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May 20, 2012 07:21 AM

Minnesota Road Trip

My wife and I will be travelling to Minnesota from Ohio in July. We will be in the Twin Cities for part of our visit, as well as in Duluth and we will also be taking a short trip Itasca State Park. We have lived in the Twin Cities twice in the past, but that was a long time ago (the Lincoln Del was still packing them in, at all their locations) but we could really use some advice about where to eat now.
We’re specifically looking for ideas for great food at more modest restaurants. We are open to any kind any kind of ethnic food (we love Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, etc.). When we lived in Saint Louis Park, or later in Excelsior, we tried lots of interesting places at the time (510 Groveland, New French Café, The Lexington, etc.) but we are retired now and the expense account meal is a memory from the past. We spend a lot of time in Duluth because of relatives and we love the Anchor Bar in Superior, WI, the new Scenic Café, Northern Waters Smokehaus, Sarah’s table at Chester Creek Café, etc., but we just don’t know the Twin Cities as well. My wife is a Katie so we never head back to Ohio without having a meal at Cecil’s in Highland Park. Thank you very much for your help.

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  1. Two that come to mind immediately are Quang on Eat Street (Nicollet in Mpls between 29th Street and Franklin, although I am a St. Paulite and I may have the boundaries wrong. If so, a Mpls 'hound will ---I hope--jump in to give the correct boundaries). Quang has great and very reasonably priced Vietnamese food. Also on Eat Street is Krungthep Thai. I think their food is very good.

    In Saint Paul, if you have not been to Cafe Latte on Grand, it's worth a trip. Excellent salads, sandwiches and a great selection of very good desserts. And the best coffee in the Twin Cities is at Koplins on Marshall in St. Paul, just a little east of Cleveland. Your wife will remember those streets :0)

    I'll keep thinking.

    2 Replies
    1. re: soccermom13

      Quang is on 27th and Nicollet. I go there 3 or 4 times a week... so I guess that's a sign of how much I like it. :) Prefer Quang over Krunthep Thai.

      1. re: Dr.TriRunner

        I have been looking at other chow hound threads and Quang seems to come up in a lot of them. Thank you both for the advice. It sounds great.

    2. Definitely hit up either the Grand Ave or NE locations of Brasa Rotisserie. Excellent food by the same chef as the much higher-end Alma.

      8 Replies
      1. re: jaycooke

        The Grand Avenue recommendaton is great, but you've really got me thinking about the Brasa Rotisserie. I have seen Alma mentioned on a lot of threads and I have it on my list, but Brasa Rotisserie will probalby be much easier on my wallet. I imagine I can check out the menu on line beforehand.
        Here are a few other places that are on my list are:
        1) Saffron
        2) Sun Street Breads
        4) Al's Breakfast
        4) Bulldog NE
        5) Piccolo
        and they also mentioned Kramarczuk's, but we've been there many times iover the past years.
        Thanks ofr your help!

        1. re: RMC

          Saffron is great but may be at the higher end of what you want to spend.

          I would not make a special trip to Sun Street Breads. I've eaten there a few times and it's a perfectly good neighborhood spot, but it's not worth a detour.

          Al's is great for the experience and the food's pretty good as well. You'll want to plan ahead so that you're not hitting the weekend rush there.

          Piccolo will be at the high end of your budget unless you choose to eat lightly there. I enjoyed my meal there but it's not a place I would put at the top of my list. For the same money, I'd head to nearby Heidi's (at 29th and Lyndale).

          1. re: RMC

            If you like pizza, and are in the mood for Neopolitan style, try either Black Sheep Pizza (either STP or MPLS), Pizza Lola (South Minneapolis), or Punch Pizza (Highland Park location, I'd stay away from the other locations) (probably in that order, but that's just me).

            Not sure what your burger & beer offerings are where you live in Ohio, or where your tastes go, but if you want an excellent burger with a fantastic beer selection, head to Busters on 28th, in South Minneapolis. All their food is excellent, but their burgers (and sweet potato fries) are outstanding.

            You have both Piccolo and Saffron on your list. Neither are light on the wallet, but both are excellent, and ditto with Alma. If you have those, I'd put Bar La Grassa on that list as well. Be aware that those 4 need reservations ahead of time, at least 2 weeks (if not more) for a Friday or Saturday night meal.

