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Non-pretentious couple from KC in town for two nights

My wife and I are coming up for a quick 2-night stay in Bloomington. We plan on hitting the MOA and maybe getting out on some bike trails over the weekend. We're not food snobs on any level.

We enjoy food of all kinds, but generally don't spend a lot of time at restuarants with white table cloths if you know what I mean. They are nice, but we tend to go more for local joints that are tucked away off the beaten path.

We love BBQ, street tacos, burgers, fish & chips, and steaks -- basically unhealthy food you can enjoy on vacation! We will be having an authentic Juicy Lucy at some point so just accept that into the mix. I realize we're not going to see the best that Minneapolis has to offer as far as Zagat's goes, but we want fun places with great atmosphere and delicious food. Anything we just can't find around KC and the lower Midwest.

Thanks everyone ... I appreciate the suggestions!

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  1. First and foremost...whatever else you do in the Twin Cities, DO NOT EAT THE BBQ. Nothing here compares to the better BBQ available in KC.

    Go Sea Salt and rent bikes if the weather is nice. Ride along Minnehaha Parkway. I might be wrong, but I don't know if the food trucks operate on the weekend.

    For delicious food on the cheap, you could try Wally's in Bloomington or Maverick's in St. Paul for really nice roast beef sandwiches.

    Go to Midtown Global Market (Lake & Chicago) for street food on weekends. Or Mercado Central just down the way at Bloomington & Lake.

    You can get some good Korean here too. I'm not sure, but that may not be available in KC. And Little Szechuan is pretty good stuff. Also the Vietnamese grilled pork Banh Mi (sandwiches) at iPho by Saigon on University are pretty tasty and cheap.

    1. I love Quang for cheap and delicious Vietnamese food. It's on Nicollet Ave. in Minneapolis. Try the egg roll salad or the grilled pork salad or the pho.

      1 Reply
      1. re: soccermom13

        +1 on Quang's. Especially for the spring rolls with pork/shrimp.

      2. Relatives of ours from the KC area enjoyed spendng 2-3 hours at the Hmong International Market Place in St. Paul (there's another one further east in St. Paul, too). The Twin Cities has one of the largest population of Hmong people in the U.S. Visiting the marketplace is almost like visiting another country -- it's an unpretentious mall/flea market set up with lots of vendors and a couple of "food courts". Good food, not expensive, and a lot to look at!

        It would not be a bad idea to visit the Midtown Global Market, in south Minneapolis. It's not quite the immersive experience the Hmong marketplaces are, but there are lots of ethnic food options and a couple of very good food vendors there (Sonora Grille and Salty Tart Bakery come to mind). Food is served at the booths and you sit in a common area in the middle of the market.

        You also might want to try Ethiopian food -- largely stewed meat and vegetables served on a pancake-like bread called injera. There is a sizable population of eastern Africans in the Twin Cities; Ethiopian food is not like Indian or Middle Eastern food that you may have had elsewhere. And you get to eat with your hands. :-) I like Fasika in St. Paul, but if you're interested, I'm sure other 'hounds can nominate good restaurants closer to the MoA.

        7 Replies
        1. re: steve_in_stpaul

          +1 on all of Steve's recommendations, especially Sonora Grill & Salty Tart at the Midtown Global Market. Best of all, the wonderful Midtown Greenway bike (& pedestrian) path runs right by the MidGloMa - between the river and the lakes in S Mpls. It's a must.

          1. re: steve_in_stpaul

            Good ideas, Steve. And a couple of questions for you (or for anyone :0)---how does Flamingo compare to Fasika? What specific foods do you order at Hmong International Mkt Place?
            Thanks.

            1. re: soccermom13

              Kind of depends what I'm in the mood for. Papaya salads are good; the ribs are tasty (but kind of fatty, IMHO); the sausages are good if I have something more astringent to cut through the grease. I've had stuff I, frankly, did not recognize (and which was not explained well by the vendor), but which I enjoyed very much (I'll pick it out next time by sight). If you can talk others into going with you, you'll have a chance to try more things.

              1. re: soccermom13

                Hi Soccermom: I have not ben to Flamingo, but have been to Fasika and was very impressed. I do not live in the midwest, but eat Ethiopian food fairly regularly. Looking at the menus for both restaurants, and also taking into account that Flamingo is not purely Ethiopian, I have to say that the menu at Fasica just looks better. I plan on going again when I visit next week and cannot wait!

