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Need a Dinner Rec or Two for a First Time Visitor

Hello all...I'll be up in MN for my first time next week. I will be near the airport on Monday and Thursday, and in Coon Rapids on Tuesday and Wenesday. What I would like are some dinner options in those areas if there is anything you can recommend to a fellow hound from NC. I'm all about local and flavor. Any recs would be most appreciated. BTW..I dine alone, and prefer to do so at the bar if possible, so keep that in mind.

Looking forward to this business trip, it's not often I travel somewhere new to me.

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  1. Those are two food deserts in comparison to Minneapolis / St. Paul.

    Tues / Weds I'd recommend either Travail in Robinsdale or Victory 44 in North Minneapolis. They are both closer to Coon Rapids than most options. Both do upscale fancy food in a casual setting. Both would accommodate a lone diner easily. Travail offers a 10 course menu for 2 for $65 (on Tues - Thurs, more weekend). You might be able to handle it yourself, or you can always order a la carte. Both places do incredible dessert.

    Towards the airport I'd recommend Blackbird Cafe on Monday. A few other places spring to mind, but a lot of our finer options are closed Mondays. Blackbird also has a bar to sit at. There is also Wise Acre Eatery, which users produce direct from the owners farm.

    8 Replies
    1. re: semanticantics

      Thank you for recs, I'm not opposed to a little driving if necessary to get a good have a nice meal. I was hoping that there would be some closeby options, but I fuguured the airport area would be a bust (aren't they all). Coon Rapids I had no idea, lodging was based on work logisitics.

      1. re: picklelicious

        From the airport you can take the light rail to downtown Minneapolis quite easily if you have time, I think it takes 20-25 minutes each way. This would give you a lot more options.

        1. re: LiaM

          Then you could go just about anywhere. Bar La Grassa and 112 Eatery spring to mind.

          1. re: LiaM

            Why bother with light rail when you have a car? It's twice as long and narrows your options considerably.

            The Travail and Victory 44 options seem pretty solid if you're coming all the way from Coon Rapids.

            Skip the Airport/Mall of America area for sure. I just left a job after three years that was headquartered next to the Mall and airport. That is easily the worst place in Minnesota to find good food.

            Drive up into south Minneapolis, about 5-10 miles depending where you go exactly or into downtown -- a VERY easy drive. 112, Bar La Grassa, Saffron are all solid recommendations for downtown. With "local and flavor" being the criteria, it's hard to get more specific than that.

            I strongly disagree with Matt's Bar. If I traveled infrequently and was in a new city with hundreds of intriguing options and someone sent me there, I would be enraged. A crappy cheeseburger is a crappy cheeseburger even if it has a cutesy name and the Kraft American Cheese happens to be inside the overcooked meat. If you feel the urge to go there, just hit Culver's then punch yourself in the face. You'll have the same feeling of satisfaction as you would at Matt's.

            Unfortunately, I also have to disagree with Q Fanatic, simply because you are coming from NC. You undoubtedly have better BBQ nearby.

            If you want a south Minneapolis bar/burger, go to Busters on 28th (28th and 42nd).

            If you have time, pick one option from the downtown Minneapolis recommendations and don't be afraid to go over to downtown St. Paul (for a taste of both downtowns). Meritage would be my recommendation there.

            Anyway....welcome and enjoy.

            1. re: MSPD

              Honestly. I'm open to most any type of cuisine...fresh seafood is always a nice option. I'm trying to eat relatively healthy, but I never like to rule out any worthy options. The "local" part of the equation would refer to "no chains please", and the "flavor" would refer to a restaurant and chef that can really appeal to the taste buds, whether it be by letting the ingredients speak for themselves to some degree, or creating a great dish from things you would rarley expect to see in a great dish. I am open to most any suggestions, although I do tend to stay somewhat mainstream with my choices of good eats. Thanks for all your recs btw.

              1. re: picklelicious

                Close to Coon Rapids: V-44 and Lemongrass. Closer to Airport: Heidis and Piccolo. You won't be disappointed by any.

              2. re: MSPD

                Hundreds of intriguing options? LOL, Did you mean to post that on the Chicago or Manhattan board? No worries, at the very least, we've got a qualifier for Common Man's preposterous statement tournament, 2012 edition.

                1. re: Db Cooper

                  Hundreds of intriguing options was meant as individual dishes, items of food interest, etc. since it was in response to a single "dish", the Jucy Lucy. Not hundreds of restaurants (although I would argue there are hundreds of other restaurants I would rank ahead of Matt's on my personal list).

                  If you're putting up individual food items like the Jucy Lucy, it's not preposterous at all. Matt's Bar could be any rundown bar in any city in America and the burger is an overcooked, undersized patty with lousy cheese in the middle and a store-bought bun. There is no reason for someone looking for a unique experience to go there.

                  By the way, I also think the Common Man show sucks. His show, the 1-800-KARS4KIDS commercials, and Tom Shane commercials are instant station changers. So I suspect we're probably not going to see eye to eye on much here.

