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Road trips for food-lovers: Minneapolis and St. Paul

The Twin Cities dining scene blends hyperlocal ingredients with global and high-end influences. Here's where to eat and drink on your next visit to Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Fika is one of our picks for a Minneapolis-St. Paul road trip.

Minnesota’s heritage might be wrapped up in hot dish and lutefisk, but the Twin Cities’ culinary scene is challenging tradition. Now, there are pop-up restaurants serving foie gras–topped handmade hot dogs and buckets of chicken alongside $100 bottles of Champagne. Hyper-locality is key, as restaurants are sourcing produce from their own rooftop gardens, and cold-pressed raw juice bars are using apple varieties developed at the University of Minnesota. And there are global influences, like Korean and Ethiopian. Whether you’re coming for a long weekend or just stopping through, we’ve mapped out the key places to eat in Minneapolis and St. Paul right now.

RECOMMENDED: Weekend getaways from Chicago

Breakfast & Brunch

Anyone looking for a buttermilk stack, bottomless cup of coffee and crispy bacon wake up call should hit the super-affordable and under-the-radar Neighborhood Cafe(1570 Selby Ave, St. Paul). Get the migas, served with cornmeal griddle cakes, or the outstanding Cajun breakfast if you want to blend in with the regulars.

Hoping for more of a sceney vibe? Snag a booth or belly up to the bar at The Mill NE (1851 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis), the recently revived restaurant where a hybrid pastry dubbed the biscone (a cross between a flaky biscuit and a crumbly savory scone, served with jam or sausage gravy) and the wild rice pancakes have developed a cult following.

If you happen to visit on a weekend, do brunch at Lucia’s(1432 W 31st St, Minneapolis) near the beautiful and always-bustling Lake Calhoun. The sunny, European-style cafe and wine bar has been making simple farm-to-table food for nearly 30 years, racking up a number of awards along the way and carving out a lasting place in the Minneapolis food landscape. Indulge in housemade mini popovers with rhubarb jam to start, share a salad with heirloom radishes, manchego and fava beans for something vegetal, and be sure to get crispy, creamy oven-roasted potatoes as a side to a French omelet with organic chicken sausage or a frittata with spring asparagus and Gruyere.

Wake up on the other side of the river? Hit up the Strip Club Meat & Fish (378 Maria Ave, St. Paul) on St. Paul’s east side for cheeky, hearty brunch fare. Fans of mixing sweet and savory should order the Logger’s Tower, layers of pancakes, grilled ham and fried eggs with scallions and herbs. The team behind the bar makes their own tonic, uses lots of locally made bitters, and mixes some of the most potent brunch cocktails in town, so plan to have your eye-opener here.

Lunch

Midday calls for something spicy. Make your way to the Midtown Global Market, an indoor bazaar of food stalls, bakeries, grocery and retail, and allow yourself to fall down the Rabbit Hole(920 E Lake St, Minneapolis), a whimsical wonderland of Korean soul food. The menu is a little shorter at lunchtime, but you can still get bulgogi, bibimbap, 21-spice fried chicken, sweet potato noodles, or one of their super-stacked burgers, topped with everything from crispy pork belly to pickled watermelon rind and kimchi aioli. Sandwiches of all sorts—the soft shell crab salad one is worth a repeat visit alone—are served on beautifully blistered brioche buns made by a neighbor, the James Beard Award-winning bakery Salty Tart.

If you're in the mood for meat, or need to accommodate a gluten-free diner without sacrificing the fun for everyone else, get yourself to the nearest location of Brasa(600 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis or 777 Grand Ave, St. Paul), a casual spot serving Creole and Caribbean food. Pick a protein from slow-roasted Berkshire pork, smoked grass-fed beef, or dry-rubbed chicken and then select a slew of sides to share. You can't really go wrong here, but the crispy yucca fries, yams with Andouille sausage and collards with smoked turkey are standouts. 

Dinner

You'd be remiss to come to the land of the Vikings and not experience Minnesota's version of new Nordic cuisine. Fika(2600 Park Ave, Minneapolis), the charming cafe at the American Swedish Institute, is great for a smorgasbord lunch or a cardamom bun, but if you really want the presidential treatment make dinner reservations at the spare and serene Bachelor Farmer(50 2nd Ave S., Minneapolis). It's where Obama ate when he visited Minneapolis in 2013 and where chef Paul Berglund is making a name for himself, whipping up confident dishes like beef tartare with fermented sunchokes and cashew milk; Wieninleike, a Finnish pork schnitzel, on a bed of buttery confit turnips; and pristine parchment-baked seafood. Their attached Marvel Bar really lives up to its name, serving everything from electric blue Scotch-based cocktails and big silver bowls filled with old-fashioned rum punch.

Butcher & the Boar(1121 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis), situated just outside the downtown theater district, exemplifies the new interpretation of the Midwestern steakhouse. Chef and owner Jack Riebel garnered lots of attention with his robust meat and bourbon-focused menu, especially the house-made sausages, rustic charcuterie including turkey braunschweiger on milk stout toast, and Flintstone-sized cuts of chops and ribs.

Drinking

Top off your evening with an inventive nightcap at the undeniably cool Icehouse(2528 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis) a bar, eatery and music venue all rolled into one on restaurant-packed Eat Street. Though lavishly garnished signatures like their Bloody Homer, a saucy Bloody Mary topped with a bacon-glazed mini donut, are the most popular orders, Icehouse is really a destination for the whiskey drinker. Their Robert Mitchum collection showcases a whole range of hard-to-find American whiskeys.

And there's great news for craft beer fans: The combination of new legislation allowing brewery taprooms to serve and sell beer on site and the huge uptick in homebrewing has created an ideal breeding ground for niche and small batch brewing outfits around these parts. The Twin Cities now touts about three dozen craft breweries, including one entirely gluten-free operation (Burning Brothers Brewery), a small taproom that focuses on reviving uncommon styles (Bent Brewstillery) and the area's first dedicated hard cider house (Sociable Cider Werks). Beer lovers will appreciate the insane selection at the Happy Gnome(498 Selby Ave, St. Paul). In warmer weather the ample patio, decked out with twinkling lights and an outdoor fireplace, is the place to meet and mingle.

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