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A white bowl filled with spaghetti with red sauce and lobster.
Spaghetti fra diavolo with lobster at Martina in Linden Hills.
Kevin Kramer/Eater Twin Cities

38 Essential Restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul

A guide to the defining restaurants of Minneapolis and St. Paul

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Spaghetti fra diavolo with lobster at Martina in Linden Hills.
| Kevin Kramer/Eater Twin Cities

The Eater 38 is a tapestry of Minneapolis and St. Paul’s essential restaurants, comprising many cuisines, neighborhoods, and price points. This map is updated every quarter to include cornerstone restaurants of Twin Cities cuisine, from long-established spots to newcomers to the scene. The Eater 38 spans the Cities’ restaurant scene in all its vibrancy, from bowls of fiery birria on Lake Street to Rohan duck in the North Loop; from kor koo noodle soup in Frogtown to bison tartare on the banks of the Mississippi River. This season, we’ve added family-run Chinese cafe and bakery Keefer Court; straight-from-Buenos-Aires pizza and empanada restaurant Boludo; timeless Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis’s North Loop; and Khâluna, south Minneapolis’s enchanting homage to Laotian and Southeast Asian cuisine.

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Travail Kitchen and Amusements

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There’s no party like a Travail party. This trail-blazing chef collective specializes in creating an atmosphere of delight and wonder. Travail made its name subverting the traditional restaurant model, eliminating servers, and bringing chefs table-side to dish out an intriguing tasting menu (including cocktails bubbling over with liquid nitrogen). The latest iteration of the restaurant is an expansive three-level building in Robbinsdale. Buy a ticket for the tasting menu (think hamachi tartare, nitro passion fruit fluff, and a “caviar” of Thai basil panna cotta and strawberry tapioca) or sip a curated cocktail flight at the basement bar.

A selection of drinks on a black background including one black collins glass, one clear garnished with apples and cinnamon, one opaque like a clarified milk punch, one shockingly verdant green with a grassy garnish, and a coup glass with flower petals mixed into an amber liquid
A cocktail line-up from Travail.
Travail

Hai Hai

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James Beard–nominated chef Christina Nguyen’s Southeast Asian restaurant Hai Hai is one of Northeast Minneapolis’s most compelling restaurants for upscale dining. In 2017, Nguyen and co-owner Birk Grudem expertly transformed a divey neighborhood strip club into a lush patio space and interior: Hai Hai’s deep teal walls and canopy of ferns and paper lanterns make the space hum with tropical charm, even in the dead of winter. The cocktails are thoughtful and creative — think lychee slushies and espresso martinis with Vietnamese coffee and coconut — and the menu has standouts like Thai banana blossom salad, beef larb lettuce wraps, and a tender Balinese chicken thigh with macerated kale and bean sprout salad.

The turquoise and green wallpapered dining room at Hai Hai. Deep blue chairs are stationed at wooden tables and two orange and purple paper lanterns hang above them.
Hai Hai in Northeast Minneapolis.
Kevin Kramer / Eater Twin Cities

Nixta Tortilleria & Mexican takeout

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Chef Gustavo Romero uses heirloom corn varieties to create hearty, delicately flavorful tortillas at this tortilleria and Mexican takeout operation in Northeast Minneapolis. Romero grew up on a farm in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo, where he played in fields of Oaxacan heirloom corn. Since opening Nixta in 2020, his mission has been to preserve and celebrate heirloom corn varieties, which have suffered in recent decades due to hybridization and industrial tortilla production (though they’re making a culinary comeback in Mexico City). Romero nixtamalizes the corn for his tortillas in-house. In shades of slate blue, pale yellow, and brown, they all make ideal canvases for his rotating family-style takeout menu featuring dishes like okra tostadas, duck carnitas tacos, and masa fried peppers.

