Take on This 4-Pound Taco
With a menu that changes with the seasons, this consistently excellent little wine bars slings everything from classic offerings like a delicious beef tartar or a perfectly roasted chicken, to more modern fare, like scallops with a wheat bread porridge or decedent pork steam buns with pear hoisin.
It’s no secret: we love The Strip Club. But rest assured, that love is not at all unfounded. The service is always, ALWAYS impeccable, their cocktails are easily some of the best and most thoughtful around, and the food, well the food is what modern Minnesota cuisine is all about. Local ingredients are treated with unending care and are often given a global treatment. Oh yeah, they’re also a steakhouse, so you can get a really choice straight-up cut of locally raised, grass fed beef too.
We get it; this place has an awesome burger, but in all honesty, it’s a side note next to the rest of their incredible, French-inspired menu. Highlights include scallops with fingerling potatoes and orange sauce, (a Twin Cities modern classic, for sure) or, since it’s one of the only places in town that do what is one of the world’s most comforting food right, a cassoulet. If you’re smart though, you’ll go for the tasting menu so that you can get everything on offer in just the right order. Sadly, you’ll have to do it soon, because Vincent will be closing their doors for good come December 31st, 2015.
When the folks behind The Strip Club announced that they were going for round two by opening up a new restaurant in St. Paul’s booming Lowertown district, we were on board. When we put the first bite of their food into our mouths, we were sold. Sure, the service and crave-able cocktails are a lot like you find at The Strip, but the food menu is decidedly different, boasting things like beef “ceviche” (that just might be our favorite dish of year), and ricotta dumplings that are incredibly light, yet unbelievably satisfying. And the burger. Oh, that burger!
No list of Minnesota’s greatest restaurant hits would be complete without the inclusion of North Minneapolis’ premier dining destination. Serving up some of the most creative food in the city in an area that for all too long sat void of any real dining treasures, we’ll just never be able to get enough of this place. The Devils on Horseback have become a Twin Cities institution in and of themselves, as has their ‘Perfect Burger’, while the blackboard menu is an often replicated modern amenity at many local hip restaurants.
This offshoot of Broders' Pasta Bar has some of the best Italian food the state has to offer. Their dishes are thoughtfully constructed, using simple, fresh ingredients that pack a massive punch in the flavor department. They’ve also got a great wine and craft beer list, so you’re definitely not going to leave thirsty.
South Minneapolis is home to this secret little gem that’s been pumping out locally inspired cuisine for years. Back in the day, it was the restaurant that put charcuterie on the Twin Cities map and guess what... it’s still doing it, and serving a duck pate that is among the best in MSP, but whatever you get, the focus on locally farmed fish and meats means that you’re getting a taste of home every time you sit down.
Chef Adam Vickerman’s carefully crafted dishes are assembled with a kind of simplicity that leaves diners with a sense of wonderment, proving that food doesn’t need to be overly fancy and intricate to be great. Try his signature pan roasted chicken breast. We promise that you’ll never look at what is traditionally a boring, dry white meat the same ever again.
Refined pasta dishes do two things for us as diners: first, they hit all those perfect comfort food notes, and second, they do it while challenging our palates to an array of new flavors and textures. At Bar La Grassa, those new flavors/textures show up in everything from the incredible gnocchi with cauliflower and orange, to a foie gras tortellini, proving that they’re one of the best for a damn good reason. Oh, and the St. Louis-style ribs and bone-in Ribeye don’t hurt.
Yes, it’s comfort food, but not really: your basic tater tot hot dish hasn’t got a thing on what these guys are doing, and the General Tso’s sweetbreads take Chinese takeout to a whole new level. Wash it all down with a Moscow mule or one of their many delicious craft beer offerings while you ponder why more eateries aren’t this innovative.
When this place opened up however many years ago, they changed the face of seafood in the Twin Cities, and they continue to do so to this very day. Featuring fish that all come from sustainable stocks and a focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients done up by a true master of the craft, it’s the kind of restaurant that elevates seafood to the luxury that it is.
Mediterranean cuisine isn’t something that you’ll often see in a fine dining setting, but Chef Sameh Wadi is forking it down MSP’s throat bite after incredibly delicious bite. His small plates are stunning, featuring things like seared octopus with toasted garlic, smoked paprika, and sherry; the hummus is the best you will ever have; and if you’re really brave, there are even lamb brains on the menu. Pro tip: for a real blast of Mediterranean flavor, go for one of his tagines. They’re comforting, warm, and an absolute pleasure for your mouth.