                1. re: soccermom13

                  We tend to go to Flamingo instead of Fasika. It's actually been a year or two since we've gone to Fasika. I really really really love the red lentils at Flamingo, perfectly spiced! In general all the lentils at Flamingo are more on the toothy side than the stewed into oblivion, and I appreciate this toothy-ness. I also really like their mushroom dish, which I've never had anywhere else, it's perfect because my husband does not like mushrooms so I get to eat all of it. I also adore their guava lemonade (I have a serious weakness for guava drinks- the guava leche fresca at Cocina Latina and the guava-lime soda at Brasa are other standouts). The lentil sambusas at Flamingo are also very good-- made to order! We only ever get vegetarian combo so I cannot comment on meat. The last reason we go to Flamingo is that we like the owners/operators- two very special ladies who do great work, always recognize us even though we only go every few months. All their food is made from scratch with fresh ingredients bought as much as possibly directly from farmers. Oh- and their injera has more teff in it. Sometimes it takes a bit longer, but that's a fair trade-off in my opinion.

                  Fasika is good, I have nothing bad to say about them whatsoever. (I mean, none of the ethiopian around here matches up to Washington, DC ethiopian, for example, but for here, it's just grand) We just end up at Flamingo by choice.

                2. re: steve_in_stpaul

                  Chowhound confession time: I love going to the Hmong market for what it represents, but I don't like the food very much. The things I've enjoyed most there are the thai soups in the aluminum pots that look like souped-up bundt-cake pans.

                  The papaya salads were so strong on fish sauce I couldn't eat much of it. The deep-fried flintstone-like beef ribs tasted ... off. The purple glutinous rice didn't work for me either. Even the stuffed chicken wings had nothing I found particularly appealing.

                  I'm not a squeamish or picky eater. Bring on the raw oysters or Uni. I ate lung at Tea House Plymouth and it was fine. Good tripe or tendon are fine by me. But something just doesn't work for me at Hmong market. And it makes me sad.

                  1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                    The papaya salad at the Hmong market is Lao style, and it's an acquired taste for sure.

                    I think the Hmong market is one of those places where it just really depends on the day and time of day for what's freshest and looks best. Papaya salad aside (which I do enjoy), I've had the best luck with soups. Of course, I'm not feeling very soupy these days with temps in the 90s. I also like the bubble tea/bean thread drinks.

                    ~TDQ

                3. Three places come to mind all very good and all at different levels, Saffron, Gorkha, and Cheng Heng. You can not go wrong with these places, As for the Hmong Market that is what most street food in Asia taste like. Strong fish sauce is the norm. The food here is almost all fusion.Instead of Quang , although it is good, I would venture further south to Pho Tau Bay. I wouldn't bother with Aferican it to is not what 's served where I have been. Sadly disappointing......

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ibew292

                    I second the rec for Pho Tau Bay. But, Ngon Bistro in St. Paul is a total original (chef driven, local sourcing, patio).

                    I think the Ethiopian food here is about the same as I've had elsewhere in the US but I haven't had Somali food anywhere else. Only Columbus Ohio has anywhere close to the concentration of Somalis we have here in Minneapolis.

                    I'd be surprised of Qoraxlow or Hamdi or the Somali Mall were anything other than 100% authentic. They certainly aren't catering to non-Somalis. I think it's worth it for the cultural experience alone if you're up for it. Get the goat at Hamdi or the Sports platter (to share) at Qoraxlow. Not sure if this is what the OP's up for, though.

                    To the OP, go to the Nook in St. Paul for your JL. Their hand cut fries are terrific and their buns come from the bakery up the street. I also recommend Conny's creamy cone in St. Paul for a zillion flavors of soft serve and deep fried cheese curds. If you've got a car, go to Dari-ette Drive in St. Paul and get an Italiano sandwich with a side of Spaghetti.

                    Has anyone mentioned Al's Breakfast in Dinkytown yet? Or Hell's Kitchen (just about everything scratch made--also try a bowl of the very rich manooman porridge) for breakfast?

                    If you're going to be near Como Park in St. Paul, try Maverick's for the roast beef or brisket sandwich and chocolate shake. (Everything else there is kind of blah, including the fries) Not such great atmosphere alas. And for weekday lunch only, Russian Tea House on University Ave in St. Paul is a spot with a lot of personality.

