More help for jfood from MSP Hounds
You guys keep sending jfood to tons of great places. Over the next month jfood will have to sample at least 10 more of your great restaurants.
So if you could keep bringing those great suggestions to the forefront, jfood will gladly try and report back.
While ive been following your well-written and thought-out posts, i think a collection of places you have already been to would be helpful for further advice here.
It is my thought that you have already enjoyed some of (dare i say most) of our first-tier higher end options and in order to avoid disappointment you may have to broaden your search out from places with wine lists to places with 4 tap choices, or no licenses and pictures of far-off lands on the walls.
Has jfood sampled a jucy lucy? Matt's or 5-8 would be the "traditional" choices, both located in south minneapolis. In st paul the nook and the blue door are both solid options, and, IMO, better than the ones which claim originator status.
Not having a wine list is fine w jfood since he does not drink. Here is a list as best he can of places he has visited
alma - best around
112 eatery - having issues lately
brasa rotisserie - great
red stagg - very good
cafe levain - very good
heidis - very good
thahn do - very good
al vento - very good
rinata - good
strip club - excellent
nick & eddie - excellent
grand cafe - needs another shot
cafe maude - jfood left
broders - not bad
corner table - very good
cosmos - too shmanzy
osteria i nanni - excellent
meritage - excellent
first course - fair
heartland -very good
salut - no comment
arezzo - very good
red lion -over rated
Wow...jfood has gotten around. He will go back to many of the above as well.
La Belle Vie
Bradstreet Crafthouse (I'm sure they can make fantastic non-alcoholic drinks)
Town Talk Diner
Don't give up on the burgers. Some night if/when you're in the mood for a burger, fries and maybe a ball game on TV, get to the Nook.
I will second/add the following:
-La Belle Vie - Consistently wins 'best restaurant' awards and the head chef just won the best chef midwest James Beard award.
-Vincent A - Excellent $30/3-course menu, I believe they also have a $40/4 course. One of my favorite restaurants in town.
-Solera (although it is a tapas style place...more for social eating than full meals).
-Hell's Kitchen (for the huevos rancheros and/or lemon ricotta pancakes)
-Sea Salt is good and the location is nice, but waiting in line can be absolutely dreadful.
The Nook's jucy lucy (cheese-stuffed burger) is the best, but, remember, it's just a burger. ;-) with hand cut fries and a fresh bun from the bakery down the street, and served in a very "St. Paul" setting.
Blue Door is great if it's in your neighborhood. Otherwise, I don't know if I'd bother. Long waits, inconsistent.
Maybe Barbette? (more casual, but owned by the Red Stagg gal).
EDIT: Porter and Frye isn't on your list. Neither is Bradstreet Crafthouse. Might be too schmancy. I've not been to either.
I agree with Tex, both on the suggestion that you remind us of where you've been, and that you are running out of top tier places to try.
Saffron? (across from 112 Eatery)
Ngon Bistro Vietnamese (in St. Paul)--contemporary/fusion Vietnamese with an emphasis on local sourcing
Maybe Jasmine 26 (I haven't been there myself--only peeked in the window)--upscale Vietnamese
Have you been to Meritage (St. Paul) yet?
There is a parking ramp in the same building as Meritage. You have to pay, but it won't be as much as what you paid to park at Nick and Eddies. The only time I haven't had to pay for parking at Meritage is for weekend brunch when there's often street parking available.
Honestly, except for a handful of the places on MSPD's list (and not even all of those in my opinion, I think Masa, Craftsman, Town Talk Diner and 20.21 all have their issues for instance), I think you've hit all of the top "excellent" high-end spots in town. You will have to be willing to try the next tier or two down if you want to try new places.
One place I see missing from your list is the bar/lounge area at La Belle Vie. They have some really delicious bar only items (there is something about their french fries with curry bernaise sauce...) and you can order off the whole menu too (I really liked the pork belly the last time I was there).
I would also recommend Saffron (across the street from the 112). I have only been once, but I really enjoyed the food - especially the small plates.
Otherwise, I think you have hit most of the places that I have tried so far (I have only been back in the Twin Cities for a year now...) and would recommend.
To my mind, there are two glaring holes in your list. One is Saffron, across the street from 112 Eatery, as unique a place as you will find. The food is exceptional, and the small plates format will allow you to sample a lot, as seems to be your modus operandi.
You are also missing out on the restaurants created by our James Beard award-winning chef, Tim McKee. For fine dining, there's La Belle Vie (and a more casual swing at his menu in the La Belle Vie Lounge). Upscale tapas at Solera. Mexican "small plates" at Barrio. All three are within a handful of blocks of each other in the downtown Minneapolis area. All are worth a visit.
