Top 10 steak houses in the Twin Cities

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Tony Nelson
At the Twin Cities' best steak joints, you'll need is a big appetite, a sharp knife, and a thick wallet
For all of the great advances and trends in local dining in recent years--fusion, small plates, exquisitely crafted platings, molecular gastronomy--for many meat-loving foodies there is still no experience quite like the primal thrill of biting into a big, juicy, perfectly cooked steak. And while the grass-fed, farm-to-table ethos has certainly enhanced the experience, many of the finest local steak houses seem immune to such concerns, lost in a time warp that has left them unchanged for decades; that retro chic, in fact, is part of their charm. So from modern to classic, here are our choices of where to find the best steaks in the Twin Cities.

See also:
Top 10 martinis in the Twin Cities
Top 10 romantic restaurants in the Twin Cities
Top 10 burgers in the Twin Cities

10. Fogo de Chao

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Here's the problem with most steak houses: how to choose. New York strip? Porterhouse? Filet mignon? Prime Rib? That's why Fogo de Chão, a churrascaria-style steak house, is great for commitment-phobes. Brazilian gaucho chefs dash around the room carrying giant skewers of flame-kissed meats; diners pay a flat fee for unlimited access to the meat parade, gained with a small paper disk--red on one side, green on the other--that signals to the gauchos whether they should stop. The price includes the chance to graze from Fogo's notoriously abundant salad bar (it's stocked with such gourmet goods as smoked salmon, prosciutto, and a wheel of Parmesan that could double as a car tire). While the gauchos serve lamb chops and chicken, they specialize in beef--everything from prime sirloin seasoned with sea salt and garlic to bacon-wrapped fillet. It's kind of like wine flights for meat. So next time you have to choose just one, at least you'll know what you like. (645 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.338.1344)


9. Erte

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Bre McGee
Whatever the Twin Cities have lost in terms of quality-of-life points, we should be gaining back thanks to the sheer volume of good, cheap steak available within a 10-or-so-mile radius of downtown Minneapolis. From the Eisenhowerrific Ike's to Dinkytown's oh-so-welcome Steak Knife (student-budget steak that doesn't taste like a hoary cliché!), this category is wide open. But, in the end, the fact is that no one gets everything as right, as consistently, as good old Erté. They've got the understated hip-romantic ambience, the thoughtful wine list, the knowledgeable, ruthlessly efficient and aching-to-please waitstaff, and the bar lighting that makes everyone 20 percent more attractive. Oh, and the food: unpretentious and almost uniformly terrific, with a couple of can't-go-wrong house cuts and just enough of a modern tweak to make steak house staples interesting again. You are hereby defied to find a better pair of pork chops in town than Erté's Guinness-marinated and Scotch-and-brown-sugar-glazed version. Come in for the food, stick around for after-dinner drinks and conversation, and you have our guarantee that your date will emerge impressed with both your fiscal sensibility and fantastic taste. (323 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612.623.4211)


8. Lindey's Prime Steak House

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Part of the fun is in the journey to this restaurant, which looks like a 1950s inn, charmingly decorated with red twinkling lights. The vintage vibe continues in the dining room, which captures the cozy feel of a lake cabin, complete with wood paneling and a stone fireplace. But the reason so many devoted fans make this trek is the meat. The menu consists simply of three kinds of steak (with shrimp thrown in for good measure), and those steaks are as big as your noggin and grilled to perfection, served on a sizzling platter. The meal is completed with salad, family-style hashbrowns, and pickled watermelon rinds (an amazing granny touch, the rinds taste like they could win a State Fair blue ribbon). Lindey's has been family-owned and -operated since 1958, when it opened in a basement on University and Snelling. It moved to its current location in 1961. There's nothing fancy going on here -- this steak house is laid back and kid-friendly, boisterous and fun, yet still a perfect place to impress guests or business associates. Another very popular old-school touch is its birthday club: Join and receive $25 off dinner the week of your b-day. (3600 N. Snelling Ave., Arden Hills;
651.633.9813)


7. Mancini's Char House

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The rise of so many great steak house options in the Twin Cities makes us appreciate the folks who have been doing it right for decades: Mancini's Char House in St. Paul. That's because a great steak house experience is about more than just carving up the perfect slab of medium-rare beef and slathering your baked potato in butter--it's having a Manhattan while sitting in a red leather booth as you wait for your table (half expecting a member of the Rat Pack to stroll in for a martini). It's smelling the char odor clinging to your hair and clothes hours after you've left. It's encountering Vulcans in the winter months and bocce players in the summer. Every hunk of perfectly charbroiled filet, New York strip, and sirloin comes with hefty helpings of salad, greasy grilled bread, potatoes, and some of the best people-watching the city has to offer. This sprawling family-owned restaurant has been filling stomachs since 1948, and the decor tells you that not much has changed since then. But why mess with old-school perfection? Mancini's has easily earned the right to call itself a St. Paul institution. (531 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651.224.7345)


6. Jax Cafe

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Bre McGee
Some things are beautiful in a moment, when the sun peeks out behind a cloud as the rain continues to fall; a hummingbird pausing by a rose; a shooting star. Blink and you'll miss the moment. Other types of beauty are meant to linger, endure, and gain a weathered patina, deepening the handsome grooves worn over time. Jax would be the latter. Not a lot has changed since it opened its doors. The servers, crisp in black and white, stand at the ready. The drinks are appropriately strong and smooth. Most importantly, the aged cuts are expertly prepared. As you cut through each tender hunk of charred beef, the walls fall away, time stands still, and the classic, American taste of a red meat reminds us that some things really do get better with time. (1928 University Ave., Minneapolis; 612.789.7297 )


Location Info

Manny's Steakhouse

825 Marquette Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

Murray's Restaurant And Cocktail Lounge

26th S. 6th St., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

The Strip Club Meat & Fish

378 Maria Ave., St. Paul, MN

Category: Restaurant

St. Paul Grill and Bar

350 Market St., St. Paul, MN

Category: Restaurant

Joan's in the Park

631 S. Snelling Ave., St Paul, MN

Category: Restaurant

Jax Cafe

1928 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

Mancini's Char House

531 W. 7th St., St. Paul, MN

Category: Restaurant

Lindey's Prime Steak House

3600 N. Snelling Ave., Arden Hills, MN

Category: Restaurant

Erte

323 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis, MN

Category: Music

Fogo De Chao

645 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

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