the trip)
    - Vincent

    Good Asian:
    Our Asian food won't blow y'all away, since L.A. has great choices, but we do OK. (Our strengths are Vietnamese/East Asian - we even have Hmong and Laotian places in St. Paul.)
    - Anything along Eat Street (Nicollet Ave between 14th & 29th), especially Jasmine Deli (dirt-cheap, delicious Vietnamese food), Jasmine 26 (Vietnamese food & cocktails), and Pho Tau Bay. There's a Malaysian restaurant, Peninsula, that gets pretty good reviews.
    - My personal favorite: Keefer Court Chinese Cafe - hop the light rail to Cedar Ave, then walk two blocks to Cedar & Riverside. Keefer Court is a teeny mom-and-pop place with great noodle soups, BBQ meats, one or two stir-fry dishes, and a bakery counter. Amazingly cheap, too.

    Local food:
    - Spoonriver
    - The weekend Mill City Market (a local/organic farmer's market) right next to Spoonriver and the Guthrie Theatre. This is a must-visit place! It's tiny and crowded, but the food is great.
    See this thread for more on locally-sourced food: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/405174

    Don't-miss places with a car:
    - Al's Breakfast (though you can walk from downtown)
    - Restaurant Alma (also walkable, but safer with two late at night)
    - Ice cream at one of our premium places - see this thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/122595

    For a real car trip, try the Harbor View Restaurant, an hour outside of the Twin Cities, in Wisconsin. It's a beautiful drive down the Mississippi River, and the food is great.

    Also, please tell her to be cautious if she's alone at night. Most of the time, common sense and big-city smarts will be fine, but she shouldn't walk the outskirts of downtown when it's late. The busy areas of downtown should be mostly OK, though.

    Anne

    P.S. Actually, I might need help with L.A. - I'm visiting Memorial Day weekend. I'll post a request soon on the LA board.

    -----
    Hell's Kitchen
    80 South 9th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402

    Restaurant Alma
    528 University Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

    Spoonriver
    750 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401

    Al's Breakfast
    413 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

    Jasmine Deli
    2532 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

    Vincent A Restaurant
    1100 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403

    Mill City Farmer's Market
    750 2nd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55402

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

    Keefer Court Bakery & Cafe
    326 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454

    Pho Tau Bay
    2837 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

    Toast Wine Bar & Cafe
    415 N 1st St, Minneapolis, MN 55401

    Jasmine 26 Restaurant & Bar
    8 East 26th Street, Minneapolis, MN

    Bewiched Deli
    800 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55401

    4 Replies
    1. re: AnneInMpls

      Here's a Places link for the Harbor View in Wisconsin, in case you decide to splurge on the gasoline. (A trip to the country is worth it, in my opinion, but you could go somewhere closer instead, like Cesare's Wine Bar in Stillwater.)

      Anne

      -----
      Harbor View Cafe
      314 1st St, Pepin, WI 54759

      1. re: AnneInMpls

        Oh, and for cheap-and-good Middle Eastern food, try the Holy Land booth at the Thursday farmer's market on Nicollet Mall.

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/51948...

        Holy Land has a big grocery and deli in NE Minneapolis, plus a booth at the Midtown Global Market. They supply much of the ingredients for Saffron, too.

        Anne

        -----
        Holy Land Bakery & Grocery
        2513 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

        Holy Land Bakery
        920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

        1. re: AnneInMpls

          sorry to mooch/hijack this thread but I got some great recommendations from the list above - I will be in St. Paul for a week starting the tuesday after memorial day. i am looking for hole in the wall places (prefer Mid Eastern/Indian/BBQ/Asian/Mexican) and since this time i am traveling without my colleagues would prefer places where a single patron does not feel too out of place.
          oh and I need dinner recommendations only. my client will make the lunch decisions for me but if there are cant miss lunch here places please do tell.
          thanks a lot.

          1. re: ne_cyclone

            NE - where are you staying? will you have a car? St Paul only?

        2. It's hard to expand on Anne's (always) fantastic recommendations, but, I'm going to try anyway:

          I particularly second her recommendations for:
          ~112 Eatery--you can get in without a reservations, but I do recommend having a reservation --I love the stringozzi w/ lamb sugo. This is a fun place to order small plates and share. (112 Eatery's Chef is one of our James Beard nominees this year: the others are the chefs at Alma and La Belle Vie.)
          ~Pho Tau Bay (Vietnamese.)
          Link to Eat Street http://www.eatstreetminneapolis.com/
          ~Hell's Kitchen for breakfast (expect to wait on weekend mornings)--very rich meal, but all made from scratch, including the peanut butter, catsup, and yogurt.
          ~Al's Breakfast is a Minneapolis institution (breakfast only--at 14 seat counter)--try the pancakes or anything with hollandaise--(expect to wait on weekend mornings).
          ~Mill City Farmers Market http://www.millcityfarmersmarket.org/ (lots of great noshing even if you aren't buying produce to take home and prepare for yourself...).

