I was prompted to post this list having read the very inadequate overview of restaurants in the Twin Cities by Raymond Sokolov recently published in the Wall St. Journal. While the Twin Cities cannot be reasonably compared to New York, San Francisco, London or Paris, the general quality of restaurants at the higher end compares very favorably to most U.S. cities of similar size. I have listed the restaurants in order of merit for each city and also used a star rating system (Minnesota stars) loosely based on the Michelin ranking of New York City restaurants. To standardize my rating scale, I have used recent meals I eaten at Jean Georges (3 Michelin stars), Le Bernadin (3 stars) and Daniel (2 stars). In general, there is more breath and depth to the restaurants in Minneapolis than in St. Paul.
Heartland (*). Excellent regional cuisine featuring elk, bison and venison in addition to the usual suspects. The food is inventive and the wine list excellent. The only potential drawback is that it is located about 5 miles from downtown St. Paul.
Meritage (*). Comfortable bustling bistro located about 2 blocks from the convention center serving meticulously prepared bistro food. The predominantly French wine list is good and the food is reasonably priced. Downtown.
I Nonni. Located in Lillydale next to MSP airport so perhaps not a realistic option for most conventioneers. Serves good basic Italian food in an attractive. They have an excellent wine list almost exclusively Italian and a superb sommelier. 10 miles from Downtown.
St. Paul Grill. I think of this as a steak/chop house rather than a full service restaurant. It is a warm bustling downtown establishment with a very lively classic bar. Stick to the grilled meats. The hash browns are excellent. Wine list is good and predominantly American. Downtown.
Restaurante Luci. This is a small noisy but very enjoyable Italian trattoria located about 5 miles from downtown.
Other downtown restaurants worth a visit.
Sakura. Basic Japanese food in comfortable surroundings. Good sushi. Rudimentary wine and sake list. Pazzaluna. Attractive central location about 1 block from convention center. Pleasant place to eat though the food is neither inventive nor exciting. Kincaids. It is not clear whether the owners of this establishment want it to be a bar or a restaurant.
La Belle Vie (**). Opulent setting, wonderful service and superb food. Both the menu and the wine list, which is excellent, have a distinctively southern French character. If you cannot get a reservation in the restaurant, the bar, in which you can sample the restaurant menu, a special tasting menu or the regular bar menu, is a great second choice. Close to Downtown.
D’Amico Cucina (**). This has been a Minneapolis culinary landmark for almost two decades. Inventive modern Italian food and excellent service. The wine list, which is almost exclusively Italian, is superb. The tasting menu is both a bargain and a real treat. Downtown
Vincent (*). Located opposite Orchestra Hall in Downtown. This French restaurant is actually owned and operated by a Frenchman. Excellent food served in a very convivial setting. The bar with its special menu is also well worth a visit. Downtown.
Fugaise (*). Imaginative food with a French influence served in a somewhat stark dining room. Both the food and the excellent wine list are competitively priced. Located about 1 mile from Downtown.
JP American Bistro (*). Very under-rated establishment. Interesting America take on bistro food. I have never had a bad meal here. Good reasonably priced wine list. Located 2-3 miles from Downtown.
Heidi’s. Reasonably priced neighborhood restaurant in south Minneapolis. Excellent imaginative menu and a good wine list. 12 miles from Downtown.
Restaurant Alma. Both the food and the wine list are good at this neighborhood restaurant near the University of Minnesota. 4 miles from Downtown.
Cue at the Guthrie. Although I would generally rather fast than risk a meal in a theater restaurant (DB Bistro Moderne expected), this restaurant is well worth a visit. The food is excellent and the expansive dining room of the Jean Neuvel designed Guthrie theatre is spectacular. About 1 mile from Downtown.
Saffron. If the though of Middle Eastern food makes your eyes glaze over you should try this restaurant. Very imaginative menu and a good wine list. Downtown.
Solera. Wonderful Spanish tapas served in a dining room at the back of a very lively bar. Excellent mostly Spanish wine list. Try som of the large selection of sherries. Downtown.
Cosmos. Modern restaurant and menu in a new downtown hotel. The vertical food is so close to the edge that it sometimes falls off. Interesting dining room and a very lively bar. Downtown.
Chambers. Good ‘international’ food served in the very noisy dining room of a newly opened and fashionable hotel. Downtown.
Murray's Steakhouse. Minneapolis culinary institution. Decor and service are both a little retro but good.
Manny's Steakhouse. Recently relocated to a new location. This is a steakhouse with attitude which is sometimes better than the food. Excellent wine list mostly U.S. Downtown.Oceanaire. Original establishment in what has now become a seafood restaurant mini-chain. Fresh fish and excellent wet bar. Very large pours for wine by the glass. Good wine list. Downtown in the Hyatt hotel.
Dakota Jazz Club. Deceptively good food for a jazz club. Worth a visit. Downtown.
Lucias. Another very popular neighborhood restaurant. The food, which might be described as regional, is good and the wine list adequate. Located about 3 miles from Downtown.
112 Eatery. One of the most popular restaurants in Minneapolis. Though I do not share in the general enthusiasm for this restaurant the food is good, the prices very reasonable and the surroundings pleasant. Downtown.