50 tasty reasons to love Minnesota food

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Walleye, Surly, Honeycrisp ... and we're just getting started
When Anthony Bourdain last year told his TV audience on No Reservations that his experience at Doug Flicker's south Minneapolis restaurant Piccolo was "far and away the best and most inspired and inspiring meal of my trip across America," he was confirming what Twin Cities diners have known for years: Minnesota's food scene is worthy of national attention.

The Twin Cities' recent domination of the James Beard Awards for Best Midwest Chef is only one sign that our state is now a fixture on America's food map. The explosive growth of Minnesota dining culture can be seen in the burgeoning farm-to-table ethic and growth of farmers markets; in Lenny Russo's grand, experimental food campus at Heartland; in the artisan meats of Green Ox; and in the designer cocktails at Bradstreet Craftshouse, La Belle Vie, and others. Esquire magazine even singled out Al's Breakfast as serving the "Best Pancakes in America."

Minnesota has long been a food-conscious state, from our Mill City beginnings to Betty Crocker to our invention of the Honeycrisp apple, but nothing has rivaled today's diverse restaurant and food scene. Eating in Minnesota has become a spectacular adventure of tastes and experiences.

Here is our list of the 50 best reasons to eat in Minnesota:


The Minnesota Food 50


50. Decadent dairy: Rich, sweet, small-batch butters from places like Hope Creamery and Rochedale Farms. Plus goat cheeses from Donnay, cave-aged blues from Faribault, milk and cream from Cedar Summit, and so many more.

49. Red Lake walleye: The country's only hook-and-line-caught commercial fishery is open once again, providing the only source of United States walleye.

48. Affordable fine dining: At many fine-dining gems, entrée prices hover around $20. Plus, you'll find gourmet chefs cooking everyday fare at places like Be'Wiched Deli and Sonora Grill.

47. Booyah feed season.

46. Rural food festivals: Barnesville has Potato Days, Montgomery has Kolache Days, and Brahm has Pie Day, among others.

45. Design: From the historic, gothic digs at the Strip Club to the too-cool-for-school Brooklyn-esque Tilia, to the serene loft of Tanpopo noodle shop, to the theatrical set-like Heidi's, local restaurateurs consider aesthetics a meaningful part of the dining experience.

44. We're the home of public radio's The Splendid Table.

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Photo: Compart Family Farms
Compart Farms' dry-aged pork could make you forget steak
43. Compart Family Farms pioneers dry-aged pork: Pork that eats like a steak? Beef had better watch out!

42. Austin-based Hormel invented the world's most popular tinned-meat-cum-pop-culture meme, SPAM.

41. Long Cheng livestock market allows visitors to select their own animal for on-site slaughter, just a few miles from downtown St. Paul

40. After a successful pilot program in Minneapolis, citywide curbside-collected composting is closer to becoming a reality.

39. D'Amico vs. international cheflebrities: This family-run Italian restaurant chain has so far succeeded in ousting two international cheflebrities from splashy venues, the Chambers Hotel and Walker Art Center.

38. Steve Schussler, inventor of the international theme-restaurant chain Rainforest Café, calls the Twin Cities home, and his fantastical Golden Valley workshop is incubating even more "eatertainment" concepts.

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Photo: Rachel Hutton
Galactic's pizza-delivering superheroes: Fighting the never-ending battle against munchies
37. Pizza-delivering superheroes: At Galactic Pizza, spandex-clad superheroes deliver pies via electric cars.

36. Pizza perfectionists: From our longtime Neapolitan faves Punch and Nea, to newcomers like Black Sheep, Pizzeria Lola, and Mozza Mia, obsessive attention to detail makes these pies competitive with any on the East Coast ... or even Italy.

35. Airport eats: Recent remodeling added more local flavor, with MSP branches of local favorites like French Meadow, Surdyk's, and Ike's. A new project in the works will bring even more notable chefs--Russell Klein and Lenny Russo among them--into the mix so travelers don't have to settle for generic fast-food chains.

34. Park concessions: The Twin Cities have one of the country's best urban park systems, and they've been made even better by the addition of savvy food vendors: Tin Fish, Sea Salt, and the new, ultra-green Bread and Pickle.

