Out-of-Towners’ Guide to Minneapolis 2015

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

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

Brasserie Zentral logo
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Brasserie Zentral; 505 S Marquette Ave, Minneapolis | Our review

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.

Kenwood Restaurant; 2115 W 21st St, Minneapolis | Our review

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.

Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table
Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table

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.

Spoon and Stable; 211 1st St N, Minneapolis | Our review

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.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Bachelor Farmer; 50 N 2nd Ave, Minneapolis | Our review

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.

Heyday; 2700 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | Our review

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.

Joshua Page / Heavy Table
Joshua Page / Heavy Table

Piccolo; 4300 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis | Our review

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.

Restaurant Alma; 528 University Ave SE, Minneapolis | Our interview with chef / owner Alex Roberts

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.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Saffron; 123 N 3rd St, Minneapolis | Our interview with Sameh Wadi

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.

Broders’ Pasta Bar; 5000 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis | Our reflections on Broders’ Pasta Bar and reviews of Terzo Vino Bar and Porchetteria

[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.

Casual Eats

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Revival; 4257 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | Our review

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!

The Rabbit Hole; 920 E Lake St, Suite 101, Minneapolis | Our review

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.

Northern Spark Pancake Feed

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

At 5:30 and 7 in morning this Sunday, troupes of rain-weary but elated Northern Sparkers filed into Aria for pancakes prepared by two of the area’s most formidable breakfast pros: the team from Al’s Breakfast and Chef Paul Berglund of The Bachelor Farmer.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The pancakes were pleasantly chewy with a mild note of yeast and malt, perfect when accompanied with syrup. Coffee by Dogwood was available to wash them down; proceeds benefited the Northern Spark festival. (Pictured immediately below: Berglund serving diners at the feed.)

The Sheep of Hidden Springs and Morning Roundup

Lenny Russo weighs in on the Grand Ave. Cupcake debacle and other things related to St. Paul business development; Rick looks at counter service at Al’s Breakfast, Bradstreet, and Obento-ya; sketches of Saigon in St. Paul and Mickey’s Diner; a sheep-viewing trek to Hidden Springs Creamery; and two new beers from Summit.

Mitch Omer: Blogger and the Morning Roundup

An interview with New Glarus’ Dan Carey, Al’s Breakfast makes Esquire for the “best pancakes in America,” a salmonella outbreak in ground turkey, Mitch Omer starts a blog and offers ten (eleven) facts about himself, and Scott Pampuch makes a now-rare appearance representing Corner Table at next Thursday, August 11th’s People Serving People Chefs for Change event.

Pizza, Beer, Bammers, and the Morning Roundup

Some praise for the beer list at Pizzeria Lola, a recap of how to pound nails with a frozen banana, gushing blog reviews of Patisserie 46 and Corner Table, a profile of Egg | Plant Urban Farm Supply, and a gorgeous black and white shot of Al’s Breakfast.

November 11 Flickr Photo Roundup

An early celebration of Thanksgiving by 12story, the winter special at Al’s Breakfast plus a Lensbaby shot of the front by Erik Hess, and bacon, gruyere and cheddar mac n’ cheese by thedabble.

November 4 Morning Roundup

Studio Bricolage will present “Mixology: The Art & Science of Drink” at Bradstreet, Simple, Good, and Tasty provides a rundown of local turkey farms, meditations on a tea flower, “Talking Turkey” and “Prime Rib” are the first two Corner Table cooking classes of the season, “OM serves up zen on a platter,” reports Rachel, is Tian Jin going downhill?!, a pumpkin picture roundup, MPLS.TV goes to Al’s Breakfast and works some interview magic, and Chef Chris goggles over a $47,000 tab at a New York restaurant. Update: That tab is reportedly fake.

Ten Observations on the Gophers’ New TCF Bank Stadium Football Concession Menu

Lori Writer / Heavy Table
Lori Writer / Heavy Table

It’s true. Good food and stadium sports don’t always go together. Pickins were slim during the Gophers’ Metrodome years, but, perhaps the Gophers’ return to campus — in brand spanking new TCF Bank Stadium — hails a new era of food. There’s hope, anyway. Larry Weger, Director for University [of Minnesota] Dining Services, says, as they were recruiting concessionaires for the new stadium, they sought out local providers in order to demonstrate that “we are a Minnesota-based organization, and we are committed to supporting local restaurants.” So, how did they do?

