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A few days in Minneapolis area - did my CH homework

A few day in the Minneapolis area to attend a wedding that will be held the Loring Pasta Bar venue (which was a surprise to see this place will work for a wedding regardless of the unlikely name)

In addition we have a few meals to cover from our downtown hotel, as we spend some time exploring the close in area. (Fri/Sat/Sun)

So far it looks like a breakfast at Hell's Kitchen and Sunday lunch/brunch'dinner at Black Forest Inn to sample what might be truly "local" to the Twin Cities and its historic culinary past.

Of course, this does not include a Jucy Lucy but not sure there will be room for one, stomach wise, even if there is time wise for a few more sampling spots.

Any other local and/or historic spots and or local/historic dishes? Al's for breakfast sounded great until we read about the waiting lines. What is the story about "Eat Street"?

Thanks for any tips, warnings or confirmation.

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  1. Lots of decent food on Eat Street - especially Vietnamese. That said, ES isn't a go-to destination for any specific restaurant, as every represented cuisine is done better at some other location in town.

    But since you are nearby, Quang, Pho Tau Bay, and Pho 79 all have good Vietnamese. Lu's (Banh Mi,) Krungthep (Thai,) Rainbow (Chinese,) Peninsula (Malaysian,) Christos (Greek,) Harry Singh's (Caribbean,) Glam Doll (donuts,) Spyhouse (coffee) are all fine. There is also a new breed of restaurants on ES that are trendier and have full bars. Ice House is primary a music club. Eat Street Social might be more enjoyable for drinks than food, and the Copper Hen is the most recent arrival in this category, which seems to embrace non-specifically ethnic cuisine.

    There is also a string of restaurants further north on Eat Street that are likely closer to your hotel. These include Market Bar-B-Que, Jerusalem's, and Salsa a la Salsa (Bar-B-Que, Middle Eastern, and Mexican, respectively.) These places are all adequate.

    I might have considered the Black Forest 25 years ago but I definitely wouldn't go out of my way for it now.

    The Loring has a great room in Dinkytown, one of the main commercial districts for the U. of M. You will have a fun time there. (Some trivia, this building is where Bob Dylan once lived.)

    Al's, also in Dinkytown, is fine diner-style breakfast food. But you are right, the lines are long and with only 14 stools there is always someone breathing down your neck waiting for you to finish. Not good for large groups of people.

    Hell's Kitchen should be fine for brunch.

    1. To help further, please tell us the name of your hotel, your transportation situation, and your food and budget preferences. Knowing how many are in your group might also help.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChancesR

        Another bit of info that is sometimes helpful is where you are from. It gives a better understanding of the kinds of cuisine you have access to at home.

      2. You can do better than the Black Forest and a Jucy Lucy. You will miss out on some great dining if that's what you end up eating.

        Historic does not necessarily equal quality.

        If you can provide the info ChancesR asked about, especially if you have a car, we can help you better.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ChillyDog

          I agree with Chilly and Chances about the BFI and the Jucy Lucy.

          Mpls/St. Paul has so much more to offer.

          1. re: ChillyDog

            Prefect thread. I will print this out and it does have names that seem to come up a lot, and it appears to follow pretty much which we are looking for too.

            Please, if there are any updates to this thread happy to get them. Thank you fellow Chowhounders - the best travel dining resource out there.

            I'll owe you one.

          2. You are all right about failing to give a little more background when asking my dining questions - from West Coast so asian, mexican, nouvelle, foodie, chi chi etc are not on our radar for this trip.

            Will have a car, only two of us doing the culinary exploration and looking for "heart land America" as it might translate to a west-coaster, which is why I was looking at "German" at the Black Forest Inn. We don't do German, or anything Middle European out here on the West Coast.

            Come myself from German/Danish St Paul stock a few generations ago. Guess I am trying to find something my grandparents might have known --- or that grew out of their newly immigrant experiences back in the late 1800's..

            Funny how one culls tourism info about "must eats" when visiting a new place, that often leaves the local scratching their heads.

            I once saw marshmallows recommended as must eats for Europeans visiting America for the first time, along with beef steak and apple pie.

            Reading across the recommendations here, I can see Minnesota today has a lot more than just "powdermilk biscuits" these days, but there is part of me who would like to know what the heck a powdermilk biscuit actually was.

