Thursday, January 22, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Ten Best Twin Cities Food Experiences For Visitors To Minnesota

Many visitors come to the Twin Cities of St. Paul and
Minneapolis in the course of a year. Most of them come
for business purposes, and don’t stay very long. Others
come in the spring, summer and autumn as tourists to
see the Twins baseball team play, to shop at the Mall of
America, to visit the famed State Fair in August, or to
attend a play at the Guthrie Theater, among many other
cultural and professional sports events throughout the year.

Of course, whether in the Twin Cities for business or
pleasure, one has to eat, and that means to eat out. As a
large metropolitan center, the Twin Cities have innumerable
restaurants of all kinds, quality and prices, as do all other
large metropolitan centers in the U.S., but the questions
remains: what are the best of the most unique dining
experiences in Minneapolis and St. Paul, experiences unlike
what a visitor might encounter at home or elsewhere?

As the dean of the Twin City food critics (I have been
writing about the restaurant scene here since 1973), I have
come up with ten best suggestions for where to go or what to
try for something very special, something that visitors probably
don’t have wherever they’re from, or if they do, not as good.

       This spectacular emporium of Italian food specialties
       in downtown St. Paul features on the first floor a popular
       southern Italian cafeteria (with tables on the second floor)
       and on the third floor is an upscale Italian steak house
       dining room. All this is the product of the restless vision
       of St. Paul restaurateur Dave Cossetta. Also on the first
       floor is a breathtaking Italian pasticceria/gelateria and
       adjoining Italian deli featuring the best imported cured
       meats, cheeses, olive oils, condiments, baked-on-the-
       premises breads, and authentically-prepared Italian
       specialties for take-out.

       Famous for its nationally-known superb ice creams,
       sorbets and gelati of the highest quality and original
       flavors, the Cafe also serves excellent brunches and
       dinners, hard-to-find bottles of outstanding wines, and
       rich desserts in one of the Twin Cities most charming
       and intimate dining spaces, including a magical outdoor
       patio during the warm weather.

 3.  TILIA (Minneapolis)
        This outstanding Linden Hills neighborhood bistro
        serves some of the best food in the Twin Cities with a large
        and original menu, excellent service, and one of the few
        area fine dining restaurants that is kid-friendly. The
        kitchen’s changing specialties are invariably delicious,
        and it is clearly a dining room where everyone, staff
        included, is having a good time.

        One of the nation’s top artisan chocolatiers, Brian
        McElrath and his devoted crew produce a large variety
        of award-winning chocolates. Although they have no retail
        outlet of their own, they do hold twice-a-year special sales
        at their factory location, and their chocolates are available
        at most of the top grocery and fine food outlets in the Twin
5.    GHORKA PALACE (Minneapolis)
        A terrific Himalayan restaurant with two women
        Nepalese chefs who create masterpieces of unusual
        flavors with Asian herbs and spices and all-natural,
        organic top quality meats and vegetables. Lunch and
        dinner, and the best buffet lunch in the Twin Cities, and
        by far the outstanding local restaurant for this cuisine.

6.    KRAMARCZUK (Minneapolis)
        This Slavic deli, meat market and cafeteria is a popular
        destination for made-in-house and preservative-free
        sausages and eastern European specialties. The popular
        cafeteria offers hearty goulashes, stuffed cabbage, pierogi,
        and plates of bratwurst and caraway sauerkraut. Some
        were surprised when this location recently won a James
        Beard Award, but it is a distinctive Minneapolis dining spot
        and deserves its accolades.

7.    MANCINI’S (St. Paul)
        A classic old-time Italian steakhouse in downtown St. Paul
        with a neighborhood flavor and clientele.  Excellent steaks at  
        reasonable prices. Still family-run, the legendary
        paterfamilias of the Mancini clan is gone, but his sons and 
        grandchildren are on the premises every night in the kitchen
        or to greet the regulars and first-timers with warm
        Mediterranean charm. A true St. Paul  experience.
 8.   BLACK SHEEP CAFE (South St. Paul)
        Probably the best coffeehouse in the state, this creation of
        barista (and now professional singing star) Peter Middlecamp
        sets the Minnesota standard for the finest coffee and espresso
        drinks, imported teas. There are excellent home made breakfast 
        and lunch specialties, too. A Clover coffeemaker and Dietrich
        roaster ensures the highest quality, and international-awarded
        barista/proprietor Middlecamp gives it a special touch.
        Food and pastries are prepared on the premises. A bit of a trek
        to South St. Paul, but worth it for coffee aficionados.

        One of the largest state fairs in the nation, it runs from
        mid-August to Labor Day. Virtually a fifth of the whole
        state turns out for Minnesota specialties-on-a-stick, local
        dairy, meat and produce items, exhibits, a grand Midway,
        big-name music entertainment, and old-fashioned summer
        fun. For a taste and flavor of the state, not to be missed.

10.  TRAVAIL & ROOKERY (Robbinsdale)
        Perhaps the most original and provocative kitchens in the
        region, these two dining rooms, side-by-side under the same
        roof provide innovative prix fixe menus filled with the
        often-unexpected and delicious creations of the numerous
        chefs who also serve as waiters. There is always an element of
        fun and whimsy in the many small plates which compose the
        multi-course dinners. A unique Twin Cities culinary experience.

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