It seems that much of our restaurant terminology comes from France, and the bistro is no exception. Defined as a small restaurant serving casual-priced fare, the bistro has become popular all over the world due to its accessibility in price while still providing excellent products. Often housed in the basements of Parisian apartment buildings and other cheap locations, these places helped define dining in France, and Minnesota as well. Check out some of these local bistros for a great dining experience.

(credit: Ngon Vietnamese Bistro via Facebook)

(credit: Ngon Vietnamese Bistro via Facebook)

Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
799 University Ave. W.
St. Paul, MN 55104
(651) 222-3301

Ngon is a non-traditional bistro reimagined, if you will, to incorporate fusion aspects while keeping it accessible, quaint and moderately priced. Actually, it’s a steal. Locally sourced ingredients make up delicious plates for prices that may have you doing double-takes when you look at the bill. Located on the Green Line, this is a great option for lunch or dinner in that small, attentive bistro setting.

Finnish Bistro
2264 Como Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55108
(651) 645-9181

Taking the bistro concept and applying Minnesota’s Scandinavian heritage makes for a restaurant that every neighborhood should have. Cozy and comfortable, with a myriad of hot and cold plates, baked goods, beer, wine and coffee, Finnish Bistro will take care of all of your dining and drinking needs. Reasonably priced dishes and bohemian charm define this St. Paul bistro. You might even find musicians playing outside on a summer day. A perfect touch while you dine.

The 128 Cafe
128 Cleveland Ave. N.
St. Paul, MN 55104
(651) 645-4128

Though it bills itself as a café, and tries to go for a “supper club” dinner experience, this café mimics the original bistros of Paris almost more than anything else on this list. It’s located in the basement of an apartment building, serving slow-cooked, savory delicious fare at very reasonable prices. It also offers wine and beer to supplement the meal and the mood, and casual but expert service in a small, quaint restaurant setting. For a great bistro experience, make a reservation at this St. Paul gem.

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Broadway Bistro
613 Broadway St.
Alexandria, MN 56308
(320) 846-0777

One of the best reasons to leave the Twin Cities, Broadway Bistro nails the bistro concept in a small, hip setting. The restaurant serves up hearty standards, like Wild Acres Duck with wild rice, pumpkin and a sage reduction, or chef’s cut beef with changing accouterments, that will leave foodies wondering how it can be this good in rural Minnesota. It’s simple, classic cooking done right, and that’s what a bistro is all about. Beer lovers will be as impressed as foodies, with a selection of taps and bottles. And if you’re looking for a glass of wine with dinner, you won’t be disappointed either.

(credit: Tilia)

(credit: Tilia)

2726 W. 43rd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55410
(612) 354-2806

A favorite in the South Minneapolis neighborhood, Tilia’s balance of high-quality plates that never disappoint at moderate prices means you can relax, eat and drink on any budget. You can try escargot and pate, or have a warm bowl of potato leek soup in an intimate setting suitable for any setting. Have a casual dinner, first (or second or third) date or a long evening of dining and talking with an old friend at Tilia’s. You don’t have to put on a suit and tie and eat with three different forks to enjoy some of the best food in Minnesota. Do it bistro-style.

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Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.