Minnesota **** (Original list compiled 2013-2014 with others added on the dates indicated. All restaurants are in business in 2023)
Belle Plaine–Emma Krumbee’s-311 E. Enterprise Dr. (American). Organic farm with a restaurant and bakery.
Bemidji–Brigid’s Cross Irish Pub-317 Beltrami Ave. NW (Irish) Closed Sun. Better than the average Irish pub. Fish & chips are excellent-made with walleye.
Bloomington–Hunan-8066 Morgan Cir. S. (Chinese) Today I would consider this somewhat Americanized, but I ate here several times some years ago and enjoyed it (and I hear it is still good for this type of Chinese food). I liked the spicy (Hunan & Szechuan style) food. One interesting feature is the double-door entrance which helps keep the cold air from coming into the restaurant (a nice touch in this type of climate).
Bloomington–Mall of America (Various) OK, this is not a restaurant, but there were so many food choices I thought it would be easy to find something good (as I was able to do). Many of the choices in the mall seemed to be branches of popular restaurants based elsewhere in the twin cities.
Bloomington–Mandarin Kitchen-8766 Lyndale Ave. S. (Chinese) Closed Tue. Dim sum- has 70 varieties (can get what you want) Note: prob. not as good as Yangtze in St. Louis Park
Bloomington–Taste of Scandinavia-401 W. 98th St. (Norwegian) Open Daily (breakfast & lunch). Swedish pancakes & breakfast is most popular. Monkey bites muffins, baked goods.
Burnsville–Cam Ranh Bay-1006 County Rd. 42 W. (Vietnamese) Closed Mon. Does not try to impress customers with a large menu, but does standard dishes well. Lemongrass chicken is a good choice.
Duluth–Grandma’s Saloon & Grill-522 S. Lake Ave. (American). Waterfront restaurant with classic American food as well as local specialties such as walleye and wild rice.
Duluth–Hanabi-110 N. 1st Ave. W. (Japanese) Dinner only (lunch also served Sat & Sun). Sushi & Japanese food..
Duluth–New Scenic Cafe-5461 N. Shore Dr. (New American) Closed Mon & Tue. Organic-seasonal menu.
Duluth–Northern Waters Smokehaus-394 S. Lake Ave. (Smoked Fish) Lunch only (open daily). Recommended by the Sterns for smoked whitefish cooked on maple wood with horseradish mayo as a garnish. (Dining room is open 2-4-23)
Pickwick–508 E. Superior St. (American) Closed Sun & Mon. Has a variety of American food including local specialties such as walleye fingers. Won a James Beard award in 2007. (Dining room is open 3-2-23)
Forest Lake–Joy Garden-843 W Broadway Ave. (Chinese) Closed Tue. Good food at good prices. Might not have as much authentic Chinese food as some other places, but makes liberal use of vegetables and does not concentrate on fried food with gloppy sauce.
Grand Marais–Angry Trout-408 W. Hwy 61 (Seafood) Fish from Lake Superior
Little Canada–Taste of Scandinavia Bakery-2900 Rice St. (Finnish) Open daily (breakfast & lunch)–see info. for North Oaks
Minneapolis–Al’s Breakfast-413 14th Ave. SE (American) Open daily to 1 pm. The Sterns recommend buttermilk pancakes either with berries and walnuts or plain with the traditional butter and syrup on top. (Dining room is open 2-4-23)
Minneapolis–Hamdi-818 E. Lake St. (Somali) Open Daily. Supposedly very authentic.
Minneapolis–Hell’s Kitchen-80 S. 9th St. (New American) Closed Sun evening & Mon. Has upscale and unusual dishes such as huevos rancheros, lemon ricotta pancakes, and chicken fried steak on a waffle. Jane & Michael Stern, though, especially recommend Mahnomin Porridge, a breakfast side dish that is available on the menu all day. This is a Cree Indian dish based on the region’s wild rice, and flavored with hazelnuts, dried berries, and maple syrup flavor. They also recommend the cinnamon roll and the huevos rancheros. (Dining room is open 2-4-23)
Minneapolis–Hot Plate-5204 Bloomington Ave. (Breakfast) Closed Tue. Breakfast restaurant. Has Swedish pancakes (but is not a Swedish restaurant).
