While half our critical team is fully ensconced at the State Fair, I’ve been taking great advantage of the lighter attendance inside some of Minneapolis and St. Paul’s busiest restaurants. There’s the newly opened Hyacinth, a teeny spot on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. There are tacos at Centro, the lively Mexican spot in Northeast. Those coveted bar seats at Spoon and Stable are a bit easier to snag. And even lines for Revival’s fried chicken are a bit shorter.
These are the top three usually-hard-to-get-into restaurants that food fans should visit outside of the fairgrounds.
Popol Vuh’s esquites (es-KEY-tez): This new Mexican fine dining restaurant from the owners of next door’s Centro are doing incredible things over wood-fire. Revel in peak sweet corn season with this snappy, creamy little dish.
The Bungalow Club’s octopus with fennel and stone fruit: The patio at the Bungalow Club feels like an inner-city secret garden, and the ever-changing menu is always full of seasonal delights. (Check out this month’s issue to get the full lowdown on how much we love this place.) The can’t-miss dish of the moment is tender/charred/chewy octopus dressed in a bright vinaigrette, served with shaved fennel and tart-sweet, jewel-toned stone fruit. Don’t let Labor Day pass without sampling this one.
Bardo’s happy hour and wine list: This gorgeous art-deco dining room at the edge of downtown Minneapolis (an easy and pretty walk over the bridge) has a gem of a patio and a truly stunning wine list. I love settling in at the bar, grabbing a quick happy-hour snack (like the burger or chicken sandwich), and asking the professionals to pour whatever they’re most interested in drinking. There’s a slew of funky wines waiting to be discovered. Explain your taste preferences and enjoy the ride.