  1. Many options are the same. If you’re a fan of Klement’s (of Milwaukee, WI) hot dogs ($3.25) and bratwursts ($4.50), you won’t go hungry. Old Dutch (of Roseville, MN) potato chips ($1.50) are on hand, too. Stadium standards such as the jumbo pretzel ($3.50), popcorn ($3.50-$4), peanuts ($3.75), burgers ($5-$5.75), and cheese nachos ($4.25) are all still available. Other vendors familiar from other sports venues: Subway Sandwiches, Palermo’s Pizza by the slice, and Cinnamon, Roasted, Glazed nuts.
  2. Local-esque additions include Walleye Fingers & Fries ($6.25) and Minnesota Cheese Curds ($4). Dairy Queen is on board selling Dilly and Buster Bars ($2.50 and $3.50, respectively).
  3. Vegetarians and those looking for lighter options should be pleased to see the Minnesota Veggie Burger ($5) and the Farm Fresh Vegetables & Dip Bowl ($5.25).
  4. Fans of Dino’s The Greek Place, which is also a vendor at the Mariucci Arena, will be happy to see their beef or chicken gyro sandwiches ($6.25). According to The Foodservice News: Dino Adamidis “introduced Minnesota to the gyro, one of the traditional foods from his native Greece, at the Steele County Fair in Owatonna [in 1978]. He later got a booth in the Minnesota State Fair, and was soon persuaded to open a restaurant. ‘Everybody was telling me, Dino, you gotta open a restaurant, because we can’t just have the sandwiches once a year,’ he said.”
  5. Another local vendor, available at Mariucci and all other U of M sports venues, St. Paul Bagelry will be their with their New York-style bagels (boiled, then baked at St. Paul Bagelry’s Roseville location daily) and Maui Wowi Smoothies. Sisters Dodie Green and Peggy Teed bought St. Paul Bagelry two and a half years ago to complement the Maui Wowi Franchise  — the largest in the US — they’ve been operating for eight years now. Bagel sandwich options include the basic Bagel & Cream Cheese ($2.50), Breakfast Bagel ($5), Reuben ($6), and Lox Bagel ($6.50). The Maui Wowi Smoothies, Strawberry, Raspberry, and Mango-Orange, are fat-free ($4.75 for a small to $7.75 for a large Tiki). If you’re seeking gluten-free options, check out St. Paul Bagelry’s Monster Cookie ($2).

    Brian Lentz
    Brian Lentz
  6. Completely new is Panino’s, which has been operating their North Oaks, MN restaurant for 18 years. They bake their Panino dough in-house daily, and, according to co-owner Joann Kurtz, will be serving their “‘Gopher Stick’ (made especially for the stadium) Panino sandwich, served more compact for easy eating at the games.” The Gopher Stick will be filled with either Buffalo Chicken, their top seller according to Kurtz, or Steak and Cheese.  Says Kurtz: “Both sandwiches have our homemade secret sauces, my husband’s creations!” Other options, according to Kurtz: “We will also be serving our Panino poppers. They are baked poppers made with cream cheese and either jalapeño or ham and pickle. Lastly we will serve our baked fries served with our homemade ranch dressing for dipping.”
  7. Also new is Mayslack’s signature garlicky roast beef sandwich. Jeff Moritko, who according to the Star Tribune owned Mayslack’s, the beloved institution in Northeast Minneapolis, for about 10 years, retained the rights to the Mayslack’s recipe and name when he sold it in 2006. He now operates Moe’s in Mounds View.
  8. Looking forward to chilly November games, various vendors will be offering hot chocolate and coffee.
  9. There will be no beer for sale at or permitted in TCF Bank Stadium.
  10. That’s right, NO BEER FOR SALE AT TCF BANK STADIUM. Don’t blame Weger; it’s the standard in Big 10 stadiums, according to the Star Tribune: “Athletic Director Joel Maturi said that selling alcohol to the students isn’t allowed at any Big Ten sporting events held on university campuses. Minnesota has been an anomaly in recent years, allowing all fans to buy booze at football games since the team moved off-campus to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in 1982.”

Pre- or post- game options for beer:

  1. Tailgate and bring your own beer. If you want to sear your team spirit or Goldy’s jolly image onto your meat, don’t forget your Gophers Grill Topper, either hot dog or burger version.