Minneapolis–Kramarczuk Sausage Co-215 E. Hennepin Ave. (Ukrainian) Lunch Tue-Sat; Dinner Sat. Stuffed cabbage with tomato cream sauce, borscht, nordeast, Ukrainian combination, apple turnover, sausage (brats or beef sticks). Won a James Beard award in 2013.
Minneapolis–Murray’s-26 S. 6th St. (Steak House) Dinner Daily; Lunch Tue-Fri. Recommended by the Sterns for the butter knife steak (they like the Porterhouse). This is an old fashioned supper club with live piano music and cocktails. (Dining room is open 2-4-23)
Minneapolis–Peninsula-2608 Nicollet Ave. (Malaysian) Closed Tue. Malaysian food is highly rated. Makes its own tofu (tofu dishes are very good).
Minneapolis–Union Hmong Kitchen-520 N. 4th St. (Hmong) Open daily except Sun evening. Has traditional style sausage, chicken, steak, and whole fried fish, among other items. (Dining room is open 2-4-23)
North Oaks–Taste of Scandinavia Bakery-845 Village Center Dr. (Finnish) Open daily (breakfast & lunch). Baked goods & sandwiches. Finnish pulla rolls, pastries with ligonberry, monkey bites muffins. Located n. of St. Paul
Plymouth–Tea House-88 Nathan Ln. N. (Chinese) Closed Mon. Sichuan style-some say this is the best Chinese w. of New York. Ask for Chinese menu. Also at 1676 Suburban Ave. (St. Paul) & 2425 University Ave SE. (Mpls.)
Red Wing–Bierstube R W’s-233 Withers Harbor Dr. (German) Made from scratch German home cooking
Rochester–Nupa-1035 Civic Center Dr. NW (Greek) Open Daily. Just about the only rest. I can find in Rochester which people say is truly good. Cheap, and has a good menu (more than just gyros).
Rochester–Pho Chau-1014 Broadway Ave. N. (Vietnamese) Open Daily. Best Asian in Rochester-popular with Mayo Clinic staff & visitors (people from other cities who are used to good Asian food). Has both pho & noodle dishes.
Rushford–Norsland Lefse–210 W. Jessie St. (Norwegian) Open 7 am to 2 pm (closed Sun). Specializes in Lefse and other baked goods, but has a menu of mostly breakfast items. (Dining room is open 2-4-23)
Saint Louis Park–Yangtze-5625 Wayzata Blvd. (Chinese) Open Daily. Dim sum Sat. & Sun. (it is supposed to be the best in Twin Cities-fresh). Mandarin cuisine, also has Sichuan & Cantonese
Saint Paul–Bangkok Thai Deli-333 University Ave. W. (Thai) Closed Tue. Said to be the most authentic & best Thai in Twin Cities.
Saint Paul–Cheng Heng-448 University Ave. W. (Cambodian) Open Daily. 95% likes on Urbanspoon. Closes at 9:30, but you can come in just before and be seated. #52 (tamarind stir fry with chicken) is recommended. #17, 23, and 46 are also recommended. Has a more extensive Cambodian menu probably than even the restaurants in California.
Saint Paul–Hmong Village-1001 Johnson Parkway (Hmong) Market style-buy food from stalls, eat in the common dining tables. Food is good and cheap. Fue’s stall (papaya salad), Santi stall (steamed catfish in banana leaf). With Hmong food, the chile pepper sauce is what makes it good (go to Santi for a good one). Hmong food has boiled chicken, boiled greens, spiced sausage, papaya salad (some food at the market is Thai & Lao rather than Hmong)
Saint Paul–Little Szechuan Hot Pot-422 University Ave. W. (Chinese) Open Daily. Sichuan cuisine. Some say it’s the most authentic Chinese food in Twin Cities.
