The Best Food and Drink in Minnesota for 2019
December 20, 2018
Culinary highlights from the Land of 10,000 Tastes
The Best Food and Drink in Minnesota
Minnesotans are perhaps best known for their stereotypical niceness, a trait supposedly derived from the Gopher State’s nineteenth-century Nordic settlers. This benign pleasantness is reflected in many of the foods typically associated with the state, often warm, comforting casseroles or rich cheeses from the Land of 10,000 Lakes’ productive dairy farms. But the North Star State has a bright culinary scene featuring styles both traditionally Minnesotan and less so, and we’ve rounded up the best of them as part of our second annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
You can find great examples of nearly every type of food in Minnesota, from tasty burritos and tortas to heartwarming matzoh ball soup. Minnesota is down for any dish that’s hot — not just hotdish.
How did we go about choosing the best eats in our nation’s 32nd state? Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and brunch spot to its best bar and craft beer in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state, and you can find our Minnesota gallery ahead.
Best Airport Restaurant: Ike’s Food and Cocktails (Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport)
Minneapolis-based restaurant Ike’s Food and Cocktails has two locations at MSP Airport, providing a great dine-in option for travelers. Sandwiches, burgers, small plates, and even steaks populate the menu, accompanied by an extensive wine list.
Best All-You-Can-Eat Deal: Cornerstone Buffet & Restaurant (Melrose and Sartell)
Cornerstone is a homey restaurant serving classic American fare in a comfortable and family-oriented dining room, and every day of the week it offers a different themed buffet: Monday is chicken, Tuesday is comfort food (including that Minnesota specialty, hotdish), Wednesday is wings and Italian food, Thursday is a traditional German buffet, Friday is surf and turf, Saturday is barbecue, and Sunday is build-your-own tacos and fajitas. There’s also a Saturday breakfast and Sunday brunch buffet with all the classic homestyle brunch favorites.
Best Bar: Marvel Bar (Minneapolis)
Marvel Bar combines classic Japanese bartending methods with new American cocktail creativity. “Our minimalist, outside-the-box style of innovation has led to the invention of new genres of drinks, such as emulsified sours, hyper-diluted cocktails, charcoal-filtered cocktails, and alkaline cocktails,” says beverage director Pip Hanson, whose favorite beverage is the dry martini. His favorite martini recipe was adapted from a French cocktail book published in 1904: a 3-to-1 gin to dry vermouth with a single dash of orange bitters and a lemon twist. “Hand-chipped ice, one of our signature Japanese influences, makes an enormous difference in the final temperature and dilution of this drink,” explains Hanson, who tended bar at Roppongi Hills Club in Tokyo and studied classic Japanese cocktail technique. Marvel Bar has 400 different spirits, 11 single barrels of bourbon and rye from Kentucky, and a constantly rotating cocktail menu featuring classics and avant-garde original creations crafted with the perfectionism of Ginza cocktail masters. Additionally, general manager Peder Schweigert was a culinary producer on Top Chef Season 5, worked the kitchen at Alinea in Chicago, and won Iron Bartender in 2010 after less than a year of working with spirits. He crafts Marvel Bar’s signature cocktails like the Oliveto, a combination of an egg white gin sour with olive oil that the bar dubbed an "emulsified sour.”
Best Beer: Darkness, Surly Brewing Company (Minneapolis)
Darkness from Surly Brewing Company, like many limited-availability beers, has a lot of buzz surrounding it. But this massive Russian imperial stout deserves the love it gets. With aromas of dark chocolate, fruit, and toffee, it delivers on those rich chocolatey and caramel flavors with hints of nuttiness. This is a big beer with a big, intense name (and label), so proceed into the darkness with caution.
