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Jun 13, 2008 09:22 AM

MSP - Visitor in town- suggestions?

I have a friend coming into town in an upcoming weekend and wants to see some what's hot in MSP. I have my favorite places like 112 and Heidi's but was wondering if anyone could help me out with other suggestions as well. Thanks in advance

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  1. hmm. well 112 and heidi's are a really great start. if it were me, i'd definitely hit some vietnamese and mexican places for some casual lunches, and hell's kitchen for breakfast. without knowing where your friend is from, what kind of food & scene s/he likes, i hesitate to make other more specific recommendations. are you more interested in food, or swanky/hip/cool atmosphere, or the latest thing? when you say "what's hot in MSP"-- you could get opinions on everything from exotic cocktails to wholegrain pancakes. can you flesh out some details so we can help you better?

    1. Sorry for being so vague on the original post. He is from Chicago and is interested in both food, but also hip swanky and cool. We will probably be going out in the evenings and I guess he really wants to see the best food and best new things MSP has to offer. Unfortunately, I am not as hip swanky and cool as I would like to think I used to be, but any ideas would be wonderful.

      1. Dinner in the La Belle Vie bar area has to top the hip/good food apex.

        I had a very good meal at Meritage in St. Paul last week. Pretty high on the hip/swank meter as well.

        Less hip, but excellent Midwestern food nonetheless, are Heartland and Craftsman. The latter has a lovely outdoor seating area, and the menu is fab right now. Had Confit of rabbit leg with a delicious creamy polenta last night.

        1. I'd recommend The Strip Club in St. paul. Great food, great service, and I think it covers hip, swanky, and cool as well.

          1 Reply
          1. re: drew13000

            strip club on a weekend night (with reservation) *totally* nails all elements. heartland and craftsman (re: M Florey's post) are also great recs with local foods menus, if the visitor is into that (getting into crunchier territory, and by that i mean the crust on your local game/bison/rabbit etc). i think that meritage is cool but to me it's too close in atmosphere to 112 and 112 is way cooler.

          2. I'd also recommend Porter + Frye. Here's a link to my review.


            Porter and Frye
            1115 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55403

            17 Replies
            1. re: cheeseguysgirl

              Awesome thanks all for your suggestions. I loved your review of Porter and Frye and have also enjoyed a visit to tru in chicago. Here is my list so far. Also has anyone heard anything about Sanctuary? I overheard someone talking about it once, looked it up and it looks like it could be interesting, but also may be bad too.

              Porter and Frye
              112 Eatery
              Town Talk Diner
              The Strip Club
              Cafe Lurcat
              Yum - although quick service, I love their space, albeit a bit confusing for most

              We are going to try and hit as many places as we can, but obviously cannot hit them all, so any ommissions, opinions and additions are very welcome

              1. re: brownguy

                I really want to love Spoonriver--the setting is stunning--but I really don't. It's great if you have vegetarians along, though.

                I love 112 Eatery.

                The Strip Club is great, but can get loud. You'll want reservations. Town Talk Diner has some of the same ownership as the Strip Club. It is loud, expensive (for "diner" food, even upscale, ironic diner food), and the tables are too close together for my comfort, but I think that's the perfect kind of place to take your friend as long as you're not bothered by noise.


                1. re: brownguy

                  Drop B.A.N.K. unless you are staying at the Westin and need a quick bite. It's space is magnificent, but food is nothing to write home about. Not bad, but not great either. It's an adequate to good hotel restaurant. My choice there would be drinks and appetizers and then move on to someplace else. (Some of their drinks are imaginative. I had a strawberry-dill somethingorother last week, which was tasty.)

                  I would substitute Lucia's Bakery for Yum. It's pretty close to Yum and has better food and better food philosophy in my opinion.

                  I have my own rankings of the rest of your choices, but so does everyone else here! I don't think you can go too far astray with any of the others.

                  1. re: brownguy

                    Spoonriver is loved by some, loathed by others. i personally really like many parts of their menu and have had some great meals there. i would rec spoonriver for dessert (though *doh* i think they have a new pastry chef, haven't sampled the new wares yet) or a salad, and if it appeals, stay for dinner. it is a beautiful space.

                    b.a.n.k. is *definitely* a place for cocktails and scene but the food seems to be wildly inconsistent and oftentimes downright bad.

                    for other hipster places, consider some bars. psycho suzi's in northeast drives me up a freakin' wall, but the tiki-drink patio scene is great in the summer. the cc club in uptown is still trendy for cocktails in the evenings, and the triple rock social club at cedar riverside can provide great scene along with great bar breakfasts--awesome punk-rock jukebox.

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Triple Rock is a riot.

                      soupkitten, can you tell us about some of the dishes you like at Spoonriver? I really do admire what Brenda Langton has done for the local food scene and want to love Spoonriver, but after three visits, all for weekend brunch/lunch, I haven't been dying to go back. I certainly don't loathe it, but I haven't been bowled over the way I hoped to be. It was all very lovely and competent, but, I just didn't adore it.


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        i just checked out the current menu & realized it's been a while! the restaurant now features more local lamb/meat etc. so maybe my rec is out of date-- i'll leave it to the op.

                        i have had lovely whole dinners at spoonriver: typically a serving of interesting soup, a main (have particularly enjoyed the fish specials), perhaps a split salad after the main, and a great dessert, then coffee. i have never had brunch at spoonriver, but i've had lunch (earlier incarnation of the menu) and liked the vegetarian mains and again the fish specials. i do think the place's concept comes across best with a progression of dishes rather than just one. i've eaten a salad alone at the bar (watching the pretty food come out of the wide pass which directly faces the bar diners is more fun than t.v. for me). if i did not have such great entertainment, maybe i wouldn't think much of the salad. otoh if it was part of a bigger meal i'd probably think everything was great.

                        i don't know-- i think spoonriver may have food-related "accessibility issues"-- some folks immediately dig it and some really don't. i don't think it has anything to do with "foodiness" or palate or health-consciousness, or snobbiness or anything really-- i can't put my finger on it-- there are folks i certainly wouldn't take to spoonriver because while i like it, and dh likes it, and other friends like it, spoonriver is not quite a "sure thing" in my book-- it's still no guarantee that the visitor will like it. the food there is a little intellectual at times, which is not necessarily what everyone wants (or i necessarily want). there are certainly times/moods where i would pass on spoonriver and go for something more obviously delicious. i realize that's not much of a rec of the place but after looking at this latest menu i'm pretty sure i'll be back at spoonriver for a meal soon-- it looks really good (to me). i do trust that brenda langton and the staff there can put together an array of flavors that will please me as they have in the past. if people have such a thing as "an intellectual palate," mine is a fan of this place. "adore" is the wrong word though-- adore is reserved for the places where my more dominant, regular, normal, slobbering ravening slurping fat-and-salt-and-spice craving palate needs to go. if that makes *any* sense at all. :)

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          Wow, soupkitten.

                          You've summarized my feelings about both spoonriver and Cafe Brenda better than I probably could. A great summary, in my opinion.

                          1. re: bob s

                            Thanks all who have participated in helping me find some good choices. Some of these places I will just have to "research" before my guest comes to town :) After your write up soupkitten, I am intrigued more than ever now. FYI just went to Cafe Lurcat last night for the first time since they have been open, if I make it to downtown I usually always go to the sure thing 112, sad when you consider I live in South Minneapolis, but it was fabulous. The apple and manchego salad is really simple, yet elegant and a wonderful combination. Overall I was really impressed and honestly surprised. Then again, I have heard a lot of good things about it lately

                            1. re: brownguy

                              I personally think that Lurcat is underrated. It's one of my favorites.

                          2. re: soupkitten

                            I agree with bob s and brownguy that you've put forth a great summary.

                            I've never really gone for a "progression of dishes" at Spoonriver--always just one dish (though, one time I did order dessert because my companions were ordering dessert...), and always for weekend brunch. And somehow, I came away just not quite satisfied. It's not that there wasn't enough food and I was still hungry, just that somehow, it left me wanting. But, maybe the key is to order a progression of dishes, which, perhaps rounds out the meal?

                            I don't know if I'd say that the food at Spoonriver is intellectual (although, you've clearly hit a chord with others), in as much is that it's just all very light and delicate and not in any way hearty. It would seem a good choice to me on a hot summer day. Not so much in winter...


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              i know what you mean, all of it. it is really hard to put one's finger on what spoonriver is doing with the food, but it is interesting (and just in my observation more satisfying with more dishes/flavors, as everything is very light, as you say).

                              "intellectual" is not the ideal word-- i'm not saying that other restaurants/chefs sell "stupid" food, for example, or that a visitor would need to have any cerebral prowess to appreciate spoonriver's offerings-- that's so not what i mean *at all*-- more like. . .-- an individual's appreciation of spoonriver (if they do have/develop an appreciation of it) is more of a brain thing than a gut or palate thing. after a satisfying meal there (if it does satisfy) you're more apt to say "that was very interesting and satisfying" than "that was very delicious and satisfying". i don't know if i will ever wake up in the middle of the night with a mad craving for any dish at spoonriver/cafe brenda (this does happen with other places i love/adore), but langton's particular cuisine *does* do something for me that will keep me going back for more. what exactly "it" is, is hard to describe, though. i'm glad to know that Bob s. is on the same page with me, i feel like i'm trying to pull myself up a mountain on a rope made of minnows with this one.

                                1. re: MSPD

                                  ahh. that's good. that's a better word. "the flavors at spoonriver have an esoteric appeal when many dishes are eaten together." some crap like that. LOL :)

                    2. re: cheeseguysgirl

                      Eh on Porter & Frye from over here.

                      Boring, bad service, some great food (tuna sliders) some lousy (house salad, french onion soup) and some pretty good (fish entree & beef entree)

                      All for lots of dough.

                      1. re: St Paul Susie

                        I remember reading something on that from you on another thread, Susie. I am sorry you had an "eh." Our service was great-- tall guy with blond hair (can't remember his name, drat). Who was your server-- so I can make sure to avoid them in the future? CG really liked the french onion soup, but I can understand if someone is thinking of/ looking for a traditional french onion soup, they would be really unsatisfied with the "conceptual" nature of it (although I'm not even sure if that is why you didn't like it). I also guess I didn't think it was lots of dough-- we've spent more than that at other places in the TC for food, and been less impressed.

                        1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                          Chowspouse and I are quite at ease with conceptual food.

                          the soup presentation was "been there, done that" & it had a lousy taste to it.

                          We had a male server & I do not recall his name. Actually I don't know if he ever told us.

                          Part of the problem was the room temp tap water served in a hot from the dishwasher glass & the cold Cali Cab.

                          I don't mind tap water at all. Just include some ice. Shouldn't have to request it and then wait forever.

                          We've spent plenty out & about in the msp area and beyond.

                          We are not rushing back to porter & frye.

                          1. re: St Paul Susie

                            I hear you. I too hate it when I get room temp/warm tap water. I'm totally not down with the whole "water at body temp leads to less shock on the system and better digestion and health" movement-- blech. Shock me, please.

                            Not every place hits for everyone. I think that's one of the great things about Chowhound. Everyone gets to have their own opinion and then others reading get to make up their mind about whether to go or not.