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5 Cities in 5 Days - Food Tour

My cousin and I are planning a road trip after Christmas this year. We plan on driving to 5 cities in 5 days, the whole point of the trip is to try to find the best spots to eat in each city. We aren't looking for fancy restaurants, we are looking for amazing food.
We plan on visiting at least 2 food spots in each city.

The Route:
Starting in Omaha.
1.) Minneapolis
2.) Green Bay
3.) Chicago
4.) St. Louis
5.) Kansas City

I would like to get some advice and/or opinions on what spots we should visit and what we should order. So far, I have been recommended to visit these spots:

Minneapolis: Tilia - Brasa
Green Bay: Curly's - Krolls
Chicago: Giordano's - Johnnie's Beef
St. Louis - Cunetto's House of Pasta - Amighetti's
Kansas City - Oklahoma Joes - Arthur Bryant's

I would love to hear some other suggestions and opinions.

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  1. Anyone who lives in any of these cities, if you have a recommendation it is appreciated.
    Also, Price isn't really a factor, we just want to try things and places that we wouldn't be able to experience anywhere else. If there is a specific food that we can eat and not get anywhere else, we want to try it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JPEvansEats

      I'm not sure there is necessarily a perfect overlap between "things and places that you wouldn't be able to experience anywhere else" and "amazing food" when it comes to restaurant dining in the Twin Cities. This is unfortunately a bitterly contested topic of discussion on this board.

      I don't think you can go wrong with Tilia--it's one of the darlings of the food scene right now. I adore Brasa, but I'm not sure it would be one of only two places I visited in the Twin Cities if that's all I had time for.

      They have recently had a staff shake-out, but I might recommend Fika , the cafe at the American Swedish Institute to you. Very casual dining but really fabulous food.

      If you have a breakfast free, I might recommend the (very rich) wild rice porridge at Hell's Kitchen because I think wild rice --the hand-harvested, hand-parched, not-cultivated kind-- is something unique to Minnesota (and if you don't find it at a restaurant, you might buy a bag to go if you see it for sale anywhere you happen to be). But, the dining experience at Hell's Kitchen is otherwise pretty uneven.

      If you like a street food kind of experience, I recommend the Hmong Market in St. Paul. Typically good bets from the various vendors include the stuffed chicken wings, the papaya salad (Hmong style, which is a little different than Thai style), the rainbow/tapioca drinks (can't think of the name right now), the sausage, and the ribs.

      Babani's in St. Paul claims to be the first (and perhaps still the only) Kurdish restaurant in the U.S. if that's something that appeals to you. I think the food is pretty good (not necessarily exceptional) and, although some of the food might be familiar, it is pretty unique.

      Happy travels!


    2. One city per day means lunch and dinner, I suppose. I'd definitely stick with Tilia for lunch. As much as I like Brasa, I'd push you to the big brother restaurant run by the same individual: Alma. But I'd really push you to Ngon Vietnamese Bistro given your criteria.

      Alternatively, Fika for lunch and Tilia for dinner. But Tilia does not accept reservations.

      1. After ok Joe's I'd avoid ab's, Jack stack for the bbq short rib.

        Here, to echo the above brasa is great but not only stop great.

        Because if it were me ice cream or a bakery would also be party of every city I'd recommend Izzys here and glace in kc.

        2 Replies
        1. re: getgot211

          Would agree with Jack Stack over AB's, unless the history, etc. is more important to you.

          1. re: mull0263

            Oklahoma Joes - yes, it definitely is unique to K.C. and as the Michelin people would say, "worth a detour". But I don't think a second meal in KC should automatically also be BBQ. There are plenty of other distinctive places in KC. I'd recommend Voltaire in the West Bottoms, or Novel in the Crossroads disrtict, for real KC experiences.

        2. Minneapolis- Butcher and the Boar , 112 eatery or Borough.


          If you can plan ahead Umami by Travail. They do dim sum where you buy tickets ahead of time. Not sure about walk ins right now.


          Pig ate my pizza is awesome as well; another Travail Project.


          Skip Brasa imo Tilia is really good too.

          1. I second the advice to skip Brasa. Its a great place, don't get me wrong, but it is not a revelation. If I want a sort of fast casual lunch akin to Brasa, I'd go two blocks down Hennepin to kramarczuk's deli, and order the works. Otherwise, for a bit more money, Butcher and the Boar or Haute Dish offer truly excellent, and relatively unique dining experiences.

            I would also gently suggest that you skip Green Bay. I've been there several times for football games, and have eaten at Krolls, Curly's, and a number of other places in that town. If there is good food there, I haven't found it. Unless you are going there for a football game, skip it, and cast your net in Madison or Milwaukee. Much better eating, and more conveniently located on your route.

            1 Reply
            1. re: KyleThomas

              Indeed. Going to Green Bay for the food is rather like going there for baseball.

              The one restaurant in Green Bay that I gladly go to again and again and again is Hinterland. If there is a consistently better restaurant in GB, I don't know what it is.

              I would second the recommendation of Kyle Thomas - you are going to have a lot more options in either Madison or Milwaukee.

            2. I'd either get a jucy lucy or go to Ngon.
              I think Ngon is a great representation of the delicious local food with good beers, but as a transplant from everywhere else where jucy lucy's don't exist, I have to put in my vote for one of those at Matt's or Blue Door.

              1. FYI, I would not walk across the street for a Jucy Lucy let alone drive several hundred miles. If you are looking for the best, you can do much better than a hamburger with cheese in the middle.

