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Visiting this spring, need good food!!

I'm sure this has been brought up several times, but I've looked through and want some more up to date suggestions.

I've visited M/St Paul several times, each time going to a place a friend suggests, and each time finding myself disappointed. We've tried Daminco and Sons, Kramarczuk, Edina's Diner, and some off the wall Mexican restaurant. Each one disappointing to us.

I'm looking for a few suggestions, preferably nothing outrageously expensive.

I've found a few suggestions online, including Ward 6 and Rancho Grande. If anyone has tried them, how are they, are they kid friendly?

New suggestions:
Something Mexican, like the stick to your ribs Mexican, queso or Chihuahua cheese, not cheddar. Actual salsa and not canned sauce or pureed liquid.
Sandwiches - hearty paninis, ruebens, pastrama, NY jewish deli style.
Steakhouse - Anything good, but not $50 a plate type of thing.
BBQ - Please tell me good barbecue exists north of Kansas City? Definitely none up this way!
Insert your own suggestion, except Chinese. My husband is an odd fellow, he does not like most Asian flavors, including sesame oil, soy sauce, teriyaki, etc.

Background. I'm traveling from North Dakota, we go 2x a year, sometimes more, to pick up my mother-in-law. I have a 2 year old son, he's not picky, but he won't eat crap hamburgers or chicken strips. He likes fish, homemade dinners, etc. So no applebees or TGIF's.
We're staying for a day or two, so we'll need several places to eat.

We're not visiting until April, so I have some time. I just want to make sure we have good experiences for the first time in over 2 years. I'm not a food snob, but I do expect something to be damn good.

Thank you so much in advance!!

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  1. Brasa BBQ(600 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    (612) 379-3030)or(777 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55105
    (651) 224-1302), Pancho Villas(2539 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404(612) 871-7014), Ward 6 (858 Payne Ave, St Paul, MN 55130(651) 348-8181) all good to great, inexpensive, and kid friendly.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ibew292

      I wouldn't call Brasa bbq. I don't believe anything they have is actually smoked.

      1. re: phokingood

        I wouldn't call Brasa BBQ either, but it's really good food and super kid-friendly, so I second ibew's recommendation.

        Also, I recommend Meritage in St. Paul for lunch or brunch with your well-behaved toddler. (Meaning, if your kiddo is having a good day, take him. If he's having a bad day, it might be hard to have a good time there because you'd feel too self-conscious.)

        And I second ibew292's recommendation on Ward 6. Pretty limited menu, but very good food and kid-friendly. They bring crayons to the table, but also have a few books and a wire bead maze. They have a kids menu, yes, with many of the typical kids menu type options, but none of it is crap. And they have the best menu option of all, which I wish every respectable restaurant would offer, which is the "I'll have what she's having" option. Basically, the kitchen will make a kid-sized portion of whatever you're having for a small cost ($3, I think).

        I really like Fika, the cafe, in the American Swedish Institute. Great food, small-plate-like. No kids menu but their meatballs are a popular option for kids.

        And Midtown Global Market has some solid food options (and some forgettable ones, too) including really fantastic Sonora Grill (I hope the quality doesn't drop now that S.G. has its new standalone location up Lake Street) and Los Ocampo (though I actually prefer the Los Ocampo location practically across the street at Lake and Chicago). Also, El Burrito Mercado (I've never been to the EBM location in MGM, though; I've only been to the one in St. Paul) and Manny's tortas. MGM has a kids play area in the Southwest corner. Some of the toys are worn but the kids love them anyway.

        Shish on Grand Ave in St. Paul is pretty good (not great, in my opinion) food, but has some really nice kids options. We've only been for breakfast with our toddler, but they do such a nice job I have to mention it.

        St. Paul Cheese Shop has great sandwiches to go, though not of the NY deli type you describe.

        I'd probably skip Cecil's, but that's just me. Maybe inquire around about Bewitched and kid-friendliness. That gets a lot of love on this board.

        Sea Salt Eatery should be open in April. Good seafood. Kid-friendly for sure.

        Actual salsa is going to be a challenge this time of year --and even in April-- when tomatoes just aren't good. Honestly, I think the best you can do is a roasted tomato or tomatillo kind of salsa.

        I like Big Daddy's for BBQ, but I've never dined in.

        ~TDQ

        1. re: phokingood

          Technically you are partially correct. I should be whipped as I am a KSBS Judge. Brasa in my opinion better than any BBQ place in Minnesota. Brasa does have smoked chicken in their greens, a smoked pepper sauce on their pulled chicken sandwich, and a smoked beef sandwich.
          While they are not fully a BBQ place they are better than ALL that Glop that is served in Minneapolis or Anoka.

      2. Q Fanatic gets pretty good reviews for BBQ.

        http://www.yelp.com/biz/q-fanatic-cha...

