Tuesday, May 28, 2013

top ten Tuesday: Twin Cities restaurants.

As you are probably well aware, I lived in Minneapolis for just over a year and half. Like anywhere, it has its ups and downs: downs being mainly my job (which is a great story, and I’ll get to it eventually) and living so far away from James and my family. In this case, the downs outweighed the ups, so off to Sioux Falls I went… and here I remain.

Even though James and I are living here in soon-to-be-wedded bliss and I have a much better job, I still find myself pining for the Twin Cities… especially when it comes to food. I’ve mentioned before that Sioux Falls seems to be the capital of chain restaurants, and I’m sticking to my statement. The Twin Cities, however, is a totally different story. Whatever you want to eat, you can find it in the Twin Cities. On this top ten Tuesday, I humbly present my top ten Twin Cities restaurants.

Raising Cane’s
Ok, I know I just got done complaining about how Sioux Falls is nothing but chains, and here I am listing a chain restaurant as one of my favorites. Raising Cane’s is indeed a chain (and it won’t be the last chain restaurant on my list), but the difference is that it’s an AWESOME chain. The chains in Sioux Falls tend to be pretty white bread: the most hoppin’ place on a Friday night is the Applebee’s in the mall. Anyway, I first had Raising Cane’s in New Orleans, and they have THE BEST chicken I have ever tasted. It’s always fresh, and the sauce is this crazy orangey pinky concoction that seals the deal. And the toast? I could eat that toast every day of my life and never get tired of it. I thought Raising Cane’s was only a Southern chain, so when I left New Orleans, I thought I was leaving Raising Cane’s behind as well. Happily, I was mistaken. James and I were wandering around the U of M one day when I spotted that familiar red and yellow logo. My jaw dropped: did my eyes deceive me? Was it a mirage stemming from Raising Cane’s withdrawal? NO! It was really there! I dragged a skeptical James inside and ordered up some chicken. James was hooked. He moved to Ellsworth for a teaching job shortly thereafter, but every time he came to the cities, we had to go to Raising Cane’s. (I only went to Raising Cane’s when James was around because there was ALWAYS construction by the U of M and I could never remember how the hell to get around it and into Raising Cane’s). Now that we both live in South Dakota, we do our best to get to the cities every few months…. and we do, our first stop is always Raising Cane’s.

Pizza Luce
I have a love/hate relationship with Pizza Luce: I love their pizza, but I hate how gross it makes me feel after I eat it. It is SO GREASY, and it’s one of the few pizzas I’ve ever had that makes terrible leftovers (because the grease soaks all the way through, and it’s just a mess). But when the is pizza fresh and you’re taking that first bite, it is purely amazing. Pizza Luce has all sorts of crazy pizzas, but I stick with the sausage. And they have really cool pink boxes, which is tops in my book.

Matt’s Bar
Matt’s Bar is home of the Jucy (not “Juicy”) Lucy. In case you’ve never had the distinct pleasure of eating a Jucy Lucy, it is simply this: melted cheese encased in hamburger. Midwestern cuisine at its finest. The 5-8 Club in Minneapolis also boasts Juicy (not “Jucy,” like Matt’s) Lucys, and it’s up to you to decide which is better. James and I are Team Matt’s – even though you can choose different types of cheese for the inside of your burger at the 5-8 Club, nothing beats Matt’s. If you order a Jucy Lucy at Matt’s, be warned: the molten cheese on the inside of your burger will not hesitate to burn the bejeezus out of your mouth. Proceed with caution.

The Colossal Café
James and I first saw the Colossal Café on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Of course, we had to try it. The Colossal Café is anything but: it is the TINIEST restaurant, and it only seats about ten people at once. Weather permitting, they have additional seating outside, so that’s the time to go. It was winter when James and I went there for the first time, but it was delicious nonetheless. I have only ever gotten one thing there: apple, walnut, and brie flappers. You read that right: brie. The flappers are made with yeast, so they’re super dense. The syrup is made with brown sugar, cinnamon, and honey (do your teeth hurt yet?), and there are chunks of apples and walnuts on top. But the brie really pulls it all together. It’s a salty/sweet thing, and it’s soooo good. Better yet? James makes this meal for me at home sometimes, thanks to our first experience at the Colossal Café.

Joe’s Garage
Joe’s Garage has good food, yes, but its main draw is location, location, location. Like the Colossal Café, Joe’s has extra seating in the warmer months. Theirs is on the roof, which may seem like no big deal… until you see that you are right next to the Basilica of St Mary. And if you’re eating at night and the dome is lit up, it really is a spectacular sight. But the food: my favorite is the mashed potato bar, where you choose how many scoops of mashed potatoes you want and what you want to go with it. My personal favorite: one scoop of mashed potatoes, grilled salmon, and green beans. Add a view of the lit Basilica, and you’ve got yourself one perfect evening.

Burger Jones
This the White Trash Burger. Proceed with caution.
Burger Jones, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. One: your burgers are to die for. The meat is seasoned to perfection, and when you say you want it cooked medium (actually, at Burger Jones, your options are “pink” or “not pink”), it actually IS cooked medium. Two: you have specials that are actually worth my while, and even when I’m not there in time for specials, you don’t leave my wallet hurting. Three: I never refer to burgers as “hilarious,” but I will make an exception for you. Your White Trash burger (cheese curds and chicken fried bacon on top of the burger) is disgusting, yet really funny. Oh, Burger Jones, how I miss you. We’ll meet again soon, I promise.

