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
Edwards Dessert Kitchen
Only open in the evenings, this place is hopping on the weekends and serves plated desserts as well as some pre-made fare. Its a dessert restaurant, and the food is generally dialed in on the complex flavors (finger limes!) while dialing down the sweetness. https://www.edwardsdessertkitchen.com/
The Minnesota State Fair
I have some mixed feelings about this “Great Minnesota Get Together”. One one hand, it has been, for me, a celebration of wholesomeness and innovation. I have entered my watermelon pickles every year for a decade (and I won a blue ribbon twice!). In 2021 they really dropped the ball on COVID preparedness in a way that felt anti-innovation and unsafe so I can’t recommend it as full throated as I once did. That said, it is an amazing spectacle of farm and food and I generally steer people to the all-you-can-drink milk stand ($2) or the fried cheese curds. There are lots of new options every year, notably the offerings from the Blue Barn. And every year I travel with Heavy Table to try most of 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/
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! It ironically is a little too crowded and chaotic for small kids, but great for pretty much everyone else. 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 and the first Black-owned distillery in the US. Their coffee liqueur is excellent, and their small menu of craft cocktails is perfect for summer evenings. After the protests, they are revamping their cocktail lounge, so it still isn’t open, try Lawless Distilling a few blocks away in the Seward neighborhood. Lawless makes excellent alcohols, but the best part of sitting in the distillery is the seasonal themes for their craft cocktails. It is always unexpected and, well, weird. Like, a Cthulu-themed drink with squid ink or vodka with buttered popcorn.
Modist Brewing is in the warehouse 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. Sociable Cider Werks features ciders from dry to sweet.
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 Villiage – it’s part food court and part bazaar. If you are up for a little adventure, 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 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, Lake Street, and Lyndale Ave
I’ve been a part of 4 epic, years-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 – old school billiards parlor to the best Ecuadorian restaurant in town. University Avenue – 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. Lyndale Ave – Suburban immigrant fare into the heart of hipster Minneapolis.
Foodie-forward small group catering/pick up
And, wherever people gather, having food is important. Here are some favorites for an after wedding picnic, pre-wedding lunch, casual rehearsal dinner, or wherever you gather!
Animales BBQ – classic delicious BBQ for pickup in NE Minneapolis https://www.exploretock.com/animalesbbq/
Arepa Bar – take out of Venezualen classics from Midtown Minneapolis. https://www.arepabarmpls.com/catering
Brasa – southern style comfort food with well sourced foods for catering or take out. https://www.brasa.us/catering
Centro / VIV!R – taqueria and serious Mexican restaurant with great take out and catering. https://centrompls.com/catering
Nixta – artisinal tortillaria, available for takout! https://www.nixtampls.com/
Union Hmong Kitchen – Hmong take out by a master chef, also features a “Vanai feast” of family style offerings set up on a table covered with banana leaves. https://unionkitchenmn.com/
Katar River (Ethiopian) – My favorite local Ethiopian fare, perfect for take out (the platter for 4 is a giant selection of well known Ethiopian dishes on a bed of injera bread). https://www.katarrestaurant.com/