An Eater’s Guide to the Twin Cities

An Eater’s Guide to the Twin Cities

The Mississippi River runs between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Image: Shutterstock

Unofficial, highly opinionated information about Minneapolis and St. Paul

Eater Twin CIties: Cheese-stuffed burgers, basement speakeasies, and aromatic bowls of pho — these are just some of the pillars of the Twin Cities food scene. This is the homeland of the Dakota and the Ojibwe, where wild rice grows on the lakes, becoming infused with the water’s woody taste — and where generations of newcomers have introduced lefse, sambusas, heirloom corn tortillas, Hmong sausage, candied yams and fried chicken, and fragrant injera platters. This is a guide for navigating the Cities’ vibrant, ever-evolving food scene.

The Mini Apple or the Saintly City — which to choose? (St. Paul’s original name was actually “Pig’s Eye” — monikers have vastly improved.)  Minneapolis is a little edgier: This is the heart of the Cities’ music scene, where Prince performed legendary shows at First Avenue, and where Lizzo had her come up. There are stars of equal measure in Minneapolis’s restaurant world: Chef Sean Sherman recently earned two James Beard nominations for his full-service Indigenous restaurant Owamni, which serves a decolonized menu (think venison tartare and seaweed sorbet instead of beef, milk, flour, and white sugar) near St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River — or, in the Dakota language, Owámniyomni, which means whirlpool or eddy.

East Lake Street offers an array of Mexican restaurants and panaderias, plus two beloved indoor markets: Mercado Central and Midtown Global Market. Lake Street, of course, became the center of the social uprisings of 2020, which began in Minneapolis and sparked nationwide protests for racial justice after the murder of George Floyd. That summer, people at all levels of the restaurant industry helped assemble a vast network of mutual aid and community protection — but at the same time, many family- and immigrant-owned restaurants were damaged in the fires. These businesses continue to recover — and while municipal reform stalls, many chefs, entrepreneurs, and service workers are among the leading voices still calling for change.

St. Paul has a more stately, residential feel, but no shortage of standout restaurants. Frogtown — or Little Mekong, named for the thriving Southeast Asian communities that call it home — has a wealth of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, and Laotian restaurants and bakeries, like Cheng Heng, which serves a stellar kor koo noodle soup and flaky scallion cakes. (University Avenue is also one of the Cities’ main hotspots for pho.) St. Paul is also known for its classic, unpretentious neighborhood bars — and in recent years, the city has been experiencing a restaurant boom, as new spots along Selby Avenue, in the Lowertown neighborhood, and the elegant, red-brick downtown square continue to pop up. A few stars of the capital city are Handsome Hog, by chef Justin Sutherland; DeGidio’s, a classic, family-run Italian restaurant; and Meritage, a Twin Cities go-to for French cuisine.
Despite each city’s idiosyncrasies, however, Minneapolis and St. Paul are really part of one vibrant, diverse metropolis. Across both cities, breweries — and now, more than ever, distilleries — that bottle some essence of Minnesota (black spruce peat, maybe, or ice cream, or blueberries) are abundant. The Cities have one of the nation’s most unique culinary scenes in Hmong cuisine: Hmong Village in St. Paul is a bustling marketplace and food hall, and chef Yia Vang has made James Beard waves with his restaurant Union Hmong Kitchen. Soul food has a special place here, from longtime classic spots like Mama Sheila’s gilded buffet to pop-up successes like Soul Bowl, from chef Gerard Klass and Brittney Alise Klass, to Trio, where chef Louis Hunter serves vegan fare. The Cities also have a wealth of East African restaurants to explore, from the injera combo platters at Fasika Restaurant to sambusas at Demera Restaurant.

 

Hottest Restaurants: Among the Twin Cities’ hottest new restaurants are Khâluna — chef Ann Ahmed’s homage to Laotian and South East Asian cooking in an airy, beach resort-influenced space on Lyndale Avenue — and Ama Sushi, a Tibetan and Japanese sushi-and-momos restaurant. Iconos Gastro Cantina is a mod Latin American spot serving a double-cut Chamoy-glazed chuleta and “El Cantarito”: a whole bottle of tequila blanco served with grapefruit in a clay bowl. Supper clubs, also, are having a moment in the Twin Cities: Choose between crawfish gratin and andouille mussels at Mr. Paul’s Supper Club in Edina, or brandy Old Fashioneds and relish trays at the Creekside Supper Club, a veritable love letter to the wood-paneled, crimson-carpeted supper clubs of northwoods Wisconsin. Or go for Hmong homestyle cooking — like “zoo siab,” or “happy meals,” made with barbecue pork, Hmong sausage, or Hilltribe chicken — at Union Hmong Kitchen, by James Beard finalist chef Yia Vang.

