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Feb 8, 2012 04:50 AM

What Not To Miss - A Weekend in MSP

We are staying at Aloft and attending a wedding at the MacNamara Center. We hope to visit the Stone Arch Bridge despite the cold and Walker Art Center or another museum.

When considering food, what is NOT TO MISS....a foodie haven, donut shack, sushi spots, diners? Tea room? Place for sublime desserts? The best Bloody Mary's??

We have 1 dinner (but are pretty set on Sanctuary or Sea of Change based in my previous post with super recs) , 2 lunches and 2 breakfasts. We will not have a car. I don't eat meat.

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  1. Mesa, Keys (diner/cafe food), Hell's Kitchen, Mission America

    13 Replies
    1. re: danionavenue

      I don't really understand your list, Danion. Are those what you think are the "not miss" places in Minneapolis that are walkable (or a short drive) from Aloft? I'm curious to hear your reasoning. Keys Cafe is very small local chain that does indeed serve diner-style food (pancakes, burgers, etc.). At best, it's competent and inexpensive but hardly exciting or even of very good quality.

      I don't know what "Mesa" is -- do you mean Masa?

      "Mission America" -- are you referring to Mission American Kitchen? That place isn't too bad, as I recall from my last visit four years ago, but other than the brief interludes when it has featured a renowned chef, it's been pretty much under the radar for middle-of-the-road, unexciting presentations of contemporary American food.

      Hell's Kitchen is a recommendation I'd agree with -- it's an exceptional venue for breakfast or brunch (reservations strongly recommended on weekends), with one-of-a-kind attitude and decor. However, I'd also caution the OP that it's a long walk from Aloft (though a short cab ride).

      I would recommend instead some places that might better fit the OP's criteria -- Saffron or 112 Eatery (a short cab ride) -- for creative, chef-driven menus with a variety of small plate options. Saffron presents a refined dining spin on Middle Eastern food, and 112 Eatery is run by James Beard award-winning chef Isaac Becker. At 112 Eatery, the butterscotch budino dessert, if it's on the menu, is a don't miss.

      Sea Change is an excellent choice and quite convenient to your hotel. For sushi, a few very good choices that are both a short cab ride away are Masu Sushi & Robata (across the river in the "nordeast" area) and Origami. If you go to Masu, you might want to check out a few gourmet grocery standouts that are nearby -- Lund's Market and Surdyk's Wine & Cheese. You can get some nice prepared meals from either one -- I'd give the edge to Surdyk's, though Lund's is a more comprehensive grocer.

      1. re: Jordan

        Jordan all of these places are downtown and you can get breakfast and/or lunch at all of them and this person needs spots for 2 lunches and 2 breakfasts. The person also asked for a diner of sorts and keys is the best place for that downtown IMO. Origami is my favorite spot for sushi.

        1. re: danionavenue

          The OP also asked for standout food, not just a rundown of a few places that might be open. The Aloft hotel is also not comfortably close to downtown for walking in inclement weather.

          1. re: Jordan

            I would got to Sanctuary for dinner. Jordan would you have me send them to Grumpy's? Seriously. Masa, Hell's kitchen, Key's, and Mission American are all very nice and closer to Aloft than 112 I guesstimate. Why are you so snarky?

            1. re: danionavenue

              I'm not being snarky, and I apologize if that's how I am coming off -- I really feel that your recommendations are a disservice to the OP and bypass some excellent local restaurants in favor of run-of-the-mill stuff. I did ask if you would at least explain your recommendations -- it's still not really clear if you are recommending these places because you think they are "NOT TO MISS" (in the words of the OP) or if they're just the only places in the general area you're familiar with.

              1. re: Jordan

                The reason Mission American came to mind is because of their bloody mary's. I like all of these places and they all have breakfast and/or lunch. To each their own.

              2. re: danionavenue

                No disrespect danionave, but I'm afraid I agree with Jordan (probably much to his chagrin, ha!) that I wouldn't put Key's in the "What Not to Miss" category. It's not even particularly close to where the OP is staying (and they don't have a car...).

                Instead, I'd send them to Spoonriver for brunch. Very vegetarian-friendly. And conveniently located to Aloft (if Aloft is where I think it is by Gold Medal Park???)

                I agree with the recommendation of Hells Kitchen for breakfast, but only for breakfast (their lunches and dinners aren't much to write home about). But, expect to wait at HK. And you'll need to take a cab.

                Also, OP, I just wanted to provide a gentle correction that the name of the restaurant is Sea Change, not Sea of Change.

                I agree with Jordan's recommendation for 112 or Saffron if the OP changes her mind about Sea Change and Sanctuary for dinner (112 and Saffron are open only for dinner).

                I see that the OP is going to the Walker. Depending on about a thousand different variables, you might consider the lounge at La Belle Vie for an early dinner perhaps (since it's so near the Walker)?

                As far as those other foodie destinations (Al's breakfast in Dinkytown comes to mind), I'm reluctant to put those out there because most of those kinds of places will require the OP to take a cab.


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I agree with your comments, DQ. I'm also reluctant to recommend places that are farther afield, because Minneapolis cabs are notoriously expensive.

