When did Minneapolis become a foodie city? I sure don’t know the answer to that question (when I lived there, it was all burgers and fries), but I do know that the restaurant scene has gotten really, really impressive.
So, where should you eat?
Well, the one thing you absolutely must eat is a “Jucy Lucy.” First, a Jucy Lucy is a burger with cheese cooked right in the middle of the burger. Second, yes, I know, you thought I was going to talk about something other than burgers — just trust me on this.
Third, nope, I didn’t spell that incorrectly. If you go to Matt’s Bar (one of two bars that is generally recognized as the originator of the Jucy Lucy), that is how they spell it. Matt’s Bar is super casual, has a really small menu, and is cash only. They claim to sell 500-600 Jucy Lucy’s a day and the waitstaff will pretty much assume that is what you want unless you tell them differently. And, Robert tells me that the Jucy Lucy is out of this world. In fact, it is so good that the three people eating them with me were each seriously tempted to order a second round.
Once you check that off, it is on to bigger and better things. Your first stop should be Hai Hai. The restaurant describes itself as Southeast Asian street food. Esquire listed it as one of the 20 best new restaurants in 2018. And, the chef was a James Beard finalist in 2019. And, it is really, really good. And authentic — so authentic we are pretty darn sure that there was real liver in the sauce on the ribs and the fish sauce was some of the best we have ever had in our lives. In all seriousness, if you only have time for one nice meal, this should be it. I would go back in a heartbeat.
And, you know I can’t talk about where to eat without including a pizza restaurant. If you want pizza in Minneapolis, you have at least two amazing choices. The first is Young Joni. The chef here is also a James Beard semifinalist. Absolutely amazing pizza.
And, are you sitting down? If the burrata and English pea appetizer is on the menu when you visit, you absolutely have to try it. If I’m recommending a vegetable dish, you know it has to be good. And, you know Young Joni is popular because we went at 5:45 on a Sunday and the place was jam packed — we ate at a communal table and, while that is not our favorite way to eat, it was 100 percent worth it.
If, for whatever reason you aren’t feeling Young Joni (or can’t get in), then give Black Sheep Coal Fire a try. There are several locations and they were apparently the first coal fired oven pizza place in Minneapolis. No picture of this pizza — we ate it too quickly to remember to take a photo. But it was delicious.
If you are looking for brunch, we can recommend Red Stag Supper Club. I have no idea why we went to a supper club for brunch, but it was good. The menu isn’t anything special, but the food was well prepared and the space was nice and the prosecco was yummy. And, they served both still and sparkling water for free. I love pretty much any place that serves free sparkling water….
If you want a malt, you have to check out Annie’s Parlour. This was my go-to spot to celebrate the end of final exams all through college. I was a bit nervous to go back, but I am happy to say the Oreo malt and fries are every bit as good as I remembered. But trust me on this — if there are only two of you, you can totally share a single malt and a half order of fries.
If you are craving Thai food, you can try Khun Nai Thai. Khun Nai Thai is on a stretch of Nicollet Avenue that was pretty sketchy when Robert lived in the neighborhood but now is known as “Eat Street.” The restaurant wasn’t all that impressive, I was seriously wondering if we should have gone to the Malaysian restaurant across the street instead, and I wouldn’t even put it on this list but for one reason — they served my beloved khao soi. The noodles were all wrong, but the broth was right. And, the portion was huge.
And, if you do visit Eat Street, you totally have to check out Glam Doll Donuts. They have lots of crazy flavors. We tried the Mrs. Cleaver (a cake donut with cookie dough and chocolate icing) and the Calendar Girl (a raised donut with salted caramel and chocolate icing), but if we ever go back I’m totally trying the Bam Bam (a raised donut covered in fruity icing and Fruity Pebbles).
But, can I tell you what we really hated about the Minneapolis food scene? Most of the restaurants included a three percent surcharge for “employee benefits” or “health and wellness.” After doing some research, it appears this is a way for restaurants to pay for health insurance for their employees and other unspecified benefits. While we are all for everyone having health insurance (hello, single payer….), we are not on-board with a surcharge on top of our dinner bill. Just raise your stupid prices and stop worrying about whether customers get a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that you provide some unspecified no doubt not very good health insurance policy for your employees. No other industry adds a surcharge for health insurance. Restaurants shouldn’t do so either. Especially when there is no guarantee all that money is going to pay for health insurance. We could discuss the tipping culture next, but that would be another post….OK, back off the soap box. Next stop, Wisconsin….