To chime in on the burger thread, nostalgia factor aside, I've only had consistently excellent burgers at three places in the Twin Cities. One is the Bulldog NE, a few blocks away from Brasa. They cure and grind their own meat, let the burgers rest in a beurre fondue before finishing them, and offer a tantalizing set of options. I'm partial to the truffle burger, on a homemade English muffin with truffle oil and Brie. The junk burger, with garlic mayo, sauteed mushrooms, local thick-cut organic bacon, and other toppings is sloppy but delicious. The fries are also great and can be ordered in a variety of ways, plain with sea salt, dusted with fennel pollen or with truffle oil and Grana Padano.
My second burger choice is Town Talk Diner, which overall has a wider and more consistently good menu than Bulldog. Their Kitchen Sink burger has more of that thick-cut local bacon and a homemade 'special sauce' with cornichons and shallots. The garlic parsley fries are not to be missed. Town Talk also usually has great entrees, chopped salads, and soups.
Number three is less pretentious than the first two. It's a solid neighborhood bar (in St. Paul) called the Nook. Very good bar burgers, good (but not particularly upscale -- no truffle oil here!) toppings, and decent fries. If you were to try a Juicy Lucy, I would get it here, just because of the overall burger quality.
Saffron is on jfood's list but every time he heads down there he looks at 112 and walks in. He always would walk across the street in his Norm-seat was occupied. Jfood has to have stregth to stay on the course.
La Belle Vie. Looked at the website and did not see the lounge. Nice idea. Is it a less expensive and different menu?
Okeedokee, the Nook is a try-for.
What aboutthe other two restaurants near Nick & Eddie, Joe's Garage and Cafe Lucs.
Pizzas? Punch did not do it for jfood. And understand he lives near New Haven and went to school in Chicago, so he is spoiled. Is fire-something any good. And then there is a thread on a coal fired place..
With 6-10 nights a month in your great town, jfood has a lot to try
I love Cafe Lurcat. However, my love of the place is for the beautiful room and the solid bar. Lurcat opened just after the success of Craft and has tried to follow its trend (as much as was possible in the twin cities) of simple preparations of food. I think that execution is fairly strong and I generally feel comfortable recommending it. If you can tear yourself away from a beautiful view of Loring Park in the spring, they have a few quiet tables in the alley behind the restaurant that I enjoy.
Joe's Garage on the other hand coasts on its roof-top deck and does not deserve any sort of recommendation. You've said that you've had problems with burgers in the Twin Cities, and Joe's will not fix your problems despite that they are "known" for burgers.
To me, there is not a nicer evening anywhere than a relaxing hour or two on the sidewalk in front of Lucia's (where, it appears, you have not visited), sipping a beer and enjoying whatever they're serving. (I realize that you won't be sipping the beer, but that will only slightly lessen the experience... ;-) Lucia's is one of the progenitors of the local food movement in the Twin Cities and has been a James Beard regional award finalist at least once.
Also, a lovely time may be had on the sidewalk outside of Barbette, two or 3 blocks away. The menu is also very strong there. The feel will be a little more Uptown and a little less Wayzata (think Lake Forest) at Barbette.
The third place for a pleasant spring/summer evening that I'd suggest is the Tin Fish. It's a fish shack on Lake Calhoun - lots of fried and grilled fish and seafood with pretty decent fish tacos. The food is good, but the chance to sit by the water on a nice evening and people watch is what makes the place worth a visit.
All three of these places are within walking distance of each other (it's about 6 blocks from Tin Fish to Lucias with Barbette along the way) and are in one of the busier districts in Minneapolis. You can easily check them all out and decide which you would want to patronize.
I'd also recommend Chambers and Vincent. Chambers is where you see the Twin Cities' inferiority complex come out with a chip on its shoulder. Still the food I've had there has been good.
Vincent, on the other hand, is very understated, relaxed and consistently good. Great, unpretentious French food. He's also got an unconventional burger - on special during happy hour if you can make it downtown by then. Here's a recent take on the burger: http://shefzilla.com/?p=1682
The LBV website is a little subtle. Click on "The Lounge" on the upper right of the home page, then you'll see the Lounge Menu. You can order off the regular dining room menu as well as the special lounge menu.
As for pizza, if you want to try something similar to Punch but (in my opinion) higher quality and a more pleasant dining experience, go to Pizza Nea. As a native Chicagoan myself, I generally find MSP pizza to be adequate but usually not worth a special trip. I like Nea because of the high-quality ingredients. Get something with the roasted artichokes on it.
I'm normally a lurker, commenter on occasion. Just saw this wonderful thread while looking for something else, and must say:
jfood, I love living here in Minneapolis, and have been here for 5 years. But I went to school both in New Haven, albeit many a year ago (yes pepe's, no sally's, yes to the late naples, and tolerated yorkside because it was close to home), and in Chicago (albeit I prefer thin crust to deep dish).
I believe you will NOT find pizza here to equal either location. I could be wrong, 3 years of child rearing has kept me from sampling new stuff. I will, however, check back to your thread to see if you prove me wrong!