Food & Drink

The Most Criminally Underrated Restaurants in Minneapolis

Published On 09/16/2015 Published On 09/16/2015
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With so many great things to eat in Minneapolis, it’s easy to... get fat. Just kidding! It’s easy to overlook some restaurants, even when they’re making incredibly cool, innovative, and downright delicious food. We can’t have that, so we rounded up the 11 most criminally underrated restaurants in Minneapolis...

Wise Acre Eatery

Wise Acre Eatery

Southwest

Recently named one of the seven actual farm-to-table restaurants in the Twin Cities by local food celeb, Andrew Zimmern, this place is a true South Minnie gem. Featuring seasonal interpretations of ingredients raised on the resto's own farm located Southwest of the Twin Cities, you’ll find dishes like a double-cut pork chop with cheesy rice pudding, or a summer cabbage roll filled with a fresh ratatouille and goat cheese. Pro tip: you can and should grab a pound of the bacon to take home with you for later.

Sparks

Sparks

Bryn Mawr

This North Minneapolis restaurants utilizes its wood-burning oven to bring you seasonal variations on globally inspired flavors. Check out the roasted eggplant baba ghanoush, Korean BBQ tacos, or roasted asparagus with Parmesan and walnuts for starters and round out your dinner with one of the many wood-fired pizzas or entrees.

Le Town Talk

Le Town Talk

Longfellow

Given the high-profile nature of the old Town Talk space, this little restaurant originally opened up to quite the fanfare, but after a year or so in business, you don’t hear as much about it as maybe you should. Its take on the French eats is sure to leave your stomach filled with the warm fuzzies, except said fuzzies will be in the form of Corsican stew with braised beef, tomato sauce, carrots, and cured olives served on pappardelle, moules frites, and other classics.

Nightingale

Nightingale

Uptown

Featuring a variety of delicious small and large plates, you get a little bit of something for everybody here. The smoked chicken liver pate with bacon marmalade is a luxurious exploration of sweet, smoky, and savory, while the beer tartar is a great, simple take on the classic that features tender chopped beef and celery root. If those kinds of things aren’t exactly your jam, fret not, because there's also a pretty sweet burger and fries.

Blackbird

Blackbird

Kingfield

Despite the fact that it only re-opened in its new location a few years ago, it's already the old bird on the block. While a handful of truly great restaurants have opened up shop in the neighborhood, it’s important to remember that the folks here are still kicking out some great food that features flavors from around the world including a delicious little pork belly steam bun with kimchee, a chickpea griddle cake, truffled gnocchi, and a grilled bistro steak with a side of poutine.

Terzo

Terzo

Southwest

This place is ridiculously good and by all rights could be the talk of the town, but it’s not, so here it is. This little wine bar, owned by local Italian gurus, the Broder family, is offering up some seriously delicious food: there are little $1 tasting bites that are outrageous, and a series of large and small plates that appear to all be home runs. The duck egg with porcini sauce could easily rank as one of the best egg dishes in the city, and the herb-roasted quail is jam-packed with flavor.

Mona

Mona

Downtown

It’s astonishing how little you tend to hear about this place, yet as far as Downtown dining options go, it’s easily one of the best. With a focus on local farms and purveyors, the kitchen pumps out some high-quality dishes including dry-rubbed wings served with a white sauce; shrimp served on brioche with dill mayo, roe, and chili oil; and a beef flank steak with dill cheddar potatoes, grilled zucchini, and a tomato poblano jus. It also has a daily popcorn preparation.

Erte

Erte

Northeast

This modern American supper club with a retro feel has been serving up great dishes and cocktails in NE’s historic arts district for over 15 years. The dishes aren’t overly complicated, but are delicious thanks to  things like bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp with hoisin BBQ sauce; crispy duck confit with apple, cabbage and fennel; and a variety of classic steak cuts. The restaurant also has its own version of the Juicy Lucy that comes stuffed with caramelized onions and Gruyere, and then gets topped with melted Brie, and served with a side of dipping jus.

The Sample Room

The Sample Room

Northeast

When you’re able to proudly display a quote by global food guru, Anthony Bourdain, singing the praises of your restaurant on the homepage of your website, you that know you’re probably doing something right and we can’t disagree. Eating at the Sample Room is one of the best decisions you can make while in NE Minneapolis. The charcuterie is beautiful, and features things like a duck carpaccio, confit pork belly, and a decadent chicken liver mouse, all of which are great starters before any of the other dishes, including a three-meat meatloaf, buttermilk fried chicken, and fried octopus. There is also a great selection of local taps to help wash it all down.

The Craftsman

The Craftsman

Longfellow

This is actually one of our absolute favorite restaurants in the city and it never seems to garner the praise that it deserves. Bring in a bunch of food nerds and you’re all certain to leave happy. Like a lot of others places, it focuses on locally produced ingredients, but unlike a lot of other places, the dishes inspire a true sense of place. The charcuterie plate is legendary, and with dishes like pan-roasted duck breast with roasted root vegetables, red cabbage, spaetzli, and horseradish crème fraîche or the whole-roasted rainbow trout with popcorn gnocchi alla Romagna, mushrooms, Swiss chard, and sweet onion soubise, you know at first bite that you’re dining in the Twin Cities.

