Ah, another Midwest city with an underrated, or perhaps unconsidered, foodie scene. The locals will tell it differently, though, showcasing pride for just about anything in their city — okay, maybe not the subzero winter temps — but especially the food.
The Twin Cities have long been a melting pot of immigrants and cultures, as a result fueling inspiration for fusion restaurants and new dishes that will forever change the way we approach cuisine — nothing is off the table here (pun intended).
So, we implore you to work up an appetite, make a reservation and indulge in one (or all) of these local hot spots; we guarantee you’ll never consider Minnesota a fly-over state again.
It’s true, the hype is real. Daniel del Prado’s Colita perfectly incorporates the diverse flavors of Mexico in each of its beautifully plated dishes and will have you salivating waiting for the next one to hit your table. From the corn elote with chipotle mayo, cotija, serrano and tajin to the Kansas City ribs with tamarind, sweet herbs, radish, tortilla crumble, and parmesan, your tastebuds will be delighted. As far as drinks go, take it from us and order the ‘Naked Dani #2.’ This cocktail, a modern twist on a margarita, is made with tequila blanco, pulque, guava, lime, Seville orange, and topped with salt bubbles and a rubber ducky, A.K.A the cutest thing you’ll ever drink. Trust us, your Instagram will thank you later! You can find Colita in South Minneapolis’ quaint Armatage neighborhood on the corner of Penn and 54th — you would never believe it was formerly a gas station.
A North Loop neighborhood favorite, this Japanese-Italian fusion restaurant just turned one but is still having a major moment. The menu beautifully blends traditional elements of both cuisines from start to finish — it’s no secret that when Colita’s Daniel del Prado teamed up with Shigeyuki Furukawa (co-founder, chef and owner of Kado No Mise and Kaiseki Furukawa) magic would come together. Start with the all-star pork gyoza, plated with delicious wood ear mushrooms, foie gras, nori, and scallions then work your way to the main events: pizza, pasta, or yakitori. Dishes are encouraged to be shared amongst the table and do not forget the thoughtfully-curated wine and cocktail list. We recommend sipping on the ‘Mican:’ future gin, blood orange, aperol, dry curacao and a grapefruit cotton candy cloud that will have your inner child jumping for joy. It’s just as delicious as it is aesthetically pleasing.
There are 99 different ways to write “sushi” in the Japanese script of kanji and owner/sushi chef Billy of Billy Sushi chose “celebration of fish” as the foundation of his restaurant experience. Dubbed some of the best sushi in the city, the art of sushi making is taken seriously here, but so is having fun. Whether you choose to sit at the sushi bar, sake bar, or dining room, be prepared for a lively atmosphere and friendly staff. Choose from sushi made with the freshest of fish, appetizers (or conversation starters as Billy calls them), or teriyaki, soup, and tempura for the non-sushi eaters. Don’t forget the lengthy sake list, high-end Japanese whisky, and custom-crafted cocktails. Kampai!
Take your tastebuds on a direct flight to Southeast Asia with Chef Christina Nguyen of Hai Hai’s savory street food, punchy cocktails, and colorful ambiance. The atmosphere breathes vacation vibes and the food is intensely good. For crowd-pleasing menu items, try the Balinese chicken thighs with macerated kale and bean sprout salad, coconut rice, infused coconut cream, crispy chicken skin, lime leaf, spicy sambal with Thai chili, and fried shallots. Do note the flame next to this menu item — this dish is not for those shy of spice. Pair your menu items with vibrant cocktails like ‘A Life Aquatic,’ a mezcal, cucumber, and lime dream. While there’s plenty to eat in the Northeast neighborhood, you don’t want to miss Hai Hai.
