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What is minneapolis's signature dish?

Chicago has deep dish, philly has cheese steaks, what does minneapolis do the best? Im a Canadian on a foodie mission.

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    1. re: prasantrin

      Ok, I've been reading this thread from the begining, and now I've gone to Google, and I'm back here to ask, what the hell is "hot dish"?
      According to most of the sites google gave me, it's just what people in Minnesota call a casserole. There's a million casseroles.
      Throwing in tater tots got me a little more specific answers, but not much. Reading this thread I see there were something like 17, all different, brought to a pot luck.
      Anyway, is there a base recipe for this? Something that has to be there, or it just doesn't count? Or is it truly anything you want it to be?
      And while we're going there, refresh my memory on the Juicy Lucy.
      Right now, I'm going with what I come there for. Surly Furious.
      Nice to know the Salted Nut Roll is regional. I'll try to remember to take a case or so with me if I ever go anywhere. Basic, simple, and the best.

      1. re: Bobfrmia

        Yep, hot dish = casserole. There is no required base ingredient.

        The Jucy Lucy is two griddled burger patties with a lump of cheese sealed between them. The cheese melts inside the burger and becomes a burn hazard for your mouth and hands if you don't eat it carefully.

        Pearson nut rolls and nut goodies are both made here. Nut goodies are somewhat harder to find outside of Minnesota. Cases of both are sold at some local groceries.

        1. re: Jordan

          Au contraire, mon ami. A casserole, technically, is the vessel. It is also a particular type of food preparation akin to a one-skillet meal. In Minniesoda-speak, a hotdish is a casserole and a casserole is not necessarily a hotdish. The basic formula for a hotdish is a starch (noodles, pasta, or rice), protein (ground beef or, perhaps, canned tuna), a sauce of sorts to bind it (generally a can of Campbell's cream-of-something soup). Optional ingredients are vegetables and a topping (crushed potato chips or maybe bread crumbs or chow mein noodles). Mixed together or layered, the heating is done in an oven.

          While many people disparage hotdish as low class crap, it fills a need if you have to feed a bunch and can't afford to spend a lot of money.

          The cheapest place to buy Pearson's candies (Nut Rolls and Nut Goodies) is Fleet Farm. Seriously. Maybe Sam's, too, but Fleet farm often has them for 50 cents each.

          1. re: The Tattooed Lady

            I like the camo-patterned cookware at Fleet Farm.


        2. re: Bobfrmia


          Whenever someone mentions the Salted Nut Roll I think about the bizarre conversation I once had with our junior senator from our state who talked for 20 minutes about his love of it.

          1. re: jwagnerdsm

            I agree... The Salted Nut Poll is one of out greatest gifts to the world.

            Nut to be too picky, but isn’t our junior senator a “she”?

            Uncle Ira

            1. re: Uncle Ira

              The junior senator for Minnesotans is indeed female.

              Perhaps jwagnerdsm is from dsm, whose junior senator isn't really "ours" unless we're Iowans as well.

              Tricky things, pronouns.

              1. re: KTFoley

                You’re absolutely right. Now that I look, it does seem as if the poster may not be from Minnesota. My bad....

                That’s what I get for trying to be the smartest kid in class. I couldn’t pull it off 40 years ago, and I can’t get away with it now....he-he-he

                Uncle Ira

            2. re: jwagnerdsm

              And I thought he only loved "Pork".

          1. The Jucy Lucy!

            Here's a great thread for you about dishes unique to Minneapolis:


            1. There really isn't a "signature dish" that is ubiquitous in the sense that the cheesesteak is in Philly, the crab cake is in Baltimore, or the hot dog is in Chicago. (Deep dish pizza is also unique to Chicago but not nearly as widely available as the hot dog.) Although the Juicy/Jucy Lucy is arguably the most unique casual food item to the area, you won't find it on every street corner the way you would a Chicago hot dog stand.

              Wild rice and walleye are ingredients that appear frequently on local menus, but there isn't a particular dish that is served everywhere.

              If Minneapolis has a signature offering at this point, I would say it is the neighborhood bistro. Every neighborhood has at least one small, chef-owned, upscale, not terribly expensive little restaurant that features fresh, creative, local, organic cuisine. This is a fairly new phenomenon in the city, but it's a good one.

              1. Top-notch ice cream.

                1. Agree that the Twin Cities doesn't really have a "signature" dish. Branching out to Minnesota in general is where items like walleye and wild rice make sense (similar to the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich in Iowa). Even hotdish is more statewide than metro.

                  I can go along with the Juicy Lucy as more of an urban/city phenomenon, but I sort of liken that to deep fried ravioli in St. Louis. After all, it's PHILLY cheesesteak, CHICAGO deep dish, but not MINNEAPOLIS Juicy Lucy.

                  Maybe we can lay claim to the food-on-a-stick concept at the State Fair.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Brad Ballinger

                    I think Minnesota has the best state fair (sorry Texas, Indiana and Iowa) but food-on-a-stick is rather endemic to all state fairs and I don't think the idea originated in Minnesota.

                    As for ice cream, I haven't been in too many cities that don't have their favorite dairies and ice cream. Ice cream is very much nationally loved.

                    Hotdish? Maybe the tater tot, mushroom and meat ball variety might be Minnesotan but it is casserole just about everywhere and is not a food one goes into a restaurant to buy. Minnesotans have a penchant to write cook books about it so it is kind of taking on a lore.

                    Lefse and lutefisk? A Scandinavian ethnic food of lore associated with mostly Minnesota but again not a high frequency must buy or have in an eating establishment - and quite rare actually.

                    Wild Rice Soup? Very Minnesotan but it has been diluted by the fact California now produces more commercially cultivated wild rice than Minnesota. Still if you can get the true Native American harvested wild rice, then no where else in the country has it. Thirty years ago you could not for the most part buy wild rice in a grocery store outside of Minnesota but that has changed and chefs all over the country use it in dishes.

                    1. re: Davydd

                      Well..I guess I'll go with my original answer then:

                      We don't have one.

                      But, I still contend that virtually nowhere I've been in the country has the concentration of excellent, high-quality ice cream that MSP does.

                  2. Not a native Minnesotan here but if you are specifically asking about Minneapolis and specifically a food product, I'd have to say the Jucy Lucy also. Hot dish, walleye, etc. are Minnesota/upper midwest specific in my experience, as they're staples for my North Dakotan in-laws. I would also argue against ice cream, doesn't Boston eat the most ice cream per capita if you're comparing US cities? I don't think in the rest of the country people think of Minneapolis food and think ice cream.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: katebauer

                      I'm not sure about cities, but I thought that for states, Utah leads the pack for the most ice cream consumed per capita

                    2. Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl just wrote a pretty interesting story making the case that hamburgers are Minnesota's signature dish: http://www.minnesotamonthly.com/media...

                      She addresses why it isn't hotdish or walleye as well.

                      As for ice cream - Boston might each the most per capita, but more ice cream is sold at the Metrodome than at any other stadium in baseball. We're definately ice cream eaters.

                      1. The Jucy Lucy is not all that signature. It is only available in a few places and is not as unique as it sounds other than its name. Other than Matts, the 5-8 Club and the Nook, not too many other bar/grills and restaurants are going out of their way to make them to call it a Twin Cities signature dish. It is served in many parts of the country under different names such as a stuffed burger.

                        I think the breaded and fried walleye sandwich has made the most inroads in just about every bar/grill, sports bar and restaurant that serves sandwiches. It is more prolific to the Twin Cities and Minnesota than anywhere else in the United State when you take in percentages of places serving them. You don't have to go far to see them disappear from a menu. They diminish almost completely in Iowa and even Wisconsin, another big sports fishing state, does not feature them as much with their competing perch and white fish love.