Best Brunch: Spoon and Stable (Minneapolis)
Chef Gavin Kaysen left his gig as executive chef at New York’s renowned Café Boulud to open this rustic-chic French-inspired restaurant in an old Minneapolis carriage house, and it quickly rose to prominence as one of the city’s must-visit restaurants. Honestly, even if it only served brunch it still would be one of the hottest restaurants in town, because its brunch menu is upscale and nothing short of spectacular. Start off with a Corpse Reviver (with gin, lemon, Cocchi Americano, and a Mexican anise liqueur called Xtabentún) and follow it up with a charcuterie platter; Thai-inspired crab salad; bison tartare with harissa aïoli, socca chips, and cilantro; red wine poached eggs with wild mushrooms; a perfect croque-madame with house-made ham; sausage and biscuits with bratwurst scallion gravy; or a buttermilk waffle with poached pears and vanilla cream. Make sure you get an order of house-made bacon on the side.
Best Burger: Jucy Lucy, Matt's Bar (Minneapolis)
Ah, the legendary Jucy Lucy (yes, Matt's spells it without the "i"). While the battle rages between Matt’s Bar and the nearby 5-8 Club over who invented this brilliant burger variation (basically a cheeseburger with the cheese inside the patty instead of on top), the one at Matt’s Bar is the superior specimen. Legend has it that shortly after the restaurant opened in 1954 a hungry customer came in and asked for two burger patties with a slice of cheese in the middle. He took a bite, proclaimed it to be "one juicy Lucy!," and an icon was born. Only fresh-ground beef goes into each hand-formed burger, and the first bite yields a river of molten, gooey cheese. These burgers are much more difficult to make than it may appear, and the one at Matt’s Bar is absolute perfection.
Best Chinese Restaurant: Shuang Cheng (Minneapolis)
Sarah T. via Yelp
A favorite of University of Minnesota Twin Cities students for more than 25 years, this homey Dinkytown spot specializes in authentic Cantonese fare as well as a wide variety of fresh seafood dishes. Regulars swear by the spicy baked crab, Peking duck, salty fish with chicken and eggplant, and chicken in black bean sauce.
Best Chocolate Shop: Great!Lakes Candy Kitchen (Knife River)
For three generations, Great! Lakes Candy Kitchen has been making their chocolate confections and candies in store. The shop itself is charming and offers up some of the milkiest, most delicious chocolate in the region. Don’t leave without indulging in some of their handmade nut clusters.
Best Coffee Shop: Spyhouse Coffee (Minneapolis)
Defining the coffee scene in Minneapolis for quite some time now, Spyhouse Coffee is a popular local chain with beautiful facilities and even more pleasing coffee. Dedicated to sustainability through practices that reduce waste and to community-building through contributing to local charities and supporting the arts community, it's a must-visit for coffee lovers visiting the Twin Cities. For those too far away to enjoy it in person, the company also sells their coffee and some cool merchandise online.
Best Cupcake: Cupcake (Eagan)
David P. via Yelp
Well, it doesn’t get any more straightforward than this: a cupcakery named Cupcake that simply sells delicious cupcakes. As a winner of Cupcake Wars, this small Eagan bakery has blown up into a local must-try, and it gives patrons a large variety of sweets to choose from (including gluten-free and vegan options). How could you not love a U.S. Navy serviceman-turned-pastry chef who makes cupcakes called the “Michelle Obama” and the “Alton Brown”?
Best Dive Bar: Palmer’s Bar (Minneapolis)
Best Doughnuts: Bogart’s Doughnut Co. (Minneapolis)
A rich, yeasty brioche dough is what helps to make the doughnuts at Bogart’s so dang irresistible and buttery. This means their offerings, which include a lavender cake doughnut, a vanilla buttercream filled doughnut, and even a sprinkled cake aren’t too sweet. It’s the perfect way to start your day.
Best Farmers Market: Kingfield Farmers Market (Kingfield)
Described by locals as "hip, local, green, and gourmet," the Kingfield Farmers Market hosts about 30 vendors each week and welcomes thousands of visitors. It is a produce-focused market offering a wide variety of fruits and vegetables along with prepared foods, coffee, handmade crafts, music, kids’ activities, and more. The Kingfield Farmers Market is one of three markets run by Neighborhood Roots and is open Sundays from May through October.
