Dining Guide

Picking the place for your next meal can be rather daunting. It’s easy to fall back to the familiar, but we beg you not to do that, for the Twin Cities is brimming with numerous selections to please every palate. Keeping in mind your ravenous stomachs and differing taste buds, we created an extensive menu of our favorites—fabulous, delicious, distinctive eateries that guarantee good memories, good food and, most importantly, a good time.

Breakfast

Ike’s Food & Cocktails

During the week, Ike’s offers breakfast from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., complete with flapjacks, Belgian waffles, cinnamon-swirl French toast, tangy eggs Benedict, made-to-order omelets or breakfast quesadillas (all served with crispy hash browns). But on the weekends, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., they take it up a notch. As you take your seat a mammoth caramel roll (enough for four or more) is placed before you. Then with your choice of eggs comes a family-style platter of flapjacks, hash browns, bacon and sausage. And if you weren’t quite stuffed yet, warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies come with the bill. 50 S. Sixth Street, Minneapolis, 612-746-4537

Hell’s Kitchen

This has got to be one of the coolest breakfast eateries around. Said to be named partly for the famous New York neighborhood as well as the cook’s environment in the kitchen, this “hot” restaurant is open weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., serving breakfast and lunch. Think of the fare as traditional American breakfast food with a twist, including such morning bites as Bison Benedict, scrambled eggs with shrimp, or Hell’s Breakfast Stir-Fry. 89 S. 10th Street, Minneapolis, 612-332-4700

The Original Pancake House

Whether or not you’re a “breakfast person,” The Original Pancake House will turn you into one. These flapjacks are unlike any you’ve ever tried. You can’t go wrong with the original, but if you’re looking to add some flavor, try the Hawaiian or coconut pancakes. Smother them with a dollop of butter and a drizzle of warm syrup and you’ll instantly get a melt-in-your-mouth sensation. Three Twin Cities locations, www.originalpancakehouse.com

Keys Café and Bakery

For a hearty breakfast from the heart of downtown, head to Keys Café and Bakery in Minneapolis and check out their wide range of early morning pick-me-ups (though you can get a great Keys breakfast any time of day). The Keys bakery makes some of the best cinnamon and caramel rolls around, but if you are looking for a full breakfast, Keys also offers delicious cinnamon French toast and made-to-order egg breakfasts. Try the Loon omelet with wild rice and mushrooms, or build your own. A family owned restaurant since 1973, Keys Café is a great local haunt to hit before a day on the town. Keys Cafés can also be found in St. Paul as well as five other locations in the suburban metro area. 114 Ninth St., Minneapolis, 651-731-5397, www.keyscafe.com

Small-bites

Masa

Experts of Italian cuisine, locally based D’Amico & Partners traveled outside its comfort zone last year and created a dining experience that showcases Mexican food at its finest. A trendy little space of white tablecloths and light wood furnishings, Masa serves authentic cuisine from regions including Veracruz, Puebla, Baja and Yucatan. Choose from appetizing small plates such as fried panela cheese with raw tomatillo salsa, chicken enchiladas, or Sopes Surtidos: three corn tortillas with chicken, beef and roasted pablano chile peppers. Add a refreshing, light margarita and you’ll swear you’re south of the border. 1070 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612-338-6272

Solera

Located on the main drag of Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis’ Theatre District, this Spanish restaurant is just right for a pre-show dinner or late-night bite (the tapas bar is open well past midnight most of the week). The menu is filled with classic small plates like ham and cheese croquetas, spiced Marcona almonds, clams with Romesco and baby tomatoes, and grilled bread with Serrano ham and Manchego cheese. Each plate runs between $4 and $10, so pick a few of your favorites and pass them around the table. And don’t forget to order a pitcher of the sweetest sangria in town. 900 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-338-0062

Maynard’s

Your mouth will begin to water just thinking about the Italian seasoned waffle fries and sour cream, or the breaded calamari with hot and sweet peppers. That’s what you’re up against when you hit Maynard’s for apps. They claim their service is second to none, so even if you stop for just an appetizer or two, expect to be treated like a king or queen. If you stop for a late-night bite, enjoy the happy hour prices Sunday through Thursday 8 p.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday 9:30 p.m. to midnight. 685 Excelsior Boulevard, Excelsior, 952-470-1800, www.maynardsonline.com.

