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Brunch in/around Twin Cities

jillbcooks Aug 13, 2008 05:49 PM

Suggestions for a fun brunch somewhere in the Twin Cities area, even Stillwater...we went to Sunsets in Wayzata and thought is was only so-so....we are looking for a relaxing time, maybe some shops to poke around in, maybe lake views...ideas? Thanks in advance---all your suggestions are so helpful.

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  1. c
    cookkevin RE: jillbcooks Aug 14, 2008 05:11 AM

    Jax, Sunday brunch is great....

    1. s
      snoboardbabe77 RE: jillbcooks Aug 14, 2008 09:42 AM

      Hmm..who doesn't love brunch!

      Around the Twin Cities-here are a few suggestions. Nicollet Island Inn serves up a wonderful several course brunch. For the amount of courses-the price is fitting and then you could do a walk around St. Anthony for fun---but if you're not looking to spend upwards of $30-dollars....

      You can always hit up Hell's Kitchen and then walk around DT at some shops.

      OR, head over to St. Paul-Bon Vie has excellent brunch (off Selby) - which hands down has the best eggs benedict ever. OR Swede Hollow Cafe in East St Paul (though there are no shops to browse...)

      If you want to head to Stillwater, check out Savories. This place is really cute, the service is quick and friendly, the food is good and reasonably priced and of course, you have all that Stillwater has to offer. I believe they even have a menu online to scope out.

      2 Replies
      1. re: snoboardbabe77
        jsyx RE: snoboardbabe77 Aug 17, 2008 11:45 AM

        I am fully behind Bon Vie's benedict...

        It is rare to find someone who can make a good hollandaise, let alone one that doesn't come out of a pouch/bag...

        Bartbette also does a really good brunch.. Daily quiches & scrambles, amazing crepes, and... a REALLY good benedict/florentine... They also have really good coffee and scones (if you get there before they're gone!)...

        IMO, skip Hell's Kitchen... never been too satisfied with dining there... the decor is gross and the location is a huge pain. Plus, super busy on the weekends with the church crowd... no thanks.

        Has anyone tried the revival of weekend brunch at Pizza Luce DT? I live and die by the brunch at their Duluth location, really tasty... I know they tried this at the DT one awhile ago and it didn't do so well...

        1. re: jsyx
          b
          BigE RE: jsyx Aug 18, 2008 08:27 AM

          LOVE the brunch at Luce in Duluth. I had it yesterday, actually. The breakfast burrito, the french toast, the ...it's all good.

      2. The Dairy Queen RE: jillbcooks Aug 17, 2008 02:17 PM

        How about Meritage in St. Paul? They have lovely sidewalk dining on weekend mornings, starting at 10am. Their "brunch" potatoes are exquisite, with a nice crust on the outside, but tender on the inside: simple, but perfect, one of my new favorite dishes in the Twin Cities. Service and hospitality are wonderful (ie., our first visit, we showed up about 10 minutes early and were standing at the window, reviewing their menu and considering our options, when the hostess noticed us, came out and offered us a spot on the patio and coffee while waiting for them to open). They have a lovely pastry cart. And fun-looking cocktails (haven't tried them myself. I stick with coffee).

        Afterward, you can stroll over the Wabasha Bridge and admire the river view, walk over to Harriet Island and explore the Marina; stroll around Rice Park; or walk to the Farmers Market (and pop in to explore Mears Park en route)...

        ~TDQ

        1. r
          ryanr RE: jillbcooks Aug 18, 2008 08:05 AM

          You missed the best brunch dining in Wayzata by a few blocks. Try NorthCoast right on the lake in the building next to the train depot. They have got a great brunch menu - try the raspberry creme brule french toast - made by their pastry chef - one bite and I was hooked. And it doesn't hurt to be right on the shores of the gorgeous lake while dining.

          1. j
            janet1003mn RE: jillbcooks Aug 18, 2008 12:25 PM

            Ok, maybe neither of these are technically "brunch," which my husband has always argued is a buffet, not just an extensive breakfast menu, which is in his mind, just breakfast. However...we've had good luck at Zumbro Cafe, which is near Lake Harriet and surrounded by all the cute little Linden Hills shops. The benedict there is excellent, with a hollandaise that wasn't overly lemony. Edina Grill is another good place--as I'm sure are all the other Grills (Longfellow, Highland). I loved their walleye and shrimp cake benedict. Plus, they have the best hash browns I've ever had. I think it's the ultra-fine grate that makes for a crunchy outside, melty inside treat. Then if you're looking to shop, 50th and France offers plenty of that, too.

