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The Most Exciting — Or Infuriating — Twin Cities Restaurant Trends of 2023

Feat. predictable menus, local expansions, and a birria takeover

A forkful of red birria ramen being lifted out of a plastic quart container.
Birria everything.

It’s an Eater tradition to round out the year with a survey of local food experts — editors, writers, reporters, and a select few others — on the highs, lows, and surprises of the past 365 days in dining. Today, our panel looks at the year’s most exciting — or infuriating — trends in the local restaurant scene. Have thoughts to share? Feel free to add them in the comments.

Stephanie March, food and dining editor of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

I’m just over your espresso martinis. Also, again, let’s stop putting blocks of ice in coupe glasses so that we don’t get cracked in the face when we take a sip, hmmm?

Mecca Bos, food writer, chef, and BIPOC Foodways Alliance founder

I’m super tired of “Keyword Cafe.” Too many restaurants have a variation of the same menu: Caesar Salad; something with burrata; smashburger; fried chicken sandwich; chicken-bacon-bourbon-ranch et. al. Ask an AI to write a menu of a standard American restaurant menu and it will come up. We need more variation, more diversity, and most importantly — a dining public willing to take chances on eating something different.

Em Cassel, editor and co-owner of Racket

I wrote about this trend for Racket, but it’s been wild to see how quickly new Twin Cities restaurants — from Bebe Zito to Centro to Slice Brothers to Boludo to Wrecktangle Pizza — have been expanding. That explosion from one location to four or five (or more!) in a few years gives me hope that maybe our cities are in some kind of peaceful post-pandemic period? On the other hand, Stalk & Spade just closed all three of its restaurants at once. So.

James Norton, editor and co-founder of Heavy Table newsletter

I’m going to go with “infuriating”: offering seasonal and/or local menus without tipping a hat to the farmers, ranchers, and other purveyors who make the menu possible. I absolutely get that “farm to table” was a trend, and that the trend died years ago, but it’s irritating to me (and maybe only me) that its death makes it passe to acknowledge and celebrate all the food producers who give our region its flavor and identity.

Golnaz Yamoutpour, @eatdrinkdish founder

I feel like Espresso Martinis, and renditions of them, were everywhere in 2023. I didn’t hate it or love it, but it’s definitely a crowd pleaser.

Natalia Mendez, freelance writer and Eater Twin Cities contributor

I know it’s been around for a bit, but I’m seeing birria everywhere, and I love it. Birria tacos, birria ramen... I can’t be mad at this delicious, drippy, and savory trend!

Alex Lodner, freelance writer and Eater Twin Cities contributor

I still can’t wrap my head around the “rules of the game” with the service charge/tipping situation. Please don’t make me work so hard. Also, can we done with espresso martinis please and thank you.

Stacy Brooks, freelance writer and Eater Twin Cities contributor

I find it so confusing when restaurants charge a significant service fee (18-20%) but then also have a tip line on the check.

Justine Jones, editor of Eater Twin Cities

It’s been so cool to see pan-Asian malls really gain steam here, with Asia Mall opening in Eden Prairie this winter, and Pacifica of Burnsville and a second Hmongtown Marketplace coming soon. They’re such fun, vital spaces for gathering and eating, and it’s exciting to see them revitalizing shopping malls and retail spaces, given all the angst about the mallpocalypse, etc.