Chef Ann Kim created a masterpiece when Young Joni opened in 2016 in Northeast Minneapolis. As one of her many restaurants (see Pizzeria Lola, Hello Pizza, and Sooki & Mimi) this isn’t her first pass at culinary greatness. Young Joni mixes wood-fired pizzas with Korean fare, making unique but unbeatable menu items that will have you booking your next reservation after just the first bite. Try the Korean BBQ pizza made with beef short ribs, mozzarella, scallion, arugula, sesame, and soy chili vinaigrette then let your tastebuds revel in the kimchi trio. We recommend ending your night with the infamous soft serve ice cream drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt flakes — it’s a rite of passage here! On your way out, pay a visit to the photobooth in the back, then head down the alley to ‘The Back Bar,’ a speakeasy-inspired joint perfect for a late-night cocktail.
Bar la Grassa
Any local knows that award-winning Chef Isaac Becker’s Bar la Grassa boasts the best pasta in town. The illuminated ‘BLG’ sign will lure you in from Washington Ave. in the North Loop neighborhood — if you can get a reservation that is. The consistently busy upscale spot features Italian classic pastas (and newer renditions), small plates, and a host of wines. If you can’t narrow down top menu items, we recommend the drool-worthy Mafalda Bolognese or the classic spaghetti carbonara with house-made pancetta. This bustling spot is perfect for a date night or celebratory dinner, just make sure to plan ahead.
Tucked just off the shores of the Mississippi next to the historic Stone Arch Bridge, Alma is a restaurant, café and hotel located in the Saint Anthony Main neighborhood of Minneapolis. Chef and owner Alex Roberts opened Alma (Spanish for ‘soul’) in 1999 and transformed it into the nationally-recognized establishment it is today. The restaurant offers only a seasonal prix-fixe dinner menu (Thursday through Sunday, 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.) for $85 per person, with an option to add wine pairing (3 wines and a dessert wine) for $46 per person. Menu highlights include a lemon orzo pasta and king crab with white corn griddle cakes, to name a few. Its more casual counterpart, the café, offers elevated grab-and-go bakery items, all-day breakfast sandwiches and burgers and deli sandwiches available after 11 a.m. There’s also a happy hour. Hint: pastries included.
Owamni by The Sioux Chef
Located in Mill Ruins Park off the Mississippi River, Owamni is an indigenous restaurant opened in July 2021 by CEO and founder Sean Sherman and Dana Thompson. Named the 2021 Star Tribune’s Restaurant of the Year and nominated for Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation, Owamni is gaining national attention — and for good reason. The menu features indigenous foods with decolonized ingredients (no wheat, flour, cane sugar, or dairy) focusing on the culinary possibilities of truly living off North American land. Spring menu items include cedar braised bison with chili and maple vinegar, grilled forest mushroom with pickled mustard seed and hand harvested wild rice, to name a few. Accentuate the stunning flavors of the spring menu additions with an indigenous wine list, too, and beer from strictly BIPOC or women-owned brewers. Mocktails are also featured on the drink menu.
Spoon & Stable
Renowned chef/owner Gavin Kaysen’s Spoon & Stable restaurant sits in the trendy North Loop neighborhood in what was once a horse stable. The upscale city hot spot features a French-inspired menu, delicious cocktails and wines and an unmatched dining experience. We suggest the spring tortellini, a delicate yet powerful dish made with ricotta, black truffle, broccoli, and pine nut gremolata. Other options tied for our first place are the wagyu flat-iron steak or roasted grouper. Make sure to save room for dessert — highlights include yuzu lemon curd, dessert cocktails, and a carefully curated selection of digestifs.
The new kid on the block as of early 2021, StepChld has hit the ground running in Northeast Minneapolis. Kamal Mohamed’s latest “idea” (as he calls it on Instagram) brings subtle Ethiopian inspiration to dishes, paying homage to his roots. You may notice the unique spelling of StepChld; omitting the “I” is a nod to the collaborative creative and culinary effort as opposed to traditional restaurant hierarchy. There are no chefs in house but instead a collective team approach to perfecting each menu item. While you’re here, the chubby garlic noodles are a must — made with garlic, butter, oyster sauce, jalapeno, togarashi, and parmesan, need we say more? The shawarma dumplings with turkey, scallion, cilantro, sesame oil, and ginger are also highly regarded. StepChld also offers a lovely selection of wines and beer; ask one of the experienced bartenders for a beverage pairing or wine recommendation.