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trip report - a few days in Minneapolis

Thanks to the fine recommendations on this board, I had a fantastic time eating my way through Minneapolis. I thought I'd report back my findings...

Travail:

unbelievable. The best meal i've had since 11 Madison Park. I got there around 4:45 on a Saturday, and there was a line down the block. The restaurant filled up with 20 people ahead of me and I resigned myself to a looong wait, but as luck would have it there was a single stool open at the end of the bar, so I was able to get seated right away. I got the 8 course prix fixe option. I thought this would be excessive as it is billed as a meal for two. However, it turns out to be perhaps a bit small for 2, so while it's still a bit large for 1, it's not ridiculously so. Anyway, I had:

-an astoundingly creative and delicious carrot 4 ways prep
-beef tartare w/fingerlings - their take on "meat and potatoes"
-smoked corn, popcorn & jalapeno soup
-agnolotti w/soft scrambled egg and a cheesy broth
-arctic char
-chicken, chicken sausage, sous-vide egg, cheesy grits
-country ribs
-churros, caramel, ice cream, walnuts

and a range of small tastes, which included:
-orzo w/horseradish & pickled turnips
-roasted mushrooms (soft texture riffed on by being served with a gerber baby spoon)
-tempura fried something or another on a sliver of quail egg w/chives
-lime frozen yogurt/pop rocks "palate cleanser"
-pre-dessert of s'mores w/house-made marshmallow, macaroons w/pumpkin filling, small cookies

I knew going in that the place was casual, but what I didn't realize is that it's essentially eating an exceptionally fine and precisely done meal in what amounts to a college town bar. There was lots of toasting and yelling, and passing steins of beer around the bar. I thought it was great -- they get the cooking right and otherwise just have fun. I had a pretty good view into the kitchen, and it was pretty damn amazing. The level of cooking FAR exceeds anything I've had in Toronto and is at the very least on par with, and possibly better, than anything I've eaten in Boston. This place clearly has a national reputation and it really deserves it. What a gem.

Rustica:

another highlight. I had a kougin aman and an espresso, and got a pain au chocolate and danish for later. This is, again, a bakery on par with the best i've had anywhere, no exceptions. The breads (I sampled one) seemed extraordinary, and the fact that they take their coffee very seriously, and have a quiet space for enjoying your pastry & coffee while reading the paper is icing on the cake, so to speak. I would so dearly love to have a bakery like this at home.

I also stopped by the Blue Ox cafe to pick up a couple pounds of Counter Culture (not available in Canada) -- lovely quiet cafe, very conducive to getting work done; stopped by the Salty Tart bakery for a cookie & a rustic peach tart. I later returned to the Midtown Global Market for lunch -- a very nicely done Oaxacan tamale from La Loma Tamales.

The only real miss, I thought, was Hell's Kitchen -- was looking forward to their rosti, but in the end it didn't do a whole lot for me. Reminded me mostly of a Waffle House, if Waffle House spent 80% of their budget on kitschy decor.

Thanks again for the recommendations -- I had a spectacular time eating my way through Minneapolis, and look forward to a repeat visit, hopefully soon!

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  1. Thanks for the great report. I'm sorry you had a bad experience. Rosti seems like the sort of thing that's just up their alley. Normally, their breakfasts are pretty solid. (Other meals are questionable). I hope HK's not going downhill with all of their focus on the new bakery...

    ~TDQ

    2 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      I've said it before and I'll say it again: Hell's Kitchen breakfast fixings are spotty. Eggs are often over- or undercooked, and every time I've tried their rosti it's been too salty and again, either over- or undercooked. No tongue sparks for me from their bison sausage, and while the peanut butter is tasty, it's nearly as sweet as licking the inside of a Reese's cup. What IS good, in my opinion, is their Mahnomin porridge (albeit very, very rich), and the lemon ricotta pancakes. That's all I ever get or recommend there, after too many disappointing breakfasts.

      1. re: clepro

        I get those two things (probably on your recommendation!) --always to share, though, because they are way too sweet and rich for me to eat the entire order by myself--as well as their bison sausage bread which I really like and also often give a loaf of as a gift. Also, I've had good luck with their huevos rancheros, though once or twice the tortillas have been weirdly hard and crunchy.

        I do like their housemade peanut butter, so I usually order toast, too. I agree it's sweeter than most peanut butters (though I think it's substantially less sweet than most candies) I only eat a little of it as a spread on my toast, so the sweetness is not a problem is not a problem for me.

        I can't think of anything else that I order there, though had I seen the rosti on their menu, I might have ordered it, too.

        ~TDQ

    2. I love how you describe Travail. Almost word for word how I described it to a haute food pal.

      1. Wonderful write up. Thanks.

        I might actually brave the madness at Travail tonight. Single bar spot at ~8:30ish? We'll see.

        2 Replies
        1. re: BigE

          We got two at the bar last Wednesday at about 7, and there were two more spots open at the long table, so I suspect you did fine!

          1. re: splatgirl

            I didn't make it, actually :( but that's good to know!

        2. Excellent report. Thanks for sharing.

          I'm going to have to check out Blue Ox. I hadn't heard of it and am sometimes looking for a good place to get work done and still be around people. With good food and drink.

          1. Appreciate your fine report & will definitely hit Travail next time in Msp, but we really miss you in Boston!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Taralli

              I miss Boston too! I hope we'll have a chance to share a meal again soon -- our meal at Biryani Park was so fantastic! Next time you're in MSP make sure to hit Travail, but also save some time to swing by Rustica, I thought it was really a fantastic bakery, at a Canto 6 or Clear Flour level, except with more seating and a great coffee program.