                I'd suggest Tilia for lunch as the menu is the same as the dinner menu.

                For dinner, you've gotten lots of the best suggestions but I'd like to add another for your consideration - Saffron.

                13 Replies
                1. re: ChillyDog

                  I know this argument has been hashed other places on this board, but here it goes: A really good hamburger, akin to Blue Door or Haute Dish, can be had in just about any American City.

                  The Jucy Lucy at Matt's is unique, and in my opinion, quite good. The bun is just the right consistency to mesh with the burger which has the perfect amount of char on the outside. The caramelized onions are perfect, owing to the very old, seasoned griddle that cooks everything in the place. The American cheese in the center reaches a gooey consistency that doesn't happen with a plain cheese burger. In sum, the burger is excellent, and I am more than happy to drive across town to get one when the mood strikes.

                  1. re: KyleThomas

                    All of the burgers at BDP are stuffed. How is that different than Matt's other than you think Matt's is better?

                    Personally, I don't like the stuffed burgers at either Matt's or BDP (preferring the Nook's) but the point is, these are all stuffed burgers.

                    I think the interesting thing about sending out of towners to either the Nook or BDP is that they get to experience a bit of our tavern culture, which is unique compared to places I've lived. Matt's doesn't represent that very well, in my opinion, so I wouldn't send an out of towner there. And also because I don't like the burned awfulness of Matt's JL. I know people love Matt's, but, boy, I just don't get it.


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      I think Matts is definitely Tavern culture and presents quite well.. BDP or the Nook is yuppy territory and overpriced IMHO.

                      1. re: ibew292

                        Yeah, I'm not going too far out on a limb to defend BDP--I've already said I don't like their burgers.

                        But, part of the tavern culture I find particularly interesting is the family friendliness of it and Matt's doesn't fit that. I think BDP is closer than Matt's, but mostly I agree with you on BDP.

                        The Nook at $6.95 for a basic stuffed burger with a monstrous side of delicious hand-cut fries and a fresh bakery bun is overpriced? Compared with $6.25 for the jucy lucy and the Sysco crap fries at Matt's ?

                        That extra 70 cents is a problem?


                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                        You say burned, I say perfectly charred; a matter of preference, I guess.

                        Blue door was probably a poor example. BUT, the stuffed burgers at blue door, 5-8, Nook, do not feel unique to me. I've seen similar iterations in other places (albeit, usually with mozzarella cheese and called a pizza burger). For the reasons I state above, Matt's version is different and unique.

                        Also, the "tavern" vibe is alive and well at Matt's, although it doesn't come through as well when the place is packed with people waiting to have a sandwich, and no one really there to drink. On this point, I guess it is a matter of how you grew up, but for me, I think that the classic MN bar has some pull tabs, a grain belt sign, some fake wood, and a limited tap selection. Matt's meets all but one of those criteria.

                        1. re: KyleThomas

                          You know, I'll give you that on atmosphere on Matt's. You're right, it really does represent a certain vibe quite well.

                          As I said above, it's the family-friendliness of the Nook that is part of its appeal that I find interesting. And it did sadly lose some of its charm in the fire.

                          Frankly, the main culinary reason to go to BDP is to drink because their burgers are awful and their beer is good. Okay, that and the tater tots.

                          And yes, char to you = burned to me, but I can accept that as a matter of preference.


                          1. re: KyleThomas

                            P.S. a pizza burger is a different thing entirely! Yes, it's stuffed with cheese, but the patty should be at least part sausage. And the marinara is essential. The pizza burger of my youth was also breaded and deep-fried, but I know that isn't universal.


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              As an out-of-towner, I like "stuffed burgers" and I have not found them elsewhere--Matt's is a fun experience. True, there are better burgers elsewhere; I threw in BDP because there are weird appetizers like fried pickles and spam-bites.

                              There are plenty of fancy delicious restaurants in towns; I love Tilia, Alma...but after I saw the bbq and hot beef ideas, I went for serious regional.

                              1. re: stepawayfromthetable

                                I like stuffed burgers too and have no problem recommending the Nook to people for the atmosphere. But they have to like burgers.

                                I think the sides at BDP are delicious, but I find their burgers to be almost inedible. Sometimes the basic stuffed burger is fine, but even that is hit or miss.


                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                            I'd just like to correct you, TDQ, because not all of the burgers at BDP are stuffed. There is a 1/3 lb hamburger and a double "Defibrillator" that are not stuffed. They are under the BYO section, so it can be easy to miss them. They've been there since the beginning.

                            1. re: jaycooke

                              I did not know that, thank you! Are they any good? Or are they a greasy, sloppy roll of the dice like their stuffed burgers?


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                I have never had one. And I like their blucys, so I'm not sure you'd trust my judgment. My mom, who doesn't like cheese within 10 feet of her burger, enjoyed one when she was visiting awhile back.

                                1. re: jaycooke

                                  jaycooke, I trust your judgment, but perhaps don't share your taste in this matter. :) But, that's a good tip about your cheese-on-a-burger loathing mom liking this burger. Perhaps I shall try it next time I go to BDP, thanks for the tip. I've been getting the Thai Chicken wraps when I go there (from the same section of the menu as the plain burger, ironically). Not the best TCW's I've ever had, but not bad and way more acceptable to me than their stuffed burgers.

                                  And why I'm crabbing about BDP, and totally OT for this thread, why do they bring out a gigantic spoon for the apple sauce with the kids meal? A mere teaspoon will do, folks. How big do you think a child's mouth is?