What makes a dish iconic? Does it have to be globally recognized for its cultural influence? Is a restaurant preparing a dish in a way that makes it culturally or historically relevant? Is a restaurant focusing on a local specialty that you can’t get anywhere else or does the dish have its roots in the immigrants that brought it to our local communities? These are all great questions and we are fortunate enough to have a variety of restaurants from all around the state preparing dishes that fall into each of these categories.
It’s with that in mind that we put together this list of modern, recent past, and nearly historical dishes that represent an incredible edible cross-section of the Twin Cities culinary scene and it’s development over the years. Of course, there are certainly dishes that we’ve probably missed and we’d like to know what they are. If there are any dishes that you think are important or iconic, please let us know what you think should’ve made the grade and add them to the comments section below!
While the roots of the pasty may trace back to English miners, eventually they made their way to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and then to the Minnesota Iron Range. While my little history lesson may not be particularly on point, these meat and veggie stuffed hand pies are. The crusts are flaky, buttery, and the perfect jacket for the ground beef, potatoes, carrots, onions, and gravy. Also, they’re freaking huge.
2. 112 Eatery
Tagliatelle with Foie Gras Meatballs
James Beard award-winning chef, Issac Becker, is known for upping the pasta game in the Twin Cities and this dish was all the rage when it first hit the scene, so much so, that this fresh tagliatelle dish with lush, moist meatballs made of foie gras is a dish that still lives on the menu at 112 Eatery to this very day. It’s also worth noting that their tartar, which is basically a giant raw burger on a plate topped with a raw egg yolk, and their burger are also highly regarded dishes here in the MSP.
Yum Yum Rice Bowl with Lamb Belly
The Yum Yum Rice Bowl is a dish that was one of the first to help usher in the era of Twin Cities food trucks and it’s something that we just can’t get enough of. The tender caramelized lamb belly is a true treat and since WSK opened their brick and mortar restaurant, we’re no longer subjected to a summer only availability.
Lamb Belly BLT
Minneapolis, Downtown (now in Uptown)
When Bradstreet Crafthouse first opened within the Graves Hotel downtown, they were not only the ones who introduced us to the idea of elaborate craft cocktails, but their small plate snack setup was also fairly unique at the time. This lamb belly BLT was an open-faced “sandwich” in which two large slabs of pork belly were laid upon two buttery pieces of toast along with sautéed chard, a smoky tomato jam, and a fried egg. Absolute perfection and it was the first time many people began their love affair with the now infamous cut of pork.
5. Sea Change
Sea Change has seen a lot of amazing chefs come and go and the food is always top notch, but for years, the must get dish was their tuna poke. Large cubes of tuna were dressed in spicy mayo based dressing and served upon a bed of seaweed salad. While poke might be the in thing now, they were lightyears ahead of the times.
Smoked Beef Long Rib
Minneapolis, Loring Park
Ever since this restaurant opened several years back, it’s been a huge hit. It’s a literal meat and bourbon heaven and the incredibly tender and moist smoked beef long rib has been a menu mainstay.
St. Paul, Summit Hill
One of the first restaurants in the Twin Cities to focus on the soulful south, this bowl of gumbo definitely belongs on this list. Done in the true Louisiana style by starting off with a dark roux base and then building up the flavors with a trinity of onions, celery, and bell peppers along with delicious chicken and andouille sausage. Without question, it’s one of the great comfort foods for helping to get through some of our more nefarious winters.
Pancakes (Buttermilk or Blueberry)
You know something is iconic when the line for it wraps around the block. Sure, having only 14 seats helps, however, these pancakes are seriously at the top of their game and have been for over 60 years.
9. Upton 43
Minneapolis, Linden Hills
One of Minnesota’s most notorious dishes is always a favorite, but in the hands of a chef who knows what they’re doing, they’re taken to a whole new level. The meatballs are of the classic pork/beef variety and are smothered in a lush, velvety gravy alongside a creamy potato puree and beautiful charred cucumbers. It’s like eating at grandma’s house if grandma was a world class chef.
All You Can Eat Fish Fry
One of the single most iconic dishes that comes to mind when talking about the great state of Minnesota has got to be the humble fish fry and this Northwoods restaurant is using Northwoods walleye to perform this fan favorite Friday night ritual.