                        Even though most all walleye is actually Canadian because of commercial fishing laws, Minnesota anglers love their walleye fishing like no other state and the sandwich is an extension of that in restaurants.

                        1. new york bagel, san francisco ciopinno, maine lobster shack, no nothing like it.

                          a pre-emergent front runner is the Walleye sandwich.

                          the "great minnesota get together" aka State Fair is filled with bedrock culinary tradition, none of it served year round, none of it worth serving year round, similar versions available nationally.

                          1. I'll vote for Surly Beer. Try a Furious, it won't disappoint.

                            Really, say what you will, but I do believe the Jucy Lucy is our best bet for signature dish. Everyone here knows what one is, but people outside of the area do not. It has been rarely replicated well. And I'll go with Dara about us having a hamburger obsession.

                            And, if you won't agree, I'll also put forth cracker crust pizza. It is an upper midwest thing, but we do it best. And we do it often. All my favorite pizza places have this. Super thin cracker crust, sweet sauce, maybe an odd topping or two (elk sausage or sauerkraut.)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: churchka

                              I second the Surly Furious! I'm thirsty now.....

                            2. I do think that the Mahnomin Porridge at Hell's Kitchen is a nice use of local Minnesota Wild Rice. Not just nice, it is delicious. You can also kill two birds with one stone if you go to brunch there as they also have a Walleye Sandwich on their menu.

                              1. signature dish--gotta go with the jucy lucy-- you can find tongue-in-cheek upscale versions occasionally at the high end restaurants too. with either a pint of surly or a cup of small batch top tier ice cream on the side you can't go wrong. :) you don't find a jucy lucy stand on the street, or a jucy lucy shop on every other street corner, though. in that way the jucy lucy is *not* like a philly cheese steak or a chicago dog. the lucy is more of a hometown cliche, like cheese curds-- you eat it at home and don't look for it when you're away-- you don't hear about mspers moving to nyc or cali or chi-town and pining for a lucy the way chicagoites long for hot dogs-- nobody's going to post: "where to find an "authentic" lucy on ues. . ."-- that would be highly stupid.

                                i would agree with Jordan that rather than a proliferation of pizzerias, hot dog stands etc, there is a proliferation of small, quality, chef-driven restaurant/bistros in the neighborhoods of msp, patronized and supported by the neighborhood and tending to source locally and sustainably. the stuff these establishments/chefs are doing is much more interesting than monolithic fast-food items imo. if the op is looking for street food/ fast food exclusively in msp, though, it's gotta be the jucy lucy, tacos, or pho.

                                1. I don't have a specific suggestion or vote for the thread, but my two cents to the debate is to say that the "you can get it elsewhere" thought isn't all that compelling. You can get Chicago Deep Dish or hot dogs elsewhere, or a po boy, or lobster, or a Spago-style pizza, or a cheese steak sandwich, or KC BBQ, or whatever else you could name in other places than their location of origin, but they are still signature dishes for that particular location.

                                  I still say Lucys, wild rice, walleye, Pearson's nut rolls. square cracker pizza, tater tot hot dish, and the like are in the running.

                                  23 Replies
                                  1. re: pgokey

                                    I would also argue that the, "only served at a few places" point isn't compelling either. I'm just thinking of Philly and there are specific places that you're told to go for a good cheesesteak (Pat's vs. Gino's I think?). My husband and I made the mistake of ordering a cheesesteak at a random bar near our hotel in Philly and it was absolutely horrible (although the Old Bay spiced fries were fantastic). It seems like a food item doesn't need to be served ubiquitously around the city to be considered a signature food for the city.

                                    A separate though - can you get tater tot hot dish at restaurants? I'm not sure I've ever seen it (I've actually never eaten it) and therefore it would be hard to have it take hold among tourists.

                                    1. re: katebauer

                                      i've *never* seen or eaten tater tot hot dish either, in homes or in restaurants, though people who are not from msp tell me that it's ubiquitous here, that it's all msp folks eat, and that it's our regional specialty (kinda like lutefisk, which i've seen & tasted exactly once)! LOL. i have seen a variety of other "hot dish-es" though. my grandma (who was from buffalo ny) made a wide variety of "hot dish-es," while dh's grandma, born and raised in rural mn, made "casseroles." in another thread, TDQ pointed out that "hot dish" is probably a direct translation of a scandinavian phrase for "warmed dish" or some such. i was interested to learn that. i think the name "hot dish" captures the imagination in the same way as "ambrosia salad" does in southern cooking. the actual item of course can range from bastardized 1950's canned cream-of-mushroom soup/mini marshmallow-jello insipidity to the sublime, from-scratch original recipes.

                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                        Glad to know I'm not the only one who has never been in the presence of tater tot hot dish. My in laws frequently make wild rice hot dish (straight from the back of the Uncle Ben's box) and 3-bean hot dish (basically 3 types of beans, ground beef and bacon in a sweet sauce), but never tater tot hot dish.

                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                          What!?!?!? I've eaten it hundreds of times. I've made it. It was often on the menu in my college cafeteria. I've had it Anodyne Cafe on Nicollet.

                                          Dang, you all need to come over for dinner.

                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                            I grew up in northern Illinois, eating tater tot casserole ( and a whole bunch of other variations of food ingredients) --essentially the same as hot dish. Not Lutheran, but protestant.

                                            With my Norwegian heritage, I few up with lefse, fruit soup, and, fortunately, only one or two times of lutefisk.

                                            Does that support or debunk tater tot hot dish and Norwegian fare as the signature Mn dishes?

                                            1. re: type2runner

                                              Local comedians have long been working hot dish into their comedy routines, showing hot dish as being part of our local fiber. Minnesotan food doesn't taste right without whitening agents in it. Our reigning queen of a Queen Miss Richfield is famous for saying "Richfield - where gravy is a beverage and butter is a spice." The gazillion Lutheran cookbooks with hotdish recipes in them.

                                              That it is found elsewhere does not mean it is not a specific and inseparable part of MN's identity.

                                              Where did it originate? I don't think the German and Norwegian settlers that starts these food trends necessarily honored state lines, but I can say that Illinois is so overwhelmed with so many other signature dishes (don't forget that Twinkies come from Chicago, too!), that wouldn't it just be kind to let us have the dubious honor of the hot dish? :)

                                              Plus, the phrase "hot dish" is a unique regionalism that we can certainly claim as our own.

                                            2. re: soupkitten

                                              Soupkitten, say hi to your grandma for me! I was born in Buffalo, NY - though I moved here when I was four years old (so I think I count as a native).

                                              Me, I never heard the term "hot dish" while I was growing up. It wasn't until I was well into my adult years that the term hit the general media and thus penetrated my consciousness. In my friends' and family's circles, it was always called "casserole" (as in "tuna noodle casserole", aka the pinnacle of the art).

                                              But I *have* had the tater-tot concoction - once or twice - and I love it!


                                              1. re: AnneInMpls

                                                LOL! *overwhelmed by tater-tot hot dish avalanche!*

                                                eek! i didn't mean to imply that the tater-tot hot dish is somehow like the loch ness monster of the region, everyone talking about it but it doesn't actually exist-- i do know that the tater tot hot dish *is* in fact very real!!! i just was agreeing with Kate and Anne that it's much more of a church-basement potluck item, or a thrifty home weekday meal, than something a visitor could seek out & sample at a variety of restaurants in town. *whew!* :) this is a fun discussion!

