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Looking for advice on a three-day trip to MSP

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Couple of foodies from Seattle flying into MSP on Oct. 1, ostensibly to visit a graduate school at UMTC and see if we'd like living in the area. The other reason is to wreak a path of destruction on area restaurants.

We're planning to visit these places, but wanted to consult fellow Chowhounders and see what else should be added to the list. Some places come from personal experience, and others from trusted sources (like Heavy Table).

112: In two previous trips to the Twin Cities, we've eaten here three times. Still have dreams about the Tres Leches cake.

Saffron: Heard nothing but superlatives about the Mediterranean place across the street from 112. We're big on the small-plate style of dining (more to choose from, natch).

Nook's: Big fans of Jucy Lucys. I know there are a lot of options out there, but the consensus seems to be that Nook's and Matt's Bar are two of the best. Certainly open to recommendations.

Hell's Kitchen: One of the best breakfasts I've ever had. The Huevos Rancheros blew my mind.

Sea Salt Eatery: Haven't been here, but the idea of good Oyster Po'boys intrigues me. I've heard some of the detractors complain about the long lines. But most reviews online suggest SSE is worth it.

So that's four places down, and we're hoping to squeeze in a few more.

We have a car and are staying downtown, but willing to travel. We're not looking for anything super expensive or chi-chi. Any cuisine works; we're not picky. Local ingredients are a plus. Thanks!

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  1. Some of the more search savvy 'hounds can probably direct you to a few recent threads in this vain, so I'll just respond to what you've already mentioned.

    Great choices across the board, in my opinion. If you love 112, absolutely go back, but please give Saffron a try. You can certainly make a small plates meal out of it or go with their 3 course, $30 monthly tasting menu. That is normally a good bet.

    The Nook probably has my favorite JL as well, but at this point, I go for the Nookie Supreme. Think of it as a (much) bigger and (much) better version of the Big Mac.

    HK for breakfast is an excellent choice. Aside from the Huevos Rancheros, give the Lemon Ricotta pancakes a try.

    I'm surprised (and flattered) that you would eat seafood in our town. They are running two registers at Sea Salt now, so the wait in line has been greatly diminished in my two trips this year. Also, I wouldn't imagine they are too busy during October (but they are open through the middle/end of the month).

    Aside from those spots, I will always recommend Alex Roberts' two restaurants: Brasa and Restaurant Alma. Brasa is the casual, southern food type of place with outstanding food. There are two locations: one in NE Minneapolis, right across the river from downtown and one on Grand Ave just east of downtown St. Paul. Alma is also in NE Minneapolis, closer to the U. This is my favorite restaurant in MSP. $45, 3 course menu (5 choices per course) lead to a memorable meal. Both restaurants use almost exclusively local ingredients.

    Another suggestion I would have is to search the MSP board for threads made by jfood. He has been a frequent business traveler to MSP and he leaves the best, most detailed reviews you will find of our restaurants.

    http://www.brasa.us/
    http://restaurantalma.com/

    And as luck would have it, you're dropping in right at the end of Restaurant Week.

    http://www.mspmag.com/promotions/wher...

    Of those choices, I would absolutely recommend Barrio for small plate noshing. Otherwise...

    1) Sea Change is our newest seafood venture by local culinary star (and recent James Beard award winner) Tim McKee. He also owns and operates Barrio.
    2) Cosmos will give you an expertly executed meal in maybe the nicest, most chic room in MSP.
    3) Oceanaire, again for the seafood.
    4) Masa for surprisingly good, slightly upscale Mexican.
    5) Vincent A for an excellent meal. Focus on French cuisine.

    All of those are in downtown as well.

    Whew...I think that's all I can offer for now.

    3 Replies
    1. re: BigE

      I second, third and fourth the recommendation for Brasa. Moderately priced speaking, this is the place I would take out of town guests.
      For a great beer bar with even better food you might want to give the Bulldog NE a try. They have a number of outstanding burgers on the menu, great apps and the cupcakes for dessert are wonderful. Make sure you sample our local craft beers as well; Summit and Surley!

