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Mar 31, 2009 08:34 AM

Raw bar in MSP

Three years ago I moved here from Milwaukee and I have been searching for some good food, but I can't find it. Milwaukee has a great raw bar (pandls), the best deli west of Katzs in NY (Jakes, 17th & North), BBQ (Speed Queen), hot dogs, burgers, farmers markets - you name it. It seems like MSP has nothing. I have lived in MSP twice (Roseville, Dinkytown, Fridley, New Brighton and again Rosevile), Chicago, Milwaukee, St Louis, Kansas City and DC, plus I have worked in 48 states and 17 countries, and I have always found great food in those areas. Not so here. Please advise. Thanx.

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  1. Mel Carne - II have spent life from 13 years on in MN but have traveled extensively and feel I can give you some guidance. As for the raw bar aspect, sorry, I'll leave that to others. I'm allergic to shellfish and can't comment on quite areas around here-but it's the Midwest, there are a handful in the area-and I only eat it when I'm in CA and carry my epi-pen.

    For a good deli - I like Nelson's on Como Avenue in St Paul. Their sandwiches are good and big, reasonably priced and come with quality meats and cheeses. Another score might be B'Wiched in Mpls. Their housemade pastrami is a good, good thing.

    BBQs - debatable, but Big Daddy's in St Paul on the corner of Dale/University. He won't be open til probably late April and usually only on Saturdays, but definitely get there. The food is cooked til its gone and then he's not back until the following weekend. Other BBQs that people like Lee & Dee's, Roosters...all in St Paul.

    Hot Dogs - I'm not a hot dog fan, so CHs, correct me if I am wrong-but my co-workers love The Wienery in DT Minneapolis. Good deals, great dogs.

    Burgers-depends on just quality burgers or our famed Jucy Lucy's - the Nook, Blue Door Pub (both of St Paul); Matt's bar off Cedar in Mpls is good - all reasonably priced.

    Farmer's Market-I actually think our Minneapolis Farmer's Market is pretty darn good, and I think our St Paul one is even better (though it lacks on the fruit side, more veggie based).

    I spent most of my childhood in NY actually - and hate to say this, but no deli here matches NY, neither does any pizza joint compare to Chicago (over NY mind you in my opinion) and no bagel (though I love the St Paul Bagelry bagels) compares to NY ones. Sorry-the closest you'll get is St Paul Bagelry or the ones Zeno in Uptown brings in from NY ... if they still do.

    1. Mel, I've been here 19 years and I sometimes feel like I'm just hitting my stride. Most often, I just tell myself, "focus on the good, forget what we don't have."

      Forget the deli. There's a reason why I'm always raving about Jake's on here, as well as driving the 5 hours just to get one. Be'wiched's pastrami is by far the most flavorful pastrami around. It's not the same type of place/sandwich, but it's the only place that satisfies my cravings for good pastrami.

      There are good burgers here. The Good Day Cafe, the Nook and Shamrock's, Town Talk Diner are easy-access, great burgers. For more highbrow, 112 Eatery, the Strip Club and Meritage (yes) have excellent burgers with high-class cheeses, etc.

      Hot dogs: The Walkin' Dog, Uncle Franky's and the Wienery are all excellent.

      Great BBQ just doesn't happen here. We don't even measure up to the good-not-greats like Speed Queen. Big Daddy's does satisfy the urge. So does Ted Cook's, which to me is the most similar in MSP to Speed Queen, albeit without the outside shoulder.

      I think our farmers markets are pretty great compared to most other cities.

      I don't have a raw bar suggestion, so I'm not even addressing the subject line of your post. But don't despair.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MSPD

        MSPD - that's what I meant! The Walkin' Dog..thats the one DT Minneapolis right? Good deals, great dogs.

        1. re: snoboardbabe77

          Yes...the Walkin' Dog is in downtown (Northstar building). The Wienery is in Cedar - Riverside.

      2. So, Mel, you're back in Roseville? Not one of the items you specifically mentioned, but Maverick's in Roseville makes a solid roast beef sandwich, also, a brisket sandwich. Decent fries, good chocolate shakes. Skip everything else.

        Also, China Jen on Snelling near Cty B (or is it B1? I always forget) is pretty good for Chinese food if you don't mind the erratic service. Everything I've had there has been pretty respectable.

        I agree with others that the farmers markets here hold their own, especially once the growing season starts. I am personally fond of St. Paul's downtown farmers' market and of the Mill City Farmers' market (in MPLS near the Mill City Museum and the Guthrie). Also, for a completely different experience, once the growing season starts, the Hmong market (near the Capitol in St. Paul) explodes with all kinds of vegetables.

        For burgers, I like the Nook in St. Paul for the Molitor, Juicy Nookie, or the Lodge Burger. Good fries, too. I like 112 Eatery's, too, though it's a completely different experience. Also, Meritage for weekend brunch/lunch is fantastic and affordable--they make a good burger.

        You mentioned Dinkytown--you didn't like Al's? I love Al's!

