Upton 43

Upton 43

Linden Hills

Chef Erick Harcey’s new Nordic-inspired restaurant has been met with nothing but critical praise, and rightfully so. The dishes are all a combination of his roots, blending bright and bold Scandinavian flavors with classic French technique. Some of the highly rated dishes include fermented lettuce, pistachio, gjetost, and pickled gooseberry; hay-roasted pork chop with carrots, charred onion, walnut, and nasturtium; and the oh-so-delicious rabbit with crayfish dashi, spring vegetables, and truffle rice. Harcey also recently opened a place kicking out arguably the best chicken in town, The Dirty Bird, which is located right behind Upton 43. Head on over if you've still got room after that pork chop.

Mucci’s Italian

West 7th

Mucci’s Italian turns out some incredible takes on Italian comfort food. The seafood misto is littered with freshly fried sea creatures on top of vibrant chili aioli, making it a go-to for seafood lovers. The pizza is one of the best in the city, and the mushroom bisque is so good that it's hard having just one bowl. Add to that the fact that the pasta is made from scratch, and it's obvious to see why this place is making such a mark. Bottom line: if you’re into Italian food, this is your new stop.

Ashley Sullivan

Handsome Hog

Lowertown

Modern Southern-inspired cuisine has found a nice little home in St. Paul’s booming Lowertown district. It’s not BBQ per se, but some of it is very much inspired by the idea. This place rocks a delicious 24-hour smoked beef brisket, a rack of baby back ribs served up on Texas toast with a side of pickles that's like no other, and a grilled, bone-in ham steak that'll satisfy any meat eater. Other highlights include a dish simply called "The Farm" -- composed of braised oxtail, a buttermilk biscuit, sunny-side-up duck egg, crispy pig’s ear, pickled squash blossom, and chili oil. Be sure to also check out the takes on shrimp & grits and chicken & waffles. Also, whatever you do, don't overlook the cocktail menu.

St. Genevieve

Southwest

Legendary Twin Cities chef Steven Brown brought the goods with St. Genevieve, a restaurant featuring beautiful, well-crafted French cuisine paired with a satisfying wine list. The lamb tartare is as stunning to look at as it is to eat, and there’s not a miss when it comes to the selection of delicious tartines. Among everything on the menu, the duck entrée could be the real winner, though, featuring both breast and confit along with pickled red cabbage, red potatoes, and French mustard. It's all perfectly matched with a great wine list, which is packed with reds, whites, roses, Champagnes, and more.

Keane Amdahl/Thrillist

Hi-Lo Diner

Longfellow

A lot of places in the Twin Cities have been embracing the "simpler" approach to food, and this Longfellow diner is definitely at the epicenter of that movement. Located where an old, dilapidated Taco Bell used to be, Hi-Lo's owners brought in a classic diner vibe with some incredible menu options. The Hi-Tops -- frybread covered in a variety of sweet and savory toppings -- are a must-try, and the buttermilk fried chicken (with maple-bourbon syrup, country gravy, and micro arugula) is even better than it sounds. Toss on some Cuban pulled pork with a citrus glaze, a sunny-side-up egg, some black bean & sweet corn salsa, sour cream, and micro cilantro, and you've got a menu that's good until the very end -- all the way to the adult milkshakes.

Courtesy of Heirloom

Heirloom

Merriam Park

Former W.A. Frost executive chef Wyatt Evans now has a place of his own, and boy is it doing farmhouse cuisine just right. The menu is jammed with both safe bets and new, exciting meals that push the palate. The smoked ocean trout with charred cucumber, sorrel, and rhubarb is great for someone looking for a less risky choice, but if you really want to venture out, try the black pudding with celery root, pickled apple, and juniper crumble. Aside from the brunch and dinner menus, Heirloom offers a comprehensive list of beers (with on tap, malty, and hoppy menus available), wines by the bottle or glass, and ciders.

Pimento Jamaican Kitchen

Pimento Jamaican Kitchen

Whittier

Twin Cities locals were waiting for this one to come out of the suburbs and into the city for quite a while, and now that it's here, we couldn't be happier. This place is serving some fresh takes on traditional Jamaican cuisine, like the Kingston-style jerk chicken or pork, braised oxtail, or curry goat -- all of which sport big, kick-you-in-the-mouth flavors. It also has the classic Jamaican patties (fried pastry dough filled with either spicy beef or mild chicken). Feel free to wash it all down with a bottle of Red Stripe.

Taco Libre

West St. Paul

It's no secret that West St. Paul has a longstanding history with tacos, but this new addition is upping the game for real. The restaurant, as you might expect, is decked to the hilt in luchador swag, but it offers over 17 different fillings for the tacos, rice bowls, and meat plates. In addition, the menu holds a variety of tortas, tamales, and classic Mexican soups like menudo and posole.

