Best Restaurants

50 Best Restaurants

The essential guide to eating in the Twin Cities right now. Dig in.

Bachelor Farmer tabletop
Photo by Eliesa Johnson

112 Eatery

Isaac Becker's original solo effort is still the object of foodists affection, probably because it stays open late and treats a cheeseburger like royalty, and manages to make foie gras meatballs feel like a revelation every time you order them. And after all these years, it's become the kind of place it once subverted: an institution. 112 N. 3rd St., Mpls., 612-343-7696, 112eatery.com

Alma

Alex Roberts, one of the Twin Cities’ James Beard Award winners, continues to keep his eye on the ball at Alma. This humble 14-year-old restaurant remains one of the best, most grownup and easy-going places in town; it’s a spot where you can have a conversation and take in a satisfying tasting menu of seasonal, local, intelligent, and creative plates. Dishes such as fregola and clams with grilled shrimp, fennel broth, and aioli just seem intuitive and focused on the eater. 528 University Ave. SE, Mpls., 612-379-4909, restaurantalma.com

The Bachelor Farmer

Three years after it opened, The Bachelor Farmer is still a coveted reservation. And while the restaurant's Nordic sensibilities are still apparent on the menu, they've become less conspicuous as chef Paul Berglund settles into that easy relationship with eaters, one based on trust and consistency over flash and fad. 50 2nd Ave. N., Mpls., 612-206-3920, thebachelorfarmer.com

Barbette

Chef Sarah Master has long been a quiet force in the restaurant industry, but lately she’s come into her own. Uptown’s go-to French eatery can always be counted on for spectacular oeufs, top-notch fries, and a few great glasses of bubbles, but lately there’s a spark to the cooking—consider the current rendition of the duck cassoulet—that has brought a freshness to the old bohemian space. 1600 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-827-5710, barbette.com

Be'Wiched

The lunch set of the North Loop has long counted on this kitchen to get them through the day—no one can equal Be’wiched soups and house-smoked meats. But it’s the fringe elements that deliver the greatest rewards. The brioche French toast and other weekend brunch specials (hello, cheddar brisket tamale with eggs and mole sauce) are showstoppers. More good news: Full dinner service, with dishes such as artichoke quesadillas, a seafood footlong, and a turducken burger, is imminent, which might just give the lunch crowd a reason to stay out past dark. 800 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-767-4330, bewicheddeli.com

Bar La Grassa

One might have thought that the BLG crowd would automatically migrate to Burch, Isaac Becker’s new joint in Lowry Hill. They didn’t, and for good reason. How could you leave behind this North Loop staple, the place that makes you feel warmly welcome and special? And how could you leave perfect blue marlin crudo, hearty mushroom and taleggio agnolotti, and perhaps the only really true bucatini with Bolognese in town? 800 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-333-3837, barlagrassa.com

Birchwood CafeThe Birchwood Cafe

Relax in the vibe of this artful, simple café. Chef Marshall Paulsen’s vibrant menu matches the welcoming scene, from the seasonal savory waffles (fresh corn-studded cornmeal beauties in August; kale, kernza, and fontina in January) to the burger or the tempeh tacos. 3311 E. 25th St., Mpls., 612-722-4474, birchwoodcafe.com

Blue Door Pub

Burgers inspire passionate debate around these parts; Minnesotans are simply mad about their favorites. Maybe that’s why we picked BDP for this list, because it also seems simply mad about burgers. Even if you don’t normally go in for a Lucy-style burger, you’ll be tempted by BDP’s creative versions, such as its special homage to the Big Mac, in which white American cheese oozes forth under a mantle of special sauce and chopped house pickles. 1811 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-493-1865, thebluedoorpubmn.com

Brasa

Brasa makes you wish you’d grown up with chef-owner Alex Roberts. The casual eatery is an homage to his childhood traditions and his mom’s home cooking: a warm blend of Creole, Southern, and Caribbean dishes. Sure, you can find pulled pork or braised beef all over town. But only at Brasa can you get it from a James Beard Award-winning chef who balances flawless execution and phenomenal sourcing with an intuitive sense of comfort and soul satisfaction. 600 Hennepin Ave. E., Mpls., 612-379-3030; 777 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-224-1302, brasa.us
Lobster at Borough