11. Happy Gnome
Chicken Wild Rice Soup
St. Paul, Cathedral Hill
Chicken wild rice soup is a Minnesota must and it’s hard to get a better bowl of it that at this St. Paul gastropub. It’s a time-honored soup and these folks give it the love that it deserves.
12. Piccolo (Now Closed)
Soft Scrambled Eggs with Pickled Pigs Feet
Chef Doug Flicker is a Twin Cities icon in his own right, but this signature dish helped to usher in a new area of refined dining in MSP. The eggs are unlike any other you’ll likely ever have and the pickled pig’s feet add just a little body and balance to the dish which is then garnished with decedent truffle butter and parmesan cheese. It’s an exploration in umami that will reinvent the way you look at scrambled eggs, however, it was recently announced that Piccolo will be closing later this winter so you’d better get in there now before you lose your chance to sample this iconic dish.
13. Haute Dish
Tater Tot Haute Dish
The classic tater tot hot dish is quintessentially a Minnesota thing, but this refined take on it made waves upon its debut drawing in a variety of national attention and continues to do so after almost seven years.
14. Bar La Grassa
Soft Eggs & Lobster
Another Issac Becker classic, this dish helped to put Bar La Grassa on the map. It’s still a frequently talked about menu item, but it just goes to show that when you pair soft scrambled eggs with lobster, you’re doing something inherently right.
Fish & Chips
Fish & chips is almost as much of a Minnesota staple as it is in the U.K., but when some cheeky Irish folks moved into town, they’ve changed the game forever. The moist, flakey fish done in the classic Irish/U.K. style just can’t be touched and put the rest to shame.
16. Modern Café (Closed)
The day the Modern Café closed was a sad one for many people in the Twin Cities, but their pot roast will continue to live on in people’s memory for a long time to come. It’s amazing just how good a simple slow braised beef roast over mashed potatoes alongside roasted vegetables in the braising liquor topped with a dollop of horseradish sour cream can be.
A lot of people will insist that it’s all about the sausages when it comes to Kramarczuck’s and while they’re maybe not entirely wrong, it’s really all about this old school Eastern European dish. Cabbage leaves wrapped around ground beef, pork, and rice are then braised in delicious tomato sauce. Seriously, it’s old world goodness that hopefully never goes away.
When it comes to fried chicken in the Twin Cities, Revival changed the game. The breading is super crispy and the meat is ridiculously moist. It’s really that simple and let’s not forget about the Tennesse hot, because that stuff is straight off the chain.
19. Key’s Café
St. Paul, University
When it comes to Twin Cities famous baked goods, this classic breakfast roll is at the top of a lot of peoples lists and with good reason. It’s rich. It’s moist. It’s gooey. It’s everything a breakfast pastry should be.
20. The Weinery
Minneapolis, West Bank
When it comes to serving up hot dogs in the Twin Cities, The Weinery has been doing it longer than just about anybody and it’s become a West Bank institution. It’s small, crowded, and has some pretty great hot dog combinations.
21. Dusty’s Bar
As much as the questionably named sandwich is controversial, it’s equally as delicious and absolutely a Northeast staple. It’s a sausage patty topped with caramelized onions and peppers which then gets topped with mozzarella and served on a plain white bun. It’s simple real food and it’s delicious.
22. St. Paul Grill
Chicken Pot Pie
Downtown, St. Paul
There are few dishes that a good solid old fashioned chicken pot pie and this one at the St. Paul Grill is an absolute classic. Big chuncks of chicken and classic veggies set a swim in a pool of gravy all hugged tightly together by a butter flaky pie crust. It’s the kind of dish that’s Minnesota through and through.
If walleye is the state fish then the walleye sandwich should probably be the state sandwich (or at least tied with the Jucy Lucy) and Gluek’s is serving up a perfect specimen. Having been around since 1934 (making it official one of Minnesota’s oldest restaurants), their big fillet of walleye is fried to perfection then placed on a roll with lettuce, tomato, and a dill-caper tartar sauce. Simple. Perfect.
24. Café Latte
St. Paul, Summit Hill
Yeah, it just doesn’t get much better than a latte and a slice of the turtle cake from one of St. Paul’s premier bakeries.