                                                now for the soupkitten controversial statement of the day *ahem*: despite the "lake woebegon" ya, youbecha schtick that has become the image many americans (who have never visited) have of minnesota, it is possible to go through a lifetime in msp and *never* encounter tater tot hot dish-- for example if you don't attend a lutheran church, you may never run into it! (the lutheran basement ladies are very real too, i've seen them, but, *please* correct me on this, if i am wrong, i am sure i don't know) *taking deep breath*, **tucking tongue firmly in cheek**, ***ducking for cover***:::
                                                the lutheran basement ladies *were* sort of a brand of regional superhero housewife in the 1950's-60's-- but nowadays, for the most part they've died out or changed with the times, like betty crocker (also a "native" of these parts). sure, a few isolated bands of lutheran basement ladies operated into the late 1980's in the second-ring suburbs, wielding their spatulas, embroidered dish towels and cans of condensed soup. they may still survive in pockets in northfield, or around some of the bible colleges, you can run into occasional aging specimens at ikea and ingebretsen's-- their recipes & spiral-bound church cookbooks *of course* live on, but the lutheran basement ladies themselves no longer represent a dominant culture in msp. they, like jedi masters, "are now, all but extinct." ;-) these days a "hot dish" in msp is much more likely to be delicious enchiladas, vegetable curry, lentil wat, or lasagna than swedish meatballs or that special casserole with the la choy chow mein noodles and processed cheddar cheese sprinkled on top. while many of the "hot dishes" of bygone years were no doubt cheap, convenient and labor-saving, splendid and delicious (not to mention cholesterol, sodium, fat and unrefined carb-heavy), the majority of them have fallen by the wayside, & i for one ain't lookin' back!

                                                just asked dh if his grandma ever made tthd. there was a pause, i think he had to reach way back 20 or more years, to childhood, for the memory, but he said yes, then another pause: "and it was *good*"! so i am going to have to seek out this delicacy for myself and savor a small portion. if i can find anyone who still makes it, or figure out a way to get myself invited to a lutheran church basement potluck, maybe i can bring green jello salad ;-)

                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                  I was actually at a funeral in the basement of a Lutheran Church recently for a funeral. 20 years ago, when my grandpa died, we had hotdish. This funeral, for my grandma, it was catered by Lunds. Ha!!!

                                                  1. re: churchka

                                                    Oh, yeah, Lunds and Byerly's are both reliable sources of hotdishes. So is Kowalski's.

                                                  2. re: soupkitten

                                                    i just fell off the dang couch cracking myself up over my own post 2 years later!!! omg how do you guys put up with me i am such a nutcase.

                                                    just wanted to update anyone who may possibly have any interest-- i am no longer a tthd virgin. dh's grandma sent some tthd home with him in a ball jar earlier this spring and i warmed it up in the oven in a ramekin (i don't have a microwave) and ate it. it was super-delicious. she makes hers with lots of carrots and other veggies in addition to the tater tots. so i'm officially a member of the tthd fan club, kay? :)

                                                    thanks for resurrecting the thread, this was a fun one to revisit.

                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                      Amen and Amen sister! That was a beautiful rant that was also true and amusing... Thank you for the update on your hotdish intake; Now whatta about BARS!? : )

                                              2. re: katebauer

                                                Bulldog NE has tater tot hotdish sometimes, and Hot Plate, of course, has it. I wonder if Carol's has it.

                                                It's absences from local restaurants is curious. Hot dish is such a uniquely Minnesotan thing, yet it's just not on menus. Despite that, based on all those Lutheran church basement pot lucks, it's a shoe-in for the top 5.

                                                1. re: pgokey

                                                  >> ... tater tot hotdish ... It's absences from local restaurants is curious.

                                                  True Hot Dish (aka a Minnesota Casserole) is only found at home or at down-home potlucks.

                                                  I once worked for 6 months with a guy from Berlin. When he left, our office threw him a party, and asked him what he'd like. He said, "I'd love to try this "hot dish", but I can never find it at a restaurant!" So everyone brought a hot dish. There were at least 20 varieties, and not a duplicate in the bunch. It was one of the best potlucks I've ever been to!


                                                  P.S. My vote for Minneapolis' signature dish - thanks to MplsM ary's reminder - is the cream cheese wonton. Did our local Leann Chin invent this fusion creation?

                                                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                                                    I am surprised that the cream cheese wonton is a local item. I've always taken them from granted.

                                                    Azia makes a great version of them - Thom adds cranberries to them.

                                                    I do want to add that hot dish *can* be found at certain restaurants - specifically Hot Plate.

                                                    1. re: AnneInMpls

                                                      Cream cheese wontons are not a Ms Chin, MN creation. She may have introduced them to the area, but Trader Vic's in St. Louis was serving them up in the 70s, if not sooner.

                                                  2. re: katebauer

                                                    They serve it at the NE Bulldog, but it isn't traditional by any means (brussels sprout, brisket, mushrooms, cream, tots). PS my vote is for Pearson's nut goodie. Philly has Tastey Cakes, we've got that maple flavored sugar-bomb.

                                                    1. re: Foureyes137

                                                      I prefer Pearson's Salted Nut Roll--made right here in good old Saint Paul.


                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        The Nut Goodie and The Salted Nut Roll.... Two pillars of Saint Paul greatness. From what I understand the Goodie is much harder to find in other parts of the country--- Something about them being harder to ship because of melting. I have friends in other states who can find Nut Rolls in their area, but have never seen or heard of the Nut Goodie. So of the two, I think we might have to give that one the nod as a local “signature” item.

                                                        Uncle Ira

                                                        1. re: Uncle Ira

                                                          Correct, Pearson's products aren't very widely available outside of the Midwest.


                                                        2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                          I believe they are both made in St Paul aren't they...along with Buns?

                                                          Anyway, you can find the Nut Roll in Wisconsin & Texas but I never saw a Nut Goodie until I moved here.

                                                          1. re: Foureyes137

                                                            Both Nut Goodie and Salted Nut Roll are made in St. Paul as far as I know; I just happen to prefer the nut roll. What are Buns? Is that a Pearson's delicacy I haven't yet tried?

                                                            DUCK! 1pm 1st Weds siren testing for those of you in the cities.


                                                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                            pearson's nut roll/goodie is another good one. my mom takes nut goodies to chicago when she visits her childhood friend who lives there. apparently really hard to find there. i think, re Uncle Ira's comment: she has to pack them in a cooler to prevent melting.

                                                            the op should pick one up at the factory, or a local gas station!

                                                    2. At least we don't have a bad signature dish, like Cincinatti's Chili. Even the locals admit that it is only good when you are drunk.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: GastronautMN

                                                        Here's one local (well, a former local) who would vehemently disagree. Skyline is always a high point of my return to my family's house.

                                                        1. re: GastronautMN

                                                          Yeah, cinnamon flavored chili on spaghetti sounds like it would be a good idea @ 2am. ;)

                                                        2. Don't know if anyone has mentioned this yet, but when I moved here in 2003 I couldn't get over how many places have hot artichoke dip on the menu.

                                                          1. The lowly, much maligned cream cheese puff/wonton? It's a food that can be dreadful if done poorly but can also be a tasty delight if done well.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. Thanks for all your great posts, I truly appreciate it!!! I have decided im gonna have a Jucy Lucy, a Slury, and a Walleye sandwich. Can anyone tell me who has the best walleye sandwich??

                                                              22 Replies
                                                              1. re: mlukan

                                                                I recommend the Nook on Hamline at Randolph in St. Paul for a jucy lucy--bakery fresh bun (from PJ Murphy's Bakery down the street), hand cut fries, authentic St. Paul tavern atmosphere. Their other burgers are good too (the decadent lodge burger is my second fav at the Nook. My first fav is the Molitor burger, which is a jucy lucy stuffed with pepperjack cheese.)

                                                                Walleye sandwiches--alas, I'm not from Minnesota and I have to confess, I haven't found one I like yet. Tavern on Grand in St. Paul was where I was introduced to my first "classic" MN walleye sandwich.

                                                                I do like the fried walleye at Fishers Supper Club in Avon, MN, but it's about an hour and a half drive out of the cities. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/43527... Their other pan fish is good, too.

