Food & Drink

An editor's guide to eating around town

Published On 04/18/2013 Published On 04/18/2013

From a glorious glut of poutines to badass butchery, the Twin Cities have one of the slickest, most deliciously fattening-est food scenes around, and local editor Drew Wood is here to give you the inside scoop on how to conquer it.

Favorite Restaurant: Located right across the street from my old apartment, right now Burch is tops, though unfortunately when I lived there it was just an old pharmacy. A startlingly simple steakhouse up top and a cavernous, wood-fired pizzeria below, the every-man chef here, Isaac Becker, is a super nice dude who just so happened to win a James Beard Award for sister concept 112 Eatery. Also, the only photo in the whole place is of Eazy-E.

Best Late-Night Eats: Long a mainstay for the throngs of 1am chimichanga-cravers, Little Tijuana (simply Little T's to most) recently reopened after a major interior revamp that thankfully didn't mean changing a served-until-3a menu filled with enchilada-style burritos and two-fisted burgers.

Best Cheap Eats: Although you would never actually use one there, Cedar/Riverside's hole-in-the-wall The Wienery is about as greasy (and cheap) a spoon as they come. Check out this ungodly poutine.

Best Wings: If this place had beer (which I hear they will soon), it'd be my favorite resto in the world, let alone in MSP. Alas, :D-Spot still has hands-down the best wings in town. Genius chef Darin Koch (be sure to ask him about bees if you visit) got sick of the fine dining game and went all-in creating the most original and copious (more than 200 flavors) drumstick menu on the planet. Get the Incredible Hulk (green coconut curry) or the iconic Black Widow (soy glaze, cracked fennel, dry rub).

Best Donuts: Spurning the "get here early or you don't get no donuts" ethos of most craft bakeries, the gals at Glam Doll pump out their creatively-flavored arsenal from morning 'til 2a. Their apple fritter has to weigh a pound, and even more when topped with candied bacon.

Best Sandwich: There's a new-ish little gastro beer bar in the shadows of the old Hamm's Brewery (literally) called Ward 6, where they sling my ideally gluttonous sandwich: The Fatty Melt. A massive, grass-fed beef patty topped with bacon makes it part burger, but its sandwiched not between buns, but grilled cheese sammies.

Best Dish: I don't shy away from consuming massive amounts of meat, which is why my mind goes straight to Butcher and Boar when thinking about my favorite dish. If I were forced to pick just one, I'd have to go with their market-priced Butcher's Cut steak w/ a side of cheesy white corn grits. And maybe I'd put a footlong sausages on top.

Best Italian: St. Paul's your go-to for killer Italian, where my personal preference is for just-remodeled Cossetta on West 7th. They've got an Italian market, a cafeteria, and upscale eatery Louis.

Best Chinese: Family-owned for something like 50yrs and serving a little bit of everything, Rainbow Chinese is even my Grandpa's favorite. Their pan-fried noodles are killer.

Best Mexican: MSP has a slew of solid salsa slingers. I like Andale for tacos, but if you're talking full menu, you've gotta head just west of the river to El Burrito Mercado (they also have a Mpls outpost.

Best Food Truck: The Twin Cities are crawling with glorious food trucks, which actually makes it really tough to pick a favorite. For wieners, Nate Dogs is the jam, and as a bonus, Nate's one of the coolest kids in school. For something with a little more "hmm" to it, you'd be a fool not to try a Bangkok Burrito or Yum Yum Rice Bowl from World Street Kitchen, which also just opened a brick/ mortar.

Best Burger: There are some seriously yummy burgers in this berg (The Harriet Brasserie has one, as does Bulldog and Blue Door Longfellow), but if you want epic, then you want Forepaugh's in St. Paul. Their Ultimate Opus Burger costs $28, and comes with a 1/2lb of certified angus chuck, braised short-rib sauce, Gruyere, truffled eggs, and bacon vinaigrette. And, while you're there, try the Ultimate Truffle & Foie Gras Poutine.

Most Gut-Busting Dish: Still, the Ultimate Opus Burger pales in comparison to MyBurger's The Crippler: four patties, four slices of cheese, bacon, a fried egg, chipotle mayo, and spicy Cheetos, all created exclusively for Thrillist and still available upon super secret special request.