Pizza Lucé

Nestled in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood outside of Uptown, Pizza Lucé is a great place to stop for a quick bite. Beloved locally for its pizzas, the restaurant also serves the best garlic cheese toast as well as a bunch of other tasty treats. Trendy but still classy, Pizza Lucé has a warm, rich atmosphere where the clientele can range from hip 20-somethings to families. The appetizer offerings include Focaccia Katerina (with pesto, tomatoes and provolone), chicken wings and veggie nuggets. Their artichoke dip is also a favorite. In addition to the Lyn-Lake location, Pizza Lucé can be found downtown in Minneapolis’ Warehouse District, in the Minneapolis Seward neighborhood, and up north in Duluth. 3200 Lyndale Avenue S., Minneapolis, 612-827-5978, www.pizzaluce.com

 

Sandwiches

Brit’s Pub

When it comes to beer and pub grub, the English serve it up right. A favorite around these parts, Brit’s offers a cozy menu that’s sure to warm you up on a winter’s day. For starters, order up the Scotch eggs: two hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage and breadcrumbs, then deep-fried. Then choose from the classics like bangers and mash or Shepherd’s Pie, or try the Beefeater (pot roast on toasted bun) or Sir Winston’s Cheese Toasty accompanied by tomato soup. Wash it all down with one (or two or three) of the ales, stouts, ciders or lagers from around the world. 1110 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612-332-3908

The Liffey

Just across from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, this is the perfect Irish pub to visit before the Wild take the ice. The self-dubbed “St. Paul’s Home of the Best Pint” lives up to its billing as all of the Irish favorites, such as Harp and Guinness, are available on tap. Each Friday and Saturday the bar fills with the live Celtic sounds of the flute, bodhran and guitar. Yet, the best part about the Liffey is the terrace. Granted, it’s not open in January, but the newly designed second-level deck has a wonderful bar, with ample room for dining and some of the best views of the St. Paul Cathedral’s copper dome at sunset. 175 W. Seventh Street, St. Paul, 651-556-1420

Harvey’s Bar & Grill

Casual and relaxed, the staff at Harvey’s welcomes their guests with, “What’d ya’ have in mind?” With a menu that extends for miles, you won’t find a better selection. Home of the biggest sandwich in the Warehouse District, the Monster Ciabatta is enough to make you melt. If you thought mom could make the best grilled cheese, wait till you check out Harvey’s own grilled cheese on parmesan-crusted seven-grain bread—American, cheddar and Swiss cheeses grilled to perfection! Stop in for lunch or come for dinner, they’ll be ready and waiting. 106 N. 3rd Street, Minneapolis, 612-343-5930, www.harveysmpls.com 

D. Brians Deli and Catering

Founded in 1986, D. Brians Deli and Catering is a great place to grab a sandwich while you are shopping downtown. The deli is close to all the hot spots on Nicollet Avenue and on days when the weather is not cooperating it helps that the restaurant is conveniently located in the skyway system. Grab a sandwich, a panini or a wrap without a long wait, then sit down and enjoy people-watching as shoppers navigate the skyways around you. Because you can order directly from the kitchen, it’s easy to customize your order and watch your fresh sandwich come together in front of you. Try the veggie avocado wrap or order the Lift Bridge panini (a chicken breast with tomato pesto, caramelized onions, fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers on a rustic baguette) from the grill. There are nine Twin Cities locations, including three others in downtown Minneapolis’ skyway system. Radisson Skyway, 45 S. Seventh Street, Minneapolis, 612-349-9233, www.dbrians.com

Entrée

Photo ©2005 Marc Carter

Palomino

Dinner for two couldn’t get more romantic at this upbeat city restaurant famous for its rich and stylish ambiance. Located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, Palomino makes for a great dinner-and-a-show combination. From the entrées right down to the desserts, every bite is as delicious as the first. When Asiago-crusted tilapia and grilled apricot cilantro chicken adorn the menu, you know you and your taste buds will go home happy. 825 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-339-3800, www.palomino.com 

