An Eater’s Guide to the Twin Cities
The Minneapolis-St. Paul area is known for its lakes, weather, and of course, accents (ya sure you betcha!). But did you know the Twin Cities has one of the most robust dining scenes in the country? From Vietnamese food and James Beard Award-winning cuisine to inside-out cheeseburgers, you won’t leave this northern destination with an empty stomach.
Here are the best places to eat in the Twin Cities.
You’ll find some of the country’s best Vietnamese food in the Twin Cities. For incredible pho, a traditional noodle soup, check out Quang on Nicollet Ave. It’s super-casual and quick, and always busy.
Just down the street, you’ll find Pho Tau Bay, home of incredible green papaya salad, bun (rice noodle salads topped with bean sprouts, shredded lettuce, fresh herbs, and your choice of protein, topped with lime juice and fish sauce). You’ll also find great Chinese, Malaysian, German, Caribbean, Greek and Thai food between the 2400-2800 block of Nicollet—no wonder they call this stretch Eat Street.
Like most major metropolitan cities, the food truck scene exploded in the Twin Cities. A few were so popular, they eventually opened restaurants. Hola Arepa is one of the cities’ most beloved. Located on 35th & Nicollet, this vibrant spot serves up incredible arepas, a traditional Columbian street food staple. It’s basically a sandwich that uses a corn pancake instead of bread. Try the shredded beef and plantain arepa with a side of yucca fries, washed down with a cocktail, like the Heat of the Moment, made with chipotle-infused tequila, pineapple rum, pineapple and lime juice.
World Street Kitchen also went from four wheels to four walls. This order at the counter spot is known for their globally-inspired yum yum rice bowls. Try O.G. Grilled Chicken version, made with shiitake, Chinese broccoli, aromatic herbs. Their caramelized Brussels sprouts with Thai fish sauce dressing and toasted rice powder is spot on.
Hello Pizza is just one of three pizza restaurant concepts from chef Ann Kim. Hello offers whole pies or by the slice, plus a few meatballs subs (go for the Korean Cowboy, topped with gochujang bbq sauce, pickled onions, daikon, carrot, cilantro, basil and mayo!) and salads. Her two other restaurants, Pizzeria Lola and Young Joni, are nice and nicer, respectively. You won’t have a bad meal at any of them.
You can talk Twin Cities food without a nod to the Jucy Lucy. It’s a riff on the classic cheeseburger, with American cheese stuffed inside the patty. People love to argue over who does it best. My pick? Matt’s Bar, mostly for the burger, but also for the awesome dive bar atmosphere.
The Land of 10,000 Lakes might as well be called the Land of 10,000 breweries. Filled with old brick buildings that once housed factories, the Nordeast neighborhood is now home many art studios, startups, and yes, breweries. Dangerous Man is a local favorite, pouring mostly strong, full-bodied beers. Their peanut butter porter sounds weird, but it’s delicious. Indeed Brewing’s Day Tripper offers that hoppy, citrus-y punch of an IPA without knocking you on your butt; and Sociable Cider Werks has the brewery vibe, but serves cider—good news for those of you who are gluten-free!
For the mack daddy of microbreweries, you must go to Surly. This brewery with an evangelical following opened its epic beer hall in 2014. With 24+ brews on tap, gift shop, event spaces, two restaurants and a sprawling outdoor patio, I’m not even sure you can call Surly a “micro” anything! They serve a full menu in the beer hall, featuring foods that pair perfectly with beer. Think Bavarian pretzels, smoked meats, chips and guac, plus one of the best burgers in town. They don’t take reservations and it gets busy. The good news? You can drink while you wait. Their award-winning Brewer’s Table restaurant is fancier (I mean, by brewery standards) and does take reservations.
A New Kind of Bed and Breakfast
For a posh place to sleep and incredible food at your fingertips, book your stay at Alma. James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Roberts recently renovated his flagship restaurant, adding a café and stylish seven-room urban inn.
Another great option? Hotel Ivy, which houses Monello, chef Mike DeCamp’s refined but not too stuffy take on modern Italian; and the brand new Hewing Hotel serves up excellent cocktails and food in its see-and-be-seen lounge.
White tablecloths don’t really fly in the Twin Cities. But that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of incredible dining. One of the hottest restaurants for the foreseeable future is Gavin Kaysen’s Spoon and Stable. A long-time Daniel Boloud protégé, the Minnesota native returned to the Twin Cities to open an homage to Midwestern cuisine with French flair. Try bison tartare; spaghetti nero with prawns, mussels, octopus and herbs; and glazed pork chops. Save room for pastry chef Diane Yang’s desserts. She’s one of the best in the business, creating imaginative and not-too-sweet bites, like brown butter nut cake with caramelized bananas and tamarind curd.
In the same North Loop neighborhood, you’ll find Isaac Becker’s Bar La Grassa, an airy and always bustling restaurant serving sharable pastas, bruschetta and delicious Italian wines.
A few blocks away, The Bachelor Farmer nails the new Nordic cuisine, with its selection of toasts and light but flavorful dishes like smoked rainbow trout with broccolini, hazelnuts, pickled baby scarlet turnips and ginger-mustard vinaigrette.
Travail Kitchen, located in the near-north suburb of Robbinsdale, only serves a chef’s tasting menu. However, this 14-20 course experience is a far cry from the snooty meal you’re picturing. The cooks, who honestly look more like pirates than chefs, both prepare and serve the food. Dishes are often interactive and experimental, so don’t be surprised if something arrives to your table bellowing with smoke, or with a sauce that’s poured tableside.
The Twin Cities offer a lot in the way of excellent neighborhood restaurants. Locals rave about Revival’s fried chicken, served in a casual but polished dining room. With two locations (one in St. Paul’s Selby-Dale area; another in Minneapolis’ Kingfield neighborhood), the ever-present queue shows the supply has still not me the demand.
The Kenwood, located in the fancy neighborhood of the same name, serves food all day, but their brunch is legendary. Try the huevos rancheros with braised pork, potatoes, fried egg and harissa, then walk it off around Lake of the Isles (where the opening credits of the Mary Tyler Moore show took place).
Heyday, in the heart of Lyn-Lake, creates picture-perfect plates with local ingredients. Excellent bar menu and weekend brunch, too.
Last but not least, Tilia in Linden Hills might be coziest restaurant in town. Wood booths, warm light, and an incredible selection of wine and local beer. Andrew Zimmern claims their fish taco torta might be the best fish sandwich he’s ever eaten—that’s saying a lot!
Where are your favorite places to eat in the Twin Cities? Share in the comments!
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