The Top Healthy, Peaceful & Restorative Restaurants in the Twin Cities

It’s the absolute height of New Year’s resolution season. What are you up to? Gym every day, quarter swear-jar on the counter, reading novels instead of watching Jerseylicious? If your virtue-seeking involves food and restaurants, here are my picks for the best, most tranquil, healthiest, and resolution-iest restaurants in the metro:

Rice Paper
The jewel-box contemporary Vietnamese restaurant moved last fall from their old Linden Hills location (soon to be home to Steven Brown’s new Tilia) to larger digs in the gold coast of 50th and France. As I noted in my recent review, the new restaurant is a delight: Find all the gluten-free, vegetarian, and ultra-healthy options patrons loved at the old location, now with a bigger sake, wine, and beer list, and more tables. If you’ve never been to Rice Paper, know that chef and owner An Nguyen’s way of cooking uses tends to get its flavors from herbs, citrus, and savory elements like sesame seeds, tamarind paste, frizzled shallots, and toasted peanuts. Her dishes are heavy with greens; when meat is used, it’s in judicious amounts. Just what the doctor ordered!

Another perennial favorite of the yoga crowd is Tanpopo, the home-style Japanese restaurant in lowertown St. Paul, owned by chef Koshiki Yonemura. It’s a fantastic—and fantastically inexpensive—spot, a typical multi-part teishoku meal with rice, miso soup, an entrée like grilled mackerel or agedashi tofu, pickled vegetables, and a salad runs $12 to $15. I admire Yonemura tremendously—she has such a nice understated, well-balanced approach to presenting a meal. Her cooking always reminds me of that fashion dictate—was it by Diana Vreeland, or Coco Chanel, or who?—that the way to be truly elegant was to get dressed exactly as you would, and then take one thing off.

Did you know chef Brenda Langton of Spoonriver has a healthy cooking cookbook coming out in the fall? True, but Langton, who is also a Senior Fellow at the U of M’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, has always been devoted to healthy cooking. I think she’s got the surest touch in the Twin Cities for turning plants into something delicious. For more on that topic, go and order her wild mushroom and pistachio terrine, which has all the umami—that is, meatiness—you’d get from an animal-based dish like pork rillettes—but without any animal fat! Spoonriver is also a great source for locally raised meats, and has the best organic wine list in the state.

I have to confess I haven’t been to one glaringly obvious healthy pick in years—the Marsh in Minnetonka. Have you? Also, have you got any other very healthy restaurants you’d like to nominate for folks living out healthy New Year’s resolutions?