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52 Hours in Minneapolis – Best Late Afternoon Meal? And Itinerary Review

Hi Minnesota Chowhounds,

In late June, I will be visiting for a few days during the week, Monday through Wednesday. I will be dining solo, and watching three baseball games at Target Field. I’ve put together a tentative itinerary based on research, mostly here on Chowhound. Because of the ballgames, dinners close to downtown Minneapolis will generally be more convenient for me. I particularly need help with finding the best place for a late afternoon meal after the last game before flying out, so I’ll start talking about that first. I’ve tentatively made the rest of my choices, but I’m still open to suggestions if anyone thinks I’m way off base and there’s something better I might be missing.

WEDNESDAY DINNER, LATE AFTERNOON
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The Wednesday game is an afternoon game with a 12:10 pm start. Most likely it will end between 3:00 and 3:30, so I would have time to eat something after the game. I would need to be done by around 5:30-5:45 or so to catch the light rail to the airport for my 7:50 pm flight home. Thus it would probably need to be at a place that’s either open all afternoon, or opens no later than about 4:00 or maybe 4:30, for me to be done that early. Downtown Minneapolis or nearby would be particularly convenient because of its proximity to the light rail and the ballpark, as well as its abundance of restaurants. I’ve checked on Opentable to see what’s available that early, and there are a couple of places that sound interesting (Independent, and Spill the Wine) and a couple more that also sound interesting but only serve early from a happy hour menu (Forum and Zahtar); however, I don’t know anything about how good they are. And I’m open to other suggestions too. (I only checked on Opentable because it’s a quick way to see what’s open at a particular time of day; I’m not wedded to the restaurants listed there.) I’d love to hear some recommendations for this meal, because I’m just not sure what my best options are. So here’s my question in a nutshell:

IF YOU WANTED TO REALLY IMPRESS AND AMAZE SOMEONE WITH THE BEST FOOD IN MINNEAPOLIS AT A PLACE THAT’S OPEN FOR A LATE AFTERNOON DINNER, WHERE WOULD YOU GO?

It doesn’t have to be fine dining; it could be cheap eats, or something ethnic, or a local specialty of some sort, just as long as it’s really, really good.

Oh, and just doing some contingency planning – if the game runs late (always a possibility) I might have to go straight to the airport and grab something relatively quick once I’m there. I’ve looked through the discussion of places at the airport itself ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/765341 ), and it seems like the best food options there are French Meadow Bakery and Café and Surdyk’s Flights. I’d probably go to the central “mall” area of Terminal 1 and look at both menus and pick whichever sounds the best. Unless there’s someplace better there to check out…? But that’s just a backup plan; I’m hoping that the game doesn’t run late, in which case I won’t have to worry about eating at the airport.

MONDAY/TUESDAY DINNERS
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There are two night games on Monday and Tuesday beginning at 7:10 pm. I’ve made reservations at two restaurants, to arrive when they open at 5:00 pm, and have let them know in advance that I’d like to be done by around 6:30 pm. That should be do-able, and should give me enough time to get to the stadium for the game. I’ve selected La Belle Vie and Restaurant Alma for these two dinners. I had also considered 112 Eatery, Sea Change, and Piccolo, but after checking out the website menus for all five, La Belle Vie and Restaurant Alma just sounded more appealing to me.

TUESDAY GRAZING/LUNCH/PASTRY
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On Tuesday, I’m probably going to “graze”, maybe find some light lunch fare and some pastry. I understand there’s a public market on Lake called Midtown Global Market, and I love walking around a good public market. I also love desserts and I understand the Salty Tart Bakery is one of the best around, and is right in the Midtown Global Market, so this is a big part of the reason for hitting that market. I’ll probably also hit Rustica Bakery and/or Patisserie 46. These seem like the best choices for what I like, European pastry – stuff like croissants, French macaroons, entremets (mousse cakes), bostok, éclairs, etc. I’m not looking for “comfort food” type baked goods – no cookies, no lemon bars, and for heaven’s sake enough already with the cupcakes! :)

WEDNESDAY BREAKFAST
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On Wednesday, I’m going to have a regular sit-down breakfast before the afternoon game which starts at 12:10 pm. It seems like Hell’s Kitchen is THE place for a great and unusual breakfast/brunch in the Cities, so that’s my plan. I should add, I love breakfast/brunch type places, for savory dishes and especially for sweet dishes. The website menu at HK got me with Shrimp and Crab Cake with Poached Egg, Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes, and Bread Pudding with Crème Anglaise (and I don’t know how the heck I’m going to narrow it down from those three dishes!).

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!

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  1. Scratch Forum--it's closed. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7045...

    At HK, I think the lemon ricotta hotcakes are one of the best things on their menu. Very rich though. A cup of the manomin (wild rice) porridge would give you a taste of our state grain. The wild rice at HK is lake grown, Native hand-harvested and parched: the real deal. The porridge is also very rich. I'd recommend getting a jar of their housemade peanut butter and a loaf of their bison bread to take home with you. (Do not consume together!) I also like their huevos rancheros.