A bowl of tofu, a bowl of taro chips, a plate of barbecue, and a small bowl of chili paste are positioned on a reed mat on a bright yellow background.
A meal from chef Yia Vang’s restaurant Union Hmong Kitchen. 
Union Hmong Kitchen

Essential Restaurants: The Twin Cities’ essentials list includes 38 restaurants throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul — but if you have to narrow it down, start with a steaming bowl of pho or a banh mi at Quang Restaurant on Nicollet Avenue, a cornerstone of Minneapolis’s Eat Street. Or, build your own meal at Soul Bowl, a popular soul food pop-up-turned-restaurant now in Graze food hall in the North Loop. For dinner, make a reservation (well in advance) for Owamni, a full-service Indigenous restaurant by James Beard-nominated chef Sean Sherman, where the decolonized menu favors venison tartare, salmon roe, and walnut ice cream over beef and pork, flour, dairy, and white sugar. Try the tortillas at Nixta Tortilleria and Sooki & Mimi, where chefs Gustavo Romero and Ann Kim, respectively, use heirloom corn varieties to create thoughtful bases for migas tacos and mushroom birria. For stellar tasting menus, make a reservation at Travail Kitchen and Amusements, or Demi, a fine dining restaurant by lauded chef Gavin Kaysen.

Oglala Lakota shef Sean Sherman stands behind the serving bar at his restaurant Owamni. Sherman is plating food on a white plait; he is wearing his hair in two braids and is wearing a black T-shirt. There are two people in the kitchen behind him, and lamps hang down over the bar from the ceiling.
Chef Sean Sherman at Owamni.
 Heidi Ehalt

Iconic Dive Bars: Northeast Minneapolis, one of the Twin Cities’ historic industrial centers, is a tapestry of great dive bars. Wear that old flannel with the elbows patched up — likely nowhere else in the U.S. will you meet a bar-going crowd so determinedly casual. Moose Bar & Grill is a neon-lit spot on Monroe Street with artichoke-and-bacon-stuffed potato skins; besides that, go for the meat raffles, bingo, and pull tabs. Grumpy’s has an old-fashioned jukebox and a range of draft pours, and is a favorite haunt of local musicians. The Terminal hosts weekly comedy nights on Thursdays, and Vegas Lounge — which, upping the ante for all local dives, has wood paneling on the ceiling — does karaoke seven nights a week. Over in St. Paul, the West Seventh neighborhood is another great spot for dive bars. Try the pizza and $3 rail drinks at Skinner’s happy hour, or go for White Castle brunch and cribbage at the Spot Bar.

Cocktails: Maybe an IPA garnished with a pickle spear isn’t your thing. Turn the page from the Twin Cities’ dive bars to the cocktail scene, which has no shortage of ambrosian pours. Sooki & Mimi’s bar serves excellent tepache — a fermented pineapple drink made on site — with mezcal, tequila, or vodka. (Or look for the light in the 31st Street alleyway and take the stairs down to one of the Cities’ classiest speakeasies, designed like a ’70s rec room.) Brother Justus Whiskey Company serves a whiskey made with black spruce peat from Aitkin County, Minnesota, and Estelle’s long-and-narrow bar, adjacent to the dining room, is a great spot for a romantic date night. Downtown Minneapolis has more than a few cocktail bars to offer: Spoon and Stable has recently reopened with fresh, inventive drinks (think a gin and tonic with kumquat and winter citrus). P.S. Steak near Loring Park has two notable bars to choose from: a marble walk-up bar in the lounge, and another in the Victorian dining room, which requires a reservation.

At the center of a large room with sunny gold light is a curved bar with large, round, black leather topped stools.
Sooki & Mimi’s bar in Uptown. 
Jes Lahay

Burgers: The Juicy Lucy — a hefty beef patty stuffed with molten cheese, served with all variety of buns and toppings — is perhaps the Twin Cities’ most iconic dish. The burger originated at Matt’s Bar (a legendary Cedar Avenue dive) in 1954, when — as legend has it — a customer requested two hamburger patties with a slice of cheese between them. Matt’s calls its burger the “Jucy Lucy,” with no “i”: Hot takes like the Groveland Tap’s Cajun Lucy and Blue Door Pub’s blue cheese “Blucy” have since proliferated. The Cities also have a wealth of plain old burgers: Try the thin and cheesy diner-style burger at Parlour, thick patties on brioche at Lowry Hill Meats, or Le Petite Cheeseburger, topped with caramelized onions and pickled cucumbers, from Petite León.

