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Minneapolis Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations

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I am a little confused about a dish being named for an ingredient that is not the main ingredient in the dish--there was crab in the salad but not lots ( it was Very good, however).

Maybe it was so named because crab was the ingredient that distinguished it from other salads/dishes???

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Anything you guys would recommend for something unique to the city for both food and drink? Various people have recommended Al's Breakfast, Nye's Polanaise, Lyle's Liquors, and Tavern on Grand. Obviously I'm not looking for fine dining, but I don't want bad food, either-would you steer me away from any of them in particular?

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Al's Breakfast is one of my personal favorite breakfast spots. Great food turned out in a historic 'tween diner. Don't try to go with more than four people and two would be even better.

Tavern on Grand has solid walleye (or whatever the Canadian fish is that they actually serve). It wouldn't really be on my short list of standout low-brow dining options in the area.

Nye's is a gem. I prefer to drink there rather than eat. Just not the sort of food that appeals to me. Perhaps another reader will chime in about the food.

Lyle's is fun but I haven't been for a number of years so I cannot give any up-to-date information.

Punch Neopolitan Pizza is a great spot for an inexpensive meal of high-quality food. I'm partial to their original location on Cleveland in the Highland Park area of St. Paul. Simple pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven with the right amount of char and smoke. I always get mine 'Neopolitan style' (in fact I rarely stray from the Margherita DOC which comes this way by design) which is un-cut and has more sauce and olive oil.

Lucia's is a solid choice for mid-priced dining. She has been a mainstay of the 'support local agriculture' scene for some time. I often eat in the wine bar area where they have a sort of cafe menu.

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Al's Breakfast is one of my personal favorite breakfast spots.  Great food turned out in a historic 'tween diner.  Don't try to go with more than four people and two would be even better.

And get there at 6 or 7--whatever time they open. If you get there any later, you're due for a long wait.

I love Al's and go there everytime I'm in MSP. But I find anything other than their wally blue and eggs benedict to be very ordinary. (I like their hash browns, too.) So if you go, I'd stick with the eggs benedict, wally blue and a hash brown on the side (that's actually my usual order...)

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Al's Breakfast is one of my personal favorite breakfast spots.  Great food turned out in a historic 'tween diner.  Don't try to go with more than four people and two would be even better.

And get there at 6 or 7--whatever time they open. If you get there any later, you're due for a long wait.

I love Al's and go there everytime I'm in MSP. But I find anything other than their wally blue and eggs benedict to be very ordinary. (I like their hash browns, too.) So if you go, I'd stick with the eggs benedict, wally blue and a hash brown on the side (that's actually my usual order...)

Weekdays they open at 6am.

I stick with buttermilk or buttermilk with corn for my pancakes. I'm also a fan of their hash browns.

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Thanks for the Al's tips. It sounds like a don't miss place. Even on a Sunday, I need to get there right when they open? I'm also thinking about Hell's Kitchen-it's right by our hotel, and they take reservations. We actually need to get up to Little Falls that morning for a Memorial Day thing, so we don't have time for a long breakfast wait, but going right when Al's opens would work.

Also, now I'm convinced that Nye's is worth at least a drink.


Edited by kiliki (log)

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Thanks for the Al's tips. It sounds like a don't miss place. Even on a Sunday, I need to get there right when they open? I'm also thinking about Hell's Kitchen-it's right by our hotel, and they take reservations.

Especially on Sundays! Saturdays and Sundays are the worst for waits! But weekdays are usually not so bad. I once went at 10-ish on a Monday and the place only had a few people. But weekends are their busiest times, so you definitely have to get there early for those.

I've heard different things about Hell's Kitchen--both good and bad. It's been on my list of "Places to Try" forever, but I always end up back at Al's. I'm a creature of habit, what can I say?

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I just read they don't open until 9 on Sunday! I was thinking that most people would sleep in a little on Sunday, and we could go early and avoid the wait, but nope.

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I'll comment on Lyle's. Just drink there. Eat elsewhere. I know that Stephen recommended the origianl Punch (in my 'hood, actually), but if you got to Nye's for a drink (and I can recommend eating there, too), I believe a Punch has opened or is opening one to two blocks away.

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I thought 20.21 at the Walker Center was good, especially after checking out the museum. Gorgeous room, good service, food is fun and tastes good.

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I'll just report back that I LOVED Nye's. To this Seattle girl, a place that has "all your supperclub favorites" is actually quite exotic and I loved everything about the place-the pierogies, the cocktails, the salad with tons of homemade blue cheese on top, the relish tray, the waitresses that have been there forever, and the piano bar.

We needed to eat breakfast early on Sunday so no Al's, but Hell's Kitchen was good enough. It only occured to me later-I was very sleepy-that I got regular hash browns instead of the cream cheese/onion rosti that were supposed to come with my breakfast. Those rosti sure sounded good. You get homemade peanut butter and jams with your toast which was nice.

Another food highlight was the Black and White Hamburger Cafe in Little Falls. They had probably the best hash browns (shredded, and fried in butter!) I've ever had in a restaurant.