                                                                But the real reason I posted in this thread--mlukan, what's a slury? Are you thinking an ice cream slurry, where it's all mixed together in a shake? Personally, I think just a cone would be more classically Twin Cities. At Izzy's on Marshall in St. Paul. All the cones with an "Izzy", which is a teensy scoop, about the size of a cherry tomato, of any flavor you wish. So you get your regular scoop, plus your Izzy. I also like the Black Hill's Gold at Grand Ole Creamery on Grand in St. Paul--and Grand Ole Creamery is just a short walk from Tavern on Grand, if you wanted to do your walleye sandwich and ice cream stop on the same day.

                                                                Funnily enough, something I've only ever seen in the Twin Cities is the technique of dropping a whopper (malted chocolate ball) into the bottom of your cone so the ice cream doesn't drip out. They do that at Izzy's and Grand Ole Creamery. GOC's waffle cones are good, too.

                                                                Have fun! Please report back.


                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                  I believe he meant Surley, which is a great brewery but they're so new could their beers really be considered a Minnesota signature dish? Maybe Grain Belt Beer instead? Although I don't actually know where that's brewed currently.

                                                                  1. re: katebauer

                                                                    HA! Kate, I believe you're right. Surley, not slury. Sorry, I need more coffee.

                                                                    Grain Belt is brewed in New Ulm, Minnesota (at Schell's). The brewery is fun to tour, too.

                                                                    RE: hotdish--if you're from one of the small farming communities in Southwest and in Central Minnesota, you likely grew up with hotdish, actually having been called hotdish. Not only is tater tot hotdish the real thing, but so is potato chip hotdish and so on... Every church fundraising cookbook from that region will have at least a half dozen hotdish recipes. Hotdish is something you'd bring to funerals, church functions, potlucks, to new moms, grieving families and have in your freezer in case company came, as well as have for dinner somewhat regularly. Though popularized by Garrison Keillor, it's real and not an affectation.

                                                                    Wild rice wasn't very available in places like Southwestern MN or Central MN until somewhat recently--unless you lived in wild rice territory, near one of the tribes, or near a Byerly's, wild rice would likely not have been part of your experience growing up in MN.

                                                                    If you have recent Norwegian heritage, lefse, rosettes, and krumkake would likely have been part of your growing up experience also. These were mostly holiday treats, but, real nevertheless. Swedish potato pancakes would likely have been a regular dinner item (savory pancakes, not sweet.) And, egg coffee is something your grandmother would have made.

                                                                    Also iconically Great Lakes region would be anything pickled (herring, sun fish, beets, etc.) or canned as this is a cold, cold place with a short growing season and by golly, food must be preserved.

                                                                    Smelt was a big deal in the great lakes states, too, and, of course, anything you could fish out of one of our 10,000 lakes yourself, which is why walleye is such a big deal.

                                                                    And don't even get me started on headcheese. Or some of the things you find on the Iron Range such as pasties, porketta, kolaches and so on.

                                                                    Other things I've seen only in MN: margaritas served with two hazelnuts. Cracker crust pizza cut into squares. Caramel rolls the size of your head on nearly every small town diner/cafe menu.

                                                                    I do think there's a difference between things people serve in their homes or grew up with in outstate Minnesota and what might be part of the day to day existence today for a Minneapolitan or a Twin Citean. If you mentioned "jucy lucy" to someone from another part of state, ie, someone who is a Minnesotan but not a Twin Citean, I suspect they might not know what you're talking about.


                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                      (not sure if the hotdish comment was directed at me, but...) I absolutely know that hotdish is not some fictitious meal. I was pointing out that a) my ND in laws serve many types of hot dish and call it such and b) I have never had tater tot hot dish and it seems it's served at only 1, maybe 2, restaurants within at least the metro area. That lack of availability makes me believe that it's not a tourist attraction like Chicago deep dish pizza, Philly cheesesteaks, etc. To compare, while the Jucy Lucy is served at at maybe 4-5 restaurants in the metro, it's something that tourists seem to seek out and be able to predictably find at restaurants.

                                                                      Perhaps for others the rule of thumb of "tourists being able to find it" isn't a good measure of a signature dish, but it seems to me that if Minneapolis is to be known for a dish it's got to be something that people who visit here can access and talk about when they go home.

                                                                      1. re: katebauer

                                                                        Nope--not directed at you, specifically (though, of course, I appreciate and am interested in your reply). :). Sorry for the confusion.

                                                                        Personally, (general comment, not directed to anyone specifically) I don't think Minneapolis (or even the Twin Cities) has a "signature" dish, which, I would define as a dish that people associate uniquely with Minneapolis and in and of which Minneapolitans take a particular pride or ownership. The OP also asked what Minneapolis does best, which I think is actually a different question, although, I still don't know if by the he means "what does Minneapolis do better than anywhere else?" which is yet another question. So, I just declined to answer altogether because, a) I don't think there's a clear answer and b) I don't think I'm clear on what the question is. But, others, did their usual excellent job answering it, although, I think the answers reflected different (but all equally valid) interpretations of the question.

                                                                        For the record, our state fruit is the honeycrisp apple, the state muffin is blueberry, the state grain is wild rice, and the state mushroom is morel.


                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                          I appreciate the definitions of 'signature' offerred--whether for a city, state or region.

                                                                          Given the examples from other locations, enduring ( as in, its been around for YEARS) should be a part of the definition.

                                                                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                        Your margarita comment (so true!) reminded me that MN is the only place I have seen bloody marys served with a beer back.

                                                                        1. re: seahag

                                                                          Really? Born and raised here. I've traveled a fair amount, but when I do I make it such a point to eat food local to where I am that I don't really take note of a lot of differences in foods we have in common because I usually don't get them. This thread has been fascinating to learn what's unique to the area. Some I knew, others I had no idea about.

                                                                        2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                          FYI for those without a lot of Midwestern exposure, the "cracker crust pizza cut into squares" is common throughout the Midwest, including Chicago.

                                                                          1. re: Jordan

                                                                            It's not common in the part of the Midwest from which I originally hail, so, while it might be common in Chicago and Minnesota, it's still not universal. There's more to the Midwest that Illinois and Minnesota!


                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                              There was square cut pizza in Ohio where I went to college. I disliked it as much then as I do now! :)

                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                I didn't say "universal." I was making the point that it is not a Minnesota-only phenomenon. You said you had seen it only in Minnesota.

                                                                                So, which part of the Midwest are you from?

                                                                                1. re: Jordan

                                                                                  I didn't mean for that to be so snarky (was going to edit it to soften it and then the site crashed)--I just meant the Midwest is a big (flat) place (like cracker crust pizza) with a lot of diversity even within itself. ;-).


                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                    And several states seem to have been cut into squares. :)

                                                                                  2. re: Jordan

                                                                                    It's pretty common in Des Moines, at the older Italian places. Mama Laconas does it best.

                                                                                    1. re: Jordan

                                                                                      Hmmm...so far, all the Midwestern states that have weighed in so so far have cracker crusts AND cut their pizza into squares, although, we have yet to hear from the Dakotas, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Nebraska, and Oklahoma (Midwest according to chowhound)...nevertheless, I seem to be outnumbered. Maybe I didn't eat enough pizza in the state from whence I originally came (or, my time in that state pre-dates the cracker crust/cut into squares phenomenon, which, I suppose is a possibility, because frankly at that time, Italian food was pretty dang exotic)...because I swear to you, I had never had cracker crust pizza cut into squares before I moved to Minnesota. And I have eaten plenty of Midwestern, but not Minnesotan, pizza. All bad. ;-).


                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        P.S. However, I do think we have enough anecdotal evidence to safely conclude that cracker crust pizza cut into squares is not Minneapolis' signature dish.


                                                                                  3. re: Jordan

                                                                                    It's common in Wisconsin and Michigan, that's for sure.