            Hotel is on 4th Street downtown, we like to walk (humidity -what is that???) Skywalk looks interesting as a city planning experience. Willing to take public transit to avoid parking driving problems. Want to take is some of the local scenery, lakes, lifestyle too.

            BTW: I love rhubarb. Yep, still Danish enough for that which is hard to find out West and impossible to grow. Money not a primary consideration. Casual to high end special okay for us

            11 Replies
            1. re: glbtrtr

              Thanks. That's helpful info.

              Top of mind downtown-
              Brasserie Zentral
              Bachelor Farmer
              Haute Dish

              Just across the river from downtown, Kramarczuk's. They recently won a James Beard America's Classics award. How's that for historic?

              If Swedish is of interest, FIKA is not too far away and an easy drive. They have a good size lot so parking shouldn't be an issue.

              1. re: ChillyDog

                Yes. Fika! http://www.asimn.org/visit/fika-cafe (the American Swedish Institute's website)

                http://fikacafe.net/ - the cafe's website

                Try a Seasonal Shrub Soda. Weird but tasty.

                I know a lot of people pooh-pooh Nyes which has been around since the 50's. I go for the people watching, a cocktail and believe it or not, the Naugahyde (gold flecked cherry red - who does that?). Warning - on a sticky day bare thighs will feel like they've been superglued to the banquette. The parking is not ideal (tiny lot) but it's a great mile walk from downtown over the Stone Arch bridge and down Main Street. http://www.nyespolonaise.com/

                If you want food after your walk and drink, well you can eat at Nye's but it's not my cup of tea (martini, actually). There's a lot happening over that way these days, but if you are interested in food of the past I'd suggest Kramarczuk's. http://kramarczuks.com/ Just down Hennepin from Nye's.

                A link to a teeny walking map http://www.minneapolisparks.org/grand... No doubt your hotel will have better maps. Still, gives you an idea of the area.

                You've gotten great suggestions from others. These are kinda wackier alternatives.

                1. re: ChillyDog

                  Brasserie Zentral popped immediately into my mind too when I saw the reference to Central European, buttressed by the later mention of pork. Check out the pork cheeks on Zentral's menu http://www.zentral-mpls.com/pdf/menus...

                2. re: glbtrtr

                  Funny how tourist industry sorts tend to recommend different restaurants to tourists than they would choose for themselves. While visiting Nashville, a local wanted to send us to some corny music-cowboy theme-y restaurant; we used Mr. Google to find a wonderful, fresh-food chef-owned restaurant. The punchline is that while we were at this wonderful restaurant, we saw the local guy who'd tried to send us to the theme restaurant!

                  I was intrigued by your "powdermilk biscuit" reference. I grew up in the true Midwest (slightly further south of Minnesota), springing from families who made biscuits daily. They were called biscuits, buttermilk biscuits, or baking powder biscuits - NEVER "powdermilk biscuits".

                  A quick internet search reveals that the term is apparently an invention of Garrison Keillor for his radio program.

                  Anyway, I would look for chef-driven restaurants who do the whole "local" thing.

                  1. re: sandylc

                    Garrison Keillor ... IS .... Minnesota to us Left-Coasters and we pay $100 a pop to see him perform out here and wonder what the heck powdermilk biscuits are all about.

                    BTW, we are lusty meat eaters and miss getting really, really good pork. Any restaurant hints to satisfy that fetish?

                    1. re: glbtrtr

                      Garrison Keillor....well, let's leave that subject behind.

                      I will give some good thought to the best pork in town! Some places around here do the Berkshire heritage thing, I'll have to think of some of them...

                      Anyone else here have a pork thought or two?

                        1. re: sandylc

                          Carnitas at a number of places - Homi, Maya, Sonora Grill, Pineda.

                          Also Bar La Grassa has a great bruschetta with pork shoulder (that, frankly, tastes just like carnitas.)

                          Additionally, pork shoulder sandwich at Rooster's.

                          1. re: sandylc

                            Lucia's generally has pork on their menu - it changes weekly.

                            They use a lot of fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients.

                          2. re: glbtrtr

                            If you end up at Ngon, they have an excellent pork belly appetizer.

