Minneapolis "Don't Miss" Eating Experiences
When it comes to food, Minneapolis is a hidden gem. Our numerous award-winning restaurants, international cuisine, trendy food halls, and fine dining options make the food scene here superb. Because there's so much to savor, a carefully planned eating itinerary is strongly recommended.
Elevated Dining from Award-Winning Chefs
James Beard Award winner, cooking superhero, and Minnesota native Gavin Kaysen opened Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis in 2014. The menu is relatively short, with a Midwest seasonal theme and a few tantalizing seafood options. Reserve well in advance or cross your fingers for a walk-in seat in the bar which serves the full menu. If you want to go all out, book a spot at Demi, Kaysen's tasting-menu restaurant that focuses on locally-sourced, seasonal food.
Owned and designed by James Beard award winner Chef Isaac Becker is 112 Eatery, serving “elevated comfort fare” and designed as the type of place off-duty chefs would eat. Chef Becker’s second project, Bar La Grassa, serves a wide variety of pastas and other crowd-pleasing Italian staples. Getting a table at either of these places requires planning ahead most nights.
Chef Ann Kim won the 2019 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest and in 2022 was featured on Netflix's Chef's Table: Pizza. Young Joni is her third restaurant in Minneapolis and the menu is inspired by wood fire cooking and features a diverse array of globally influenced dishes and signature pizzas. If you go, be sure to grab a nightcap at the back bar, tucked down the alley just behind the restaurant.
Men’s Journal rated Manny’s Steakhouse among the “10 Best Steakhouses in the World” in 2015. Located on the ground floor of downtown’s iconic Foshay Tower, Manny’s is considered a special occasion dining experience for most income brackets, but it’s money well spent. Lust-worthy cuts of beef headline a menu that also features lobster, king crab, salmon and, yes, even chicken — if you want to ruin your server’s day.
At Restaurant Alma, seasonally inspired dishes with locally sourced ingredients and fine-tuned flavor are served in an beautifully elegant and unpretentious setting. James Beard Award winning chef Alex Roberts claims that his approach to creating any dish has three parts: Richness (often the protein, full of flavor), aromatics (something that ignites the senses like tarragon or lemon zest), and the essence of the ingredient (something that reinforces the flavors of the richness in the dish). His flavors are subtle, yet full-bodied.
Hailed as The Best New Restaurant in 2022, Owamni is shaking up the restaurant industry by serving decolonized foods. This James Beard Award-winning restaurant provides modern Indigenous cuisine featuring local meats, produce, and fish without any colonial ingredients, like wheat, flour, cane sugar and dairy. The beautiful dining room overlooks the Mississippi and Owámniyomni (known in English as St. Anthony Falls). Reservations can be hard to get, but in the summer the patio is first come, first served.
Can't quite decide what you're in the mood for? Let the smells guide your palate at North Loop Galley, a food hall featuring three rotating restaurants. Three dining experiences under one roof means you can get wings, ahi poke, and pizza all in the same meal. We won't judge. But really, Ono Hawaiian Plates and Wrecktangle Pizza make for a pretty killer spread.
In the Prospect Park neighborhood near the University of Minnesota, you'll find The Market at Malcolm Yards. A few favorites include Joey's Meatballs, Del Sur Empanadas, Abang Yoli, and Momo Dosa. Grab a drink at the self-pour tap wall or head across the street to Surly's Beer Hall.
Eat, then shop at Midtown Global Market which offers local favorite restaurant chains like Los Ocampos and Slice Pizza as well as a marketplace of uniquely curated goods from places all over the globe. Attached is Eastlake Craft Brewery where you can take a break, grab a craft beer, lounge around the taproom or on the outdoor patio.
The newest addition to the food hall scene in Minneapolis is Eat Street Crossing. From ice cream to sushi and tea to whisky, you'll find nothing but unique flavor profiles here. Ramen Shoten is serving up creamy, brothy noodles, Sushi Dori has "Sushi Sandos" (AKA sushi sandwiches), Bebe Zito serves both burgers and ice cream, Ouro Pizzaria provides Brazilian-style pizza, and Chatime is on site with their signature bubble tea.