25. Saffron (Closed)
It was incredibly sad to see the doors recently close on this beloved Twin Cities Middle Eastern restaurant, but it’s memory will absolutely live on in the form of their rich and delicious tagines. The concoction of veggies, various proteins, and spices all lovingly stewed together culminated in a dish of pure love.
26. The Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo Wings (Bejing Style)
One of the Twin Cities oldest restaurants easily has some of the Twin Cities best wings. It’s hard to understate just how good they are (or what makes them Bejing style), but the dry rub is robust and flavorful and then they’re fried to absolute perfection.
When it comes to classic French cuisine, it’s hard to do better than good classic steak tartar and for a lot of people, their first introduction was at this little Uptown bistro who still rocks a perfectly excellent classic rendition. It should also be noted that their eggs benedict are also a beloved menu item if you’re more into that kind of thing.
28. Jax Café
Fresh Caught Trout
While primarily known as a true old school steak house, this place has long sported their own “catch your own” trout pond where you catch your dinner and then they cook it for you. It’s a Northeast tradition for sure.
This is another perfect example of a dish that represents our Scandinavian roots in spades. Dill and aquavit cured salmon? Yes please! Really, is there anything much better?
While Ingebretsen’s is a deli and not a restaurant, this notable Minnesota food couldn’t be left off the list and there’s no better place to get it. During the holiday season they often offer samples, so if you’ve never had it before, make your way there and give it a shot. We dare you.
St. Paul, West 7th
Grabbing a simple slice of pizza from Cossetta’s is just a must for anyone living in the Twin Cities. Sure, it’s not the best pizza out there, but there’s just something about it that’s classic St. Paul and gunning down a slice right by the river can’t ever be too bad. Also, the Italian market inside is a Twin Cities gem in and of itself.
30. A Baker’s Wife
Cinnamon Sugar Donut
These donuts are proof that sometimes simple donuts are the best donuts. Also, they’re $.49 each and they’re the kind of thing that won’t last. Pick up a box and it seems like they’re gone before it even gets opened.
31. Patisserie 46
There are people that insist that you just can’t get a good croissant outside of Paris. Well, this Twin Cities patisserie has been proving that little adage wrong since they opened their doors with their globally award winning chef cranking out high-end baked goods like a total boss. Paired with a cup of black coffee, there is no better breakfast anywhere.
32. Pizza Luce
Mashed Potato Pizza
One of the TC’s first hipster eateries, this place has been slinging delicious meat, vegetarian, and vegan pizza’s for a long time and their mashed potato pizza is a bit of a local legend as nothing like it existed before it did. It’s perfect winter comfort food for sure.
James Beard award-winning chef, Alex Roberts, is known for a lot of things, but his rotisserie chickens are a primary example of simple food done brought up to extraordinary heights. Eaten with a side of crispy yucca, a side of greens, and their green sauce and you’ve got yourself a perfect meal.
36. Santana Foods (Closed)
Minneapolis, Marcy Holms
Back in my younger years these were most frequently referred to as deep fried crack and they were an absolute must for anyone living on or near the U of M campus. It also helped that they stayed open until 4 a.m. making them the perfect late night snack food to help soak up all the toxins you may have ingested earlier in the evening. Fortunately, cheese curds in and of themselves are fairly common, so while the death of Santana’s may have been a blow to many, we can still stuff our faces with delicious curds when we need a fix.
37. Afro Deli
With an incredibly large Somali community and growing African population in general, we’re getting access to a lot of new and delicious foods all the time. For many, their first toe dip into African cuisine was the crispy fried sambusa and the folks at Afro Deli know how to do them up good and proper. Featuring beef, chicken, or vegetable fillings, these crispy, little, fried dumplings are a great gateway into a variety of fresh, rich, and hearty African flavors.
Cream Cheese Wontons
Say what you will about this Uptown Vietnamese restaurant, but their cream cheese wontons have been a staple food of many young adults for decades and it’s a little-known fact that cream cheese wontons are almost exclusively a Midwestern thing which by default puts these into the iconic category.
