Tasting the Towns
With streets lined with innovative and eclectic restaurants, Minneapolis Saint Paul owns a spot on the national food scene. So, what to try first?
Not to take sides in the battle of the original cheese-stuffed burger, but there are two worthy two contenders, Mattâ€™s Bar and the 5-8 Club, both serve up great versions, no matter who flipped the molten burger first. At Mattâ€™s Bar, the motto is that if Jucy Lucy is spelled wrong, then itâ€™s right. At the 5-8 Club, they serve their Juicy Lucyâ€™s, which have been seen on Man v. Food and Food Wars, stuffed with your choice of cheese. The Nook also serves a stuffed burger, not to mention nearly 30 other varieties. The restaurantâ€™s patty cooking skills were even showcased on Diners, Drive-ins and Divesâ€”twice. At Vincent A Restaurant, youâ€™ll find a French chefâ€™s response to the traditional American cheeseburger: a beef patty stuffed with braised ribs and smoked Gouda. Another fancier-yet-simple burger can be found at 112 Eatery, where the bun is substituted for an English muffin and the American cheese for a slathering of Brie.
New in Town
Thanks to a crazy-successful Kickstarter, the boys of Travail are back with a new vision: Travail and The Rookery. Two concepts in one building, Travail offers a coursed tasting experience, while The Rookery is a more informal place to sip on cocktails and snack on small plates. But be warned: both are first come, first serve, and this place gets busy. Another two-for-one concept, Burch Steakhouse and Pizza Bar serves wood-oven-cooked pizzas downstairs and steak dinners upstairsâ€”a concept developed by Isaac Becker, who also helms the kitchen at other applauded restaurants around town. Chef Jack Riebel didnâ€™t waste much time between opening the Butcher and the Boar last year and jumping into his newest project, The Triton, on which he collaborated with fellow chef David Yusefzadeh. The revamped, multi-story space features a bar that focuses on clear spirits and a menu revolving around seafoodâ€”what else would you expect with a name like The Triton? Find light, healthy, Northern California-influenced cuisine at Marin, located at Le Meridien Chambers hotel. With a bar menu that includes a periodic table of gin and tonics, youâ€™ll never go thirsty.
Here, good food doesnâ€™t need to be served sitting down. Or, for that matter, prepared in a traditional kitchen. As of late, both new and established chefs have been opting for wheels, adding to the Twin Cities ever-growing food truck scene. These vehicles take over weekdays and events in both downtowns, with Minneapolisâ€™ most popular parking spots along Nicollet Mall and Marquette Avenue. Saint Paul hosts a food truck court, serving in three different areas of the city two days a week. Using ingredients from family farms and co-ops in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Chef Shackâ€™s creations landed it a spot on Forbesâ€™ list of Elite Street Eats. Make sure to try the signature Indian-spiced mini donuts. Asian and Mexican cuisines are fused at Vellee Deli, where offerings include a Korean BBQ burrito, fish tacos and egg rolls. Find south of the border cuisine at Hola Arepa, where the cornmeal patties are stuffed with naturally raised meats, cheese, organic vegetables and homemade salsas.
Take a culinary trip around the globe without ever leaving the cities. Spread across 17 blocks, Minneapolisâ€™ Eat Street houses restaurants that serve everything from pad Thai and curry to falafels and baba ghanouj. Semi-similarly, Midtown Global Market is filled with world food vendors, including The Left-Handed Cook. The menu may not be large, but itâ€™s packed with a selection that ranges from tofu and Kimchi to short ribs, fried chicken and soft shell crab. El Burrito Mercado also has a spot at the market, as well as a location in Saint Paul where you can explore and shop for Mexican cooking needs and groceries before dining on authentic cuisine. The brainchild of brothers Saed and Sameh Wadi, Saffron Restaurant & Lounge has been praised for its Middle Eastern and Mediterranean offerings. Named one of Travel + Leisureâ€™s Best Sushi Restaurants in the U.S., James Beard Award-winning chef Tim McKee shaped Masuâ€™s menu, which includes sake, sushi, robata and noodle bowls.
With a View
We may not have a long-lived patio season, but when the weatherâ€™s right, no one does it better. Psycho Suziâ€™s extends its tiki dĂ©cor out onto its patio, serving cocktails in themed mugs and offering a view of the Mississippi River and industrial barges (coming soon: a Ferris wheel!). Sit amongst flowers, trees and lush greenery on the private patio of WA Frost, an American eatery that offers an award-winning wine cellar and seasonally changing menu. For sky-high views, Louis Ristorante & Bar is Saint Paulâ€™s largest rooftop bar. Enjoy Italian influenced plates, signature drinks, and a view of sites like the Cathedral of Saint Paul and river bluffs. In Uptown, soak in a view of Minneapolisâ€™ skyline from the rooftop deck at Uptown Cafeteria. The dining scene was taken to new heights last year when Union opened its rooftop patio with an all-glass retractable roof, making it the only place to experience outdoor dining year round.
Butcher and the Boar
Arguably the most anticipated restaurant opening of last year, Butcher and the Boar is now receiving national praise. The self-described â€śAmerican craft food and bourbon houseâ€ť was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Awardsâ€™ Best New Restaurant, and Riebel was up for Best Chef Midwest. Borough, which serves food that looks like it belongs in a modern art museum, was nominated as one of Bon AppĂ©titâ€™s Top 50 Best New Restaurants. The warehouse-turned-restaurant, along with its lower level bar, Parlour, opened this year with a menu comprised of contemporary, locally sourced American cuisine. World Street Kitchen, a food truck turned brick and mortar success story, also landed a spot on Bon AppĂ©titâ€™s list. Brought to you by the same minds behind Saffron Restaurant & Lounge, here youâ€™ll find unpretentious, international street food. Diners were thrilled when lauded local chef Steven Brown finally opened his own restaurant, Tilia, serving â€śfamiliar dishes and flavors in new contexts.â€ť The restaurant won a Charlie Award for Outstanding Restaurant last year, while Brown was a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best Chef Midwest this year.