          If the two of you decide to explore St. Paul with your car, there are a lot of neat places along University Avenue, my particular favorite for Vietnamese: Saigon. I also really like Ngon Bistro, chef-driven Vietnamese emphasizing local sourcing, vs. Saigon, which is authentic. http://ngonvietnamesebistro.com/

          It's hard to find Hmong restaurants in the Twin Cities, but stopping by the food court at the Hmong Market in St. Paul is fun if you have time to explore. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/51705... Here's a thread on Hmong restaurants in general http://www.chowhound.com/topics/318303

          Again, if you're exploring with your car, even though you didn't mention it another unique recent ethnic influence we have in the Twin Cities is Somali. I have just started to explore this cuisine myself so I can't really recommend "the best" or even my favorite really because I'm not sure yet. Safari Express' stand at Midtown Global Market on Lake Street in Minneapolis might be one of the accessible ways to get exposure to African cuisine http://midtownglobalmarket.com/?q=din... (And while you're at it, you might as well swing by Cafe Finspang, which is Ingebretsen's outpost at Midtown Global Market if you want to try some Scandinavian treats, including the lefse and lutefisk we all hear so much about http://midtownglobalmarket.com/?q=din... The lutefisk is sold frozen for take-out only).

          Here's a Somali place I recently tried with some other 'hounds, Qoraxlow. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/517945 Here's tvdxer's report on the Somali mall he visited http://www.chowhound.com/topics/42824...

          I hope you and your girlfriend enjoy your stays. Please report back!

          ~TDQ

          1 Reply
          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            I forgot to mention the wild rice porridge at Hell's Kitchen--if you're looking for local specialties, wild rice would be high on the list. And they use the hand-harvested, hand-parched wild rice at HK. The porridge super rich--a cup's enough for a good taste, I'd say.

            ~TDQ

          2. I second Anne's recommendations in their entirety. 112 Eatery is one of my all-time fav's.

            Just would like to add one fun place to go with friends, family, if you like seafood. Can get there via car or light rail. Minnehaha Falls - Sea Salt Eatery.

            http://www.seasalteatery.com/

            Article: http://www.startribune.com/entertainm...

            p.s. They also have bike and buggie rentals at The Falls. Can get really busy busy on weekends, much lighter during the week. Mondays are ideal!

            1. She'll be here a whole month without a car? yikes. downtown can be a little boring on the weekends.

              Anyone know of any bike rental spots? There are a bunch of places to go and see when she isn't working not too far from downtown.

              I second Alma for the weekend that you are in town.

              There is Zelo at 9th and Hennepin and its a solid place - she isn't going to be blown away by it or anything - but its a solid "eating alone at the bar" type of place.

              Avoid the Newsroom - 10th and Henn. yick.

              The local is decent - but more of a bar spot. also at 10th & Henn. Good fish & chips.

              Another MN speciality is walleye - I personally can stand it. But you might want to try it. I think Tavern on Grand in St Paul is the Walleye spot.

              Links.....

              -----
              Tavern On Grand
              656 Grand Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105

              The Local
              931 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55402

              Zelo
              831 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55402

              4 Replies
              1. re: St Paul Susie

                Categorically can't stand walleye? Well cooked it's simple and delicious. Battered and fried it's boring, but with a proper remoulade and some chips you're in business. Add a Summit or Surly (outstanding local brews).

                There's talk of bike rental at the new Freewheel Cycle store on the Midtown Greenway. Also interesting proximity to Midtown Market's treasure trove of low food.

                Local sourcing is all the rage here. Almost hard to not find it to some extent or another. Are we saving the planet? Probably not. But quality of ingredients is on a definite upswing, and it's probably a good time to start a heirloom vegetable farm with organic standards if not USDA labeling. Lucia's/Birchwood/Common Roots are all high on local relationships. Craftsman and Heartland also have a ton of credibility. Throw in Alma and Brasa too.

                1. re: keg

                  I adore fish - but I've tried walleye at a few spots and I just don't like it.

                  Not my thing & I know its me.

                  And I guess I was flashing back to having a single car for 2 people many years ago while living downtown. Lots has changed since then. Thank goodness!

                  Its all good! & I was also thinking it would be fun to bike to the lakes etc from downtown.

                  Another good spot (although not downtown) is Broder's pasta Bar - excellent spot for solo dining.

                  -----
                  Broders' Southside Pasta Bar
                  5000 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55419

                2. re: St Paul Susie

                  I don't think being downtown without a car is a big deal at all. I have several friends living both downtown/warehouse district and in Uptown that don't have/don't use their cars. The buses and lightrail can get you most places and she can look into getting an Hourcar if she really needs something.

                  Groceries might be kind of limited but she can get basics at the Target and even walk to the Lunds in NE on nice days.

