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What's missing from MSP's culinary landscape?

I was having an interesting conversation with my friends in regards to food in MSP. Everyone seems to feel like its got it all. Me? I'm skeptical. I did notice plenty of Mexi-Latin flavors. Lots of South Asian spots. Seen the African, Indian, Middle Eastern. Obviously got the American - farm to table, burger, pub grub. Food trucks galore. What doesn't it have? I'm inclined to say not a whole lot of great Korean food spots. Japanese - sushi, ramen, etc is all right but nothing like the NYC, LA, SF spots. Is MSP lacking in the Japanese/Korean/Chinese dept? Maybe fried chicken?

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  1. If I were to pull answers from previous threads bemoaning the lack of a particular item or cuisine, the quickest answers might be pizza like in NY, cheese steaks like in Philly, fried chicken like in the south, lobster like in New England (although Smack Shack has made an inroad there), epic markets like at Reading Terminal, greek diners like in New Jersey and Long Island, a decent deli like in ohdon'tgetmestarted, kosher places like used to be more prevalent here, Tex-Mex like in wherever folks most fondly remember green chili.

    I tamp my own complaints down to wistfulness, knowing for example that NY pizza needs a New York street to close all the gaps in what the aficianados are really missing. But my northeastern soul misses ... Dunkin Donuts.

    50 Replies
    1. re: KTFoley

      Great Seafood, Ramen, Soul Food, Hot Dogs, Chili Shacks, Dim Sum.

      1. re: KTFoley

        To me, NY pizza belongs in NY, Texas barbecue belongs in Texas...etc.

        I would love a Scandinavian-focused restaurant, like Aquavit...but less stuffy. I miss the Mpls outpost as it was a terrific destination for entertaining out-of-towners.

        I know Bachelor Farmer has some elements of this, but not like Aquavit.

        1. re: Foureyes137

          100% agreed. There's really no point in trying to reproduce NY pizza or Philly cheese steaks; the people from there aren't going to be happy unless they're there, anyway. It's far more important to me that we try to forge our own culinary identity than that we try to fill in some imagined gap.

          We do well on restaurants from current immigrant communities, it seems like, but not so great on previous ones. I'd definitely like to see more northern and eastern European foods. Scandinavian food seems to be getting trendy, anyway, so it's a shame we don't have more of it.

          There was a Finnish cafe on Como in St. Paul, I think. Not an area that I go to often, so I don't know if it's still there. I think it was run by Solveig Tofte, who is now at Sun Street Breads.

          1. re: LiaM

            Finnish Bistro is still there, attached to a Dunn Bros...it's about as Finnish as it is a bistro, which is to say, not very.

            1. re: LiaM

              Nuh-uh. Finnish Bistro was Soile Anderson, who used to do the great Scandinavian brunch at the Minnesota Museum in downtown St. Paul that closed about 15 years ago. She started the Finnish Bistro on Como, and I can't remember if it was part of the business she sold off several years ago or not. She still does private catering.

              1. re: Rowdy

                soile is still there. she still has the catering biz as well, called deco catering. soile probably won't stop until she drops dead ;-P

              2. re: LiaM

                I do agree that Fin/Swede/Dutch is the new "cool" in food trends and I am surprised that there isn't more of that happening. Especially in MN. Would love to see that. Aquavit is great and if Minneapolis could have something like that would be awesome.

                1. re: Petey McNichols

                  again. could have something like that ***again***. :)

              3. re: Foureyes137

                "To me, NY pizza belongs in NY, Texas barbecue belongs in Texas...etc."

                We are in agreement.

                1. re: Foureyes137

                  >> To me, NY pizza belongs in NY, Texas barbecue belongs in Texas...etc.

                  The problem with that statement is, according to that credo, there should be no Thai food in MSP (or anywhere else outside of Thailand), no Chinese food in MSP, no Italian food in MSP, etc. Just sayin'... :)

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    No, there would be those things, and there are, just no one would expect the flavor and experience to mirror what it is in Thailand...which we don't (because they don't). No one seems to expect the som tum experience here to mimic what it is on a dingy street corner in Bangkok...diesel fumes stinging your nose...so why pizza or brisket?

                    1. re: Foureyes137

                      "No one seems to expect the som tum experience here to mimic what it is on a dingy street corner in Bangkok...diesel fumes stinging your nose...so why pizza or brisket?"

                      If you're talking about the experience, then clearly the experience of a regional food can only be had in its region. But if you're talking taste, or execution of the dish, then there are few reasons it can't be had anywhere. A good bagel can be made anywhere. Same with NY style pizza, or pulled pork. Some dishes do rely on local ingredients that can be very tough to find outside the region, and some dishes require practice, experience, and an art that may be tough to find outside the region. Pizza and cheesesteaks ain't it, though. Those require simple ingredients, and a relatively simple technique.

                      I'd get a cheesesteak for lunch on most days when I lived in Philly, and ate it in my office. I can reproduce the "eating in my office" experience anywhere. There's nothing special about that. What's missing today from that equation is the cheesesteak.

                      1. re: foreverhungry

                        Although my NY friends would love to disagree and state something along the lines of," you can't make NY bagels or pizza because the water in NYC is special".

                        1. re: foreverhungry

                          "Pizza and cheesesteaks ain't it, though. Those require simple ingredients, and a relatively simple technique."

                          Then explain it. Give a better explanation as to why everyone seems to think no one can get a decent NY version of pizza or a cheesesteak here (PS, 10 people will argue that the buns make the cheesesteak and you can't get the buns outside eastern PA, or that NYC water matters (even though places like Grimaldi's and Lombari's use bottled water anyway))...I disagree with them, you can get a NY style pizza here that is better than 90% of the Ray's crap you get in NYC, but I'd be crucified for saying so.

                          I stand by it, where you are when you get/order/eat the food is as much about its flavor as the experience imparted by the ingredients to your tongue...unless someone has a better idea.

                          1. re: Foureyes137

                            A valid point, but I have to side with FH on this one. I might concede that your surroundings play a role in how you remember a food experience, but that doesn't say anything about the food itself. That cheesesteak would have tasted a hell of a lot better in the Lake Harriet bandshell than at an office desk, but it would have been the same cheesesteak

                            NY'ers have been trying to push that water terroir argument for way too long. It's horsecrap.

                            If you want an explanation, I would agree with the idea that Mitch posited below; we don't have the clientele to support pizza by the slice without ruining it with time and hot lamps.

                            That's what's missing from our culinary landscape in general. We just don't have enough people who would be willing to support a lot of these great ideas to make them economically feasible.

                            1. re: Foureyes137

                              "Then explain it."

                              Cheesesteaks - Yes, the bun is important. Heck, there are only 4 ingredients (bread, steak, onion, and cheese), so each of them is important. It's as important as a good rye bread is to a good pastrami sandwich. In Philly, the Amoroso rolls are used for cheesesteaks and hoagies, so they are easy to find. It's not easy to find a good sub roll of that same style here. Just like good rye and pumpernickel is easy to find in the NYC area, and great sourdough is easy to find in SF, but those can be more difficult to find outside those areas. Not impossible, but difficult. The steak is ribeye, sliced thin, and cooked. Easy. Onions are chopped and browned. Easy. Cheese varies - Pat's uses cheese whiz, others use slices of american, some provolone. It depends on where you go. I've made very good cheesesteaks at home, but the bun is the weakest component.

                              Pizza - it's not the water. Someone did some experiments with that, can't remember who. Pizza made with different waters (NYC versus other cities vs bottled) tastes the same. Anyone can make the sauce, and the cheese is industrial mozz. Nothing special. Part of it is technique - making a NY style pizza employs different techniques than does when making a deep dish or Neopolitan. Make 300 pies a day, 5 days a week, you get pretty good at making that style. That style isn't popular here, so few places make it, so it's hard to get good at it. Andrea's near Mears Park in STP does a very good job with NY style. They have high turnover of pizzas.

                              I get what you're saying about surroundings. In some cases, it's very impactful. But in the case of a cheesesteak, whether I'm eating it in my living room in front of the TV in my apartment in Philly or house in Minneapolis, it doesn't matter much. Ditto with pizza - if I'm sitting at a counter staring a wall with pictures of old movie stars, it doesn't matter much what city I'm in, as long as the pizza is good.