Pho: After the end of the Vietnam War, thousands of Vietnamese refugees resettled in Minnesota. As a result, the Twin Cities are home to many Vietnamese restaurants, and thus, an abundance of brothy, fragrant bowls of pho. There are two main hot spots for pho in the Cities: Eat Street on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis, and Little Mekong, or Frogtown, on University Avenue in St. Paul. Minneapolis’s Quang serves a classic, balanced pho tai, and Lotus Restaurant serves a variation it calls “pho stew,” made with potatoes and carrots. Over in St. Paul, iPho by Saigon offers massive portions laced with spices like cloves and star anise, and Pho Ca Dao is a cash-only restaurant that serves just two things, pho and egg rolls — with culantro, a more pungent cousin of cilantro, in its bowls.

Hmong cuisine: The Twin Cities is home to a thriving Hmong community. Between 1961 and 1973, overlapping the Vietnam War years, the Hmong — a nomadic people who lived in the mountainous regions of northern Laos, Thailand, Burma (present-day Myanmar), Cambodia, China, and Vietnam — were recruited as part of a covert, anti-communist CIA operation, now known as the Secret War in Laos. After the war ended, Hmong soldiers and their families who had aided the CIA were persecuted by the victorious Pathet Lao — many, after escaping across the Mekong River to Thai refugee camps, eventually resettled in Minnesota. Now, the Twin Cities is a vibrant center of Hmong cuisine — visit Hmongtown Village Shopping Center in St. Paul for papaya salad, koj thiab ntiv (Hmong chicken with herbs), and crazy steak with wasabi sauce and pepper paste from Santi’s.

Local chef Yia Vang, whose restaurant Union Hmong Kitchen is a heartfelt homage to Hmong home cooking, was recently named a finalist for the James Beard award for best chef, Midwest. Head over to Graze food hall in the North Loop to try his Hmong sausage patties, barbecue pork, and Hilltribe grilled chicken. Vang’s much-anticipated restaurant Vinai is slated to open in 2022.

Brunch: Grab a Southern-style brunch (a rare find in the Twin Cities) of ham-brined chop or rock shrimp and grits at chef Justin Sutherland’s Handsome Hog in St. Paul. In Minneapolis, the Lynhall serves massive croissants stuffed with pistachio and lavender pastry cream in its elegant dining hall space, and Victor’s 1959 Cafe is a go-to for Cuban fare, like slow-cooked ropa vieja with eggs and plantains. (Pick up a cafe con leche with house-made sugar paste from the window.) In Northeast, enjoy biscuits from Betty and Earl’s at a rollicking weekend drag brunch inside Lush, which has recently returned to the Cities’ brunch scene.

A white plate with a stack of three lemon ricotta pancakes dusted with powdered sugar and topped with strawberries and blueberries on a white background.

Lemon ricotta pancakes from Hell’s Kitchen. 
Hell’s Kitchen

Coffee shops: Nearly every neighborhood in the Twin Cities has an excellent coffee spot. Try the Turkish coffee (and tahini babka) from pastry chef Shawn McKenzie at Café Cerés in Linden Hills, or a cup made with coriander bitters and Hawaiian sea salt at Five Watt Coffee on Nicollet Avenue. Grab a sweet potato latte from Black-owned, Black-led spot The Get Down Coffee Co. in the Camden neighborhood. In St. Paul, cozy up in Claddagh Coffee’s red-brick coffee bar, or grab a to-go cup from Nina’s Coffee Cafe and wander the streets of the historic Cathedral Hill neighborhood.

Ice cream: Even in a minus-17-degree windchill, ice cream is a year-round affair in the Twin Cities. Sebastian Joe’s is perhaps the most quintessential Minnesota shop — its Nicollet Avenue Pothole flavor, a chocolate-and-caramel homage to the freeze-thaw cycles of the Midwest — is a favorite. Bebe Zito is the most exciting newcomer on the ice cream scene: it’s known for gutsy add-ins like caramelized Fruity Pebbles, Vietnamese coffee, and wedding cake. Milkjam’s vegan chocolate is richer than the deepest, black-gold layers of the earth’s crust, and Grand Ole Creamery serves waffle cones at a whiplash rate on summer nights. Conny’s Creamy Cone is an excellent spot for chili dogs and soft serve nostalgia.

A double scoop ice cream cone with a green ooze dripping over a vanilla scoop to a red waffle cone, with crumbles on top.

A double scoop from Bebe Zito. 

Pizza: Try the so-weird-it’s-good Rueben pizza at Skinner’s Pub in St. Paul’s West Seventh neighborhood. Pizza Luce has plenty of vegan and gluten-free options at locations all around the metro, and Wrecktangle serves rectangular, steel pan-baked Detroit-style pizza at Graze hall in the North Loop (a Lyn-Lake location is forthcoming). Young Joni is perhaps the North Star of the Twin Cities’ pizza scene: Favorites on James Beard-winner Ann Kim’s menu are the Umami Mama with cremini, shiitake, and portobello mushrooms, and La Pariesienne, with prosciutto and brown butter. Slip into the speakeasy — all midnight florals and green velvet — through the back alley.