Borough/Parlour

In the hottest neighborhood in Minneapolis, this is the hottest spot. Upstairs at Borough, a kitchen run by multiple chefs kicks out playful and exciting plates in a space that defines rustic warehouse chic. Downstairs, Parlour is a laid-back lounge where the pros behind the bar crraft some of the best bozy-wonderful cocktails in town, and where the burger—a veritable spectacle of meat, pickles, and cheese—sets a new standard of snacking. 730 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-354-3135, boroughmpls.com

Broders'

The three Broders’ destinations deserve to be seen as a whole, committed as they all are to the same high standards of quality and authenticity. The Pasta Bar dishes up freshly made ravioli to an always waiting crowd, the Cucina stocks the best ingredients from Italy alongside unfussy meals to grab and go, and now Terzo Vino Bar provides a place to hang out over a glass of Chianti from a well-curated list, all while snacking on modern but modest plates. Longevity itself is rare in the restaurant business, but after 30 years, the Broder family has successfully passed the baton to the next generation, assuring us that they’ll be feeding us for years to come. Pasta Bar, 5000 Penn Ave. S., Mpls., 612-925-9202; Cucina, 2308 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-925-3113; Terzo, 2221 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-925-0330, broders.com

Burch Steakhouse and Pizza Bar

James Beard Award–winning chef Isaac Becker did nothing short of redefine the modern steak house with the opening of Burch. The space is startlingly chic—no bulls or cowhide to be found here—and the menu is so versatile that even vegetarians can leave happy. Besides high-quality steaks (which thoughtfully come in a variety of sizes), there are accomplished dumplings, uniquely crafted seafood plates that go way beyond the standard, and wood-fired pizzas that are given as much attention as anything else. 1933 Colfax Ave. S., Mpls., 612-843-1515, burchrestaurant.com

Butcher & the Boar

There’s no denying the crazy hotness of B&TB. It certainly hits the Minnesota dining sweet spot: lots of wood-fire smoke aromas to lure you in, a menu chock-full of sausages and meat, and a beer garden that defiantly stays open all winter long. Plus there’s the opportunity to splurge on a beef long rib or hang loose with a wicked footlong hot dog and a flight of wheated bourbon, all depending on your wallet or whim. 1121 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-238-8888, butcherandtheboar.com

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Corner Table

Dinner with new friends? Trying to impress an out-of-town foodie or a picky in-law? Go to Corner Table. Since buying the tiny south Minneapolis restaurant two years ago, Nick and Chenny Rancone have quietly made it shine. It helps that one of them is always working the room, and that Thomas Boemer is an exceptional chef.  How do you not order the housemade bologna sandwich topped with a fried egg? Or the crispy pork belly served over pickled cabbage? Perfect food. Excellent service. Trust me, the in-laws will thank you. 4257 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-823-0011, cornertablerestaurant.com

Cossetta

A major renovation has allowed Cossetta to become a mini-Italian empire of the east side, a place where many (many, many) parts have finally come together to make a rather magical whole—something you truly have to see to believe. There’s the market, the bakery, the pasticceria (with its Wonka-esque supply of pastries and sweets), the cafeteria, and a full-service rooftop restaurant where the good vibes flow as freely as the wine. 211 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-222-3476, cossettas.com

Dakota

If you don’t like to listen to live music while you eat, you might have written off the Dakota. That would be a mistake. Besides lunches that are leagues above what you’ll find in the skyway, there’s a glorious patio in the warmer months where you can sample from one of the best happy hour menus in town. Then there’s dinner in the side room, which allows the best of both worlds: a little music and your duroc pork belly and day boat scallops too. 1010 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-332-1010, dakotacooks.com