39. Seward Café
Hash Brown Supreme
Collectively owned since the mid-1970’s, this place is definitely a hippie institution and it helps that the food is totally solid and these hashbrowns are no simple hash browns. They’re topped with grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms and cheese and for an additional $1, you get an egg on top and that’s what we call a solid breakfast.
Wild Rice Pancakes
An iconic Minnesota ingredient paired together with a solid breakfast staple makes this dish something worth writing home about. Drizzle it with some delicious maple syrup and it doesn’t get much for Minnesotan than that.
41. Hell’s Kitchen
Mahnomen Porridge + Peanut Butter
This might just be the single most Minnesotan item on any restaurant menu in town. The Mahnomen porridge features locally harvested wild rice simmered in heavy cream with hazelnuts, dried blueberries, cranberries, and pure maple syrup. It’s both delicious and Minnesotan to its core, but we’d be remised to not also mention their legendary peanut butter which you should also probably get while you’re there.
42. Eli’s Downtown
Eli’s Penne & Cheese
Minneapolis, Loring Park
Mac & cheese is always a staple comfort food, but this version made with penne has been treating Twin Cities diners right for decades. Made with a three-cheese sauce and topped with crispy, golden parmesan bread crumbs it’s definitely pasta and cheese at the top of their game.
43. Hubble House
While Southern Minnesota’s, Hubble House, has been in operation in some form since the 1850’s, it’s not surprising to find some strange, off-the-cuff items on their menu and this is the kind of dish that could’ve only been born in the Midwest dairy region. The “cheddar steak” is a tenderized sirloin that comes smothered with melted, gooey sharp cheddar cheese. If you were to look up the definition of “dairy country cuisine”, cheddar steak would surely be listed as a primary example.
44. Birchwood Café
Another MSP institution, the Birchwood Café’s savory waffle has become a thing of local legend. It’s a seasonal thing that changes up slightly, but currently, it involves a parsnip, millet, and parmesan waffle along with pineapple chutney, brown sugar cilantro butter, bacon lardoons, sunny-side egg, maple syrup, and powdered sugar so yeah, it’s a total win on a plate.
45. Sunstreet Breads
Biscuits & Gravy
Biscuits and gravy are always a joy to eat, but these biscuits and gravy are a masterclass in what the dish is supposed to be. Buttery, flaky biscuits with a rich sausage (or mushroom) gravy at their absolute pinnacle.
46. Solera (Closed)
Chorizo Stuffed Dates
Back in the day, Food & Wine magazine named this downtown tapas restaurant one of the top 10 restaurants in the country and they did so with good reason. One dish that had diners in a frenzy were their chorizo stuffed dates which featured spicy Spanish sausage, sweet dates, and smoky bacon in a ménage trois of deliciousness.
47. Glamdoll Donuts
Glamdoll helped to start the Twin Cities donut revolution, put their apple bourbon fritter is a work of art. Topped with a basic sugar glaze and candied bacon, one bite and you’ll never look at an apple fritter the same way ever again.
It’s weird to think that once upon a time artichoke dip was a big deal in dining, but the fact of the matter is that it was and this incarnation is still extremely popular to this day. It has managed to live its way through several different restaurant concepts and a dish that tenacious deserves a spot on this list.
49. Little Tijuana
Chips & Cheese
This dish literally consists of nothing more than corn tortilla chips, melted cheddar cheese, and a side of house salsa, but it’s something that college students have been subsiding on for decades. Once upon a time this place was open until 4 a.m. and was perpetually filled with college kids and the cities punk rock elite.
St. Paul, West 7th
Lasagna is easily one of the reigning champions of comfort food and while Mucci’s may be new, they’ve got mad pasta game which makes this dish an instant Twin Cities classic.
This incredibly scenic southern Minnesota restaurant tackles one of the states most sought after game birds and gives it the full-on French treatment featuring the roasted breast along with the confit thigh, roasted carrots, housemade potato chips, steamed green beans, and a blackberry chutney.
Chicago Mix Popcorn
You might be asking why a “Chicago mix” is on a list of iconic Twin Cities dishes, which would be extremely valid except for the fact that Candyland literally owns the copyright on this particular snack mix and they’ve been dishing it up since 1998. Candyland itself has been a TC hallmark since 1932.