Best Fine Dining: I may be more of a burger man, but critically-acclaimed La Belle Vie on the outskirts of downtown just turned 15, and is the birthplace of two of the finest culinary careers in the Midwest: chef Tim McKee and sazerac slinger Johnny Michaels.

Most Romantic: The least pretentious James Beard award winning resto probably, like, ever, 112 Eatery may be chef Isaac Becker's first solo joint, but it's easy sophistication and grace make it the perfect place to take your lady friend.

Weirdest Food: When I was first confronted with a half pig's head that had been band-sawed right down the middle, butter-battered, and roasted with all the fixings (brains, tongue, ears, eyes, TEETH) at The Sample Room, I almost chickened out. Once I went all Lord of the Flies on it, though, the tender, fatty meat made even the best pork belly pale in comparison. Epic, and less than $20.

Best for Work: From what I hear, the business goes down at the most legendary steakhouse in town, Manny's.

Best Lunch: There is no better food at a beer bar than the nifty nosh at The Bulldog NE (try the LaFrieda burger), and there's no better place to munch for lunch than a beer bar.

Best Brunch: Honestly, Tilia in Linden Hills is one of the best places in town regardless of what meal you go for, but with a grub arsenal ranging from a fish taco torta to a Rueben Benedict, and a killer reverse bloody Mary, brunch has to take the cake.

Most Local Food: When like 90% of the veggies and greens come from the chef's actual garden, it's safe to say you're eating local, and that's the case at The Harriet Brasserie.

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1. MyBurger 3100 Excelsior Blvd, Minneapolis, MN 55416 (Calhoun Isles)

This Minneapolis chain serves up "flippin' good burgers" and malt shakes.

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2. La Belle Vie 510 Groveland Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403 (Downtown)

Critically acclaimed La Belle Vie on the outskirts of downtown is the birthplace of two of the finest culinary careers in the Midwest: Chef Tim McKee and Sazerac slinger Johnny Michaels.

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3. Manny's Steakhouse 825 Marquette Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (Downtown)

Manny's is a glam, high end steakhouse in the heart of Downtown Minneapolis, serving up choice cuts of beef alongside a solid wine list in a swanky, white table clothed setting. Go VIP and try the 24oz Bone In Ribeye that's aged on the premises for 85 days, resulting in a perfectly tender cut. A visit to Manny's will make you see why it's been repeatedly named one of the best steakhouses in the city.

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4. Tilia 2726 W 43rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55410

New American plates are doled out at Tilia, a breakfast, lunch, and dinner spot in Linden Hills. The lunch and dinner menu offer potato leek soup, potted meat, bacon cheeseburgers, and Parmesan agnolottim, but Tilia’s best meal is its Saturday and Sunday brunch, which leans heavily on savory flavors apart from the glazed brioche donuts and custard dipped sweet potato brioche French toast. Try a fish taco torta or buttermilk biscuits to complete your belly-filling meal. Tilia also offers over 15 beers on draft and as many bottled brews.

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5. Burch 1933 Colfax Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55403 (Lowry Park)

James Beard-nominated chef Isaac Becker is behind this steakhouse-slash-pizzeria in Minneapolis. On the first floor, Burch Steakhouse serves an eclectic menu filled with raw bar options, prime beef and domestic Wagyu, and a variety of European-style dumplings. In the basement, the Pizza Bar bangs out Neapolitan-style pies from a white oak-fueled pizza oven. Every pizza comes with an exciting combination of toppings -- hey, there aren't many places you can get pizza topped with a lobster claw.

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6. Little Tijuana 17 E 26th St, Minneapolis, MN 55404 (Whittier)

The bar pours margs like the Big Tijuana (Cointreau, Grand Marnier, and a "liqueur float" for $1), plus Dos Equis drafts, Schlitz tallboys, tiered tequila flights, and a cocktail cull that includes a tequila Bloody Mary called the Pablo Escobar. The menu's full of griddled American grub (pizza burger, bleu cheese burger, chicken parm, BLT triple decker...) and the standard Mexican madness (enchiladas, tacos, BYO burritos...).

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7. The Wienery 414 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454 (West Bank)

The fries at this skinny little greasy spoon will make you anything but, with one potato or two (for only $1.50 more) loaded with mock duck, grilled onions, and green peppers. So really, this caloric dish will make you anything butt, in that any part of your body will basically look like a butt.