Beer: Taprooms in the Twin Cities abound. Check out these essential spotsBauhaus Brew Labs, which serves balanced IPAs and German-style lagers; Modist, which claims 18,000 square feet in the North Loop; and Fair State Brewing in Northeast, Minnesota’s first brewing cooperative. Dangerous Man Brewing Company serves rich brews like a mint chocolate moose double stout and a peanut butter porter. Lift Bridge Brewing Company out in Stillwater — a historic logging town on the St. Croix River — is a great stop for a day trip away from the metro. Sociable Ciderwerks is a popular option for house-brewed ciders — in the winter, they bring in hoses and boards and fashion a skating rink out of their parking lot.

Twin Cities Food Neighborhoods to Know

Eat Street: On the north end of Nicollet Avenue, Eat Street is one of Minneapolis’s culinary hot spots. Pimento Kitchen and Rum Bar has some of the Cities’ best Jamaican food: Get a bowl with braised oxtail and plantains or go for the curried veggies — either way, add at least two of the house-made sauces. Lu’s Sandwiches has infamous banh mi, and Quang serves a fragrant, balanced bowl of pho — both are family-owned local legends. Marhaba Grill has a bountiful Mediterranean buffet, with plenty of desserts like baklava and basbousa, and Icehouse — one of the Twin Cities’ most popular music venues — makes great cocktails.

 
Two chefs assemble to go plates from containers of lettuce, carrots, and other foods stacked on a metal counter.
                                                               Lung Tran’s culinary legacy lives on at Quang Restaurant
                                                                                      Rebecca Slater/Eater Twin Cities

East Lake Street: Running through the heart of Minneapolis’s Phillips, Powderhorn, and Longfellow neighborhoods, East Lake street is home to a wealth of Mexican restaurants and panaderiasMercado Central is a great place to start: Explore this indoor market of 35 businesses and indulge in fresh-made tacos, tamales, empanadas, and aguas frescas (or an orange and beet smoothie at La Reyna de los Jugos). Tortilleria La Perla, which sells wholesale to businesses across the state, has a restaurant here. Stop into a panaderia for a snack after lunch: conchas or orejas from El Mexicano. Further east, grab crispy birria tacos at Taqueria Las Cuatro Milpas — or get a margarita made with lavender syrup and creme de violette at Sonora Grill and then head next door to El Norteño, an excellent women-owned restaurant. Central Lake Street is also home to Midtown Global Market, which has a dazzling array of local restaurants.

Uptown: Minneapolis’s Uptown and Lyn-Lake neighborhoods maintain a slightly tattered, scrappy cool. The intersection of Lyndale Avenue and Lake Street is a public transportation-friendly part of town that’s packed with restaurants. Check out LynLake Brewery for beer, rooftop views, and “Oakie Style” double-patty onion burgers. World Street Kitchen is one of the Twin Cities’ greatest food truck-to-restaurant success stories: Go for the Hanoi fish yum yum bowl, and stay for dessert (Milkjam Creamery is just next door). Nearby Nightingale has extensive wine, beer, and cocktail offerings. Off Hennepin Avenue, don’t miss Sooki & Mimi by chef Ann Kim — if you can’t get a reservation for the prix fixe menu, order heirloom corn tacos from the bar, or slip into the basement speakeasy for a drink. Isles Bun and Coffee is known for its braids of cinnamon brioche topped with cream cheese frosting, aka “puppy dog tails.” Grab some and wander down to the 32nd Street beach at Bde Maka Ska to eat them by the water.

North Loop: Minneapolis’ popular North Loop neighborhood is home to a number of upscale dining destinations, like Gavin Kaysen’s Spoon and Stable (and now, also, Demi); Italian and Japanese fusion restaurant Sanjusan; and Bar La Grasa, which serves a mean lobster-and-scrambled eggs bruschetta. Other more casual gems abound — like Graze Provisions and Libations, home to Soul BowlB.A.D. WingzUnion Hmong KitchenWrecktangle, and more. Find some of the city’s best bagels at Rise, plus a selection of cream cheeses and spreads, from scallion and salted maple to strawberry preserves.

Kingfield/Fulton: Nicollet Avenue’s southern stretch is dotted with fantastic restaurants like Hola Arepa, one of the pioneers of the Twin Cities’ food truck community, which offers a cozy year-round patio for outdoor dining in all seasonsPetite León, the work of James Beard-nominated chef Jorge Guzmán, is an intimate neighborhood cafe with a Yucatán Peninsula-influenced menu, an exceptional burger, and creative, citrus-forward cocktails. Nighthawks has some magnificent takes on diner food and often hosts live music on their patio.