    MidGloMa is fun, though a trip to St. Paul's Hmong market could be even more of a thrill. I know I'm supposed to suck up to Michelle Gayer (used to work for Trotter; is a multiple-time James Beard nominee) and her Salty Tart Bakery but I've found STB hit and miss and the service rather surly. Avoid the cupcakes, those have always been the biggest misses for me. The rest has been good. For a real taste of MN check out the sweets counter at Cafe Finspang (Scandinavian) in MidGloMa--you can even have lefse if you haven't tried it before.

    MInneapolis has the highest concentration of Somalis in North America. You could explore that cuisine and culture if you wanted at MidGloMa or Hamdi next door for lunch (or even breakfast, though I've never been for breakfast).

    Re: your Weds afternoon option I don't have the answer you're looking for(maybe Barrio Tequila Bar for small plates? or better yet go to Vincent and get a Vincent burger at the bar?) or find an awesome food truck, but I'd recommend finding the stand at the ballpark where they grill the Kramarczuk sausages and having one of those. Kramarczuk's is a beloved Minneapolis institution. You might snag a decent local beer on tap at one of the "indoor" bars at the ballpark. PS they have the Vincent burger at the ballpark, but it's only ok. They can't do it justice in the ballpark setting. There is supposed to be a stand or two that sell Byerly's creamy wild rice soup at the ballpark. I haven't tried it at the ballpark, but it's pretty Minnesotan in that you'll probably find this soup at a potluck sort of way. That won't be the lake-grown Native harvested wild rice in the soup at the ballpark, but it's still a real MN dish.

    Have fun!

    ~TDQ

    -----
    Hamdi Restaurant
    818 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

    Cafe Finspang
    920 E Lake St Ste 148, Minneapolis, MN 55407

    1. I think you may want to stick around downtown for your Wednesday afternoon dinner (or do as TDQ says and have a Kramarczuk sausage, which are delish). Your timing is perfect for hitting happy hour specials. Close to the field and the light rail is Bradstreet Crafthouse. Keiran's is also right there. If you head further into the heart of downtown (but still within walking distance of of the light rail) you could hit Vincents for their HH at the bar, totally worth it. But most restaurants downtown will be open and serving. Saffron even opens at 4 for HH.

      If you're running out of time, drop by Surdyks in the airport before your flight. They have seriously good sandwiches.

      P46 is amazing. Sweet Shop just opened a few blocks away from there if you're craving cupcakes.

      And you can't go wrong with LBV or Alma. Sit in the bar at LBV though.

      Have a great trip!

      1. for the wed late afternoon question i would totally hit saffron for hh. won't be the full experience from this amazing chef but you'll get a teaser. the location can't be better for getting out of the ballpark and on the light rail. alma and lbv are great choices for the other dinners.

        4 Replies
        1. re: soupkitten

          nsxtasy,
          some notes and I would make a couple suggestions:
          to preface, I remember a bit about your posting from the Chicago board.(actually LTH Forum, and I served at Baccala when you dined there)
          Weds afternoon, I would find the location of the world street kitchen, which is Sameh's(saffron) mobile food truck. I haven't ben yet this year, but last season there were some awesome options(lamb tacos, curry banh mi) and would give you a good taste of the cultural influence on the food scene here. I would scratch the LBV dinner and go to Piccolo. It doesn't have the service polish or even cocktails, but a great by the bottle wine list, and it really encompasses more of the MInneapolis dining community than LBV does. Piccolo would shine in any market, where as LBV would get overshadowed in Chicago by restaurants that are doing something similar, like avenues or Cafe des Architects, and would in my experience trump the former. Chef Flicker's cooking reminds me a lot of Chef Sherman's at North Pond, but even more seasonally driven, with a better access to artisinal local products. He will win a beard award for the food he is putting out right now. And, as a Chicagoan, you will have a slight arrythmia when you see the reasonable pricing on the wine, which is no deterrent from the quality of offerings. (note: wine list on website is by the glass only, and fair, but the real gem is the reserve list you will get there.)

          Alma is great as well. Great wine list(try the St. Baillon Opale by the glass to start!!!!) and a non fussed approach to local cooking with responsible presentation and polish. Every time I dine there I really appreciate the restaurant more and more.

          I do like the rec for bradstreet crafthouse for a drink. Toby Maloney(violet hour) developed the program for them, so a lot of similarities exist.

          Skip Zahtar, as all things Chef!?! David Fhima related should be avoided by people who actually have taste buds.

          My 2 cents.

          -----
          Zahtar Restaurant
          755 Prairie Center Dr, Eden Prairie, MN 55344

          1. re: mitch cumstein

            Thanks to everyone for the tips and suggestions. Keep them coming!

            Incidentally...

            >> I served at Baccala when you dined there

            I have never dined at Baccala (which is now closed); perhaps you have me confused with someone else. Not a big deal, though - again, thanks for the advice!