Edited to add one more: I tried Salsa a la Salsa, too, and while it was better than, say, chain tex-mex, it was generally average. One thing that was noteworthy was the complete absence of any type of chili pepper. I've never had salsas (there were 2) that had zero heat. Zero. Very strange. Same with our entrees.


Edited by kiliki (log)

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Another food highlight was the Black and White Hamburger Cafe in Little Falls. They had probably the best hash browns (shredded, and fried in butter!) I've ever had in a restaurant.

Edited to add one more: I tried Salsa a la Salsa, too, and while it was better than, say, chain tex-mex, it was generally average. One thing that was noteworthy was the complete absence of any type of chili pepper. I've never had salsas (there were 2) that had zero heat. Zero. Very strange. Same with our entrees.

The Black and White is indeed a wonderful place. Glad you got to experience it. Sorry that Salsa a la Salsa didn't do it for you. Their mole and chile rellenos are really top notch, but I don't know what you ordered.

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Need a nice place to eat in Minneapolis,downtown/uptown, where my employees can eat well and dress nice. Please tell me your favorites. Thanks.

RM

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How nice, Rick? Funky nice or fancy nice?

Edited to add: if you want nice nice, seriously consider Vincent. Downtown, very nice, elegant and the food is wonderful. Also, you might want to consider the Dakota Restaurant and Jazz Club if you want music as well. Both of these are downtown; I'm much less familiar with the Uptown area, but if you go just across the river from downtown, there are a couple of good choices -- Fugaise comes to mind. Ooh, and then there's Restaurant Alma, but ever since their 4 star review, tables are really hard to come by.

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Levain is really noisy, and I had a not so great experience at Cosmos, but that was quite some time ago.

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We really enjoyed 112 Eatery and saw lots of nice outfits. We went last year prior to the Elton John concert and ordered almost the whole menu for the 4 of us, everything was fabulous. They even gave us extra caramel corn to eat at the show. My mother in law likes Restaurant Alma and we've

given them gift certificates for there many times. Enjoy your night! A hui hou!

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We have so many wonderful choices these days. I agree with all the suggestions so far, including Cosmos and Levain. I would also add Five, La Belle Vie, 20.21 at The Walker Art Museum, Cue at The Gutherie Theater, Solera, Auriga. If you go to City Pages, and search for Restaurants, most of the listings link you to their websites. Then you can compare and select the one from our recommendations that best suits you. Let us know where you end up and how it was for your group.

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I will second the advice to go to Citypages. For one thing, Dara does a nice job of reviewing restaurants, their listing is great, and none of their links go out of date.

And, do think about 112 Eatery if you are looking for something a bit funker.

Should you want to go really funky, but not fancy, and have a largish group, don't overlook the new Midtown Global Market. Or, maybe just save that one for a lunch, too.

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Based on what you're asking for, I would suggest Five or Levain. Maybe Vincent.

Town Talk Diner is another, more funky, option.

Bruce

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The last time I came through town (last fall) it was 112 Eatery, Vincent, and Alma for me. 112 Eatery and Vincent were both fabulous. Alma did not impress me as much as the other two. Also, if you're looking for a place to take a number of employees, Alma is a relatively small restaurant and so may be less able to handle a large group.

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Funky nice.

RM

112 Eatery and Vincent were both fabulous

My main experience in the MSP area is with solo dining. 112 Eatery and Vincent were certainly high points, but they're quite different.

112 Eatery fits the "funky" bit - I felt quite at home there eating at the bar. Kind of reminded me of Lolita back home in Cleveland. It's noisy - parallel naked brick walls. So not the place for quiet conversation. It's not very big, so you'd need to reserve well in advance.

Vincent is a more traditional French restaurant. Good food, attentive and unobtrusive service. (The service scores big time in my book). If you give enough notice I'm sure they can accomodate a large party. Definitely a "dress-up" place.

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I just got back from a trip to Minneapolis visiting some family.

Saturday night: Travail Kitchen and Amusements

This restaurant has been getting some good press lately and their food looked interesting. Saturday night was the only night they were opened during my stay so it I quickly decided to eat here our first night. This was especially easy considering their 10 course meal is just $70 per couple. Travail opens at 5pm and don't take reservations so we got their for an early dinner at 5. There was a line waiting to get seated. We just missed the first seating by 5 tables, so we got our name on the list and sat outside drinking, chatting and watching the kitchen work through the front window. It took about 2 hours to get seated. I think it is important to note that there is no host and waiters are sparse too. It seemed like the bartenders and cooks take care of everything from running food to taking names. This wasn't a problem with getting any food, but some patrons had trouble getting their name on the board.

The table ordered the 10 course meal, rather than going al a carte. Each course is served on a platter shared between two people, so there is no option for a 10 course for one. By my count we got 14 dishes by the end of the meal (we were stuffed). On to specifics, after the meal I tried to write down all the courses we had in order, but was a little fuzzy on the exact order of everything. No list was given, instead each dish was described as it was brought out. I think this is close, but won't have the exact descriptions offered by the people bringing our food:

Amuse Bouche: Chicken consomme with potato gnocchi

Course 1: Composed beet salad

Course 2: Tuna carpacio with XO sauce

Course 3: Duck liver mouse with radishes

Course 4: Pork Tartar - interesting and delicious. The pork was pink, but not raw. Instead, I think they cooked pork loin low temp to pasteurize it and then over did the low temp cooking to give it a softer texture, more like a raw meat. The meat was tossed with mozzarella and topped with fried capers. Other dressings surrounded the tartar.