On a dark table are three drinks and three dishes. In the foreground, the first dish is fried masa wedges topped with swirling shred of vegetables and garnished with herbs and black sesame. On the plate is a pool of vibrant green sauce. The drinks are pink, pale orange, and green. The other dishes are a curl of black with edible flowers, and a barely visible collection of beets garnished with
                                                                Petite León is a new favorite in the Kingfield Neighborhood.
                                                                                                    Lucy Hawthorne

Linden Hills: This quiet, residential pocket of Minneapolis is surprisingly restaurant-dense. It’s home to James Beard Award 2020 finalist Steven Brown’s Tilia, and two restaurants from chef Danny del Prado’s elegant trio: Rosalia, which serves wood-fired pizzas, and Martina, with more elevated dishes like bavette with potato churros and seared scallops. The Harriet Brasserie has a lovely patio where you can follow a glass of white wine with a slice of tres leches cake — or grab a smoked ham sandwich from Clancey’s and head to the Lake Harriet Bandshell for live music and a picnic on the weekend.

Northeast: “Nordeast,” as longtime residents might call it, is one of Minneapolis’s former industrial centers, historically a blue-collar area that’s home to many immigrant communities. Central Avenue is one of Minneapolis’s most vibrant food corridors: Get a $3 slice of pie at the Ideal Diner, a colossal burrito at El Taco Riendo, or a tender seco de pollo at Ecuadorian restaurant Chimborazo. Northeast has an array of more upscale restaurants: Hai Hai, by James Beard-nominated chef Christina Nguyen, and Young Joni, by James Beard-winner chef Ann Kim, are both favorites. Anchor Fish and Chips has arguably the best fish and chips in the Twin Cities, and Aster Cafe has jazz music and dancing on Sunday afternoons. There’s a whole barbecue scene in the area — check out AnimalesMarket BBQ, and newcomer Boomin Barbecue. Don’t miss the vibrant Mexican breakfast and lunch options at Vivir.

A brightly colored open-air patio with low turquoise stools and oilcloth covered tables
                                                                                                Hai Hai in Northeast. 
                                                                                                      Kevin Kramer

Lowertown: Long a hub for artists of the Midwest — and home to a new minor league baseball stadium for the St. Paul Saints — Lowertown is also a hot spot for restaurants in St. Paul. Grab some of the Cities’ best southern fare at chef Justin Sutherland’s Handsome Hog, which makes for an excellent brunch of brisket hash or shrimp po’ boys. Saint Dinette has one of the Cities’ most revered burgers: two chunky patties with American cheese and a side of delicate pickle slices. Drink cocktails and play arcade games at Oxcart Arcade and Rooftop, or sample a flight of local beers at the Bulldog.

Cathedral Hill: St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood is in the shadow of the city’s Roman Catholic cathedral. The area is filled with charming, historic red-brick buildings and stately homes — its main food corridor runs along Selby AvenueRevival is a popular spot for fried chicken — or swing in a hammock on the breezy patio at the Gnome Craft PubWee Claddagh is a charming spot for coffee, and J. Selby’s serves creative vegan takes on fast food, like dairy-free shakes and crunch wraps filled with a taco-seasoned Beyond blend, peppers, and onions. W.A. Frost has a lovely patio, and serves classic entrees like braised pork shoulder and New York strip.

West Seventh: Extending out of downtown St. Paul, the West Seventh area has long been known for neighborhood bars and restaurants. In recent years, new shops, restaurants, and craft breweries have opened alongside some of these classic spots — but the dive bars, those old stalwarts, remain. Brake Bread and Mojo Monkey Doughnuts serve early-morning treats, and Café Astoria is a go-to for coffee in a cozy room. West Seventh is also home to Keg and Case, a market and food hall with many options, from mac and cheese to Jamaican fare.

Frogtown: With a marvelous array of restaurants along University Avenue, Frogtown is also known as Little Mekong — thus named for the thriving Southeast Asian communities that call it home. The Green Line light rail runs down University Avenue, making this a super-accessible spot for a meal. Bangkok Thai Deli and Supermarket serves a gigantic bowl of pork boat noodles, and Cheng Heng is known for its red curry tom yum soup, chive cakes, and red bean rice donuts. Trung Nam French Bakery serves equally good banh mi and croissants, and Hoa Bien has creative takes on desserts, like a banh flan with Vietnamese coffee.

ICYMI

Construction On New Bde Maka Ska Concessions Pavilion Area Begins – Minneapolis, MN

 

15 Essential Twin Cities Brunches

15 Essential Twin Cities Brunches

A tostada from Hola Arepa

Massive caramel rolls, steak omelets, dim sum, and more notable brunches around the Cities

Twin CIties Eater: Fluffy ricotta short stacks, chicken fried steaks, and tender dim sum dumplings: there’s no better meal than brunch for the perpetually late, the always-hungry, and the slightly hungover. If you’re on the hunt for an Easter brunch this weekend, the Twin Cities have more than a few notable spots to explore: try soul food fried in an egg roll wrapper, eat a bacon cheddar biscuit at a drag show, or sample pistachio cream croissants in an elegant dining hall. Here’s a trail of some of the Twin Cities’ most essential brunch spots.