53. Cecil’s Deli
St. Paul, Highland Park
When a deli has had almost 70 years to perfect their pastrami, you know it’s got to be good and in this case, they’ve been kicking out gigantic pastrami sandwiches since 1949 making this one a must get sandwich for any Twin Cities food lover.
54. Betty’s Pies
The Saurkraut Pie
This up-north destination is a must hit for any true pie enthusiast. Whether you’re into traditional baked fruit pies or decadent cream filled pies, Betty’s will have your back, however, if you’re the adventurous type, they’re also the home of the notorious saurkraut pie. It may not be for the faint of heart or overly picky eaters, but if you want to somehow prove your hardcore Midwestern/German heritage, this pie is certainly one way to go about doing just that.
Prime Rib Dinner
If there’s anything that’s just as Minnesotan as a solid Friday fish fry, it’s a weekend prime rib dinner at the local watering hole with all the fixings. Pickwick’s has been serving chargrilled steaks in their current location since 1914 (having opened in their original location in 1888) and you can get a solid 10oz cut of this charcoal grilled prime rib for $28 or a massive 20oz cut for $38.
56. The Commodore
Lobster Deviled Eggs
St. Paul, Cathedral Hill
A holdover from the generation of the real F. Scott Fitzgerald, their menu pays an honest homage to the era. With that being said, the lobster deviled eggs are definitely a throwback worth wrapping your mouth around.
57. Bev’s Cafe
Chicken Fried Steak
The origins of the chicken fried steak can be traced back to its great Austrian ancestor, the weiner schnitzel, and today reigns as one of the world’s most ultimate dishes. Seriously, it’s a fried cube steak smothered with a cream laden sausage gravy and there’s nothing not serious about that. As for Bev’s, they’ve been going long and strong as the oldest restaurant in Redwing and the chicken fried steak is indicative of the kind of comfort food they’ve become known for.
58. The Craftsman
Quite possible the first restaurant that made charcuterie a household name in the Twin Cities and they’re still doing a stellar job with it. Mostly comprised of house-cured meats and condiments, it’s a solid way to start off any meal or to just enjoy as a snack alongside a delicious cocktail.
59. Restaurant Alma
Minneapolis, Marcy Holms
It would be almost impossible to name a singular dish at this award-winning restaurant with their seasonally fluctuating menu, but that’s fine because you should really just be doing the full tasting menu anyway. The expertly crafted courses designed by James Beard award-winning chef, Alex Roberts, are what makes this restaurant a true Twin Cities icon.
59. The Blackbird
The Blackbird has been a longstanding Twin Cities favorite spot and their oxtail hash is a near perfect brunch dish. Featuring slow braised oxtail and root vegetables which get topped with two basted eggs and hollandaise, it’s easy to see why it’s a fan favorite.
St. Paul, West 7th
There are few dishes that are as singularly iconic as the beef wellington and one of St. Paul’s top restaurants happens to do them beautifully. You’re never going to go wrong with filet mignon, mushrooms, and swiss chard wrapped in buttery pastry and drizzled with a rich bordelaise.
62. Sonny’s Café
Organic Strawberry, Basil, and Balsamic Ice Cream
The Twin Cities has a lot of “institutional” ice cream shops and this one is no exception. This Uptown shop has been stuffing cones since 1945 and with delicious, fresh, and unique flavors like this it’s easy to find yourself getting drawn back in time and time again.
Peppermint Bon Bon Ice Cream
For real, the Twin Cities has some great ice cream and there’s nothing better than stopping by the Grand Ole Creamery on a hot summer day and grabbing a cone filled with their peppermint bon-bon ice cream.
64. Sabastian Joe’s
Oreo Ice Cream
More delicious Twin Cities ice cream and you know it’s iconic based on incredible lines they have all summer long. While they feature an ever-rotating array of different flavors, they’ve been doing the Oreo ice cream since 1984 and it’s truly worth waiting for an hour in the oppressive summer heat for.
65. Izzy’s Ice Cream
Cheesecake base. Graham cracker crunch. Blueberry swirls. It’s perfect in the summertime and ideal during the winter months. It’s a near perfect ice cream.