            You mention Kramarczuk's. Again, not sure what your Polish food availability is where you live, or your interest in it. If you're interested in stocking up on Polish goods, the best in town in actually Ziach Polish Foods, on 1625 Washington St. NE. While some folks confuse Kramarczuk's with being Polish, it's actually Ukrainian. Ziach is a Polish grocery store, not a place to eat lunch. But the Polish goods there are excellent.

            Lastly, if you're curious about or hankering for Middle Eastern food, head up Central Avenue to Holy Land. Both eat in (lunch, not sure about dinner), and a great grocery selection also.

            1. re: foreverhungry

              foreverhungry, what do you have against other Punch locations? I confess that I've mainly been to the Grand Ave. location (next door to Brasa), but it seems just great to me....

              1. re: mtullius

                A couple of things. The big one is that the menus are different. The Highland location has a fuller menu with more options (more classic pizzas, more pizza biancos, more salads, etc.) than any of the other locations.

                The second is service. When I went to the Uptown Punch, you ordered at a front area like you would at Davanni's, and then took a seat. Not a big fan of that style of service, unless it's fast food. If I'm going out for dinner, I'd like to be sat at a table, and have a server come around. Otherwise, it just feels like McD's.

                The third is the ambiance. Highland is the original location. The servers wear jerseys from the Italian Serie A teams. There's some cool artwork on the walls. Personally, all those little things bring Punch together for me only at Highland. At the other locations, it just feels like getting pizza for lunch. Nothing wrong with that. But at Highland, with the Serie A jerseys, the walls, etc., it feels more like a meal out, even though it may be the same pizza.

                About it being the same pizza...I'm not convinced the quality is the same across the board. But I'd also be perfectly willing to admit that my bias towards the Highland location for the above reasons may make me think that their pizza is better than at the other locations, when in fact it might be the same.

                Lastly...I was really bummed when Punch opened their "NE" location, right down the block from Nea. I like Pizza Nea. It's not exactly the same as Punch, but I like it. I thought it was overly competitive of Punch to open a location 1 block away from another pizza joint of the same style. I'm glad Nea is still going strong, and crowded the times I've been recently. I can understand wanting to expand. But given that we don't have a ton of good pizza options, I don't want to see a scene dominated by one multiplying outlet.

                For all of those reasons (some reasonable, others perhaps not so much to folks other than myself), I now stick to the original location. It's important enough that I would willingly drive past a different Punch location to get to the Highland one.

                1. re: foreverhungry

                  Thanks for the clarification. I've only eaten at the original spot a couple of times, and never since the Grand Ave. location opened (much closer and more convenient). A couple of points: first off, as far as menus go, I'd be willing to bet that you could order anything from the Highland menu at another Punch and get it. That doesn't completely take care of it, since you'd have to know what you want, but... Second, at least at Grand Ave., the servers wear the same jerseys and the walls have the same kind of stuff on them.

                  But in general, obviously, everyone's entitled to their idiosyncratic opinions on such things! I just didn't want anyone reading the board to think there was something objectively better or worse about the original Punch location vs. other ones.

                  1. re: mtullius

                    The original Punch is the closest to me and I have eaten there before any of the "satellites" opened. I normally only hit the newer branches for lunch so I like the "express" type format I have been really impressed with the consistency from a quality point of view. The small chopped salad is my go-to for lunch and it has been very good at any location. I have also had the pizza's I find them as good as at the Highland store.

                    In general, I think they take very good care of their brand.

            2. re: RMC

              I dig the NE Bulldog. Try the togarashi burger!! And don't forget the awesome tater tots ( I don't love their french fries ).

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. A friend who recently stopped in Duluth went to The Duluth Grill and said it was exceptional. Like drive 3 hours just for breakfast exceptional.

              1. I would consider Tilia in Linden HIlls. Not "ethnic" food generally, but very tasty, and very much a current Twin Cities hotspot. They don't take reservations, so going at off hours OR for the great breakfast/brunch is a good idea if you don't want to wait around. The prices are, in my opinion, quite reasonable for the quality of food that you'll get.