The Capital Grille

While you’ll pay a pretty penny for your dinner, a meal at The Capital Grille is worth every cent. Known as the “masters of steak,” The Capital Grille serves up your choice of sirloin, filet mignon or porterhouse just the way you like it. Add on onion strings, potatoes au gratin, garlic mashed potatoes or any other of the many sides to complete your stomach-warming meal. To top it all off, the wine list and dessert offerings—crème brûlée, key lime pie or cheesecake, just to name a few—are nothing to slouch at either. 801 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-692-9000

Pazzaluna

For great Italian food in the Twin Cities there’s no place like Pazzaluna Urban Italian Restaurant and Bar in downtown St. Paul. With a name that means “crazy moon” you might wonder what the place has to offer, but the restaurant is a perfect combination of upscale cuisine and a hip bar scene. Set in a beautiful locale and decorated with murals, Pazzaluna is a great place to dine before a show in St. Paul. Start with the fried calamari or bruschetta then choose between fresh seafood pasta or Porcini mushroom-crusted veal tenderloin medallions, among other selections. The Pazzaluna menu is perfectly paired with an impressive wine list. 360 St. Peter Street, St. Paul, 651-223-7000

Chambers Kitchen

Located in the new Chambers hotel in the Hennepin Theatre District, Chambers Kitchen is the first Midwestern locale outside of Chicago for award-winning Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. A fresh, contemporary and artistic menu features items such as duck a l’orange, Asian pear and crystallized ginger with kohlrabi puree; black sea bass crusted in spices with sweet and sour broth; or lemon tart with crushed raspberry and lemongrass ice cream for dessert. Entering through the boutique hotel’s woven wood doors, guests are led downstairs to the main dining room where soft white walls, onyx-stained wood floors and leather seating create an unforgettable setting. 901 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-767-6999 for reservations.

Family Fare

Pop’s Family Café

Located in an 1885 storefront in Dayton’s Bluff, an ethnically rich St. Paul neighborhood, Pop’s Family Café serves up the best comfort foods around. Visit for breakfast and partake in everything from a taco omelet and eggs Florentine to pancakes and banana pecan waffles. For lunch or dinner, just try to choose between burgers, hot and cold sandwiches, catfish steaks, pork chops or Southern fried chicken dinners (in buckets of 10 or 16 pieces). Kids will love the menu of corn dogs, mac and cheese and chicken tenders—and with those all under $4, mom and dad will be happy, too. 378 Maria Avenue N., St. Paul, 651-774-6000

Italian Pie Shoppe

There are three locations of this well-known pizzeria throughout the Twin Cities; a favorite is that on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue. There’s nothing fancy here: old wooden tables and chairs, checkered tablecloths, beer out of a jar. If you go during a weekend evening, you can listen to tunes hammered on an old organ. It’s not hip or cool, but that’s what makes it a favorite. The prices are right, and the kids (and adults) will just love the pizza. 1670 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, 651-221-0093

The Old Spaghetti Factory

Grossing a paltry $171.80 opening day in 1969 in Portland, Oregon, The Old Spaghetti Factory has totally redeemed itself, now serving more than 10 million diners nationally each year. The Italian eatery pays special attention to the youngsters with its famous kids club. Become a member and get free meals on your birthday, among other perks. The little tikes have a special menu of their own, complete with a three-course meal including some yummy desserts! 233 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-341-0949, www.osf.com  

Andy’s Garage

Blast back to a time of sock hops, poodle skirts, and Buddy Holly at Andy’s Garage, a ’50s themed diner located in St. Paul. This kid-friendly restaurant came to life in the late ’90s when the Traut family converted a 1948 Skelly gas station into a roadside diner and named it after their daughter, Andrea. Serving classic diner fare like burgers, fries, and shakes, Andy’s Garage is a great place to take the kids. In addition to checking out all the neat ’50s décor and playing tunes on the jukebox, kids can keep themselves entertained by playing with the tabletop games and searching for Mr. Potato Head in order to win a prize. With live music on Saturday nights, mom and dad should be equally entertained. Last spring the Traut family opened up a second location in Minneapolis. 1825 University Avenue W., St. Paul, www.andysgaragecafe.com