El Burrito Mercado

It may not be fancy, but this multi-generational family-owned empire has become an icon of authentic Mexican fare in the Twin Cities. In the market, El Burrito has seemingly limitless versions of its salsa, legendary house tamales, and a house-butchered meat section that would make any charcuterie guy blush. And at the full-service restaurant in St. Paul, there’s a mean margarita to wash down your sopes, pozole verde soup, cochinito pibil, or menudo (if you dare). Midtown Global Market, Mpls., 612-227-2192; 175 Cesar Chavez St., St. Paul, 651-227-2192, elburritomercado.com

The Gray House

As the heart of Uptown becomes increasingly populated by beer bars and rooftops, something interesting is happening a few blocks to the east. The kind of independent, rough-hewn restaurants that used to open at Lake and Hennepin have begun to migrate to Lyn-Lake. The small and intimate Gray House epitomizes the trend, serving as a lab for young chef Ian Gray while he cooks freshly made pastas and killer goat meatballs for a quieter crowd. But if the restaurant seems more mature and focused than others in its zip code, it’s not at the cost of its edginess or creativity. 610 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-4338, thegrayhouseeats.com

HauteDish's Landon SchoenefeldHauteDish

While you weren’t looking, the bad boy of the Twin Cities’ culinary scene settled down and got serious (but not too serious). Four years after it opened, Landon Schoenefeld’s HauteDish is clicking on all levels. The bar menu features the undeniably gorgeous Flavor Country Burger; pretzel rolls and housemade Cheez Whiz; duck jerky; and a carrot hot dog that will flip your frankfurter-loving lid. The dinner menu offers mind-bending thrills such as meatloaf-in-a-can, and brunch has become a standard-setter in the North Loop. 119 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-338-8484, haute-dish.com

Heartland

There are certain special places in town where you take visitors from the coasts to say, “see!” Lenny Russo’s Heartland is that place, a singular spot reminding us that we live and eat in one of the most bountiful regions anywhere. With his love of Midwest ingredients, his loyalty and support of local farmers, his outspoken and boundary-pushing ways, and—above all—his thoughtful cooking, Russo is a New York native who has truly become one of us. 289 E. 5th St., St. Paul, 651-699-3536, heartlandrestaurant.com

Grand Szechuan

The food at Grand Szechuan is some of the most authentic fare to be found in the Twin Cities, particularly when it comes to the restaurant’s extensive selection of Szechuan specialties. And while nose-to-tail cooking has become au courant in recent years, the wok stars in the kitchen at Grand Szechuan have been serving up tripe, tendon, kidney, belly, and ears for years. 10602 France Ave. S., Bloomington, 952-888-6507, grandszechuanmn.com

Icehouse

The unassuming (for Eat Street, anyway) Icehouse has become one of the best live music and food destinations around, with a space that’s warehouse revival and a cocktail menu that’s inventive and fashionable, in a neighborhood that has upped the ante on booze. Eating here is both playful and nostalgic: The burger topped with foie gras is lush and gratifying, the buttermilk fried chicken with bacon-cornmeal waffle is a post-cocktailing dream, and the mushroom pot pie with creamy taleggio cheese is one of the best new expressions of meatless cooking around. And, oh yeah, there’s great music too. 2528 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-276-6523, icehousempls.com

Jax Cafe

There’s something comforting about a restaurant that doesn’t change to fit trends or cater to the crowd of buzz seekers. Jax keeps it honest and old-school, from the vested barmen to the famous crab rolls and pierogi. It’s not a concept; it’s a tradition of hospitality, one designed to make you feel special in the simplest ways. 1928 University Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-789-7297, jaxcafe.com

The Kenwood

Despite its off-the-beaten-path location, in a space that has seen more than a few tenants come and go, Don Saunders’s eatery has defied the odds to become the quintessential neighborhood restaurant. The loyal following is due in no small part to Saunders’s eggs en cocotte and brunch menu burger. At night, the room feels like a neighborhood dinner party, with people greeting each other over unexpected plates such as the hearty wild boar papardelle. 2115 W. 21st St., Mpls., 612-377-3695, thekenwoodrestaurant.com