                    If you're going to be here on a weekend, I really like the Mill CIty Farmers Market, lots of great chow including Chef Shack food truck and Black Cat's pork sandwich. And you can't beat the access to the Guthrie (take a look around inside!) and the historical Stone Arch Bridge.

                    Kramarczuk's has great sausages and kolaches although you might be able to get that elsewhere. The sausages are available at Twins Games and worth seeking out over other offerings if the game isn't great...

                    Not everything at Midtown Global Market is great or unique.I think Sonora Grill (for chef driven Latin, all from scratch) is a stand out. Cafe Finspang has Scandinavian treats. Salty Tart is a James Beard award nominee and everything is fantastic except the cupcakes. Los Ocampo and Manny's Tortas are good, but not that unique. Left Handed Cook is getting great press for Asian fusion, but I haven't been there yet.

                    Finally, don't miss Izzy's ice cream in St. Paul.

                    ~TDQ

                  2. Mostly all great suggestions you've gotten so far. One more suggestion: Meritage, in downtown St. Paul, if you'll be here on a Friday. I know you're after casual eats, but hear me out.

                    Meritage has happy hours going from 3-6, Tues through Fri, and it's pretty damn casual sitting in the oyster bar or outside on the sidewalk. Best of all, it's an incredible bargain. You can get their burger--to my taste, one of the best in the Cities--for 8 bucks. That's a good-sized, juicy beefy perfect burger cooked to order with garlic aioli, shallot confit & emmanthaler served with a big mound of fantastic fries, usually going for $13.50, all yours for $8. Last time I was there I had a margarita, the 2 for $3 oysters, marinated olives, the burger, and a double espresso and still didn't break $30. Left lots of the fries unfinished for sheer lack of room and took half the burger home for lunch the next day.

                    And, it's a nice ride from Bloomington to downtown St. Paul, with bike trails a good portion of the way.

                    1. MOA is the same stores and same quality as everywhere else, just on a grander scale. The planet has flattened in terms of distinctive variety and quality. That said, MOA is an efficient place to shop and has simple light rail connectivity to down town (soon both downtowns). Food at the mall is much as you'll find anywhere else. Average to cruddy, but lots of it.

                      Bicycling in the T.C.'s is a great choice. MSP even with absurd weather extremes is the number one or number two cycling community in the nation. Very friendly with a system of trails and public spaces which are really fun to use. Also bike lanes galore. The system that would work quite well for you is called Nice Ride (google it). This is a perfect way to see the cities at a very reasonable cost. Many culinary areas have nice ride kiosks nearby, so checking bicycles in an out would be a snap.

                      I would stop at Birchwood Cafe - kiosk in front. Freewheel Bicycle Cafe,, with bicycle access only on the Midtown Greenway. Bob up to the Global Market if you want too many options - it's like MOA for small operations with shoestring budgets. You should consider eating options around the City's lakes, as well as near Summit Avenue in St. Paul (truly beautiful old homes). Also take in any River trail you can, as well as the view from Cathedral Hill and the History Center, or the Capital.

                      As I mention these places, and think of the views and the food, I'm certain that less time in the Mall and more time out and about would make sense. Of course you could end up with a bad ticket for weather (hot or wet, or hot and wet), but we've been having an unusually perfect early summer.

                      Food trucks and farmer's markets are thriving here too. Google and make this a focus. You will not be disappointed for the most part, and the price/quaiity you're looking for are all there.

                      I would not rent bicycles at Minnehaha Falls. I really think Nice Ride will suit you needs and be a hoot too. Other shops have daily rentals with helmets and locks etc..

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: keg

                        I think these are fantastic recs for cycling. Even if you don't rent bikes at Minnehaha Falls, Sea Salt is still a great stop for fried fish, Sebastian Joe's (local) Ice cream, or beer (local choices including Surly and Summit, the former being highly sought after). Note, if you're just getting beer or ice cream, you don't need to wait in the long line.

                        Hamdi (Somali) is right next to Midtown Global Market if you're on a bike and really want to try to Somali food.

                        The Stone Arch Bridge is also good for cycling (and on weekend mornings you can visit Mill City Farmers Market.) If you're comfortable with urban biking you can also visit Kramarczuk's, Punch (Neapolitan) Pizza, or Surdyk's gourmet deli (take out only) from there.