            1. Davydd RE: jillbcooks Aug 18, 2008 01:01 PM

              I didn't mind Sunsets in Wayzata. It was reasonable, comfortable and filling with a decent variety. I would not say it was so-so. It meets the frequency budget but I would agree you can do better for a special occasion.

              Nicollet Island Inn is a standard to go by. You might want to try it. Then you can say Sunsets is so-so. ;-)

              If you want tradtional with a bloody Mary, The Lexington on Grand Avenue should fill the bill but no lake views.

              http://www.the-lexington.com/

              1. s
                soupkitten RE: jillbcooks Aug 18, 2008 07:43 PM

                if you are interested, i've been trying to compile a review of brunching in msp since the beginning of the year (search: brunchquest msp 2008), though i've been very, very, *very* lazy about posting. hopefully some of the reviews will be at least entertaining, though in most cases they are very subjective one-time snapshots. i haven't posted about several places i've tried, uh, because i don't necessarily want to slam places without multiple visits. among the popular ones which i, personally, disliked for brunch: meritage (all indications suggest i caught a serious one-off morning there), swede hollow cafe (disqualified for not being open on sundays, double-disqualified for putting fresh frosting on stale cinnamon rolls and trying to pass them off), merlin's rest (nice thick processed cheddar soup-based sauce attempting to disguise the completely raw hashed browns--wtf?), and bon vie! i agree that the eggs bennie is good there, but i think that it's the *only* thing they do well, and for $11 or $12 or something i want more on my oval plate than a skimpy bennie with transparent bacon and a dang orange slice, sorry. a couple of berries, a melon slice, something-- jeez! their attempts at southwestern style breakfasts are grease-laden, tasteless and disgusting btw. you are at risk of you or your dc losing an eye to hot, underseasoned grease-spatter with every single bite! okay fine, i *do* want to slam places that underdeliver on the brunch promise. flame away, but imo bon vie is a one-trick bennie pony!

                winners: w.a. frost, craftsman, jax cafe, strip club, hell's kitchen, lucia's, others i can't think of. non-alcoholic special mention, al's breakfast. i need to get out there and post more brunchquests, as soon as i can stop working sunday a.m.s-- since i work the other 6 days as well, this is getting to be major BS. :(

                8 Replies
                1. re: soupkitten
                  t
                  tex.s.toast RE: soupkitten Aug 18, 2008 08:20 PM

                  sk, your posts are great and i think we agree on a lot, food-wise, but i just cant accommodate your view of bon vie. well, i can totally accommodate it in that everyones entitled to an opinion but mine couldnt be further from yours.

                  grease-laden is the last descriptor that comes to mind, but ive never tried their southwestern efforts. in my experience Bon Vie is, i will agree, on the lighter side in terms of both portions and general heaviness - the things ive loved the most there were farmers market scrambles with fresh spring-ey green things and the ploughmans lunch with a cup of great tomato soup and some bread and cheese. you'll note neither of these are bennies. i will still go to BV when i want a light (if not cheap) lunch-leaning brunch (personally when i feel like benedict i want it to be huge and heavy - so i can totally feel you on the portion issue).

                  1. re: soupkitten
                    The Dairy Queen RE: soupkitten Aug 19, 2008 01:21 AM

                    sk, I'd love to hear more specifics about what was disappointing about your visit to Meritage (I respect your desire to not to slam a place based on just one visit, but I think a vague thumbs-down isn't as helpful--to the rest of us or as fair to the restaurant-- as a thumbs down with details, as long as you offer the caveat that you've only been once.)

                    Early on we had reports from Kathie Jenkins (Pioneer Press food critic for the OP's info), that Meritage's dinner was great, but that their lunch was inconsistent, but we hadn't heard much about brunch. And for some reason, the detail that they offer sidewalk dining at a time of year where I look for any opportunity to be outside, completely escaped me. How did I not know Meritage serves weekend brunch in a glorious sidewalk-overlooking-Landmark-Center setting?