Black and white image of Gustavo Romero from the torso up, hands on his hips, wearing a chef coat and an apron. A corn cob tattoo is visible on his forearm.
Chef Gustavo Romero.
Nixta

Sammy’s Avenue Eatery

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Back in 2012, chef Sammy McDowell pooled his personal savings and opened Sammy’s Avenue Eatery, a sunny, casual sandwich spot in North Minneapolis. Ten years later, the restaurant is a cornerstone of Broadway Avenue, a place where people come as much for the juicy sandwiches as for the sense of community. Catch the teacher’s union gathering there for turkey melts and tuna clubs, or come on a day when McDowell is collaborating with local chefs on a soul food menu (think smothered chicken and rice or cheeseburger meatloaf). Sammy’s was even featured in Season 6 of Hulu’s Small Business Revolution. A second Northside location is forthcoming.

Kramarczuk Sausage Company

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A beloved Ukrainian bakery, delicatessen, and restaurant, Kramarczuk’s first opened in Northeast Minneapolis near the Nicollet Island bridge in 1954. Anna and Wasyl Kramarczuk came to Minnesota from Ukraine as refugees in the late 1940s. Several years after settling in Minneapolis, they bought one of the city’s oldest butcher shops and made it their own. Today, Kramarczuk’s is loved equally for its vast array of savory sausages and its restaurant menu, which features favorites like pierogi, borshch, and hefty Krakowska and pastrami brisket sandwiches. The James Beard Foundation named it an America’s classic in 2013.

Union Hmong Kitchen

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Chef Yia Vang first started Union Hmong Kitchen as a roving pop-up around the Twin Cities. When he began cooking and serving foods from Hmong culture made with the fine dining skills he had gained working in area kitchens, Hmong food wasn’t a familiar cuisine in the Twin Cities restaurant world. Years later, his pop-up Union Hmong Kitchen is now a permanent restaurant in the North Loop’s Graze food hall, and Vang is a 2022 James Beard finalist for best chef Midwest. The menu standouts at UHK are the Zoo Siab meals — which means “happy meals” in the Hmong language — made with proteins like chile-glazed pork shoulder and Hmong sausage, all served with purple sticky rice, pickled veggies, and sides like chilled khao sen noodles. Saturdays only, try the Hilltribe fried chicken sandwich, tossed in chile oil, and for Sunday brunch, don’t miss the hangover noodles made with minced beef and peanut sauce. Vang’s much-anticipated restaurant, Vinai, is on the horizon in 2022.

Chef Yia Vang is wearing a plaid shirt and denim apron, smiling, in front of a black background
Chef Yia Vang.
Katie Cannon

Soul Bowl

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Chef Gerard Klass and Brittney Alise Klass started Soul Bowl as a pop-up in 2018 with a mission to celebrate the culture and community of North Minneapolis: For two days, they served bowls of black-eyed peas, cornbread dressing, and barbecue-braised beef out of New Rules on Lowry Avenue, and ran a line around the block. The Klasses have since expanded Soul Bowl to two permanent locations at Graze Provisions and Libations in Minneapolis’s North Loop, and on Chicago Avenue in Richfield (plus a stand at Target Field). The restaurant is beloved for its customizable soul food bowls: Diners can start with bases like mac and cheese (eminently creamy and well-seasoned) or yellow rice, add veggies (think sweet plantains, smoked mushrooms, and candied yams), and finish with meats like barbecue chicken and Cajun salmon.

A fried chicken sandwich with sauce and shredded lettuce on a poppyseed bun.
The famous Big K.R.I.T.
Soul Bowl

Spoon and Stable

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Chef Gavin Kaysen worked as an executive chef for Daniel Boulud before leaving New York for Minneapolis, his hometown, in 2014. His list of restaurants — three Bellecour Bakery locations, Demi’s intimate tasting menu experience, opulent Mara at the Four Seasons Hotel — is long, but there’s something particularly essential and enduring about Spoon and Stable. This North Loop restaurant, which dates to 1906, was once a horse stable. The menu changes often, keeping pace with Midwest seasonality, but still manages to feel timeless. Expect dishes like sweet corn ravioli, roasted sturgeon with Brussels sprouts and red kuri squash, and a delicate strawberry and sorrel mille-feuille.