33. Target Field concessions include lots of local food makers, from Kramarczuk's sausages to Murray's steak sandwiches.

32. Gastro Non Grata: These frequent events exploit our local musician-chef overlap by combining concerts and food. Indie bands perform as listeners sample snacks, brewers make beer, and one lucky meat raffle winner goes home with a carnivorous feast.

31. Charcuterie: We have more pigs than people in these parts, and lots of local restaurants making their own charcuterie. Mike Phillips and Kieran Folliard hope to turn their new retail company, Green Ox, into the Midwest's regional preserved meat maker.


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16 comments
Carson
Carson

I just don't know why Anthony Bourdain would say things like that. I've gone to many restaurants in Minneapolis truly expecting rave reviews to prove true. I can honestly say that some of the worst food I've ever eaten in America was in Minneapolis. I wanted to kick the table over after eating at Heidi's. It's like it's like, this is England and people just don't know what tastes good. I've lived in Minne for a year and a half and have gone to most of the restaurants in town. I've learned never to trust a review. There are some fine restaurants, but it seems really strange that people aren't declaring that there is something wrong with a lot of the restaurants in town and that they need to become better. Not more creative, just tastier. There's plenty of that "I'm not a cook, I'm an artist" nonsense. Show me your Chemistry Ph.d. and I will eat your food, Man. I mean, is it the demographics?(awesome Somali restaurants, horrific Ethiopian) The climate? I just, I don't know. Whenever I go out of town it becomes a culinary holiday and food seems so much better and easy to find. Random walk in the door my god its delicious. And also cheaper, but I'll leave that be.

Koolai Jones
Koolai Jones

I think people in MN need to stop eating so much.  I know everyone in MN likes to pretend that everyone there is skinny and healthy...but you're fat.  Lots of you are.  Get out of the cubicle and lay off the cheese curds, you puffy tubs of goo. 

Cue someone citing some vague stat from 10 years ago saying MN is healthy in 3...2...1...don't care.  Move to Denver, this place is healthy.  No fat people here.  If you see one, they stick out.  In MN, it's the norm.  Ever been to a mall in the Twin Cities?  All the people look like they've been spooning in Crisco for decades.

RandLDad
RandLDad

After moving to Paris for the year, and, strangely, missing some of the eats in good ol' Minny.

erin
erin

Uhhh... how about highest concentration per capita of grocery co-ops in the US? 

And very healthy farmers market and CSA movement in MN?

MN Foodie
MN Foodie

.....Nectar Wine Bar & Bistro by Chef Kevin in Osseo, Minnesota near Maple Grove is also worthy of national attention.

McGrouchy
McGrouchy

Please stop making the interns do lists... or at least assign them an editor.

Lee
Lee

I think you better check you facts on this one. I know there are a few mistakes.

26. In 1962, Minnesotan John Holohan dreamed up the precursor for Lucky Charms by mixing Cheerios with pieces of Circus Peanuts, helping lead General Mills--along with Betty Crocker and instant cake mixes--to become a multinational corporation.

Mia
Mia

You forgot to name Doug Grina of Al's Breakfast to the list of James Beard Award winners

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

I would amend #1 that DESPITE some places here thinking a burger tastes best when overcooked and filled with boiling hot cheese, there are places that know better (Nookie Supreme, 112 Burger, Bulldog, etc).

Ju(i)cy Lucys are terrible.

jessica
jessica

You mean Al's *Breakfast*?

Mark S
Mark S

Anthony Bourdain once said Minneapolis has the best Vietnamese food in America.

Chadhinson
Chadhinson

SPAM, Lucky Charms, and Lutefisk posted as positive examples of your food culture. (Sigh) Oh, Minnesota, you're so cute. How I wistfully look back at my brief sojourn with thee...

Julieannwarner
Julieannwarner

Too bad we're terrible at being elitist assholes here. 

Koolai Jones
Koolai Jones

wow, I beg to differ.  so does everyone in Edina, Eden Prairie, White bear, Plymouth, or...just about the whole Twin Cities, really.  Plenty of elitist assholes to go around.

MINNESOTAN
MINNESOTAN

But we google the word hipster more than anybody!

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

...because we have a local website devoted to identifying inexpensive happy hours with the word "hipster" in it's name. If the site were called "Thrifty Helicopter Penis" we...you get the idea.

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