La Belle Vie MinneapolisLa Belle Vie

It’s a powerhouse at the height of its powers, the best restaurant between Chicago and the West Coast. And it’s not just because of the food, which is at once delicate, lilting, and vigorous. La Belle Vie has turned into one of those spots where the sum is much greater than the parts, and that’s due to the team, a core group that has been working together for 16 years or more. Stability and longevity are not much celebrated in restaurant culture, but it’s the combination of people working in concert at La Belle Vie that makes it such an impeccable joy. 510 Groveland Ave., Mpls., 612-874-6440, labellevie.us

The Lynn on Bryant

When you’re looking for an under-the-radar gem, go directly here. Chef-owner Peter Ireland’s cooking is spot-on, blending a bit of whimsy with exacting French technique, even while he manages to keep the restaurant neighborhood-humble. Even so, Ireland’s most remarkable, if unexpected feat, might just be creating a gluten-free muffin that tastes like a sinister plot against anyone on a Paleo diet. 5003 Bryant Ave. S., Mpls., 612-767-7797, thelynnonbryant.com

Lucia's Restaurant

There are certain restaurants that are woven into the fabric of our dining culture. In Minneapolis, Lucia's is one of those places. It feeds our souls with freshly prepared, simple food, serving as a reminder of how elemental seasonal cooking is to us. 1432 W. 31st St., Mpls., 612-825-1572, lucias.com

Mandarin Kitchen

Mandarin offers the most authentic dim sum brunch in town. While other places rely on frozen products and shortcuts, Mandarin’s carts ply eaters with fresh-from-the-kitchen clams in black bean sauce, barbecued pork buns, housemade dumplings, and a hundred other things that come from family recipes and a tradition of quality. 8766 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 952-884-5356, mandarin-kitchen.com
Manny's Steak

Manny’s

A place with such inherent swagger seems like it would flame out, but Manny’s remains the go-to choice in town for a serious hunk of steak. The cuts are solid and cooked deftly to your preferred temp, a feat that is rarer (sorry, couldn’t resist) than one might expect. But what really sets Manny’s apart is the wise and wily staff. True professionals who are known around town by their nicknames (how can you not love guys who go by Jocko, Bags, Vinny, and Vegas?), they know when to amp up their attentiveness and when to dial it back, offering a level of service that catapults this house of hedonism to the top. 825 Marquette Ave. S., Mpls., 612-339-9900, mannyssteakhouse.com

Marla's Caribbean Cuisine

Marla's may just be better than half the well-known white-tablecloth restaurants in town. The food is honest and well-prepared, unique and wholesome, and the entire experience envelops you in a warm embrace of hospitality. Marla wants you to be happy when you are under her roof—and with one nibble of her roti, you will be. 3761 Bloomington Ave., Mpls., 612-724-3088, marlascuisine.com

Meritage

Desta and Russell Klein have carved out something special in the heart of downtown St. Paul, cultivating a crowd of loyalists who pack their tables nightly—some of whom even drive across the river (gasp!) to do so. Not that it’s a surprise, what with all the fresh and varied oysters in the raw bar, the winning cocktails, and the familiar yet modern French cooking, which finds a way into your heart with plates such as pot-au-feu, duck fat–poached sturgeon, and the refined-rustic cassoulet. 410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-222-5670, meritage-stpaul.com

Ngon Bistro

There might not be a better place on the planet than Minnesota to score a warm and inviting bowl of pho, thanks to our many immigrant Vietnamese cooks. And going to Ngon might be the best way to prove the theory, what with its steaming bowls made from local ingredients, redolent with fresh herbs that—even amid the darkest days of winter—will remind you there is something called “summer” around these parts. The bonus of Ngon is the space, inviting and warmly lit with bright yellow walls. Coupled with a new cocktail program at the bar, the atmosphere has made getting a bowl of pho at Ngon a complete experience, a bucket-list candidate for any serious Minnesota eater. 799 University Ave. W., St. Paul, 651-222-3301, ngonbistro.com