A delicate green and pink mille-feuille dessert in a white dish.
Strawberry and sorrel mille-feuille from Spoon and Stable.
Erin Kincheloe

Billy Sushi ビリー寿司

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At first, it was chef Enkhbileg “Billy” Tserenbat’s sushi food truck that became a sensation. Now, it’s his glam North Loop restaurant, Billy Sushi, which he opened in the middle of the pandemic. Tserenbat is known for his larger-than-life presence, both as a host and as a chef. The sushi menu runs a little pricey, but the fatty cuts of sashimi and creative rolls like the Toro Mania — a kakiage mix topped with bluefin tuna, scallion, and yuzu sauce — make it well worth the cost. Specialty rolls run $19 - $35, and you can pay a small premium for the Oh Em Gii, a tempura and spicy tuna roll topped with a sheet of 24-karat gold. Fair warning, Billy Sushi is typically quite busy — a reservation is a wise move.

Restaurant Alma

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First opened in 1999, Restaurant Alma has built a reputation as one of Minneapolis’s finest restaurants. In 2016, chef Alex Roberts and Margo Roberts expanded Alma into a boutique hotel, all-day cafe, and fine dining restaurant, all tucked into an elegant brick building on University Avenue. The prix fixe menu (which runs at $95) includes delicate starters like marinated fig bruschetta, and entrees like seared Maine scallops or roasted New York strip with coconut-braised chard. Restaurant Alma has an extensive wine list and offers a pairing menu — a series of 3-ounce glasses plus dessert wine — for an additional cost. The restaurant is also known as one of the most accommodating spots for dietary restrictions: A complete vegetarian prix fixe menu is available, and gluten-free, dairy-free, pescatarian, and vegan adaptations are possible upon request.

A dark restaurant space: two small wooden tables are placed in front of a curved booth with a dark blue seat and dark woodwork, in the background is a white brick wall and lamps hanging from the ceiling.
Restaurant Alma is counted among Minneapolis’s finest restaurants.
Katie Cannon

Owamni by The Sioux Chef

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Owamni — which won the intensely competitive James Beard Award for best new restaurant in 2022 — is the most exciting restaurant to have opened in the Twin Cities in recent years. Here, chef Sean Sherman and co-owner Dana Thompson have brought Indigenous cooking to the forefront of the national restaurant scene. The decolonized menu is built on foods that are indigenous to North America — meaning no flour, dairy, beef, pork, or refined sugar is used in the kitchen. In their place are bison tartare with duck egg aioli, maple-baked tepary beans with cedar, and wild rice sorbet. Owamni started as a kickstarter campaign, breaking a site record in 2016 by bringing in $150,000 in a month. Today, it’s a modern, full-service, Indigenous restaurant, stationed in a white stone building on the banks of the Mississippi River, not far from St. Anthony Falls — or, in the Dakota language, Owámniyomni, a sacred site of peace and well-being.

Oglala Lakota chef Sean Sherman stands behind the serving bar at his restaurant Owamni. Sherman is plating food on a white plate; he is wearing his hair in two braids and is wearing a black T-shirt. There are two people in the kitchen behind him, and lamps hang down over the bar from the ceiling.
Chef Sean Sherman in Owamni’s kitchen.
Heidi Ehalt

Zen Box Izakaya

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A true izakaya in the heart of Minneapolis’s East Town neighborhood, this is an ideal stop before a Guthrie show or after a long meander down by the Mill City Ruins. The dishes are perfect for soaking up a night of drinking: Think crispy fried karaage or hearty bowls of udon. Thanks to chef and co-owner John Ng’s ramen obsession, the weekly specials are the North Star of the Cities’ ramen scene. Try the tori tantanmen, made with ginger chicken paitan, Sichuan spice ground chicken, and kikurage. Snacks like pork katsu and Japanese potato salad are also notable. Order early in the weekend before they sell out.

