The Best Restaurants in Minneapolis

The Midwestern city is staking its claim on the country’s culinary map. Here, DEPARTURES’ own Twin Cities native shares her short list of where to eat in her hometown.

Bonjwing Lee
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We have a little secret to share with you, dear readers, and it’s this: Minneapolis is a haute dining destination, one worthy of a detour. Yes, that’s right. We’re here to reveal that the city is chock full of exceptional chefs, restaurateurs, and truly innovative food—even sexy underground cocktail dens.

It wasn't always this way. Minneapolis has long excelled in diner grub—we’re looking at you, Jax Café (1940-), Al’s Breakfast (1950-), and Matt’s Bar (1954-). It’s always done hippie and hipster rather well, too: Chef Brenda Langton’s Warehouse District vegetarian restaurant Café Brenda, opened in 1986, was about 30 years ahead of its time (Langton has since moved on and is now employing her health food philosophy across town at the Mill District’s Spoonriver); Kim Bartmann debuted Uptown’s Bryant Lake Bowl—yes, a bowling alley with a trendy restaurant—in 1993 because she wanted a bar that had good beer and an espresso machine. And then there’s Minnesota’s glowing reputation for fried-everything-on-a-stick State Fair food.

But dining of a finer ilk? There have, of course, been standout one-offs, such as restaurateur Wayne Kostroski’s Goodfellow’s, arguably the heart of the city’s upper crust downtown dining scene from its inception in 1996 until it closed in 2005 (R.I.P.). That year the torch was passed to Tim McKee, whose La Belle Vie in Loring Park had a solid decade-long run before shuttering last summer (R.I.P.). Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson even did a little stint downtown, arriving in 1999 at Aquavit, an offshoot of the New York restaurant of the same name; it closed in 2003 (R.I.P.). Minneapolis has always fallen short of having an aggregate of worthy venues to make the city a bona fide destination for food lovers. Until now.

The restaurants we’ve selected here represent a new wave of Minneapolis eateries—ones with a point of view that’s moving the city’s dining scene forward. This doesn’t mean white tablecloths. Or bread trolleys. Or even that they’re brand spanking new. What unites them is that together, these seven spots finally put Minneapolis’s dining scene on the hot and happening map.