                    I stayed away for a long time, worried that their brunch would be equally as inconsistent as their lunch, giving them time for them to get their act together. And when I finally got around to trying it, I felt I'd cheated myself by letting almost the entire summer pass without having their charming brunch. And now, with the convention nearly upon us and my weekends already committed to State Fair and other (less fun, alas) things, I don't think I'll be able to get a lot more brunching in while the weather is nice. And I'm so sad about that.

                    What we got when we went was a beautiful, tender summer squash omelet (and I normally don't like omelets because I find them too dry. Or too wet. I'm the Goldilocks of omelets), steak cooked perfectly to order, eggs cooked perfectly to order, really nice whole grain toast, and "brunch" potatoes with rosemary and olive oil that were the best breakfast potatoes I've had in a long time (I won't say in my whole life, because my memory isn't that good, but because I'm such a carb maniac, I can say that they are my new current Twin Cities craving. I just wish I could make potatoes like that. The only potatoes I've had that were nearly as good as these were some at Heartland cooked in goat fat. Those were delightful, too, but I still have to give the edge to Meritage for simple, but amazing flavor and texture). Also, a nice maple cured sausage (cured locally, but not in-house) and some cantaloupe. The only thing that wasn't stellar was the croissant we tried off the pastry cart. It was fine, but not toe-curlingly wonderful--on the other hand, I was so charmed by the whole concept of the pastry cart, I was willing to let that slide a teensy bit. I'm still going to try a pastry next time (okay, maybe not next time, because, really, I need get back to my diet. Soon. After the Fair.)

                    The service was super attentive without being disruptive or fawning, with the hostess offering us a table and coffee before they opened, and then checking back on us at least once later in the meal, and our server and the pastry cart guy both checking in on us frequently and keeping our coffees warm etc.

                    The patrons on the patio ranged from relaxed-looking, casually dressed people of a range of ages who are obviously downtown regulars sporting their daily papers, to packs of chic 30-somethings.

                    I wish they were more descriptive in their menu about their sourcing, though, I realize they are trying to set a certain kind of romantic, Parisian mood they they may not want to muck up with the pedigrees of their beef, etc. Still, I'd like to know more about where my food comes from and it's so much easier to read it on the menu than grill my server. I thought prices were reasonable. If you stay away from the steak and the ahi tuna, the prices hover around $10 per entree. On the lunchy side of brunch, the burgers ordered by a nearby table, also $10, looked fantastic and were cooked to order. (And, just an aside, if I hadn't recently indulged in a bleu cheese burger at Black Forest on their patio--I might have tried Meritage's. I'll have to go back and read Dara's MN Monthly review to see why she liked Black Forest's burger so much. I thought it was pretty meh, actually, not even cooked to order, though, I was shocked to discover I really liked their krautini. And they have a really lovely quark and plum tart on their menu for summer). And I wish AliceS were still around because I noticed Meritage had a French dip sandwich, as well. ($10).

                    Anyway, I'd be curious to hear more about your visit as I'd like to get to the bottom of what the deal is at Meritage. Is it just a matter of inconsistency or are there some things they genuinely and consistently do better than others that we should steer towards on our visits so as not to be disappointed? Because, for potatoes that good and sidewalk dining that relaxed and charming, I'm willing to stay away from certain menu item if that's what's necessary to ensure a good experience. I hope it's not a matter of frequent "off days" in the middle of "on days" because that's just frustrating and impossible to navigate as a consumer.

                    On another note, Pop!! is about to open in the old Fhima's space in downtown St. Paul. The setting looks pretty spectacular and it looks like they kept the full-bar. Of course, I haven't tried it (as it's not open yet), but it would have all the same post-brunch strolling over the Wabasha Bridge or to the Farmers Market opportunities as Meritage, though it lacks the lovely Landmark Plaza sidewalk dining experience.

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                      s
                      snoboardbabe77 RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 19, 2008 05:07 AM

                      TDQ - Is the Pop! connected to the Pop! Cafe that used to occupy what is now the Strip Club, or the Pop! over off Johnson? Just curious.