A table spread with Japanese dishes like ramen and sashimi and small bowls of soy sauce.
Zen Box Izakaya in downtown Minneapolis.
Zen Box Izakaya

Manny's Steakhouse

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Manny’s Steakhouse first opened in Minneapolis in 1988 — three decades later, it’s considered by many to be the Twin Cities’ best steakhouse. (Actually, in 2015, Men’s Journal named it one of the best steakhouses in the world, and Manny’s certainly doesn’t shy away from that claim — one of the restaurant’s taglines is “Reclaim your place at the top of the food chain.”) The steakhouse’s aesthetic leans a little vintage, with checkered tablecloths and high red leather booths, but it’s the crusty, marbled, dry-aged meat that makes Manny’s truly shine in Downtown Minneapolis’s crowded steakhouse scene. The 50-ounce Bludgeon of Beef is a local favorite.

Keefer Court

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Sunny and Paulina Kwan opened Keefer Court in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in 1983 — nearly 40 years later, it remains Minneapolis’s finest spot for traditional Cantonese food and pastries. (The Kwans also ran a fortune cookie business, which supplied many local restaurants, until 2017.) Keefer Court has a full dining menu, with everything from honey-glazed barbecue pork to a house special congee. But its Hong Kong-style pastries — classic egg tarts, handmade mooncakes, fluffy buns filled with whorls of coconut cream — can’t be missed.

Pimento Jamaican Kitchen & Rum Bar

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Pimento is a pillar of Jamaican cuisine in the Twin Cities, and a popular resident of Nicollet Avenue’s Eat Street. Chef Tomme Beevas and his neighbor Yoni Reinharz started Pimento as a pop-up in 2012, carting Beevas’s backyard grill around the city; in 2013, they won Food Network’s Food Court Wars. During the social uprisings of 2020, Pimento operated a robust mutual aid network out of its restaurant space. Today, Beevas continues to serve as a community leader with Pimento Relief Services, a nonprofit he runs that supports healing and long-term rebuilding in Black communities. The menu features entrees like Kingston-style jerk chicken, slow-roasted jerk pork, curry veggies, and braised oxtail, all served on a bed of seasoned rice and beans with slaw and plantains, dressed with a selection of house-made sauces. Make sure to try the sweet, pillowy coco bread, too. The rum bar often hosts live music and other events on the weekends.

Lu's Sandwiches

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A casual spot on Nicollet Avenue’s Eat Street, Lu’s serves generous banh mi that are expertly balanced in their crusty/chewy and pickled/roasted ratios. The baguettes crackle beautifully around the tender grilled pork, and the zippy vegetables balance the savory meats. The classic grilled pork banh mi is one of the best in the city, but options like the Special Ham, made with Vietnamese meatloaf and pork belly, or the pork meatballs (marinated Shanghai-style) are also great bets. Lu’s operates three Minneapolis locations and a food truck, but its cafeteria-style space on Nicollet is the original spot.

Quang Restaurant

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One of the cornerstone restaurants of Nicollet Avenue’s Eat Street corridor, Quang was founded by matriarch chef Lung Tran 30 years ago. The original Quang was a four-table bakery across the street from the present location, where Tran and her five kids sold Vietnamese pastries and food. The restaurant grew in popularity as news of Tran’s fragrant, hearty dishes traveled by word of mouth. Three decades later, the current restaurant is run by her children, and it’s now a go-to for enormous bowls of pho — aromatic and balanced, the beef sliced into delicate sheets — classic stir fry and noodle dishes like pad thai, and banh mi with red roast pork and pate. Quang’s space is casual and bustling on any weekend evening.

A smiling woman in a red shirt and hair net in the kitchen at Quang, building banh mi.
Chef Khue Pham in Quang’s kitchen.
Rebecca Slater / Eater Twin Cities

Sooki & Mimi

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James Beard Award-winning chef Ann Kim’s Sooki & Mimi is perhaps the most exciting restaurant to open in Minneapolis’s Uptown neighborhood in recent years. A sibling to other Eater favorites like Pizzeria Lola and Young Joni, Sooki & Mimi recently transitioned from a prix fixe to an a la carte menu. Look for dishes like mushroom birria tacos and a butcher’s cut with morita au poivre. The cocktail menu, formulated by veteran bar lead Adam Gorski, is equally notable, including items like tepache fermented on-site. Kim also has a thing for secret bars, so look for the light in the alleyway on the building’s west side and slip into the basement speakeasy, where the vinyls are always on rotation.