                  1. re: katebauer

                    And of course a downtown Minnespolis resident has farmers' markets in the summer: on the Nicollet Mall, at the central location at Lyndale Ave & Glenwood, or at the Mill City Museum.

                3. Want to say thanks. As usual, Chowhound has really come through. My girlfriend is very pleased and excited about all the places to try.

                  1. For good Asian, head out to Evergreen. Zero ambience (it's in a basement) but the food is good, and pretty authentic. The vegetarian dishes in particular stand out, although I have always found everything with beef and chicken to be perfectly tender and the shrimp is large, perfectly cooked, and generous. They have an expanded menu on the weekends.

                    -----
                    Evergreen Chinese Restaurant
                    2424 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

                    1. estone, this board is lively and has a good array of interests/chowhound styles/tastes. My best recommendation for someone visiting for a month is to log onto here every day or two for 15-30 minutes and absorb what we're talking about.

                      I do this when I'm going to other cities -- I get a good detailed map and, based on what people are talking about at the time, I put a dot on the map with the name. Sometimes I use different colored dots for different meals/foods (one color for breakfast joints, one for fancier dinner places, etc) Sometimes I make reservations and plan out specifics, but usually I just go to the dot nearest where I am at any given point in time.

                      Not having a car in MSP is not a problem at all. I love the mention someone made of bike rental. MSP is a super place to get around via bike. I can do my 25-mile one-way commute (through downtown Minneapolis) without EVER touching my wheel to a traffic lane if I wanted save for the first and last couple of miles in the 'burbs. Almost everything downtown is flat as a pancake, so you don't need to be a cyclist to get around.

                      So that's my non-recommendation recommendation. I hope she enjoys it (and you too when you visit).

                      1. The girlfriend, now safely resident in downtown Minneapolis and for some reason not wanting to sign up to say thanks herself, has asked me to say thanks to you all for your excellent and undoubtedly useful suggestions. She had dinner last night with her colleagues at The Local and thought the burger was great, one of the best she's had in a while. She also had some beer she hadn't had before that she loved. (Maybe she had a few too many, she couldn't recall the name.)

                        The place she's staying has a kitchen, so she found her way to The Wedge Co-Op and loved it. Said she wished we had something like it near our place in L.A.

                        Last but not least, she took the bike suggestions to heart and went out today and bought a cheap but serviceable bike from One on One Bikes, and is really looking forward to getting around town.

                        So far she sounds very enthusiastic about her stay in Minneapolis and you guys are at least partly responsible for that. So, thanks from me, too.

                        Eric
                        http://www.ericstone.com

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: estone888

                          Fantastic! I'm so glad she's settling in! Thank you so much for your report back! P.S. I love the Wedge!

                          ~TDQ

                          1. re: estone888

                            She just got here and she's already found the Wedge and One on One? And *bought* a bike?? Wow. We might u-lock your girlfriend to Minnesota.

                            It sounds like she should check out Common Grounds, Cars R Coffins (like One on One, bike shop serving coffee and limited food, but much smaller), the Birchwood Cafe and the Cliquot Club Cafe. Across from Cars R Coffins is Crema Cafe, which would also loosely meet a few of your criteria.

                            I would also suggest checking out mplsbikelove.com and browsing the Bike-Friendly Businesses forum. There are several chowish recommendations on there as well.

                            1. re: estone888

                              bet it was a surly. the mystery beer i mean. a fantastic brew indeed. i'd bet money she was drinking surly furious. delicious. tell her welcome from all of us :)

                              1. re: estone888

                                That is fantastic! Hope you enjoy your visit as well!

                              2. Some other thoughts and some responses to what has been posted thus far...

                                Do not ignore The News Room. Just ignore the main part of The News Room. If you walk all the way through, however, you will come to a tiny wine bar named "Taste." If you go up the stairs there, you will arrive at the most clandestine place to sip wine, eat tiny plates, and do other things with someone you shouldn't be doing them with. That is, until I post this and let the secret out.

                                Go to Masa for lunch or dinner. It's a crosswalk away from Vincent.

                                Solera at Ninth and Hennepin.

                                Nick and Eddie in Loring Park (still walkable).

                                "Minnesota food" -- in addition to Alma, rent the car and go to heartland in St. Paul.

                                Special occasion -- Fugaise (across the river on Hennepin).

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Brad Ballinger

                                  I liked your list and especially the note to come across the river and go to Heartland in St. Paul. Definitely a highlight!

                                  I was also intrigued with your notes on The News Room and its upstairs area. I think a number of us should check that out (but the original poster may disagree)!

                                  1. re: Brad Ballinger

                                    Chowspouse and I had a bevie at the local last night and he mentioned that there was a little wine bar inside the Newsroom and that it was better than the rest of the place.

                                    You can cab it over to Heartland as well - tell them when you are wrapping up the meal to call you another one. Same with Alma.