 

Dinner Plus

NBA City

After taking in a Timberwolves game at the Target Center, fulfill your own hoop dreams at NBA City. The second venue of its kind (the first is located in Orlando, Fla.), NBA City defies the sports bar stereotype with a diverse menu and upscale digs. Along with the usual burgers and fries, the restaurant dishes up a variety of delicious entrees, appetizers, salads and brick-oven pizzas. While the setting evokes the classic arenas of the ’40s and ’50s, few 21st century features have been left out: Between bites, guests can show off their basketball skills with a number of interactive games, shop in the retail store, or watch live sporting events and exclusive NBA programming on one of 35 high-definition TV screens. 600 First Avenue N., Minneapolis, 612-767-2960

Cue

Housed within the new Guthrie Theater complex, Cue offers theater patrons a contemporary fine dining experience literally steps from the theater—bringing new meaning to “dinner and a show.” A supporter of the farm-to-fork culinary philosophy that utilizes products raised by area farmers, Executive Chef Lenny Russo created a menu of fresh, regional and seasonal ingredients in understated, yet inventive dishes. Vegetarian-friendly dishes are numerous and equally enticing. Giant floor-to-ceiling windows surround the 170-seat dining room, creating a spacious and airy atmosphere. Request a table overlooking the river for an especially memorable meal. 818 S. Second Street, Minneapolis, 612-225-6499

California Café

Not only does California Café—located on the third floor of the Mall of America—have a great selection of dishes and first-class service, but it also offers a unique view. If you request to sit “outdoors” at night, you can overlook The Park at MOA’s illuminated Ferris wheel. The restaurant’s grilled Atlantic salmon with garlic potatoes is amazing, as is the house-made four cheese ravioli. Both are best when topped off with a scrumptious caramel-apple martini. California Café is a great place for lunch and dinner; the fare ranges from light salads to baby back ribs and fillet mignon. A little more upscale than the other mall offerings, the restaurant offers a quieter and more refined atmosphere—it’s a great place to relax after a long day of shopping. Mall of America, Bloomington, 952-854-2233, www.californiacafe.com

20.21

This über-cool restaurant can win on location and reputation alone. The Wolfgang Puck restaurant opened in 2005 inside the newly renovated Walker Art Center, designed by world-renowned architects Herzog & de Meuron. The “Asian-influenced California cuisine” is a wonderful fit for dining inside what The New York Times calls “one of the best contemporary art exhibition facilities in the world.” The dining space juts out toward the busy Hennepin Avenue, with walls of glass suspending visitors above the hustle below and offering some of the best views of the Minneapolis skyline. Not only are the entrees, appetizers and drinks of the highest caliber; the surrounding art, interior spaces and restaurant’s open-air balconies offer a full sensory experience. 1750 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-253-3410

Dessert

The Melting Pot

While every course is delish at The Melting Pot, there’s just one problem: It’s nearly impossible to save room for dessert! No other dining experience compares to the slow-paced, romantic atmosphere of decadently dipping your bread in hot cheese or slow-cooking your sirloin in seasoned bouillon, but the ultimate ending is the chocolate fondue. With concoctions like Yin & Yang (half dark chocolate and half white chocolate, swirled to perfection) or Chocolate S’mores (milk chocolate topped with flambéed marshmallow cream and crushed graham crackers) in which to dip, bananas, strawberries, pineapple, brownie bites, marshmallows and pound cake squares have never tasted so sinfully good. 80 S. Ninth Street, Minneapolis, 612-338-9900

Café Latte

A former Studebaker showroom located at St. Paul’s Victoria Crossing, Café Latte features an elegant ambiance of balcony seating, lively art and lighting, and a classy, deli-style counter. The café is actually three restaurants in one: a gourmet cafeteria, a pizza/wine bar, and a bakery renowned for its fresh and fabulous cakes, tarts, tortes and cupcakes. In 1985, the proprietors invented their famous Turtle Cake, a moist, three-layered dream of dark chocolate, coated with fudge, caramel and giant pecans. Café Latte also boasts more than 30 varieties of cheesecake. Be sure to save room for dessert, and enjoy your Turtle Cake. 850 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, 651-224-5687