                                                                                    People looked at me crazy in college when I would cut a cracker crust pizza into slices...they'd cut it into squares and I would simply ask why they were trying to make a mess and make it necessary to grab 6 pieces at once to get a filling amount of pizza. I don't think I ever got an answer. I just figured they had 20 hungry people in their families or something.

                                                                                  4. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                    I'd like to say that I grew up in central Connecticut, and square-cut pizza was the norm-- though not what you'd call cracker crust.

                                                                              2. re: mlukan

                                                                                Prepare your taste buds to be bored out of their minds (except for the Surly).

                                                                                If you have to have a walleye sandwich, get it at Tavern on Grand. If for no other reason then the ability to say you've had walleye at Tavern on Grand which is kind of like saying you've been to Wall Drug or (insert any other incredibly overrated experience here).

                                                                                You'll also be close to the Golden Fig. If you want to experience what's GREAT about Minnesota food, that's the place. It's a little shop selling all sorts of artisan, local foods -- cheeses, meats, syrups, sauces, chocolates, and a million other things.

                                                                                I agree with TDQ...go to the Nook for the burger.

                                                                                1. re: mlukan

                                                                                  Tavern on Grand in St. Paul is the best known place for a Walleye sandwich and has other walleye choices such as dinners, appetizers, etc. beyond anyone else. One of the best I had was at Ike's at the airport and one might assume Ike's in downtown Minneapolis would be the same. At the Mall of America, the Twin Cities Grill is a good choice for a Walleye sandwich. The best so far around Lake Minnetonka was Sunsets in Wayzata. Willie Clark on KSTP AM's morning show swears by Axel's as the best but I haven't been there yet. But just about every restaurant in the Twin Cities that serves a fish sandwich is going to serve a Walleye sandwich. That does not occur in any other metro area. Here is my collected line up to date.


                                                                                2. By the way, if you asked this question 50 years ago, the answer probably would have been flour, even though that's not a dish either. There was a point when Minneapolis was the flour milling capital of the world. Seriously. That's why General Mills is here, for instance. Oh, and the bundt cake pan was invented here.

                                                                                  We still have some terrific local bakeries in the Twin Cities. Rustica is a good choice.


                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                    "what does minneapolis do the best?"

                                                                                    Personally, I think it's Vietnamese Food. We're lucky with our abundance of great options. And it is really quite a lot better, on average, than just about anywhere else in the US.

                                                                                    Now that I've spilled the gas, I'll leave it to someone else to light the match...


                                                                                    1. re: HuaGung

                                                                                      It's obviously native to MN, but we certainly have plenty of excellent Vietnamese food here - moreso than other types of food.

                                                                                      Of all the ethnic subgroups that inhabit the region, the one cuisine that's done the best, far and away, is Vietnamese. The German food is so-so (probably because the original immigrants came over so long ago). The Mexican food, and some of the other Latin good can get pretty good, though. The Norwegian food is actually sparse (maybe for the better! And this coming from a Norse.)

                                                                                  2. Well just wanted to report back to everyone. Thanks for all your recommendations, they were all greatly appreciated and I wish I would have had more time in the twin cities!
                                                                                    I checked out Tavern on Grand and I must say it was one of the better fish sandwiches of my life. Wife had the Walleye cakes and they were almost as good as my Walleye Sandwich. I also tried the Surly Furious, had a few and I couldnt get enough, sooo sweet and wonderful!!! The wife had to drive back to the hotel. I guess it was trivia night at Tavern and there seem to be alot of nerds there, so I fit right in. We thought it was a great Idea and had alot of fun answering the weird and quirky questions they came up with. All in all it was a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone travelling through because it seemed like it was full of locals which I like.
                                                                                    Our next stop was The Nook for some Jucy Lucys. Great burger, wow, sooo good, except that it burnt my mouth a little with the extremely hot cheese. I'm going back next time im in St Paul.
                                                                                    Thanks again to everyone and I will use this as a reference whenever travelling through the midwest. AL's Breakfast is my next stop.

                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: mlukan

                                                                                      Thank you for reporting back! I'm so glad you enjoyed your stay. Typically, when they bring your Jucy Lucy to your table, they ask if you've ever had one before and, if you respond no, they will caution you that it's very hot and to let it cool a bit (that's what those lovely fries, and, oh, the beer!, are there for--to entertain you while your burger cools)--I'm so sorry your server forgot that critical step.


                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        About the cracker crust pizza. I assume that's a thin and crunchy crust (love that) that's cut square.

                                                                                        Who makes a good one?

                                                                                        1. re: karykat

                                                                                          Toast Wine Bar makes a great square-cut cracker-cut pizza. I don't even like that kind of pizza, but I love theirs.

                                                                                          1. re: Loren3

                                                                                            What makes it "cracker cut"? I know it's cut in squares, but is the crust extra thin and crispy as the name implies?

                                                                                          2. re: karykat

                                                                                            Red's Savoy in St Paul makes an excellent example of this type of pizza.

                                                                                        2. re: mlukan

                                                                                          Check out the fish tacos at the Tin Fish on Lake Calhoun sometime. One of my faves.

                                                                                          The Tin Fish
                                                                                          3000 E Calhoun Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55408

                                                                                        3. Walleye, broiled or lightly pan fried with butter, onions and garlic added in at the end. Pose the question to anyone not from MN as a multiple choice questions. What is MN's signature dish pizza, burger, walleye or hot dogs? Walleye wins every time.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: reservationsplease

                                                                                            I no longer live in MSP and I must say that the only food I miss is the style of Vietnamese food I enjoyed in Minneapolis. I haven't been able to find anything remotely equivalent in the states I've lived in since.

                                                                                            Kinhdo was my all-time favorite Vietnamese restaurant. Does anyone know if it still there in Uptown?

                                                                                            1. re: shootingbreezes

                                                                                              Yes. Kinhdo is there - still serving the same sort of food that I imagine they always have.

                                                                                              Kinhdo Restaurant
                                                                                              2755 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

                                                                                          2. I am from southern Minnesota and have lived in Minnesota all of my life. I never even heard of a Juicy Lucy until I moved to the Minneapolis area about 5 years ago and wasn't all that impressed with it. As for Vietnamese food and Sauerkraut they are both just ethnic foods. I grew up on Sauerkraut because it was part of my ethnicity but I have never had Vietnamese food. If anything I would have to say Walleye, Northerern and panfish.

                                                                                            1. WALLEYE! Pan-fried walleye. I originally said meatloaf, but if there's anything that defines Minnesota, it's pan-fried walleye. You want a Minnesota dinner, have some pan-fried walleye with a side of wild rice. You'll want an ice-cold Grain Belt Premium (in the longneck bottle) to complete your meal.

                                                                                              1. First post to the thread that wouldn't die. I just moved here from Chicago and was an active participant on LTHforum and used that site quite a bit for my food queries. I've been here for about three months and keep running into this thread so here is my two cents (whatever it's worth) on this topic:

                                                                                                Hot Dish - It seems that this is what people in other parts of the country call a casserole. That being said, MSP seems to eat more "hot dishes" than most places and I can fully understand why it's so near and dear to peoples' hearts.

                                                                                                Juicy Lucy - Never heard of it before moving here and that's a good thing for this thread.

                                                                                                Cracker crust square-cut pizza - Being from Chicago, we seem to analyze pizza more than most people (maybe outside of the NYer's). People like to tag Chicago with the "deep dish title" but in reality, there's more thin crust (or really thin, aka cracker crust) pizza being ordered in Chicago than thick/pan/deep. We typically call it "tavern style" because it was originally served in a bar and cut into squares, more as bar food or snacking than actually "eating a slice." Most of the Midwest has square-cut pizza (the Quad Cities has a few really good places) and most people associate St. Louis with super-thin "cracker crust." Before I leave this sub-topic, Chicago has had a huge infusion of Neapolitan style pizzas (GQ pointed their best pizza in the US comes from a Chicago place), so I really wish one day that the deep dish pizza sort of just goes away. BTW, how is Pizza Luce voted the best pizza here? Isn't it just a slightly better version of Domino's? (I'll probably catch hell for that one...)