Best Food Truck: Vellee Deli (Twin Cities)
Open since 2011, this Minnesota staple continues to feed the hungry masses a creative blend of Asian and Mexican flavors. The menu has items like The Mojo (a jumbo lemongrass and ginger sausage topped with pico de gallo and fresh papaya), a Currito (burrito with chicken, spicy Thai curry, potatoes, romaine lettuce, rice, and creamy sauce), and fish tacos. However, the most attention (from both satisfied customers and members of the press) is given to the B.P.T., a grilled pork taco with aioli, slaw, and a house pickle.
Best French Fries: Meritage (St. Paul)
Meritage, one of the finest French restaurants in the Twin Cities also happens to serve some of the best fries you’ll ever eat. Served slightly well-done for maximum crispiness, these are still fluffy on the inside and benefit from an ample sprinkling of salt as well as a side of béarnaise sauce for dipping. If you’ve never dipped fries into buttery béarnaise before, we apologize in advance for the extra calories.
Best Fried Chicken: Revival (Minneapolis)
Chef Thomas Boemer grew up in the South, and brought the best dishes of the regionup to Minneapolis with him to open Revival. Save the shrimp and grits for the second visit and do what everyone does on their first visit here: Order the Southern fried chicken, which stars an Amish bird, marinated in buttermilk, dredged in a secret seasoning blend, and fried in pure lard until crisp. If you’re a heat seeker opt for the Tennessee hot variety, which gets a dunk in cayenne-kicked hot oil as soon as it comes out of the fryer, just like in Nashville.
Best Fish and Chips: The Anchor Fish & Chips (Minneapolis)
This bustling chippy brings a true fish and chips experience to Minneapolis, and their roving food truck is also spreading the gospel across the Twin Cities. Pasties, shepherd’s pie, Heinz beans, curry chips, and even battered sausage and chips are helping to get locals through brutal winters, but if you only get one thing, make it the fish and chips. A huge fillet of sustainable wild Alaskan cod is lightly battered and fried to crispy perfection, served on a heaping pile of fresh hand-cut chips.
Best Hot Dog: Natedogs (Minneapolis)
Nathan Beck has become something of a local celebrity since launching his hot dog cart back in 2011, and can often be spotted slinging dogs while wearing all orange and singing. It’s not just the schtick that keeps fans coming back, however; hot dogs and bratwurst are all-natural and locally sourced, and he offers plenty of house-made toppings, including a honey spice mustard that he also sells by the bottle.
Best Hotel Restaurant: Tullibee (Minneapolis)
Chef Bradley Day’s showstopping Tullibee calls the Hewing Hotel home, and it’s an elegant and upscale restaurant with a New Nordic twist, centered around a large wood-burning grill and oven. Whole rainbow trout with kale, fennel, zucchini, quinoa, and grapes; Wild Acres duck breast with squash noodles, duck egg, and citrus soy broth; coffee-ribbed bison carpaccio with pickled beech, cherries, and micro arugula; house-smoked ham with local cheese; house-cured bacon with pickled onions, orange, and verjus glaze; grilled lamb with mushrooms, cippolini onion, and celery root purée; and Peterson sirloin steak with curly root vegetables and rosemary chimichurri are just a handful of representative dishes; wild game and off-cuts also pop up as nightly specials. An excellent burger, made with dry-aged beef and topped with local Colby and special sauce, is served during lunch.
Best Ice Cream Stand: Izzy’s (St. Paul)
It's not hard to track down someone in the Twin Cities who's obsessed with Izzy’s, because every scoop of ice cream gets a mini scoop of a different flavor on top. So that means if you order a scoop of bananas Foster, you can top it off with a tiny scoop of Dinosaur Egg or Guinness. Did we mention Izzy’s has some pretty cool flavors?
Best Grocery Store: Kowalski’s Market (Twin Cities)
Jonathan E. via Yelp
A family-run business that expanded throughout the Twin Cities area, Kowalski’s Market is a store that actively seeks to differentiate itself from the big chains, specifically with its commitment to sourcing products locally. “Great quality, incredible customer service. Always greeted with a smile,” one reviewer said.
