As the Twin Cities continue to gain reputation as a food Mecca, restaurants from quality chefs seem to pop up all over the place. It’s clear that there are some great eats to be had, many of which stay true to Midwestern roots sourcing local ingredients for the finest local dining and cementing Minnesota’s status as a food hub, but it can also be disappointing when a restaurant packs the house and doesn’t live up to the hype. The following restaurants were picked as some of Minnesota’s finest for their consistency, creativity and quality of service and product, staying firmly at the forefront of the Twin Cities food revolution by leaving you full and happy every single time.
119 Washington Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55401
This is Midwest cuisine at its most creative. The wholesome goodness of Midwestern cuisine shines, be it for hearty brunch or elegant dinner. Creative spins on Minnesota dishes, like the tater tot hautedish or mac and cheese, or something as playful as keilbasa in a can make for surprisingly complex and incredible meals while hearkening back to the savory goodness that made these meals classics in the first place. Haute Dish brings the food of old world Minnesota into the new century, making for one of the best restaurants in Minnesota.
412 St. Peter St.
St. Paul, MN 55102
For rich, delicious food inspired by the world-class kitchens of France, but still true to Minnesota with much of its menu comprised of locally sourced meats and produce, Meritage shines brighter than the rest. From the ambiance to the incredible quality of fresh oysters and other seafood, Meritage has, since 2007, helped transform downtown from food desert into dinner destination. Owners Russell and Desta Klein recently opened Café Zentral in Minneapolis, and time will tell if it can create the legacy that Meritage has in St. Paul.
Strip Club Meat and Fish
378 Maria Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55106
Come for the finest steaks and fish, accompanied by inspired small plates. No one really does meat better than J.D. Fratschke and his kitchen. Of course, given the name and the reputation, going the steak route is recommended. But if you’re not in the mood, fill up on small plates of deviled eggs or a steak tartare egg roll (yes, that exists and yes, it’s amazing) and plenty more. This is the restaurant where you can find high-end steaks and seafood joined by accessible classics like beans and toast and “meat on a stick” preparations that change daily (you’re not likely to have the same one twice). The Strip Club is a temple dedicated to food and drink and all of the good things you’ve heard are true.
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4300 Bryant Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55409
Put yourself in the chef’s hands at this south Minneapolis trailblazer and try one of the tasting menus. But if you’re feeling bold, you can also select options and create your own dinner. Either way, the flavors are what shine here, with the harmonies of combinations you never thought imaginable, like a rabbit liver tart with caramelized onions, compressed strawberries, olive oil and sorrel mushrooms, for example. This is a restaurant dedicated to the dining experience and will time and time again give you the quality food you’re not sure if you deserve. But then remember, this is not your grandparent’s food scene anymore.
Heartland Restaurant and Farm Direct Market
289 E. 5th St.
St. Paul, MN 55101
Heartland features three-course tasting menus in the elegant dining room accompanied by small plates and some of Minnesota’s finest meat, fish and poultry, all sourced from local purveyors and all cooked to perfection. But if you’re not looking for a four-star dining experience, head to the lounge where the bar menu will fill you up with Minnesota favorites elevated to new heights. Yes, you can get a corn dog at Heartland. But you’ve never had one like this before, with Heartland’s own sausage from its basement butcher shop still sizzling in the cornmeal casing that simply melts in your mouth. Whether creating new standards or improving on the classics, Heartland in every way lives up to the hype.
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Adrian Schramm is a resident St. Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.