                  Spoonriver isn't bad for breakfast or lunch -- although I usually find it a bit bland. But it definitely offers healthy and meat-free options. There's also the restaurant at the Walker -- Gather. I haven't eaten there, but the feedback I've seen has been pretty positive. They have both lunch and dinner menus.

                  1. re: Jordan

                    I know what you mean about Spoonriver. It's lovely food, but not always bold flavors. I hate to say it (because it makes it sound like I eat too much, which I probably do), but I sometimes find the portions at Spoonriver to be a bit...delicate. If you go, keep in mind that the portions are small and not that filling. It's a lovely setting, though.

                    P.S. I haven't been to Gather (at the Walker) yet, either. But, I'm curious! So, OP, if you go, please do report back. Apologies if you've told us and I overlooked it, but OP, where are you visiting from? That might help us narrow down the things we think would be worth sending you in a cab across town for...


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Thanks all, we are from Cape Cod and head to MSP for a winter wedding.

                      We arrive into MSP around 9 Friday.

                      We need late night near/walk to Aloft (Washington Street) Friday after a LONG day, so will do Sea Change or Sanctuary or Origami.

                      We want to walk a lot Saturday unless it's frigid. Sat. lunch could be near the Walker or Uptown, don't know. We are also going to see the Stone Arch Bridge. Random I know but we are touristas. We then get ready for the wedding at the MacNamara Center.

                      Brunch I think Sunday Hells Kitchen or Haute Dish Sunday. We then fly home.

                      1. re: phelana

                        Spoonriver might be just the ticket for you on Saturday morning, then. It will be nice and serene and walkable. Only problem is, it doesn't open until 10am, which might feel late for you (especially with the 1 hour time difference)...

                        I don't know much about Level 5 express in the Guthrie, but that could be another option earlier Sat morning if you just wanted coffee and a pastry


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          By the way, if you're up for a little walking (on both ends), you might be able to walk to the lightrail and access some more restaurants from there... I'll see if i can provide a link later.


                    2. re: Jordan

                      Gather doesn't serve dinner. They do have a small plates menu on Thursday nights because the museum is open until 9. It is an excellent lunch choice.

        2. Phelana, I heartily endorse your plan to walk the Stone Arch Bridge. It's not random at all - it's a beautiful park (yes, it belongs to the park board), and it's one of my favorite places to send visitors.

          There are some food choices directly on the other side of the bridge, but nothing that's "can't miss" except for Restaurant Alma, which is stellar, but you say that you've already planned your one dinner. Wilde Roast Cafe in Riverplace is attractive and cozy for a beverage or casual lunch - I liked (not loved) their food in the old location, but haven't been to their new riverside place.

          If you're in the mood for a LONG walk, you could continue on towards Hennepin Ave & University SE, where you can find Surdyks and Lunds (mentioned above), as well as a few other possibilities for lunch - Punch Pizza, Pizza Nea, Brasa (lovely food; borders on stellar, but has very limited vegetarian choices), and more.

          But for a stellar lunch that's walkable from the hotel... Hmmmm. Me, I'd hop a bus/cab or put on my long-distance shoes and head to Be'wiched for amazing soup and excellent sandwiches. (Note that board opinions for this place vary, but I'm a long time fan.) Call or check the online menu first, though - they tend to put bacon in lots of dishes.

          Another favorite that's too far to walk, but is vastly more vegetarian friendly: Birchwood Cafe. (It's on a bus line, but a cab would be a lot easier.) It's about 3 miles downriver from your hotel - bring a good map if you do attempt the walk, because it's buried on neighborhood streets.

          A breakfast at Hell's Kitchen is a good idea. I adore Al's Breakfast in Dinkytown, but (as others have said) it's not very close to your hotel (it's doable on a nice day, but plan ahead). Skip Key's - it's not very vegetarian-friendly, and the food is okay but not great (and I'm a major Key's fan).

          For other "don't miss" ideas, check out this thread started by nxtasy. He visited last fall and got around by public transportation.

          P.S. When you're near the Stone Arch Bridge, be sure to also visit the Guthrie Theater's "Endless Bridge" - the protuberance that juts out towards the river. It's free and open any time the Guthrie's doors are open. If you have drinks or food at Sea Change, you'll be right there.

          4 Replies
          1. re: AnneInMpls

            I once took a ton of heat from a couple of vegetarians for saying Brasa is not very vegetarian-friendly. The rotisserie meats are, of course, not vegetarian-friendly, but Brasa has a couple of sandwiches and a ton of delicious sides that are. Many of their sides are also vegan friendly and most everything is gluten-free. Brasa's food is meant to be "shared and sampled" family-style (and I know this because it says so right on their menu) so I think the way to go for a vegetarian is to order a bunch of the "sides" and combine that into a meal. Here's a link to their vegetarian menu. The walk is about a mile and a half (each way), per mapquest . Brasa's chef is a James Beard Best Chef Midwest Winner (for his restaurant Alma).

            By the way, presumably, OP, you eat seafood? Otherwise, you might find Sea Change a little limiting...