                      As for Tex and SK - I mentioned this in another post--I completely agree about the fact that for $11, I don't get a potato side, which..for brunch, I need to have-but if jillbcooks is really looking for the best benny around (the light but truly lemony hollandaise), she, like me, is willing to spend the $11 to have it done right. When I went, I actually chose not to get a potato side -and I actually was pleasantly surprised that I didn't feel the need to have one. But yes, comparatively, the benny is pricey compared to every other place in town that offers it (8.95-9.95 WITH a potato side). Additionally, I disagree that it is the only thing they do well. My counterpart had a wonderful quiche with simple greens and it was firm but moist, full of yummy herbs, bacon and goat cheese - and had a buttery golden brown crust-as quiche should. I can't comment on the cinnamon rolls.

                      Another place I like (though it's been awhile), is Zeno Cafe in Uptown-there you could get brunch and then walk down to the Lakes. I feel this place is a lot like the Grills (Edina, Longfellow, etc) but they're bonus is that if you like really great coffee-you can get french press, which a lot of other places do not offer. There is nothing like a good french press, fruit, eggs, meat and toast.

                      1. re: snoboardbabe77
                        The Dairy Queen RE: snoboardbabe77 Aug 19, 2008 05:23 AM

                        Yes, Pop!! is the second location of Pop! (see this series of posts from mnmitchells and cheeseguysgirl... for more first hand info) http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5460...

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: snoboardbabe77
                          Jordan RE: snoboardbabe77 Aug 19, 2008 07:20 AM

                          I haven't been to Bon Vie. I can, however, recommend Benedicts with really good hollandaise at French Meadow (a roasted tomato version) and, surprisingly, the Chicago Ave. Turtle Bread.

                        2. re: The Dairy Queen
                          s
                          soupkitten RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 19, 2008 07:52 AM

                          sorry about my unhelpfulness about our visit to meritage TDQ-- i posted about it a little in this longish thread--toward the end, back & forth between me & Jordan (who had a good visit the day before mine):
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/489881
                          but gosh. that was back in early march! how time flies! i do think. . . that your delicious sounding summer squash omelet and breakfast potatoes are a better indication of what meritage is currently putting out, and my experience was in the rockier early period of the restaurant that KJ commented on. i hereby retract my negative comments, as they appear to be out of date! meritage is such a pretty restaurant. it makes me happy that it's there & putting out excellent food consistently now!

                          TDQ-- i must ask: what in the world is a krautini?!?

                          1. re: soupkitten
                            The Dairy Queen RE: soupkitten Aug 19, 2008 08:18 AM

                            I didn't mean to suggest so strongly that you were being unhelpful (hazards of PWI-- posting while an insomniac-- not always the clearest of self-expression), just that I wanted more specifics about what went wrong so we could dissect it more. But, upon re-reading your (certainly sufficiently specific!) post from March, I recall it now and remember thinking at the time that such opposing experiences from two trusted 'hounds, you and Jordan, would serve to reinforce Jenkin's "inconsistency" point. Jordan at the time said he had mostly "lunchy" type food, whereas you and I both had "breakfasty" food (though I didn't specifically have the hollandaise.) So, maybe they have improved on the breakfast front? Definitely nothing seemed burned or neglected. Also, unlike you and Jordan, I was there quite early, before the kitchen would have theoretically been slammed as you suspected may have been the case on your visit. The sidewalk dining was full by the time I left, although, I didn't peek inside to see how full they were in there to assess whether I'd say they were slammed.

                            I guess we still need a couple of other 'hounds to weigh in currently on Meritage's weekend brunches to feel good enough to say they've overcome their consistency problems from their early days.

                            Also, I wanted to clarify something I said above about "people of all ages" on the sidewalk. No one of a very young age was present (except one very new infant.) The range of ages included adults from early twenties to late middle age, I'd say; no children.

                            Krautini (that I had at Black Forest on Eat Street). Gin and sauerkraut juice with a pickled onion (which, I've been told, actually makes it a Kraut Gibson). Krautini, misnomer though it may be, sounds cuter to me, so, I'm going with it. If there's something unusual on the menu, I'm going to order it no matter how gross it sounds. My reaction upon taking my first sip, was exactly as I expected from reading the description on the menu, "Ew, gross." But, after getting over my initial reaction, I thought it was quite nice.