The view of the sun-filled dining room and bar. Lots of blonde wood, vaulted ceilings with soaring beams. A small bar is at the center of the room with a few stools and in the background are several, soft focused staff members in white shirts and black pants.
Inside Sooki & Mimi in Uptown.
Jes Lahay

Manny's Tortas

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Chef Manny Gonzalez is a legendary figure of Midtown Global Market, Lake Street’s international food hall. Gonzalez first opened Manny’s Tortas in Mercado Central in 1999. Now, he and his sister Victoria run the MGM location together, where they sell an impressive selection of tortas. Try a simple one like the Cubana, made with pork tenderloin, ham, and cheese; or the Manny’s Special, made with steak, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and jalapeno, grilled together and topped with ham and cheese. Gonzalez’s warm greeting from behind the counter makes this restaurant a real Minneapolis standout.

Taqueria y Birrieria Las Cuatro Milpas

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Las Cuatro Milpas is said to be the first restaurant to introduce birria to the Twin Cities restaurant scene, when chef Hector Hernandez, originally of Mexico’s Zacatecas state, moved to Minneapolis. Twenty-some years later, birria tacos and quesabirria are among the nation’s hottest culinary trends — and Hernandez is still selling Minneapolis’s finest birria dishes under an emerald-green awning on East Lake Street. Stop in for lamb, goat, and beef birria tacos, cups of hot, brothy birria stew, or pizzabirria, loaded with cheese and served in an aluminum tin. Las Cuatro Milpas is a cornerstone restaurant on East Lake Street’s bustling stretch of Mexican restaurants and groceries.

A person’s hands dip a birria taco into a Styrofoam cup of birria stem with a lime wedge on the rim and a plastic spoon.
Birria tacos from Las Cuatro Milpas.
Las Cuatro Milpas

Reverie Cafe + Bar

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Located on a bustling corner in Minneapolis’s Powderhorn neighborhood, Reverie Cafe and Bar is one of the Twin Cities’ most-loved vegan restaurants. The entire menu is plant-based, built around familiar dishes with fine dining flourishes. Mojo smoked Brussels sprouts with sweet horseradish crema make for a great starter. As far as entrees go, the crispy cauliflower tacos and kimchi BLT (made with tempura tempeh bacon) are highlights. Reverie’s dark chocolate beignets are almost the size of baseballs — they come hot, dusted in sugar, and suffering nothing from the lack of butter. The backyard patio is a favorite spot for dining at all times of the year.

In the foreground is a wooden fence; behind it are diners dressed in warm clothing, and a bright, colorful graffiti mural made with mostly orange, blue, and red colors, lit by globe lights in an outdoor space.
Reverie’s outdoor patio.
Theresa Scarborough

Matt's Bar

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Matt’s, stationed in the first floor of a simple stucco building on Cedar Avenue, is one of the most legendary dives in the Twin Cities. (Former President Barack Obama ate here in 2014.) It claims to be the home of the original Jucy Lucy — that iconic, gooey, cheese-stuffed burger. (To distinguish its Lucy from other Twin Cities versions that have since proliferated, Matt’s spells its burger without the “I.”) According to local legend, in 1954, a Matt’s customer requested two beef patties with a slice of cheese in the middle. After his first oozy bite, he declared “That’s one juicy Lucy!” The restaurant has maintained its exquisitely divey interior: Slide into a pleather booth or grab a seat at the roomy, unadorned bar.

A white stucco building with red awnings and large red lettering that says “Matt’s” on Cedar Avenue in south Minneapolis.
Matt’s Bar on Cedar Avenue.
Matt’s Bar

Mama Sheila's House of Soul

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Chef Sheila Brathwaite and her husband Frederick Brathwaite opened Mama Sheila’s on the corner of Bloomington Avenue and 38th Street in south Minneapolis in 2018. In the years since, the restaurant has established itself as one of the Cities’ premier destinations for exceptional Southern cooking — a tricky cuisine to track down in this chilly northern landscape. The soul food buffet is stocked with Southern classics like catfish, smothered chicken, salmon croquettes, candied yams, and black-eyed peas. (Leave room for banana pudding and peach cobbler.) Mama Sheila’s always has soul music playing, and the restaurant’s gilded interior, hung with portraits of Prince and other Black musicians, is a go-to gathering space for events, parties, and community meetings.