        2. I'm not sure what your dining tastes are, but if you enjoy the greasy/dive, I'd suggest Matt's Bar at least one night for a Jucy Lucy (or two). From the airport, it's no more than a 15 or 20 minute drive. Frankly, this is probably MN's most recognizable "contribution" in the nationwide food scene a la Deep Dish in Chicago or Cheesesteak in Philly. It's a burger with the cheese melted inside and rumor has it that it was invented at Matt's. I'll tell you now the place is a dive, but it's a fun one. You said you like local and flavor so I'd say on the casual scene, this sums it up best.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Db Cooper

            I am familiar with the MN Juicy Lucy...and we have even tried to replicate the concept from time to time without ever having tried one of the originals. Perhaps I will give'er a go.

            1. re: picklelicious

              Pickleicious, I think Bad High School Haircut did a episode of DDD at Matt's. Man v Food was there too. I'm sure you can Google them, watch the bits, and see if it fits your criteria. As I said, it's a dive in every sense of the word. If that's what you enjoy, by all means give it a try. Last thing we'd want to do is offend you. I just figured you might want some options outside of the world of fine-dining that had some character too.

              If you want our best, check out Restaurant Alma. They have a bar you can sit at. For my $$, that's our best restaurant in this town right now.

              1. re: Db Cooper

                Juicy Lucy's is not what I was looking for nor desire on my trip, but it's always a nice to think of a ground beef patty stuffed with cheese, right?

                1. re: picklelicious

                  It's definitely something different. I'm not sold it's the best burger in this town, I'm partial to The Nook over in Saint Paul. But it's part of MN Restaurant lore so I thought I'd throw it out there. You've got a lot of good suggestions here (V44, Heidi's, Travail, and I'd throw in Meritage and Ngon in Saint Paul too which is only about 15 to 20 minutes from the airport). I hope that you enjoy your visit to Erotic City (as Prince always called it).

          2. Not much to speak of up in Coon Rapids, but I'd make a trip to Q Fanatic. It gets mixed reviews here (as does every BBQ joint in this state), but I like it a lot.

            http://qfanatic.com/printmenus/Qfanat...

            Otherwise, I second the recs for Travail and V44. I go to both places by myself and both have 6-8 person bars for the solo diner. It's worth noting that Travail is insanely popular right now and even as a solo diner, you might have to wait a while. V44 tends to be a little less busy. Neither place takes reservations.

            I also second the rec of taking the light rail into downtown. Get off at one of the last stops (Target Field/Sneaky Pete's) and you'll be a few blocks away from some of the best restaurants we have. Walk up to 3rd St. between 1st/2nd ave and you have your choice of Saffron (N. African/Middle Eastern) or 112 Eatery (new American). Both are outstanding choices. If you're looking to branch out even further, let us know and we can provide another handful of recommendations.

            Hope that helps.

            3 Replies
            1. re: BigE

              Actually, Victory 44 now accepts telephone reservations.

              1. re: BigE

                Thanks...I'll consider that as an option.

                1. re: picklelicious

                  For your stay close to the airport, I'd also recommend south Minneapolis (It's very easy to drive into downtown but you then have to park, navigate one-ways, etc -not saying don't do it, just keep that in mind). From the airport, get on 62 West, take the Penn exit and try either In Season (54h and Penn, res. a must) or Broders (Italian, at 50th and Penn). Broders has a great wrap around bar with views of the kitchen that I actually prefer to sit at when eating there.
                  If you take 35W north and get off at 36th/35th street exit, you'll be close to several good places- Blackbird (already mentioned), Pat's Tap and Grand Cafe all of which have nice bars to sit at- I like the one at Grand Cafe in particular, it's nice and cosy, not too loud. You'll get more of a variety to choose from at Blackbird though. The restos around this area all have street parking, no parking lots.
                  Heidi's is another great spot, if you took 35W up one more exit to Lake Street. The bar there is an outstanding place to eat, since you get to look into the kitchen. I actually like it better than eating in the restaurant space. And they also have a nice patio area.

              2. Well, let me just say thank you for all the great recs. I've been up here since Monday, the weather and the people have been the best. Due to logistics and work load, it appeared I would only have one evening to really get out, so last night I stood in line outside Travail's as it opened at 5pm, and tried what they had to offer. I must say, standing in a line at 4:45 for dinner certainly peaked my curiousity.

                I went with the 10 course dinner for two, just so I could see what all the fuss was about. Let me just say, WOW!!! Great meal, i mean great. I couldn;'t begin to tell you all the different things I had, but damn if i didn't eat them all. Absolutely one of the best meals i've ever had, and for $65 (give me a break)...just outstanding. In addition to the great food, just loved the vibe of the restaurant, MY KIND OF PLACE.

                Thanks again folks, it appears I'll be back in a couple of months. Untill then...

                2 Replies
                1. re: picklelicious

                  I took mom there Saturday for her 60th / Mother's Day and even as big fans of the place, it was one of our better meals there. We've never done the 10 course, as I'm a vegetarian and she is skinny, but the plus side is we always do the Dessert Tasting (amuse + 3 desserts).

                  Which dessert did you get?

                  1. re: semanticantics

                    The desserts didn't blow me away, and as i wrote, i had such a variety of things it's difficult to recall the details. There were two dessert servings, with three different tastes on each. Four things I recall were a play on cheesecake, some type of banana pudding "shot", the two most notable were some type of dipping dots, and some type of granola with a chilled blueberry jam of some type beneath.