                        ~TDQ

                      2. Very close to the MOA is Andale (I-94 and Nicollet Ave -- only a couple miles from the Mall of America). That's the place for your Mexican street food -- as good as any in MSP in my opinion. The tortas are monstrous and fresh and the tacos are all flavorful.

                        As mentioned, the Midtown Global Market is along the Midtown Greenway. Also the Freewheel Bike Center has very good coffee drinks, sandwiches, smoothies, etc. It's behind the Midtown Global Market.

                        A reasonable bike ride from the MOA to food is Lucky's 13 in Mendota. There is a bike trail from the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge Visitor's Center along I-494. At the end, of the bridge, you'll see a trail on the left going up a hill. Take that and just follow it for 3-4 miles and you'll find yourself passing by the back patio of the restaurant. Lucky's 13 is upscale bar food -- nothing spectacular, but it's a reliable way to mix a beer/appetizers in with a moderate bike ride. It's probably as good a place as any to get your stuffed burger (they have a few different versions). Their standard burgers are above average there.

                        That bike route is also how you get into the downtowns from the MOA via bike. From the visitor's center, it's about 7 miles up via bike up to Minnehaha Park (Sea Salt Eatery). I-494, Big Rivers Trail, left onto Mendota Bridge, through Ft. Snelling (follow signs). You can also loop through the woods behind Ft. Snelling. Both ways bring you to the same spot at the south end of Minnehaha Park.

                        Then from Minnehaha Park you can follow the River Road (bike path) all the way into downtown, to South Minneapolis (and Midtown Global Market/Freewheel) via the Midtown Greenway, or to downtown St. Paul via the West 7th Bridge, then Shepard Road or going north on the East River Road bike path then east on Summit Avenue.

                        As mentioned, avoid BBQ here.

                        1. I really appreciate all the great suggestions. We'll be bringing our own bikes, so no need to rent, but all the trail recommendations have been really helpful. Even though we'll be spending some time at the MOA, we do plan on getting out and seeing the city. The Hmong Market sounds very intriquing. Sounds like something we would reallly enjoy to check out.

                          So is the Nook the go-to place for a Juicy Lucy? And is there any other local cuisine you just can't get outside of Minneapolis or Minnesota? We don't have cheese curds down here, so we plan on getting some -- is there anything else we should try to find?

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: mrjayhok

                            There's some intense, fiery debate on this board as to the best place for a JL. Some question whether it's even worth your time. With only 2 days in town, it might not be. It is just a burger, but with cheese on the inside. I like the Nook because of the fries, the bun, and the neighborhood atmosphere of the place. It's got a long history. It's across the street from where Joe Mauer went to high school. The only other place that gives the Nook a run for its money is Blue Door Pub in St.Paul. Cute place with great hospitality, great tater tots and a good local beer list. The problem is, I've never had an edible burger there. Not one. They are usually really sloppy-greasy and mostly raw on the inside. Matt's, which claims to have invented the JL, is dark and depressing and the burger tastes burned.

                            As far as local specialties, local, hand harvested, hand parched wild rice really is our best local treat, but it's hard to find on menus. You can get it at Hell's Kitchen in a breakfast porridge (mentioned above). I think it's in one of the breakfast sausages at Birchwood Cafe (that keg recommended.)

                            If you're interested, I could come up with a list of other possible places that serve it.

                            Surly beer is a big deal, produced locally and hard to get outside of MN. It's at Sea Salt as previously mentioned. Probably at Ngon Bistro, which in addition to chef driven Vietnamese food also has a great local beer list. I'm not a beer drinker so if you're interested in knowing exactly where to get a Surly, better have others chime in.

                            Smoked Lake (Superior) trout and salmon and ciscos is also fantastic and, again, not easy to find locally. It's often at the deli at Heartland Restaurant in St.Paul or at Coastal Seafoods (fishmonger) but it would probably be something you'd pick up to eat with crackers for a picnic than served as a restaurant meal. I can come up with a list of other places if you're interested.

                            If you're into Scandinavian treats, you can find them at Cafe FInspang at Midtown Global Market (mentioned previously). They've got lefse among other things. Also, lutefisk, but that is frozen and has to be taken home to be cooked. Cafe Finspang is an offshoot of Ingebretsen's deli up the street (Lake Street) which is fun to check out and you might find some interesting stuff to, again, take on a picnic.

