I wrote this article this spring while working as an editor at Exploration Magazine, and four months later, these places are still my favorites.:
Long misconstrued as the land of casseroles and long vowels, the Twin Cities, Minnesota’s largest metropolitan area, is (at long last) gaining recognition as a trendy and up-and-coming place to live, work, but most importantly, eat. Named by culinary magazine Food and Wine as America’s newest foodie hotspot in 2012, Minneapolis-Saint Paul accommodates those seeking the perfectly golden tator-tot to the foodies among us ever searching for the next scrumptious dining experience. Pigeon-holed between the Dakotas, Wisconsin, and the fertile fields of Iowa, kitchens and restaurants across the Twin Cities are no stranger to locally sourced ingredients, and whether it be organic grass-fed beef or wholesome Wisconsin dairy, even the simplest meal tastes better here.
The following list is by no means an exhaustive ‘best of the best’ of Twin Cities food offerings, nor is this list solely based on my favorites (though this factored in a little). Thus, consider the subsequent ten cafés, pubs and restaurants as but the first course of city’s delicious eats passionately created by chefs passionate about food.
I was first introduced to French Meadow by my then boyfriend (now husband) who knew that I loved sweets more than him. Alright, so this might be slightly overstating things, but baked goods at French Meadow are divine, and by some standards, even relatively healthy. As the first wholly organic café in the country when it opened in 1985, French Meadow is known for their commitment to locally sourced, organic fare and this dedication sings with flavor on the plate. Long considered as one of the best breakfast places in the Twin Cities (their organic bagel with cream cheese and lox is a must try…my husband would argue the same of their breakfast burrito with bacon), the casual daytime atmosphere changes by night to a refined, yet unfussy, place for dinner, serving up Prince Edward Island mussels, roasted lamb meatballs, and never boring salads—to name a few entrée choices. Priced: $ to $$
Anchor Fish and Chips
I was first tipped off on Anchor Fish and Chips by a coworker and his foodie partner who made it their goal to discover new restaurants in the Twin Cities. Venturing to northeast Minneapolis on this recommendation, I’ve since experienced the joy of introducing my friends to this tiny pub who treats fish and chips like the match made in heaven they are. The fish, wild Alaskan cod, is served whole, the outside gold and flaky with a tender, never-fishy tasting fillet. Add fresh cut chips and homemade tartar sauce, and for $9 eat fish and chips that even Kate and Will would write home about. Priced: $
The Bachelor Farmer
Paying homage to Minnesota’s Nordic heritage, The Bachelor Farmer gives evocative meaning to comfort food. Using herbs and vegetables grown from their own rooftop garden, the menu is consistently fresh, changing, and enticing. Dinner at The Bachelor Farmer is a three course affair serving up fares such as pheasant egg salad, roast chicken with duck sausage stuffing, and light and sexy Valrhona Jivara milk chocolate mousse. While their entrées may seem heavy, chef Paul Bergland’s fresh and innovative pairings ensure you leave comfortably satisfied. Priced: $ to $$
Located on bustling Nicollet Mall in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, Barrio is the best Mexican restaurant in the Twin Cities with tequila to boot. Anyone believing Minnesotans like their food plain and hearty need come directly to Barrio—which will be packed on any given night—to realize the gravity of this misconception. The salsa combinations are punchy and fun, and the menu offers a lot more than amazing tacos. The Mahi-Mahi steamed in banana leaf comes seasoned with citrus-tequila mojo and the Red Chile Enchilada with fried egg and chorizo is not to be missed. Stay long enough to enjoy their Black Bonita, a blackberry mojito served with fresh mint, or sample one of the dozens of tequilas offered at the bar. Priced: $ to $$
I am, first and foremost, a breakfast person, so needless to say, when an authentic French bakery called Patisserie 46 opened on the corner of Grand Ave in Minneapolis, my heart skipped a beat. And if the morning line out the door is indicative of taste-bud bliss, Patisserie 46 has wonderfully succeeded. National Geographic recently declared this patisserie as among the best in the world, but an online reviewer says it best: “Either go to Paris, or to Patisserie 46!” The roughest of mornings are instantly redeemed by their classic croissants and their decadent éclairs, ranging in flavor from chocolate and vanilla to lemon verbena and raspberry, are simply sumptuous. And if you must begin with savory, the patisserie’s lunch menu changes daily. Priced: $
The Blue Door Pub
When my best friend from England came to visit, we had only two nights in Minneapolis and, without a moment’s hesitation, I knew one of them would be spent at Blue Door Pub. The burgers here are incredible, and you could say BDP has something of a cult following. With their original spin on the Juicy Lucy, a burger stuffed with cheese, BDP’s “Juicy Blucys” take the classic a step further with always unpredictable and always delicious stuffings. The “Bangok Blucy,” served with coconut milk-soaked mozzarella, pickled carrots, cucumbers, red onions, and ginger, along with a side of curry, is a personal favorite, but it’s difficult to go wrong with any Blucy. And for those BDP diehards whose palate craves something new, the B.O.M, Burger of the Moment, is sure to satisfy. Priced: $
There are some really wonderful Italian eateries in the Twin Cities, and choosing a favorite was a tough one, but leave it to Punch to turn event the worst days around for a mere five bucks. Specializing in traditional Neopolitan-style pizza, Punch Pizza is a Twin Cities favorite—and a personal love of mine. Founder John Soranno grew up in Milan, Italy, and after leaving corporate America in 1995, decided to share his passion for pizza with the Twin Cities. Punch has been open ever since. Their margarita pizza is made with fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, and a light, blistered crust, and for a mere $5, John is practically giving his pizzas away. Priced: $
The first thing you’ll notice about food at Kenwood is how pretty it is. Served on simple white plates, the food, fresh and colorful, is art for your palate. Calling itself “a regional, seasonal, European neighborhood kind of joint,” the Kenwood is named and located in Minneapolis’ Kenwood neighborhood, and is a brilliant escape from the rush of city traffic. Open from morning till night, the Kenwood is considered fine-dining, but it’s really quite cozy. The mushroom soup is the perfect cure for a cold weather day and the changing small plate items ranging from veal sweetbreads to swordfish carpaccio are fun to share, but even sweeter to keep to yourself. Priced: $-$$$
The only reason I know why Murray’s dazzles is because my in-laws treated me to dinner there. While its prices aren’t exactly student-friendly, eating at Murray’s, ‘home of the butter-knife steak,’ is an occasion to remember. Open since 1946, Murray’s steaks deserve their long-standing reputation, and whether you prefer ribeye, strip, porterhouse, or sirloin, Murray’s does steak right and has the caesar salad to match. Priced: $$ to $$$
While Minneapolis-Saint Paul might be cold and snowy nearly half the year, we like to think our famous kindness makes up for any shortcomings. At the very least, our food sure does.