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

  • m

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.

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  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.

                  1. I think that in terms of value, MSP is fantastic for fine dining. Food of comparable quality is so much more expensive in larger cities, probably because the markets there tolerate a higher price point. At the lower end of the market we don't measure up so well, with the possible exception of the Vietnamese and Hmong restaurant scene.

                    We are, however, unusually blessed with co-op markets, CSA subscriptions and farmer's markets with reasonable prices. It's a good place for the avid home cook.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Quince

                      Quince - "I think that in terms of value, MSP is fantastic for fine dining."

                      In general, I disagree. There are some exceptions - Travail offers an exceptional value in their tasting menu. Piccolo, given the quality of the food, is a pretty good deal. And one can eat at Bar La Grassa and not spend a fortune.

                      On the other hand, Bar La Grassa is considered by many to be one of the top 5 restaurants in the Twin Cities. But take Bar La Grassa and plunk it in NYC, Philly, LA, SF, or Chicago, and you'd have a nice neighborhood restaurant, not a destination restaurant. Yes, top flight restaurants are more expensive in other cities, but then the quality of top flight food is much greater.

                      It's just an impression, but I think you can get BLG, Meritage, and Alma quality food in other cities at a similar price point.

                    2. The restaurants in MSP are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles closer to my house than the restaurants in Chicago, Dallas, Miami or San Francisco. That's the major characteristic of restaurants in MSP that keeps me going back time and again.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                        So I'm planning to come through the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for a couple of days this summer on my way back to the San Francisco Bay Area. As a visitor, I'm not looking for the highest of high end dining. One, I can't afford it, two I don't particularly enjoy the atmospherics. I'm looking for the locavore food. I'm looking for the ethnicities which aren't so well represented in the food scene out here--German, Swedish, Northern European generally. We've had some wonderful moderhn Scandinavian food in Portland, maybe we can hunt that up in your area. Maybe we'll go to a Vietnamese restaurant since that's sort of baseline food for us even though we're Anglo (when we went to New Orleans when my daughter was about 5 she was so happy to see Vietnamese food after all those weird crabs and things!). I'm starting to look forward to MSP for food.

                        1. re: redrover

                          Scandihoovian can be found at Bachelor Farmer. Hard to get in though. Make a rez early.

                          1. re: redrover

                            Bachelor Farmer is a bit precious?

                            Maybe you'd enjoy Kramarcyzk's or Gasthaus Zur Gemutlichkiet


                            For Vietnamese are you into Pho? Banh mi? Something else? Generally Quang is good on Nicollet. iPho by Saigon in St. Paul is very for Banh Mi and other stuff good as well. If you're really into just Pho, I don't think Pho Cadao can be beat. I like their St. Paul location.

                            Also good here (and not expensive): Dong Yang in Hlltop for Korean in the back of a grocery store.

                            On a nice weekday, food trucks on Marquette between 6th and 8th. Hola Arepa and Smack Shack are really good.

                            Los Ocampos on Lake street for sopes (a bit like an arepa) or Posole (big enough for 4 to share).

                            Oh and Sonora Grill in Midtown Global Market for amazing sandwiches.

                            1. re: redrover

                              Not restaurants really, but on Lake Street in Minneapolis there is a shop, Ingebretsen's, that has a Scandinavian deli with lots of interesting food items. Also on Lake Street is Midtown GLobal Market, kind of a public market, that has a little baked goods counter called Cafe Finspang which has a lot of Scandinavian sweets including lefse. Cafe Finspang is owned by the Ingebretsen's people. Calling it a "cafe" is a major overstatement.

                              Not too far from Midtown Global Market on Park Avenue is the American Swedish Institute. They have a cafe in their basement that had a small but legit Swedish menu. They have undergone a major renovation, during which time the cafe has been closed. But they say they will be re-opening on June 30 with an "expanded cafe". It might be worth considering. http://www.asimn.org/ASI/Press/Entrie...

                              Also, I would say if you get to the Mill CIty Farmers Market, Aunt Else's usually has their (Danish) Aebleskiver there. http://auntelse.com/

                              If you're coming from SF you probably won't find any of the Mexican food here a revelation. Sonora Grill is South American and worth a stop, though, especially if you'll be in Midtown Global Market to visit Cafe Finspang.

                              Also worth checking out is in Midtown Global Market is Michelle Geyer's James Beard nominated Salty Tart bakery. Skip the cupcakes but the rest is consistently delicious.

                              Kramarczuk's Eastern European Deli in Minneapolis is also a great recommendation from Jim. They serve them at the Twins ballpark if you have to be going, though you will have to seek the stands out.

                              THere are a lot of good Vietnamese threads on this board if you want to search for them. Honestly, I don't think the best Vietnamese food here is better than the best Vietnamese in SF, but nevertheless, what we have is very good. Ngon Bistro has terrific contemporary Vietnamese food with good local sourcing for their meats and produce.

                              We also have some Somali and Hmong food here you likely can't get in SF. (though you could probably get some good Hmong in the Central Valley). It's worth a stop at one of the Hmong Markets for sure. Let us know if you're interested and need other recs.

                              Also, hunt down some deep fried cheese curds somewhere if you can. It's a bar snack. Pearson's Salted Nutrolls in candy machines, gas stations, convenience stores, etc.