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Minneapolis - St. Paul, MN

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Not a dinner suggestion, but I still have fond memories of breakfast at the suburban locations of Pannekoeken Huis, a local chain that specializes in the "Dutch baby" pancake, an unusually-deep baked pancake with fruit on the inside. The original chain went bankrupt in the mid-'90s, but a handful of franchise locations appear to have continued on.

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Matt's on Cedar for a great stuffed burger, Vincent's for French, Solera [closed Jan, 2015] for contemp Med, D'Amico Cucina for upscale Italian, La Belle Vie, Brenda's [closed Nov, 2009] for veggie....good restaurants all of em. I heartily endorse Heartland, Lenny Russo is a great chef and was/is at the forefront of slow and local in Minneapolis. If you happen to be in St. Paul late one night, stop by Mickey's Diner. It's an old style dining car, where they make your food right there in front of you and does good eggs. Al's Breakfast is a Minneapolis tradition, many late nights turned into early mornings at Al's....THE BEST PANCAKES EVA!!! Go Gophers!!!

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Will be in M / SP the end of May and we're looking for a nice place for dinner featuring local foods. We've narrowed our list to HeartlandRestaurant Alma and Lucia's. Does anyone have any opinions or dining experience there?

I had dinner at Heartland just last week, and our party of six was extremely impressed with everything from the food and wine to the service and prices. The table shared a foie gras mousse while perusing the menu, which was a textural dream, but perhaps a little too delicately flavored for the tart cranberry compote on the side. I started with a rabbit consomme with English peas, ramps, and a poached goose egg that was giddily gamey and made me want to ask for a Thermos to go. I followed that with bison pot roast served with a spectacular sauce tasting like a mulled wine that was perfect with the meat, broccoli rabe, and baby turnips. I also tasted my companions' boar chop and trout entrees, which were excellent. The cheese plate had three local offerings that were good but unremarkable, though they worked better with the fore-mentioned cranberry compote. To end we got each of the three desserts; the standout for me was the strawberry shortcake with vanilla Sambuca (!) cream. I had a pot of gorgeous loose-leaf green tea to top off the night (the coffee and tea service is obviously well-minded here).

Although the dining room appeared to have only one server covering, the only reason we noticed is that one of our party is a restaurant guy and was taking stock. Otherwise, it never would have occurred to us; she was excellent, providing us everything we needed without ever being obtrusive.

You can get an idea of prices on their Web site; I'd tell you, but I never managed to lay eyes on the check that night... (lucky me!)

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Thanks, all, for the great feedback on Heartland and all the other suggestions. We sent an e-mail to Lynne Rossetto Kasper at the Minnesota Public Radio "The Splendid Table" site asking her where to eat in the area, since she lives in St. Paul (and we've followed her advice all around Italy with great results). Anyway, she suggested Lucia, so I think that's where we'll go. I'll report back in early June.

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We only had the opportunity for one breakfast and one dinner out during our visit to M/SP. Breakfast was at the original Keys Cafe in St. Paul and it was spectacular. My husband had the house-prepared corned beef hash, a crispy mound of shredded corned beef brisket plus the usual accompaniments. He loved it. I tried a walnut/apple/bran pancake, that was an inch thick and covered my whole plate - fabulous. All servings are huge and the quality of the food is top notch including locally-roasted coffees, great baked goods, bacon, sausage, etc, etc. Highly recommended!

Our group of 6 went to dinner Sunday night at Lucia's. The dining room is pleasantly spare, airy and cheerful. Service was excellent. The menu is small and changes weekly depending on what is locally available and in season (you can see it on their web site). I hit the jackpot with a piece of beef tenderloin (local, naturally-raised, grass-fed) in a wild mushroom wine sauce which was perfectly succulent and covered in fabulous morel mushrooms. What a treat. The others had chicken, Scottish salmon and a vegetarian polenta dish which all enjoyed. The quality of the ingredients is outstanding and everything is tasty. Prices are reasonable, if not inexpensive. We were happy with this choice.

I'd also love to try Heartland if we get up that way again.

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Family brunch at Hell's Kitchen: wild-rice porridge, steak and eggs and potatoes, bloody Mary, Twin Cities Gospel Choir, pajamas-clad servers, Ralph Steadman prints and Mitch Omer's book signing. Before you go to heaven, be sure to brunch in Hell. It's at 80 South 9th Street, lower level.