            1. re: nsxtasy

              oops...I will have to back-track a bit on that, my apologies. however, I still stand behing my reco's. Enjoy!

            2. re: mitch cumstein

              Just an FYI, the WSK food truck is usually closed by 1:30.

          2. I wouldn't say it's the best food in Minneapolis, but on a Wednesday afternoon, if the weather is good, it might be fun to try Sea Salt Eatery, which does some pretty tasty seafood, po'boys, etc. The setting is what makes it great--outdoor seating in Minnehaha Park, with Minnehaha Falls a few dozen yards away. It also seems to fit your criteria in that you can take the light rail there from downtown, hop off and walk a few blocks to the park, eat some tasty seafood, and hop back on the light rail a few stops to the airport.

            -----
            Sea Salt Eatery
            4801 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55417

            1 Reply
            1. re: baa

              I love Sea Salt, but I would never advise anyone who's trying to make a plane to risk the lines there. That involves waiting for the LR in the post-game crush, walking over & waiting again in the line before waiting for the actual service, then walking back & waiting for the LR once more. The time slot nxstasy has available is just too tight to cause anything but pressure.

              Better to eat downtown in walking distance from the park, so nxstasy can skip the post-game crush at the LR altogether and hop it once for the trip to the airport.

            2. 1) Your Monday/Tuesday dinners look good to me. Alma is my favorite restaurant in town, and LBV gets more praise than just about any resto here. Other options I would consider in DT are Saffron, Cosmos, and 112. All three are putting out great food and only ~3 blocks from Target Field.

              2) Tuesday graze/pastry - MGM would be a good spot, though a lot of the destinations there are Mexican food related and I think your town does pretty well in that department. Another idea would be to go south on Nicollet Ave out of downtown, on the strip affectionately known as 'Eat Street'. Here you will find a string of great (cheap) ethnic joints, highlighted by a few of our Vietnamese spots. I'll let the rest of the crowd speak to these, but Quang is my favorite.

              If you're already planning on going to Patisserie 46 (well worth the trip), perhaps lunch at Grand Cafe would be worth a look. There are a bunch of great restaurants in that area, but I'm not sure which others serve lunch.

              3) Wednesday breakfast - Hell's Kitchen is nice (I love the lemon ricotta pancakes), but other than that, I don't know a thing about breakfast in downtown. If you're willing to try a little adventure, hop over to Al's Breakfast in Dinkytown. Mid-week, you might be able to dodge the normally insane crowds at this 13-stool local legend. Beware, the whole experience is a little intimate and the staff can be a bit surly. Beyond that, they sling some of the best pancakes in town (wheat wally blues, for me).

              4) Wednesday early dinner - This is a tough one. I'd like to say that there is something worthwhile near the light rail toward the airport, but there really isn't. Saffron or Vincent HH are good recommendations.

              Black Sheep Pizza is an option. It's within walking distance of the stadium and makes a pretty good coal fired pie. Not sure how busy it will be after the game, though.

              Enjoy yourself, NSX :)

              -----
              Hell's Kitchen
              80 South 9th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402

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

              2 Replies
              1. re: BigE

                just noting that al's breakfast is a better bet in the very early a.m. before it gets crowded, and that it's cash only.

                also on reread of the op i would scratch sea change off the list for sure, as chef erik anderson will have left the restaurant for a stint at Noma. so. . . don't bother.
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/779550

                1. re: BigE

                  I have to say, I just don't find the great restaurants on "Eat Street" to be near enough to each other to make it appealingly walkable. Sure, you might happen upon a gem, but you might also happen upon a string of store-fronts long ago closed and papered over. I think it's a great place to go if you have a specific destination in mind, but it's not very appealing to explore on foot. Now, maybe nxt will have a car, but, again, it's a pretty congested area, so be forewarned.

                  I think Quang and Jasmine Deli, two of the Eat Street Vietnamese favs of the MSP board, to be a little on the Americanized side of the spectrum. Delicious, sure, but better to be aware than be disappointed depending on what your expectations are. Pho Tau Bay on Eat Street tilts comparatively towards "authentic" (I hate using such a loaded word...) but I haven't honestly been there since their remodeling so feel a little uncomfortable recommending it. But (except for their banh mi sandwiches) it was good before the remodeling.

                  I think the best Southeast Asian restaurants in the Twin Cities are actually found on University Avenue in St. Paul, which is closer to the heart of the thriving Hmong and now Karen community. MInneapolis is more the heart of the Somali community, although that's starting to overflow to St. Paul (and the burbs), too. St. Paul's University Ave is not appealingly walkable either, by the way, especially with all of the light rail construction.

                  Unfortunately, I can't really recommend the Vietnamese restaurant in Midtown Global Market, either.

                  Al's is fun if you can get there early and you're as much interested in the experience as the food. I try to get there no later than 7am.

                  ~TDQ

                  -----
                  Midtown Global Market
                  920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

                  Jasmine Deli
                  2532 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

                  Pho Tau Bay
                  2837 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408