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Where to take a non-Westerner for the most "American" food experiences? Must be baby-friendly.

So, I am hosting a visitor from out of the country in the mid-fall and I want to take her to experience some typical American food that she hears about all of the time. Maybe Vietnamese food, too. East African food is out, though. I'd like these to be independently owned places, if possible. And they must be baby friendly, so I imagine we'll be dining at some pretty casual places.

I don't necessarily need the "best" in each category, but the one that would give her the best sense of a typical American experience might be. For instance, I would normally say Meritage has the best burger and fries in the Metro Area, but I would in this case probably prefer to take her to the Nook or something instead because I think that's a more typical "burger" experience. (Although, I might take her to Meritage for oysters!) I love Hell's Kitchen, but I'd rather take her someplace where she could get more typical pancakes. Al's would be perfect, except that I don't think that's baby friendly.

I have probably a week's worth of meals and breakfast, lunch and dinner are all fair game. Anywhere in Minneapolis, St. Paul, or Bloomington would work for us, though who knows, we might be out and about to the Minnesota Zoo or Stillwater, Afton, apple picking, etc.

So, what typical American food experiences does she need to have and where shall we take her? Burgers? Pizza? Ice cream? Mexican Food? Poutine (Canadian food, eh?) Barbeque? Mac and cheese? Pancakes? Pie?

EDIT: would the corn stand at El Burrito Mercado still be operating in early to mid-fall? I'm thinking corn is pretty American.

~TDQ

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

Meritage
410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

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  1. TDQ - call me crazy, but I can think of few people more well-suited to answer your question other than you. . .
    but from the parent perspective, i may be somewhat helpful. we have taken our kids everywhere since they were infants and some places are just more accommodating.
    first place that jumps to mind for American with kids is the Malt Shop at 50th and Bryant. Always packed with families and the burgers and malts are very good.
    Kinda sounds silly, but for Minnesota-American with kids, Ikea is fun. You can show off what the locals eat while in the environment of overblown American consumerism. Double win.
    Believe it or not, sitting in the upstairs dining room at 112 for an early dinner durnig the week has gone well with little ones.
    The Pizza Farm in Stockholm, WI, on Tuesday nights seems pretty American to me. Don't know how late in the season they run, though.
    Black Sheep is always super nice to kids too.
    I think Milda's on Glenwood is a great American breakfast example.
    Hope some of this helps. . .

    1 Reply
    1. re: ffthought

      Great ideas, thank you. Oh the pizza farm would be such a wonderful experience. I shall have to check into that. I've never even heard of Milda's!

      ~TDQ

    2. I was going down the path of how America is an amalgam of the cultures & foodways brought in by all its populations from elsewhere and adapted to the land of the First Nations, but then my brain exploded.

      But what would be more American than a drive-in? Seriously, take them someplace to eat in the car! Dari-ette, perhaps?

      11 Replies
      1. re: KTFoley

        This can be a head-exploding question for sure. Why do you think I posted about it?! For the most part, she's probably experienced Italian, Subcontinent Indian, East African. I think pretty much anything else is wide open. What I'm mostly hoping to achieve is when her friends back home say, "What did you eat in America, did you try a hamburger? or a hot dog? or a ?" she'll have the satisfaction of having experienced these things and be able to tell her friends about it.

        Dari-ette is a must-do, I agree, assuming it's still open for the season. Fingers crossed!

        ~TDQ

        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          too bad the fair will probably be over! :)

          get tacos and burritos, these are extremely american! los ocampos, la sirena gordo. . you could do many other south/central/latin-american restaurants, that tend to be kid-friendly. how about chimborazo for ecuadorean?

          wouldn't a diner be fun? al's breakfast would be hard, but a snack at mickey's diner would work. . .

          gotta go for pizza, maybe even getting 2 different pizza styles/scenes like at mama's in st paul for red sauce square cut, and then psycho suzie's on the big patio for the hipster hangout and the deep dish chicago-style pie, or black sheep pizza, pick your fave types.

          you could go to sea salt and get catfish po' boys, or the "oil can" assortment of american seafoods, or just some peel and eat shrimp, and see the falls and the park.

          yes, and ice cream. not just the msp artisan stuff, but some of the more old-fashioned classic american desserts like hot fudge sundaes and banana splits and thick malts.

          i also hate to say it, but several folks from cross the big pond have been, erm. . . impressed and. . . struck. . . by american drive through culture, the whole order through the speaker, drive to window, exchange money, go to next window, receive bag of greasy food, proceed to consume meal while driving in car, thing. "incredible," said a young french fellow about it. LMAO! so you may want to do this and just get some fries or something even if you don't normally get fast food, it is an "experience."

          i'll keep thinking!