On’s Thai Kitchen

If you need glam and glitz and actual, you know, décor, this might not be the place for you. Don’t let the humble surroundings fool you, though. From simple spring rolls loaded with pork and cilantro to authentic, hard-to-find dishes such as the fish-intestine soup Ka-Paow-Pa, the scratch cooking and attention to detail at On’s has made it home to some of the most vibrant meals in town. 1613 University Ave. W., St. Paul, 651-644-1444, onskitchen.com

Piccolo

Dining at Doug Flicker’s Piccolo can feel like a bit of a group project. You have to work with your companions to assemble your best possible meal from a menu of seductive and tantalizing small dishes. Agreements are made, deals are brokered, negotiations hashed out. Your reward for all this work, though: a perfect bite of something unexpected, something that opens your eyes wide, like maybe the short ribs with molasses and apples or an oxtail terrine with beets and smoked bone marrow. 4300 Bryant Ave. S., Mpls., 612-827-8111, piccolompls.com

Pizzeria Lola

If there truly is a pizza revolution going on in town (and there is), the rebel queen of the new world order has to be Pizzeria Lola’s Ann Kim. She’s already broken boundaries with her kimchi-laden Lady ZaZa pizza, while also managing to satisfy countless fans with standard pies like the Sweet Italian. And if you’re lucky enough to score a seat at Lola on a day when the special is Smokey the Pig (bacon, cream, cheese, and smoked onions drizzled with maple syrup), you’ll understand why living in Queen Ann’s world might not be such a bad thing. 5557 Xerxes Ave. S., Mpls., 612-424-8338, pizzerialola.com
Drinks at Saffron Minneapolis

Saffron

In the land of burgers, steaks, and starch galore, Sameh Wadi’s polished plates of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking are a welcome respite. Whether it’s the exotic spiced roasted chicken, a whole roasted branzini, or a fragrant and thrilling duck meatball tagine, Saffron’s menu has the ability to knock you out of any dining rut. And now that the bar program has evolved under mixologist Robb Jones, there’s no reason not to give this a permanent place on your regular night-out rotation. 123 N. 3rd St., Mpls., 612-746-5533, saffronmpls.com

Sanctuary

Most of the chefs in the Twin Cities share similar influences (echoes of the long-gone D’Amico Cucina are everywhere) and an affinity for similar ingredients. Then there’s Sanctuary’s Patrick Atanalian, who—near as we can tell—pretty much does whatever the hell he wants. Good thing he’s brilliant at it and has been since he led the Loring Café all those years ago. Nowhere but Sanctuary, after all, will you find chocolate-covered pretzels with smoked salmon or Alaskan crabmeat matzo balls, which sound awful but actually taste good. 903 Washington Ave. S., Mpls., 612-339-5058, sanctuaryminneapolis.com

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Sea Change

National food writers have thrown Sea Change chef de cuisine Jamie Malone all sorts of love, and for good reason. She understands the inherent beauty of seafood’s flavor, creating plates that allow the fish to be the star (without gobbing it up with too many extraneous ingredients or sauces). Nowhere is her deft touch more evident than with Sea Change’s recently launched omakase program—essentially a chef-guided meal in which Malone creates 10 courses that are geared toward the diner’s personal tastes, a palate-expanding way to experience seafood at its most elemental level. 806 S. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-225-6499, seachangempls.com

Sea Salt

Despite the fact that it’s located inside a seasonal shelter in a public park, Sea Salt’s place on this list is well deserved. Why? Let us count the ways: because it brings fresh, awesome seafood into daily life; because it injects a little gulf-coast gusto—think crawfish po’boys—into our buttoned-up culture; and because, each spring, its opening is one of those things that makes the long winter a little easier to forget. We love Sea Salt for all that and more (like the fact that the owners could default to lower-grade fish to better churn and burn through the waiting masses, but they don’t). And so do all those who stand in those lines each and every warm day it’s open. 4801 Minnehaha Ave. S., Mpls., 612-721-8990, seasalteatery.wordpress.com

Smack Shack

With its hurricane cocktails, lobster boils, and a now legendary lobster roll, Smack Shack has become the rollicking fish shack we didn't even know we were missing. The North Loop hot spot threw one of the best street fests last summer, and there's no sign the party is going to stop anytime soon. 603 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-259-7288, smack-shack.com