                            The Hmong Market really is unique. MN has the largest population of urban Hmong in the world. It also has the largest concentration of Somalis outside of Africa. (I mentioned some Somali places in my post above.) So, these cuisines are pretty unique to MN.

                            Pearson's Salted Nutrolls (candy bars) are made in St. Paul. They are in gas stations convenience stores and candy machines and such. I've had a hard time finding them on the coasts. Not sure about availability where you're from...

                            I think we're just past morel season, but it is out state mushrooms. Ramps and fiddleheads are also great when you can find them on menus. Again, past season. On the other end of summer, Honeycrisp apples were invented at the UofM. I think the patent has expired, so they are pretty much everywhere. But, Zestar apple (also invented at the UofM) is still under patent as is SweetTango is the newest born of Zestar+Honeycrisp.

                            The "hot dago" sandwich is unique to St. Paul. Like the JL, it's nothing spectacular (Italian sausage, mozzarella and marinara sauces on an Italian roll), but I love it. They serve it at the Dari-Ette (mentioned in my previous post), except that they've renamed it the Italian or Italiano (I can't remember which). There are other places in town that still refer to their version of the sandwich as a dago...

                            ETA: oh, and walleye! Walleye is a beloved sport fish and is our state fish. Most of the walleye served in restaurants in MN is Canadian. The only place I know that reliably has MN (Red Lake) Walleye on its menu is Fire Lake Grill in Minneapolis. It's a hotel restaurant that does a decent job with local specialties, but it doesn't have a whole lot of charm and, therefore, might not suit your other requirements.

                            That's it for now.

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              You had me at Walleye! Hot Dagos (great name) also sound great. We'll definitely throw them in the hopper. Thanks for the run-down of MN specialties!

                              1. re: mrjayhok

                                If you're really interested in walleye, definitely do a search or put up another post to see if you can get some good recommendations. I have a personal connection to one place in Minneapolis that serves a great walleye sandwich, so Chowhound etiquette bars me from recommending it. My next favorite spot for walleye and other sport-fish, alas, is outside of the Twin Cities... Tavern on Grand in St. Paul is the place that most often comes up in recommendations but I think you could have other options...

                                ~TDQ

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  Just out of curiosity, what place are you referring to that has a great walleye sandwich in Minneapolis? I don't care if you have a personal tie to the restaurant or not, I just need to know! Ever since my parents sold our cabin on Mile Lacs, I have always been on the lookout. For being such an awesome freshwater fish, it's amazing that there are not more restaurants that offer walleye locally.

                                  The Green Mill in Uptown has a walleye sandwich that I get on occasion, as well as the awesomely battered version at the Rail Station bar on 37th & Minnehaha.

                            2. re: mrjayhok

                              I agree with TDQ on the Nook. The buns are baked daily at a bakery around the corner and the fries are my definition of perfection (hand-cut, medium-thick). It's a fun environment (make sure to pop into the bowling alley downstairs...it's a classic old alley). There's also a new modern take on the classic soda fountain next door that people seem to enjoy if you want dessert. I haven't been there yet so I can't vouch for it personally. Here's a link to a review: http://heavytable.com/lyndens-soda-fo...

                              My recommendation to visitors to MSP is to avoid trying to focus too hard on "unique local cuisine". You'll potentially miss great food/great experiences by chasing after "unique" food.

                              Having grown up on the east coast, I find where the Twin Cities really shines is just the pure visual attraction, ease of getting around, and the culture of outdoor recreation at this time of year. To me, grabbing some spectacular "NON-Minnesotan" food from a food truck, then walking down the Thursday farmers market on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis or strolling down by the Mill City Ruins/Stone Arch Bridge is a wonderful experience that hints at what's really special about Minnesota.

                              As for cheese curds, most of what is offered is no better/different than the Culver's fast food chain which you have all over the place in Kansas City. IMO, the State Fair style are the gold standard but there are only one or two places that make them that way (Blue Door Pub is the closest to State Fair quality/style). Don't feel too bad if you miss cheese curds.

                              p.s. - I hope the "regulars" on this board appreciate my efforts at positivity on this post. Kind of an "inside joke" but this post took a hell of a lot of effort on my part. ;-)

                              1. re: MSPD

                                I agree. With only two days in town, it might not worth chasing local specialties. But, if you're going to be places where local specialties are offered, it's nice to know what and where they are so you can be on the lookout for them.

