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Apr 21, 2012 08:19 PM

Twin Cities visit (MSP)

My wife and I are making our first visit to the Twin Cities (discounting my brief trip in 1977) for about 2 days and 3 evenings before heading to Rochester. We will be staying at Graves 601.

I tend to favor the New American school of food along with local available options otherwise not usually available. We live in central California (the uncool part of the state but not that far from San Francisco) so we don't need Mexican, Korean, Chinese. We want some nice dinners with food most important but we also like wine. I am considering Alma, 112 and Corner Table for dinner. We would be interested also in Vietnamese, possibly favoring the (yeah, right) "authentic." knowing that is the unreachable ideal (and I am not really interested in drinking live snake blood or the like - long story). So I will probably willingly eat at Ngon Bistro for the pho and banh mi.

Are these choices reasonable? I cannot find anything recent about Corner Table. I might like some truly "local" options and cheap breakfast/lunch options including some gastropub options, burgers, etc. Thanks, Tom Hall

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  1. I would add Bachelor Farmer to your list of possibilities based on "new American" (or Scandi-sotan) and also because you mention wine--they do a cool wine share thing where you can get a glass of any bottle and the rest goes on a chalkboard for consumption likewise.
    As far as local, you've got Alex Roberts' Alma on your list--he's one of our big guns. Another of his resto's is Brasa which IMO is always a reliable and yummy lunch choice, get the beef.
    Also notable local food/chef: Piccolo, Tilia, Heartland (st.paul), Saffron. I'm sure others will chime in...

    Food trucks would be a fun cheap and hyper-local idea and it makes for good downtown exploring, but get on that one early, especially if it's a nice day. TCstreetfood on twitter for a locate on them on any given day.

    13 Replies
    1. re: splatgirl

      I can't believe I didn't mention Travail. If you can tolerate their crazy flavor of busy, it's a MUST.

      Also +1 for Sun Street Breads for breakfast.

      1. re: splatgirl

        Skip Travail and go to Victory 44 where the boys a Travail cut their teeth.. Also I don't get Sun Street Breads biscuits hard as rocks...

        1. re: ibew292

          Victory 44 is a fine suggestion, but lots of chefs have worked in other kitchens and gone on to equal or even eclipse their former place of employment.

          1. re: semanticantics

            V44 is as good as it was when the Travail boys were there...

            1. re: ibew292

              Second this. Maybe not as 'hip' right now and the food isn't always as adventurous, but they are doing great work.

      2. re: splatgirl

        So how does one choose between Bar la Grassa and 112 given that they have the same executive chef?

        1. re: Tom Hall

          I think it depends on what you want. Bar La Grassa has more of an Italian focus - lots of bruschetta and pastas. 112 Eatery is more new American. Personally, I prefer Bar La Grassa, but 112 is also very, very good.

          1. re: Tom Hall

            Also, BLG is larger, more bustling, etc. You could always do both... :o)

            1. re: Brad Ballinger

              I have to say that the MSP chowhounds are among the most friendly and interactive that I have met. It is rare that I have too many places to go in the time available but that has happened here. It will be 3 dinners at Alma, BLG and piccolo. We will fill in the nooks and crannies with all of the other great options plus the art museums and all the other Twin Cities options. One gripe: taxis look to be rather expensive. I know that is not your fault. Thanks for everything. Tom Hall

              1. re: Tom Hall

                Yes, sorry. This Minnesotan is ever apologetic for the cost of a cab here. OTOH, we're very walk and bike friendly. The niceridemn bikes could be a cab alternative for you if the weather is nice.

                1. re: Tom Hall

                  You could always take a bus to the restaurants, they really aren't that far with the exception of Piccolo, which isn't downtown.

                  I personally love 112, which is a super easy walk from your hotel.

                  1. re: Tom Hall

                    Yeah, public transportation is not our strong suit. I usually recommend renting a car. The daily rental is probably less than it would cost you to cab it everywhere and it definitely keeps your options open.

                    Oh, and excellent choices! I don't think you'll be disappointed.

                    1. re: Tom Hall

                      We're proud of the dining options we have here in "flyover country." You will enjoy your dinner options very much. The cafes at the Walker Art Museum and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts have both undergone recent makeovers, and are getting good reveiws, FWIW.

                      The street level bar in your hotel, Bradstreet Crafthouse, is a good place to start or conclude your evenings. They really kick-started the craft cocktail movement in the Twin Cities.

              2. I'd add Piccolo to your list. I'd replace Corner Table with it. They also have a good wine list (the online wine list is a small portion -- the good stuff is on the printed list at the restaurant). Wine list at Alma also good. Don't recall much about the list at 112. If you are in town on a weeknight, I'd drive out to Travail and wait in line for the doors to open at 5:00. Their wine list, however, isn't much. But they will let you bring your own.

                Breakfast options should include Sun Street Breads. And, for a true Twin Cities experience, Al's Breakfast. Some lunch options on the other side of the river into Northeast (the same general direction as Alma) are Bulldog NE for burgers and Kramarczuk's deli.

                If you just want a nice bottle of wine at unbelieveably prices, and a good view of the city, head to Vic's Dining, just on the other side of the river.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Brad Ballinger

                  +1 on Piccolo, really interesting food and even when they miss the mark, you gotta give them a break for aiming high. They've got passion for food and skills to back up their creative forays.

                  1. re: Brad Ballinger

                    I love the list at piccolo, but like brad says, don't go by the pedestrian one online only, its pretty deep and full of value when you get there. But, I'd replace 112 with piccolo, but maybe thats just being a local, and the menu never changing. If it were my first time, maybe I would feel differently.
                    I just read this article about corner table, so it's higher on my list to try....

                    1. re: mitch cumstein

                      Thanks for that link. That's new info. The place had been in a sort of limbo after Scott Pampuch left.

                      1. re: Brad Ballinger

                        Ugh - we went to Corner Table once and I wouldn't go back any time soon. Had a pasta special that was just ok, but the cost was probably 2-3x more than Bar La Grassa and the portion size half as much. Not impressed. Really wanted to love it too, given all the good reviews.

                        1. re: Seige

                          I haven't been, but just saw Stewart Woodman posting good things about the new Corner Table today as well.

                      2. re: mitch cumstein

                        Yeah, I read that and it made me consider going to Corner Table but I see that piccolo gets a lotta love here. There is NO WAY that I want to go to Travail and wait for a table. I hate that game.

                        1. re: mitch cumstein

                          And it looks like the new owner is posting the menu, something that didn't get done as much as it should have when everything was in flux.


                      3. Since you're staying at the Graves, you'll want to try Cosmos - a brilliant blend of food, chemistry and architecture. Since you mentioned Alma, you should by all means try it. It is one of the best foodie-oriented restaurants in The Cities. For authentic Vietnamese, cruise East University Ave (pardon the light rail construction) and you've got your choice of dozens of possibilities. Have fun!

                        1. So I have done some more reading. Are there any favorite regular/traditional Vietnamese places? Tom Hall

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Tom Hall

                            Pho Tau Bay on Eat Street 2837 Nicollet Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55408

                          2. Tilia for lunch is an excellent idea. Hits on the gastropub theme you like and a nice neighborhood to walk around in and then down to see Lake Harriet. Actually, I take it back, this is a must do. A somewhat comparable outing would be to do Lucia's for lunch and then walk through Uptown and over to Calhoun and Lake of the Isles.

                            You might also consider In Season as a substitution for Corner Table.

                            And I'm always a fan of Quang for Vietnamese.