I know brunch is all the rage, but I confess: I’m a bigger fan of lunch. Here are three places to get lunch in the Twin Cities. One includes a free beer, another is a shiny new location, and the third is bringing exciting flavor to Cedar-Riverside in Minneapolis.
Surly Brewing Tap Room: Surly’s taproom has been open nearly three years, and things are changing. New chef Ben Peine is putting his stamp on the menu now that he’s running the show. Yes, a couple of the original recipes are always going to be on that menu (think of the revolt if the Hog Frites came off!), but Peine has added a weekday lunch menu designed to appeal to people looking for (slightly) smaller or lighter portions, and quick service without the usual massive crowds you see at weeknight dinner.
Plus, each lunch purchase comes with a free beer—and if you can’t drink at lunch, you get a token you can redeem later. Don’t miss the house-cured pastrami sandwich with spicy mustard and chips ($15), or the lamb barbacoa tacos with lime crema ($13). Ben also unveiled killer jerk-pork shanks with plantains and a charred scallion habanero sauce for $22.
520 Malcolm Ave. SE, Minneapolis
The Naughty Greek: The gyro you never knew you needed to experience. Angelo Giovanis had such success with his tiny restaurant on Snelling in St. Paul, he’s opened a stunner of a spot on University near the light rail. Tuck into hand-layered pork belly and shoulder, seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg among other spices, caramelized on a spit, and carved onto a pita.
Giovanis says that’s how gyros are served in Greece—not the loaf of beef and lamb like we have here in the U.S. Don’t miss his chicken gyro, made by deboning and slicing whole chickens and seasoning with curry.
Incredibly juicy and shockingly flavorful. I never order chicken gyros or shwarmas, but this is spectacular. (Watch my WCCO story here).
181 N. Snelling Ave. and 2400 University Ave. W., St Paul
Campus Cafe: The old Mapps Coffee in Cedar-Riverside is now Campus Cafe-Turkish Grill. I spent some time with co-owner Faruk Cingilli and Abdirahman Kahin (the owner of Afro Deli). Yes: the Turks and Somalis can break bread together! There are Somali chefs and a chef Cingilli brought in from Turkey to the Campus Cafe.
The room looks great (nice job by Smart Design refreshing the room, including a gorgeous communal table featuring Wood from the Hood), and the fast-casual food is extremely flavorful and affordable. Instead of grinding the beef, they chop it very finely, giving the adana and doner a great texture.
You can have them as sandwiches on pita ($8–$9 including fries or a salad) or as entrées ($12–$13 including rice). Everything I tried was delicious, the service was delightful, and Campus Cafe is worth a visit.
1810 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis