Each year, Minnesota exports billions of dollars of food to the United States and around the world. And if you don't believe us, one drive through the rolling hills of grain and vast fields of corn confirms this must be true. Then once you make it into Minneapolis, it becomes clear this city is made for foodies.
A weekend is nowhere near enough time to fully experience the food scene in Minneapolis, but if you find yourself in this half of the Twin Cities, here are a few good dishes and drinks to start with.
Dill + Lox Crepe at La Belle Crepe
In a sliver of a building so small it’s hidden by a heavily decorated lamp post sits La Belle Crepe. This French-Vietnamese restaurant serves crepes — both savory and sweet — for breakfast and pho and banh mi sandwiches for lunch.
Owner and chef Alain Lenne, who has worked in established restaurants around the world, successfully blends French, Polish, and Vietnamese in a city where creative cooking is on the rise. This combination of cuisine became prominent in the food scene, but has blossomed in Minneapolis particularly since 1975, when thousands of Vietnamese immigrants came to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
While the restaurant's sweet crepes include the basic Nutella, banana, and peanut butter combinations, La Belle Crepe’s savory options are original and complex. They evoke global flavors and pack a lot of ingredients such as gyro lamb, spicy crab melt, and chicken with roasted apples. The dill and lox, however, is a personal favorite. Smoky lox, dill, havarti cheese, and a Hollandaise drizzle make for a rich, albeit messy, breakfast that will keep you full all day long.
Jucy Lucy at Matt’s Bar
One of Minneapolis’ greatest treasures is a small bar on the corner of a residential neighborhood. Its nondescript signage and lack of decoration make it easy to pass up. Don’t let that happen.
The Jucy Lucy — it’s actually spelled like that — is like Arizona’s chimichanga: a couple of restaurants claim to have created it and many have since started serving it, but Matt’s Bar is generally accepted as the first. The chef’s dedication to his work, and also the tattoo on his arm, signify a deep sense of pride.
Though in appearance it may seem like a simple burger filled with cheese, the Jucy Lucy has become a cultural icon for Minnesotans. It’s pretty small, comes only with pickles and either raw or grilled onions, but it literally bursts with flavor — the staff is happy to quickly replace an “exploded” burger. Though there is a definite dive-y feel to the bar, the ingredients taste fresh and juicy.
It’s best to get there before noon, as the line is frequently out the door. And though fries don’t come with a Lucy, a full order is more than enough to feed two.
Minneapolis, like most hip cities, has a growing craft beer scene. Like a true hipster, however, Summit’s Extra Pale Ale has been brewing since it was before it was cool. Since 1986, Summit EPA has graced taps with its citric and malty flavors and classic hop-filled taste . You can find Summit EPA at most bars and restaurants in the city.
Walleye Fish and Chips at the Local
The Local, a popular happy hour meeting spot, is on one of the busier streets downtown and attracts a diverse crowd looking to talk, eat, and catch a game. The menu is primarily made up of Irish classics but, like the fish and chips, many can be adjusted to reflect the establishment's Minnesota surroundings.
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When you order the fish and chips you choose between the typical cod or walleye, the Minnesota state fish. You should get the walleye. It can handle heavier fried breading and, unlike its cod counterpart, walleye carries a lot of flavor. It’s sweet, flaky and tastes fresh. The chips are thick cut fries with just the right amount of seasoning.
Tip: Don’t skip dessert. What The Local’s “wee indulgences” lack in size, they more than make up for in flavor. You can get three for about the price of two, and with options like Guinness mousse, vanilla chiboust, and carrot cake, you really can’t lose.
Lemon Bar at Key’s
Key’s has remained a classic bakery and restaurant in Minnesota since its first restaurant opened its doors in 1973. The Foshay Tower location, however, evokes a specific Breakfast at Tiffany’s charm that makes it the perfect spot to enjoy a midday treat.
A Minnesota take on the Scandinavian classic, the massive lemon bar is the perfect sweet snack on a humid Minnesota day. It is rather heavy, but the lemon tart is baked to a perfect consistency. It’s tart, but it’s not too sweet. The dough that supports the dessert is stable but tastes flaky. A gentle coating of powdered sugar complements the tart flavors.