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Some may dispute the claim that Matt's Bar is home to the original Jucy Lucy -- a grilled cheese-stuffed burger varietal endemic to Minnesota's Twin Cities. But there's no denying the joint's old school ambiance. No plates or cutlery, formica tabletops, televised football and a flock of lighted beer signs perched all over the walls. We order three Lucys, a grilled chicken sandwich and two baskets of fries from our server, who passes the word to a dreadlocked redhead with two sleeves of ink manning the grill. A pitcher of Premium and a four-ounce tumbler of Chardonnay help pass the time as we await the arrival of our burgers, chicken and fries. My Lucy tastes like I imagine it would have the first day they started rolling off Matt's flat top: greasy, cheesy and topped with grilled minced onion on a white-bread bun, it's a kissing cousin to the 1950s progenitors of today's fast food burgers. The fries are long and thin and crispy and, after we season them, salty and good with the beer. The purple-clad regulars ignore the TVs as the Steelers drive for a touchdown and we pay cash at the register (no checks or credit cards accepted). Culinary pilgrimage accomplished. Now back to St. Paul.

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Spent three nights in Minneapolis. On the day of our arrival, it wasn't freezing and the kids were out in short-sleeve shirts. :)

First night we had dinner at Masa. This place has been around so long (opened since at least 2006) it doesn't get much attention but most of the food was delicious. The chips came with salt, lime, red salsa and green salsa. The Serano Relleno (filled with queso anejo and lightly fried in meringue batter;served with charred tomatillo and chile piquillo salsa) had just a hint of spiciness and this isn't anything like the gooey cheesy chile relleno that you could get at any tex-mex joint. The Ensalada de Salpicon (skirt steak with shredded hearts of romaine, radish, potato and chipotle; dressed in roasted garlic and sherry vinaigrette) and Gordita (fresh masa cake griddled and filled with carnitas, guacamole, red onion and salsa ballo) were less appetizing. The potato in the salad was flavorless yet pervasive. Of the 3 tacos I had, the al carbon and tinga de pollo were both fantastic, while the mahi mahi was overcooked and fishy. My wife also had 3 tacos, but she opted for carnitas instead of the fish. The carnitas simply wasn't as good as the steak and the chicken and that was the reason we didn't finish the Gordita.

The second night we went to Bar La Grassa. We made a 5 p.m. reservation (because that's 6 p.m. EST and the baby usually goes to sleep just after 7). Nevertheless, we weren't the only people waiting for the door to open at 5. There were at least 7 other groups of people, attesting to the popularity of this new eatery that specializes in bruschetta and pasta. We started with 3 bruschettas (over ordered as usual), soft eggs and lobster, white anchovy and avocado, and artichoke confit. We followed with 3 pastas, two for me and one for my wife, consisting of pasta negra with sea urchin, mussels and tomato, crab ravioli, and orecchiette with braised rabbit. The high light is the much raved about lightly scrambled eggs and lobster (you can see the yolk is still partially runny) - the succulent lobster flavor is somehow enhanced without the least bit of fishiness. The artichoke confit was very good (but priced the same as the lobster at $16?) while I don't think the anchovy and avocado meshed together well at all, the anchovy being overpowering. The fresh pastas were well made, the winner being the orecchiette which were super pillowy like well made gnocchi. Unfortunately my wife complained that the sauce was too salty. My ink pasta competed with the flavor of the uni but that did not stop me from finishing the pasta. The crab ravioli was fishy.

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We spent new year's eve at another new restaurant of an established chef (Tim McKee, 2009 James Beard award winner). Sea Change, according to Chowhound, has good food but mediocre service. While the restaurant was open at 5 p.m., the staff were still in a meeting so we waited for a bit before getting seated. Thereafter, we didn't experience any service mishap probably because we were only 1 of 3 tables dining at that time. The NYE menu included sea urchin, lardo, tomato bruschetta (copying Marea?) but it wasn't actually available. They did have sea urchin for the pasta though, so what does that mean? Anyhow, we started with tuna poke and a half dozen of oysters. The oysters came with mignonette, a horseradish sauce, and chimichurri. Conspicuously absent was cocktail sauce but it wasn't missed. I had a great time slurping down the oysters with chimichurri and sometimes a little bit of the horseradish sauce. My wife liked the tuna and seaweed salad. My next course was langostines with hot olive oil/ chile/ rosemary. This reminded me of a crudo I had at Marea. My wife's steamed pork buns were not unique but delicious, with the spicy cucumbers providing a nice crunchy texture. My entree was the linguine with sea urchin and rock shrimp. The rock shrimps were tiny, slightly overcooked and did not add any flavor to the pasta sauce. Accordingly, I picked them out and just ate the pasta, which could use more sea urchin. My wife enjoyed her 3 little cuts of steak, and left the overly salty egg foam (which looks and has the consistency of cheese) drenched bitter greens.

Overall, I think Minneapolis has some really interesting restaurants with some very creative cooking.