Petite León

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It’s been a rollercoaster ride in Minneapolis’s food world for chef Jorge Guzmán, the former head chef of Surly’s Brewer’s Table, which debuted an ambitious beer-pairing menu, gained national renown, and abruptly shut down. Guzmán then rolled out a charcoal-grilled chicken pop-up, Pollo Pollo al Carbon, and somehow managed to open Petite León in the middle of the pandemic. A year later, the restaurant earned him a James Beard nomination for best chef Midwest. Guzmán draws on his Yucatán peninsula roots with this menu, like the pollo al carbon, for example, or the birria-braised lamb. Bar lead Travis Serbus’s cocktail menu is notable as well. Look for citrus-forward pours like the Moon Dog, made with mezcal, tamarind, and lime.

A stark black dish with a black central line of charred bits decorated with pops of yellow and lavender. A pool of golden sauce sits off to the side and a faint dusting of gold powder decorates the top left side of the plate.
Petite León is a relative newcomer to Minneapolis’s Kingfield neighborhood.
Lucy Hawthorne

Chef Facundo DeFraia learned the secrets of Argentinian cuisine in his grandmother’s Buenos Aires kitchen, and after a stint on the west coast, he landed in Minneapolis, where he helped his friend Danny del Prado open Martina. In 2018, DeFraia struck out on his own and opened Boludo in south Minneapolis. The tiny Nicollet Avenue restaurant, styled with black and white tile and Argentinian mementos affixed on the walls, really does feel like a pizza and empanada shop straight from the avenues of Buenos Aires. The menu is succinct: DeFraia’s empanadas are crispy and densely flavorful, and the chewy pizza crust has a touch of sweetness that makes a dreamy complement to the tangy tomato sauce.

Victor's 1959 Cafe

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This sunny corner at 38th Street and Grand Avenue has been a neighborhood gathering space for decades. In the 1920s, the building that currently houses Victor’s 1959 Cafe was a Shell gas station, then a Dairy Queen, then a bustling all-American breakfast restaurant. Owner Niki Stavrou bought the building in 1959 and transformed it into the Victor’s of today: a stout, turquoise-blue establishment with hand-painted decals and, in the summer months, an assortment of umbrellas on the tropical-themed patio. Inside, the walls and booths are adorned with years’ worth of graffiti and art. Stop in for breakfast and order the ropa vieja or the bistec criollo, served with yuca frita — or grab a cafe con leche from the pick up window.

The vibrant exterior of Victor’s is filled with tropical colors and flowers on a sunny summer day.
Victor’s 1959 Cafe in South Minneapolis.
Victor’s 1959 Cafe

Khâluna

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Chef Ann Ahmed’s latest restaurant is an enchanting homage to Laotian and Southeast Asian cooking. After opening Lemongrass in Brooklyn Park and Lat14 in Golden Valley, Ahmed’s debut of Khâluna on Lyndale Avenue is perhaps her most ambitious yet — and another step down the path she’s paving for Southeast Asian food in the Twin Cities. Try the mieng paa — a small plate made with puffed rice, banana blossoms, and peanuts — the duck laab, or the whole fried red snapper with mango tamarind slaw. Ahmed’s rainbow rice, when sprinkled with lime, turns from delicate blue to lavender. The bar menu offers cocktails with flavors of passionfruit, persimmon, and makrut lime.

Martina

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Chef Danny del Prado is one of the Twin Cities’ most celebrated chefs. Martina, del Prado’s wood-fired Linden Hills restaurant, is an elegant platform for his Argentinian and Italian cuisine. (Sister restaurants include Rosalia, Colita, and as of summer 2022, Macanda.) The well-designed (and well-lit) dining room makes for an Instagrammer’s dream of lighting and composition. Order the potato churros to start, which balance a soft, creamy interior with craggy, crispy fried edges. From the grill, try the pork chop with corn puree, or the parillada for two, made with bavette, sweetbreads, chorizo, and bone marrow.