                              As for Ray's - yes, there's a lot of crap Ray's, with dozens of imposters and imitators. You should be able to get a slice of NY style pizza in MPLS that's better - based solely on taste - than much of what's in NYC. But you can't. I think it's because the demand and needed expertise isn't here. With the cheesesteaks, it's partly the bread part, partly that there's no one here making 300 a day.

                              1. re: foreverhungry

                                From this, it appears we agree...it has little to nothing, really, to do with the food or ingredients themselves. There is no way to explain why these can't be reproduced...

                                The question then is: What is left? At it's heart, we're both saying it is something ethereal that cannot be reproduced...I just put a name to it.

                                1. re: Foureyes137

                                  It depends on what we're talking about.

                                  Pizza? No, not the ingredients, but rather A) the technique to make a NY style pizza as opposed to other styles, and B) enough of a demand for that style pizza.

                                  Cheesesteaks? Well, partly ingredients - the right bread choice is an essential component, and that, for whatever reason, is difficult or not possible to find in this area. And it's partly demand - how many cheesesteaks are eaten daily in MSP? 1? 10? Compared to thousands in the Philly area. Again, low demand means no restaurant/deli/whatever is going to keep ribeye, cheese whiz, and the same fresh buns in stock in case a single individual asks for a cheesesteak.

                                  What else? Bagels? That one puzzles me. The only thing I can guess is that folks here are content with Einstein/Brugger quality bagel, so there isn't the initiative for anyone to work on their technique to make a better one.

                                  Sure, eating roasted chestnuts on a NYC street corner while Christmas shopping is an experience that can't really be reproduced, even if you have high quality chestnuts and a roaster and the know-how. But that's not what I'm talking about. Eating a pizza/cheesesteak/bagel starring at a wall in Philly, NYC, north Jersey, MSP, or Wichita, there's no "ethereal" quality. If it's the same quality of food reproduced, I don't care what I'm looking at. For reasons of technique/ingredients/demand, some things just aren't reproduced here well. When folks (like me) wish they could get a good slice of NY pizza or a good cheesesteak, it's the food that matters, not being on a Philly streetcorner.

                              2. re: Foureyes137

                                Grimladi's, Ray's and Lombardi's is a type of NYC pie but not the type that hounds seek out. Think Motorino, Keste, Joe's, Patsy's and more etc. There are much better pies in the TC area that are better than Rays so you are right about that.

                                While NYC does have award-winning water, it is also the ovens (coal or brick) and flat dough pizzas that is the marker.

                                Lured in by the headline, I went and discovered it was no better than Ray's:

                                1. re: scoopG

                                  I agree that it's the technique, the ovens and the dough. For by the slice they par-bake the pie, then put it in the over for 2-3 minutes to finish baking after you pick out your slice. Something I've never seen here.

                                  1. re: NordeastB

                                    Mesa Pizza does it that way here. And one other place on Hennepin does it that way here, I think.

                                    1. re: jaycooke

                                      Taste of NY does it that way as well...and I believe Soho Cafe and the joint on 5th & Hennepin.

                                      Oh, and Sbarro, so it must be authentic ;-)

                                      1. re: Foureyes137

                                        and it has to start a good product to finish a good product, and have enough turn over to keep it fresh. flaws in every spot we have right there. Broder's does it too, but for a 1/2 sized slice, its already 3 bucks. Slice $$ = subway token in NYC.

                      2. re: KTFoley

                        I am over my love affair with Smack Shack lobster rolls. Lobster seems old, too much mayo, too much butter (or other grease) on the bread. I think there's a huge opening for someone who makes a true lobster roll. Which means fresh lobster cooked on the premises. No pollution from cucumbers (which is really functioning as cheap filler).

                        1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

                          I discovered the secret to the Smack Shack last summer: The Shrimp Po'Boy is the real star of the truck. I liked the Lobster roll, but the Po'Boy is spectacular. I don't know how true either one is to their respective coastal incarnations. Regardless, that Po Boy stands on its own as a really great sandwich.

                          1. re: Diana_mn

                            Thanks, Diana, I'll try it. Best Po'Boy I've had in Mpls. is the oyster one at Sea Salt. Yum. Been wondering about the Shack shrimp one. Will try.

                        2. re: KTFoley

                          My question with the whole NY style pizza or Philly cheesesteak is always, what is authentic? In NY style pizza example, does being NY-style mean that it has to be by the slice or just of that type of crust, etc.? I'd imagine if you get any 10 people together and ask them what they consider a good representation of that to be, you're probably going to get 10 different answers, most likely representative of what the poster grew up or is familiar with - unless you're speaking of the best of what that city or style has to offer, in which case I'd think that's covered by the depth of field/supply and demand argument, such as with exotic food (I don't know if it's Midwesterners in general, but I know Minnesotans in specific tend to have a problem with trying novel foods). Also in the sense of lacking, does it mean that it simply doesn't exist (no one's even trying) or that what does exist doesn't fall into the good, great, exceptional range of the spectrum?

                          Per the comments later in the thread regarding the Korean charcoal/cook at your own table sort of food, the impression I've gotten from speaking to a few people at Korean restaurants is that it's not allowed under current restaurant regulations.

                          What I would love to see is any sort of good, non-chain, 24-hour restaurant or coffee shop.

                          1. re: schizoidyun

                            What are you looking for in a non-chain, 24-hour restaurant? Stockmen's Truckstop in South St. Paul is open 24-hours and is chock full of great comfort foods. Almost everything they cook is from scratch and they have (I'm guessing) more than 150 different items on the menu.

                            1. re: MSPD

                              Thanks all for the suggestions (and the link to the old thread). I'd never heard of Stockmen's before (realized after posting that I knew of Mickey's, but that was about it. Also, thanks for the thoughts on the difference between the locations, I've only been to the St. Paul one). Most of the info I've gotten on 24-hour places, so to speak, has been from reading the "late night" threads here on Chow. As for the number one thing I'm looking for, at least at that time of night, is a decent cup of coffee. Any thoughts on which, between Mickey's, Hard Times, and Stockmen's has the best?

                              1. re: schizoidyun

                                Wow, decent coffee is a tall order for a middle of the night kind of thing... Seems to me the one that would be the best is the one that made the coffee most recently. If you sweet talked the waitress at Mickey's, they might make you a fresh pot.... But the coffee there is certainly not anything special (to say the least).

                                1. re: schizoidyun

                                  Sort of like your "NYC Pizza" confusion downthread, a "decent cup of coffee" can mean a million different things. I prefer bold coffees prepared in a French press, so none of those really qualify as "decent coffee" to me.

                                  But I can confirm that Stockmen's is hot and the pots never sit for long. It's your basic diner/truck stop coffee with the quirk that you'll be only 1/3 done with the cup and the waitress will fly by and top it off before you get your nose out of the newspaper. (Which ruins the cream and sugar-to-coffee ratio if you use cream and sugar).

                                  1. re: schizoidyun

                                    hard times, for sure! now, it's a grungy sort of place, but it also serves a very strong cup of coffee (small cups), decent french press, etc. at about 3 in the morning it's all insomniacs, cab drivers, folks trying to sober up to get home, me... are you good at chess? hard times is the center for street chess masters.... :)

                                    it is a collectively owned place, so the middle-of-the-night, post bar-close service can occasionally be on the surly side, but nothing that a smile and a tip can't fix. interesting vegetarian/vegan tex-mex + breakfast menu, too,

                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                      I stand corrected. I don't know why I mentally glossed over that.

                                2. re: schizoidyun

                                  For 24-hour non-chain restaurants, this thread might be helpful (if a bit old): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/437971

                                  For sure, Mickey's is still around (so is the "other" Mickey's on West 7th in St. Paul). I prefer the downtown-St. Paul Mickey's and value the ambience as much as the food.

                                  1. re: schizoidyun

                                    With some foods, I agree, there's lots of room for interpretation - tiramisu, lasagna, bouillabaisse. But NY style pizza is NY style pizza. There's lots of different style pizzas found in NYC, just like there are different styles found in MSP. But there's still one NY style pizza. Some do it well, some don't, but most folks can agree on what that style is supposed to be.

                                    DItto with a cheesesteak. Some are good, some aren't. There's some variance in how the meat is done - some is chopped thin, some sliced. Differences in cheese - Whiz, American, provolone. But the basic elements are the same.

                                    As for the sense of lacking - for NY style pizza, there's some that try, few that do it OK, and none that do it very well. Not to beat a dad horse, but for me, Slice of NY and Andrea's come somewhat close for pizza. For cheesesteaks, many try, all fail, though there's a joint in Dinkytown (in the Dinkytown mall?) that does a fairly decent job, given that he probably gets 10 orders a day, compared to 1000 for a good cheesesteak joint in Philly.