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I wonder if anyone reading this has been to Minneapolis within the last couple of years and tried the Barrio Tequila Bar downtown. If they have I wish I could find a place in D. C. that was as good.

I stopped there with a friend two or so months ago and was shocked at how good it was-in Minneapolis. I should note here that it won several awards as the "best new restaurant in the Twin Cities area" in 2009. Still, I thought it was better than anything here.

And, yes, I've eaten in Mexico City and in some of the best in the Southwest.

Minneapolis' Barrio Tequila Bar was outstanding. There must be something around Washington that even approaches it.

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We'll be in MPLS next month for my niece's graduation from the U. Just for a few days, with a family dinner already planned at the Red Stag Supper Club. Anyone have any word on it?


We usually stay in the West End (St. Louis Park) but got a deal on a hotel downtown for the first time. So this is fairly new territory for us! We may be within walking distance of Hell's Kitchen, and the bakery above it (Angel Food Bakery + Coffee Bar) sounds to die for as well. B) (Sorry, couldn't help it) Angel Food Bakery was recently called out with one of the best donuts in the city by the Star Tribune: The maple-bacon Long John. I can tell you right now if I'm nearby, the diet is going right out the window!

(check out the link for a photo, unless you don't want drool on your keyboard)

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Recent visit to Minneapolis confirms that Hell's Kitchen is still going strong.  Made it over for lunch, but was able to get the walleye hash and the lemon-ricotta pancakes off the breakfast menu.  Both were terrific.

Also outstanding was a stop at Pumphouse Creamery, where they offer something that should be available at every artisan ice-cream shop: a sampler of small-size scoops to work your way through the menu (5 mini-scoops for $4.25).  The Door County (yes, Wisconsin) Cherry was particularly terrific.

Less exciting, but still worthwhile, if you find yourself in the vicinity.  Nook in St. Paul, one of the "homes" of the Juicy Lucy, combined a great burger with a very friendly cohort of bar denizens.  And Pat's Tap, back on the Minneapolis side at 36th and Nicolett, is a neighborhood bar with a nice vibe, good patio, and noshable munchies.

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Five meals in the Twin Cities this past week, ranging from the passable to the terrific:

Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge, a quasi-tiki bar in Northeast Minneapolis seems exceptional mainly for its massive riverside deck, overlooking the swollen Mississippi River. Mojitos and the Grain Belt-breaded cheese curds were decent, but their mainstay pizza was ordinary at best and the service, well, distracted. Go for the deck and the lively crowd; tolerate the food.

Brasserie Zentral, a new Austrian restaurant in the Soo Line building in downtown Minneapolis, has a nice vibe, but it's hard for me to judge the place based on our lunch. My vegetable holiskes, cabbage stuffed with veggies and kamut berries, and sitting in a sweet-and-sour tomato sauce, looked terrific, but was a bit blah. Bob liked his pork cheeks braised in Maibock beer (that's what the online menu says; I could have sworn they were beef cheeks), but I didn't taste them, or the quark spaetzle that our dining companion had, and liked. Beer menu seemed decent. This may or may not be a good addition to downtown, but it seems to be trying, and prices were respectable.

The Lowry, just north of the Uptown area, offers bargain-priced slightly upscale comfort food. For instance, my chicken with potatoes and carrots ($14.50) featured two nicely cooked of skin-on boneless chicken on top of a massive pile of skin-on mashed potatoes and a raft of fresh green-top carrots, and a near salad-portion of arugula on top. Not that elegantly presented, but delicious, and a huge portion. Bob liked his salmon burger ($11.50, again untasted), which hung over the bun by a substantial margin. Our companions had the blue bison burger ($12.25) and the steelhead trout ($18), both of which looked excellent and huge. Nicely crafted drinks as well, for a reasonable $8-10. Nothing fancy or earthshaking, but satisfying eating.

The Craftsman Restaurant, near the Seward neighborhood in South Minneapolis (on Lake Street) was surely the highlight of the trip: the restaurant itself has a lovely arts-and-craft feel, but on a nice, blessedly rain-free night we went for the patio, where three of us enjoyed their specialty of whole roasted rainbow trout, butterflied on a bed of (I think, memory escapes me) garlicky barley with greens and other vegetables; the outlier in our group had the delicious-looking gnocchi. An affordable ($30), fruit-forward viognier complimented these perfectly. Highly recommended.