Course 5: Brown butter cotton candy pumpkin soup - this was the best pumpkin dish I have ever had. The cotton candy was a fun touch. The bowls were filled with it and soup was poured over top table side to melt the cotton candy.

Course 6: Foie pierogi with radish and lemon foam

Course 7: Mushroom Agnoletti with truffle sauce and foam

Course 8: Corned beef tongue

Course 9: Scallop with beet and cauliflower puree

Palette Cleanser: Grapefruit and basil chill

Course 10: Hanger steak (I can't remember the components).

Course 11: Chocolate chip cookie, orange cream soda and pineapple meringue - the orange cream soda was intensely creamy and delicious.

Course 12: Pumpkin pie and fried ice cream

Everything ranged from good to great. I don't think there was a single dish that failed or came close. A couple times I thought some of the pickles were a little to potent relative to the other items on the plate, but this was a minor quibble. Service was very good, and the wine and beer list was short but well suited to the meal. I would gladly go back to this restaurant and would encourage others to go too. For the money this place is a steal. Inventive modernist cooking with Midwest flare. For the most part, they don't play up the use of modernist techniques as gimmicks, which is nice, they do it for quality.

As a side note, the kitchen is small. It is very impressive to see this level of food from such a small space. They had such little room, one of their circulators was running in the back of the bar.

After Travails we went to Bradstreet for some cocktails. A modern atmosphere that was very comfortable. Knowledgeable bartenders who know how to mix a great drink. They aren't cheap with the average drink running about $12, but it was a very good time. If you take mixology seriously, this is a fun time to spend some time.

Sunday night: 112 Eatery

I made reservations for 112 Eaters about two weeks before the trip based on some recommendations I saw on eG. Two of the people at the table made a meal out of sides and apps. So we had quite a bit of food at the table. Service was very good, as was their wine list.

Sautéed sweetbreads in porcini & clam sauce: This was supposed to be an appetizer, but didn't come out until just after my main. The sweet bread was prepared very well, and the sauce was delicious. My only problem was I didn't get any clam flavor, it tasted more like a porcini tomato sauce.

Pan-fried gnocchi w/ parmesan reggiano: light and fluffy as gnocchi should be. A few had was felt like a thing film around them, as if they were unevenly dried. I think the gnocchi should have been crisped up a little more in the pan. I thought these were just okay.

Butternut squash with blue cheese and maple: This was great. The maple brought out the squash flavors and was tamed by the funky blue. Everyone at the table enjoyed this dish.

French Fries: They were very good. Nice and crispy and well flavored. The tarragon aioli was phenomenal and paired wonderfully with the salty crispy fries.

Tagliatelle w/ foie gras meatballs - another very successful dish. The foie meatballs were tender and lightly flavored. The pasta was perfectly cooked and sauced in a way that didn't overpower the meatballs.

Bacon egg & harrisa sandwich - a really great breakfast sandwich. Very well balanced with some nice spice and a perfectly cooked egg.

Gougère & fried mortadella sandwich - again a great job here. Well cooked gougère (I hate when they aren't properly/fully browned) and delicious fillings.

Nancy silverton's butterscotch budino - perfectly cooked and great flavor. I loved that the custard was a salted butterscotch, but they sprinkled some salt on the top of the dish which occasionally overpowered everything else.

Raspberry brioche tart w/ vanilla meringue - This was a top notch dessert.

Overall we were happy with our experience at 112 Eatery. A few missteps, but that happens occasionally.

Monday night: Saffron

We were leaving Tuesday morning and the rest of the family left, so it was just my and my wife for an early night out Monday. We weren't too hungry, but wanted to grab something and maybe a couple cocktails. I can't remember how I heard about Saffron, but it is right across from 112 Eatery.

We made it in right before happy hour ended. While there we each got a couple cocktails and a few small plates. The cocktails were very good. I let the bartender make me whatever he felt like, so he was making drinks up on the spot, which was very fun. The cocktails weren't on the same level as Bradstreet, but were a different beast. On to the food.

Lamb Bacon BLT: Lightly charred brioche style bread with a arugula, and tomato jam that nicely balanced. The bacon was great, well cured and had an intense lamb flavor which I like.

Lamb Brain: Poached, then fried. Served with stewed tomatoes and roasted garlic. Very good and balanced flavors. A great way to get someone to try brain for the first time.

Crispy Potato Chips: Slightly thick and very crispy with well balanced dipping sauces.

Bastirma: Their house cured beef. A fairly fatty beef cut that was cured. Great flavor, but I thought it needed a bit more salt to really get it going.

Overall we had a great time and very good food at Saffron.

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I'm stuck in downtown Minneapolis for a couple of days since I'm attending a conference. Does anyone have any good up-to-date recommendations for lunch/dinner for around $10-$30?

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