                                Sea Salt has already been recommended due to its bike friendliness. Why not try a Surly while you're there if you're interested in a local brew that you can't get elsewhere? If you're going to be at Midtown Global Market (already recommended due to its bike friendliness), why not swing by and check out the Scandinavian sweets at the Cafe Finspang stall if that's something that interests you? (and it apparently does, because the OP specifically inquired about them. It's not as if we forced this information upon him...)

                                If you're going to be at Birchwood Cafe (already recommended due to its bike friendliness) why not try the wild rice sausage if it happens to be available when you're there?

                                Personally, I think the trip to either Conny's Creamy Cone OR the Dari-Ette Drive In (I don't think I recommend doing both if you've only got two days) is totally worth it on a summer day If you're going in your car. I think they are pretty unique experiences that give you a real sense of St. Paul. The food in't spectacular at Conny's, but the food is pretty good and I personally love the place. I think the food at the Dari-Ette is actually quite good, made from recipes that have been in the family for generations, and I just love the whole experience of it. I've never had the cheese curds at Culvers, and I personally had never seen a Culvers before I moved to MN, but you make a good point that they do appear to have Culvers where the OP is coming from.

                                Same with Hell's Kitchen for breakfast (but only breakfast! and expect to wait, by the way, unless you get there early...), when I'm feeling leisurely (Ie., when I have time to wait in line) I defintely seek it out. I especially love the lemon ricotta hotcakes, housemade peanut butter, and just a taste of the very rich wild rice porridge when I can convince my husband to finish the rest of the cup...

                                ~TDQ

                                1. re: MSPD

                                  I agree that folks chase the unique, and usually end up missing what's really good. For a great experience, already pointed out in posts above, is to go for a bike ride along the Mississippi along River Road and get some food and a beer at Sea Salt at one end, and maybe downtown-ish at the other other. If you start downtown ride on one side of the river, hit Minnehaha Falls park, cross over on Ford bridge and check out the lock at dam before crossing (road off of River road goes straight to the L&D), then ride back up the other side and grab some food in the Mill City area, or keep going up Washington to Black Sheep, or do a double-cross to go into the Surdyk's neighborhood, that gives you a great slice of what the Twin Cities are about. I don't think it's about a unique food, but rather about a total experience that captures the ethos of an area.

                                  1. re: foreverhungry

                                    Well said. These posts are fun as they swing back and forth like a flying trapeze. The other thing that's truly different about the Twin Cities are the food coops. Full disclosure I'm a member of two and employee of one. Something as mundane as a good place to buy groceries turns out to be a highlight of the area. They're really well executed, connected to local producers, and more robust here than in any other city in the United States.

                                    1. re: keg

                                      They aren't really flying about that much. Sea Salt keeps getting mentioned. Farmers Markets (especially Mill City) keep getting mentioned, Midtown Global Market keeps getting mentioned. Plus 1,000 individual favorites, each worthy of consideration. The truth is, only the OP can decide what suits his style of travel. If he wants to try some "local" cuisine (about which he specifically inquired but apparently none of us deem worthwhile), surely we can point him to the intersection of local and "good" just as we are all apparently willing to point him to the intersection of "good" and "cycle friendly" (which we apparently happen to deem worthwhile). Just lay out the recs and let the OP decide what is a good use of his time.

                                      ~TDQ

                                    2. re: foreverhungry

                                      Right on foreverhungry. Somewhere on CH there are some "bike-friendly" threads that still carry some good advice. I love mixing cycling and chow.

                                      Not too long ago I did a ride that combined a few of the aforementioned stops. From Eagan to the Freewheel Bike Center, stopped in for a smoothie. Over to the Hopkins Depot (with loops around Lake Calhoun and Harriet)...grabbed another snack. Cedar Lake Trail and back via Kenilworth, then over to Common Roots for a bagel with lox. Back down to the Greenway, over to River Road and finished the dining at Sea Salt for Sebastian Joe's ice cream and one last bottle refill.

                                      I may re-create something like this on Saturday. I tentatively have a rare free day to myself.

                                2. If you happen to get thirsty while biking around the lakes make sure to stop by Buster's on 42nd St. and 28th Ave for a Surly Furious if you like the hops. The Seward Co-op on Franklin and 29th would be a good place to grab something for a picnic at one of our many parks. If near the U of M's East Campus Shuang Cheng has delicious seafood. I'd recommend the five spice squid or whole walleye with hot meat sauce.