Muffuletta, on Como Avenue in St. Anthony Park, used to be my go-to place for an affordable nice meal. In fact, the friend that joined us there for lunch recalled how we always used to order their terrific burgers, to the point that they called us "The Burger Boys." I wish I could say they were still as memorable, but beyond the delightful deck, they seem a shadow of their former self. Bob found his chicken-salad sandwich rather ordinary and unflavorable; my Asian burger--pork with peanuts and scallions, topped with an Asianish slaw and peanut dressing--was just okay; and our friend's three-course special of salad, chicken with vegetables, and pound cake with ice cream and fruit was unremarkable. I should have ordered the regular burger to see if it was still decent, but the bland food and slow service tainted my good memories of this place. Go for the deck in one of the Twin Cities' most perfect neighborhoods, and forgive the food.

My takeaway: having not returned to the Twin Cities for seven years (and having lived there for nearly 20 years, 1979-1998), the food scene is slowly but surely improving. Everyone told me terrific things about the Bachelor Farmer, and there are other attractive places around. Wish I could have gone to my old favorite, The Modern Cafe, which still stands as my mainstay for slightly upscale comfort food.

---

[ETA: What a wonderful post! DR]

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I was able to eat at only one place in Minneapolis that wasn't the conference hotel, the airport, or the lobby of the St. Thomas Law School (a scarfed post-run Clif Bar), and that was Hell's Kitchen. I went very MN: cheese curds appetizer, fried walleye BLT, and a Summit Oatmeal Stout on tap. Everything was delicious.

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They like their breakfast in Minneapolis.  There are two downtown options I can recommend that are open 7 days a week.

The Hen House Eatery serves a strong breakfast and has a bakery area to purchase some sweet treats to go.  They also have diner style lunch items for later in the day.  I opted for the Ranchero Tostadas (corn tortillas topped, refried black beans, eggs, queso fresco, avocado and cilantro) with the addition of carnitas.  It is served with hash browns which, while tasty, made the dish somewhat ridiculously large.

Not far from the Hen House, is Key's Cafe and Bakery at the Foshay.  The Foshay Tower is a skyscraper, at least by Minneapolis standards, modeled after the Washington Monument with that familiar obelisk shape.  It was converted into a W Hotel in 2008.  Again, there is a bakery case in the front with cakes and whatnot.  Like most breakfast menus, much of what you will see will be familiar.  They did have some breakfast specials, one of which was a crab eggs benedict (although they called it something else) which I tried, and liked.  They are open for three meals a day as you would expect from a restaurant in a building that serves as a hotel.

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Was in Minneapolis for work over the weekend and had an excellent meal at 112 Eatery.  Friend and I opted for smaller plates - pounded small lambchops (scottadino) in basil pesto sauce, carrots roasted with honey, pan fried gnocchi, and yuca empanada w/ tomatillo & queso fresco.  All excellent.  Drinks were martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives that went down easily and we shared a dessert - it was a budino/pudding that had caramel on it - divine and delicious.  Service was perfect and they were kind enough to squeeze us in last minute on a Friday night.  Really outstanding.

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My MSP trip report copied from another site with most of the hotel review removed:

We had a good visit at the Kimpton Grand Hotel Minneapolis over memorial day.  We love the Kimpton wine hours so we planned our day around that (also it was 95* out so that limited our time exploring).  Each night they pour one white and one red wine from 5-6 PM and might have a small snack item as well.  Two nights had a desert and the other night had fried pickles and I think the other was fries.  Wine flows freely and we usually have about 3-4 glasses, the snack is limited.
 
Given the 95* heat our exploration part of the day was short, but we used the hotel bikes twice.  The first day when we arrived they were already out so we used the area bike share for $6/day per person (you have to dock the bike every 30 minutes).  Our first trip on the  hotel bikes were to a Indeed Brewing for sour beers (good), and Sociable Cider Werks for cider (also good), had it been cooler we would have stayed out most of the day to visit other brewers, but given the heat that was enough.  The second trip on Monday Memorial day we put the bikes on the train/metro and went over to St Paul to visit Summit Ave to see the old grand houses and then down to some large Green Chair in a park.
 
Food wise the highlight was a 10 course chefs tasting menu at Icehouse MPLS and Eastern European foods at Kramarczuk's a deli like restaurant. The IceHouse MPLS tasting menu is only $50 with $5 small drinks (cocktails/wine/beer your choice) to accompany the food whenever you wish.  The food was good and it was fairly well timed.  You sit at a bar facing the cooks.  IceHouse MPLS is also a music venue and the night we were there they had the music area sort of blocked off so they could record a Spotify concert.  At Kramarczuk's we bought a combination plate with smoked Ukrainian sausage, pierogi and a cabbage roll, and a bowl of goulascz.  That ended up being a lot of food and we nibbled on Kramarczuk's food until our last day.
 
One mistake we made was not exploring the Sky Walk system between all the downtown buildings until the last day.  Maybe everything was closed over the weekend but it would have been handy to get around downtown in the AC’d Sky Walk system between buildings

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