                                                                                                Nut Roll / Nut Goodie - This is awesome. In Chicago, we could get the bun bar that is very similar but I highly prefer the Nut Goodie. When my father came to visit, its the first thing I gave him and he loved it. I would say this is more of a local product, not dish though. Sort of like the Ferrara Pan Hot Tamales, Lemon Heads, Mike&Ike or the Tootsie Roll, well tootsie roll.

                                                                                                I would vote for the Juicy Lucy as a signature dish you just don't see outside of MSP. I would equate it with Chicago's Italian Beef. People here have their favorite and it really is a unique preparation - so much so, that it offers those great little variances that are often argued about. I should note that when I was in Chicago last weekend, one of my favorite bars (Small Bar) is serving a "juicy lucy" with Merkt's Cheddar cheese in the middle.

                                                                                                If you don't claim it now, you may lose it forever....

                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: tyrus

                                                                                                  "If you don't claim it now, you may lose it forever...."

                                                                                                  From your lips to God's ears.

                                                                                                  Please...make it go away.

                                                                                                  1. re: MSPD

                                                                                                    MSPD, I was just about to reply to you that I don't think Minneapolis has a "signature dish" and, even if it did, that I agree with you that a ju(i)cy lucy wouldn't qualify as one (on the basis that not enough places can execute it well enough), when I discovered I'd made a similar argument upthread two years ago. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5339... So, nevermind. I see I'm as firmly as entrenched as I was 2 years ago.

                                                                                                    EDIT: PS, tyrus, welcome!


                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                      Thanks TDQ.

                                                                                                      I hate to say that I haven't had a "Ju(i)cy Lucy" yet but the fact is, I've been "burgered" out for about a year now and haven't had the will to seek one out. Food trends can be so exhausing sometimes....

                                                                                                      Actually the walleye sandwich sounds good. I'll have to head over to the Tavern on Grand to check it out.

                                                                                                      One more thing - people seem to think the cream cheese wonton was invented in MSP at Leann Chin's. The first Leann Chin's is reported to have been opened in 1980. I believe the appetizer Crab Rangoon or Crab Cream Cheese wonton has been on American Chinese menus long before that. I've been eating them a long time and I've just moved here. Some sources have the dish originating at Trader Vics in San Fran in the 1950's. Isn't the Leann Chin cream cheese won ton the same as Crab Rangoon without the crab? I could really be wrong here but this has come up many times in conversation with my wife, who grew up here (and on Leann Chin's).

                                                                                                      1. re: tyrus

                                                                                                        I don't know anything about the pedigree of the cc wonton, and I believe in a crab rangoon in the same way I believe in bigfoot. Everyone's seen one but me. I'm sure it exists, but I've never had one or, that I recall, seen one on a menu.

                                                                                                        But, as far as the cc wonton is concerned; it's cheese, deep fried. What's not to love? But, I'm guessing you're right, that it's older than Ms. Chin's restaurants.

                                                                                                        You are correct that LeeAnn Chin's first restaurant opened in 1980, in Minnetonka. But, I guess she was hosting meals for the clients of her downtown Mpls sewing business as early as 1972, which led her to teaching, catering, and, eventually, opening her own restaurant.


                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                          Per Wikipedia's take on the crab rangoon:

                                                                                                          Crab Rangoon has been on the menu of the "Polynesian-style" restaurant Trader Vic's in San Francisco since at least 1957,[1] supposedly from a Burmese recipe,[2] and was probably invented there.[3] A "Rangoon crab a la Jack" was mentioned as a dish at a Hawaiian-style party in 1952, but without further detail.[4]

                                                                                                        2. re: tyrus

                                                                                                          The case for the cream cheese wonton is not its origin but rather its ubiquity. You’d be hard pressed to find a Chinese (or Vietnamese, for that matter), restaurant that does not have cream cheese wontons on the menu. For which I am thankful.

                                                                                                          While others comb The Cities for the best Reuben or dare I say, Lucy, I love trying out every vegetarian version of cream cheese wonton and the oddball gloopy sauce accompaniment I can find.

                                                                                                          I really want this thread to die, but I had to chime in. Again.

                                                                                                          1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                                                            Can someone help me out with the allure of a cream cheese wonton? I've had them on occasion, but I guess I don't get it. Before trying them, I just saw them as kinda gimmicky - take something that most folks like because it's fried, and add something that everyone likes because it's creamy and fatty - cream cheese. To me, it's kinda like deep fried cheese curds, or a corn dog. It's ok, but just kinda gimmicky. When I tried them, I kept feeling the same way. If I'm going to a Vietnamese (or Chinese) restaurant, why get what's essentially fried cheese? That seems like going to a Polish restaurant and getting pizza.

                                                                                                            Am I missing something?

                                                                                                            1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                                              It's offering something familiar yet it's different enough for people to think it's "ethnic". Good for getting kids and picky eaters to stretch their comfort zones.

                                                                                                              1. re: prasantrin

                                                                                                                Gotcha. Yes, that makes a lot of sense. I think that line of thought is how many dishes have come about.

                                                                                                  2. Walleye. Caught at 11 am, kept in a live-well. Cleaned at 11:50 while the oil is heating up, breaded with a mix like Andy's (gotta love the MSG), deep-fried in a couple of inches of 375 degree oil. Served with whatever you like.

                                                                                                    In the last couple of years, we have been cutting the fillets into strips and making fish taco's from the Walleye. But the core is still super-fresh fried walleye.

                                                                                                    Is fresh walleye consumption done like it is in MN anywhere else in the USA?

                                                                                                    21 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                                                                                      No because when you bread and fry fish it all tastes the same.

                                                                                                      1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                                                                                        No, it's likely not. But remove "walleye" and substitute "fish", and the answer is most certainly yes. While Minnesotan's like to think there's something special about walleye, it's just another mild freshwater fish. That's it. And as several posters have said, once it's battered and fried, it all tastes the same.

                                                                                                        1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                                          you've obviously never had fresh walleye, shore lunch style, as JG describes. few people have.

                                                                                                          it's like someone from nebraska saying that lobster is just okay, when they've just had frozen tail meat at the local diner.

                                                                                                          the problem with walleye is that the real thing is so rare, that everyone settles for the frozen battered stuff, which is pretty pale-- but hey we gotta take what we can get, folks reason. . .

                                                                                                          but yeah there are a lot of tourists who get battered walleye somewhere """traditional""" like st. clair broiler and they're like "what, that's it?" i feel bad for 'em.

                                                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                            SK - I have had fresh caught walleye, a few hours old. I think more than a "few people" have been to the Boundary Waters and caught fish there. We're not exactly talking about an Alaska expedition here. And I'm not saying it's not good - it is. But given how mild tasting the fish is, it's really hard to rave about it after it's been battered and fried. That's just the nature of battering and frying - whatever's inside needs to be able to carry it's own, or the flavor and nuances get lost. And for me, after having some fresh-from-the-water walleye, I say "meh".

                                                                                                            I've also had fresh from the water catfish, battered and fried, and I'd say the same thing. It's good, and personally I'd take a fried catfish sandwich over a fried walleye - but I wouldn't go too far out of my way.

                                                                                                            When it comes to freshwater fish shore style, I'll take trout (rainbow, brown, brook, etc.) anytime. And after having fished trout and eaten said trout hours later, and being able to compare trout to walleye, catfish, and perch, personally, I'd take trout any day. Trout just carries more flavor than most other freshwater fishes, and panfrying it un-battered doesn't seem mask the flesh's flavor as much.