Best Italian Restaurant: Broder’s Pasta Bar (Minneapolis)
Molly and Tom Broder opened their “pasta bar” in 1994, and the crowds have never stopped coming. Why? Ingredients are sourced from Midwest farms whenever possible and some vegetables are grown in an on-site garden — “but really,” as the website states, “it’s all about the pasta.” Fresh pastas are made in-house and dry pastas are imported from Italy, and nearly 30 pastas and risottos are on the menu. You can’t go wrong with gnocchi with duck cacciatore ragù; quadrucci with roasted chicken, greens, prosciutto di Parma, almonds, asparagus, balsamic vinegar, and mascarpone; tagliarini with prosciutto and truffle cream; or the paccheri with braised short rib, pancetta, red wine, tomato, and gremolata. There’s also a daily risotto that’s usually pretty spectacular, as well as a wide variety of antipasti. The name might fool you into thinking that this is a low-rent buffet, but it’s anything but.
Most Expensive Restaurant: Murray’s (Minneapolis)
Serving Minneapolis’ finest steaks since 1946, Murray’s is a venerable institution that costs a pretty penny to dine at. Steaks average around $50 (and most non-steak entrees cost well over $30), and if you’d like to sample the restaurant’s legendary Silver Butter Knife Steak for Two, a 28-ounce strip loin, it’ll cost $105. A 24-ounce Chateaubriand costs $115.
Most Outrageous Restaurant Dish: Bludgeon of Beef, Manny's Steakhouse (Minneapolis)
The folks at Manny's Steakhouse must be true pros at grilling steaks — you have to be in order to properly cook this huge hunk of meat. The aptly named Bludgeon of Beef is a whopping 54 ounces.
Best Romantic Restaurant: Meritage (St. Paul)
One of the finest French restaurants in the Twin Cities, Meritage is a nearly perfect bistro with a warm, bustling, and undoubtedly romantic dining room. Start your meal at the curved zinc bar and settle into a comfortable banquette for a meal of foie gras crème puffs, a shellfish platter, onion soup, moules frites, and steak frites with some of the best French fries you’ll ever try.
Best Old School Candy Shop: Candyland (Minneapolis)
The first Candyland store opened in 1932 and solely sold popcorn and fudge. In 1950, candy was added to the mix. Today, customers can let the good times roll with hundreds of top-quality lollipops, sours, gummies, jujubes, chocolate, licorice, taffies, and jawbreakers.
Best Pasta Dish: Tagliarini de Lonanda Del Lupo, Broder’s Pasta Bar (Minneapolis)
Yelp/ Kayla H.
Broder’s is also the best Italian restaurant in Minnesota, and every one of their pasta dishes is worth trying. But you can’t go wrong with the Tagliarini de Lonanda Del Lupo, inspired by a dish served at a restaurant of the same name in Soragna, Italy. Tagliarini (an eggy thin pasta) is tossed with a light truffle cream sauce as well as lots of diced prosciutto di Parma. You’ll most likely be ordering a second helping.
Best Pizza: Pizzeria Lola (Minneapolis)
Onetime stage actress Ann Kim graduated from Tony Gemignani’s International School of Pizza in January 2010, and in less than a year, she’d opened Pizzeria Lola, where she serves Neapolitan-style pizzas named for her Weimaraner. They’re wood-fired pies cooked out of a copper-clad oven under tomato-can track lighting quickly photographed by hungry food bloggers.
There are 14 pies, most of which feature combos you’re familiar with, along with less common toppings like peppadew peppers and guanciale, and add-on toppings you don’t see everywhere, like boquerones (white anchovies, likely to make converts out of anti-anchovy pizza purists) and garlic confit. Two pies of particular interest highlight Korean flavors. There’s the signature Korean barbecue pie and the Lady ZaZa (Italian red sauce, housemade kimchi, Korean sausage, serranos, scallions, sesame, and soy-chile glaze).