                                  1. If you are going for bike rides there are just tons of trails throughout the Twin Cities. One I would suggest is the Dakota Regional Trail, a paved 20 mile one way trail, that starts in Wayzata, one of the wealthier towns, and ends at the north end of Lake Waconia farm country traversing a great part of Lake Minnetonka. You can get the real flavor of Minnesota that way that would be different than KC. Lake Minnetonka and Wayzata is an old summer resort town were where the lower Midwest people actually vacationed in the summer at the turn of the last century. A stop along the way could be Lord Fletcher's where you can sit on the wharf and watch the many pleasure boats cruise in and out. An authentic old fashion car hop drive-in, the Minnetonka Drive-in is on the trail and if Thursday is one of the days that is the day it is overflowing with classic cars. You'll pass by smaller lakes and Gale Woods Regional Park, a working farm that is a public park. At the terminus north end of Lake Waconia is Sovereign Estates Winery. You will pass through the towns of Orono, Spring Park, Mound, Minnetrista and St. Bonafacius.

                                    The other bike ride would be the Minneapolis chain of lakes and discover why the Twin Cities is rated one of the best biking cities in the country rivaled only by Portland, OR by most raters.

                                    1. I may despise your baseball team, but you Twin Cities folks are alright! Of course, all you've done is make me wish I had more than 2 nights in your lovely city. I think our two dinners have been boiled down to burgers one night and fried fish/walleye sandwiches the next. Both my wife and I are big burger junkies so we'd love to sample one of the city's best efforts ... and there are no good fish & chips or walleye sandwiches spots in KC (save Culver's occasionly), so we are really hankering for that.

                                      Here's what I've boiled things down to ...

                                      BURGER OPTIONs: The Nook, The Blue Door, Matt's, or Meritage

                                      FRIED FISH/WALLEYE SANDWICH OPTIONS: The Anchor Fish & Chips, Mac's Fish & Chips, or Grand Avenue Tavern

                                      Opinions?

                                      Now, we will also be doing lunch and breakfast, but I think we may do those a litle less structured -- just where we happen to be at that time. I suspect lunch may be at the Hmong Market or Midtown Global Market or one of the places above that we missed the night before.

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: mrjayhok

                                        Ah, well, Meritage's burger is awesome. If you're going on quality of food alone, Meritage is the winner. It's not a Jucy Lucy, but it's a great burger. It''s a French bistro, but casual, kind of experience. The Nook would be more of a family-friendly bar kind of setting. I'd try to get reservations if I were going to Meritage. The Nook, expect a 20 minute wait most days.

                                        I'll pass on opining on the fried fish except to say if it doesn't need to be walleye, I'd still probably send you to Sea Salt Eatery in Minnehaha Park. I don't know if Mac's even has walleye; if not, Sea Salt is still better.

                                        ~TDQ

                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          If he does want walleye in a Sea Salt-like setting, Tin Fish on Lake Calhoun actually has walleye on their menu. The lines can be ridiculously long however. I was there a week ago, and even standing in the rain, it was a solid 1 hour wait during dinner rush.

                                          Sea Salt does rock though. I love their po' boys.

                                          1. re: magz0r

                                            That's a pretty great tip. With Sea Salt, you get to enjoy Minnehaha Falls and with Tin Fish you get to enjoy one of our 10,000 lakes. Is the wait at Tin Fish any worse than the wait at Sea Salt these days?

                                            ~TDQ

                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              "Is the wait at Tin Fish any worse than the wait at Sea Salt these days?"

                                              Granted it's totally anecdotal, but based on my experiences, yes. Let me put it this way: over the last year, there have been times when I have been able to place my order at Sea Salt in 15-20 minutes. With Tin Fish, on the other hand, no matter what time or day of the week, I have never been able to place my order in anything under 45-60 minutes. And that's just to order...figure another 15-30 minutes for your food.

                                              Tin Fish always seems understaffed, and the staff they do have tend to be high school kids that aren't exactly on the ball. That can't help wait times too much.

                                              1. re: magz0r

                                                We go to the Tin Fish fairly often since we live nearby. If you go at peak times (e.g. - Minnesota dinner time - 5:30 to 6:30) it'll be busy although I've never waited anywhere near 45 minutes to order. (I like the TF, but I refuse to wait an hour to place an order.)