                                    Interesting about the regulations.

                                    24-hour place - you mean Mickey's? The one on W 7th closer to MPLS is leagues better than the one in downtown StP. But that's just me.

                                    1. re: foreverhungry

                                      I think that the bread products - pizza crust, sandwich rolls, bagels, etc. - across the board at your average place in the Twin Cities are decidedly inferior.

                                      1. re: sandylc

                                        Agreed. I think that's a great way of summing it up. With the exception of high quality bakeries that make breads, there's a dearth of the other bread products. Again, I think it's not because there isn't the talent or ingredients, but rather because there isn't the demand. Most folks on the coasts area want sandwiches on decent bread - whether it be a great kaiser or rye or sub roll or other good quality bread. Most folks here are happy with crappy mass produced white bread.

                                          1. re: foreverhungry

                                            I'm from NY and I happened on this thread, and I have to say that I have never known what NY pizza is. I assure you that there are TONS of arguments on the various NY boards about this. The crust at this place is too thick, but over there, it's too thin; this place doesn't have enough cheese, but that place makes its pizza too cheesy. And now, the proliferation of artisinal pizza joints has muddied the water even further since you have corner places having pizzas with fresh mozzarella as well as other ingredients that define the "fancier" pizzerias! You may bemoan your lack of good pizza, but I have to say that I'm not sure if it's NY pizza you're after since I really don't know what it is anymore!!

                                            1. re: roxlet

                                              NYC or NY State? In general the NYC pizza is defined by having a thin crust, baked in a coal or brick oven.

                                              Serious Eats Top Ten:

                                              And of course Lady G has her fave:

                                              1. re: scoopG

                                                I think this is a wide open question - the style you describe is more Neopolitan style, which, while served in NYC, is served in every major city in the US.

                                                The style that, I believe, most people identify with the NYC metro area, is that of the Rays/FamousRays/RaysFamousOriginal/by_the_slice_foldable_eat_as_you_walk style pizza.

                                                Not the style that you are likely to find topped with frisee, a sunnyside up egg, brussels sprouts, or guanciale.

                                                1. re: foreverhungry

                                                  Thin crust Neopolitan style baked in coal or brick ovens? In NYC these type of ovens are no longer allowed to be built. Rays/Original Rays etc. are never mentioned on the Manhattan or OB Board as any possible type of place to enjoy pizza.

                                                  1. re: scoopG

                                                    Re: ovens: I'm not sure what your point is, other than to say that these ovens are no longer being built in NYC because of regulations. Thin crust Neopolitan style pizzas are being served in several MSP pizzerias, all cranked out in wood or coal ovens.

                                                    Re: Rays/Original Rays etc. - I would never claim that Rays or RO or RFO, or any other derivation of the name, is one of the best representations of such a style. Nor would I ever claim that that style of pizza is haute cuisine, just like a cheesesteak isn't haute cuisine. Maybe they're not talked about on Chowhound boards, but it doesn't mean that they aren't popular, and that folks don't have their very strong preferences.

                                                    All pizzas don't have to come out of a wood oven, be topped with artisanal ingredients, and cost >$15 bucks for someone to like it.

                                                    1. re: foreverhungry

                                                      Rays/Original Rays are not what New Yorkers talk about when we talk good NYC pizza - Rays cannot be a part of that discussion. Rays represents the typical NYC neighborhood slice joint with generic thick cardboard crust and gloppy cheese. When visitors ask on the Manhattan Board about pizza, no one is recommending Rays!

                                                      I never mentioned wood ovens. I think coal and brick ovens can reach much higher temps and impart a type of flavor and give the crust a good char. For fire safety, NYC has banned them but existing ones are grandfathered in. I understand Black Sheep in downtown Mpls. may come closest to the Neopolitan NYC style pie.

                                                      1. re: scoopG

                                                        "Rays/Original Rays are not what New Yorkers talk about when we talk good NYC pizza" - Right. That's not the question. Style, not shop.

                                                        "When visitors ask on the Manhattan Board about pizza, no one is recommending Rays!" - Agreed. Again, not the question.

                                                        "I understand Black Sheep in downtown Mpls. may come closest to the Neopolitan NYC style pie." - Not sure what NYC Neopolitan is, but if you mean "Neopolitan", then nope. Punch Pizza in St. Paul is the only MSP pizzeria with the Neopolitan Pizza DOC label. Black Sheep is coal fired, not wood. Strictly speaking, Neopolitan DOC Pizza is wood fired, not coal.

                                                        As an aside, my local favorite is Black Sheep, followed by Punch.

                                        1. re: foreverhungry

                                          I guess my confusion on it is probably more due to lack of knowledge than anything else. I don't know what defines NY-style pizza other than its thinner crust. Maybe this has ended up being because there don't seem to be any standouts, so flavor-wise there's nothing that really needs to be there. Ditto on the cheesesteak. I've had a few at restaurants around and they've generally been pretty mediocre (chewy meat, etc.), but other than good meat, I don't know what would make it more authentic/better.

                                          1. re: schizoidyun

                                            Different folks may have different opinions, but to me there are a few things that define NY style pizza, as opposed to Neopolitan, deep dish, bar style (cracker crust), etc.
                                            1) Thickness - about 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick. Even 3/8 is pushing it, getting a little thick. Closer to a 1/4 inch,
                                            2) Crust - Not crisp, some chew, well browned on bottom
                                            3) Sauce - Not sweet. Not chunky. Just pureed tomatoes, almost like tomato paste but thinned, with a hint of salt, pepper, and maybe some oregano. That's it. Leave the sugar for the cannoli.
                                            4) Crust:sauce:cheese ratio - in balance, meaning not one dominates. If all you taste is cheese, there's too much cheese. We're talking thin layers of each, so much so that when hot, the cheese can slide right off the slice, showing the rippled white crust underneath, with just a thin veneer of sauce through which you can easily see the crust.
                                            5) Cut - in slices, not squares
                                            6) Foldable - thin and flexible enough that you can grab a slice, crease the crust end and fold it, and the tip flops down just a bit.

                                            As for cheesesteaks, there aren't any big secrets:
                                            1) Meat - thin sliced ribeye steak. I suspect lots of local places here use lower quality cuts of meat. Then again, lots of Philly food trucks make great cheesesteaks, and they likely don't use ribeye.
                                            2) Meat#2 - it can be chopped thin, or sliced. Some like it chunkier, in which case you're likely to pull a piece out. Some (like me) like it more chopped
                                            3) The bun - This is a bigger deal than some folks think. Fresh is good - there's only 3 or 4 ingredients in a cheesesteak, so the bread needs to be good. Also, it has to be thick enough to stand up to the juices and not sog through and fall apart, but not so thick that it dominates and all you taste is bread. It's a harder balancing act than many folks realize.
                                            4) The cheese - use whatever you want. Total personal preference.
                                            5) Onions - though not strictly necessary, most folks get fried onions - chopped and browned. Raw is too pungent, carmelized too sweet. There's the right middle ground.
                                            6) Ratio - again, the right ratio of meat:bread:onions:cheese. A few I've had around here are skimpy on the meat, or too heavy on the onions, or use a thick bread.

                                            All this being said, we're talking pizza and cheesesteaks. These aren't perfectly grilled Sockeye salmon, or hand-made tortellini in a homemade chicken broth. It's street food, so I don't want to give the impression they are high cuisine. But at the same time, a well executed cheesesteak or NY style pizza is very, very good. And a poorly executed one is just meh.

                                        2. re: schizoidyun

                                          It might not appeal to absolutely everyone, but the Hard Times Cafe is open until 4 a.m. Which is not 24 hour, but certainly very late night.

                                          1. re: schizoidyun

                                            That's interesting about the Korean tableside BBQ. I didn't realize that it maybe regulated heavily.

                                        3. I wish we had more Eastern European. I love Kramarczuk's for a pierogi fix, but would love more options. I'm not a fan of Nye's for Polish food.

                                          And I really want an in-and-out burger. I want to see what all the fuss is about.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: drew13000

                                            Go to Culver's, order a burger, close your eyes and imagine the fries are better, that they have a secret menu (that we all just order a double-double animal style from anyway) and there is creepy Christian scripture on the bottom of your cup: kapow: In-N-Out.

                                            1. re: Foureyes137

                                              My sentiments exactly, except you forgot "wait in line for a ridiculous amount of time".