    Lori Writer / Heavy Table
    Lori Writer / Heavy Table
  2. Stub and Herbs Drinking and Eating Emporium, in Stadium Village at 227 Oak St. SE in Minneapolis. They offer 32 beers on tap, all domestic and local. The food’s improved, too, since owners brothers Josh and Justin Zavadil and Ryan Oberlander acquired it in 2007.  Try the Stuffed Black and Bleu Burger ($9) on a pretzel roll (just crunchy enough to be interesting) topped with fried onions and served with a side of home-cut fries, if you don’t mind peppery, salty, and a wee bit greasy. Stub and Herb’s, affectionately known as Sterb’s, will turn their parking lot into a beer garden on football Saturdays, with barbeque-type food, beer, and DJ-music.  The beer garden will open at 8am on “early” game days and their regular 11:30am on other game days.
  3. Big 10 Restaurant and Bar, in Stadium Village at 606 Washington Ave. SE, Minneapolis. On Saturdays when the game has an early start, Big 10 will be open for breakfast (otherwise, they are open from 11am to 1am). On all game days, they will be serving beer and brats in the beer garden tent (near Washington and Union — a different tent than Sterb’s).
  4. If you care to get a little exercise and hoof it, Pagoda in Dinkytown at 1417 4th St. SE in Minneapolis offers dim sum on weekends from 10am to 3pm, as well as happy hour from 3pm to 6pm and again from 9pm to closing. Happy hour specials include two-for-one beer and house wines, as well as 99 cent appetizer specials.
  5. If you don’t mind hoofing it even farther, Annie’s Parlor in Dinkytown at 313 14th Ave. SE serves up a solid shake, has a great deck, and offers beer and wine. Open 11am to midnight on Saturdays.
  6. Another Dinkytown option is the Loring Pasta Bar at 327 14th Ave. SE in Minneapolis, which has a full bar and 16 beers on tap. They are open from noon until 1am on Saturdays and offer live music, typically a French-inspired jazz band, on Saturday evenings. The unique setting and the open-air dining on warm fall evenings in the overhauled Gray’s Campus Drugs is the primary draw.

For non-beer Stadium Village options, here are the Heavy Table’s mentions of other Stadium Village eateries: Hong Kong Noodle, Bun Mi Sandwiches, Caspian Bistro, Jasmine Orchid Deli. In Dinkytown: Al’s Breakfast.

Click here for The Star Tribune’s round-up of TCF Bank Stadium concession prices.

Lori Writer / Heavy Table
Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Uncle Louis Cafe in Duluth, MN

Eric Faust / Heavy Table
Eric Faust / Heavy Table

The coffee is black, the omelets are thick, and the hash browns are plentiful. When Uncle Louis opened on November 2, 1993, they had one goal: “making the best breakfast in town.” Pizza Luce, the Amazing Grace, and Chester Creek Cafe all offer breakfasts that can rival and sometimes surpass Uncle Louis Cafe, but if you are looking for an omelet, a bottomless cup of coffee, and a hearty tablespoon of whipped butter on your French toast, Uncle Louis is the place.

Eric Faust / Heavy Table
Eric Faust / Heavy Table

Uncle Louis Cafe is the Duluth version of Al’s in Dinkytown. The L-shaped bar is lined with emerald green stools that give customers on the end a full view of the cooks flipping hash browns and cracking eggs. Three eggs with black olives, tomatoes, onions, and green pepper, cheddar cheese, and taco meat make up the Taco Omelet ($6.59), one of the best sellers on the menu. Served with a side of American fries or hash browns and toast, pancakes, or French toast, it is hard to believe that you can get it all for less than $7.

Other popular entrees include the eggs benedict (ham), florentine (spinach), or theodora (gyros meat). Each comes with sides. The French toast or pancakes are popular sides because of the homemade apple cinnamon syrup that are available alongside blueberry and regular syrup.

On April 19, 2007, Uncle Louis Cafe shut down after a serious fire caused by an electrical short. Customers demanded that the cafe reopen, and owner Penny Briddell worked hard to reopen as soon as possible. Half a year later — on November 2, 14 years after the original opening — Uncle Louis Cafe reopened serving up the same menu that they always have.

They have no plans to change, and people would be upset if they did. Uncle Louis Cafe is a black coffee, eggs, and hash browns kind of place that is doing everything they can to meet their goal of  “serving the best breakfast in town.”

Uncle Louis Cafe
520 E 4th St
Duluth, MN 55805
Mon-Fri 6am-2:45pm
Sat-Sun 7am-2:45pm
OWNER: Penny Briddell

Early Hours at Al’s Breakfast

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

It’s 5:55 on a Tuesday morning and three gentlemen stand waiting for Al’s Breakfast to open – backs against the wall and arms crossed in front of their chests. Even in the low light of the dawning hours it’s easy to see that for these men, the place and the wait is familiar. The door opens and the three men hurry in, choosing their favorite stool amongst the 14 seats at the counter-only restaurant. Coffee cups are quickly filled and the morning begins. Some banter to fill the silence while others enjoy alone time with a newspaper. But the calm doesn’t last and by 6:20 the wait for seating in the small, corridor-cafe has begun.

Feb. 19 Morning Roundup

Via City Pages, Esquire gives breakfast props to Hell’s Kitchen and Al’s Breakfast, Breadbasketcase bakes pain de mie (i.e. sandwich bread), Rick Nelson explores the rising trend of Sunday value supper specials, Lazy Lightning dives ever further into the all-consuming saga of Apple Valley Liquor Store #3, Red Pepper bemoans the crowded, impersonal nature of dining on Valentine’s Day while conceding she should’ve known better, and Twin Cities Breakfast Club gives the 45th and France Chatterbox a resounding “meh.”