                            1. re: glbtrtr

                              Craftsman on E. Lake Street generally has a very nice porkchop (the details change seasonally). The location is a bit out of your way, though if you combined this with visiting Minnehaha Falls, you could take the LRT there, then Niceride bikes north along the river to Lake St. Might make for a fun evening.

                        2. i thought the food at hell's kitchen was lousy and i hated bachelor farmer - i'd suggest (as i have on other boards) the strip club meat and fish. the best burger i have ever eaten is at the nook. ngon is truly unique fusion vietnamese-french place and i loved it - and the best thai i've had outside of thailand was at on's in st paul. it's a chain but we don't have them here - culver's OMG and make sure you order cheese curds somewhere. i believe the nook does a good version - they also have juicy lucys though i'd recommend something else as the lucys must be medium, and i'd order rare-mid rare. they also have root beer on tap DRINK IT and a bowling alley in the basement.

                          1. Jax Cafe has been around since 1910 if you're looking for a truly retro and still very good experience. They have a beautiful patio with a trout stream where you can choose your catch. Not my cup of tea, but still unique.


                            Oops! They've been a restaurant since 1933. I should read my own links more thoroughly. :(

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: justalex

                              I went to Jax for the first time in decades. I was very pleased to see they still have a phone booth in the bar.

                            2. I have a soft spot in my tummy for Haute Dish. Updated "foodie" (sorry for using the term) versions of midwestern classic comfort food. Not truly "historic" but a very good sample of what Mid western food could be if treated properly. They also are into seasonal foods too, especially with salads, etc

                              1. Definitely DO NOT waste your time with Black Forest. Talk about seriously mediocre food! If you want the "classic past" of Minneapolis, go to Jax for steak and onion rings. For middle European, head to Kramarczuk's for the food, with a drink at Nye's across the street (they're not known for good food). But above all, don't go to Black Forest!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: AnneInMpls

                                  I think the black forest is famous/notorious because it was, for a long while, the only interesting bar in the neighborhood. the food has always been a lesser attraction.

                                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                                    If kramarcyzks and nyes isn't enough middle Europe for you and you can get around try Glockenspiel


                                  2. Never understood all the fuss about Kramarczuk. It's basically just a cafeteria with mediocre comfort food. Maybe that throwback factor is what makes folks so enthusiastic. If you are expecting outstanding food or some authentically European experience, you may be disappointed.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: ChancesR

                                      I think you're right that the cafeteria setting isn't authentically European, but the food definitely is. The varenyky is as close to my mom's sauerkraut pierogi as I've ever found in MSP. The food is the real deal.

                                      1. re: ChancesR

                                        I agree that Kramarczuk's is not great. The meats are only OK, and the baked goods are embarrassing - it isn't a great place in actuality, just in concept.

                                      2. How about Pracna on Main -- like the idea it is in a building that was there when my grandparents lived in St Paul -"oldest restaurant on the oldest street in Minnesota" -- any thoughts about this place? We will be doing a river walk exploration of downtown our first day. Nicolett Island Inn?

                                        Clearly some top picks are emerging - agree Haute Dish sounds like the best way to enjoy "middle-western". I see this week they are going BBQ according to their website. Hope we can get in.

                                        We have a Sunday brunch time still open before our airport departure in the late afternoon. (When I thought we would go to Black Forest Inn ---NO more!)

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: glbtrtr

                                          So all but a couple of the places on St Anthony Main are owned by the same group (Tugg's, Vic's, Pracna) and they are not good. Interesting places for a beer, but the food is not good. Food-service derived food.

                                          The restaurant in the Inn is good, but not a destination necessarily.

                                          If you want to eat on St Anthony Main, Wilde Roast is likely your best bet, the Astor is decent, but by and large, not an area that features great food apart from Alma being a block off of Main.

                                          Main is great for a coffee and a walk and a kiss and a drink and maybe a snack, but there are better places to have a meal.

                                          1. re: Foureyes137

                                            Wilde Roast is pretty underwhelming, too - as Foureyes notes, the food on St. Anthony Main is just not that great. But nearby are Punch and Pizza Nea, Neapolitan pizzerias, that are both good. I know you said no Asian, also, but Masu Sushi and Robata is fun if you're in that neighborhood. None of these are really destinations, just handy spots for lunch in the area.