                                            2. re: drew13000

                                              Being originally from California, In N Out has embedded itself into the So Cal lifestyle. Is it to die for? No. I've have far and away better burgers. But for a fast food joint, it is pretty nice. Five Guys, Smashburger are similar, although I do lean towards In N Out, must be the Cali Boy in me.

                                              1. re: drew13000

                                                There's a new store in N.E. Minneapolis called Ziach. It's on 17th and Washington St. They carry all kinds of Polish food from Chicago. Big selection of pierogi, sausge and ham.

                                              2. I think the biggest thing that we are missing is the population density to make some of these things feasible. NYC pizza needs the repetition and turnover to make consistently good pizza that doesn't die while sitting under a lamp, or in the window, and also make it reasonable to lower the price because there is more turnover. Same goes for Ramen, steak tacos, good dogs etc. To make everything the right way, there can't be anything reused day to day, and it has to be made from scratch fresh and kept fresh. There are peak moment's in a week that would be able to sustain this thought but not many and they are sporadic.... my 2 cents.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: mitch cumstein

                                                  The Twin Cities has the population - problem is the area is a vast horizontal urban landscape requiring a car to navigate. NYC is vertical, autos not required. Also, NYC is the number one tourist destination in the USA, surpassing 50 million visitors this year for the first time. The Vietnamese scene in the Twin Cities far surpasses what NYC has to offer!

                                                2. I would second a late night korean bbq as well as some shabu shabu, a decent gyro that doesn't require sitting down and the overall burger execution quality just about everywhere (think burger not juicy lucy)
                                                  a real gastropub(a bar with good bar food i not a gastropub, pat's tap)
                                                  and maybe this
                                                  or this

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: mitch cumstein

                                                    Damn, Mitch, you're setting the bar high! Spotted Pig and Joe Beef are destination food spots. I wouldn't know what to do with myself if we had that kind of casual food and drink spot.

                                                    1. re: Petey McNichols

                                                      What you's be doing with yourself Petey is sitting there eating your deliciousness wondering why this place isn't packed and why you can always get a table.... in theory it would kill here but it wouldn't really kill here...

                                                  2. For me, it continues to be a great deli. Maybe I just haven't been the to the right one, but that is what I would love. Someone concentrating on nothing but great roast beef, turkey, ham, pastrami, etc and the breads to go with it.

                                                    Seems simple, but hasn't happened yet.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: BigE

                                                      Totally agree on the great deli. I've lived in Indy, Raleigh and Minneapolis, and the former two have very good delis in the downtown proximity. I haven't found the complete deli package yet in MPLS. I consider MPLS to be better than those other two cities on every other dining attribute.

                                                      I can live with all of the minor shortcomings that come with being in the North and not near a coast. The local food scene is excellent and I never feel compelled to go to a chain restaurant. We shouldn't complain lest we be banished to Omaha or Oklahoma City...

                                                    2. What's missing is depth of field. I can satisfy just about any craving I have, but I have to drive clear across town for good this, and all the way to the other side of town for a good that. If you don't know every corner and joint in the entire metro area and/or are not willing to go 20 miles for an outstanding apple fritter, you're probably thinking a lot is missing.

                                                      The urges that go unsatisfied for me (and that I think can actually be re-created here unlike "Philly cheesesteak") are great soul food, a real honest-to-goodness BBQ place and, yes, Jewish delicatessen (and not just sandwiches/soup....I'm talking about actual delicacies).

                                                      I also think a few genres of food could step their game up. We are lucky to have a couple good Ethiopian restaurants, for example, but then you go to any of the "top 10" in Washington DC and there are some eye-opening dishes. Same with Chinese...it's always "safe". It's not entirely the restaurants' fault...part of that is that there aren't enough people willing to expand their horizons around here, so restaurants can't stock a lot of unusual ingredients/subsist on "exotic". But some innovation and escape from the mainstream is nice.

                                                      11 Replies
                                                      1. re: MSPD

                                                        For me:
                                                        1) A depth of good seafood restaurants. Currently, Sea Change and Oceanaire (though the later has sometimes questionable quality for its prices) are the only two seafood restaurants in town, and both are very pricey. Sea Salt is a very good option at the lower price scale, but is seasonal and can have obscenely long lines. La Sirena Gorda was another good offering at the lower price scale, but that's closed now. Stella's is terrible (IMO). Otherwise, there are no approachable, good quality seafood eateries. That's very surprising, given the tie to water Minnesota has. It's even more surprising given the tie to Lake Superior.

                                                        2) Bagels. It's tough to find a good one.

                                                        3) A quality deli. For sandwiches and meats. Surdyk's has great quality, but not a ton of variety for deli meat offerings. I'm talking something like DiBruno Brothers House of Cheese in Philly, where you have 5 different offerings of salami on any given day, and more ham choices than you could eat in a month.

                                                        I agree with MSPD that in many cases, there isn't a large enough crowd to create the demand for some of these genres/products.

                                                        I disagree with Foureyes that "NY pizza belongs in NY...". It's just a style of pizza, just like Chicago deep dish or Neapolitan. There is good deep dish to be found outside of Chicago, and that's great. There's very good Neopolitan to be found outside of Naples. With the particular item, the problem, as mitch pointed out, is that there isn't enough turnover for quality pizza-by-the-slice to survive. If NY pizza belongs in NY, does the muffaletta only belong in New Orleans, and pulled pork only belong in North Carolina, and Ethiopian food only belong in Ethiopia?

                                                        1. re: foreverhungry

                                                          We have NY "style" pizza here and every time we have a pizza thread, twenty people complain that what we have isn't New Yorky enough for them...

                                                          ...is it because dough and cheese and tomatoes are that much different? No, it is because they are not in New York. No amount of importing of ingredients or water or coal or kitchy decor will reproduce the feeling of being somewhere else. To me, it is foolhardy to keep trying to reproduce the feeling of a place and time when that place and time is perfect just where it is.

                                                          "does the muffaletta only belong in New Orleans, and pulled pork only belong in North Carolina, and Ethiopian food only belong in Ethiopia?"

                                                          YES! We can reproduce those things here...but do they belong here? Not really. They are imitations. Some are good, some are bad, except for Ethiopian, none are native to the immigrants that have populated this part of the country. It's like saying great seafood belongs here...no it doesn't, we're like 5000 miles from the sea. Seafood tastes great right out of the ocean...in a restaurant on a pier...with the wind blowing and gulls cawing...that is just how it is. NY pizza by the slice tastes great on a paper plate, walking down a narrow, busy street, smell of garbage and the stale air blowing up from the subway vents.

                                                          1. re: Foureyes137

                                                            Seafood suffers from a freshness issue when you have to transport it to the midwest. Muffalettas use cold cuts, sliced cheese, and olive relish. None of these ingredients have to be pulled out of the ocean 10 minutes before eating to guarantee freshness. The only reason we don't have a good muffaletta here is because no one makes a good muffaletta.

                                                            1. re: shadowfax

                                                              Then what is the problem? That the ingredients are the same but no one here knows how to put them together? I may be inclined to agree considering the sorry state of our barbecue situation and the fact that pigs are pigs and cows are cows and salt is salt and smoke is smoke...

                                                              ...but I'd rather hold on to my romantic notion that setting and terroir play a larger role in life's flavor.

                                                              1. re: Foureyes137

                                                                In general, yes I think so. Provided the ingredients in whatever regional dish you want are available here in the same quality as they are in that region (for example, a peach cobbler in Georgia is going to taste different than a peach cobbler made here with peaches flown in from China even if the same guy who made the authentic cobbler in Georgia flies up here and makes it the same way in St Paul). Muffalettas use (high quality) cold cuts, cheese, and olive spread. Nothing that we couldn't do here if someone knew how to do it right.

                                                                And that's the problem with the cuisine that we're not only not doing well, but not doing at all - New Mexican. No one's making that stuff here. But then, in order to make it right, they'd have to know where to get the ingredients (chiles from Hatch and only from Hatch, etc) and how to properly combine them. Unless they lived in New Mexico, it's unlikely they'd realize that, and probably even unlikely that they'd realize there is a significant difference between Mexican and New Mexican food.

