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Favorite Restaurant to bring out-of-town guests?

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We often have friends visiting us here in the Twin Cities who are coming from places like Boston, NYC, LA, and San Francisco. With all the good food you can get in those cities, where do you like to take out of town guests to show them the Twin Cities food scene? We often do places like Brasa, Broders, and Isles Bun, and those seem to be a hit, but would love more suggestions. We live just west of Mpls but are willing to drive as far east as St. Paul and don't mind driving south toward the airport either. I'm looking for any recommendations--fancy dining (entrees $25 and up) to the best cheap eats. Thanks in advance!!

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  1. How about cuisine they're unlikely to have experienced out there? The Twin Cities has some of the biggest Hmong and Ethiopian/Somali/Oromo populations in the U.S. You might consider restaurants like Fasika (ambience as well as good food), Cheng Heng (more Cambodian than Hmong, but somewhat comparable cuisine), Asian Deli (lunches only), and the restaurant at Sun Foods (Dale & University; it's instructional to wander the aisles, too). Maybe one of the Tibetan restaurants in town.

    In the realm of fancier restaurants, I don't think you'd go wrong with a visit to Heidi's 2.0 or Heartland or Travail, to name a few places.

    1. For higher end, Alma is always my first choice. I would probably add Piccolo to that list as well, if your friends are on the adventurous side. Tilia is great, but the no-res policy can be a bummer.

      Saffron is another good spot. Great combination of food and cocktail quality.

      1. I'd add In Season or Lucia's to the other good suggestions given for higher end places. In the summer, I'd hit The Tin Fish to show off Lake Calhoun.

        1. I almost always end up taking people to Ngon Bistro, as it demonstrates a true strength of the area (Vietnamese food), a commitment to local sources (for food and beer), and really tasty food. It doesn't hurt that the atmosphere in the restaurant is quite pleasant, as well. I tend toward a St. Paul-centric view based on where I live, and I like that it's not super expensive.

          1. Heidi's, Alma, 112, Bar la Grassa and Saffron. Sea Salt, if it's a beautiful day.

            1. Thanks all, for your recommendations! I do feel I have a good handful of higher end restaurants. I like the idea of the various ethnic restaurants. Anyone have any other cheap/moderate places they like to bring guests? Places for brunch?

              3 Replies
              1. re: rifoodie2

                What about Punch or Black Sheep for something cheap? For brunch, I'd second Lucia's and my last two out of town guests I've taken to Red Stag for brunch.

                1. re: rifoodie2

                  I agree with Lucia's for brunch or lunch. Tilia is also a fantastic brunch spot, and in my experience it's a little easier to get a table at brunch than at dinner (especially if you can do brunch on the earlier side). And, if it's too long a wait, you can always walk down the block to Zumbro, which is not quite as fantastic but is still pretty solid.

                  1. re: rifoodie2

                    Little Szechuan on University in Saint Paul is great. It's not amazingly cheap, but most dishes are about $12, and it's great for groups and sharing. Really good selection of interesting and unusual dishes, but plenty of things for less adventurous eaters, as well. (There's an American Chinese menu, too, which is well executed - but stick to the Szechuan for a better experience.) I recommend the Taste of Szechuan Chicken, Dry Sauteed Green Beans, and Dan Dan Noodles, especially. Quick Fried Crispy Fish and Chung King Chili Beef or Chicken are also excellent.

                    It's a little awkward to get there with the construction on University, but that means they need the business even more.

                  2. Meritage. The atmosphere is lively and the food is great. Good options for meat and fish/seafood. I also think that area of downtown St. Paul is scenic with the Ordway, etc.

                    Not fancy, but Bar La Grassa is also a good place for guests. Sharing plates and a bustling scene make for a fun night. (I am not saying that BLG competes with the best Italian NY, Boston, SF has to offer, but it's a nice atmosphere to entertain guests.)

                    1. As a former visitor to Minneapolis, I enjoyed Piccolo the most, it is really one of a kind. And I loved the gestalt of Gasthaus Gemutlichkeit, nothing like it in Tokyo or Los Angeles. A special mention for Tin Fish, my friend took me there straight from the airport on a hot summer day, and I somehow got the idea I wanted to live here, so be careful who you take there.

                      1. A few years ago, I took my visiting family to Chimborazo. They now demand to go there on each and every visit (every 4 months or so). There's no argument from me - I *love* this place! It's tops on my "cheap and fabulous eats" list.

                        (They really liked Ngon and Brasa, too.)

                        1. 112, La Grassa, Butcher and the Boar.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: liverpoolandonions

                            i think the Lakeside in mahtomedi has an old school minnesota vibe... the menu is even printed on the place-mat!

                          2. I would get some Bahn Mi from a good Vietnamese and ride around the Lakes. I live in St. Paul so I like Saigon, but I think there's a thread about a few good sandwich places in Mpls/Uptown/Eat Street.
                            As a recent resident of MN, I love the local food neighborhood restaurants like Sample Room in NE, Birchwood in Seward, Heidi's and Lucia's. Timing is important on these since they can be busy. I second Gasthaus and Chimbarazo's, too. Amazing Thai for happy hour sticker shock (in a good way). A picnic with some Holy Land by the river would be nice too!