Getting on a plane to Mazatlan or Montego Bay soon? We can’t blame you. There have been just too many mornings this winter where you stare out the window while your feet freeze on the kitchen floor while you wait for the water for your coffee to get hot so you can make another futile attempt to warm yourself from the inside-out all while cursing the icy tundra we call home.

Ok, deep breath. It’s February. We’re getting close to the end. But there’s no doubt, we need a warm up.

Let’s think this way: Top beach getaways, for two hours, no airfare required. Sounds like a winner. If there’s no plane ride to somewhere on or near the Tropic of Cancer, then Dara can provide a few places to warm your belly and get at least a “taste” of the beach-life!

(credit: Samba Facebook Page)

(credit: Samba Facebook Page)

Samba Taste of Brazil
922 Mainstreet
Hopkins, MN 55343
(952) 935-2708

Samba Taste of Brazil, your churrascaria hot spot in downtown Hopkins! Wait, what? Yes, downtown Hopkins, right on Mainstreet, is your little taste of Brazilian cooking at Samba. A small place with big flavors, you can go churrascaria and get that heaping plate of grilled meats, or go for something different such as the feijoada, a black bean, pork hock, and sausage dish with greens. Don’t skip the caramel flan at the end. It’s terrific.

(credit: Marla's Caribbean Facebook Page)

(credit: Marla’s Caribbean Facebook Page)

Marla’s Caribbean
3761 Bloomington Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55407
(612) 724-3088

Chances are you have no clue about Marla’s. That should change. Tucked away in south Minneapolis, Marla’s is a fave of Andrew Zimmern (don’t worry, this place isn’t “Bizarre”), it’s been featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on Food Network and now Dara puts in on her list. Sounds like a place worth checking out? Marla is a native of Trinidad and Tobago, the tiny island country just off the coast of South America. Marla brings the heat too, infusing her foods with the fiery Scotch Bonnet Pepper you see in a lot of Jamaican Jerk cooking. You can pick your spice which is important in the land where ketchup is considered a spice. There’s mild to “Indian Hot” plus, for the adventurous and initiated tongue, “Marla Hot”. It’s hot, it’s herby and when done as well as Martha’s, it’s irresistible. A perfect winter warm-up!

(credit: Psycho Suzi's Facebook Page)

(credit: Psycho Suzi’s Facebook Page)

Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge
1900 Marshall St NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418
(612) 788-9069

One word to describe Psycho Suzi’s: Kitschy. In the best way possible. They went “Tiki Bar” and then injected it with a little extra Tiki. This Northeast Minneapolis destination is known for it’s huge outdoor deck overlooking the Mississippi River as it heads into downtown. But in winter, the inside can warm you up as well with it’s decor, colorful drinks (that can pack a punch) plus the food. Super pizzas, some of the best Tater-Tots in town plus South Pacific Vibes and Grass Skirts make Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge a winter-weather break worth seeking out. Save a rum punch for us!

(credit: Eat Street Social Facebook Page)

(credit: Eat Street Social Facebook Page)

Eat Street Social’s Torpedo Room Tiki Bar
18 W 26th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55404
(612) 767-6850

Another Tiki Bar, this one in the Whittier Neighborhood in South Minneapolis, Eat Street Social’s Tiki Bar is just as much fun while being a touch more subdued than Psycho Suzi’s (if you can call a Tiki Bar subdued). Dara likes the drinks more at this Tiki Bar and the kitschy vibe is still a blast. The drinks here really are more craft cocktails then a normal Tiki Bar would do.  At Eat Street you can get house-SPAM steam buns next to your very fancy Zombie with house-falernum syrup. Ok, sounds good!

(credit: Sonora Grill Facebook Page)

(credit: Sonora Grill Facebook Page)

Sonora Grill
920 E Lake St G10
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55407
(612) 871-1900

From a beginning inside the Midtown Global Market, Sonora Grill built a fan-base with really well done Latin American food, with even a little Spanish twist to their menu. The tacos are raved about as some of the best in the Twin Cities. Now they have a standalone restaurant in the Longfellow Neighborhood of South Minneapolis. Margaritas, light and fresh ceviche and according to Dara, the best darn chilequiles in town, will make you forget the wind chill and warm you up with some amazing hot zone foods!