Top Eleven Twin Cities Eats

Saturday, April 20, 2013

At the moment, there are exactly three-and-a-half million other things to think about besides food. Say, how Minnesotans are soldiers of winter, though that’s all I’m going to say about the weather. Comfort foods here are essential, and Minnesotans know what’s good. Big things on the food front have happened over the past couple of years, and I’d say our Twin Cities deserve a spot on America’s list of food destinations. As I wrap up my trip home, I wanted to part with a quick list of places worth checking out, places good enough to take a visiting friend. These haunts comfort in a way that goes beyond the food. Keep calm and carry on, Minnesota. You’ll be missed.

Eli’s East.

For thoughtful, delicious Midwest comfort food, great cocktails, and service that’s easy and unadorned, Eli’s fits the bill. Dishes to try: tempura walleye, cauliflower and beans, chop salad.

815 East Hennepin, Minneapolis

(612) 331-0031


My friend Niki is always hot on the next-big-thing when it comes to food, and she takes visitors to Borough. Best to go with adventurous diners, order a myriad, and get recommendations from the chef if you can as he or she brings food to your table. Less salt all around would be better, but that’s where my critique ends. The menu changes, and if octopus is included when you go, order it, if only to obliterate any misgivings you’ve had of how perfectly tender octopus texture can be.

730 North Washington Avenue, Minneapolis

(612) 354-3135

The Groveland Tap. 

Baby food, thirty-four tap beers, and an award-winning turkey burger are just some of the gems of The Groveland Tap’s menu. I go with my cousin, and she’s been going for years. Cozy and super family-friendly, it doesn’t get much more neighborly than this.

1834 Saint Clair Avenue, Saint Paul

(651) 699-5058


Go for the lunch special (usually a sandwich) and add a cup of the plantain dumpling soup. It’s my favorite restaurant in the Cities – the people who run the place are so nice, and even if the food sucked, I’d return. The food, however, is outstanding.

2851 Central Avenue Northeast, Minneapolis

(612) 788-1328

The Coffee Shop. 

I love the unassuming, come one, come all vibe of this Northeast java joint. Feels like everyone in the neighborhood does, too. With strong coffee, good cookies, and genuine Midwest hospitality, it’s the first place I choose when I need an energetic space to work or want the kind of afternoon pick-me-up only a local coffee shop can deliver.

2852 Johnson Street Northeast, Minneapolis

(612) 259-8478

Que Viet. 

People travel far and wide for Que Viet’s egg rolls, but I was lucky to grow up down the block. Fried to perfection and tightly-packed with minced pork and shreds of tender vegetables, these rolls hooked me years ago and keep me coming back whenever I’m in Minnesota.

2211 Johnson Street Northeast, Minneapolis

(612) 781-4744

Smack Shack.

When it comes to a sandwich Minnesota can be proud of, most of us think Juicy Lucy over Lobster Roll. Yet Smack Shack’s rolls and po’ boys have garnered such a following that they’ve recently expanded to bigger [and fancier] digs. Don’t go to relax. Go to be a part of the buzz, ideally at the bar, where an open seat is tough to come by. And whatever you do, don’t leave without tasting the lobster guacamole. That’s an order.

603 Washington Avenue North, Minneapolis

(612) 259-7288

Mojo Monkey. 

Righteous doughnuts, particularly the old fashioned kind. Closed Mondays.

1169 7th Street West, Saint Paul

(651) 224-0142 

Red Savoy. 

For the best taste of Minnesota-style pizza, head to Red Savoy. That’s a pie with a thin crust and toppings blanketed in cheese, and always cut into squares. Go for the gold and try the sauerkraut and sausage.

421 7th Street East, Saint Paul

(651) 227-1437

The Bachelor Farmer.

Start with a drink from the progressive cocktail program, stay for the thoughtful and beautifully-plated food. It’s contemporary Nordic fare, and it’s excellent.

50 North 2nd Avenue, Minneapolis

(612) 206-3920

World Street Kitchen.

Another mobile to brick-and-mortar expansion, WSK fuses global flavors with gusto in a way that might turn off the purist. But the team deserves praise for shaking up the MSP dining scene with their ambitious mission and enthusiastic menu. Dishes to try: lemongrass meatball lettuce wraps, short rib rice bowl, curried peanut butter cookie, mango and passionfruit lassi soft serve.

2743 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis