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Byte Minneapolis Doesn't Bite

Part "geek bar," part "cafe"—Byte is a Warehouse District counter service spot paying $15 minimum wage, vacation time, and benefits


Expectations are key when you go out to eat, right? You go to Spoon and Stable, you go to Bellecour, Saint Dinette, Meritage, Corner Table—well, you expect an incredible experience. And generally at those spots, you get it. But sometimes you just want a chill place to have a nice lunch. Good prices, nice service, and food that makes you want to come back again tomorrow.

Byte might be just what you're looking for. They sell themselves as a "geek bar"—they've got board games, you can bring games, you can rent out the space for your cosplay situation or your World of Warcraft meet-up. Maybe I'm a geek, because I didn't feel like the place was particularly geeky. It's a cafe and coffee shop up front, there's a huge patio in between Byte and the Prive nightclub next door on First Avenue. I was impressed with the food.

The loaded tots are the perfect happy-hour food: queso, caramelized onion, jalapeño shavings, bacon bits, pure decadence for $5. 

I really liked my banh mi: It's a black vinegar-marinated pork with the usual carrot slaw, cucumbers, jalapeño, and cilantro on nice bread. I could only finish half of it, and it was just $8.50 with a nice side of tabbouleh and greens salad.

My friends adored their rice bowls. Yes, bowls are the food delivery vehicle of the moment, but it's because it's a very satisfying way to eat. Give me some nicely cooked cilantro rice, some beautiful Korean barbecue flank steak, or some paneer cheese tikka masala, and yeah—I'm going to be happy. The tikka masala is just $8.25, the Korean BBQ $9.25

Nothing on the menu is more than $10. The fresh cut French fries are excellent, served with a nice smoky bacon ketchup, for just $2.50. The story behind the place is even better: Chefs Travis Shaw and Mark Lowman wanted to make a restaurant where the full-time employees would get full benefits. The overhead is minimal. The workers all get at least $15 an hour. It's going to become my go-to before an event at Target Center or Target Field. The creatives working at all those PR/advertising agencies in the Warehouse District should for sure make it a regular lunch spot. The geeks are doing it right.

319 First Ave. N., #100, Minneapolis
7–1 a.m., Monday–Saturday

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

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