          1. re: soupkitten

            HA! I'll tell you, when I first moved here I was impressed by MINNESOTA'S drive through culture. Drive-through pharmacy, ATM, grocery store, library/coffee shop, so, yes, you're right, it is a unique experience.

            I think she might faint upon seeing the quantity of food on the "oil can" at Sea Salt. What an experience that would be. I hope Sea Salt is still open for the season when she's here. It will be right on the edge, I think.

            All those other Latin restaurants are great ideas.

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              :) thinking of that guy's visit, he was interested in new orleans/creole food-- don't remember where we ended up taking him. he was also curious about cowboy culture and didn't really get that the us is so big, w distinct regions-- we had to tell him it would take us about a week to drive to "the desert" from here. so maybe check beforehand w your friend to see if you could help her find the maine lobster roll or dish of poke she may be yearning for, but we may not come up w off the bat.

              this visitor was also fascinated by "american breakfast"-- eggs, toast, bacon, pancakes etc.

              fall will be a good time to get some american soup like clam chowder or chili or local wild rice soup. it might be fun to cook an "american thanksgiving dinner" at home, even if she isn't here for the holiday.

              1. re: soupkitten

                Where do you think a good "typical" breakfast spot is in MSP for just bacon, eggs, toast, maybe pancakes?

                I actually love the Thanksgiving idea! You know, turkey is very American. Maybe a visit to McGovern's is in order.

                I will definitely ask her what she wants to eat and visit. I am certain I will need to consult all of those Mall of America threads.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  "typical"... probably one of those joints on south lyndale minneapolis that i'm *so* over..... hmmm. something like keys, if keys were good...... (and i know some of the locations are better). more thinking.

                  love the recs for brasa!

                  i still think the food at the moa is complete and utter crap, and it's expensive food court crap, at that! however. there is a good gelato establishment at moa! it's called paciugo, i believe it's a chain out of austin tx. but the gelato is quite decent.

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    >> i still think the food at the moa is complete and utter crap, and it's expensive food court crap, at that! however. there is a good gelato establishment at moa! it's called paciugo, i believe it's a chain out of austin tx. but the gelato is quite decent.

                    If you take them to MOA, it's to show them the big big big shopping center, not for the food. Don't forget to point out home plate and the seat where Killebrew's home run landed!

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      While I would agree that nearly all of the offerings at MOA are decidedly un-chowish, it is worth noting that Tucci Benucch is now headed by Asher Miller, most recently of 20.21. I trust he has made some positive impact on the experience there.

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                      Tucci Benucch
                      Mall of America, Minneapolis, MN 55420

            2. re: soupkitten

              +1 for Psycho Suzi's. I can think of nothing more American than that completely kitschy decor and things like deviled eggs, mini cocktail weiners and pickle roll-ups.

              What about an afternoon of food trucks in Minneapolis or St. Paul?

              I think cupcake bakeries are also becoming a pretty American thing and there's certainly a few of those to choose from.

              1. re: Seige

                There is nothing hotter in America right now that food trucks! Cupcakes will be easy to do. Good idea.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I had a hot dog and a brat from Nate Dog's food truck and both were great! You mentioned hot dogs eariler...find out where he is going to be.

                  http://natedogs.com/

        2. Thinking in my neighborhood,
          Day by Day Cafe is very baby friendly, especially the patio but also the library room.
          Mancini's, if she wants an old school vibe. Not super baby friendly, but if you go for an early dinner, you'll be fine.
          How about Chris and Robs for a hot dog. Agreed, that's classic American and needs to be tried.
          I'm a fan of Burger Moe's hamburgers. And their patio is gorgeous. They've got good milkshakes and fries, too.

          Pity she won't be here during the State Fair.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Uisge

            I really wish she could experience the State Fair. Oh well.

            Great ideas, thank you. Don't know why I didn't think of Chris and Robs! And that Diner car they are in can't be beat for exposure to Americana!

            I was wondering about Mancini's. I don't think I've ever seen a child of any age there, though perhaps I've never gone early enough or paid enough attention.

            ~TDQ

          2. I like your idea of the Nook for the burger and fries experience, but I think Convention Grill is also a good choice.

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            Convention Grill
            3912 Sunnyside Rd, Minneapolis, MN 55424

            2 Replies
            1. re: Bobannon

              I'm not at all sold on the Nook--definitely open to other "hamburger" experiences. Is the Convention Grill baby friendly? I haven't admit that I've never been there!

              ~TDQ

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              Convention Grill
              3912 Sunnyside Rd, Minneapolis, MN 55424

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                A big +1 for the Convention Grill, which is is certainly kid-friendly, and definitely fits the bill both in terms of delicious food and "American" ambiance/menu.

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                Convention Grill
                3912 Sunnyside Rd, Minneapolis, MN 55424

            2. Where is the person from?