                                                                I don't need to be staring at the Sangre de Cristo mountains from a rooftop patio on an adobe building in the historic district of Santa Fe while eating carne adovada (though that would be very nice) to enjoy the flavors. But first I need a restaurant here with a chef who's even heard of the dish ;)

                                                                1. re: Foureyes137

                                                                  For the BBQ I always feel its the rub, temp and wood and less the parts of the whole like ingredients. Wood variety (i.e hickory, applewood etc) and the drying method by and large by the weather really contribute to the overall flavor IMO.

                                                            2. re: foreverhungry

                                                              Do you not consider McCormick & Schmick a seafood restaurant?

                                                              1. re: Rowdy

                                                                I always forget about McCormick and Schmick's. For some reason, I have never considered going there, viewing it somewhat like what a Ruth's Chris is to steak. Nothing wrong with chains (I think Capitol Grille is the best steak around), but M&S is never on my radar.

                                                                From what I've read about M&S, and folks I know that have been there, it seems more of an expense account place, rather than the type of restaurant where locals are more likely to frequent. But maybe I have that all wrong.

                                                                1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                  We have gone to McC & S on many special occasions. Have only been to Oceanaire once, and thought it was a total bust: just gigantic, unimaginative portions at expense account prices. I 'd put McC & S on a par with Sea Change as far as the fish goes, though the service seems more gracious and relaxed in a good way. Can't say anything about the clams, oysters, and mussels, as I don't eat them, but DH is a connoisseur, and says they're excellent. I've almost never seen business groups there. It's mostly couples and families and prom goers. :)

                                                                2. re: Rowdy

                                                                  I think the M&S downtown is decent, but I've eaten a few times and the M&S in Edina and it's wretched. Everything I've had is either way oversalted or lacks any sort of flavor whatsoever. Don't understand why the two would be so different, but they are, and I'll never go back to Edina.

                                                                  1. re: Rowdy

                                                                    I do but IMO we need more quality seafood restaurants.

                                                              2. I absolutely despise regional food elitism. What is so hard about a Philly Cheesesteak? Nothing. NY pizza? Just NY elitists wanting to believe their version is the best. They both come from a list of ingredients. Like our "Juicy Lucys", what a ridiculous concept that this is groundbreaking or inherently better tasting than a good cheeseburger.

                                                                Lack of great seafood makes sense as either coast is about 1500 miles away. But how many people in NYC can walk out to their garden and pick their own veggies? I'd rather have a garden than a gyro stand.

                                                                Minnesota doesn't have the population density, quantity or variety that the big cities have, so it makes sense that our ethnic offering varys in quality and availability.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: semanticantics

                                                                  "I absolutely despise regional food elitism. What is so hard about a Philly Cheesesteak? Nothing. NY pizza? Just NY elitists wanting to believe their version is the best."

                                                                  I agree in general about the concept of regional food elitism, but I don't think either of those are examples of regional food elitism. In the case of NY style pizza, it's simply a style of pizza, like any other. It so happens there aren't any very good representations of that style of pizza here, in the same way that someone might say that there aren't any very good representations of Chicago style deep dish in Mankato, or of Neopolitan style in Wichita. It's not elitism, it's just liking what you like, probably because that's what you grew up with. I grew up in Bergen County NJ, and was raised on that style pizza. To me, when someone says "pizza", it's the style I think of first. Ditto with cheesesteaks. No, there's nothing magical about a cheesesteak, but it so happens there aren't many good examples of one here.

                                                                  As for the garden vs gyro stand, lots of people in NYC have gardens. Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island. By the numbers, I'd guess there are more people in NYC with gardens than in Minneapolis or St. Paul. As a percentage of total population, probably MPLS/STP.

                                                                  Lastly, seafood. 20 years ago, I would have agreed. But today, advances in processing and shipping seafood mean that shipping fresh seafood from dock to destination doesn't matter if that destination is 300 miles or 1500 miles away. Shipping seafood is the same (more or less) to Minneapolis as it is to Vegas, Atlanta, or Dallas. Sure, in general seafood is cheaper on the coasts, but mahi-mahi is available in just about any east coast restaurant - far from it's native waters, just like cod is found in any west coast seafood restaurant, far from it's native waters. If there was a market for more seafood here, it's easy to ship it to here. But, for whatever reason, there simply isn't a high demand for seafood restaurants here. That also doesn't answer why we don't see more seafood from Lake Superior - lake trout, herring, whitefish, etc. To many Minnesotans, it seems that seafood = walleye, which, ironically, the vast majority of which comes from Canada.

                                                                  1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                    "That also doesn't answer why we don't see more seafood from Lake Superior - lake trout, herring, whitefish, etc."

                                                                    I've wondered about that for ages. Lake Superior fish and fish roe seem like elements that could become regional specialties.

                                                                    Are they ignored because diners turn up their noses at these in favor of overpriced (and often mislabeled) ocean fish? Or is it because no restauranteurs have really tried? I'd really like to know.

                                                                    1. re: Diana_mn

                                                                      I couldn't agree more. I get the lack of Mahi or Opah or Yellowtail. But why isn't there good things going on with regional or relatively close species like walleye, trout, tuna, salmon (Canada, Atlantic) etc?

                                                                      1. re: Diana_mn

                                                                        End of summer pound price for lake superior blue herring: $11.99 (wholesale)
                                                                        that's a tough nut to crack considering that it is as much an educational experience/political move in addition to the sales pitch of familiarizing a diner with the unfamiliar to shell out what would surely be an upwards entree of $20...whats the reward there for a business owner? Sure, whitefish and lake trout, when available in the wholesale market are pretty cost effective,the problem I have run into is that the processing is so inconsistent, and whole fish are hard to come by. It can be done, its just easier as a market fish a la bachelor farmer...
                                                                        There are plenty of responsible, cost effective fish available on market, but the clientele base has not yet caught on to the likes of the kona kampachi...

                                                                      2. re: foreverhungry

                                                                        I'm too lazy to do any research, but my impression on the Lake Superior stuff is that it is a mix of economics, function of the way you have to catch that stuff, and the local restrictions on commercial fishing.

                                                                      1. re: Latinpig

                                                                        There's a general lack of real French restaurants, general and regional. I'd love to see a real Breton-style crêperie here, or something like a bouchon lyonnais. There are several places that are good and have some French influence or a few of the classics, but there's nothing I'd call classic French.

                                                                        But again, I'd far rather see people work on making "Minnesota cuisine" mean something instead of imitating something else.

                                                                        1. re: LiaM

                                                                          Minnesota cuisine is an oxymoron. I agree with the French restaurants. The problem is there is not a single good saucier in town besides Vincent.

                                                                          1. re: LiaM

                                                                            It would be great to see more French restaurants, and specifically more regional specialty ones, but that's a hard sell in any American city other than perhaps NYC.

                                                                            There could be a solid Minnesota cuisine scene that didn't center around walleye and the juicy lucy, but for reasons that baffle me, that hasn't emerged. Given the culture of hunting and fishing; Lake Superior; and the presence of three separate biomes, each with it's own flora, flauna, and growing conditions, it's very easy to see a cuisine that pulls heavily from traditional grains; game (ever tried to find rabbit in Minnesota? It's remarkably difficult, whereas just about any decent butcher in Philadelphia either has it or can get it within a day); flavorful freshwater fish such as lake trout, brook and rainbow trout (even if rainbow isn't native), whitefish, and herring (as opposed to walleye); and seasonal "accompaniments" such as ramps, mushrooms, berries, etc.

                                                                            1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                              Rabbit: Jerusalem on Central Avenue.

                                                                              Minnesota cuisine has no champion. Probably the closest to what you're describing is the Angry Trout, and even there, I'd say they need to move away from what I describe as the Alice Waters "lite" concept.

                                                                              1. re: kuan

                                                                                the regional cuisine has no champion? so is lenny russo, and two dozen others i could mention, chopped liver, then.... there are *a number* of local-foods based restaurants here, and imo it's what differentiates the culinary landscape in msp from other smaller size cities that have more of a collection of "world cuisine" restaurants.

                                                                              2. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                I like where this is going, forever hungry, and I will tell you, that the regulation on native foods i very stringent. Nothing from the wild is to be served except for fish, harvested by commercial means. No foraged flora is acceptable to serve in a restaurant setting. Morels are the only mushroom variety that gets a pass. Everything else is subject to "a certified mushroom expert" to which there is no certification process, a state mandated double standard. Game has to be game variety, farm raised, and there is no commercial fishery for trout outside of the farmed rainbow. The Red Lake Walleye fishery just reopened for the first time this year, for the first time since I have lived back here.(4 yrs) We live in a bountiful state with absolutely debilitating regulation on our bounty.
                                                                                So then when we have the ability to purchase these goods, i.e. herring, the small market demand plus the upward trend in popularity( and the fireman's fish fry in grand marais) pushed prices to $15 a lb, just as it started to get saleable.
                                                                                The health department was very aggressive looking for foraging sources this summer, particularly mushrooms.
                                                                                It's almost not worth the hoops to jump through, imo. but it can be done, but probably as a combination of the biomes, and it could be good. It would be small, and focused, and very temporarily seasonal, based on the wild volatility of the growing seasons....

