MINNEAPOLIS - Obviously, listing and ranking the Twin Cities best eating options, no matter how much exhaustive, belly-expanding "research" was involved, is going to elicit just as much angry disagreement as approving nods. These things verily invite controversy – which is all part of the fun. Enjoy!
10. Sonora Grill: Foodies have been beside themselves over budget-friendly Sonora's fresh ingredients, everything made from scratch right down to the mayonnaise, and the magazine photo shoot-ready presentations. The bocadillos are a vision, served on buns made that morning with green chicken, steak, eggplant, or pork (cooked for six hours) with a marinade of dried ancho, guajillo, and chipotle peppers. Of the varieties of caramelos– three or four bite, soft-shelled tacos with cheese – the house favorite is the tongue, cooked for 12 hours, and served with a dollop of green salsa and jalapeno.
9. Minneapolis Farmers Market: Rain or shine, the Minneapolis Farmers Market, Minnesota's largest open air, covered market, has put consumers directly in contact with farmers since the mid 1800s. The Lyndale location, on the southwest edge of downtown Minneapolis, opened in 1937. While one can acquire candles, soaps and all variety of handmade crafts, the main reason to stop here is the largely locally sourced flowers, plants, fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, and eggs. The local cheeses and fresh honey are especially popular.
8. Victory 44: North Minneapolis isn't typically associated with gastropubs, but Victory 44 is far from typical. The cross-functional skeleton crew serves as cooks, servers and hosts, dishing out affordable, creative, contemporary dishes. The seasonal menu prevents us from citing specific items, though examples one might find include a beef tongue reuben, lamb, cod, celery root agnolotti (like ravioli) and the ever-present "Perfect Burger."
7. Brasa Premium Rotisserie: Serving Creole-inspired, meat-leaning comfort food, Brasa is a much celebrated, casual, dine-in or takeout eating option with locations in both Minneapolis and St Paul. The slow-cooked, organic menu selections include plates and sandwiches piled with pulled chicken, smoked beef, and pork that was seemingly slow roasted for days. Sides include corn bread, coleslaw and crispy yuca. There are several vegetarian and gluten free options, as well.
6. Tilia: Tilia's dizzying menu options range from snacks and sandwiches on the "In Between" menus, to the tongue dancing amazingness of the dinner menu. Shared dishes like the "Faux Gras" (chicken liver custard, eggplant preserves, double smoked bacon & grilled bread) or scallops with black rice and chorizo lead to entrees such as Copper River Sockeye Salmon with baby bok choi, shishito peppers and mushroom dashi or the Slow-Cooked Pork Rib with asparagus and sherry demi glace. Buzz-worthy items on the In Between menu include "Double Dogs" (beer cheese sauce, jalapeño giardiniera and shoestring potatoes) and the "Potted Meat" with shallots, mustard and grilled bread. Arrive just as the doors open or be comfortable with the concept of a waiting up to two hours for a seat.
5. The Strip Club Meat and Fish: One may balk at telling their mothers that they're dining at The Strip Club, but that's where any apprehension ends at this protein-fest. Routinely declared St Paul's best restaurant, ostensibly simple plates of grass-fed steak, pork and duck will inspire ecstatically moaned superlatives. It's generally not a cheap meal, however people on a budget can revel in the pure joy of the Chef's Loaded Burger. They also do exceptional cocktails. Vegetarians will want to dine elsewhere.
4. Heartland: Fifteen years ago something called "Midwest modern cuisine" might have been a Garrison Keillor comedy bit, but Heartland's fixation on organic, artisanal, regional ingredients and doing everything in-house from the bread to their own butcher shop has legitimized the unlikely food trend. Daily fixed-price and a la carte menus might include Limousin beef roast, poached egg with polenta and duck bolognese, fenel-cured whitefish or the staggering "Midwestern cassoulet" with smoked pork, lamb, beef, pastrami sausage, white beans and pork belly. Smitten customers can takes ingredients home from the on-site gourmet market.
3. Bar La Grassa: The kitchen here could be wallpapered with the steady stream of awards and recognition they receive, including "Best Chef – Midwest" from the James Beard Foundation. Reservations are a must for the privilege of sampling the notably creative pasta concoctions, the singular, lengthy bruschetta menu and fantastical charcuterie. The dizzying pasta lists are what the fuss is primarily about, all of it prepared on site – simple, yet precise. Half portions are available, which is a good idea if you surrender to the urge to try three or four bruschette.
2. The Bachelor Farmer: The Twin Cities' embracing of contemporary "New Nordic" cuisine is epitomized at The Bachelor Farmer, which combines Scandinavian tradition with hand-made food (some of their produce is grown on the roof) and a flourish of creativity. In the past, the menu, which can change daily, has featured fried sweet potatoes, popovers with honeyed butter, dill-cured sea bass and pheasant meatballs. Reservations strongly recommended.
1. La Belle Vie: Even at $85 ($150 with wine flight), people will testify that La Belle Vie's legendary French-leaning eight-course Chef's Tasting Menu is an excellent value. If one isn't satisfied with mere wretched excess, there's the 13-course Grand Tasting Menu for $145 ($220 with wine flight). The tasting menus change monthly, following a general fish-chicken-beef chronology, often with a toe-curling zinger thrown in, like the cappelletti filled with lobster and vegetable ash, with ruby beets and black truffle shavings. The more casual lounge, with its mad scientist cocktail menu, is another, yet equally alluring story.