                                            1. re: gildeddawn

                                              I would respectfully disagree with your assessment of Wilde Roast. I've been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the menu there.

                                              1. re: bob s

                                                Maybe I've ordered incorrectly - I've been twice and I'm struggling, now, to remember what I even had. It was also some time ago, so they may have stepped up their game since I was last there.

                                        2. I would add Travail / The Rookery to your list.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: phokingood

                                            They are going to be closed from June 29th to July 17th

                                          2. I'd rather do Al's Breakfast than Hell's Kitchen (Hell's Kitchen has been on my list for about a decade, but I always end up returning to Al's every day). On Friday the line might not be too bad. If you can wake up really early on Saturday or Sunday and get there about 20 minutes before opening (maybe 30?), you won't have to wait, or at least you won't have to wait too long.

                                            1. Not really "local" as in typically Midwestern, but what about Middle Eastern food? I don't think of Middle Eastern food when I think of California (I could be wrong, however), so maybe MSP will surprise you in the quality you can get there. Holy Land, especially during Ramadan, has really good dinner buffets.

                                              Or even Somali food--Hamdi and Safari both come recommended on Chow.

                                              1. Sad to report but after zeroing in on Haute Dish for our Sunday brunch, the online reservation service said they are already fully booked.

                                                Anyone know if one could still take a chance dropping by on Sunday to see if there is an open table?

                                                So still casting about for a Sunday brunch (again looking for "old" Minnesota) and see that Brassiere Zental is not open on Sundays.

                                                Intrigued by the recommendation for Glockenspeil in St Paul - all you can eat sausages on Sundays (!).

                                                Do love really good sausages -old style, European German/Swiss - not new style California ones with blueberries, feta, wheat germ and hemp seeds.

                                                So Sunday brunch suggestions - we will be heading back to the airport late afternoon - but can do a small road trip into the surrounding area that makes for easy access back to the airport.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: glbtrtr

                                                  Old Minnesota? Jax has Sunday brunch, and it's as old school a brunch as it comes in Minneapolis in our experience.


                                                  Typical mimosa-sipping-style jams? Every neighborhood has someplace serviceable. Did we catch where you were staying, generally? I don't see anything above.

                                                  1. re: glbtrtr

                                                    Haute Dish has decided to become a BBQ restaurant this weekend. It is only for a few days and has many very excited so it is booked solid.

                                                      1. re: ChillyDog

                                                        I've always wondered about their brunch. How is it?


                                                      2. re: glbtrtr

                                                        One other idea: The Bachelor Farmer does a nice Sunday brunch - no reservations, but it seems to work fine to get a table easily if you arrive near the time when they open at 10am. It is not "old" Minnesota, but is based off of Nordic/northern European cuisine. Last time I was there I had a dish that involved pork shoulder pastrami and caraway hollandaise that was delicious and seems like the sort of thing you might be after.

                                                        1. re: LauraB

                                                          Is The Bachelor Farmer's brunch a la carte or buffet or set menu? If I can pry myself away from Al's, I might try it the next time I'm in MSP.

                                                          eta--I just checked their website--a la carte but there's a section called "On the cart" with pastries--do you know if that's included in brunch or an additional charge?

                                                      3. I assume by downtown you mean downtown Minneapolis and not downtown St. Paul? Are you only looking for historic places (and dishes) or are you looking for places that do local super well? Because there are a ton of the latter that may or may not fit your requirements for the former, but can deliver a much better dining experience than places like Black Forest or even Glockenspiel (which I have a personal soft spot for.)

                                                        If you are looking for local, I might recommend Spoonriver in Minneapolis for a very "locally-sourced" weekend brunch (though I personally haven't been to their brunch in a couple of years.) Then you can stroll around the Mill City Farmers Market and get a sense of what is truly local in terms of what farmers and artisans are doing in MN these days... Also, you can have a look at the ruins of the old flour mill that are there, plus stroll over the historic Stone Arch Bridge. The Mill City Museum is right there and a splendid way to learn about Minneapolis' flour milling past (if you go, make sure to take the flour tower tour if you have time). You can also check out the Guthrie and their beautiful bridge to nowhere.