                                                Staff seems generally with it - and the rate controlling factor on food is the grill not the servers. Generally the grill seems to be hopping when I'm there and often one or both of the owners is staffing the kitchen. In my experience, the worst part about the wait is the time that people take to place their orders (not for the window folks to take the orders). You'd think with the lines they'd have time to formulate what they want to order....

                                        2. re: mrjayhok

                                          Burgers -- Nook is my personal favorite.

                                          Of the three fish options, I am pretty sure that only Grand Ave Tavern offers walleye. The atmosphere is radically different between the three places: Mac's is plastic trays, Grand Ave Tavern is a neighborhood bar that is well-known only because it serves walleye, Anchor is an Irish pub with loooong lines unless you are very judicious/lucky in your timing.

                                          Opinions on the fish quality vary widely for each.

                                          1. re: mrjayhok

                                            Don't worry, I feel the same way when I visit my buddy in Milwaukee. Great people, despicable sports teams. :P

                                            BURGERS: If you're going for a Jucy Lucy, both the Nook and Blue Door in St. Paul are great choices. Despite growing up a few blocks from Matt's, I still believe that their quality has gone downhill and the burgers are not that great compared to other offerings in the TC these days. Buster's on 28th is only a mile or two away from Matt's, and they do make a very good non-stuffed burger.

                                            FISH: The Anchor doesn't have walleye, at least according to their menu online, just FYI. I liked the Tavern on Grand last time I ate there, but it's been a few years.

                                            Good luck. Make sure you drink some local beers while you're here too. Minnesota is in the middle of a local microbrew renaissance and there are some seriously good beers on tap at most restaurants and bars now.

                                            1. re: mrjayhok

                                              For Burger: If you want a Jucy Lucy, then The Blue Door or the Nook. The wait at TBD can be very long.

                                              If you want a great burger, then Meritage, hands down. I wouldn't even put Meritage on the same list as TBD, Nook, or Matt's. The burger there is one of the best in town, by far. I also agree, though, with magz0r, that Buster's on 28th, which is a short 3 minute drive from a stroll along the shore of Lake Nokomis, is also a great option. Not quite a good quality as Meritage (though still outstanding), with a fantastic beer list in a great pub atmosphere.

                                              Sea Salt is my go-to place for a fish sandwich. While perhaps heresy in Minnesota, I'm not a big fan of walleye. Sea Salt has very good seafood options, at a reasonable price, and in a great setting. Ditto with Tin Fish. Those are 2 places that, I believe, are truly unique to MN. Places like Grand Avenue Tavern, Anchor, and Mac's, while good, are a dime a dozen across the US. There's nothing truly Minnesota about them, other than the walleye aspect for Tavern - and then their walleye comes from Canada, eh.

                                              1. re: mrjayhok

                                                Based solely on your choices, I'd go with the Nook (one of you order the cheese-in-the-middle burger so you can say you have tried it, and the other one order the Nookie Supreme for a big, gooey, cheesy, beefy pile of incredibleness).

                                                As others have said, you can't go wrong with the burger at Meritage.

                                                For the fish, I'd do Anchor and forget about walleye but with a disclaimer that I feel similar about walleye as I do the cheese-stuffed burgers.

                                              2. Yeah, Walleye is not a requirement. It's just one of the things I remember enjoying from previous visits to areas around the Great Lakes or upper midwest. Cod will do just fine!

                                                Sounds like I've got 8 or so places to put in my back pocket. Sad we only have 4 meals or so to sample them in. Guess we'll have to save the rest for a return visit.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: mrjayhok

                                                  I've lived in MN for 30 years. For the first 20, I could not understood the fascination with eating Walleye. I'd eat it in restaurants. It'd be nothing special. Not much flavor, kinda bland at best.

                                                  Then I went on a fishing trip to Lake of the Woods and had a chance to eat it right out of the lake. Dead for less than 10 minutes before I got on the outside of it. It was very good. I still don't eat it at restaurants or buy it in markets. I don't bother bringing frozen fillets home from the lakes, but when I do catch it and have a chance to clean it and fry it (I like to bring the oil to frying temp before I kill the fish), I really enjoy it.

                                                  I think the idea of that fresh walleye experience is what people are eating in restaurants. So I'd go for Mac's or Anchor and ignore the walleye.