                                                                                1. re: mitch cumstein

                                                                                  There are people trying to get the mushroom regulations relaxed / lifted / made sense of. I know the Minnesota Mycological Society has explored the issue, but someone I know recently appears to have caught the ear of a legislator, and there may soon be progress made. They are starting their own growing operation as well.

                                                                                  On the other hand, as soon as it's totally legal, the woods will be full of yahoos trying to cash in and in the end probably wrecking foraging. Ramps take 2 YEARS to mature. You see someone with a few pounds on them, give them a pounding.

                                                                                  I also know for a fact that many of our higher end restaurants ignore the statute, as well they should. You do not need to be an expert for the safe 10 or so varieties. The look a likes don't look that much a like, they are easily identified.

                                                                                  1. re: mitch cumstein

                                                                                    I can understand limits on harvesting local foods, and few restaurants could effectively source ingredients that way. But there are ways around that. Rabbit is served in many Philly restaurants, and available in any decent butcher there. Clearly there must be rabbits growers there. Ditto with duck - it astounds me that, considering how many duck hunters there are in MN, that I don't see duck on menus more often. No, I don't mean wild shot ducks, but farmed ones. Can't ramps be farmed? Can't more morels be had? As for game, venison, elk, and bison are all farmed, and can easily be put on menus - if there was the demand for it. Same for pheasant - farmed.

                                                                                    I just did a quick google search on Great Lakes commercial fishers. A 2000 report shows nearly 1 million pounds of lake trout being taken by the US. Nearly 10 million pounds of whitefish. And over 1.6 million pounds of chubs (which I believe is what is also known as freshwater herring, though I could be wrong). No, not all of it is Lake Superior, but who cares. It's still Great Lakes fish.

                                                                                    I'm not so sure how much regulations have to do with it, given that the majority of these species can easily be farmed, or are caught regionally in the million pound harvest range.

                                                                                    Within 6 hours, many of us on this thread could come up with a medium sized menu featuring flora and fauna that are found in or near MN, but that are commercially available. I'm not talking about a Russo Heartland version - yes, that's what he does, but let's face it, Heartland is very expensive. Let's start with not concentrating on organic/sustainable, and go straight to what sorts of things are found in the region, and can be had for restaurant quantities. This is what we see on menus across Europe - an emphasis on what's local, without the emphasis on sustainable/organic, which often raises the price point to where only a privileged few can enjoy.

                                                                                    1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                      Ramps, morels, and chanterelles cannot be cultivated. Morels have been cultivated with limited success, if memory serves, they grow once and don't come back and / or they taste different. Chanterelles and morels both have a weird relation with trees. Ramps take too long and I believe are sensitive to begin with, so I assume it's not commercially viable.

                                                                                      1. re: semanticantics

                                                                                        OK, so we knock out morels, ramps, and chanterelles. That still leaves a lot of flora and fauna out there - stuff found in and around MN that can be commercially had.

                                                                                        But, as someone else said, Minnesota cuisine isn't the same as dishes using local ingredients - which is a departure from most other types of cuisines, whether internationally, or even other regions of the US.

                                                                                        1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                          I'm surprised more pan fish isn't fished / allowed (whatever the case may be). There are gozillions of them in our bajillions of lakes.

                                                                                          1. re: semanticantics

                                                                                            They have started a bluegill/crappie fishery I believe in Red Lake as well. I will confirm that, but commercial availability is limited to frozen product.

                                                                                      2. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                        local cuisine must be by definition sustainable. pretty much any chef at a tiny french bistro, italian enoteca, or english country pub will tell you that...

                                                                                        local trout, venison (farmed) and duck is on many local restaurant menus, perhaps just not the ones you like, if you dislike the sustainable/organic angle. a very broad swath of restaurants across various price point have embraced local grass-fed beef and local dairy/cheese. i don't think you are on point with your "privileged few" argument-- you can get a basket of fried smelt at red stag, i don't consider them to be particularly haute or expensive, and alex roberts seems to be doing just fine using local and sustainable fare at his brasa restaurants.

                                                                                        of course many of us would like to see the availability improve (particularly the distribution of local freshwater fish)-- or even get back to where it once was before..... mmm "current agribusiness trends." but even so, if you've got a sharp eye out, you can catch many local foods establishments working in whatever they can, even surprising sometimes-- i had lake superior sockeye at a chain restaurant, and caught local kale in the soup at a small taqueria.

                                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                          I think it depends on what you mean by "sustainable", and by "local cuisine". If by local cuisine we mean using ingredients that are only found locally, then yes, it has to be sustainable. But local cuisine can also mean dishes developed locally, or using techniques developed locally, or using ingredients that are found locally, but can also be obtained from other areas of the country. Again, for Minnesota, one can imagine a "local cuisine" featuring grains, game, greens and berries in the summer, and fish from the Great Lakes. Much of that can be farmed or obtained from other areas, yet still reflect a certain Minnesota ethos.

                                                                                          I don't dislike the sustainable/organic angle, I just think that in some cases, it's been overplayed at the expense of the finished product. Yes, trout, venison, and duck are available on several area menus, but not in the same frequency as in other cities across the US (at least that's the way it seems to me).

                                                                                          I agree with you that local ingredients do pop up in many places, but that's not what I'm getting at. And yes, Brasa uses local/sustainable. But Brasa hardly illustrates Minnesota cooking, or anything about Minnesota really (yucca, plantains, andouille, pigeon peas???). Many restaurants across the US are sourcing local, in part because it's good stewardship, but in part because it makes excellent business sense - it's something that's hot now.

                                                                                    2. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                      Exactly, and I think there are definitely restaurants that try to focus on local ingredients who deserve a lot of support for it: Craftsman, Ngon, Heartland, Lucia's, and many others. Still, use of local ingredients doesn't seem to translate into something like a recognizably Minnesotan, or maybe even Midwestern cuisine or dish. Something you won't find somewhere else.

                                                                                      I think maybe Haute Dish has made the most effort in this direction with their Tater Tot hotdish. I like the idea of going back to our old, despised roots, reinventing the things our grandparents made, maybe with the influence of new communities here now. I like the Vietnamese/French/local theme at Ngon a lot.

                                                                                      Re: mitch's point, I've heard the regulations on making preserves and especially aged meats can be pretty onerous, too. In a place with a short growing season, good preserves would be another thing to emphasize in the winter months.

                                                                                      1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                                        >> It would be great to see more French restaurants, and specifically more regional specialty ones, but that's a hard sell in any American city other than perhaps NYC.

                                                                                        *FANCY* (expensive, high-end, formal) French restaurants are on the decline throughout the United States, including NYC; that phenomenon is not unique to MSP. However, there are several trends that ameliorate this decline. One is the continuing popularlity of casual bistros, including those concentrating on traditional French bistro cuisine. Another is the globalization of finer dining, in which you can find some of the same dishes and techniques at restaurants that consider themselves French or contemporary American or Italian (and sometimes even other cuisines - here in Chicago we have several places that offer French-influenced Mexican cuisine). Still another is the ever-expanding high level of quality and creativity of chefs; years ago you could only find that at expensive places where you'd spend maybe $200/pp (inclusive), whereas now you can find top chefs turning out terrific food for $100/pp and at some places as low as $50/pp. All of those trends mean lots more options for great food at all prices, which is a good thing.

                                                                                        1. re: nsxtasy

                                                                                          my 2 cents, mostly around asian.

                                                                                          - higher end thai with some french influence-- like Aruns in Chicago or Buddakan in Philly
                                                                                          - hole in the wall cheap pasta focused italian -- like pasta bowl in chicago
                                                                                          - High end Chinese, similar to Wing Lei in Vegas

                                                                                  2. Anyone focusing on old world methods for storing, pickling, curing is getting at the center of essential Midwestern practicalities. No mediterranean climate, no proximity to super fresh/affordable/not very transportable fish and a "make hay while the sunshines" seasonal bounty harvest cycle. if you can't store it with good technique and flavor it is wasted.

