Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Minneapolis-St. Paul >
May 6, 2012 02:29 AM

How Do MSP restaurants compare to Chicago, Dallas, Miami, San Francisco Rests??

just trying to get a feel for how the restaurant scene here compares to elsewhere. are we minor league, major league or somewhere in between in terms of quality, variety, innovation.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. From the perspective of anyone who values the local foods movement (locavore) MSP is well advanced, partially I believe due to a strong presence of cooperatives and farmer's markets. Considering the population and the climate, I'd say we're small market major league. I'd love to think we could win the pennant.

    1 Reply
    1. re: keg

      Hopes springs eternal!

      Just got back from a long weekend in Philadelphia and New York City. While noshing a pizza in Queens, I looked across the street and ticked off two Chinese takeouts, two Kosher restaurants, one deli, one Korean restaurant and two fruit/vegetable stands. Two days later, my wife and I counted 10 high end restaurants during a 20 minute after dinner stroll through our old South Philly neighborhood.

      It'll be like the last playoffs against the Yankees. Sorry.

    2. I agree with discus. For our market size, I think we do quite well, and perhaps on a "per capita" basis, MSP may be near the top. We're certainly blessed with some excellent talent. But I don't think we're in the same league as NYC, Philly, LA, SF, or Chicago. I don't know the restaurant scene well enough in cities other than those to compare MSP to.

      That being said, there's a "Bar La Grassa" in virtually ever major city. While I consider it one of the best restaurants in MSP, I doubt BLG (or any other of our top 5 restaurants) would crack a top ten list in the bigger markets like SF, Chicago, NYC, and Philly.

      Personally, I think the "locavore" issue is overblown. Yes, it's great if we can support the local food movement. But first and foremost, dishes need to be high quality and well executed. To that end, I don't care if the ingredients came from 1 mile away or 1000, as long as it tastes great. If it tastes great and it's all local, well, fantastic. But if it's local and is poorly executed, then being local doesn't matter much.

      We have some very good individual restaurants. But as a whole team, I think we're going to get swept.

      1 Reply
      1. re: foreverhungry

        Overblown if it's poorly executed, yes. But an unfair advantage if the execution is tight.

      2. Somewhere in between. One thing to consider is, regardless of where you live in the cities, you are a short drive to a very good meal. LA and SF have some fabulous restaurants. But if you live in La Mirada, Manhattan Beach or near SFO, that doesn't do you a lot of good on a day-to-day basis. Our restaurant scene is tethered to neighborhoods moreso than destination spots.

        But yeah, people go to those Chicago to eat and shop. As such, they not only attract the best chefs, but have a tourist economy that supports chefs who can charge $185 a meal. Comparing apples to apples (fine dining at a middle-of-the-road price range) we do very well, especially on a per capita basis.

        6 Replies
        1. re: kevin47

          the Blackbird in Chicago is much better.

          1. re: zfwp

            Assuming that Chicago's restaurant scene consists of more than one kitchen, can you say a little more about what you mean?

            1. re: zfwp

              The Blackbird is 20% more expensive than any non-steakhouse in the Cities.

            2. re: kevin47

              I think any discussion like this needs to note the history of MSP restaurants too. When I first moved here back in the 80's after having done time in New Orleans, among other places, people were telling me that Perkins was awesome, fantastic food, unbelievable creativity. You'd think the place had a Michelin star or three. Imagine how disappointed I was when I eagerly found one to try it. ;)

              And this was at a time when other cities had already had awesome restaurants for decades. No one says that about Perkins anymore. The quality of restaurants over time has gone up exponentially. And there's a LOT of money in MSP - enough, in my admittedly armchair opinion, to easily support at least one world-class restaurant. I wouldn't be surprised if, barring some disaster like another economic depression, we got one in the next couple of decades or so.

              1. re: shadowfax

                The 80's weren't as bleak as Perkins! Who were these people?

                I enjoyed many meals at Pronto. They had an exceptional antipasti tower. Cocolezzone, Rupert's American Cafe, August Moon, Muffalleta and Bona (for Vietnamese) were quite good. Figlio had just opened and was fairly creative for the time. What else? Rainbow Chinese was brand new, I believe Blue Nile opened sometime in the 80's and the Black Forest and Gasthof were certainly in business.

                Was there the diversity, quality and creativity we see today? Certainly not. But I, for one, did not dine at Perkins.

                1. re: justalex

                  I didn't mean to suggest that Perkins actually WAS the pinnacle of dining in MSP. More that a lot of people THOUGHT it was. As the diners got more exposure to better food, the demand for better food went up, leading to the current scene.

            3. In terms of food we are major league compared to the cities you list, except maybe San Francisco. Really the quality of the restaurant food and variety here are excellent.

              In terms of service we are minor league. Very friendly, but also not so good. I have said this before and always get lots of disagreement, but I still believe it to be true. The restaurants here have huge turnover and still seem to employ mostly students, starving artists, and other folks who don't really want to be doing the job. There are only a handful of top-notch, career minded service professionals in the Twin Cities. In bigger cities there just seem to be a lot more of them.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Michael Florey

                Busier high end dining=better quality service through steady income. Having only a handful of high end restaurants debilitates the training ground for polished and professional servers. Service is only ever as good as someone holds someone accountable to, and the standard isnt there for that in this community. My biggest grief in msp is that everyone wants the chi/sf/nyc level restaurants but then thinks they are too expensive to support them frequently. Good ingredients cost money!! Restaurants are expensive to run!! we need to get over it. We lack a population density to support a large amount of places. As for the execution of what we do have? really a lot of underwhelming aspects. But, we look great on paper, and that is a start. Locavore, farm to table, sushi, steak, fine dining, who cares if it isnt executed well, from food to service to atmosphere...Travel and exploration will help people understand where we really are in terms of the national standard, which, really isn't very high either, so it's not like we have a lot of ground to make up.

                1. re: Michael Florey

                  To comment again on this point of Michael's that I agree with... I just returned from a long weekend in New York City. Ate at Marea (Michelin two star), Tulsi (one star), and Stanton Social. Yes, the service at all three was on a higher plane than we typically see in the Twin Cities. But I also have to add that these retaurants (are able to) employ more service staff than their Twin Cities counterparts do.

                  Service at restaurants in those other cities tends to be more specialized, while Twin Cities servers perform all the functions of serving the table.

                2. Michael and mitch make some solid points. Gastronomically, we do pretty well. We don't have as many great options as the other cities, but we do okay per capita. And here's where mitch's point about density comes into play. Without the population density, and, I would add, tourist traffic, we can only support so many places at the higher end.

                  And Michael's lamentation about service is also true. The good servers we have are very good. There just aren't as many of them. But we also have some who make up in earnestness what they lack in knowledge and experience.