Minneapolis and St Paul (and the metro) have a huge range of cultures and food traditions to draw from, and as a metro area, we are really finding out own place in the food world.
Here are some of my favorite fun food things for out-of-town visitors to know about as they navigate the Twin Cities metro.
Where to send your guests for food fun
The Minnesota State Fair
And if you have guests in town while the State Fair is open (the 12 days ending Labor Day), you will need to make them go. I generally describe it as a theme park where the theme is “wholesomeness” and steer people to the all-you-can-drink milk stand ($2) or the fried cheese curds. But there are lots of new options every year, notably the offerings from the Blue Barn. And every year I am part of a State Fair eating crawl that tries all the new Fair fare (typically about 50 different items) on the first day. http://www.mnstatefair.org/
Sea Salt Eatery
Minneapolis has park land around every body of water and the Mississippi, making for great walks but not a lot of lakeside dining. Sea Salt (open April through October) is inside the park pavillion at Minnehaha Falls, a park and falls worth seeing in their own right. It’s unexpected to get poboys and crab cakes around here, but these folks care about their ingredients and are making delicious picnic-friendly fare. Grab a table outside and enjoy a beer until your food arrives. https://seasalteatery.wordpress.com/
Bachelor Farmer / Marvel Bar / Askov Finlayson
The sons of Governor Mark Dayton started Bachelor Farmer restaurant several years ago and it hasn’t slowed down since. Its focus on modern Scandinavian food with local ingredients and its fantastic wine menu make it a nice place for dinner (and the occasional celebrity sighting), but the basement Marvel Bar is where the craft cocktail magic happens. You’ll have trouble finding it because it has no sign – go around the building towards the parking lot, then under the cafe lights and into the unmarked door, then down the stairs through the other unmarked door. And their street level cafe and store (Askov Finlayson) is defining what the new North is all about as a region. http://thebachelorfarmer.com/
Betty Danger’s Country Club
Here is the deal – they have a three story-tall ferris wheel (which they will only refer to as a revolving patio). Go for the spectacle – get a ticket and a drink and enjoy your view of downtown Minneapolis. I probably wouldn’t stay for dinner, but the drinks and apps (particularly the guacamole) are enjoyable while you just take the rest of the place in. http://bettydangers.com/
Can Can wonderland
An indoor mini golf, adult-drink-having, arts-focused answer to a classic kids arcade, this is a perfect choice for a lazy Sunday with friends or a rainy indoor activity! https://www.cancanwonderland.com/
Distilleries and Breweries
Minnesota’s liquor laws changed only a few years ago allowing a proliferation of brewpubs and distilleries to serve directly to the public. A few of my favorites include:
Tattersall Distilling – To get to this excellent local distillery and craft cocktail bar, you’ll need to go down a long alleyway alongside an active railroad track for almost an entire block. You’ll be sure you are in the wrong place until a wall of garage doors welcome you to a steel and glass patio and bar overlooking both the warehouse of distillation equipment and a two-story vintage wooden bar. All the drinks are skillfully made and feature spirits made in house. Food trucks sometimes park outside the patio to provide guests with an evening snack. Du Nord Craft Spirits in South Minneapolis is a wonderful neighborhood distillery – their coffee liqueur is excellent, and their small menu of craft cocktails is perfect for summer evenings.
Indeed Brewing (Northeast Minneapolis) is large enough to host small functions and excels with their barrel aged beer series called “Wooden Soul”. Bauhaus Brew Labs is in the Northeast arts district and features a large beautiful location with lots of tasty session-able options. Fulton brewing (near the new Twins Stadium) features a variety of Saisons (my favorite beer) in the summer, and their small patio is lively as well.
This local coffee shop has a few locations, all with clean, striking aesthetics and great coffee. Try the Warehouse District for a white and airy space in the bustle of downtown, or the Northeast Minneapolis location for an wood beam topped space full of working creatives. Recommended: a cortado. Or anything. https://spyhousecoffee.com/
Hmong Village Shopping Center
There is a large Hmong population in the Twin Cities area, and if you want traditional Hmong food and an immersive experience to go with it, you can’t beat the Hmong Market – it’s part food court and part bazaar. You’ll have to wend your way around this warehouse space until you find the wall of 20+ food windows. I recommend the Pho from almost anywhere (I prefer no tripe, but you might feel differently) plus a green papaya salad and people watching. http://www.hmongvillageshoppingcenter.com/
The Minneapolis music scene (birthplace of Prince, the Replacements, and Atmosphere, among others) is a vibrant and diverse beast, but it all seems to come together at this Eat Street restaurant. Come for the craft cocktails and excellent menu, and then stay late for a show of some of the best local talent in the Twin Cities. https://www.icehousempls.com/
A patio that overlooks the Minneapolis skyline and Mississippi river, and lovely cocktails to boot. The Aster also hosts events and small weddings (hello, grooms dinner!) and has an “old Minneapolis” vibe of brick and cobblestone. http://astercafe.com/
Checklist tours of Central Avenue, University Avenue, and Lake Street
I’ve been a part of 3 epic, year-long restaurant crawls. If you have friends looking for some adventure and something totally off the tourist path, check out our recommendations from these very diverse streets.
Central Avenue in Northeast – from an old school billiards parlor with great burgers, to the best Ecuadorian restaurant in town. University Avenue from St Paul to Minneapolis – following the path of the Green Line light rail from downtown St Paul, through the heart of Pho restaurants, and into the U of M campus. Lake Street in South Minneapolis – known for Mexican fare and some of the most accessible Somali and West African restaurants.