        A lot of really good mexican in NE Minneapolis

        Maya, Taco El Riendo and Adelitas .

        http://www.yelp.com/biz/maya-cuisine-...

        http://www.yelp.com/biz/el-taco-riend...

        Cecils s probably the closest to a Jewish deli worth your time.

        http://www.yelp.com/biz/cecils-saint-...

        1. I say this as a mother of a surprisingly less picky 2 year old, is Amazing food or kid friendly more important?

          French Meadow Bakery has good sandwiches and does a nice variety of branchy options. Very busy, which can visually stimulate the kiddo.

          Davani's would be a good kid friendly pizza and hoagie option. Not top 10 material, but tasty and satisfying, especially if you are approaching the "I MUST EAT NOW" meltdown. You know what I mean.

          5 Replies
          1. re: autumm

            amazing food to be honest, my son is picky about what he eats in that he doesn't like to eat a lot of run of the mill processed foods, but he loves what we eat. I can deal with less kid friendly places.

            1. re: chobette

              Try Haute Dish. Reinvented midwestern classics. In a good way. Yet easy going child friendly. High maintenance kid, not so much. They also do a lovely Sunday brunch.

            2. re: autumm

              Yes, meltdown mode is quite common at this age. Thanks for the suggestions!

              1. re: autumm

                I can't address kid friendliness, so I'll leave that to others.

                But for pizza,
                Punch
                Pig Ate My Pizza
                Lola
                Black Sheep
                would be my suggestions.

                To me, Davanni's is just average pizza. I think you would be adding it to your list of places that disappointed you.

                1. re: ChillyDog

                  I agree with you on your pizza recommendations, and they are better than davanni's.

                  Davanni's is for when you have a toddler in melt down mode and a nicer place isn't going to cut it. (They also deliver and have curbside pick up)

              2. I've never heard of Rancho Grande but a quick search shows it is in Buffalo. Are you staying in that area? I don't see that it has ever been mentioned on this board.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ChillyDog

                  I just did a random search for Mexican joints and that popped up. We'll be mainly in the St.Paul and Minneapolis area. Thanks for the heads up

                2. Mexican -- Consider going to the Midtown Global Market, which has several Mexican (and other types of) joints, such as Sonora Grill. By April, Sonora Grill's new standalone location further east on Lake should be open. If you're in the south metro, Andale Tacos in Bloomington is great.

                  Sandwiches/deli -- Unfortunately, there's no great Jewish-style deli here. Mort's Deli in Golden Valley and Cecil's in St. Paul are both OK. Be'wiched Deli in Minneapolis is more of an upscale twist the deli concept, but it's very good, and it's good for kids.

                  Steakhouse -- Two recommendations here. Erte in NE Minneapolis, and the Strip Club in St. Paul. Both are above-average places with steaks that are reasonably priced. (At Erte, be sure to get the green goddess dressing.)

                  BBQ -- No great southern BBQ up here, although there are places that will scratch the itch if you really crave it. Instead, I'd suggest trying Brasa (locations in St. Paul and Minneapolis), which has more of a Caribbean take on BBQ. Also very good for kids. Great side dishes.

                  Some places I'd add for your consideration…

                  Hell's Kitchen for breakfast (downtown Minneapolis), a fun experience with a unique breakfast menu.

                  Sea Salt (fried fish, fresh oysters, po 'boys, etc.) in a dining pavilion overlooking Minnehaha Falls. Depending on when you are here, they might have opened for the season -- check their website to be sure.

                  Smack Shack, Minneapolis -- lobster, lobster, lobster. Lobster mac n' cheese, lobster guacamole, whole lobsters, lobster rolls. Other seafood as well. Great for a kid who likes fish.

                  Punch Pizza, Pizza Nea, Pizzeria Lola, Hello Pizza, Black Sheep Pizza -- any of the above for Neapolitan-style (or Neapolitan-influenced) high-quality pizzas and salads.

                  This just scratches the surface, and I stayed away from Asian, per your preference. Enjoy, and please report back!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Jordan

                    Sonora Grill #2 is already open.

                    1. re: Jordan

                      Sonora Grill opened December 20th. Had a meal on opening night and while it took awhile to get a server's attention (place was SRO), my tacos & cocktail were excellent.

                      1. re: Jordan

                        I keep forgetting about Erte. We were meaning to head there on our last visit, but got caught up with other places. Thanks for the recs!

                      2. Be'Wiched has arguably the best pastrami sandwich in town. Their other offerings are equally stellar.

                        1. Forgot to add Tilia. Kid Friendly but your better of to go earlier in the day. Evenings and Late Nights would be far too loud for a kid imo.

                          1. Lots of great recs here - I'd add World Street Kitchen to the list. Kid friendly, counter service, and damn good food. 90% of the menu is Asian, but they do have a fish sandwich and falafel burger and a couple other non-Asian items.