Downtown St. Paul
In addition to a delicious selection of mollusks, this St. Paul spot’s got some of the best takes on classic French fare in the Twin Cities. Go in for an order of escargot bourguignon or the traditional veal sweetbreads with wild mushrooms and madeira sauce. Sturgeon au poivre, roast chicken, or a show-stopping steak frites are also great ways to treat your palate.
Meat. This place is all about one thing and that one thing involves double cut pork chops, beef long ribs, and, if you’re not into either of those things, a sausage sampler and a big old glass of beer. Just make sure you get said beer with a bourbon back, because otherwise you’d just be doing it wrong.
Having recently claimed the title of national pork king by winning the Cochon 555 festival this summer, Chef Thomas Boemer does not disappoint: his pork belly with chow chow is a must, as is his bologna sandwich with a fried egg served on brioche, and the char siu pork jowl is also something everyone should try at some point in their lives. Oh, and the pork-heavy charcuterie plate is pretty... okay, you get the point; there’s a ton of good pig-based eats here, but he does other stuff that’s just as well, we swear!
When one wants a full on food “experience,” one takes themselves immediately to Travail Kitchen & Amusements. Make sure you buy your tickets in advance though, as they don’t do walk-ins, and they don’t do reservations. This is a multi-course, face-stuffing, drinking-until-your-liver-quits kind of place, and you won’t experience anything else quite like it in the Twin Cities. Also, the food is very good, but it changes all the time, so you never really know what you’re gonna get.
One of the forerunners of the Twin Cities farm-to-table movement, Chef Lenny Russo’s restaurant turns out seasonal and locally grown eats that make each morsel count. If you’re into small plates, try the pork rillettes with cherry-sweet pepper gelee and pickled baby carrots, or the pickled beef tongue with a quail egg, ginger mustard, and cornichons. If you’re looking for something a little heartier, look to dishes like their barley risotto with pumpkin puree, butternut squash, and fried sage, or their bison tenderloin with buckwheat groats cake, romanesco, and maple sauce.
Chef Alex Roberts is one of three Twin Cities chef’s with a James Beard award, and you’ll know why the second you drop into his flagship restaurant. It currently offers a build-your-own tasting menu theme, (although you can still order a la carte), with dishes like a celery root soufflé, polenta “al ragù” with a soft poached egg and duck ragù, or pan seared scallops with roasted squash, hen of the wood mushrooms, and rosemary, there’s no way you can’t build some kind of winning combination.
It’s really hard to believe that this place is just over a year old, given the level of quality they deliver. Every. Single. Time. The food is outrageously good, and it’s all really reasonably priced, but we recommend the seasonal chicken liver tart, which comes with some kind of seasonal jam and a variety of pickled vegetables, or perhaps you might be interested in their poached, bone-in skate with black truffle, baby potatoes, and hazelnut? Either way, make sure you also leave room for at least one of their really inventive desserts, and don’t forget to wash it all down with some of the best cocktails in the city.
Food just doesn’t get any better than it does at Piccolo. The level of conscious craft and care that goes into each dish is extraordinary, to the point where Ferran Adrià (widely regarded as the single best chef in the world) recently ate dinner there. If it’s good enough for him, we’re lucky to have it. The signature dish is soft scrambled eggs with pickled pigs feet, truffle butter, and parmesan, and each bite is filled with bliss. Other seasonal offerings include sturgeon with crab apples, rabbit loin, and crispy leg with chestnut polenta, and their 48-hour braised short rib with smoked black walnuts, crispy morcilla, and prune puree. To put it lightly, you will not be disappointed.
Widely regarded as the restaurant that helped to forge the Twin Cities restaurant revolution, LBV tragically announced that they will be closing soon. Opening in their first, original location in Stillwater 17 years ago and then moving to their current location 7 years later, they’ve had a lot of skin in the MSP food game and have launched countless chefs that have moved on to do some seriously incredible things. Chef Tim McKee was the first chef in the Twin Cities to bring home a James Beard award, and his restaurant is credited with turning the Twin Cities into one of this year's “Best New Food Cities”, so get there before it’s gone. If not, you’ll miss out on something that made the Twin Cities special. And something that will continue to do so even after it’s gone.