Black Ice Cream
The newest of the greatest in Twin Cities ice cream has caused a serious frenzy of ravenous ice cream fans to stand in incredibly long lines with absolutely zero remorse. The black ice cream is a study in what chocolate ice cream can truly be and is a total must for any serious chocophile. It’s easily an instant icon.
American Indian Fry Bread
This flaky fry bread is seriously delicious and it’s the perfect thing to sit and eat on the beach at dusk along with a big frosty glass of beer. Served with ground bison, white cheddar cheese, sour cream, and shredded lettuce it’s a unique dish served in a unique venue.
68. Angry Trout Cafe
There’s just something extra incredible about a restaurant that can serve you food directly from the lake you get to overlook while eating there and that’s exactly the case with the Angry Trout Cafe. They specialize in fish freshly caught out of Lake Superior and it’s one of the very few places you can get freshly caught Lake Superior whitefish, either grilled or fried, and served to you within hours of having been caught. It’s a perfect Minnesota experience.
Herring Fish & Chips
While walleye might be the Minnesota state fish and everyone’s go to for favorite fish sandwiches or fries, there’s one fish that might be just as Minnesotan, but all too often it gets overlooked. The beautiful Lake Superior cisco (otherwise known as lake herring) is a true Minnesota tradition that harbors back to our Scandinavian roots and this legendary north woods fish market fries them up good and proper and serves them alongside a basket of beer battered french fries.
70. Mickey’s Diner
America’s Favorite All-Day Meal
Downtown, St. Paul
This small little dining car diner might just be the single most iconic restaurant in the region as it’s been featured in several movies including everybody’s favorite, The Mighty Ducks Trilogy. This place has been open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year since 1939 so you know it’s the perfect kind of place for a big classic greasy breakfast and this one comes with all the staples; eggs, choice of meat, hashbrowns, and toast.
71. Sawmill Inn
Hot Turkey, Roast Beef, Hamburger or Meatloaf Sandwich
Otherwise known as a “commercial” this simple sandwich is 100% classic Minnesota. It’s your choice of turkey, roast beef, hamburger or meatloaf on white bread served with a side of mashed potatoes and stuffing all of which gets a solid smothering of gravy. It’s easily one of the world’s greatest sandwiches and the definition of a carbo-load with a side of protein, but the Sawmill Inn has probably been serving it jut about as long as anyone given that they’ve been open since 1908.
72. The Nook
St. Paul, Highland Park
MSP is definitely known as the home of the Jucy Lucy and with good reason. We not only invented them, most of our favorite spots have one, but there are a small few that stand out above the rest and this is definitely the one to get if you’re in St. Paul. It’s just a perfect little puck of beef, stuffed with molten cheese, and served on a small white bun. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
A tried and true Minnesota tradition that proves your stature as a real born and bred Minnesotan are definitely smelt fries. These little fish come straight out of Lake Superior before getting a bath in a nice beer batter or dredged in bread crumbs and then they get dropped straight into a vat of hot oil until crispy. Otherwise known as fries with eyes, the Red Stagg is serving up these bad boys with a sweet onion tartar sauce and a smoked tomato ketchup.
74. Vincent (Closed)
The Vincent Burger
It was a sad day when Vincent closed as they were easily one of the best when it came to solid French food in the Twin Cities. For some reason, their signature dish was a burger stuffed with braised short ribs which you can now find available on the menu at Cooper Irish Pub in St. Louis Park. It was/is a damn good burger.
75. Matt’s Bar
The one true Jucy Lucy (depending on which local mythology you prefer to follow), this sandwich has been its own institution since 1954 when the restaurant claims to have invented the idea. The seemingly endless line outside the door regardless of time of year is proof that this is indeed the king of TC sandwiches. Also, President Obama ate here.
76. Norseland Lefse
While this SE Minnesota spot focuses on handcrafting copious amounts of the famous Norwegian potato-based flatbread, you can actually sit down and taste the fruit of their efforts in their onsite cafe. Here you can get a variety of hot or cold lefse wrapped sandwiches including ham, turkey, chicken, or steak, but it’s generally just best with lots of butter.
The Ranch Gobbler
The staple sandwich of the post bar consumer, this available for truly late night delivery sandwich has been the savior to many. Featuring grilled smoked turkey, melted cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and of course ranch dressing, it’s the perfect thing to help soak up the damage you did to your insides while out on the town.
