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Feb 4, 2010 05:47 AM

Boston Chowhounders Visiting the Twin Cities, Looking for Suggestions

My wife and I will be in the Twin Cities over Valentine's Day weekend to attend a Saturday wedding. Friday night, though, we're free and are excited about going out to eat, either in Minneapolis or St. Paul.

We'll be staying at the Radisson University Hotel in downtown Minneapolis but we'll have a car so getting around shouldn't be a problem. Both of us are adventurous eaters and enjoy all manner of food as long as the ingredients are top notch and the meats natural (preferably organic).

Does anyone have any suggestions where we should go? Any Twin City favorites or establishments that are always good? All suggestions welcome, whether it's for a hole-in-the-wall ethnic gem or a old school tried-and-true fave.

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  1. Some great places to check out in Minneapolis: 112 Eatery, Cafe Lurcat, Corner Table, Brasa (also in St. Paul) Garden's of Salonica, Obento-Ya, Sanctuary, Sea Change. I'm not as familiar with the St. Paul side, but the one place I really enjoy over there is Meritage. Hope this helps!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Reservationsforone

      Does anyone know the deal about the meats used at Meritage? Nowadays I only eat natural, sustainable, humanely raised meat, and I'm not sure whether Meritage fits the bill...

      1. re: mtullius

        there is a blurb about some of the meats at the link. I'd recommend calling is you have a specific question on a menu item.

    2. Lord, I am afraid I am going to sound like a broken record because I always recommend these places but...

      On the St Paul side:
      1) Ngon Bistro. Vietnamese - kind of fusiony cuisine. All natural, local, organic meats. Great local beer list (ask about the special beer, there's always something local on cask). A little more upscale than your basic hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese place. Although there are some fine more hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese places in Mpls and St Paul- I don't mean to disparage them!

      2) The Strip Club Meat & Fish. Grass-fed, local steaks prepared very well, offered with a number of sauces but you don't have to get them or have them on the side. Nice fish too. Small plate to share are a fun alternative to entrees here. But I wouldn't miss out on the steaks. Great cocktails, homemade bitters, digestifs, etc. Tiny location with a great view of downtown St Paul. Must make reservations for a Friday night!!!

      3) Brasa. There is also a Minneapolis location. Much more casual. All local, natural, organic chicken, pork. The pork is slow-roasted and sublime. Sides are great too. Southern/Latin American/Caribbean style food- plantains, beans and rice, grits, masa corn cakes, collard greeens, etc.

      In Minneapolis,
      1) Alma Restaurant. Same chef/owner as Brasa, Alex Roberts. More upscale. Has a tasting menu, changes seasonally so I don't know what's on offer right now. But it will be good, I promise! Reservations.

      2) Lucia's. Lucia Watson is one of the Twin Cities' pioneers of using locally-sourced products at her restaurant. Small, cute space in Uptown neighborhood. There's also a wine bar.

      Hope you have a good weekend and enjoy some of the great restaurants we have here!

      2 Replies
      1. re: turtlebella

        Brasa is highly recommended!! I always tell my wife this is the place I would take out of town guests that won't drill a gaping hole in their wallet. Their slow roasted pork with the lime/ginger aioli is fantastic. Yams with andouille, collard greens with smoked turkey and the cornbread are must haves, making my mouth water as I type. They also have rotisserie chicken, spicy braised beef and pulled chicken with cream and poblanos as meat options. And please, while you are in town, you must try a pint of Surly beer. Furious is the IPA, pairs wonderfully with the meats at Brasa!

        Strip Club is also a must hit. I have only been there once but I am still thinking about the strip steak I had. The small plates for sides are a refreshing twist on the usual sides you are offered at steak places. Must get reservations like turtle said.

        Cafe Lurcat in Loring Park (Minneapolis) is also a very nice option.

        1. re: turtlebella

          Lucia's is a great place that doesn't get enough mention.

        2. I would point you to one of the restaurants that reflects what makes the Twin Cities unique, namely access to high quality meats as well as a powerhouse Vietnamese restaurant scene.

          With that in mind, my recommendations.


          Typically, the chef builds a daily menu around what he can get in fresh. The Valentines weekend tasting menus are built around the habitat of the featured proteins and dairies. The ambiance is simple and lovely, reflexive of the Craftsman style, and the service is top-notch. You will need a reservation.

          For Vietnamese, I'm a bit torn between the best fit for your stated interests, and recommending my personal favorite. So I'll go with my heart and recommend Quang, which is the centerpiece of the Twin Cities Vietnamese dining scene. Excellent food from top to bottom.

          That said, I wouldn't dissuade you from visiting Ngon Bistro, where Vietnamese meets an emphasis on local ingredients. I found my meal there a bit clinical, but I can vouch for the excellence of the pork dishes, which feature meat from Fischer Farms, an outstanding local producer.

          Jasmine 26 and Hoa Bien are excellent options as well.

          1 Reply
          1. re: kevin47

            Heartland, in fact, features ONLY local ingredients on its menu (as far as I understand). And that makes it unique, not only here, but I'd imagine, just about anywhere.

          2. I'd also recommend Craftsman-- all local and natural meat and great ingredients. Of particular note is the amazing charcuterie plate (appetizer), with house-cured meats. It's remarkable.

            1. As a frequent visitor to MSP, jfood would rate "special places" as follows:

              1 - Alma
              2 - Meritage
              3 - Craftsman
              4 - Heidis
              5 - Bar La Grassa

              5 Replies
              1. re: jfood

                Alma is excellent - I'm dreaming of the warm lentil and duck confit combo I had there this past weekend.

                Bar La Grassa is excellent as well. I've been there a lot recently and I can't wait to go back.

                1. re: St Paul Susie

                  Do you believe that duck lentil dish? It was over the top fantastic. Jfood followed it with the sweetbreads which were outstandinf and then the duck 2-way, not to Alma standards..

                  At BLG have you eaten the pork tenderloin with a side of polenta...mucho great

                  1. re: jfood

                    BLG - I usually get the Lob/egg and then 2 small pastas. I can live without the secondi side of the menu there.

                    I'm returning to Alma this week - Planning on the lentil/duck confit combo again. I've had the duck 2 ways and I just don't enjoy sausage at all. I've had a similar entree at Meritage and again it would have been fine w/out the duck sausage.

                    To the OP - Sea Change is great - but coming from Boston I'd recommend something other than seafood - you have much better places to choose from.
                    (which I can say confidently having lived there for eons)

                    1. re: St Paul Susie

                      it was VERY hard going to the right at BLG in lieu of another 2 pastas, but the pork and the polenta is top 10 in msp. just some food for thought. eather may really screw up plans this week in your town.

                      1. re: jfood

                        FYI - Alma just updated their menu and the duck/lentil combo is no longer with us.

                        But it's ok.... there are other things that sound fab.