Restaurant Best Bets: For Families, Spicy Foods, and a Trip to Mall of America

Meet our new food critics: Jason DeRusha and Joy Summers


Occasion: Perfect for Family Groups

Jason’s picks: January is the month my family loves to visit—these are places that will appeal to the adventurous (as well as your father-in-law):

  • Libertine: Pork lovers should go for the lightly smoked bacon chop. Add a side of caramelized cauliflower with brown butter and goat cheese fondant. (Uptown Minneapolis)
  • Surly Tap Room: Best barbeque brisket I’ve had, and the spicy giardiniera poutine is ridiculous. (Malcolm Ave. SE, Minneapolis)
  • Half Time Rec’s Paddy Shack: The Cork Dog topped with beer cheese mac and popcorn, and the best fish & chips on the East Side (Front Ave., St. Paul)

Joy’s picks: Breakfast is the great meal for get-togethers—you can go savory or sweet, gluten-free, full of pastries, bacon or meat-free. Who doesn’t love breakfast?

  • Spoon and Stable: Make brunch a special occasion at this elegant restaurant. Gavin Kaysen and his team elevate early morning eating and drinking. Best brunch cocktails in town. (North Loop)
  • Three Squares: A part of the Blue Plate group of restaurants, this suburban spot suits everybody with deeply satisfying breakfast dishes. I love to order French toast for the table to share as a sweet breakfast dessert. (Maple Grove)

Libertine, Uptown Minneapolis
Bacon Chop at Libertine. Photo by TJ Turner.

Cuisine: Ideal for Super Spicy Foods

Jason’s picks: Forget Minnesota spice being a robust form of ketchup: We can take the heat, baby.

  • Marla’s Caribbean Cuisine: Get the Jamaican jerk shrimp—go Marla’s hot (Bloomington Ave., Minneapolis)
  • Pho Ca Dao: My favorite pho in town—bring cash, and load up on jalepeños. (University Ave., St. Paul)

Joy’s picks: Nothing better on a cold winter day than a little burn.

  • Little Szechuan’s: Go for the Geleshan Ma La chicken on a sea of dried peppers—deliciously addictive. (Oak St. SE, Minneapolis)
  • Hmongtown Marketplace: Everything you could want in one bite of the hot, sour, sweet, spicy green papaya salad. (Como Ave., St. Paul)

Location: Mall of America Favorites

Jason’s picks: I know it’s not cool to be a Minnesotan and say that I like Mall of America, but I like Mall of America. The eating has finally gotten good too.

  • Masu is my favorite spot: A sanctuary in the busy restaurant area on the third floor. The pork belly ramen is killer, one of the best ramen bowls in the city. My kids love the robata—skewers of vegetables, chicken, Korean short ribs.
  • Coffee & Tea LTD is a hidden gem located inside the lower level of Sears. Yes, the best cup of coffee in MOA is next to the Craftsman snow blowers.

Joy’s picks: MOA (as us insiders call it) was where I landed my first Twin Cities job selling both wicks AND sticks. It’s still my go-to mall and I always plan time to grab a bite while I’m there.

  • Johnny Rockets: Cheesy, but never underestimate the restorative powers of a vanilla Coke and a ketchup smiley face while the Everly Brothers croon in the background.
  • Twin Cities Grill: This mall mainstay has a great burger and an even better martini.

Twin Cities Grill, Mall of America
Twin Cities Grill. Photo courtesy of Lettuce Entertain You Inc©

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