The Twin Cities has had a booming restaurant scene for several years now, and it just keeps getting better. Not only has the quality met up with that of major metropolitan areas, but so has the variety. Whatever your tastes, you can find some superb options in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and surrounding suburbs.
While we typically like to try out new places, I did have to include a few of our tried and true favorites on this 2017 Restaurant Bucket List. I'll denote these pre-approved, well-loved gems with an asterisk(*). Any restaurants without an asterisk are ones that I have yet to try but are highly regarded. My husband likes to do his research so very rarely do we waste our time trying out a dud.
If you've tried some of the restaurants on this list and would agree that it's bucket-list worthy, please drop a note and let us know what your favorite menu item was! If you think an establishment is not list-worthy, let us know why and what restaurant you would recommend to replace it.
PS - this list is in no particular order. My husband always asks me to rank things but most of the time I can't. You can't compare apples to oranges. A lot of these restaurants are just too different to compare and my rankings would change based on my mood anyways. So without further ado....
Cheers to a 2017 full of good food, good drink and great friends!
With a 4.8 out of 5 star rating on OpenTable, Chef Gavin Kaysen brings casual and delicious food to what once was a horse stable in Minneapolis's warehouse district. According to the restaurant's website, the food is "focused on the seasonality of the Midwest, the roots of the local culture and technically inspired by the French cuisine Chef Kaysen is known for".
They have the meats. This is my husband's favorite restaurant and, I must say, I'll never argue with a trip over to Hennepin Ave in Downtown Minneapolis. Start with the Oysters and the sausage sampler. For the main course get the Smoked Beef Long Rib, Red Hot Brussel Sprouts and Cornbread. Go with a large group so you can sample even more of their delicious menu - you can't go wrong with anything and plates are made to share.
3. Cafe Lurcat*
Just up Hennepin from Butcher and the Boar, Cafe Lurcat sits at the corner of Loring Park and is the perfect date spot. The dining room is classic but the best time to go is when the weather is nice and you can get a spot in the beautifully done back alley. You'll feel like you've hopped the pond and landed in France. My favorite here is the Miso Sea Bass, but again, you can't go wrong.
Minneapolis's North Loop is home to The Bachelor Farmer where they serve "fresh and simple food that honors Minnesota and the surrounding Northern region" (thebachelorfarmer.com, 2017. North Corp). Attempting to use organic products whenever possible, including their own herbs and vegetables from their rooftop farm, the Bachelor Farmer is a fresh and unique addition to the Twin Cities' food scene.
You wouldn't necessarily expect one of the Twin Cities' hottest restaurants to be at a brewery, but Surly nailed it. Named one of Food & Wine's 10 Restaurants of the Year for 2016, the Brewer's Table boasts an "elevated and ambitious dining menu" that "reflects the same passion [they] put into Surly beer" (surlybrewing.com. 2017. Surly Brewing Co.).
This is probably tied for my favorite restaurant in Minnesota. The other restaurant that would be at the top is coming up next: Travail. While you shouldn't expect to leave with a full belly, you can expect to experience the most creative and delicious dining experience in Minnesota. Piccolo is a tiny corner restaurant in a residential area of South Minneapolis and is the perfect quiet date spot. We recommend that you do their tasting menu and both get a different menu option for each of the five courses. That way, you and your partner in crime can taste each others and double the culinary enjoyment. Portion sizes are small, so be prepared to only get a couple bites of each.
Like I mentioned above, Travail is tied with Piccolo for my favorite restaurant in Minnesota. With a similar style of food the biggest difference comes in the atmosphere. While Piccolo is quaint and quiet, Travail is louder and quite frankly, a party. The staff and chefs are not who you would normally picture in a fine dining establishment, but they are what makes this such a fun experience. Again, do the tasting menu and get ready for a thoroughly thought out dining experience, sometimes even coordinated to music. Tip, get their early (like before the first seating) to put your name down and then hop next door if you need to for a beverage - the first seating often puts on quite the show!
Simply amazing, good ol' southern fried chicken. Do I really even need to say anything more? A common suggestion seems to be that you should go with a group so you can order a couple chickens and a variety of sides to sample. Macaroni and cheese and hush puppies were just a couple that were getting rave reviews.
With accolades ranging from "Best New Restaurant" to "Best Chef" and "Restaurant of the Year", this 40 person eatery is a huge hit in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis. Serving up New American cuisine, it seems that you can't go wrong for brunch or dinner here - oh and beer lovers rejoice, word is they have a fairly extensive beer list.