                                                                                    More root cellars. More knowledge of traditional fermentation methods. More smoke houses and curing coolers.

                                                                                    More cold weather farmers using greenhouse and hoop house designs ala' Elliot Coleman and Will Allen.

                                                                                    Aquavit remarks are interesting. I worked there in the day and Minneapolis would probably "get it" today, but not in the Crystal Court location, which had too little warmth even after they threw $4 million dollars at the build out. Aquavit in the old Vintage location. Yeah maybe.

                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: keg

                                                                                      What may be missing here is a lack of old country culture due to American history and immigration.I grew up in Cleveland and Chicago and when the European's came over on the boat they stayed in the east coast and as far west as Chicago.Italians,poles,Czechs,Irish,eastern European's settled together and kept their culture alive,passing the old country culture down generation after generation with markets,restaurants,merchants,churches keeping the quality,prices,authenticity alive. I moved here 20 yrs. ago and found no culture outside of the se Asian culture.

                                                                                      There isn't a large enough old country heritage here keeping their culture alive.It's just really a disorganized melting pot of people that migrated here from other cities in the U.S. I certainly don't see much Scandinavian or german culture here and evidently they were the large cultures that immigrated here 1st from the old country.

                                                                                      Kramarczuk's is one authentic old country restaurant/market alive and well here,due to the NE MPLS eastern europeans that settled there and have kept it going along with others that have discovered it. But it's just one so they control the authenticity and could pull out the plug on it they wanted to.

                                                                                      1. re: shikken

                                                                                        Fully agree with you shikken. I like Kramarczuk's- good sausage and other treats, but they also control the price, too. On our trips to Chicago, I stop in at a couple of E European delis and load up on sausage, cheese and treats that are usually at least half the price of Kramaczuk's- with larger selection. I would say we do have larger populations of Hmong/Somali so we do have cuisine that supports those groups, but dwindling 'old country' groups as you say.

                                                                                        1. re: daniellempls

                                                                                          If you're anywhere near Eagan/Burnsville, there are 3 or 4 Russian and Eastern European markets that have wonderful sausages (and other stuff) at a fraction of the price of Kramarczuk's.

                                                                                          I'll be picking up some sausages at the Paradise Market (Parkview and Highway 13 in Burnsville, just behind the Dairy Queen) for the various Christmas activities.

                                                                                          1. re: MSPD

                                                                                            Good to know MSPD, I'll keep that in mind.

                                                                                            1. re: MSPD

                                                                                              Funny you mention this...There is a Paradise Market in Hopkins. I wonder if they are connected.

                                                                                      2. Also missing are good Asian and South Asian breakfast tea places which serve noodles, dim sum, and dosa.

                                                                                        Also also, charcoal cook your own Korean BBQ, Cajun, Indonesian.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: kuan

                                                                                          Dosa King serves awesome dosa, as does India Palace in Plymouth. Assuming "dosa" is the big Indian crepe-thing.

                                                                                          1. re: semanticantics

                                                                                            Yeah but they're not open for breakfast.

                                                                                        2. Folks who remember The Mud Pie might disagree, but I'd like to see a new pan-cultural vegetarian restaurant. I still miss things from their menu. Peanut butter dandies, the best veggie burger I've ever had, stir-fry of the day, kick-ass guacamole and really great beans of all varieties.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                                            +1 back at ya, MplsMary, ;) It was sooo nice to have a restaurant where you could eat anything on the menu and not violate your dietary principles.

                                                                                          2. We're missing the kind of mmmm-Mexican food I had last week at Frida's Bistro in Salt Lake City....

                                                                                            Huitlacoche Quesadillas, Blue-corn crusted calamari, the most amazing carnitas I've ever tasted, blood-orange + cinammon + guajillo margaritas...this is what Masa is trying and failing to be.

                                                                                            1. I've given up on the possibility of more seafood restaurants due to our location, but as long as cuisine from other regions is on the table, we could use more teriyaki restaurants like they have all over the Pacific NW. Oishi in Brooklyn Park is the only one I know of.

                                                                                              A great Jewish deli? I keep reading mixed reviews of the newcomers.

                                                                                              Oh - and a really great over-the-top dessert place that is open late. (and no, Cafe Latte, you don't come close. Sorry.)

                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: latte4me

                                                                                                I agree with the lack of teriyaki spots. When I lived in Seattle it always reminded me of Hawaii in regards to their affinity towards teriyaki.

                                                                                                Side note- any good Hawaiian restaurants?

                                                                                                1. re: Petey McNichols

                                                                                                  I hear United Noodles Deli has spam masubi!


                                                                                                  1. re: Petey McNichols

                                                                                                    Any good Hawaiian restaurants? Uh, no. No Hawaiian restaurants at all here, I'm pretty sure. United Noodles does carry frozen poi and a small selection of Hawaiian items, and I have seen taro leaves for sale at Dragon Star along with Okinawan sweet potatoes and breadfruit. It's easier to make Hawaiian food here than many other mainland areas, with the exception of the west coast. I don't eat spam musubi anymore, so I can't comment on the United Noodles version.

                                                                                                2. I'd love an Italian pastry shop full of freshly made cannoli, sfogliatelle (lobster tail), torrone, and cakes. There are other foods that I crave that I can't get here, but mostly because we are far from the ocean (steamers and fried clams with bellies).

                                                                                                  1. Fresh, innovative food in the suburbs.

                                                                                                    French food.

                                                                                                    Fresh seafood.

                                                                                                    Real deli food.

                                                                                                    Casual, mid-priced places with scratch cooking.

                                                                                                    Bakeries. More kinds - Rustica aside (amazing place). All-butter danish and coffeecakes. Great pumpernickel. Etc.

                                                                                                    1. An Italian Beef Sandwich. The ones I've had around here are an embarassment to the name. Like the Philly Cheesesteak, it isn't rocket science. But everyone I've had around here is either drier than the desert or the bun is so weak it can't handle the dip. It just shouldn't be that hard to get right.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: Db Cooper

                                                                                                        +1 on that! Not only are they bad but more surprisingly, why can't you get one with REAL Italian bread that is fresh?

                                                                                                      2. TWO things that we truly lack in the Twin Cities are these: FEWER bad restaurants; and FEWER mediocre chain restaurants!

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                                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                          >> TWO things that we truly lack in the Twin Cities are these: FEWER bad restaurants; and FEWER mediocre chain restaurants!

                                                                                                          That statement is true of every city in the country. Even the best places have plenty of bad restaurants and plenty of mediocre chains.

                                                                                                        2. Food that I seek out when I travel, and pine for here in MSP:

                                                                                                          - North African.

                                                                                                          - Spanish (real Spanish food, not "Mediterranean pseudo-tapas").

                                                                                                          - Good casual/inexpensive Italian.

                                                                                                          - World class Chinese.

                                                                                                          - West African.

                                                                                                          - Pan-Asian rice-bowl places, like the ones that abound in Portland - especially ones that offer brown rice as well as white rice under the veggies.

                                                                                                          - World class barbecue.

                                                                                                          - Upscale regional Mexican (although the Sonora Grill is a great start).

                                                                                                          - A real wine bar with a plenitude of affordable by-the-glass selections and good food.

                                                                                                          - French.

                                                                                                          - Good Turkish food (no, The Black Sea isn't it).

                                                                                                          - A classic deli (like Jake's in Milwaukee or the greats in NYC).

                                                                                                          - Fried chicken.

                                                                                                          Yes, you can find a token representative for most types of food, but without real competition, or demanding clientele, they suffer in comparison to other cities.

                                                                                                          I'm not complaining, though - the local food scene is a million times better than it was in my youth. I clearly recall when there were just a handful of "foreign food" restaurants in town. (Anyone else remember Jeremy Iggers' one-page list in the Many Corners newspaper?) Now I can't even begin to count all the places I want to try.

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                                                                                                          1. re: AnneInMpls

                                                                                                            Great post. Two thoughts: One, FRIED CHICKEN! You're right, where it it?; and two, the Twin Cities have really come a long way since I moved here 31 years ago. Back then, I was shocked by the lack of restaurants and the discovery that many people wouldn't dream of eating in one. We have come a long way since then!

                                                                                                            1. re: AnneInMpls

                                                                                                              I'd love to see a classic Spanish restaurant too! And like you, I recognize that the food scene has improved quite a bit since I moved here in 87. There are better restaurants and availability of ingredients too.