Muddy Paws Cheesecake

Life is short. Eat cheesecake! That’s the motto Muddy Paws likes to follow, and you will too as soon as you lay eyes on the 180 and counting unique cheesecake flavors. Honey Vanilla, Cherries and Cream or White Chocolate Chunk are some of their top sellers, but ultimately, it’s up to you and your sweet tooth to decide. Come on an empty stomach, or you’ll wish you would have saved room for more. Plus, suggest a cheesecake flavor and perhaps your own signature flavor could be developed. 2528 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-377-4441, www.muddypawscheesecake.com

La Belle Vie

Pastry lovers will think they’ve died and gone to heaven at La Belle Vie. Whether you head there for dinner and dessert or stop by just to savor the sweets, you will see why Gourmet magazine recently ranked it among the top 50 restaurants in the United States. At this upscale restaurant near Loring Park in Minneapolis, the desserts by Adrienne Odom are consistently amazing. Try the apple tasting platter with chevre and Honeycrisp strudel (the University of Minnesota’s own Honeycrisp apples are the best) or the classic cinnamon doughnuts. At La Belle Vie you have a choice between sitting in the lounge or the main house, and between ordering à la carte or from their tasting menu. It may be a little pricey, but dessert lovers will find it worth the splurge. 510 Groveland Ave., Minneapolis, 612-874-6640, www.labellevie.us

Drink Specials

Photo ©2005 Alex
Bachnick

Chino Latino

Too cool to hang a big sign out front, Chino Latino is recognized by its glittering sequined entrance along Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis’ hip Uptown neighborhood. Along with serving an Asian/Latin mix of dishes, this trendy locale boasts a full bar including Japanese sake and a long list of wines from France, Italy and Germany. Order any one of the designer cocktails, like the Kama Sutra Mama, and you are likely to get a delicious concoction topped with an umbrella and a little plastic monkey. This chic multi-level bar and restaurant surges with energy and music and offers daily happy hour specials. Chino Latino stands out among its neighbors with its modern décor and colorful mood lighting to provide a unique dining experience. 1916 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-824-PUPU, www.chinolatino.com

Photo by Charles Hall
Photography

Nye’s Polonaise Room

At this Northeast Polish supper club, you must take a spin around the small dance floor to the tunes of The World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band. Legendary across the country—and a favorite of David Letterman—the group is just one of the reasons Esquire magazine recently crowned Nye’s “The Best Bar in America.” The other reasons include Lou Snider sweetly crooning and playing any request on her baby grand, the “Jumbo” martinis that are strong enough to make even the most timid grab the mic and belt out a song, and the kitschy, but welcoming atmosphere. Try a “Nordeaster” or two: Belvedere vodka, triple sec, B&B, limejuice and grenadine, shaken and poured proudly. 112 E. Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-379-2021

Moscow on the Hill

This quaint little Russian restaurant located on St. Paul’s Selby Avenue is the place to go if you’re looking for fine cuisine. But the real unique draw is the restaurant’s “richest collection of vodkas in the Midwest.” Certainly the Russian Stoli makes the menu, but so do vodkas from Estonia, France and the Ukraine. Order a “Golden Eye” (St. Petersburg vodka and Drambuie) or a “From Russia with Love” (Bombay gin, Stoli and dry vermouth) and feel like 007 for an evening. Na Zdorovie! 371 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, 651-291-1236

Bar Abilene

Pull up a stool to this cowboy-infused, yet ultra-trendy bar. If you like margaritas, you’ve come to the right place. With a separate menu just to house the 100-plus tequilas, you’ll understand their passion. Try one or more of Bar Abilene’s 25 freshly-made margaritas with unique flavors such as Prickly Pear, Sunburnt Senorita and Cherry Bomb. Located next to the Lagoon Cinemas in Uptown, Bar Abilene makes for the perfect start, or finish, to any evening. Lagoon Avenue and Fremont Avenue S., Minneapolis, 612-825-2525, www.barabilene.com

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