There’s nothing like a block of cheese that’s been set on fire and Christos is the place to get exactly that. I dare you to not look on in awe as the flaming cheese is delivered to your table.
Octopus may not be a signature MSP ingredient, but it’s the kind of thing that can be done well or poorly. When it’s done well, it’s grilled to the perfect level of tenderness, seasoned with salt and lemon, and served simply as is. It’s a shining example of an underappreciate seafood item that more people need to get on board with, although those who have, know this is solid gold.
80. Goodfellows (Closed)
Honey Glazed Sweet Breads
Admittedly Goodfellows closed before I ever really got my start exploring the Twin Cities restaurant scene, but given how many of today’s great chefs spent time working there, it deserves a spot on this list. While I could find very little information on the restaurant, an old quote from Andrew Zimmern turned up about Chef Jack Riebel’s, “spicy crispy sweetbreads with honey glaze,” in which he refers to it as, “one of my all-time top ten Twin Cities best dishes,” so we’re going to go with that because we love Andrew and we love Jack.
Chicken Liver Mousse Tart
This criminally underrated restaurant is serving up one of the best things we’ve ever eaten in our lives. Love or hate chicken liver mousse, there’s no way you won’t love this. The earthy, yet sweet mouse is in a divine pastry and then gets topped with a seasonal preserve and a variety of pickled vegetables. Seriously, it’s so good and you should be eating it all the time.
82. Café Levain (Closed)
Pan Roasted Chicken with Polenta
Roast chicken breast is something I almost never order out due to its uncanny ability to get overcooked, however, most chefs in town knew that when you wanted a beautifully cooked piece of chicken, this was the place to do it because it was flawless every single time. And the polenta… oh the memories.
83. New French Café (Closed)
This one’s a real Twin Cities throwback as it closed in 2002, but I remember taking a high school girlfriend there back in 1999 where I had a life-changing experience with a perfectly roasted game hen. I spent a whole week’s pay on two entrees, but it was clearly worth it as we’re still together to this day. The restaurant itself also played home to a variety of great Twin Cities chefs.
Pho Thap Cam
The dish that makes every “best food in the Twin Cities” list does so with good reason. It’s stupid delicious. A bowl of this is a life changer and something I crave on a regular basis. It’s a huge bowl of incredibly flavorful broth, tender bits of beef, and various other goodies that I’ll let you experience for yourself if you’re the one person in the Twin Cities that has yet to actually try it.
Café Brenda Burger
One of the Twin Cities best-remembered restaurants will always be Brenda Langton’s original flagship, Café Brenda. Heralded by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, the Café Brenda Burger, was a vegetable, rice & nut burger and is still available at Langton’s “new” restaurant, Spoonriver.
Roasted Chicken with Wild Rice-leek Pudding
Another restaurant known for its seasonally changing menu, this dish has seen a variety of incarnations, but I had the pleasure of writing about this iteration while it was on the menu. Again, it’s one of the very few instances where I felt okay ordering a roasted chicken breast, but then again, former owner Lucia Watson was a Twin Cities culinary pioneer for a reason and even though the restaurant is under new ownership, its still absolutely worth a visit.
87. Heartland (Closed)
Downtown, St. Paul
It’s a shame that this St. Paul legacy restaurant is in their final days, but they will be remembered fondly for a lot of reasons. As a seminal locavore/farm to table/nose-to-tail restaurant, Chef Lenny Russo and crew helped to change the MSP dining landscape in a lot of ways and their house-made charcuterie was a shining example of how they could expertly treat and properly respect local ingredients.
Halibut with Gummy Bear-Crayfish Broth
St. Paul/Downtown Minneapolis
Okay, this dish sounds like utter non-sense, but Chef Patrick Atanalian is well known for putting together truly bizarre things and making it happen. This particular dish dates back to The Vintage Wine Bar days, which is now long defunct, but it still manages to make it’s way into conversations from time to time. You can still catch up with Chef Atanalian at his “new” restaurant, Sanctuary, where he continues to play with culinarily bizarre pairings. Seriously, it’s always a good, fun, and adventuresome time.