La Belle Crepe
I love crepes. I know they are the simplest things in the world to make (even I can make them, for crying out loud), but like all things, they taste better when someone else makes them for you. The first time I had La Belle Crepe was a disaster, but I’m willing to overlook that because their crepes are so tasty. It was Valentine’s Day, 2009. James had been in the cities for the Minnesota Music Educators’ Association conference, which always lands on or around Valentine’s Day. That evening, he was scheduled to play with a band until the wee hours of the morning: Funky Gumbo, the bane of my college weekends. I was/am always looking for an excuse to go to the cities, so – using the excuse that I wouldn’t get to see James at all on Valentine’s Day if I didn’t go – I took off. I spent that Friday night and Saturday morning in the cities with James, and we planned on heading back to Morris in time for him to get to his gig and in time for me to have supper with my parents: they were coming all the way to Morris to have Valentine’s dinner with me so I didn’t have to be date-less! James and I were downtown, so we decided to grab something quick to eat and head west. We ran into this little hole-in-the-wall (seriously, it took me the longest time to find it a second time, but that could just be me being oblivious) crepe shop, which sounded just delightful. We ordered our crepes – a weird savory crepe for James and berries and crème for me) and waited. And waited. And WAITED. It took ONE HOUR for us to get our crepes. What the hell could’ve taken so long, I still don’t know. They’re CREPES, for heaven’s sake. They’re not complicated. Sure, there were a few other people waiting, but the crepe restaurant is smaller than the living room in my apartment. But we eventually got our crepes, and I made it home in time for dinner with my parents. It was a good Valentine’s Day.

Paciugo Gelato
So Paciugo Gelato is located in the Mall of America, which doesn’t do much for the classy factor. However, if you want not only gelato, but gelato with crazy flavors, then you’re in the right place. James and I have sampled all sorts of flavors from the sublime (violet) to the weird (Guinness beer) to the horrific (durian). If you’re not feeling quite so adventurous, no worries: they have normal flavors, too. Paciugo Gelato doesn’t have a whole lot of seating, but that’s no big deal. I like to take my gelato and venture forth into the mall to partake in one of my favorite past-times: people watching. The Mall of America is a prime location for people watching, and it’s all the better if you have a cup of gelato.


This is the other chain restaurant on my list, but it definitely earned its place. If you recall, I spent almost a year working at the American Eagle in Maple Grove, Minnesota. If my shift was longer than four and a half hours, I was given a half-hour lunch break. The employee break room was terrifying (think one oozy mini fridge, a microwave caked in years of reheated residue, and a few rickety folding chairs), so I did my best to avoid it. Half an hour is not a ton of time to eat if you’re dining out, so my only option was the sole quickie restaurant within walking distance: Potbelly. I always got ham and swiss, and it was (and still is) the best ham and swiss I’ve ever had: flaky bread, savory mustard, melty cheese. It was the only thing that got me through those grueling days of retail. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit 
Yep, we're taking shots with an unknown girl on
her 21st birthday. Welcome to Minneapolis!
According to a very reliable source (Google Translate), “Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit” is German for… Gasthof  zur Gemütlichkeit. I’ve only eaten here once, but let me tell you, it was memorable. My parents and brother were visiting me in the cities, and we met up with cousins of ours who live there. We decided to eat at Gasthof’s: an excellent decision. We ended up ordering some German platters so we could all sample a little of everything… there was barely enough room on the table for all the food. We had wienerschnitzel, sauerbraten, jägerschnitzel, bratwurst, and a number of other unidentified meats, plus all the cabbage and spätzle you could ever wish for. There was also a wandering accordion player, plenty of beer, and German apple pie shots for dessert (you had to take them by holding the shot glass between your thumb and your pinkie: a DIY shot stein). It was a blast; those Germans know how to have a good time.

These ten restaurants are just a drop in the bucket. The Twin Cities is overflowing with wonderful places to eat; I just haven’t been there yet. As much as I miss living (and eating!) in the Twin Cities, maybe it’s better that I live in Sioux Falls. After all, if I lived in the Cities, I’d be a whole lot fatter and a whole lot poorer. Plus, absence makes the heart grow fonder… these restaurants are all the more special since I can’t have them just any time. But you can be sure that every time I go to the cities, you can find me in at least one of these restaurants!


  1. We fell in love with Cane's in Las Vegas... and we always eat there when we are in the cities. There is one in Apple Valley too (which is where we have gone). This year two of them opened in Omaha! We "may" have planned a mini vacation to Omaha for chicken fingers... We only ate there twice in two days... :-) really excited it was on your list!

    1. I didn't know there was one in Apple Valley! We always go to the one by the college, which can be next to impossible to get to during construction (which seems to be ALL the time)! We were just in Omaha on Saturday, and we had no idea that there were two Raising Cane's there... we stumbled across one by accident and - of course - had to stop! James has been working on reproducing the Raising Cane's sauce, and he's come close, but nothing beats the original!