A large open room set with tables, a large white wall to the right sports just a few green plants and the open kitchen is barely visible to the left.
Martina in Minneapolis’s Linden Hills neighborhood.
Kevin Kramer / Eater Twin Cities

Bull's Horn Food and Drink

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Doug Flicker was a longtime fine dining chef who influenced a generation of Minneapolis chefs, but he walked away from the world of white linen to open a neighborhood bar alongside his wife, Amy Greeley. The two have created a watering hole with all the best aspects of a corner bar: a jukebox, pull-tabs, and a menu loaded with fantastic things from the fryer and the grill. Stop by for the famous pickle-brined chicken, with tangy, juicy meat wrapped in a crusty shell.

A crispy fried sandwich with shredded lettuce in a basket with a side of pinto beans.
A fried chicken sandwich from Bull’s Horn.
Bull’s Horn

Cecil's

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Cecil’s is the Twin Cities’ oldest Jewish deli. Cecil and Faye Glickman opened their delicatessen on St. Paul’s Cleveland Avenue in 1949. More than 70 years later, Cecil’s is still serving hearty matzo ball soup, potato latkes with applesauce and sour cream, and a whole array of popular hot sandwiches: Try the Sasha, made with hot brisket pastrami and the “bird sauce” the deli has been making in-house for 40 years. Cecil’s is also stocked with grocery items, including handy Passover items like gefilte fish and matzo.

Karyn Tomlinson’s much-anticipated Myriel — a name that nods to Les Miserable — opened in summer 2021 in Highland Park. Myriel’s menu is truly unique in the Twin Cities’ fine dining landscape: Tomlinson’s touch is at once rustic and refined, and totally uninterested in ostentation. The a la carte menu isn’t available online because it changes often, but expect dishes like beef, pork, and lamb sausage (sourced from local farms) with white bean ragout and fermented pepper with pink celery leaves. Tomlinson also makes an infamous crust — if apple pie appears on the menu, order it, and pair dessert with a Scandinavian egg coffee. Myriel’s interior, all European silhouettes and shades of cream and sand, is stunning.

A dark marble bar with a lamp and greenery on it. Above is a wooden rack for wine glasses and wine glasses dangling from it; attached to the wall is a mirror.
Inside Myriel on Cleveland Avenue in St. Paul.
Jes Lahay / Eater Twin Cities

Hot Hands Pie & Biscuit

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The Cities were short on great biscuits until Tara Coleman arrived with Hot Hands on Snelling Avenue, not far from Macalester College. Coleman’s handheld bites are exquisitely leavened, chewy, and packed with butter. Beyond biscuits, the menu includes pastries, salty pies like Buffalo chicken pot pie, and sweet pies like sweet potato and pecan chess. Hot Hands’s banana cream pie is visually stunning: Nilla wafer cookie crust and fresh bananas are topped with mascarpone, artfully mounded like ski moguls. The restaurant’s interior is sunny and understated, making it a great spot for a casual brunch.

Three biscuit breakfasts, one with gravy, one as a sandwich with bacon and cheese, another sliced with a side of jam.
Hot Hands on Snelling Avenue.
Rebecca Slater

Demera Ethiopian Restaurant

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A neighborhood favorite for Ethiopian cuisine in St. Paul’s Frogtown, Demera Ethiopian Restaurant first opened in 2013. Owners Dawit and Senait Olana serve a broad menu of fragrant injera platters: the misir key wot (red split lentils), atkilt (fresh carrots) and gomen (simmered collard greens) are a few vegetarian favorites. Meat lovers can choose between the beef, lamb, chicken, and fish menus — the juicy lamb tibs come stewed in a rich, oily red broth, which makes an excellent foil for the spongy, lace-like injera.