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              thanks..I eat fish...lots of of ideas, wow...much, just wish the warmer winter temps MSP has been experiencing would stay looks positively frigid

              1. re: phelana

                I wouldn't suppose it would help matters to say we've had a particularly mild winter this year...but, yes, it's suddenly taken a turn for the cold here recently. If you were visiting in summer, you'd be wonderfully located for visiting the Mill City Farmers Market which has an awesome food truck among other things...but not this time of year alas.


              2. re: The Dairy Queen

                Thanks, TDQ, for the gentle, heat-free correction about the veg-friendliness of Brasa's sides! I must be remembering past sides with meat (long ago). Because I always get the one with smoked turkey (collards!), I hadn't noticed that the rest are non-meaty now. It's great that they have a specific veg menu. I gotta try some of those other sides again - esp the spicy, creamy spinach.

            2. I live a few blocks from Aloft and suggest that a great destination at the other end of the Stone Arch Bridge for breakfast or lunch is the Wilde Roast Cafe. Just turn left after you cross the bridge and follow the street -- it's not far. Birchwood Cafe on 25th Street is also a great breakfast or lunch spot but it's about 2.5 miles by foot along the West River Parkway. Nice walk, though, if the weather's decent. Almost all uphill going, therefore downhill going back. The Open Book across Washington from Aloft has a nice cafe with a small breakfast and lunch menu. If you like book arts, stop in and check out the gallery and shop. Spill the Wine, also across Washington Ave from Aloft, has lunch and a Sunday brunch. I haven't eaten there yet (we only moved to Minneapolis from Maine in December) but have heard good things.

              6 Replies
              1. re: MaineAppetite

                How terrific to have some recommendations from someone from the neighborhood. I was going to recommend that Open Book cafe, actually, except that I haven't been there in about 1000 years, so it's great to have a fresh recommendation for that place. I'm glad it's still good. Welcome to the Twin Cities.


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  Thanks! We are loving the Twin Cities. And we're pleased to find so much good food here. Being from Portland, Maine, which has one of the highest numbers of restaurants per capita in the nation, we were prepared for a let down. Not so!

                  1. re: MaineAppetite

                    Thanks all..I need to synthesize all of this...MaineAppetite, can we walk to Stone Arch Bridge from Aloft.

                    1. re: phelana

                      It's a very reasonable walk to the Stone Arch Bridge, Mill City Museum , and Guthrie (ie., Sea Change), and Spoonriver from where you'll be. There's another restaurant or two (Kindee Thai for instance) in that general area, but no one's mentioned them because they aren't super amazing. If you wanted to visit some of the more downtown restaurants (many of which aren't open during the day on weekends but some are, several of which were mentioned by danionavenue as the first post in this thread) you could walk 4-5 blocks from Aloft to the lightrail stop at the Metrodome and take the train to, say, the Nicollet stop. You'd probably have to walk 4-5 blocks at the Nicollet end, too.


                      1. re: phelana

                        Yes, it's an easy four block walk to the bridge. Go down 2nd instead of Washington and turn right on Portland.

                        Right by your hotel is the Mill City Museum - worth a visit!

                  2. re: MaineAppetite

                    I work over in NE and really like Wilde Roast for breakfast (gouda hashbrowns!). Another place in that riverwalk area that serves breakfast is the Astor cafe. Sweet spot, more limited menu, but a nice vibe. If you wander a little father up along Hennepin, definitely hit up the deli at Surdyks. Great soups, sandwiches and cheese. Oh, the cheese.

                  3. If you want a SPECTACULAR view of the Stone Arch bridge (and the MPLS skyline), when you go into the Guthrie Theater for Sea Change, make your way up to the Dowling Studio. Little-known tip - it's open until 10:00 p.m.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: MSPD

                      +1 on this. That view is gorgeous... and I do like Sea Change's food, although their hostessing left A LOT to be desired the last time I was there. Hope the OP has a great trip!

                    2. We LOVED Gather. Mind you, I was sick as a dog BUT ventured out around 11 to the Walker Art Center in the splintering cold of MSP. It was surreal, as if Canada was pumping icy area into MSP. I digress, the museum was amazing and Gather was the topping on the cake of this amazing day. The staff all around are great. Our waitress Andi was amazing. She made recommendations that were spot on. The beet salad with asparagus and pistachios was heaven. I loved my grilled corn empanadas. My daughter enjoyed her tomato soup with grilled WI cheddar. Oh the bread basket with sweet butter was lovely...and finally, the Guinness Gingerbread was pure ambrosia. WOW...

                      We had dinner at the wedding and Sunday AM I was too sick to eat so we cancelled our brunch res at Spoonriver.

                      Gather and Origami were amazing...thanks all for the superb recs.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: phelana

                        Thanks for reporting back! I haven't been to Gather, but I like the Walker and will make a point of eating there next time I visit.

                        1. re: phelana

                          Yep, the icy air is courtesy of Canada.

                          I'm so glad you liked Gather. I shall move it higher on my list! Sorry to hear you weren't feeling well, though.