Saint Paul–Punch Pizza-769 Grand Ave. (Pizza) Open Daily. Has authentic Neapolitan style pizza cooked in wood fired stone ovens.
Stillwater–Gasthaus-8390 Lofton Ave. N. (German) Open Daily. Authentic Bavarian (Temporarily closed Feb. 2023)
Taylors Falls–The Drive-In-572 Bench St. (American) Home made root beer, hamburgers. (Temporarily closed Feb. 2023)
Two Harbors–Betty’s Pies-1633 MN-31 (American) Winter hours: Fri-Sat (lunch only). Known for its pies, but also has a lunch menu. The Sterns suggest that you might want to include a pasty in the meal because it is one of the best in the country. They also recommend the pie shape (a pie mixed in a blender and served as a milk shake). (Dining room is open 2-4-23)
Wadena–Oma’s Bread-10 Aldrich Ave. SW (German) Breakfast & lunch Tue-Sat; Dinner Thu-Sat. Basic menu for lunch but more selections at dinner and on weekends. People really like the bakery. (Dining room is open 2-4-23)
Winona–Bloedow Bakery-451 E. Broadway St. (Bakery) One of the best bakeries anywhere for donuts & long johns. (Takeout only)
- This is an Abbreviated List, compiled from a limited number of sources.
- Original list came primarily from Urbanspoon.com in 2013-2014.
- Newer listings are indicated by the date of their latest update.
- My recommendations are in Bold.
Jane & Michael Stern, “500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late”
This work by the Sterns, published in 2009, focuses on individual dishes and “the Very Best Places to Eat Them.” Although the list is dated by more than a decade, it is worth taking a look at the choices which include the following in Minnesota (partial list and edited for places that have closed–Bold for No. 1 recommendation in the U.S.):
- Al’s Breakfast, Minneapolis–Buttermilk pancakes
- Betty’s Pies, Two Harbors—Pasties, Pie Shakes
- Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis—Mahnomin Porridge, Cinnamon Roll
- Murray’s, Minneapolis—Butter Knife Steak
- Northern Waters Smokehaus, Duluth–Smoked Whitefish
Note About “50 States, 50 Dishes” (Condé Nast)
Condé Nast published an article on Jul. 3, 2018 using various sources to compile a “list of the dishes that capture the hearts, souls, and (oh, yes) stomachs of these 50 states (plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico), and where you should order them.” For Minnesota it was lefse, a Norwegian flatbread made of riced potatoes that is enjoyed with cinnamon or lingonberry jam. Some places to enjoy it include Norsland Lefse in Rushford, Jacobs Lefse Bakeri in Osakis, or Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian Gifts & Foods in Minneapolis.
Note About “50 States, 50 Cuisines” (Condé Nast)
Condé Nast published an article on Sep. 14, 2020 explaining how they set out to go beyond a previous article that had identified the signature dish for each state, and to find food that goes beyond the classics and “to highlight a cuisine worth traveling to each state for, much of which you truly can’t get anywhere else.” For Minnesota it was Hmong cuisine, which was brought to the state largely by Hmong refugees from the Vietnam war in 1975.
The Hmong Village in St. Paul showcases both the Hmong’s traditional food and their own updates through the 1970’s style food stalls. Some of these to check out include Mai’s Kitchen for some traditional dishes and Santi’s with tamarind-glazed steak. Union Hmong Kitchen is a Minneapolis restaurant with a more formal setting than the food stalls, and the Vinai Market Deli has a more modern take on the food.
James Beard Foundation (America’s Classics Award Winners)
Condé Nast Traveler “50 States, 50 Cuisines: The Food Worth Traveling For in Every State”
Condé Nast Traveler, “50 States, 50 Dishes: America’s Favorite Foods and Where to Get Them”
Jane & Michael Stern, “500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late,” 2009, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcort.
Urbanspoon.com (former web site which I used for preliminary research)