A white dish of lamb tips in a red stew sits on injera bread with rolls of injera bread beside it and a salad in the background.
Lamb tips at Demera.
Justine Jones

Cheng Heng Restaurant

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Tucked into a petite stone building on University Avenue in St. Paul, Cheng Heng is a mainstay of the Frogtown neighborhood’s food corridor. Cambodian restaurants are relatively few and far between in the Cities’ robust Southeast Asian restaurant scene, and Cheng Heng, which has won a slate of awards from local newspapers and magazines, takes up the mantle well. Try the kor koo noodle soup, brewed a fiery red in Cheng Heng’s kitchen, or the machu angkor, made with winter squash, pineapple, and lotus stems. Save room for the thuck kaw chuew: Beans nestled under sweetened condensed milk and crushed ice.

Handsome Hog

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Chef Justin Sutherland — an Iron Chef America winner who locally is known for his close involvement in the restaurant community and philanthropic ventures — opened the Handsome Hog in St. Paul’s Lowertown in 2016, and eventually relocated to Cathedral Hill amid the pandemic. Sutherland serves Southern cooking that’s hard to find elsewhere in the Twin Cities, and has an expert hand at the smoker. The dry-rub spare ribs or smoked beef brisket, both served with Texas toast, are great bets. For brunch, stop in for chicken and waffles, or rock shrimp with grits. Even a bloody mary takes a Southern twist with an infusion of bourbon.

Meritage

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Meritage, tucked into an elegant, glass-paned storefront in downtown St. Paul, is one of the Cities’ most romantic dining destinations. More than anywhere else, it successfully mimics a Parisian dining ambiance. Before your meal, sample oysters at the crescent bar with a Parisian cocktail: an absinthe-soaked sugar cube dropped into a glass of Champagne. Chef Russell Klein’s menu features a daily preparation of Au Bon Canard foie gras, and delicate grilled octopus in a black garlic-shoyu glaze. The honey and thyme-glazed duck breast is worth the price tag.

El Burrito Mercado

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Owners Maria and Tomas Silva, originally of Aguascalientes, Mexico, opened St. Paul’s El Burrito Mercado as an 800-square-foot market in 1979, before expanding and adding a kitchen in ’83 to serve to-go items like carnitas, tamales, and pan dulce. In ’95, they moved to Cesar Chavez Street and renovated the historic, 13,000-square-foot Henly’s Furniture building, which today includes a vast dining and cantina space. The Silvas also run a successful wholesale Mexican grocery distribution business in the Cities, but it’s their tender molcajete Mexicano, tamale platters, and fresh ceviche that make them an essential restaurant. Daughters Milissa and Suzanne and granddaughter Analita run El Burrito Mercado today.

Brunson's Pub

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Brunson’s is a stellar neighborhood bar in St. Paul’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood. Named for Benjamin Brunson, a land surveyor who built what’s believed to be the oldest standing brick house in St. Paul near Payne Avenue, the pub is the work of owners Thomas and Molly LaFleche, who met working in the local industry. Chef Torrance Beavers adapts the menus seasonally, but it’s an ideal stop for quality bar food like loaded fries, wedge salads, hefty braised beef sandwiches, and burgers. (The No Payne No Gain burger, stacked with pulled bacon, blue cheese, and blackberry Vidalia jam, is worth trying.) Brunson’s patio is a hidden gem in the warmer months, too.

Three burgers topped with cheese, tomatoes, and cilantro on toasted buns with checkered butcher paper.
Burgers from Brunson’s Pub.
Brunson’s Pub

Travail Kitchen and Amusements

There’s no party like a Travail party. This trail-blazing chef collective specializes in creating an atmosphere of delight and wonder. Travail made its name subverting the traditional restaurant model, eliminating servers, and bringing chefs table-side to dish out an intriguing tasting menu (including cocktails bubbling over with liquid nitrogen). The latest iteration of the restaurant is an expansive three-level building in Robbinsdale. Buy a ticket for the tasting menu (think hamachi tartare, nitro passion fruit fluff, and a “caviar” of Thai basil panna cotta and strawberry tapioca) or sip a curated cocktail flight at the basement bar.