10. Zen Box Izakaya*
This Japanese restaurant off Washington Avenue in Minneapolis, is certainly the closest I've gotten to outstanding ramen on par with what we experienced in Tokyo. With a very cool, industrial vibe, this place has a great happy hour and an extensive menu full of must-try items. The Takoyaki, or battered octopus, is rightfully labeled a "must try" on their menu, and I couldn't agree more. Another must-try that is one of my favorites, is the Tonkotsu 'Tonzen' Ramen. You won't be disappointed.
11. Young Joni
Another new restaurant where it seems that you can't go wrong with your menu picks. The owners of Pizzeria Lola have clearly done it again with this Northeast Minneapolis eatery. A dim and modern atmosphere is said to be a romantic spot for a date but also has the ability to cater to groups. Some common threads in guest reviews include a love for the Brussel Sprouts, the Basque pizza and the La Parisienne Pizza. In addition to pizza though, Young Joni is unique because it serves such a variety of food including Korean-style grilled meats which are also getting rave reviews.
12. Bar La Grassa*
With 9 different types of Bruschetta alone, this is the Italian restaurant you're seeking. Fresh pasta, dry pasta, stuffed pasta...they've got you covered. Great for a date night or small group, a reservation is always a good idea at this Warehouse District top pick. I have to admit that I have not made it here before, but my husband loves the place. It's obviously high on my to-do list.
13. Brasa Rotisserie*
With two locations, one in Northeast Minneapolis, the other in St. Paul, this Creole-style rotisserie is a must visit - reservations are helpful. Blending southern, Carribean and Mexican flavors, Brasa Rotisserie is a great place to bring a large group. Their family-style plates are great for sharing, so the more people you have the more variety you can try!
We used to live within walking distance of this gem and boy was that dangerous. I haven't made it downstairs to their Pizza Bar yet but have always heard great things. If I'm going to head there though, I can't help but sit in the steak-house part and enjoy a delicious steak and some dumplings. My favorite dumplings were the Schupfnudel with walnut and gorgonzola although all of their options look utterly delicious. Start with the dumplings but leave room for a hearty steak and a sampling of sides which should almost certainly include the grilled button mushrooms.
15. Hola Arepa*
Holy Arepas, this place is fabulous. Located on Nicollet Avenue, just southeast of the heart of Uptown, this food truck turned brick & mortar establishment now offers a full service menu of amazing Latin cuisine, including but not limited to delicious arepas. They have a terrific happy hour menu available Tuesday through Friday from 3-6pm and Tuesday through Sunday from 10pm to close. If you go during happy hour, sample at least two of the three arepa options available on the happy hour menu, you won't regret any of them.
16. Manny's Steakhouse*
You'll definitely want to make a reservation for this Minneapolis classic. A treat for any meal of the day, Manny's isn't cheap but is one of our go-to's for a celebratory dinner out as a couple or with friends/family. With massive portions, you can't go wrong with anything on the menu, but I will never stray from ordering a steak, usually the Porterhouse. Giant asparagus with hollandaise is always one of our choices to accompany our steaks, as well as one of the potato options or macaroni and cheese. Not that you'll have any room left after dinner, but the Manny's Brownie is always a good idea. Do yourself a favor and hit Manny's up for breakfast someday as well. Get a side of the most beautiful and delicious thick cut bacon you'll ever taste and then take your pick from the variety of griddle options, egg dishes or benedicts that you really can't go wrong with.
17. The Capital Grille*
While Manny's is usually the place people think of when you inquire about the Twin Cities' steakhouse scene, Brian and I love The Capital Grille just as much. With a much quieter dining room, this is a perfect date spot despite it's chain-restaurant status. A couple of our favorite steaks here are the Bone-In Kona Crusted Dry Aged NY Strip with Shallot Butter, and the Porcini Rubbed Bone-In Ribeye with 15-Year Aged Balsamic. While Manny's boasts elephant-sized portions, The Capital Grille is where we go for a more dynamic set of flavors while still getting larger than what your doctor would recommend portion sizes.
