Fresh Reasons to Love the Twin Cities’ Food Scene

The Twin Cities continue to rise as a U.S. foodie destination
The Basque pizza at Young Joni: Spanish Chorizo, mozzarella, goat cheese, piquillo pepper, red onion, castelvetrano olives, preserved lemon
The Basque pizza at Young Joni: Spanish Chorizo, mozzarella, goat cheese, piquillo pepper, red onion, castelvetrano olives, preserved lemon

Photo by TJ Turner

The Twin Cities are coming off a pretty great few years for food and drink. People magazine named Minneapolis one of the nation’s 10 hottest foodie cities in 2018. Hai Hai, the Northeast Minneapolis Southeast Asian concept, was named one of Esquire’s best new restaurants and its rising star of 2018. The same year, Esquire also named Marco Zappia, the mixologist behind Martina and Colita’s creative cocktails, beverage director of the year. St. Paul’s Keg and Case Market was the best new food hall of 2018, per USA Today. And the recognition just keeps coming. Here are some local chefs and ideas leading the scene:

Ann Kim, of pizza-baking fame at Young Joni, Pizzeria Lola and Hello Pizza, was named Best Chef: Midwest at the 2019 James Beard Awards after Twin Cities chef Gavin Kaysen took home the prize in 2018. On the horizon for Kim: a Mexican-inspired, tortilla-centered concept in Uptown, Minneapolis.

Sean Sherman has brought Minnesotan cooking back to its indigenous roots by launching a food truck; co-writing the cookbook “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen”; educating folks around the world about Native American cuisine; and, soon, opening a restaurant. In 2019, Sherman won a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award, recognizing his impact on food justice and sustainability, along with a James Beard Award for Best Book.

Justin Sutherland continues to put Minnesota on the map. The St. Paul chef started out by elevating Southern cooking at Handsome Hog, then went on to win a 2018 episode of Food Network’s “Iron Chef.” In 2019, he got busier, competing on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” moving his Pearl and the Thief restaurant from Stillwater to Minneapolis’ Moxy Hotel, taking the helm of the Madison Restaurant Group, and becoming a culinary consultant for the new Allianz Field soccer stadium in St. Paul.

Internationally renowned chef Gavin Kaysen pushed the Twin Cities dining scene in a brave new direction when he opened his latest, 20-seat restaurant Demi in 2019, across the street from his French-inspired mainstay Spoon and Stable. This tasting-menu spot in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood raises fine dining to the Michelin-star-baiting level we’re used to tasting in bigger cities like New York or San Francisco (with the price tag to boot).

Local celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern opens a new food hall and market in 2019 in the Dayton’s Project, which repurposes the old Dayton’s department store in downtown Minneapolis. Between 40 and 50 chef-driven kiosks are set to deliver on a national trend in the biggest way yet for the Twin Cities.