There’s that moment on any car trip when hunger shifts from a passing thought to a full-on obsession. Fast-food chains and gas station convenience stores hugging the off-ramps are counting on you to take the easy way out, but it doesn’t always end up that way. Sometimes you luck upon a venerable diner or a roadside café, and you proceed to have the best meal of the year. Why leave it to chance? Minnesota’s byways and thoroughfares are loaded with dining experiences grand enough to set the itinerary, not just accompany it.
Click here for restaurants and bakeries dotting road trips southeast.
Dining Car #423 / Steel Wheels Public House & Eatery, Fergus Falls
A century-old Northern Pacific train depot has been transformed into a full-service bar and restaurant, serving pub fare plus wine, whiskey, Prohibition-era cocktails, and a baker’s dozen of craft beers on tap.
Jules’ Bistro, St. Cloud
Flatbread pizzas, scratch soups, paninis, plus vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items—there’s a delicious pick for everyone. Save room for dessert: each slice of Kindness Cake benefits a local charity.
Krewe/Flour & Flower, St. Joseph
Krewe and Flour & Flower, co-owned by Mateo Mackbee and Erin Rae, have become top dining spots in St. Joseph for good reason. Start your morning with Flour & Flower’s fresh pastries and coffee. Chef Rae does an excellent job incorporating local seasonal produce into both sweet and savory pastries. Stop by Krewe for dinner, where chef Mateo Mackbee serves his take on the classic New Orleans favorites he grew up on. Inside the dining room, the big band jazz music, fresh flowers, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a beautiful patio transport guests straight to NOLA.
La Ferme, Alexandria
Among little shops and across from a live theater, La Ferme (“ferme” is French for “farmhouse”) bucks small-town stereotypes with an inventive, farm-sourced, multi-course menu in central Minnesota—plus killer evening sandwiches.
Pho V, St. Cloud
Surrounded by Red Lobster, Panera, and a plethora of other chains, Pho-V stands out in the crowd for its fresh Vietnamese specialties, including bun, banh mi, and pho.
Pompeii Pizzeria, Elk River
Topped with fresh mozzarella and Sicilian olive oil, these wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas live up to their heritage. Choose from traditional favorites, unique house creations, and quirky seasonal pies.