If you're visiting a Minneapolis resident, there's a high chance that they're going to take you for a Jucy Lucy at Matt's Bar. This neighborhood spot has been serving up cheese-filled burgers since the 1950s and is loved by locals.
South of downtown, a roughly 10-block strip of Nicollet Avenue has been designated “Eat Street,” and for good reason. You can read about Eat Street in greater detail, but here’s a quick sampling of what’s available:
- Christos – Voted “best Greek restaurant” by Mpls. St. Paul magazine in 2017, come here for a wedge of moussaka or precision-sliced, tender gyros.
- My Huong Kitchen – Just one of several places offering excellent, bargain-priced Vietnamese cuisine.
- Rainbow Chinese Restaurant and Bar – Skillfully prepared, upscale Chinese food.
- Harry Singh’s – Courageously spicy Caribbean food, inspired by loving island grandmas.
A relative new-comer, Animales Barbecue Company is located on the patio at Bauhaus Brew Labs and is cooking up pork pastrami sandwiches, sausages, birra tacos, ribs, burgers, and more every Wednesday through Saturday (they are closed during the winter). The most popular menu items tend to sell out, so grab your beers and bites early, and enjoy the evening from the picnic tables. If BBQ isn't speaking to you, head to nearby Centro, a vibrant restaurant serving up fast-casual Mexican food and excellent margaritas.
A short drive east of downtown, clustered around the intersection of Cedar-Riverside, are several more inexpensive, authentic international options. If you find yourself in the area, look out for Dilla’s Ethiopian Restaurant, which gets high marks for affordability, authenticity and their combination platters; Tamu Grill a Kenyan restaurant offering flavorful dishes from Kenya and other parts of Africa; and the grab-n-go, hole-in-the-wall Mediterranean Deli, serving falafel, sambusas, lamb gyros, and a few West African dishes.
Downtown’s most (in)famous spot for food and drinks is Hell's Kitchen, an eclectically decorated basement joint serving “damn good food” all day. They're most well-known for their wild rice porridge, lemon ricotta hotcakes, and homemade peanut butter sold in jars you can take home.
Kramarczuk’s, near St. Anthony Main, specializes in freshly made Eastern European specialties including sausages, breads, pastries and cakes. Grab something from their market and have a picnic in a nearby park, or stop into the restaurant for a fabulous meal. This is where the locals go when they’re looking for some good sausage! Another great spot for picnic supplies is Clancey's Meat & Fish in south Minneapolis. Pick up one of their famous sandwiches, shop the deli and butcher shop, or eat in their new restaurant.
Restaurants with Great Ambiance and Excellent Food
Khâluna, named one of Eater's 2022 'Best New Restaurants' in America, is a Laotian-style destination that offers elevated tropical style on the plates, in cocktails, and throughout the interior of the restaurant. Abundant greenery, beachy textures, oversized domed lighting that radiates a lush, warming glow throughout the restaurant, and vibrant, colorful plates accented by edible flowers and herbs — every detail of this Southwest Minneapolis gem will transport you from Minneapolis to the coastal spa resorts Southeast Asia.
In a former gas station in the Armitage neighborhood in south Minneapolis you’ll find Colita — a Tex-Oaxacan restaurant from celebrated chef Daniel del Prado. The desert vibes, living wall behind the bar, and beautiful cocktails and food exudes cool vibes. Everything on the menu is fantastic, but save room for the churros, complete with dulce de leche, cinnamon sugar, and dulce cream.
Barbette is a French-style bistro that serves up locally-sourced food, a great wine list, and some of the best fries in the city. One of the coziest spots in Minneapolis, Barbette has an eclectic collection of art, dim lighting, and food that will feed your soul. If you find yourself in Linden Hills, Tilia has a similar atmosphere and equally good fries.
Picture a sunlight-filled airplane hanger-esque former factory space in Northeast Minneapolis. Now imagine all 18,000 square feet of it filled floor to ceiling with shelves of plants and colorful murals. Then plop yourself on a cozy vintage couch or beachy wicker chair and summon a tropical cocktail or mocktail made with house made spirits, mixers, elixirs, and syrups in your hand. That’s the vibe of Earl Giles, and yes, it’s as cool and transporting as it sounds.
