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Feb 11, 2010 07:51 AM

1 meal in MSP

Looking for that one "must eat" place. The one hole in the wall, inexpensive, fantastic place unique to MSP for one dinner to take a kid looking at colleges.

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    1. Are you open to Asian-inspired food? If so, I'd go with Ngon Bistro.

      3 Replies
      1. re: mtullius

        We live in NY. Looking for something unique to MSP or what we can't otherwise get here.

        1. re: mmarla

          I'd say Ngon fits the bill, though you (and others) might disagree. We have a thriving southeast Asian restaurant scene-- lots of great pho spots etc. But Ngon is unique-- it's Vietnamese fusion but with a local/organic twist. All the meat is local, many of the ingredients are too, and so is all the beer and much of the wine.

          But you can't go wrong with Juicy Lucys too..

          1. re: mmarla

            This comes up rather often. Unfortunately there isn't much quintessentially Minnesotan, other than Jucy Lucy's (which I think are a step backward from a regular cheeseburger, I hate them...but I'm not from here), MN pizza (again, not a fan) or perhaps wild rice.

            mtullius makes a very good point with Ngon, which, while there are certainly Vietnamese fusion restaurants in NY, this one uses and is inspired by it's locality. Good local food, good local beer, good local hospitality.

            The things my wife and I generally take visiting friends and relatives from out of state to enjoy here are the above mentioned Vietnamese restaurants (according to Bourdain; we have some of the best...I'll have to take his word for it), places like Al's Breakfast/The Nook and places committed to sourcing locally (Alma, Heartland, Lucia's, many others). The latter are not holes in the wall nor typically catering to high-schoolers, but are good restaurants.

        2. Eat a Jucy Lucy at Matt's Bar. It's the quintessential Minneapolis hole in the wall restaurant. You will hear many arguments for other Jucy Lucy joints (5-8 Club, the Nook, Blue Door Pub, etc.) But in my opinion, Matt's is the place to go.

          1. You didnt say what collge, but if you are in St P, and near Macalester or Hamline, id recommend Fasika for some really good ethiopian. True there isnt a massive ethiopian population in MN, but there is a large east african populationand the menu and atmosphere (and food) are probably a little more approachable at Fasika.

            As a former minneapolitan now living in NY, i miss Fasika and dont think there is comparable ethiopian in ny. Also the pho here (NY) is middling at best, id HIGHLY recommend either a stop at Pho Ca Dao on university avenue (you did say you wanted divey-right? its low/no atmosphere pho-only place, you get your choice of about 13 different types depending on meaty-inclusions, but thats about all they sell. I also like Quang over on the mineapolis side quite a bit (their veggie noodle soup is highly crave-worthy).

            My take is that NY is saturated with (some very good) burgers - there is nothing more than novelty to draw someone to a Jucy Lucy, and if your kid finds a school they like youll end up with more opportunities.

            While its not exactly unique to Minn, or unavailable to you in NY, id recommend looking at Brasa, also. there are two locations (one in mpls and on in st p) and its relatively affordable, sustainably/ethicly sources, rotisserie/sides place with excellent roast chicken beef and pork and a wide array of amazing sides (i dream of those cheese grits, greens with turkey wing, yams and andouille).

            As someone who was pretty well versed with the food scene in MSP and now also lives in NY the things i miss the most ( which i think are not as well represented here) are east african and se asian - those would be some of my first stops on a weekend return visit.

            1. Coming from NY for college in Minnesota -- I'm thinking Macalester. Or maybe you're on a side trip from Carleton or St. Olaf.

              The Hmong marketplace is really something that is unique, and would offer the combination of foods, flavors and atmosphere that you likely cannot easily experience in NYC (a challenge I don't take lightly).


              No offense, but few things disgust me more on here than directing a New Yorker to a bar for a Jucy Lucy as something "fantastic and unique to MSP". The Jucy Lucy is a cheeseburger and often a crummy one. "Ooo, but the cheese is inside!" Oh, hooray for us.

              tex.s.toast and Foureyes, in my opinion (for what it's worth), gave a very logical and useful advice. I've been in your shoes -- moved from D.C. to go to college. I hope you guys have a good visit and discover some of the charm of Minnesota!

              3 Replies
              1. re: MSPD

                As far as I'm concerned, we've adopted Vietnamese and East African food as our native cuisine. MSP is surprisingly diverse (we have the largest Somali population in America, for example), and I agree that the recommendations above would drive that point home.

                1. re: kevin47

                  for a visitor from new york, you could also add mexican. friends who divide their time between nyc and mpls eat mexican and se asian in msp because it is better here than nyc, and a taqueria dinner would seemingly fit the op's parameters nicely. though imo what the msp dining scene does really well is local foods, the establishments known for this aren't necessarily of the hole-in-the-wall variety.

                  is the op looking for a place that is handy to a specific campus? is there a price point that no longer constitutes a "hole?" my pix for west bank "holes" would be different than my pix for mac area "holes"-- and they would have a markedly different character.

                  we've got "holes". . . in different area codes. . . ;-P

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    I considered adding mexican to my list of recommendations - but i dont think that any of my favorite mexican spots are particularly close to a campus the OP would be visiting (not that we know which one).

                    I'll also say, in its defense, that NY has some damn fine mexican grub, its just not found anywhere near where most people spend their trips to ny. Queens and Brooklyn both have substantial mexican and central american population centers, but finding a decent taco in manhattan under 110th street is probably a fools errand.

                    if i were back for long enough - return trips to Taqueria Los Ocampo for a huarache, or to Manana for some pupusas and the worlds best black beans and maduros would certainly be called for.