89. Chef Shack Ranch
Indian Spiced Mini Donuts
What started as one of the Twin Cities most prized food truck experiences has since branched out to the world of brick and mortar and they brought their delicious Indian spiced mini-donuts along with them. These moist little donuts are miles beyond the basic cinnamon and sugar variety that you might get at the fair and a must for any Twin Cities donut lover.
90. Pizzeria Lola
The absolute best in Twin Cities pizza has a lot to offer when it comes to their various pies, but this one stands out as a representation of the very thing that makes this restaurant unique. With Chef Ann Kim’s Korean roots on display with her homemade kimchi and Korean sausage set on top of her beautifully made Italian red sauce and perfectly crafted crust, it’s the kind of fusion that dreams are made of.
Fish Taco Torta
Minneapolis, Linden Hills
Tilia is an outstanding restaurant for a lot of reasons, but this fish taco torta has been a sandwich worth talking about since they first opened their doors. It’s crispy on the outside, moist on the inside and huge on flavor. If you’re a fish sandwich person, this one’s a game changer.
92. Victory 44
Devils on Horseback
A modern take on a throwback classic, these became an overnight sensation the second that this North Minneapolis forward thinking gastropub first opened their doors. These bacon wrapped dates come served with a decadent blue cheese foam making them a truly memorable little snack, just make sure you also save room for their Perfect Burger, which just so happens to also be a Twin Cities favorite.
This is one of two tasting menus on this list and it’s here with good reason. It’s fantastic and this nationally recognized restaurant is one of the most modern and progressive dining experiences in the whole of the Twin Cities (if not the country). The dishes change up constantly and you never know what you’re going to get or how it’s going to be served with is half the fun. It’s a must for any real, true food nerd.
94. La Belle Vie (Closed)
Minneapolis, Loring Park
This closure came as a massive heartbreak for a lot of people in the Twin Cities. Considered to be our one true four-star fine dining palace, it introduced many Minnesotans to the luxury ingredient known as foie gras over its decade long expanse. While they undoubtedly served it in a variety of preparations over the years, the poached foie gras with toasted brioche & preserved fruit was a particular favorite.
95. Salty Tart
Salty Caramel Chocolate Tart
It really is truly difficult than to do better than this luxurious dessert. It’s chocolate tart shell perfectly embraced a pool of decadent salted caramel and really, there’s nothing better than that.
96. Corner Table
Pork Belly with Chow Chow
The list of dishes at Corner Table that could go on this list is staggering, but one of the things that really helped them blast off as one of MSP’s true dining gems was this luxurious little plate of pork belly. Not only was it prepared to perfection, but the balance of flavors on the plate was a true show of genius. While not currently on the menu, it’s the kind of dish that always sits in my mind when asked about the best of the best in the Twin Cities.
Pork Belly Ramen
There may have been ramen before Masu and there has definitely been ramen after Masu, but these folks definitely kick-started the TC ramen crazy with their pork belly ramen. The broth was light and balanced which made it perfect for the tender slice of pork belly, bright and flavorful fish cake, perfectly soft poached egg, and pleasantly chewy noodles.
Silver Butter Knife Steak
The Silver Butter Knife Steak is a seriously massive 28oz sirloin that’s carved tableside. It’s a legendary hunk of meat and it’s been a Twin Cities staple since 1951.
Bludgeon of Beef
Manny’s frequently makes the grade when it comes to national and internationally known steakhouses. In 2015 the Men’s Journal named Manny’s one of the best steakhouses in the world and it was in part due to their 50oz bone-in rib eye, otherwise known to locals as the “Bludgeon of Beef”.
100. Charlie’s Café Exceptionale (Closed)
The Potato Salad
Okay, this might sound seriously weird to many, however, Charlie’s Café Exceptionale was one of the first fine dining institutions in the Twin Cities and the thing they’re most known for is their potato salad. The restaurant is so beloved that the Twin Cities local food awards were named after it and every single year they pay homage to their apparently legendary potato salad. In fact, you can actual still try the stuff at the award shows after party, as they have local culinary students recreate the original recipe and guess what? It tastes just like potato salad. Of course, it’s all in good fun and if you’ve never been, it happens every year in November so you should consider scoring yourself some tickets for next year in order to try this legendary potato salad.