Spoonriver

It’s no secret that Spoonriver owner Brenda Langton helped pioneer the farm-to-table movement with Café Brenda—she’s always been a bit ahead of the curve (the current fascination with vegetables as sexy medium must make her laugh). Yet Spoonriver feels like a place that exists outside the hype people often ascribe to the locavore movement. It is a well-rounded and accomplished eatery, celebrating both flora and fauna with honest food that’s fresh and modern. 750 S. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-436-2236, spoonriver.com

The Strip Club

It seems fitting that The Strip Club sits just outside of St. Paul’s downtown, because the guys running it are a bit just outside of the norm. Name another top-tier restaurant where the owner waits tables or where they offer a knock-your-socks-off cocktail program and carefully prepared grass-fed beef in a setting that’s as convivial as a great neighborhood bar. 378 Maria Ave., St. Paul, 651-793-6247, domeats.com

Sushi Fix

Sushi has become such a commodity that better-than-average sushi joints can be found in strip malls across our great land (never mind the stuff you find in the supermarket). So it sometimes feels like gold when you find something a bit above the blur. Sushi Fix is that and more; the ebullient chef-owner Billy (first name only, like Cher) serves ultra-fresh fish (he gets deliveries six times a week) while curating a sake list that rivals anything within a day’s drive. 862 E. Lake St., Wayzata, 952-473-1364, sushifix.net

Modern Cafe

Owner Jim Grell has never been afraid of handing over the reins to the Modern, and more than a few amazing chefs have earned their chops there. With Taelyn Lang now helming the kitchen of the Nordeast comfort food emporium, the place has a new spark, one with a predilection for subtle flavors and simpler recipes that fit Grell’s long-standing commitment to fresh and local food. 337 13th Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-378-9882, moderncafeminneapolis.com

Tilia

We loved Tilia when it opened three years ago. We love it even more now that it has settled into its groove. If the buzz about wait time scared you off before, now is a great time to head back to Linden Hills, where Steven Brown’s cadre of cooks has had more time to flourish under his tutelage. 2726 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-354-2806, tiliampls.com

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Victory 44

Simple and exciting, unexpected and comforting: A team of cooks carefully and casually create dishes that can take anyone's breath away in their just-so state. 2203 44th Ave. N., Mpls., 612-588-2228, victory-44.com

Vincent a Restaurant

French cooking may be all about butter, but Vincent Francoual, who has been cooking at his eponymous place on Nicollet Mall for nearly 14 years now, understands the beauty of balance (not many other French chefs are also triathletes). You can certainly find continental richness in the restaurant’s roasted bone marrow and buttery escargot, but you can also find a quinoa “meatball” with Swiss chard. Rules are not really what Vincent is about—and that’s what makes it great. Francoual is rooted in tradition but unafraid to push modern boundaries. 1100 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-630-1189, vincentarestaurant.com

W.A. Frost

Here’s what most people think they know about Frost: nice patio (for when it’s warm outside) and cozy fireplaces (for when it’s cold). Here’s what most people don’t know: It has a great basement lounge (just like all the cool newcomers) with barrel-aged cocktails, house bitters, and an impressive offering of whiskey flights. And its menu offers unexpected dishes such as pastrami-cured salmon, Korean-barbecued wings, or braised pork cheeks. Frost is one of those tried-and-true old standards that’s probably a lot fresher than you think. 374 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 612-224-5715, wafrost.com

World Street Kitchen

A menu full of global mashups can often be cause for concern; it usually means the owners are simply trying to jump on the latest fad. Not at World Street Kitchen, where a rock ’n’ roll ethos has led to a Middle Eastern chef putting out Bangkok burritos stuffed with curried chicken or Korean short ribs. At WSK, it seems like a no-brainer to find the Yum Yum bowl (a bit of a riff on bibimbap) alongside a stuffed falafel burger and lemongrass meatball lettuce wraps. Most amazingly: It all works, because the cooking is from-scratch, the ingredients are top quality, and the vibe is good fun. 2743 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-424-8855, eatwsk.com


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