        Singing to the tune of love the one you're with, you might investigate some of the Southeast Asian cuisine in town. Saigon on University Avenue is a great place to start.

        We've got some good Mexican chow, too, like the various locations of Los Ocampo (including one in St. Paul) and many places along Lake Street in Minneapolis.

        Tanpopo in downtown St. Paul is good for noodles.

        Dying to know which two states you haven't lived in. ;-)

        I hope you eventually find the good chow. There is some here.


        1. Mel,

          For raw bars in the Twin Cities, see this recent list on City Pages:

          And see these threads:

          For the farmers markets, see this list.

          And this interactive map from the Strib:

          - Try the main Minneapolis farmers market if you like crowds and a huge selection (some food is local, much isn't).

          - Go to the downtown St. Paul market for locally grown foods, including the wonderful chickens from Callister Farm.

          - And go to Mill City for a tiny selection of all-local organic food and snacks.

          - The neighborhood markets vary dramatically. I like the Midtown Farmer's Market (next to the Y on East Lake Street) for the good (but modest) selection and lack of crowds.

          For more great food, check out our strengths, like Vietnamese food and the Jucy Lucy burgers mentioned above.

          But there's nothing like Jake's. Luckily, MKE is only 3-4 hours away by car...


          8 Replies
          1. re: AnneInMpls

            3-4 hours to Milwaukee Ann is driving 87 to 115'll never get there alive or without being incarcerated. It's a 5-5.5 hour drive.

            1. re: DaKing

              Oops! I remember getting there in just over 4 hours last time, even with my husband driving - and he makes farmers' tractors look like speed demons! I must have fallen asleep and misread the time when I woke up. In any case, 5-6 hours isn't too far to drive for great corned beef. (Me, I love taking the train so that we can both nap on the way.)

              For a slightly closer source of fabulous meat, consider driving to Duluth for the Bison Pastrami at Northern Waters Smokehaus. I'm overdue for some of this wonderful stuff.


              1. re: AnneInMpls

                And while you're in Duluth, swing by Fitgers and get their amazing wild rice burger. I just love that dish. Then, drive a little farther North to Russ Kendalls for smoked fish--trout, salmon, it's all good (wait until it's in season, though.)


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  In the meantime, you can get smoked whitefish at Seward Co-op. They often have a big ol' slab at the meat-and-fish counter. Yummmmmm.....


                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                    Really?! That information is practically life-changing. Lunds often has it, but, honestly it's not very good. But, if I can just head over to Seward for it, well, that's fantastic!


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      I agree - the whitefish at Seward is life-changing for me, too! (Smoked whitefish my favorite breakfast of all time, especially on toasted Rustica multigrain bread - also available at Seward, joy of joys.)

                      But Seward doesn't always have the whitefish. I think it's from Northern Waters, and when they run out, it takes a while to get more.


                      P.S. I feel like I should say something about oysters, or burgers, or something related to the OP's post. Ummmm.... Definitely give Be'Wiched a try for their pastrami to see what you think. It's "upscale pastrami," but it's very tasty stuff!

                      1. re: AnneInMpls

                        He did give an overall statement saying he's struggling to find good food in general, so, I think a discussion of white fish counts. Plus, sometimes you have to eat the food that's great in the place you are, and develop a craving for it, rather than seek out the food you crave that may simply may not be exceptional where you are. I think fish from Lake Superior falls into the former category, even though it's not what the OP craves, necessarily.

                        I'm not a person who gives a whit about deli sandwiches. Tortas, yes, bahn mi, yes, but deli sandwiches just don't interest me. Perhaps that just reveals that I've never lived in a place with a great deli. If the OP is back in Roseville, the new Cheeky Monkey Deli on Selby in St. Paul isn't too long a haul. I wouldn't stack it up against the best in the country, and it's not a Katzs, but they do everything in house (except cheese) and it's reasonably priced for what it is.

                        I'm not an expert on BBQ either, but for for take-away only, I do like Big Daddy's BBQ on University in St. Paul, when I remember to go. They are only open on Saturday afternoons, except when they are also open on Friday afternoons. I don't know if they are seasonal or not. I really cannot bear the BBQ at Roosters. I'd rather head a block or two down Randolph to Skinners for the fried chicken. I've never made it there myself, but I've heard good things about the pulled pork at Aesop's in St. Paul, which wouldn't be too long a haul from Roseville. I think they have very difficult-for-my-schedule anyway hours, though, so check their website.

                        Oh, and Little Szechuan on University and Tea House II wouldn't be too long a haul, either, from Roseville.

                        I'm not going to comment on oysters anymore for the same reason I won't comment on Punch vs. Nea vs. Luce.


                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                    All great suggestions! I can't wait for summer (if it ever decides to come) so I can make long weekend trips to Duluth. Somehow, I've never had the bison pastrami Anne mentioned. That will be first on my list next time I make the trek north.

            2. I'm loving all this MSP info as I'm heading out there too, but have to ask Mel Carne to tell me more about Milwaukee - what's a don't miss lunch / dinner / breakfast / snack?