1. Wendy’s House of Soul

1825 Glenwood Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55405
(612) 800-4535

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On Glenwood Avenue in Minneapolis’s Near North neighborhood, chef Wendy Puckett serves her much-loved soul rolls: portions of soul food like greens, fried chicken, and mac and cheese rolled up into an egg roll wrapper and fried. Favorites are the aforementioned Nanny, the 9AM with eggs, turkey sausage, and Wendey’s Hot Mess sauce, or the Trell, made with French fries, gravy, and jalapeño. Wendy’s also serves other brunch options like chicken and waffles, caramel cakes, and the “Broadway Special” — smothered chicken over rice and gravy.

 

2. Saint Genevieve

5003 Bryant Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55419
(612) 353-4843

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This intimate French bistro from chef Steven Brown serves a delicate omelet du jour on its focused and elegant brunch menu. Try the shrimp toast on Bakersfield sourdough with trout roe, the shakshouka en cocotte with lamb bacon and harissa, or the French toast with pork belly and chai whipped cream. For drinks, Saint Genevieve offers Vietnamese coffee, French press, mimosas, and bloody marys. Brunch hours are Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — make a reservation ahead of time if you can.

 

3. The Lynhall

2640 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 870-2640

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The Lynhall’s brunch offerings are divided into separate breakfast and lunch menus (9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) at both its original Lyn-Lake location and its newer Edina spot. The restaurant serves salmon tartines, rye crepes, shakshouka, and refined omelets (try the duck confit with caramelized red onions) in its sunny dining hall, plus a selection of cocktails, sparklings, and wines. But the real standouts are the pastries — lavender and pistachio croissants the size of small loaves of bread, stuffed with rich pastry creams.

8766 Lyndale Ave S
Bloomington, MN 55420
(952) 884-5356

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Find one of the Cities’ best dim sum brunches at Mandarin Kitchen in Bloomington. This restaurant located in a strip mall on Lyndale Avenue: on weekends, it’s packed with families, and the line often wraps out the door. Build your brunch off the voluminous menu: start with small dishes like pan-fried turnip cakes, and add pillowy steamed chicken buns, crispy egg custards, steamed pork dumplings, and chao zhou fun gor, a kind of steamed dumpling. At peak meal times, small parties of diners can expect to share tables — which only adds to Mandarin Kitchen’s bustling, convivial atmosphere.

 

5. Victor’s 1959 Cafe

3756 Grand Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55409
(612) 827-8948

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This classic south Minneapolis restaurant has been serving Cuban favorites and classics for more than 20 years. Order the Basque stew — eggs with a Creole stew of Spanish chorizo, ham, and vegetables — or the slow-cooked ropa vieja with eggs and plantains. Victor’s has a great coffee menu, too: try a cafe con leche sweetened with a house sugar paste, and pick it up at the little sliding glass window out front. Its cozy, newly renovated dining room and tropical-themed patio are now open for breakfast and lunch, Wednesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. — Victor’s doesn’t take reservations.

 

 

6. Soul Bowl

520 N 4th St Suite 202
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 567-7044

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Soul Bowl started as a hit soul food pop-up on Lowry Avenue in north Minneapolis — after opening their restaurant at Graze food hall in the North Loop, chef Gerard Klass and co-owner Brittney Alice Klass expanded to a new location on Chicago Avenue in Richfield. Their menu is well-suited for brunch: build a bowl with bases like yellow rice or mac and cheese, then add plantains, yams, and black-eyed peas, and meats like jerk chicken and cajun salmon. Otherwise, try the fried chicken and waffles, or cheesecake with peach cobbler. Note that Soul Bowl is closed on Saturdays.

 

A white bowl filled with charred jerk chicken pieces, slices of golden plantains, and garnished with slices of green onions
Jerk chicken and sweet plantains from Soul Bowl.

 John Yuccas

7. Hola Arepa

3501 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 345-5583

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Hola Arepa’s fluffy masa cakes are a beautiful canvas for slow-stewed meats, beans, queso fresco, sauces like chimichurri and tangy aioli verde, and vegetables. A vegetarian favorite is the braised jackfruit arepa, with radish, citrus crema, and fresh oregano. Hola Arepa also serves rice bowls, small plates, sweets like mango chia seed pudding, and an intriguing cocktail menu — its “Heat of the Moment” cocktail, made with Mezcal, passionfruit, and cinnamon has a customizable spice level. Dine-in, takeaway, and patio seating are all available.