      1. re: trauty32

        I'd also recommend the Bulldog NE. Lots beer choices and arguably the best burgers in MSP.

        1. re: ksioux

          Third the Bulldog...the Rooster burger is a personal fave. Great little patio area, which could be really nice in early fall. Another burger spot that's great is the Blue Door Pub in St. Paul. I personally think their Blucy is 2nd to none. Also have one of the best local beer menu's around. The battered green beans are a nice side too. VERY small space though....be prepared for a wait if you go during peak hours.

    2. If you like beer and/or Vietnamese food, do yourselves a favor and go to Ngon Bistro. They have an exclusively local beer list, with one local offering cask-conditioned, and marvelous Vietnamese/French fusion food, locally sourced. There are, I'd imagine, few places like it in the country. Also, if you really love beer, you should hit Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery. Especially if you like IPAs. Theirs is one of the best in the world.

      1. FYI, Sea Salt has reduced hours after Labor Day, closing at 8:00pm.

        9 Replies
        1. re: KTFoley

          TC Chowhounders: These are all excellent recommendations. Thank you. Ngon Bistro, NE Bulldog and Brasa are definitely going on our list. Town Hall Brewery looks great too. Reminds me of Naked City Tap House here in Seattle.

          1. re: jeremyc28

            Alma's operated by the same folks who operate Brasa. If you're going to Brasa, then instead of going to Alma, branch out and go to Heartland in St. Paul instead. (P.S. I'm sure this is a minority viewpoint on this board...nevertheless, it's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.)

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I'm with you on this one DQ. Heartland is hands down my favorite in MSP

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                I'm with you, TDQ. I'd choose Heartland over Alma. I'd also plug Uptown as a place to see - and eat. I sound like a broken record recommending Lucia's (any of her places) or Barbette. Plus, you may get some fall colors as you walk around the lakes in order to build up an appetite.

                1. re: bob s

                  Ah, good to know I'm not alone in choosing Heartland over Alma!

                  ~TDQ

                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I'd put my meal at Heartland on the same level as Alma, but I've only been there once versus 3 times at Alma.

                  Either are excellent choices for great locally sourced food.

                3. re: jeremyc28

                  Food at Town Hall Brewery is not that great, but the beer is great. I'd suggest eating somewhere else and heading to Town Hall for a few beers. If the weather is nice, they have a fun patio. I just had the smokey porter and the triple there this weekend and both were very good.

                  1. re: churchka

                    If one were to eat at Town Hall I would recommend sticking with the more bar food - burgers and fries and such. My husband often gets their chili, which is quite spicy hot. I've been disappointed with their entrees and therefore steer clear. But yes, their beer is superlative and worth going there for that alone.

                  2. re: jeremyc28

                    If you are going with Ngon, I'd advise sticking with the traditional Vietnamese fare, and going with the pork as your meat option.

                    I'd throw Heidi's in Minneapolis into the mix with Alma and Heartland. Outstanding food, and the meals top out at $20.

                4. My suggestions include ... Quang - 27th and Nicollet (excellent Vietnamese-killer soups) - Town Talk Diner on East Lake St (chef driven take on the classic diner- great drinks with a creative menu) - Black Sheep Pizza - 600 Washington Ave North (just excellent coal fired pizzas - choice salads and local brews) .... Have fun.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Maggie19

                    Only a few days before our trip, but I wanted to check in with the MSP Chowhounders and see if anyone has ventured out to Ginger Hop yet? The reviews coming in sound fantastic. And the menu seems right up my alley.

                    Thanks again for all the great suggestions. There will be a full trip report upon our return.

                    1. re: jeremyc28

                      Hey Jeremy, glad you're enjoying your trip so far. You might check out this thread on Ginger Hop: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/654984

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Fantastic! Much appreciated.

                        I don't leave Sea-Tac until Thursday afternoon, so I haven't reached The Cities just yet. But safe to say we're really looking forward to a weekend of fantastic eating.