                                                                                                              1. re: AnneInMpls

                                                                                                                +1 more on the lack of Fried Chicken options.

                                                                                                              2. We are missing enough people that appreciate great food to support more great restaurants.. Happy New Year everyone..

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                                                                                                                1. re: ibew292

                                                                                                                  My chowpup is now 15 and I've been raising him on the great food that CAN be found here. Our most recent visit was to Sonora in Midtown Global Market. The pork bocadillo and tacos were something he craves now. The Hmong marketplace in St. Paul is my next choice. He loves dan dan noodles at Tea House. I want to turn him onto some great Pho. I absolutely love the stuff!

                                                                                                                  Also, he is so into making ramen, the prepackaged starvation college diet thingie. I've tried to get the kid to cook forever with me with fresh stuff...but no way. Now he's slicing up fresh limes (knife skills), getting out the Penzey's Hot Chili Pepper flakes and dousing the ramen with Sriachca sauce.

                                                                                                                  We picked up some Semolina flour to make fresh pasta for the New Year tomorrow. Hands on, lovely fresh pasta!

                                                                                                                  My point is, if you create chowpups/or turn on friends to good food, the marketplace will fill the need.

                                                                                                                  All hope is not lost. Happy New Year CH'ers!

                                                                                                                  Our food culture will evolve as we expose our children and others to the beauty of more flavors

                                                                                                                  1. re: justalex

                                                                                                                    Right on. The more people and support we can bring to the good food in this town, the more of it there will be. Happy New Year to you and your pasta maker!

                                                                                                                    1. re: LiaM

                                                                                                                      At the risk of reigniting the NY pizza and Philly cheese steak discussion, I really would like to see the following:

                                                                                                                      Ice Cream Parlor - I'm into all the knick knacks, like toppings, nuts, thick gooey sauces, rather than just ice cream. Cream sodas would be real special.
                                                                                                                      Soul Food - I'm bereft since Tahitianna's opened and closed.
                                                                                                                      Italian Bakery - Rum cake, freshly filled cannolli, with strong coffee
                                                                                                                      Central American Baked Chicken - Had a great time in Washington, D.C. last Summer trying out all the Salvadorean, Guatemalan holes in the walls with great chicken.

                                                                                                                      1. re: discus

                                                                                                                        I can only help you out in the Ice Cream Parlor department. Licks Unlimited in Excelsior is the ultimate in kitsch and just good, old fashioned hot fudge, sprinkles and the like. I believe their ice cream is probably Kemp's, but the trade-off is feeling like you stepped off in time to a 1960's ice cream shop. They probably don't re-open until sometime in April.

                                                                                                                        My major unfulfilled crave is spicy beef Jamaican patties as supplied by West Indies Soul. I tried Harry Singh's version and it was a sad, greasy ghost of what the patties were like at WIS. I'm holding out until August when I can have one again at their booth at the State Fair.

                                                                                                                        1. re: justalex

                                                                                                                          Aren't WIS jamaican patties a common brand? I wonder if you can mail order them or something. If you can figure out what brand they are. I don't remember, alas.

                                                                                                                          Unfortunately that caribbean store on lake street closed recently.


                                                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                            99% sure that WIS used the patties from Caribbean American Bakery in Chicago...they may mail...

                                                                                                                            1. re: mitch cumstein

                                                                                                                              I remember that WIS's patties had some word stamped on them, but I don't remember what they said. I poked around a little on CAB's website and couldn't tell from any of the pictures if there's writing on them. Do you know? They sure do sound good, though!


                                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                Thanks DQ and mitch for your suggestions. I'll be checking out the Chicago link.

                                                                                                                                The patties were stamped with Royal Carribean and I did find their website. I do love my patties, but they require next day air shipping and the cost was just a little too dear for my budget.

                                                                                                                                Byerly's in Minnetonka used to carry them. My request to bring them back has apparently fallen on deaf ears. I must've been the only customer buying them. :(

                                                                                                                                1. re: justalex

                                                                                                                                  Maybe we should all ask Byerly's to stock them again. BUt thanks for confirming that they were Royal Carribean brand. Now I know exactly what to look for...


                                                                                                                        2. re: discus

                                                                                                                          A place called Soul Food Heaven opened recently on Maryland Ave in St. Paul, near the Marydale Park. I haven't been yet, so I don't know if it is any good.

                                                                                                                          1. re: discus

                                                                                                                            Soul Food! I agree. I moved south for about 6 years and fell IN LOVE with good soul food. Sadly, I haven't found any place that does it justice here in MN yet.

                                                                                                                    2. Some national cuisines that are found in some other U.S. cities / metros (mainly larger than MSP), but not in Minneapolis:

                                                                                                                      > Burmese. Especially with the wave of Karen immigrants from Myanmar, you'd think there'd be a Burmese restaurant in Minneapolis. But no. It's a real loss, too, because Burmese food is a unique fusion of Southeast Asian and Indian cuisines.

                                                                                                                      > Filipino. Popular in California, Filipino food has yet to make its mark in Minnesota. There have been attempts at opening Filipino restaurants (Subo, K-Wok had some Filipino menu items) in MSP, but they have all failed.

                                                                                                                      > Uzbek / Central Asian. Several of these restaurants exist in New York, especially in the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens, and also Brighton Beach, where you can find Uyghur food ("Uyghurstan" is the western region of China populated by ethnic Central Asians).

                                                                                                                      > Regional Chinese. Other than Szechuan, I don't know of too many regional Chinese restaurants in the Twin Cities, which exist plenty of other places in the country with Chinatowns. Add regional Indian / South Asian (other than Southern Indian).

                                                                                                                      > Romanian. There are numerous Romanian restaurants in Chicago, but none in Minneapolis.

                                                                                                                      > Bosnian

                                                                                                                      > Costa Rican

                                                                                                                      > Yucatecan

                                                                                                                      > Bolivian

                                                                                                                      > Australian

                                                                                                                      > South African

                                                                                                                      1. You'd think the Japanese sushi/food scene may be getting a bit saturated here in the TC, but a Kaiten Sushi is missing. Imagine affordable sushi but not the offal the AYCE places throw in front of you. It would be a great transition from the low end AYCE to the high end expensive places.

                                                                                                                        1. My 2 cents after moving here from Chicago a year and a half ago:

                                                                                                                          - a good cheap Italian deli - house made mozzarella, pastas, olive oil, meats, etc. (i still can't find a decent italian sausage or sub)
                                                                                                                          - fast food dives / hot dogs / italian beef "types" of places (i don't need an Italian Beef-only place and wouldn't expect to find one here but the type of place that has great, greasy fast food. If they're here, there needs to be more of them).
                                                                                                                          - delis - why is this so hard?
                                                                                                                          - how about more delivery options? what the hell?

                                                                                                                          I can deal with some of the other stuff. Pizza is fine here. When I was in Chicago, I was a pizza snob and would only order from a few places but I've found some decent places here. A shout out to Frankie's Chicago style pizza in St. Louis Park is in order.

                                                                                                                          I've been very happy with the bread and bakery items - probably better than Chicago in all honesty (baguette selection is much better than Chicago). Burgers are good. Found some decent Mexican options. Same with Chinese. Thai is hit or miss (mostly miss) but it's not the end of the world. Overall though, the food scene is pretty decent here, it's just not enough of it. Someone upthread mentioned that you have to drive all over town to fill your needs but that's kind of the deal with small cities (I don't like it much either). You just eat at home more. It's not Chicago, NYC, LA, SF but it's not too bad.

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                                                                                                                          1. re: tyrus

                                                                                                                            With regard to Italian beef places, my issue is with the lack of good condiment. I can't find a place with freshly ground horseradish, just some bland white stuff diluted with mayonnaise or something equally horrendous. Horseradish makes for good beef, and will make not so good beef much more acceptable.

                                                                                                                            1. re: discus

                                                                                                                              horseradish is not traditionally a condiment for chicago style italian beef though...sweet or hot. Dipped or not(or double) combo or plain. Thats it.

                                                                                                                              1. re: discus

                                                                                                                                Bubbie's. No mayo, no chemicals/fake stuff. Or buy a root and grate your own!

                                                                                                                            2. One word: Yoshinoya (aka Beef Bowl). I wish someone would open a concept like this. Yes, it's greasy and probably not that good for you (although they do have healthier options now), but this stuff tastes SO good after a night a drinking (or anytime for that matter) :)

                                                                                                                              2 Replies