                                                                                                            But hey, that's just personal opinion. I'm not originally from MN - I'm from the east coast where I did a lot of trout fishing, and shore-side lunch for me meant trout. I didn't grow up with walleye, and after having it here multiple times (fresh, frozen, and many other incarnations), I don't get the love-affair with it (taste-wise). But I get it from a perspective of you love what you grow up with.

                                                                                                            Lastly, for what it's worth, I wouldn't go too far out of my way for lobster either. It's OK - but I wouldn't pay anywhere near market value for it. And that's not from the perspective of having eaten it frozen in NE - it's from having had it multiple times in MA and RI (never made it up to ME - are their's better?). Most recently, I had some from Coastal. It's OK, but IMO, not worth the price. There's a lot of other seafood I'd cross the street for before lobster. Then again, maybe there's a reason lobster was considered a "poverty food" years ago, and was used to fertilize fields and bait hooks. It wasn't until WWII that it gained popularity as an affordable protein source.

                                                                                                            1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                                              I'll even go one step further. I pull my share of walleye out of the lakes from northern Minnesota up to the family cabin up in semi-remote Ontario. We always make sure to take a healthy amount of crappie, sunnies, perch, etc. at the same time.

                                                                                                              We filet 'em all, pan fry the walleye shore lunch-style, and feed them to the kids and the suckers in the family. Meanwhile we sit around the fryer and delight ourselves with the good stuff -- the panfish.

                                                                                                              1. re: MSPD

                                                                                                                I have to agree. Give me the panfish anyday over walleye.

                                                                                                                1. re: tart1

                                                                                                                  well, crappies and sunfish are another thing entirely (from the walleye). and different from trout. or smelt-- and it's going to be a matter of personal preference.

                                                                                                                  point is that all of these cold freshwater fish, except trout, are people's hyperlocal, hyperseasonal cabin fishing trip foods-- they aren't served at restaurants or sold at stores, heartland's new shop and a very few others excepted. what's being served at the diner or bar down the street is a non-fresh caught, frozen-battered commercial product. more of that stuff gets served to the public, some of whom know the difference, but a lot who don't. and no, not everybody in town owns a lakefront cabin they visit for the fishing season each year. contrary to popular belief, not every person fishes, hunts, or gathers wild rice-- though it is possible to travel in circles where it is possible to believe that this is true. the overwhelming majority of the folks in msp who might choose to grab a JL after work or a plate of CCWs at their local chinese or vietnamese neighborhood joint aren't going to "go out for walleye" or insert other freshwater fish of choice. imo it's not a town's "signature dish" if a good quality version isn't widely and easily available, and eaten and enjoyed enthusiastically by the whole public--construction workers, lawyers and out-of-town visitors alike. which may mean msp doesn't have a sig dish, or has too many to narrow it down to one.

                                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                    I agree completely, which is why I don't think walleye is Minneapolis's (or the TC's, or MN's) signature dish. And to be honest, I don't think every city needs to have a signature dish. Philly has its cheesesteaks, but does Dallas really have a "signature dish"? Boston has clam chowder, but does Washington DC have one? San Fran has sourdough, but does Denver have one? Point is, there are lots of great cities in the US that don't have a signature dish, and that's OK.

                                                                                                                    1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                                                      You are all intellectualizing too much. Signature dish does not necessarily equate to quality or whether you like it. Philly has cheesesteaks but the beef, cheese and wheat for the buns probably mostly come from the Midwest and West. Kraft Cheez Whiz is definitely not a Philadelphia native product. Minnesota has Walleye but most all of it comes from Canada. The point to signature is what the region is known for and availability and probably rare anywhere else. Hot dish is rarely served and available in restaurants. Jucy Lucy's are really not that widespread but do seem to be growing due mainly to cable TV food show hype. The Walleye sandwich is probably served in the majority of restaurants serving a fish sandwich. Not catfish and not cod. Cross the St. Croix River and the Iowa border and they die off immediately. Try finding a walleye sandwich in Illinois or Indiana or anywhere outside the Midwest and you would be hard pressed. Ohio on Lake Erie claims to be the Walleye Capital but there really is no longer any commercial fisheries and I set out to find one in restaurants along Lake Erie and came up empty two years ago but did find many a Lake Perch sandwich. The point is in Minnesota you will find a Walleye sandwich without effort and it is something you will rarely find outside the state. The bonus is Minnesota leads the nation in boats per capita and fishing licenses, the MN DNR stocks more lakes with Walleye than any other state, thus opportunity is great to actually engage in and appreciate the real deal unlike anywhere else.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Davydd

                                                                                                                        I think we're looking at it in different ways. It doesn't matter where the stuff comes from - it matters what the city/region is known for. And when you say the words "food" and "Philly", I think 99% of Americans will say "cheesesteak". Where the whiz, wheat, and meat come from is irrelevant. Say "Chicago", and most people think "deep dish pizza". "New York" = "bagel" (or a bunch of other foods, none of which whose ingredients come from NY). Who cares where the ingredients come from? We're not talking about locally sourced. We're talking what cities are known for - as defined per the OP.

                                                                                                                        And sorry, but I don't buy your walleye arguments. First, you knock on Ohio for having no commercial walleye fishery, but neither does MN (except the Red Lake band's? Is that defined as a commercial fishery?). Get a walleye sandwich at any restaurant, and it comes from Canada. I'm also not too sure about such a narrowly defined food - like "walleye sandwich" as opposed to "fish sandwich". MN's think there's something magical about the walleye - it's just a freshwater fish, just like other species of commercially harvestable freshwater fish species across the US. What differentiates a fish sandwich in MN from any others? That's it's walleye?

                                                                                                                        Also, what difference does it make if it's found outside the state or not? You can buy sourdough bread anywhere - but it's associated with San Fran. You can get crabs anywhere - but they're associated with Baltimore and the Chesapeake. You can get pulled pork anywhere, but it's associated with North Carolina. Potatoes are commercially raised in every state, but would anyone claim Idaho isn't the potato state?

                                                                                                                        I also think we need to take a more "national" look at the question. If you polled Americans and asked what foods they associate with Philly, Boston, Chicago, New Mexico, San Fran, Baltimore, and a few other cities, you'd probably get a very short list, and in most cases, >90% would probably say a single thing (cheesesteaks, clam chowder, deep dish, chilis, sourdough, crabs). If you asked the same question for MPLS / Twin Cities / MN, you'd get a bunch of blanks, as you would for many other great cities / regions / states. How can it be a signature dish if no one outside the area knows about it?

                                                                                                                        1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                                                          Well, if it has to be something people outside the area must know about then I guess lutefisk ought to be Minnesota's signature dish because that is what outsiders will associate Minnesota with and ask about most. ;-)

                                                                                                                          I have a pretty good national outlook in that I have traveled to most states in the Union these past few years independently and routinely meet with others from several states. Before retirement my job working for a national retailer took me to about every major city in the country with a generous meal allowance. I know about most all the foods across the country and have sampled most all the signature varieties. Signature maybe, but a cheesesteak in Philadelphia is substandard ingredient abomination from most well known"signature" food stands in that town. Of course the natives will argue with that assessment. Deep dish in Chicago is no longer pizza in my mind after my experience in Naples, Italy just last week. Still, those are signature dishes associated with the regions. Getting back to my comment. Don't mistake signature for quality. I can accept signature by definition as the birthplace of a dish even if has become widespread and even improved on elsewhere.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Davydd

                                                                                                                            OK....I think we can agree then that, given the OP's original question about signature dish and the 2 examples given, most folks would associate Philly with cheesesteaks, and Chicago with deep-dish (more on those below). When it comes to MN or MPLS, there simply isn't such a dish. As for lutefisk, no one I know outside of MN has ever heard of it. I never heard of before moving here, and no one I know on either coast has heard of it. But, again, ask someone what Denver's signature dish is, and you'll draw a blank (omelet doesn't count). Same with Los Angeles, or Miami, or Dallas, or many other fine cities, while Buffalo has wings. Might they be better done elsewhere? Perhaps. But wings are still associated with Buffalo.