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8. :D-Spot St. Paul 705 Century Ave N, Maplewood, MN 55119 (Battle Creek)

The :D-Spot has more than 70 flavors of wings on the menu, ranging from your traditional BBQ to some far-out options like PB & J (peanut butter and grape reduction), Muay Thai (coconut milk, peanut butter and chili) and Italiano (mint, basil, garlic, capers, anchovy and crushed red pepper).

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9. Glam Doll Donuts 2605 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55408 (Whittier)

The first time you walk through the door of Glam Doll Donuts may be the last time in awhile you do so, considering you'll have to try more than one (7-8?) of their delicious confections, available in a number of sizes, shapes and flavors.

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10. Ward 6 858 Payne Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55130 (Payne Phalen)

This beer bar and eatery boasts a menu specifically with "food for drinking", as well as a load of other entree options for three squares a day, as well as a a drink menu with plenty-o-beers, adult milkshakes(!), and cocktails, which begs the question why Wards 1-5 even bother to compete.

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11. Butcher & The Boar 1121 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403

A deceptively large neighborhood noshery with wood stoves and penny-tiled floors dominated, Butcher puts equal emphasis on bourbon, beer, and shareable plates.

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12. Louis Ristorante & Bar 211 7th St W, Saint Paul, MN 55102 (West Seventh)

This resto and bar sits on the third floor of Cossetta Alimentari and serves authentic Italian fare that will transport your tastebuds to the Boot, leaving the rest of you firmly planted two blocks away from the Xcel Center.

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13. Rainbow Chinese 2739 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408 (Whittier)

Rainbow Chinese takes everything you'd expect of an average Chinese joint, from the decor to the menu, and ups the ante. Polished wood floors, crisp white tablecloths, and plenty of plant life set the scene for Chinese food that's too good to put right in a takeout box. The menu's split into rices, noodles, and several meat options, and unlike the plain orange chicken that you're used to, the spicy cilantro pork and curried chicken won't be cooked before you order them.

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14. Andale Taqueria y Mercado 7700 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55423

From the proprietors of Cinco De Mayo Mercado, the modern, angular, and massively windowed Andale is half sit-down taqueria and half traditional Mexican grocery, complete with a full-service butcher shop (or "carniceria") slicing and selling everything from beef tongue to tripe, which is actually supposed to be quite flavorful, or so the rumen goes.

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15. El Burrito Mercado 920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407 (Phillips)

Mpls's El Burrito is set up similarly to the 30yr StP stalwart: half south-of-the-border craft cafeteria, half pinata-laden grocery/ gift shop, so take a crack at finding something good.

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16. The Harriet Brasserie 2724 W 43rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55410 (Southwest)

If you've ever wanted to dine on American cuisine with Brazilian and French influences, made by a chef who grows all of his own produce, while you're in in a historic firehouse in the heart of Linden Hills, it's a good bet the Harriet Brasserie is your only option.

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17. The Blue Door Longfellow 3448 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55406 (Longfellow)

The Blue Door is home of the Blucy, a legendary St. Paul burger that combines a pair of patties with a cornucopia of other ingredients, which depend on what style Blucy you order, and upon completion, will prompt you to light up a cigarette in satisfaction.

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18. Forepaugh's 276 S Exchange St, St. Paul, MN 55102 (West Seventh)

Like your fries a little bit fancier? Ok, then, fancy boy, try the house-cut delicacies at this crystal chandelier-laden, 130yr-old Victorian mansion, where they coat 'em in Eichtens Farm white cheddar cheese curds, spicy pickled chilies, red wine pan sauce, foie gras fingers, Summer truffle confetti, and gremolata.

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19. 112 Eatery 112 N 3rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (Downtown)

How often do you come across a restaurant where you can get pan-fried gnocchi, frog legs (!), and tres leches cake under one roof? Add to that possibly the best burger in the Twin Cities (with Brie!), and you've got a must-hit spot.

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20. 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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21. Bulldog Downtown 1111 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN (Downtown)

After dipping their toe into the congealed grease pool of Southern food, the Bulldog guys returned to their roots, and reformed their good ole' grubbin' Bullfrog Cajun joint into The Bulldog Downtown, which serves the Chi comfort food you'd expect at a 'Dog.



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