Best Ramen Shop: Unideli (Minneapolis)
Located smack-dab in the middle of a sprawling, nearly 50-year-old Asian grocery store called United Noodles, UniDeli is one of Minneapolis’ best-kept culinary secrets. Seven ramen varieties are on offer, ranging from traditional tonkotsu and miso to fiery tantanmen, black garlic-slicked dramen, and bowls enhanced by the likes of pork belly, slow-poached eggs, Szechuan peppercorns, and jackfruit.
Best Rest for Breakfast: Pannekoeken Huis (Minneapolis)
An authentic Dutch restaurant located smack dab in the middle of Minneapolis, Pannekoeken Huis (Dutch for “Pancake House,” naturally) opens daily at 7 and has been introducing locals to Dutch pancakes for more than 20 years. These big, airy pancakes resemble a giant Yorkshire pudding, and they’re the perfect receptacle for the nearly 20 toppings and add-ins. If you’re not in the mood for a pancake, however (American-style ones are available too), there are also waffles, biscuits and gravy, and plenty of egg dishes including steak and eggs, Benedicts, corned beef hash, a breakfast burrito, a veggie frittata, and omelettes (try the Dutch Country, filled with smoked mettwurst sausage, ham, mushrooms, diced onions, peppers, and Gouda, and topped with hollandaise and tomatoes).
Best Sandwich: Manny’s Special, Manny’s Tortas (Minneapolis)
Manny’s Tortas is a Minneapolis legend with two locations in town (as well as a stand at the Minnesota State Fair) and hordes of regulars flocking there on a daily basis. A wide variety of traditional Mexican tortas are available, but there’s nothing in Mexico quite like the super-popular Manny’s Special: steak, onion, mushrooms, tomatoes, and jalapeños, all grilled with melted cheese, then topped with ham, cheese, and avocados for good measure. It’s an explosion of flavor.
Best Soup: Matzo Ball, Cecil’s Deli (St. Paul)
Yelp/ Sara D.
Going strong since its founding by Cecil and Faye Glickman in 1949, this Twin Cities institution is legendary for its homemade cured meats, breads and other baked goods, and especially its soups. Its chicken soup in particular, made with long-simmered stock, plenty of chicken, and your choice of noodles or matzo balls (go for the matzo balls), is seriously the cure for what ails you, especially during a long Minnesota winter.
Best Sports Bar: Bar 508 (Minneapolis)
Bar 508 is serious about beer. They offer over 20 selections with a focus on craft brews. To go along with that, they’ve created a menu that bridges the gap between fan fare and food-lover faves: Think Buffalo chicken wontons and Summit Beer-battered chicken tenders. Fans love that there is an area for them to get their victory dance on after watching their team win on one of dozens of flat-screen TVs tuned into sports all day long. Don’t miss the $3 tallboys for all Twins’ home games.
Best Steakhouse: Murray’s (Minneapolis)
If you’re looking for a classic steakhouse experience and happen to be in the Twin Cities, drop into the recently renovated Murray’s, which has been going strong since 1946. Opened by Art and Marie Murray, the restaurant is still in the family, and many of Marie’s old recipes are still used. Their famed "Silver Butter Knife Steak for Two," a 28-ounce strip loin carved tableside, is one of the country’s great monuments to a well-made steak. Thankfully, the renovation didn’t do away with any of the restaurant’s classic charm (although it thankfully replaced the banquet hall-style pink drapes and chairs), and the classic neon sign is right where it’s always been.
Best Tacos: Lengua at El Taco Riendo (Minneapolis)
Mon P. via Yelp
This Twin Cities favorite is bringing Mexico City street food to Minneapolis in a fun and laid-back setting. Tostadas, tamales, sopes, enchiladas, burritos, and chilaquiles keep the crowds coming, but the tacos, made with tortillas produced by local tortilleria La Perla, are really things of beauty. Even if you’re not a fan of tongue, the slow-cooked lengua will make you a convert. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2019.