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3 Days in MSP

Hi There,

I am a New Yorker who is moving to MSP this fall. I will be there for a visit the weekend after next and am looking for good places to explore. I only have 3 days to visit and 3 days to sell my significant other (who is very into food) to come and join me on my move! We are interested in the full range -- fancy foodie spots on the high end and smaller hole-in-the-wall joints that are just plain delicious on the low end.

Thanks in advance -- I am already excited to read what people have to say!

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  1. Quick! Someone mention Matt's, etc. and Juicy Lucys so we can have THAT debate again. (Sorry for the inside joke, shlmsp, Ju(i)cy Lucys are a burger with cheese in the middle - apparently only found here - and which some msp hounds love and some hate but which always get mentioned as being unique to msp...)

    Okay onto serious suggestions-- I would go with what we do best here in the Twin Cities- Vietnamese and restaurants that feature local produce and meats with a side-trip for breakfast.

    *Vietnamese/pho joints. Saigon (in St Paul) is my personal favorite of the authentic pho places. Fairly hole-in-the wallish, great pho, good mixed (ethinic/racially-speaking) crowd...and it's always crowded. It's on University Avenue in St Paul and in a neighborhood (Frogtown) that is dominated by Asian/Asian-owned businesses. More high-end but also Vietnamese is Ngon Bistro, one of my favorite places in all of MSP. It's got more of a fusion/Vietnamese-French style cuisine although pho and bun are on the menu (some quibble with the authenticity of the broth) there are also wonderful entrees that shouldn't be missed. They use local, organic meats and produce and that's definitely a highlight. Should you like beer, Ngon is also one of the best places to taste some of the wonderful microbrews that we have here. They always have a local beer on cask as well as seasonal specials.

    *Al's Breakfast. Just be prepared to wait, especially as you'll be here on the weekend. It's got, what 12? 14? stools and is very popular so there's usually a line. Great breakfast food, total hole in the wall, it oozes character. My favorite thing to get is the Spike (eggs with garlic, cheddar and mushrooms) but the pancakes- Wally Blues are a regular favorite- and the hashbrowns are fantastic.

    *Restaurants that highlight local produce and/or meats. Heartland is the most dedicated of these - I believe that ONLY mid-western ingredients are used. Wonderful, creative chef. More high end, kind of a special place for dinner although there's also a wine bar for more casual dining. The Strip Club is a steak and fish place that I love-- local, grass-fed beef is featured. Over in Minneapolis, Restaurant Alma is also a perennial favorite of mine, we often choose Alma for date night. They feature a tasting menu that changes at least seasonally. The chefs at all three of these places are known for their dedication to featuring & highlighting local products in creative and tasty ways.

    Enjoy your weekend!

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    Restaurant Alma
    528 University Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

    Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
    799 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

    Saigon Restaurant & Bakery
    704 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

    Al's Breakfast
    413 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

    The Strip Club
    378 Maria Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55106

    Heartland
    1806 Saint Clair Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105

    1. Sea Salt Eatery. According to their website they open up again April 2nd. I just hope the weather is nice enough because it's largely outdoor seating.

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      Sea Salt Eatery
      4801 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55417

      1. TB did a pretty good job of covering the higher end stuff.

        My post will jump around a bit...

        Breakfast/Brunch: Al's, Grand Cafe, Colossal Cafe. Mickey's in DT St. Paul makes a damn good pancake.

        Alma and Heartland are my two favorite fine dining spots and both have great tasting menus. Heartland offers two set 3 course menus, a $30 flora and $40 fauna menu. Alma offers $45 for 3 courses (starter, second, main) with 4 choices per course. Both are very locally/seasonally focused. If I could only go to one, it would be Alma.

        Beyond that, Brasa is one of my favorite more casual joints. Owned and run by the same chef as Alma, there are two locations, one in NE Minneapolis (just north of downtown) and one just W/NW of downtown St. Paul. Both offer patio seating which can be very nice, depending on the time. However, they don't take reservations.

        Not sure what area you'll be in, but I love Victory 44 in North Minneapolis. Another smaller, more casual place with a crew of young, inventive chefs (who are also your servers).

        On the other side of town, if you are a fan of beer or whiskey, The Happy Gnome is hard to beat. Their beer and whiskey lists are dizzying (literally hundreds of choices) and the grub is above average.

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        Happy Gnome
        498 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102

        Victory 44
        2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN

        1. Here's a partial list of restaurants that seemed to go over well with my out-of-town visitors:(including ones from large cities with abundant dining options)

          Fine dining: Heartland, Alma, 112 Eatery

          Delicious ethnic eateries, mostly Vietnamese: Quang, Jasmine Deli, Fasika (Ethiopian) , Ngon (Vietnamese/fusion)

          Ice cream: Izzy's, Sebastian Joe's. We have great ice cream here.

          The Hmong market on Como in St Paul also has good food. I liked the sausage, ribs, and sweet coconut and tapioca dessert we got there.

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          Jasmine Deli
          2532 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

          112 Eatery
          112 N 3rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401

          Sebastian Joe's
          4321 Upton Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55410

          1. Congrats! I was the significant other on the exact same kind of trip two years ago. If she is a foodie, make sure you go to the Mill City Museum. It tells the story of flour milling in the twin cities and is really fun. On our weekend "preview" before moving, we ate at The Nook, Sunsets of Wayzata (brunch), Cosetta's and Craftsman. We also popped into PJ Murphy's - a bakery in St. Paul, and I remember thinking that I would never miss the crummy Safeway doughnuts I got in DC. We also took a tourbus ride (through MetroConnections) and it was worth every cent...when we moved here we already "knew our way around." If you find yourself on Grand Ave in St. paul, stop in the Golden Fig, a shop that is a purveyor of local goods like jam, chocolates, cheese, etc. One more idea go look at the area where the St. Paul downtown farmer's market is and pop into a restaurant down there...the open air part of the market isn't open yet, but if you use your imagination, you'll see one of our area's jewels. ...Good luck!

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            Mill City Museum
            704 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401