 

A tostada in a white dish with chili verde sauce, a sunny-side-up fried egg, thin radish slices, and shavings of jalapeño.Hola Arepa

A tostada from Hola Arepa

 

8. Hell’s Kitchen Inc.

80 S 9th St
Minneapolis, MN 55402
(612) 332-4700

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Employee-owned since 2020, this quirky downtown Minneapolis icon serves infamous lemon ricotta pancakes (sell-your-soul-to-the-devil amazing, reviewers attest), dense sausage bread made with dates and black currants, and walleye hash and eggs. If you’re looking for a hearty brunch choice, Hell’s Kitchen also offers a bison flank steak benedict, served with a poached egg and tangerine-jalapeño hollandaise. Make a reservation ahead of time if you can.

 

9. LUSH Lounge & Theater

990 NE Central Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55413
(612) 208-0053

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After abruptly closing during the summer of 2020, Lush’s beloved drag brunch has returned under new ownership. This time around, it’s welcomed local biscuit favorite Betty and Earl’s into the kitchen: for brunch, try the lemon and blueberry biscuit, the baked French toast with cinnamon cream cheese, or the bacon cheddar biscuit brushed with garlic butter. Bottomless mimosas are on the menu too. Drag brunch runs every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Shows tend to sell out a few weeks in advance, so plan ahead — and dress up, if you want: Saturday night’s outfits are welcome at Sunday morning’s Lush.

 

A biscuit on a white plate with berry compote, hovering over other biscuits in the background.
Betty and Earl’s biscuits at Lush. 
Lush Lounge & Theater

 

1314 NE Central Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55413
(612) 789-7630

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Ideal Diner, built in 1949, is one of the oldest establishments on the Central Avenue food corridor in Northeast Minneapolis (look for its neon sign near 14th Street). Historically, the diner served Northeast’s working class communities — today, it’s one of the few spots in the Cities you can get a cup of coffee for $1.75. Brunch dishes are served all day: try the “Polish Man” breakfast of two eggs, Polish sausage, and hash browns, or the Nordeast omelet with steak and caramelized onions. The buttermilk short stacks are remarkably fluffy, too. Groups should note that Ideal Diner has just 14 stools, and one counter.

 

1840 NE Central Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55418
(612) 789-0775

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A local favorite for tacos and chile relleno tortas, Maya Cuisine in Northeast offers a brunch buffet every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The buffet varies week to week, but expect classic menu items like tamales, mole dishes, and pozole, plus pancakes, French toast, and desserts. Recent specials include shrimp fajitas, buttered codfish, and sopa de mariscos. Maya Cuisine’s buffet has returned from its pandemic hiatus after an outpouring of support from customers — reservations in advance are recommended.

 

12. Hot Hands Pie & Biscuit

272 Snelling Ave S Suite 100
St Paul, MN 55105
(651) 300-1503

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It’s all in the crust at Hot Hands. For brunch, choose from the savory pie selections — veggie pot pie, buffalo pot pie, or chicken pot pie (folklorically known as one of Minnesota’s best) — or sweet pies like caramelized vanilla with an oatmeal cookie crust, raspberry hazelnut with brown butter streusel, or banana cream, topped with a mascarpone that looks like fluffy ski moguls. Also on the menu are a variety of biscuit pairings, a breakfast sausage roll, and other pastries. Dine-in, takeout and delivery are all available.

 

A hand holds a white plate with a biscuit breakfast sandwich on it, Criss crossed slices of bacon jut out from the edges, and oozy American cheese drips over the edges.
Biscuits and pie for breakfast

 Rebecca Slater

 

1340 Grand Ave
St Paul, MN 55105
(651) 414-0543

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An excellent spot for breakfast carbs, Colossal Cafe serves giant caramel rolls, crumbly biscuits, and yeast-based pancakes that rise to impressive heights. Try the simple short stack with maple syrup, or the signature topping of honey-brown sugar syrup, apples, walnuts, and slices of brie cheese. Other classics like omelets, frittatas, and breakfast sandwiches are available as well. Colossal also sells take-and-bake options that can be ordered in advance. Open for dine-in and takeaway.

14. Handsome Hog

173 Western Ave N
St Paul, MN 55102
(651) 219-4013

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Step into chef Justin Sutherland’s Handsome Hog for a smoky, southern-style weekend brunch menu. Try the rock shrimp and grits, the ham-brined chop with eggs, or the house benedict with apple butter and Cajun hollandaise. (Sutherland serves southern cooking that’s hard to find elsewhere in the Twin Cities.) For drinks, try a bacon Old Fashioned or a bourbon bloody mary. Make a reservation ahead for dining inside or on the patio (weather permitting).

