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Seeking advice for the best of Minneapolis

I'm a New Yorker going to Minneapolis for the first time. Normally my travels take me internationally so I'm looking for restaurants where the chef's use fresh local ingredients with a local flavor somewhat creatively. Looking for interesting LOCAL food thats well crafted - no chains and no Mexican or Asian. I've also Heard that there is a "nouveau Scandanavian" movement there too, that I'd like to try.

Here is the list I've culled from chowhound and other digging on the internet. We only have 4 to maybe 5 dinners to narrow down to. No time for breakfast or lunch.

Love your advice! Thanks

The Bachelor Farmer
112 Eatery
Corner Table
Sea Change
Butcher & The Boar

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  1. That list is pretty much The Usual Suspects. You might want to try Al's Breakfast for a singular experience. Also, the breakfast at Hell's Kitchen is wonderful. And if you are going to be here before Labor Day, our Minnesota State Fair might blow your mind (provided you are guided to the best vendors).

    1 Reply
    1. re: gryffindor249

      Thanks but we'll be there end Sept so will miss your Minnesota State Fair

    2. From your list, and what you say you are looking for, I'd pick Bachelor Farmer, Alma, and Corner Table. Not on your list, but should be, are Piccolo and Tilia.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Brad Ballinger

        Oh yeah, Brad, Tilia's a good add-on. I love that place.

        1. re: JimGrinsfelder

          Tillia is great. But be forewarned, it does not take reservations and the waits can be long. If patience isn't a virtue, try it at your own risk.

      2. If I had to pick five, these would be my choices:

        Restaurant Alma
        La Belle Vie - Thomas Keller called it "extraordinary"
        Sea Change

        If the "nouveau Scandanavian" is a must for you, then I'd add in Bachelor Farmer and leave out Sea Change. My thinking behind that is that sea change is seafood/fish focused and since you are from NYC, you probably have pretty good access to that back home. But I really believe Sea Change is a more interesting restaurant. You may want to investigate Bar La Grassa over both of them.

        I'd for sure leave out Union. It's a great building but my two meals there have been average at best so far and nothing memorable to write home about. 112 is still good, but La Grassa is better.

        Let us know what you end up deciding upon

        1 Reply
        1. re: Db Cooper

          Totally agree - ditch Union. Good for a cocktail on the rooftop, but the food is mediocre at best. There are far better places to go to for a good meal.

        2. You've got it, but I'll ape what everyone else has noted: You are missing Piccolo. Additionally, nouveau Scandanavian isn't really a thing, at least not here. If you were to compare, say, Aquavit to Bachelor Farmer you would note a marked difference in how "scandanavian" the latter is. Still good though. And pretty.

          Same suggestion with nixing Union unless you are looking for some company overnight one night.

          Alma, La Belle Vie, Piccolo, Butcher & The Boar, Bachelor Farmer, 112 or Burch or Bar LaGrassa...you'll have hit most of our shining points.

          1. Alma, Piccolo & La Belle Vie are my top 3.

            I'd consider 112 or Bachelor Farmer as 4th or 5th. I don't think 5 dinners in a row at restaurants like these is the way to go.

            I'd recommend two, maybe three high-end places. Then I'd mix in a trip to one of the park shacks like Sea Salt or Sand Castle or Bread & Pickle on a nice evening.

            And I'd stop at someplace like Wise Acres or Birchwood to get a little taste of lighter fare (to be fare, you can usually eat pretty healthy at Alma).

            And frankly, I'd go to a Vietnamese place because the Twin Cities quite possibly has more better Vietnamese than NYC.

            If you want Scandinavian, nothing here is as good as Aquavit in NYC used to be, but you've got Bachelor Farmer and Fika and Swede Hollow and Finn Bistro in St. Anthony Park.

            1. "Looking for interesting LOCAL food thats well crafted"

              Lucia's has been doing this well for decades; long before it was trendy.

              Please avoid Union; you can do so much better. Sea Change emphasizes sustainable but SEAfood is not local in MN.

              Saffron is worth your consideration. I also endorse adding Piccolo and Tilia.

              The new Travail is supposedly open the end of September but that will be crazy busy. Maybe next time.

              1. I just found out that I will only have time for three dinners! Seems like Alma is on almost every list...which means only 2 others. I'm going to have the opportunity for only ONE lunch and I was thinking of making it Fika.

                Any suggestions to help me decide which of these to eliminate?

                The Bachelor Farmer
                Butcher & The Boar
                Bar La Grassa

                16 Replies
                1. re: nyperr

                  Fika is an excellent choice for lunch. If the weather is good, get a table in the courtyard.

                  Word of warning, if you decide on TBF make your reservation as soon as possible.

                  1. re: nyperr

                    For high-end, fine dining, I would pick La Belle Vie over Alma.

                    Of the others on the list, if you're wanting something distinctive to Minnesota, my top choices would be Saffron and one that hasn't come up yet on your list -- Haute Dish. Tongue-in-cheek, reimagined versions of staid Midwestern cuisine.

                    1. re: Jordan

                      Agree about Haute Dish. Ate here last night for the second time---best burger in the city right now; Tater Tot Haute Dish was fantastic, and the BBQ Pork x3 could feed three by itself. This to me is the most Minnesotan restaurant I've yet encountered, though with the heavier fare I'm not sure how they were quite as busy as they were last night, what with the 93 degrees out. Caloric-wise, it's basically Fair food served with high technique and panache: a great combo, in my opinion.

