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Jul 2, 2010 06:03 PM

Chow Pup heading for University of Minnesota

My California born and bred 25 year old is heading to Minneapolis for grad school. I would like to compile a list of restaurants that are cheap and tasty. A San Franciscan, he is open to all cuisines. I would also like to find him some cafes that serve good coffee and are open to students with laptops hanging out.

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  1. First, and MORE IMPORTANT THAN FOOD (Wha??? Is such a thing possible?!?!?) If you love your child, make sure he has a really warm hat and some long underwear before winter (available for dirt cheap at Kaplan's on Franklin Ave). If you're well bundled up, it is possible to survive a Minnesota winter - yea, and even enjoy it. Some Minnesotans even go ice fishing when it's well below zero. There is a risk that your son will turn into one of us...

    But on to the food: Your chow pup will do very well here. If only the U of M area food had been this good when I was a student! There are tons of cheap-and-tasty places. I'm decades out of college, but that's still my main focus. (I live a mile east of the Mpls campus.)

    Here's my top-ten list of cheap-and-tasty places within a half mile of the U's Minneapolis campus:

    1. Al's Breakfast (classic diner) - Dinkytown

    2. Seward Cafe (American hippie/retro) - West Bank

    3. Keefer Court Bakery (Chinese) - West Bank

    4. Punch Pizza (Neapolitan) - Stadium Village
    (Tip: look for great coupons on their website/twitter/Facebook)

    5. Caspian Bistro (Persian) - Stadium Village

    6. Jasmine Orchid (Vietnamese) - Stadium Village

    7. Korea Restaurant (Korean) - Stadium Village

    8. Pagoda (Chinese) - Dinkytown

    9. Acadia Cafe (burgers & beer - good beer!) - West Bank

    10. Triple Rock Social Club (uncategorizable) - West Bank

    Honorable mention goes to two places that aren't quite so dirt cheap, but which feature "fancy-pants dining on the cheap":

    - 421 Kafe (Greek/American) - Dinkytown

    - Birchwood Cafe (Locavore American) - a bit past West Bank (Seward neighborhood)

    Kafe 421 is modest but much nicer than the prices would lead you to expect. A grad student could treat chowish parents to dinner here and not be ashamed or ruined financially. Birchwood is in the same price range, if one orders carefully, and is world-class; their soups and desserts are to die for (especially the Key Lime Pie) and their Sunday special (two burgers - meat or veggie - and a pitcher of Surly beer for $30) make it a nice date spot. And they have half-priced bottles of free-trade wine on Mon & Tues!

    Note: Places referenced are Dinkytown (on the NW side of the campus), Stadium Village (on the SE of campus), and West Bank (on the W/SW side of campus). The Seward neighborhood is further SW of campus, but still within a mile or so.

    Best of luck to your chow pup, and we're pleased he chose our town for his grad-school experience!


    Birchwood Cafe
    3311 E 25th St, Minneapolis, MN 55406

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

    Jasmine Orchid
    304 Oak St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

    Kafe 421
    421 14th Avenue S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55415

    Punch Pizza
    3226 W Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55416

    Keefer Court Bakery & Cafe
    326 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454

    Caspian Bistro
    2418 University Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

    Triple Rock
    629 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN

    2 Replies
    1. re: AnneInMpls

      It's funny which places knows about, and which it ignores (or doesn't have a website for). Here are the links for the places it has spurned:

      Note: Al's Breakfast, Jasmine Orchid, and Korea Restaurant don't have web sites - that's the kind of places they are (aka bare bones).


      P.S. It's also funny that I'm typing this on July 2 as I sit sweltering on my porch, yet am very concerned about your son freezing next winter. Granted, that's only 3-4 months away, and I know how kids postpone dealing with the essentials... In summary, plan to send him some long underwear in late September. I recommend silk - it works for those overheated U of M classrooms, yet keeps one toasty on the long walk home after school.

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

      Jasmine Orchid
      304 Oak St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

      1. re: AnneInMpls

        I'm surprised that some of those don't come up... Let's remedy that. (Actually most were in the database.)

        Seward Community Cafe
        2129 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

        Caspian Bistro
        2418 University Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

        Pagoda Dinkytown
        1417 4th Street S E, Minneapolis, MN

        Korea Restaurant
        211 Oak St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

        Acadia Cafe
        329 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454

        Punch Neapolitan Pizza
        802 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

    2. I appreciate your tips on staying warm. He doesn't have a clue. This is a boy who loves to travel light and would prefer to be cold than to carry a jacket he might not use. At 24, a mom can only advise.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ola

        If he isn't going to carry a jacket, he will only be getting food delivered. I wear a jacket of some type from October to April nearly every day.

        Since he will need to be warmed up often, I suggest Quang for Pho. It is hot, hearty and delicious. My favorite cheap Vietnamese in town. Or, if he goes on the weekend, the Sea Bass soup is also very good.

      2. Others have covered food pretty well. So to address coffee shops where students hang out: in Dinkytown I like Bordertown Coffee, Espresso Royale, and the Purple Onion. On the West Bank, I like Hard Times and Mapp's.

        I hardly dare bring it up for fear of being OT, but since cold weather gear has come up, Thrifty Outfitters in the West Bank area has some good deals on wooly socks and underthings. In the upstairs section of Midwest Mountaineering.

        Hard Times Cafe
        1821 Cedar Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN

        Bordertown Coffee
        315 16th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

        Purple Onion Cafe
        1301 University Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

        1. great recs so far. i'm going to echo: i love al's breakfast, but on weekdays & no later than 8:30 am to avoid the human crunch at this 13-stool diner classic, where you don't really get to linger over a cup of coffee, as the guy standing a foot behind you is waiting for you to cash out and leave. your kid has to experience al's at least once (bring cash i believe they don't take credit), but if he's a night owl, he might just want to stay up.

          on the west bank, sink into the punk-grunge-veg scene: hard times coffee (the strongest coffee in town. seriously. one small 1950's cup is enough. hang out with cab drivers, semi-indigent street chess champions, students, tall-bikers (vegetarian and vegan flat-top grill specialties). the non-pork-o-rama breakfast at triple rock is gigantic and full of tasty veggie sausage (pork-o-rama breakfast also available and delicious). strong drinks, hardcore and punk rock music shows, heavily tattooed people, quality jukebox).

          hong kong noodle in dinkytown should probably be added to the list. i rec ordering off of the handwritten whiteboard of daily specials.

          less grungy than all of the above, obento-ya in southeast/como is a great little japanese place for filling bento box meals and ramen <$12. nice enough to take a date or the parents, still won't break the bank.

          msp is full of great little student-friendly coffee shops with wifi. if you know where he'll be living or attending classes (st paul campus? west bank?) we can line up some more local recs. also msp is a big bike town, particularly for students. will he be primarily biking, walking/bus, or will he have a car or scooter? neighborhood info will also let us zero in on other small restaurants, plus his local co-op grocery store.

          i suggest you record your son's thoughts on winter gear now, so you can show/replay it for him in the spring.

          1. Since no one has really addressed the cheap aspect....

            Mesa Pizza sells by the slice for 2 or 3 dollars a slice and has some really good selections (especially late late night).

            Burrito Loco is open late and is similar to Chipotle, but owned by UofM grads and doubles as the most popular bar on campus.

            Uncle Franky's sells hot dogs and other grill food and one can get away for less than 5 dollars for lunch.

            All three are located in Dinkytown withing a block of eachother.

            Uncle Franky's
            728 Broadway St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413