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Visiting Minneapolis Memorial Day weekend, what to eat?

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I'm staying at the University Hotel on campus. I'm visiting from Oklahoma but lived in San Francisco for 10 years. I'm looking for places that are hopefully unique to Minneapolis but not touristy. If it's something special I'll reconsider.

I'm interested in anything ethnic, local, seasonal, etc. Underground or unusual restaurants would be great, bizarre is even better. I won't have a car but don't mind cabbing a reasonable distance. Thanks for your time.

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  1. I would jump on a bus heading East on University and get off at almost any of the Asian joints I prefer Cheng Heng but almost any will do.

    7 Replies
    1. re: ibew292

      Assuming Chuck is staying at the hotel right on Washington Ave (the old Raddison), can you even hop a bus going east on University currently that will make it all the way through? Washington at least is a war zone due to the LRT construction, and part of University is hacked up too.

      1. re: magz0r

        University is open to traffic. It's down to one lane in parts, but it's really not that big of a deal. Drove Snelling to Dale the other day to go to Bangkok Thai Deli. No issues.

        1. re: magz0r

          That is the one I'm staying. I'm in town for a wedding, but have lots of free time aside from rehearsal dinner and the wedding itself. I have no problem taking a cab and part of our guy may rent a car. I do know that a person in our group mentioned the Red Stag. The menu looks good, but I haven't looked at the reviews. It's kind of along the lines of what I'm looking for, but I'd like something a bit more interesting.

          I'm Asian by the way, so unless it's a unique take on Asian cuisine or an unusual style (Filipino, Islamic Chinese, Yakitori, ) I'd probably pass. Is Cheng Heng Cambodian? I can't seem to really good info on the demographics of Minneapolis. It seems like there's a good ethnic population. I would assume there would be a few gems scattered here and there.

          1. re: ChuckJohnson

            Cheng Heng is mainly cambodian. Red stag(and all things in that restaurant group) has always been better to drink than eat at in my experience. From San Fran as a base, you probably don't need to spend any time in the "high end" realm of things here, but if you did I would hit piccolo...
            sonora grill in the midtown global marked would be worth it for a tongue taco or 5
            the foot long hotdog and smothered greens at butcher and the boar and a couple of sausages with a solid beer list would definitely be recommended, (avoid the pickled heart even though you want it, and the seafood sausage, fail)
            the what seems to be obligatory reco for 112/bar la grassa get a lukewarm "meh" from me, but I might be in the minority on this board
            if you are downtown for lunch, I would say the world street kitchen truck or smack shack truck, and the chef shack truck would be worthwhile, and better than most in restaurant lunch options....
            these guys are on my agenda today...so maybe...
            http://www.facebook.com/TheLeftHanded...

            1. re: mitch cumstein

              Great suggestions, Mitch. Thanks. I'm sorry college didn't work out for you. Say hello to your ol' roommate Ty Webb for me.

              1. re: ChuckJohnson

                After you get done night-putting with the fifteen year old daughter of the Dean, Mickey's Diner in downtown Saint Paul is your best bet for all night grub.....

              2. re: mitch cumstein

                I don't get 112 at all, my sad experience ranged from meh to WTF. But I think no matter where you're from Piccolo is well worth a visit. And the Left Handed Cook looks like the next big thing, Thanks for the tip Mitch.

        2. Travail in Robbinsdale. (north from Minneapolis on 81) Get there early. They open at 5. Get there at 4:30 unless you're ok with potentially waiting a LONG time for a seat. Get the 10 course tasting menu for 2 for 80 bucks. They're one of the brightest spots in the metro.

          Oh, and re: Red Stag - every time I've been there it's been overpriced, inconsistent, and sometimes just plain lousy. The last time I was there, they served me a steak that my steak knife couldn't get through. Beef jerky. I sent it back, they offered to replace it with a better cut, not bothering to tell me that they would charge me for that replacement. That's right - they charged me for their screwup. The replacement at least was vulnerable to a knife, but very underwhelming flavor-wise, and had what tasted like about 2 tons of salt on it.

          I won't be going back to the Stag, but if you want a restaurant in that area that IS good, try Gorkha Palace - very good Indian/Tibetan/Nepalese place. If you want more American-style stuff, Bulldog NE is on the same block as Gorkha and has good burgers and a large selection of interesting beers.

          2 Replies
          1. re: shadowfax

            Gorkha Palace looks great too. I can't wait to try the Yak. Travail looks exciting too. Thanks

            I had a bad feeling about Red Stag. Places like that tend to start out great and lose momentum. Leed certification is great, but food first.

            1. re: ChuckJohnson

              Also, on the ethnic side of things, I went to the Ethiopian restaurant Fasika in St Paul once while visiting and was very impressed (I regularly eat at the Ethiopian restaurants in Little Ethiopia in LA, where I live). And if I calculated it right, only 6 miles from your hotel.
              http://www.fasika.com/welcome.html

          2. Restaurant Alma is not far from the University Hotel. They not by any means underground or bizarre, but definitely fit the local and seasonal characteristics.

            5 Replies
            1. re: LauraB

              LauraB, the menu looks great. I'll almost certainly try that one too. Thanks for the tip.

              1. re: ChuckJohnson

                Be sure to try and get reservations at Alma. It fills up. I believe that's the best resto in the Twin Cities right now, but opinions vary on that.

                1. re: Db Cooper

                  So chuck, how did we do?

                  1. re: mitch cumstein

                    I was impressed. One of the best cities I have ever visited when not -40 degrees. Cities was beautiful, architecture was great, people were very friendly, and surprising diversity.

                    I went to Cheng Heng and loved it. Alma as well. Pressed for time, I tried a lot of those little Asian restaurants around campus and ate well. There was a taco truck for the post wedding celebration "Home Street Home" that was great. I wish I had more time but I am definitely coming back. I did make it to Matt's bar and am waiting for the lining of my mouth to heal up from the cheese lava.

                    Worst meal: William's Uptown Pub & Peanut. Granted I knew it would be bad but I was so blindingly drunk that the $8 steak special seemed like a good idea. It probably saved my life. The bar was great and so was the service.

                    Again, super impressed with the city and its people. I will be back. One thing I did notice, is a certain something I wouldn't call negativity but rather a tempered view of things. When I talked to people and told how impressed I was with their city, they all seemed to downplay it as well. There was always some caveat that had to be mentioned: the winter, the sports teams, this or that. I get a sense the residents don't really know how great their city is or are just being modest.

                    I'm originally from Oklahoma. We have a tendency to downplay our city and we don't hold a candle to Minneapolis. Please don't interpret this as a slight but a casual observation. I wasn't there long enough to really get to a pulse.

                    When I told people I was coming from San Francisco and how much I loved their city, their eyes bugged and jaws dropped.

                    1. re: ChuckJohnson

                      Didn't Matt's tell you how to eat a Jucy Lucy? Normally they warn you about the molten cheese. That's why fries are essential. Gives you something to eat while waiting for your burger to come to temp. (And that's one reason why I recommend the Nook for a Juicy Lucy--because their handcut fries are really good! But, that's for next visit.)

                      Yeah, no Minnesotan understands why someone would move here from the Bay Area. That's a genuine reaction. As far as the tempered response you received to any compliments you voiced before mentioning San Francisco, that's false modesty. Remember Minnesota is "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." If the climate were more temperate here, we'd be overrun with an influx of immigrants, and we know it. We're a very well-kept secret, despite Keillor's weekly two-hour radio advertisement for the state.

                      ~TDQ