                                                        There are a million other places that do super local sourcing super well, though you might not necessarily feel that connection to the German or Scandinavian heritage that I suspect you're hoping for.

                                                        I also really recommend Fika at the American Swedish Institute on Park Ave in Minneapolis. And the deli at Ingebretsen's on Lake Street in Minneapolis (although more for browsing than actually buying. You can buy lefse and other sweets at Cafe Finspang, Ingebretsen's outpost in Midtown Global Market on Lake St.)


                                                        1. Okay, time to get serious for the last minute pre-trip details: where and/or what is the best rhubarb dish?

                                                          FRIDAY: Looks like our BREAKFAST/LUNCH samples will include Hell's Kitchen, Kramarszuks during a walk around downtown and across the river. With some exploration also of Brassiere Zentral.

                                                          SATURDAY: Then maybe FIKA for BREAKFAST, LUNCH at Lucia's as there are activities planned at Lake Calhoun mid-day.

                                                          SUNDAY: Then the wide open choices now for SUNDAY BRUNCH since Haute Dish is solidly booked the entire time we are there: Bachelor Farmer or Glockenspeil. I do want to explore the neighborhoods of old St Paul.

                                                          Other meals are covered by family events.

                                                          Breaking news: just recommended on another thread - Sunday brunch at Corner Table - for pork and old Minnesota all in one place?

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: glbtrtr

                                                            Lucia's is serving brunch on Saturday, not lunch.

                                                          2. Trip report: got to only a few of our original choices. Luggage lost by the airlines so we waited at the hotel instead of getting to HELL'S KITCHEN.

                                                            Enjoyed KRAMARSZUK'S a lot for lunch - yummy German potato salad, I had the crepe with sour cream and DH had the polish sausage sandwich with saurkraut which he declared to be the best polish sausage he had ever had. My red cabbage was a disappointment. But too full to try the lovely looking walnut torte.

                                                            Bought some of their Bavarian style mustard, some Hungarian Paprika and a yummy marzipan candy bar. Liked what we saw in their deli choices but did not know how were were going to bring coils of sausages home in our suit cases. Wish we had now.

                                                            Room service dessert at the HOTEL MINNEAPOLIS was very good - lava cake and a rice-crispie and ice cream for me and a salty caramel ice cream and candied popcorn for DH were perfect - also available at MAX'S restaurant down stairs.

                                                            MILL CITY MUSEUM makes a good gingersnap cookie for a midday treat. And a very nostalgic look at Betty Crocker throughout the ages and iconic American food brands.

                                                            Wedding buffet at LORING PASTA BAR was very tasty with an excellent Greek Salad and perfect dressing. Very nice buzz to that place.

                                                            Sad to report after making a special trip to GLOCKENSPEIL in St Paul it was not open on Sunday when we arrived at 11am, and then later when we returned.

                                                            So back up choice on the way to the airport was the CORNER TABLE off Nicolett (4500 block) for some pork belly benedicts with hash browns which were filling, if a little disappointing in execution.

                                                            But that was a great restaurant choice for brunch with plenty of creative and very yummy dishes coming out to happy and obviously repeat diners, who knew the menu better than we did.

                                                            Not quite satisfied with our savory egg dishes at Corner Table we topped them off at FIKA with a cardamom roll and a rhubarb muffin, so I did get a tiny bit of rhubarb after all. Loved the Swedish Institute gift shop and picked up some "Queen's Jam" (raspberry and blueberry) and some cooking utensils, along with "In Cod We Trusts" about an American couple's adaptation to life in Norway. We are heading that direction in our travels next year.

                                                            There was so much more to explore and we did miss all of the top pick due to our schedule and family gathering and a very crowded town that weekend which had gobbled up all the reservations ahead of time.

                                                            One can certainly dine across the globe in the Twin Cities and we wish we had more time to go into more depth. TwinCities - very chow worthy. Yes!

                                                            Thanks to all who help send me the right directions and my only wish is restaurant websites were more helpful as to times, locations and up to date information.

                                                            Sorry the Glockenspiel did not work out because I wanted to try saurkraut fritters, curds, and take on that all you can eat promised Sausage Sunday challenge.

                                                            1 Reply