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                              s
                              soupkitten RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 19, 2008 10:11 AM

                              wow! all hail the krautini! that must be an msp original--we should add it to the list, or start another one :)

                              & no need to apologize to me for PWI-- i know how it gets, as some of my posts are definitely rushed/influenced by tiredness. if only i could put down half of my snarkiness to those factors. . . lol. i think it's impossible for you to offend me, TDQ-- unless you were really really trying-- we're old chums! & if you had not asked for more info i would have continued to think that my not-so-hot exp at meritage was much more recent than it actually was-- i feel much better now that i've realized it was so long ago and i've continued to hear more and more positive comments on the restaurant's current brunch. i'm strongly motivated to get back there now. . . maybe this sunday, unless we end up at the fair!

                      2. a
                        AnnyM RE: jillbcooks Aug 22, 2008 02:26 PM

                        Two weeks ago I had a lovely brunch at Cafe Maude. Outstanding eggs benedict and I loved the home fries. We sat on the patio and enjoyed the nice day, the traffic in and out of the adjacent hardware store and our food. The mimosa's were good as well.

                        http://cafemaude.com/menus/

                        1. m
                          midwaygirl RE: jillbcooks Aug 24, 2008 11:25 AM

                          Just returned from a lovely brunch out on the deck at Muffaletta (St. Paul). The setting was so nice, we stuck around and enjoyed the coffee and beautiful day for over 2 hours. My hubby's Biscuits and Gravy were killer. I went the lunch route and had a yummy beef pita and fries. Service was great.

                          No lake views here. There's a pretty library across the street with a lawn and lots of flowers, some cute shops to poke around in, and gorgeous houses to walk around at gape at in the immediate neighborhood.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: midwaygirl
                            jsyx RE: midwaygirl Aug 24, 2008 03:01 PM

                            I gave the Cafe Maude brunch a try today, and unfortunately i think they came up a little short.

                            First, drinks, which might i say were definitely my favorite part of the meal. GF had a blood-orange mimosa; awesome. A little sweeter than grapefruit juice, makes me wonder if they sweeten it up with a litlle something as blood oranges are generally quite bitter... I tried their house Bloody... It was good, better than most, but with a $9 price tag i should have gotten a decent beer back.. the server asked, i tried to order summit, but i got grain belt... no thanks...
                            Props to the bloody mix though, it was complex and tasty, just enough spice. Maybe some harissa added to the mix?

                            On to the main event, we ordered promptly and received our food even more promptly... a little too promptly imho...
                            My gf had the grilled flatbread w/eggs, bacon, harrisa, cucumber, sri racha and cilantro. I thought the flatbread was okay, kinda stale actually, but the eggs and bacon were great. A little sri racha for spice, but the cilantro was practically non-existent. Not a surprise for such a controversial herb.
                            I took the dive and ordered their Benedict with "imported Italian 'herbed' ham," "grilled" asparagus, tomato confit(wtf?) and hollandaise. I realize that Cafe Maude has a reputation for good dining experiences but I must say, this is not why.

                            First of all, our food was produced, in my opinion, unbelievably fast. There was VERY little carmelization on the asparagus. It was peeled and tasted blanched, not grilled. Same for the english muffin, not toasted enough for a saucy benedict, and WAY too big for the presentation. As a matter of fact, The actual plate was definitely too small for what they were serving, like I couldn't really cut it up without it falling off the plate. There sauce was light but there wasn't enough of it and it was underseasoned, and the 'tomato confit' was like a dried roma tomato skin... really tough and nearly inedible (i took a little bite and left the rest, which wasn't much of anything). It was served with a salad which was actually quite nice, a tangy vin and an awesome brunoise of fresh ginger and red pepper. The meat was very thinly sliced, with out any kind of herbs (as descibed in the menu) and was carelessly plopped onto about 1/3 of the muffin halves.

                            I made a point to check the dinner menu before we left, and it looked pretty good. I would definitely like to try their duck and frisee flatbread and the cauliflower soup. Not so sure i'd go back for brunch though when i could just stumble out of bed hungover, walk to Barbette, and get myself back on track with better food for less money...

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