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1. Upton Forty-Three 4312 Upton Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55410

Chef Erick Harcey's vision of Midwest meets Sweden comes to life at Upton 43, located in Linden Hills. This highly praised eatery combines Swedish flavor with French technique for distinctive (all day) brunch and dinner menus, the staples of which are the pancakes and the meatballs, of course. Decor here is as minimal as possible — blank white walls and tables, rows of sleek, modern booths — so the dishes stand entirely on their own (as they should, this restaurant takes presentation very seriously). This is where to be if you want a full culinary experience.

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2. Mucci's 786 Randolph Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102 (West Seventh)

Eating at this West 7th Italian restaurant comes close to eating in your own home. Owner and Chef Tim Niver likes to work the room, adding to the cozy, familial vibe of the purposely small dining space. Getting a table at Mucci's is first-come-first-served, which makes seating a group difficult, but it is so worth it. House-made pastas and traditional Italian pizzas (big slices of mozzarella, entire leaves of basil, and thin crust) are the shining stars here. Not in the mood to wait for a table? You can order any of the dinner dishes for takeout, too.

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3. Handsome Hog 203 E 6th Street, Saint Paul, MN 55101

This St. Paul restaurant is devoted to the nitty gritty of Southern cuisine. The undoubtedly meat-centric menu encompasses every part of the hog and/or cow, with ingredients like crispy pig tails and whole roasted jowl being a regular occurrence. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner, focusing on quick-service items and takeout in the afternoon and more composed plates in the evening. The Southern influence extends to the full bar, which is stocked with over 100 varieties of bourbon and a cocktail list of updated Dixie classics like the mint julep.

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4. St. Genevieve 5003 Bryant Avenue S, Minneapolis, MN (Southwest)

St. Genevieve oozes just as much French elegance as its name suggests. Its is the midwestern answer to the French's "buvette," which is essentially a tavern where champagne flows all day and the food is just there to soak it up. While the beverage menu (with dozens of local and Eurpoean wine, champange and beer options) is usually the buvette's main contender, Genevieve's gourmet cuisine (Chicken paillard. Norwegian salmon. Duck breast.) is what makes it a must-visit. Good new for date night: you don't have to order in French (unless you can. Then you definitely should).

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5. Hi-Lo Diner 4020 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55406

Updated diner food served in an authentic '50s-era diner transported all the way from PA—that's what you get at St. Paul's Hi-Lo Diner. Here all day breakfast is enlivened by the venue's signature Hi-Tops, customizable fried dough rounds that come with a huge variety of sweet and salty toppings. The small diner's seating is expanded with outdoor patio seating, so you may enjoy your classic malt shake with your honey while enjoying the breeze. Beer, wine, and cocktails are available at all times, but a special happy hour drinks menu opens up on the weekends.

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6. Heirloom 2186 Marshall Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55104 (Downtown St Paul)

Opened by the former chef of St. Paul’s beloved W.A. Frost & Co., Heirloom is now one of the most popular restaurants in Merriam Park. Heirloom's "modern farmhouse cuisine" method that its known for essentially means it's farm-to-table catered to the seasons. The ever-changing dinner menu is fruit- and vegetable-heavy (save for the occasional chicken, steak or seafood dish), which makes this a very safe spot if you're dining out with a vegetarian group. This trendy spot is also host to a mighty list of Midwestern wines and beers on tap, a lot of them directly from St. Paul.

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7. Pimento Jamaican Kitchen 2524 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

This Jamaican Kitchen is serving up authentic Caribbean food to hungry Minnesotans one order of oxtail at a time. Using old family recipes, the chefs at Pimento have transported the islands to the States with a meat-heavy menu that is also seriously spicy. Choose from five homemade sauces to raise or lower the spice content, or pair your meal with one of the many Jamaican sodas they offer. Beer and wine are also available, so whether you're eating at their Food Network contest-winning food court location or their new flagship store on Nicolette Ave, you'll be having a summery time.

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8. Taco Libre 1221 Robert St S, West Saint Paul, MN 55118 (Downtown St Paul)

Taco Libre, credited for bringing Mexican food back to life in West St. Paul, offers almost 20 kinds of taco with both standard meat filling and a few adventurous vegetarian options (Mexican truffle and pumpkin flower to name a couple), all topped with onions, cilantro and lime. For the daring, Taco Libre's signature dish, The Machete, is a massive, fried tortilla stuffed with lettuce, sour cream, Oaxaca cheese, salsa and your filling of choice. This place has a reputation for is speedy takeout but if you've got time to kill, it's worth sitting down to enjoy the kitschy luchadores adorning the walls.