                                                                                                                            I lived in Philly for 13 years, and I like cheesesteaks. "substandard ingredient abomination from most well known"signature" food stands in that town". Well, let's not forget that a cheesesteak, in it's purest form, is a hot sandwich meant to be eaten while standing outside. Fine dining it ain't. But for 7 bucks, a good one does the job pretty darned well - and there are plenty of good ones to be found. No, believe me, I don't mistake signature for quality. But for a hot sandwich, cheesesteaks are darned good. You don't like them? Fine. Lots of people don't. No big deal.

                                                                                                                            As for pizza, I'm no fan of Chicago deep dish. I've eaten it a bunch while in Chicago to try to understand it, but I just don't get it. Then again, I was born and raised on NY-NJ style pizzeria pizza, the giant slices that you fold and the tip flops and a little river of grease runs off. That's the stuff I love - because it's what I grew up with. So I like that, and not Chicago style. Nor Minnesota style. But I'm not going to say those aren't pizza because they don't compare to that served in Naples. But hey, to each their own, and for better or worse, this thread continues...

                                                                                                                            1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                                                              most folks in chicago eat square cut cracker crust pizza, very similar to "minnesota" pizza, not the deep dish. . .

                                                                                                                              as far as "getting" (as you say) anyone's regional local "sig-type" food items, i agree it's becoming overcomplicated in the thread. there is nothing to "get" about a philly cheesesteak made with fake cheese, or a po'boy, or a square-cut pizza, a fried cheese curd, a jucy lucy, a bowl of green chili, or a fish taco. . . they're good. they're simple, everyone eats them. the locals have their fave variations and argue about whose is the best-- but when you get down to it, it's street food, or tavern food, and there isn't anything to "get"-- you like it, or you don't. you grew up with it, or grew into it, from eating the stuff around town over the years. you may not pick the "sig item" as your fave gourmet meal, but chances are it's among your secret or not so secret comfort food faves. i hope you realize that giving the philly cheesesteak "back home" a pass on the sysco ingredients but insistently holding the jucy lucy or ccw to a higher standard of execution or ingredients that are more frou frou than traditional. . . there is a possibility you are truly missing the point of what these foods were meant to be, and that's what you're not "getting."

                                                                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                Ah, SK, I didn't mean to imply I'm giving cheesesteaks a pass but holding Jucy Lucies (ccw?) to a higher standard. I'm not. And as I hope I made clear, a cheesesteak is just a sandwich meant to be eaten on the street, so I'm not holding it it to any high standard. Ditto with a JL - it's a burger, and that's it. I've eaten my fair share of Jucy Lucies, and will continue to. Walleye sandwiches, I'll leave those, but again, that's just me. I'm just not a big fried fish fan.

                                                                                                                                My only objections in this thread were about Jucy Lucy and walleye sandwiches being held up as the area's signature dish - that's it. It has nothing to do with quality of ingredients, or execution, or what you grew up with. It's just about having a dish that (regardless of what locals think of it) is associated with your city/region by the rest of the nation - that's what the OP's question implies.

                                                                                                                                Heck, if it came down to it, I'd say Philly's best dish is actually snapper soup - very good stuff, and fairly localized to the SE PA region. But that's not what the rest of the country thinks. So given that criteria - as implied by the rest of the country - I don't think Jucy Lucy's or walleye sandwiches cut the mustard for a MPLS signature dish.

                                                                                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                  Just to clarify (speaking as a native Chicagoan), most Chicago pizza places serve thin-crust, square-cut pizzas. The deep-dish or stuffed pizzas (which are two different styles, by the way) tend to be occasional treats, as they are so much more substantial than regular pizza.

                                                                                                                                  Although perhaps not as well known outside of Chicago as pan pizza, the most ubiquitous food in Chicago is the hot dog stand, which serves Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, and some other local fast food favorites.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Jordan

                                                                                                                                    And just to prolong this dead and dusty horse....I think Jordan post raises an interesting question, which is very different from the OP's question. The OP seemed to ask, "What dish is your city most associated with", as given his/her cheesesteak/pizza examples. I think a lot of people on this thread have answered the question, "what dish does MPLS (or the TC) most closely associate with". It's a difference between external perception and internal perception.

                                                                                                                          2. re: Davydd

                                                                                                                            Personally, the reason I get so passionate about this (or frustrated, as it were) is that when people post that they are visiting MSP for the first time and want a unique-to-the-area experience, all kinds of people jump in a point them towards a Jucy Lucy or a walleye sandwich. Neither of these is unique at all and, in many cases, it's a complete waste of a meal that could be better spent somewhere else. I've said it a million times -- sending someone to Tavern on Grand or Twin City Grill at MOA for walleye or to Matt's Bar/5-8 Club/whatever for a Jucy Lucy does a disservice to the visitor and a disservice to what we have here that IS good (even if it isn't unique or "signature"). Yet, they always get mentioned enthusiastically in posts of this nature. It's like pointing someone from a big city towards the IDS center when they ask about unique Minneapolis architecture.

                                                                                                                            I'm sure there's a version of me on the Chicago board that gets pissed off at their neighbors for recommending a deep dish pizza and there's a version of me on the Philly board that gets pissed off that the cheesesteak and a Tastykake is presented as the best unique experience.

                                                                                                                            Oy....I think I need to step away from the keyboard and go have some random animal innerds at the Hmong Marketplace in St. Paul.

                                                                                                                            1. re: MSPD

                                                                                                                              I tend to agree with you, for the most part, MSPD. I think walleye sandwich and JL are bad representations of what Minneapolis (or TC or MN) food is really all about.

                                                                                                                              But if we're talking a city's signature food, I do think that for some cities, the obvious (even if it's not culinarily the best) sometimes is the best choice. Take Philly - is a cheesesteak (or Tastycake, or soft pretzel, or scrapple) the best food that that city has to offer? No, of course not. But the cheesesteak still represents Philly - it is a huge part of the Philly fabric. They're available everywhere. There's lots of good ones everywhere. Debates rage over who has the best ones. Locals eat them, every single day, at Pat's, Geno's, Jim's, Tony Luke's, and every cart on every corner in Center City and other neighborhoods. They can be excellent from a variety of locations. And on the rare occasions that a cheesesteak is found outside Philly, it's referred to as a "Philadelphia cheesesteak". Ditto with "Chicago style deep dish pizza". Those characteristics set those dishes apart from JLs (again, stuffed burgers did not originate in MN, are found in every state, and are not ever thought to be associated with the Twin Cities [perhaps apart from a few TV shows]), and walleye sandwiches.

                                                                                                                              1. re: MSPD

                                                                                                                                I'm afraid the cable TV shows like Diners, Dives & Drive-ins and Man v. Food and even our own Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods have anointed the Jucy Lucy as something to seek out when coming to the Twin Cities. With their tendency to repeat their shows over and over I am afraid it is now indelibly ingrained. I for one never had a Jucy Lucy or even thought about one in over 40 years in Minnesota until those shows started promoting them.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Davydd

                                                                                                                                  so, what is the historical foundation for any area's signature dish? Why did THAT become their signature? And, then, what would our historical piece be?

                                                                                                                                  I think its been said earlier, if you ask outsiders what they would consider MN signature dish, it would be PowderMilk Biscuits and catsup, a la Praire Home Companion.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Davydd

                                                                                                                                    This past saturday's "Cooks's Country" on channel 2 even did a segment on how to cook a Jucy Lucy. They attributed them to Minnesota and gave specific mention to Matt's and the 5-8 if I remember correctly. In case you are wondering, the secret to prevent the cheese from rupturing while cooking is to do a double layer of ground meat around the cheese. FWIW.