Welcome to the Twin Cities! Don’t know where to find interesting, high quality food and drink? Whether you’re looking to splurge or eat on the cheap, we’ve got you covered. Looking to drink killer cocktails and treat a hangover the next morning? No problem. Want to know where the locals get their doughnuts, sausage, tacos, and coffee? You’ve come to the right site.
The guide is a collection of places our contributors take out-of-towners (or suggest others take visitors). It’s not a “best-of” list. It’s also not comprehensive. To keep the guide from getting unwieldy, we limited the number of categories and suggestions within each category. Therefore, there are numerous places that we love that didn’t make it into the guide. If you asked us where to eat, drink, and hang out, this is what we’d tell you (and then we’d list a bunch of back-up spots). Together, the interactive map (posted at the end of this article), the list, and the corresponding Foursquare list will help you plan your gastronomic tour of the Twin Cities.
After considering feedback on last year’s inaugural guide, we decided to split the document into two parts, one for each of the Twin Cities. We published the St. Paul guide last month, and now bring you the Minneapolis version. To avoid duplication, we have not included restaurants on the St. Paul list that have Minneapolis locations: Black Sheep Pizza, Brasa, and Colossal Cafe.
Locals: Along with using the guide and sending it to folks visiting town, we hope you will add your recommendations in the comments section (and tell us why our suggestions are completely off base). We update the guide annually, so your feedback helps us improve the document as well as provide out-of-towners with additional suggestions.
Worth the Splurge
The Central European vibe at Brasserie Zentral is unlike that at just about any other place in town. The white-tablecloth atmosphere is welcoming without being fussy, and “fancy” in the best possible meaning of the word. Dishes are made with impeccable consistency using top-notch ingredients. At Zentral, the fine cuisine of Vienna meets the country charm of Hungarian folk dishes and Jewish heritage food, and the foie gras menu is long and lovely.
A sunlight-infused casual spot just off the north end of Lake of the Isles, The Kenwood features seasonal fare that’s approachable, elegant, and often playful. Along with lunch and dinner, The Kenwood serves a full brunch every day, with a range of beautifully executed classic egg dishes as well as more Midwestern-inflected options.
Corner Table; 4537 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | Our discussion with owner Nick Rancone and chef Thomas Boemer
For a pork-forward, impeccably executed, disarmingly comfortable taste of the Upper Midwest by way of the mid-South, a meal at Corner Table is the way to go. The restaurant’s sourcing and technique are both killer, and the ever-changing menu has a host of twists and surprises that make every visit a rewarding adventure.
The brainchild of chef-owner Gavin Kaysen, Spoon and Stable is at the leading edge of what we might think of as “comfortable fine dining.” The food isn’t flashy — there aren’t bells and whistles, meat glue, or liquid nitrogen. But it is precise, beautiful, and delicious. Spoon and Stable’s desserts — the handiwork of pastry chef Diane Yang — are exquisite, and the beverage program is first rate. The restaurant also boasts one of the more popular and well-regarded brunches in the Twin Cities.
The restaurant that drew national attention for capitalizing on a “new Nordic” trend has created a nice niche for itself in the Twin Cities. Owned by Target heirs Eric and Andrew Dayton, the space feels like a slightly fancy, modern take on an old-fashioned, imagined Scandinavian heartland. And the food doesn’t disappoint — don’t miss the shareable toasts, which arrive on a tiered silver tray and feature flavors like lox and steak tartare. Make an evening of it: Head downstairs before or after your meal for cocktails in the living-room-esque Marvel Bar. If you’re in town in mid-August, don’t miss The Bachelor Farmer’s rendition of kräftskiva, a Swedish crayfish festival — it’s a fun event replete with local music, boozy snowcones (aquavit luge, anyone?), and of course crayfish.
With inventive food, funky style, and good cheer, this restaurant exemplifies the Lyndale-Lake neighborhood. Skillfully blending creativity and restraint, chef Jim Christiansen delivers interesting, high-quality, tasty creations. And the desserts are some of the most inventive and scrumptious the area has to offer.
Combining non-traditional ingredients, flavors, and techniques, Chef Doug Flicker puts out unique, addictive fare. Take Piccolo’s signature dish, “Scrambled brown eggs with pickled pig’s feet, truffle butter and Parmigiano.” It may sound strange, but the flavors and textures work brilliantly. The five-course tasting menu ($59) is a great way to sample Flicker’s creations. This is the spot for adventurous, super high quality food in a casual atmosphere.
Well-executed, seasonally-driven three-course tasting menus are the name of the game here. There is almost nothing about Alma that’s flashy — in fact, it’s so unassuming you’ll probably drive right by. Sometimes a low-key, unpretentious evening of fine dining — one where you can hear your companion(s) talk, and hear yourself think — is just what the doctor ordered, and Alma’s the place to go. If you’re looking for something a bit more everyday, check out chef / owner Alex Roberts’ other restaurant, Brasa Premium Rotisserie, for a killer pork sandwich and yuca fries.
The smart new-Mediterranean food of Saffron combines Middle Eastern flavor with an cosmopolitan attention to detail and technique, and the result is some of the area’s most stunning food — both in terms of appearance and flavor. This is a place where you can have a beautifully crafted cocktail and journey somewhere new via the magic of a creative menu.
[Editors’ Note: Broders is less expensive than the other restaurants in this category, but meals at Terzo tend to fall into “splurge” territory.]
Broders’ consistently kicks out perfectly cooked, seasonally sauced housemade pasta. Whether you’re snuggled with your sweetie at the bar with a couple glasses of wine and a piece of Bestia Nera flourless chocolate cake or at a table passing plates of pasta and risotto to share among friends, Broders’ knows how many of us at the Heavy Table like to eat — good, unpretentious food at reasonable prices, and a great wine list to boot. We’re also huge fans of the Broder family’s wine bar, Terzo, located across the street from the pasta bar. Porchetta sandwiches (also served through a window facing the parking lot during the day), thoughtful small plates, top-notch entrees (especially the branzino), and a wine program (that slants toward Northern Italy) are all dynamite.
The little sibling of Corner Table (see above), Revival offers amazing Southern fare. It’s rightly known for fried chicken with exceptionally moist and tender meat and gorgeously crispy skin. But it’s not just a chicken joint. The cheeseburger is one of the best in the Twin Cities, and sides like fried green tomatoes, collard greens, and hush puppies are delicious. And if banana pie is on the menu, get it!
Looking for traditional Korean food? Head elsewhere. You won’t see the standard bulgogi / bibimbap / soondobu / japchae formula here. But if you’re craving a good, decidedly boozy drink and gastropub fare beyond the usual fried whatever, this place will be your jam. As a second-generation Korean-American hailing from LA, chef / owner Thomas Kim grew up with his mom’s cooking, but he draws from his experience working with Roy Choi and others to create his own spin on food. This results in things like kimchi-and-curry gravy-slathered poutine, truly addictive Brussels sprouts, and rice bowls loaded with things like soft-shell crab and habanero oyster sauce. Arrive early enough to explore the other shops in the Midtown Global Market, then lose track of time in one of the dark pojangmacha-styled booths and hang out late into the night.