A visit to this Northeast Minneapolis' James Beard nominated Southeast Asian destination, Hai Hai, is always a good idea. The wallpaper, lighting, cocktails, and variety of Southeast Asian cuisine (stand outs include Balinese chicken thighs, Vietnamese egg rolls, Philippian-inspired pork ribs adobo) come together to create an upscale tropical vibe.
Foods you should know—a Minnesota primer
Walleye is a freshwater fish with white flesh similar to halibut and we love it here. The overall flavor is thick, sweet and mild, making it ideal for a wide variety of inventive preparations. Accordingly, many local chefs include their signature walleye dish on their menus. We love FireLake Grill House at the Mall of America for their wild rice-crusted walleye and walleye fritters.
A Jucy Lucy (A.K.A. “Juicy Lucy”) is both a wondrous style of hamburger preparation and point of contention among Twin Citizens. The burger is prepared by pinching two thin patties together around a hunk of cheese, creating a somewhat dangerous molten center when grilled. (Give your Lucy a few minutes to cool off before biting into it or your food tour of Minneapolis will be drastically altered—or ruined.)
Two local bars have been feuding about who invented the Lucy since the 1950s: Matt’s Bar (of the infamous “Jucy” spelling) and the 5-8 Club, both located on Cedar Avenue in South Minneapolis. Now a signature Minneapolis food experience, featured on pretty much every cable TV food show that comes to town, other restaurants have gentrified the Lucy with imaginative beef and cheese center combos. Some of our favorite creative combos come from Blue Door Pub (try the Jiffy...just do it) and The Nook.
Lutefisk is a traditional dish in some Nordic countries, which has famously enjoyed a rebirth in Minnesota. It’s made from whitefish (usually cod), which is soaked in lye and water for days. The result is a gelatinous, foul-smelling glob that is not agreeable to most palates, to put it gently. Andrew Zimmern, host of the popular traveling food show Bizarre Foods and long-time Twin Cities resident, has declared it to be “one of the worst foods in the world,” which is really saying something.
Lutefisk is generally only available around the holidays, served in the basements of Lutheran churches and fraternal lodges. Its main consumer demographics are elderly people of Scandinavian descent, though presumably there’s a small element of people eating it on an alcohol-fueled dare. You’re unlikely to encounter lutefisk (on purpose) during your visit to the Twin Cities, but this dish is a frequent punchline for locals, so it helps to know this context.
Our Scandinavian roots can be seen through our food! Lefse (pronounced lef-sah) is a labor-intensive, soft flatbread, made with potatoes, flour, butter, and milk (or cream). It’s usually served with butter, with some people adding sugar, jelly or lingonberries. It’s also mainly served around the holidays. Pickled herring is a fish typically preserved using vinegar, salt, sugar, and a variety of spices. It's often served with some type of bread or cracker, sour cream, and potatoes. Gravalax is thinly sliced seasoned raw salmon, typically served with a dill and mustard sauce and capers. It's most often eaten with crispy bread.
Are we making you hungry? If you're looking to try authentic Scandinavian food for yourself, we've got some options. For delicious breads, sausages and cheeses, and Scandinavian gifts, head to Ingebretsen’s.
You know it as casserole, but in Minnesota we call it hot dish. It usually contains meat (ground beef or tuna are most common), vegetables, some kind of starch (hash browns, tater tots, etc) and canned soup. Some of our favorite tater tot hot dishes can be found at The Bulldog and The Mason Jar.
Cheese curds are another favorite comfort food around here. Often found as an appetizer or side dish, cheese curds are a must in Minnesota. Nothing really pairs better with a beer than a deep fried cheese. One of our favorite renditions is from Red Cow (their berry ketchup is amazing!)
Minnesota’s wild rice has grown to a degree of fame with cooks that you may have already eaten it in your home state. It’s taste and versatility has made it into something of a delicacy, popularly served as a bed for other ingredients or in soups. A few of our favorite dishes are the wild rice pancakes from Half Fancy and the wild rice porridge from Hell’s Kitchen.