Courtesy of Hilary Roberts

Cafe Levain

Nokomis

It’s hard to understand the fact that when we bring up this place to non-industry-focused people, we’re met with a blank stare. It’s the kind of restaurant where chefs bring guests that they want to impress when they’re not eating in their own restaurants. The food is incredibly simple and humble, almost like home cooking, but prepared by the loving hand of a true expert so it resounds with both flavor and comfort. Ordering the chicken breast (yeah, we said chicken breast) is the only time you’ll ever catch us ordering chicken breast in a restaurant, but it comes out so incredibly juicy, that it’s an absolute must. Hands down, this rustic comfort-foodery is truly an underrated restaurant of the highest order.


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Keane Amdahl is a Twin Cities writer who, if you’re not careful, will eat everything at Cafe Levain before you even get there. Follow his wacky antics on Twitter: @Foodstoned.      

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1. Wise Acre Eatery 5401 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55419

This is one of the seven genuine farm-to-table restaurants in Minneapolis, as determined by local food celeb Andrew Zimmern. The restaurant has its own farm and serves plenty of seasonally inspired plates. They even offer bacon by the pound to take home!

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2. Sparks 230 Cedar Lake Rd S, Minneapolis, MN 55405 (Calhoun Isles)

This strongly Mediterranean-influenced resto exclusively cooks out of a wood-burning oven, serving dishes like roasted chicken and a variety of pizzas, and you can wash down your meal with a variety of craft beers, wines and cocktails.

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3. Town Talk Diner & Gastropub 2707 East Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55406 (Longfellow)

Town Talk has lived many lives in Longfellow as a classic diner, a French restaurant, and currently a modern gastropub, but the Lake Street landmark still shines as a beacon with its retro, vanity-lit sign, and serves an ever-changing menu of seasonal American plates (brunch is a fan favorite) and inventive craft cocktails. For dinner, you can nosh on fresh, locally sourced dishes that have included braised beef cavatelli and pan-roasted scallops (alongside a Sazerac or Dill Gimlet), and on Sunday mornings, shrimp & grits and cinnamon French toast with a prosecco-and-guava Brunch Bellini.

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4. Nightingale 2551 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55405 (Whittier)

This tapas-style restaurant in Whittier seats 75 in its homey, reclaimed space, complete with open brick walls and comfy blue leather booths. It serves up a variety of small and large sharable plates with American and European fare like lamb meatballs, chicken wings, halibut and burgers. What you don't want to share is the drink you order from the massive selection of sparkling wines and house cocktails or the handful of local draft beers.

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5. Blackbird 3800 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55409

This eclectic cafe features flavors from around the world as well as New American fare. They serve beer and wine alongside dishes like chickpea griddlecakes and truffle gnocchi.

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6. Terzo 2221 W 50th St, Minneapolis, MN 55410 (Southwest)

Terzo Vino Bar is not only one of the best Italian restaurants in Minneapolis, but it’s also one of the best spots for a glass of wine in all of Minnesota. With a cellar holding over 1,000 bottles of 300 different selections, the wine list updates often, allowing you to become well-versed in the Italian way of wine. Plus, it’s reasonably priced (by-the-glass options for just $10-$15), which is perfect because Terzo’s also has some great food that screams to be paired with a decent glass of vino. Expertly prepared dishes include duck egg with sautéed king trumpet and beech mushrooms and a prosciutto-wrapped pork loin with fingerling potatoes and dandelion greens.

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7. Mona Restaurant & Bar 333 S 7th St, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (Downtown)

After paying her dues in the intense restaurant scene of New York, chef & owner Mona took her talents to MSP and is serving up delicious American small plates in a classic environment. Go local with elk rib eye or try something new with the chicken & waffles.

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8. Erte 1304 University Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413

Erte is a popular neighborhood venue with a retro feel that has been around for over 15 years. Vintage cocktails are served alongside great dishes like bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp and crispy duck confit with apple, cabbage and fennel.

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9. The Sample Room 2124 Marshall St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

The Sample Room's a classy barstaurant with skyline views, serving up twisted takes on classics like Trotter Tots (brasied pork & dijon) and house-made charcuterie and pasta.

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10. The Craftsman 4300 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55406 (Longfellow)

The Craftsman charcuterie plate is legendary, their farm-to-table inspired dishes are expertly crafted and their cocktails are simply delicious. Enjoy all of these things on their secluded, leafy patio. You can thank us later.

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11. Cafe Levain 4762 Chicago Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55407

This New American bistro serves simple, humble food that is expertly prepared. Rustic and homey dishes are at their finest here, perfected to the point where you can order a standard chicken breast and be blown away.

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