When you think of a bistro, you might think of a quaint little spot on a French cobblestone street with healthy pours of wine, made-from-scratch menu items and an intimate, cozy atmosphere. Indeed, you are picturing the perfect French bistro. Well, here in Minnesota, we do things a little differently — local restaurateurs put their own twist on the idea of a traditional bistro. Here are five superb little eateries you’ll find in the metro area that offer fresh, hearty plates and beer and wine selections to boot.
1601 W Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Amore Victoria, where traditional, classic French-style cooking meets ‘see and be seen’ Uptown, Minneapolis with full force. The masters behind the magic opened up shop intending to create an updated, European eatery with fresh, hand-made pastas – and never looked back. With the rooftop deck opening up last year, this is sure to be one of the go-to places for fabulous cuisine and cocktails this summer. Some of its notable menu items include the Pollo Con Penne E Shiitake, a mouth-watering chicken and mushroom pasta dish ($17) and the Eggplant Florentine, a vegetarian’s dream of lightly-breaded eggplant with cheeses, spinach and a white-wine sauce ($15). This place is great for a girls’ night out or date night with your special someone.
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115 Railway St W
Loretto, MN 55357
Thirty five minutes from Downtown Minneapolis lies a secret…a delicious secret called Bistro 11. Like a restaurant you would find in Uptown, Bistro 11 serves beautifully plated food that tastes as good as it looks. Chef Andrew Suthers puts together a menu that offers complexity and simplicity at the same time; menu items include the Mushroom Brie Pizza ($11) with pesto, mushrooms, brie and toasted pine nuts and the Parmesan Crusted Sea Bass ($22) with swiss chard, wild rice cake and leek buerre blanc. It’s worth the drive and you might want to make reservations; this is definitely one place not to miss.
Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
799 University Ave W
St. Paul, MN 55104
With its focus on local produce and fresh ingredients, Ngon Bistro creates traditional Vietnamese dishes with a twist and (arguably) has the best Pho in the Twin Cities. Not only do the restaurant owners and chefs try to source as much as they can from local farmers, but they also have an exclusive Minnesota-made beer list. What’s not to love? Ngon offers lunch, brunch, dinner and dinner to go. Entree dishes are served hot and delivered to your table with a smile. Order anything from Short Ribs ($20) to the Pho Special ($9) to Sea Scallops ($18) for an exciting mix of flavors with every bite (whether that be with a fork or chop sticks). Take your pick; they all will leave your tastebuds wanting more.
324 S Main St
Stillwater, MN 55082
Downtown Stillwater has just the place for your next date or for the next time you want to catch up with an old college friend. Situated on the charming Main Street of Stillwater, this bistro offers fresh salads, hearty entrees, hand-made pizzas and melt-in-your-mouth sandwiches with an American flair. What better way to enjoy its Steak and Asparagus Risotto ($24) or the Yellowfin Tuna Sandwich ($11) than in its cozy restaurant interior or out on the outdoor patio seating if the weather is nice? The wine and Belgium beer list surely has something for everyone.
Wakame Sushi & Asian Bistro
3070 Excelsior Blvd
Minneapolis, MN 55416
Wakame Sushi & Asian Bistro features a stylish interior, full bar, sushi menu, outdoor patio space, happy hour specials and more. If you haven’t stopped into Wakame yet, this is the year to do it. Its happy hour menu offers sushi, cocktails and appetizers by the dozens, and this bistro is located right off of the northwest corner of Lake Calhoun, making for a picturesque outing. It’s easy to get to and makes for a great spot to meet up with friends or a blind date before walking around the lake. The sushi is tasty, but if sushi isn’t your thing, don’t fret. There are other offerings on the menu as well. The Spicy Basil Chicken Wings ($7.50) might be the best wings this side of the river, and with just the right amount of herby-basil seasoning and make-your-eyes-water spiciness, you’ll quickly want to order another plate (and another round of drinks).
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Amber Ranzau lives on the edge of Uptown in Minneapolis and is a gal about town. She frequents the local restaurant scene, loves to support new and local businesses, follows the latest and greatest fashion and design trends, and she does all of this while working as an interior designer, spending time with her man, The Specialist, and taking care of her two goldfish Felix and Petunia and their tankmate Huey the Snail. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.