In the wake of the recent -- and heart-wrenching -- news about the closing of one of the Twin Cities' longest-running and most celebrated restaurants (RIP La Belle Vie!), we decided to celebrate the places that truly make our two cities great places to eat. So, from farm-to-table spots, to steakhouses, to... um, more farm-to-table spots, here are the best restaurants in the Twin Cities right now.
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.
1. Joan's in the Park631 Snelling Ave S. , St. Paul
2. The Strip Club Meat & Fish378 Maria Ave, St. Paul
3. Saint Dinette261 5th St E, Saint Paul
4. Terzo2221 W 50th St, Minneapolis
5. The Craftsman4300 E Lake St, Minneapolis
6. Cafe Levain4762 Chicago Ave, Minneapolis
7. HauteDish119 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis
8. Saffron123 N 3rd St, Minneapolis
9. Sea Change818 S 2nd St, Minneapolis
10. Meritage410 Saint Peter St, St. Paul
11. Butcher & The Boar1121 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis
12. Bar La Grassa800 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis
13. Vincent: A Restaurant1100 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
14. Corner Table4257 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis
15. Travail Kitchen & Amusements4124 W Broadway Ave, Robbinsdale
16. Heartland Restaurant & Wine Bar289 5th St E, St. Paul
17. Restaurant Alma528 University Ave SE, Minneapolis
18. Heyday2700 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis
19. Piccolo4300 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis
20. La Belle Vie510 Groveland Ave, Minneapolis
21. Victory 442203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis
A pair of industry vets created this wine bar-ish nosheteria that aims to be a comfortable, "come-as-you-are kind of place” in Highland Park. Joan’s features a seasonal menu of expertly crafted dishes that utilize quality ingredients, all sourced as close to local as possible. With current offerings that include pork belly with braised winter onions, short rib meatballs with pickled cucumber, and a Carolina blue crab toast, it’s impossible to go wrong.
Grass-fed beef is the name of the game at St. Paul’s premier meatery, an independent St. Paul chop and fish house, helmed by chef JD Fratzke. Strip House exhibits incredible use of ingredients from small, local farms, but it’s also distinctly unique and almost rustic despite its overall level of refinement and balance. The drink menu changes seasonally and the results are always spectacular, but even the long-standing staple drinks, like the Cobra Kai, are simply stunning.
Sant Dinette in Saint Paul is famous for its burger, which is a masterclass in simplicity—it’s a rich and succulent double burger engulfed in creamy cheddar cheese between light-yet-buttery toasted buns with a side of sweet pickles. An order of crispy, salty, crinkle cut fries will complete your true Saint DInette dining experience. Don't forget about its amazing cocktail list, which include signature cocktails Thanks for Last Night and Healthy Vacation. If you're there for brunch, make sure to indulge in the killer Bloodys.
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.
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.
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.
The revered HauteDish, between the Warehouse and Gateway districts, rocks a menu with artfully presented, reinvented takes on Midwestern classics like mac & cheese with king crab and truffle oil, blackened fish tacos, and steak & potatoes. Perfect for empty stomachs at any hour, Haute offers choices for breakfast (go for the chicken & waffles), lunch, and dinner, but if you go in later hours, you'll be able to choose from a long list of house-made cocktails and dozens of draft beers from nearby breweries, too.
Saffron is a Middle Eastern fine dining restaurant that brought people to North Loop before it was cool. Brothers Saed and Sameh Wadi have created a critically acclaimed menu of creative, contemporary, seasonal Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes with selections of tapas, appetizers, entrees, and tagines. High points include the lamb tagine, with Persian spices, gold potato, pistachio, and pomegranate molasses, as well as lamb brain, served with olive oil stewed tomatoes, garlic, and parsley. Saffron is luxe and exotic, with Moroccan stained glass lamps shimmering against a high ceiling, bringing light to the deep red and exposed brick walls.
We could spend all day slurping oysters at this Downtown raw bar and dining from its seasonal selection of fresh seafood dishes. With a focus on freshness, Sea Change serves fish that only comes from sustainable stocks— SC is the kind of restaurant that’s elevated seafood in the Twin Cities a true craft. Who doesn’t want to sit and look out at the river and the scenic Stone Arch Bridge while drinking a tasty beverage and noshing on top-shelf seafood? Plus, there’s a happy hour Tuesday through Thursday from 3-6pm, and a late-night happy hour every day of the week from 8-11 pm.
With tiled floors, warm wooden accents, and high ceilings that capture tons of natural light, Meritage has all the trimmings of a classic Parisian brasserie, including the exceptional fare and expert wine list. Situated in Downtown St Paul, it's a prime spot for date night or dinner before a show, though stopping in for weekend brunch is highly encouraged too, when dishes like an omelet du jour, eggs Benedict, and eggs en cocotte are prepared. At lunch and dinner, you'll find traditional plates like steak frites, roasted duck breast, and swordfish au vin, plus plenty of fresh selections from the oyster bar.
A deceptively large neighborhood noshery with wood stoves and penny-tiled floors dominated, Butcher puts equal emphasis on bourbon, beer, and shareable plates.
From James Beard-winning Chef Isaac Becker, accolade-heavy Bar La Grassa serves up sumptuous Italian eats like bucatini bolognese in their cozy North Loop digs.
Vincent's got French cuisine influenced by a contemporary American style, but all you really need to know is that they have one of the best damn burgers in the Twin Cities.
With a larger beer list, a patio, and a brunch service, Corner Table has expanded from the former La Chaya Bistro location down the road. Be sure to try the pork belly, the fried rabbit, and the sweet potato waffles will.
The gastropub rocking a chalkboard menu oft-scrawled with duck, quail, and rabbit (all of which's perpetually served by the chefs themselves) serves up a rotating selection of adventurous eats in Robbinsdale.
Heartland Restaurant is committed to serving a menu of ingredients indigenous to the American and Canadian Midwest. This menu changes nightly and features two fixed price options as well as extensive a la carte selections. Heartland’s food selections mix and match small plates, large plates, and sides, ranging from soba noodles with autumn harvest vegetables and mushroom broth to a house charcuterie selection with pickles and Summit beer mustard, as well as chorizo sausage with kraut, cornbread, and honey mustard. The interior is elegant yet understated, with glossy light wood parquet floors and soaring ceilings with exposed beams.
The low-lit, brick interior creates an intimate feel ideal for when you’re aiming to impress, and it also doesn’t hurt that the food is easily some of the best in the Twin Cities.
When it comes to affordable yet elegant cuisine, Heyday is your spot. It's easily one of the best restaurants in the Twin Cities, if not the country. Head to this rustic-chic space (it sports exposed brick and a gorgeous wooden-beamed ceiling) for favorites like the chicken liver tart, chilled blue mussels, and grilled quail, which all help to create a downright exquisite menu. Be sure to leave room for at least one of the inventive desserts including pea shell sorbet, and wash it all down with a creative cocktail like the Don't Think Twice with pisco, aperol, grapefruit, and elderflower.
Piccolo is one of a handful of chef-driven restaurants that has helped to catapult the Twin Cities into the national spotlight; it has several James Beard Award nominations and has been featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Continuously sparking inventive new life into its food by harmoniously combining both modernist and classical technique, Piccolo’s refined level of fine dining is second to no other.
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.
Victory 44's is well known around the Twin Cities for its signature burger, which earns its "Perfect Burger" name with a ground beef patty with a just enough pork belly. Topped with American cheese, pickles, and bacon and sandwiched between a toasted brioche-esque bun, it really is damn near perfect. You can order one year-round despite the rest of the menu's seasonal rotation of chicken and pasta dishes like squash farotto.