Apr 21, 2024 - Food and Drink

A newcomers' guide to eating and drinking like a Minnesotan

A hamburger with cheese stuffed into the middle of the patty on a bun, sliced in half to show the cheese oozing out, next to a red basket of french fries. A mug reading "Matt's Bar" in the background.

"Careful! The cheese can burn you," the server at Matt's warned as he served my Jucy Lucy. Photo: Kyle Stokes/Axios

If you are among the thousands of people who move to Minnesota each year: Welcome! Now, it's time to learn to eat like a Minnesotan.

We made a starter pack of food and drink places and experiences for Twin Cities newcomers to check out, picked with the help of Axios readers.

Why it matters: These recommendations can help spark deeper explorations of our region's vibrant — and award-winning — food scene.

Things you've gotta try (at least) once

If you're a newbie in town, here's a checklist of Twin Cities food and drink experiences to earn your bona fides as a Minnesotan.

1. 🍔 Smash a Jucy Lucy. A burger with molten cheese inside the patty is Minnesota's signature food innovation.

2. 🥩 Dine at a supper club. These Upper Midwest staples are hard to define — laid-back, but still fancy; sometimes with lounge music; often serving dishes like steak, prime rib, popovers and walleye.

  • In the metro, Axios readers recommend you start somewhere like J.D. Hoyt's, Crooners and Mancini's.
  • Newer establishments like Creekside and Apostle offer fresh takes on the genre.
  • Some would argue the purest supper club ambience is found outside the cities proper, so consider Jensen's in Eagan or Wiederholt's near Hastings.

3. ⛵️ Grab a bite by the water. There are Minneapolis park favorites like Painted Turtle, Bread & Pickle, and Bde Maka Ska's newish pavilion spot, Pimento.

People walk down a narrow hallway in an indoor shopping mall
Grab a cup of Somali tea at Karmel Mall, home to dozens of shops geared toward Minneapolis' East African community. Photo: Kyle Stokes/Axios

4. 🌏 Hit up an international market. Grab a bite, shop various wares, maybe even buy fresh produce, and get outside your own cultural bubble.

5. 🥘 Bake yourself some hot dish and leave your "casserole" days behind.

Photos of a cheese curd taco and deep-fried sweet potato ravioli
Cheese curd tacos and deep-fried sweet potato ravioli at the Minnesota State Fair. Photos: Audrey Kennedy/Axios

6. 🎟️ Try a new Minnesota State Fair food. Block off the dozen days before Labor Day and celebrate our state's favorite — and most off-the-wall — flavors.

7. 🫒 Down a Midwest Martini. Maybe it's just a State Fair thing, but certain Minnesotans will tell you the old-school move is to plop an olive, a pickle, or even simply a dash of salt into your light beer. (Preferably Michelob Golden.)

For bonus points: 🇳🇴 Attend a lutefisk dinner. Don't ask us why, but it's a thing to gather in Lutheran church basements and eat dried cod soaked in lye. Mmmmmmmmmmm!

  • P.S. Our Scandinavian forebears loved lots of foods — like meatballs, or lefse with butter and brown sugar — that were actually edible.
A bowl of birria ramen on the left, and Laotian dishes with rice and eggs on the right
Dishes from El Sazon (left) and Gai Noi. Photos: Audrey Kennedy/Axios

Start building your food map

There are too many award-winning chefs and life-changing restaurants in the Twin Cities for a single newsletter.

But we did make this list of places to help you get started.

Special splurges: "A newcomer looking for the best steak has to go to Murray's," writes reader Gregg P. "Nothing else compares."

Unique vibe: El Sazon slings tacos and Latin American comfort foods from a window inside an Eagan gas station, though they also recently opened their own standalone space.

Take it to go: "Hai Hai is my absolute favorite food spot in town," says Betsy B. — though we must stress the dine-in experience and cocktail menu are just as good as their takeout.

Vegetarian-friendly: Francis offers a vegan version of the Jucy Lucy, available with either an Impossible patty or as a bean burger.

Breakfast: "Hope Breakfast Bar and Colossal Cafe are big hits" with Austin O. and his wife.

A photo of a latte on a table and a plant-covered wall inside a coffee shop.
Backstory Coffee Roasters in Minneapolis. Photos: Torey Van Oot/Audrey Kennedy/Axios

Coffee shops: Milkweed's ginger-twisted mocha, The Mississippi Queen, is one of my favorite specialty drinks.

Booze: Zane H. recommends the cocktails — and the hot dogs — at Meteor, a bar that was a James Beard Award semifinalist this year.

Brewery spaces: The rooftop patio at LynLake Brewery is Saskia V.'s favorite in town.

Thanks to Axios readers Jerry B., Widnie D., Zane H., Ashley L., Josh R., Sharon H., and Don N., Joanne M. for some of the suggestions on this list.

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