Ranked one of the Twin Cities' best outdoor dining spots, we are very excited to try out this American eatery on the shores of Lake Minnetonka in Wayzata Bay. They make it pretty clear on their website and menu that they're focus is on "meat, fish, [and] drink" and their robust dinner and bar menu shows that likely have that covered. We've heard great things about the gnocchi and the scallops, but again, reviews seem to indicate that you'll be satisfied with just about anything. Reservations recommended.
19. Yumi's Sushi Bar*
My favorite sushi place in Minnesota, hands down. I remember when they opened across the street from their current location many years ago. It was a small, crammed restaurant with a few tables and a sushi bar. I was young, and far less adventurous in my culinary picks so would always start with the miso soup followed by steak teriyaki. We'd usually get some vegetable and shrimp or chicken tempura. All were fabulous. Now that I've discovered the deliciousness that is sushi, I can't stray. The Yoshi Bomb and Tonka Roll are great as are any of the classics. Always ask for the waiter or sushi chef's recommendations and order at least one of their specials, they're always delicious. The rolls are very large so a couple will go a long way. My husband and I can seriously house some sushi though and can never narrow it down to just a few so we usually get several, and the waiters laugh at us and ask if it's our first time there. They then proceed to be shocked when we eat every last bite and magically leave nothing behind.
Another food truck and brick & mortar (located in Uptown) combo that 's sure to impress. With a modern/industrial feel their open kitchen serves up street foods from around the world. This place sounds like a terrific place for a quick bite with a wide variety of options from all over the globe. Some must try items according to several reviews include the Brussel Sprouts and Yum Yum Bowl.
This is Chef Jim Christiansen's first solo restaurant after learning from top local chefs and working at a variety of high end restaurants including La Belle Vie, Solera and Sea Change. Focusing on a menu that is light, seasonal and delicious HeyDay claims to be "an eatery in Minneapolis where one can unwind, feel welcome and bask in one's own heyday" (heydayeats.com, 2017). Another pricey dining option but it is said that the tasting menu with wine pairings is worth it!
22. Pizzeria Lola
Pizzeria Lola is the spot for wood-fired pizza. For a fun story on how this hot spot came to be, check out their "about" tab on the website. Located in the southwest Minneapolis Armatage neighborhood, people can't seem to get enough of their pizza pies. They don't take reservations, so expect a wait. Reviews suggest their Korean pizza should be on your "to try" list, although again, it seems, you can't go wrong.
23. The Kenwood
Located just north of Lake of the Isles, this Minneapolis eatery offers up a menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner in a rustic but up-scale establishment. Said to be a romantic date spot, you could easily pair a trip to The Kenwood with ice skating on Lake of the Isles during the winter, or a stroll around the lake in the summer. With a menu changing practically weekly, The Kenwood uses "traditional European techniques to create dishes that are international in style but local when it comes to fresh, regional ingredients. (thekenwoodrestaurant.com/about/, 2017).
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, former Fairview nurse, Marla, started this affordable Caribbean restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis. While the cuisine is common to that of Trinidad and Tobago, it also has an Indian influence due to the melting pot nature of her home country. Make sure you check their hours before heading their way, they are closed Sundays and Mondays and have lunch/dinner hours that vary by time of week. The food is made to order so can take a little longer than you may be used to but is supposedly worth the wait. The place is casual, small and perfect for those who like a little (or a lot) of spice.
25. Victory 44
This converted gas station is serving up New American cuisine to the Victory neighborhood of Northwest Minneapolis. Their seasonal menu features local foods for brunch, snacks and mains. The menu is small but frequently changing so you'll see a variety of options throughout the year. One common thread that people seem to keep returning to is their burger - named the "Perfect Burger", customers say it is just that.
26. Italian Pie Shoppe*
St. Paul's Italian Pie Shoppe is, hands down, our favorite deep dish pizza in Minnesota - as close to Chicago as we can get. They frequently run specials where you can print a coupon to save $2/$3 so it's worth it to check their website before you head over. The deep dish takes a little longer than the thin crust to make but it's so worth the wait. They have other menu items but if I'm heading to the Pie Shoppe I just have to get a deep dish. Located in the Macalester College neighborhood, it's not a huge place and they don't take reservations so try going during off hours to get in with minimal wait. If you're lucky and time it right on the weekend, you might even be able to catch some live music from their organist.
Enjoy your 2017 eats and don't forget to let me know what your favorites are around the Twin Cities that I may have missed! We truly have such a robust dining scene, there are just far too many fabulous restaurants to narrow them down to one list.