1 S Leech St
St Paul, MN 55102
(651) 330-8996

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Hope Breakfast bar has an extensive menu of savory plates for brunch. Bourbon smoked salmon toast, stuffed poblano with fried eggs and tortillas, and chicken fried steak and eggs are favorites. For something sweet, try the piña colada French toast, the fried pickle waffle, or the carrot cake pancakes, made with real cake batter. Hope donates 3 percent of its profits to neighborhood causes through its nonprofit Give Hope. Make a reservation ahead of time at its St. Paul or St. Louis Park location.

(Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.)

ICYMI

The Twin Cities Festival: Spring Babies – Brooklyn Park, MN

Where to find Ramadan Specials in the Twin Cities

Where to find Ramadan Specials in the Twin Cities

Dieddin / Shutterstock

Iftar buffets and boxes with specials like quail, Egyptian-style grilled tilapia, lamb kebabs, and basbousa

Eater Twin Cities: A month of prayer, fasting, charity, and deep contemplation, this year’s Ramadan begins at sundown on April 2 and ends with Eid-al Fitr on May 2 and 3. Over the past two years, Ramadan gatherings in the Twin Cities have been limited by the COVID-19 pandemic — but this year, though a sense of caution and prudence remains, low case numbers and lifted mandates are helping people gather safely around food once again. Those observing can break their fast with Ramadan specials from restaurants around the metro area: sambusas, stuffed pigeons, whole lamb, and baklava are all on the menu for iftar at nightfall. Here are some Twin Cities restaurants serving Ramadan specials and iftar buffets and boxes this year.

Marhaba Grill

Marhaba Grill on Nicollet Avenue is known for its bountiful annual iftar buffets, prepared by Chef Mohamed Shehata. This year’s menu includes whole lamb, Egyptian-style grilled tilapia, roasted duck, stuffed pigeons, Egyptian spiced rice-stuffed cabbage and grape leaf rolls, and a whole host of other dishes. (Look for desserts like baklava, basbousa, and kinafa with shredded fillo, custard, and honey.) Marhaba is known for Greek, Mediterranean, and American fare served buffet and family-style at affordable prices. Shehata has been cooking iftar buffets out of his Eat Street location for years — beyond the abundant menu, his restaurant serves as a place for gathering and community throughout the month of Ramadan. Special prayer spaces for women and men will be available at the restaurant. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.

Marhaba Grill

Marhaba is also known for Greek, Mediterranean, and American fare served buffet.

A table set with a variety of desserts like baklava and basbousa on trays with white papers and metal tongs propped on them.
Marhaba Grill

Dessert selections at Marhaba Grill.

Big Marina Grill & Deli

The full menu for Big Marina Grill and Deli’s iftar buffet hasn’t been set yet — but expect specials like lamb, quail, and chicken kebabs, plus classic menu items like falafel, sambusas, and baklava. Big Marina Grill has been open since 2005: after stints at a few spots throughout the Cities, the restaurant now has just one location in a spacious Columbia Heights building, capping the north end of the Central Avenue food corridor. Chef Abdou Gadhour’s menu is known for its platters of falafel, sambusas, and roasted peppers — in 2013, it was named City Pages’ best buffet of the Twin Cities. The restaurant is made warm and inviting with saffron-colored walls and glass chandeliers. Iftar buffet plates are priced at $18.99, and during the month of Ramadan, Big Marina will have extended hours from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day — it doesn’t take reservations.

Big Marina Grill & Deli

Classic menu items include falafel, sambusas.

Golden Fingers

Golden Fingers opened on the corner of Chicago Avenue and Franklin Avenue in 2017, becoming known for its generous portions of halal Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare like gyros, falafel, and Persian kebabs cooked on open-flame charcoal grills. This year, the restaurant is offering customizable iftar boxes both for dine-in and take-out: build a box with up to three meats (goat curry, lamb kebabs, and beef shawarma are among the choices), grains like rice, pasta, or bread, and sides: malva, mandashi, or burr. Dates, green salad, fruit salad, three beef sambusas, sauces, and dessert are included. Choose between a family box, which serves two to four people, for $39.99, or smaller boxes at lower prices. During Ramadan, dine-in services will start at 5 p.m. and run until 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

A black box with portioned containers of meets, veggies, salads, and desserts, plus fruit and cheese on a small tray, a bowl of soup, and a three-tiered tray with Mediterranean desserts.

 Golden Fingers

An Iftar box from Golden Fingers.

Filfillah Mediterranean Grill

Filfillah’s Ramadan specials have yet to be announced — but keep an eye on its Instagram page for details coming soon. The Turkish and Mediterranean restaurant on Columbia Heights’ Central Avenue is known for its gyros and extensive halal menu — Ramadan specials in years past have featured chicken with onions, sliced beef with gravy, and ezogelin soup.

Filfillah
Lamb and beef Shawrma.

 

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