                    2. re: nyperr

                      Eliminate Bar La Grassa. It's very good, but doesn't fit the description of what you wrote you wanted. Butcher and the Boar is all about meat and brown liquor. It's good charcuterie and sausage, but you can probably get that easily enough back in New York.

                      There are better places to eat than Bachelor Farmer, but
                      I'd leave it on the list because you wanted a Scandinavian vibe. If you were able to do lunch, I'd send you to Fika for the Scandinavian requirement, and knock BF off your short list.

                      1. re: nyperr

                        You can probably remove BLG. It's funny, several of my favorites from BLG are either inspired by or lifted directly from the dishes we've had @ Spotted Pig (ricotta gnudi, nduja w/egg, mushroom agnilloti), so you can certainly get that where you are.

                        1. re: nyperr

                          The one I'd keep on there is Piccolo. The other three aren't in the same league for the reasons listed by other posters.

                          1. re: Db Cooper

                            From what I'm getting, I'll skip Bachelor Farmer. OK, I'll do Alma and Piccolo. Don't want to do La Belle Vie because it sounds like white tablecloth French and I do go to Paris fairly frequently. For the last dinner, do I do Butcher & The Boar or Sea Change?

                            1. re: nyperr

                              Butcher. You get better seafood in New York (go to Marea).

                              1. re: Brad Ballinger

                                I'd tell you neither. You'll get better steaks and/or seafood in NYC. If you told me I had to pick, I'd go with Sea Change. I think you can get charcuterie in NYC and brown liquor is available anywhere. Butcher and the Boar is really just a suburban steakhouse downtown.

                                Based on your original requirements, I think Haute Dish is what you after as Jordan and Parkermsp mentioned above. I don't think you are going to find anything like it in NYC. It's a very uniquely MN restaurant. It takes old casserole and other standard midwestern traditional dinners and dresses them up with top notch ingredients. Tater-Tot Haute Dish is his signature. Short Ribs, green beans, and tater tots, topped with a sauce accented by porcini mushrooms. Here's a link to the website.

                                If you really, really want something you aren't going to find back home, this is your best bet.

                                1. re: Db Cooper

                                  DB and I are totally on the same wavelength today. You won't get more local Minnesotan than a cheeky play on tater tot hot dish. And it's damn good to boot!

                                  I think Fika, Piccolo, Alma and Haute Dish will give you a really well-rounded look at what MSP has to offer. But honestly - all of the places you were thinking of, with the exception of Union, are really good.

                              2. re: nyperr

                                La Belle Vie is more white tablecloth modernized pan-Mediterranean, but it's your call. In terms of quality and creativity, it's a level above anything else on your list.

                                1. re: Jordan

                                  I usually like the dessert a lot at LBV, and they sure do have a prettier package than anywhere in town, but I don't think the food is ever really that exciting. If piccolo were in the LBV space, it would be a whole different ballgame.

                                  1. re: Foureyes137

                                    OK...I've narrowed it down to Alma, Piccolo and Butcher

                                    1. re: nyperr

                                      You've picked 3 entirely different places. Butcher is a loud frat-house of a place. Alma is dark with a studied, almost intense focus on Food. Piccolo is a lower-key neighborhood-like spot.

                                      1. re: nyperr

                                        Sounds like a good mix to me. I hope you have a fabulous trip. I would recommend the suggested tasting menu options at Alma and Piccolo (or at Piccolo put together your own tasting menu of the same number of dishes that sound the best if two from one menu section sound more amazing than from another section). I think trying more than just two or three courses is part of what I love about both Alma and Piccolo. At Butcher and the Boar, my favorite things that I have tried are the cured meats/sausages and the grilled oysters.

                              3. Someone mentioned Vietnamese as unique to the Twin Cities, but not NYC. Worthy of mentioning is Ngon, a second-generation, upscale Vietnamese restaurant. The pho alone makes me swoon.


                                2 Replies
                                1. re: shoo bee doo

                                  Ngon is undergoing a remodeling. They are supposed to be wrapped up by the time the OP is there, but if I were the OP, I'd still call the restaurant before heading over there.


                                2. a lot of "local" minneapolis/saint paul flavor these days actually IS asian and african - the twin cities have one of the highest concentrations of hmong and ethiopian residents in the usa.

                                  just a thought.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: chartreauxx


                                    We're also rich with Somali and they have their own gated in set of shops behind the walgreens on lake street about three lights weast of I-35.

                                    I so disagree with chillywilly's comment about the seafood being fresh. Try Shu an g CH e n g (that should be ONE word, excuse the aggressive spell check! ).

                                    Anyway, Lobsters can be reasonably had and picked live ribut out of their tank plus the yfellow pages in their ad they claim they fly in fresh seafood daily, as per law this far in land its eeither that or frzen and rthawed.


                                    I know the author has came and went but this is for anyone else who reads the thread later.

                                    S C is in dink town... 4th & University or thhereabouts.

                                    1. re: JOHN45

                                      If you are referring to me, I said SEAFOOD is not local. That's not a judgement. It's a statement of fact. Minnesota is not near the sea. I didn't say anything about freshness.