Minneapolis has emerged as one of the country’s most dynamic culinary centers, fueled by a growing constellation of regional farms and dairies, a food-savvy college crowd, and hot star chefs, including numerous James Beard Award winners. In fact, Saveur magazine named Minneapolis “The Next Great American Food City,” a sentiment echoed by noted celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.
To experience some of the best dining (and drinking) in the city, book a stay at the Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown, the perfect home base for a DIY food tour. Here are some of our favorite stops you won’t want to miss:
1. Start your journey at the Radisson Blu hotel’s FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar, where chef Jim Kyndberg fires up the brick oven for artisanal pizzas and the mesquite grill for steaks, chops and burgers (including the much-lauded Essential Cheeseburger). The restaurant sources local ingredients for optimal farm-to-fork dining. Start with the Sriracha maple-glazed chicken wings and then sample the Swedish-inspired Lena’s Meatballs, served with porcini mushroom sauce, white cheddar herbed mashed potatoes, pickled zucchini and lingonberry compote.
2. Next, head just around the corner to Nicollet Mall to experience downtown’s percolating food-truck scene. You (and an appreciative lunchtime crowd) will be tempted by the sheer variety of foods, including everything from Jamaican jerk chicken to Vietnamese pulled pork to Hawaiian shaved ice. The food trucks emerge in the spring and stay until the first freeze.
3. Looking for something healthy to balance out your food truck finds? Every Thursday between May and November (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.), the South Plaza of the Hennepin County Government Center hosts the Downtown Farmers Market, selling local fruits and veggies, freshly baked breads and prepared foods.
4. When you’re ready for a true local treat, indulge in a Juicy Lucy, a thick cheeseburger with the cheese cooked inside, not atop, the meat. Some Juicy Lucy aficionados say that South Minneapolis is home to the city’s best. But you can find a respectable downtown version at Grumpy’s, a fun dive bar on the outer edges of the neighborhood. It’s a hot (delicious) mess—grab some napkins if you plan to share!
5. From Grumpy’s, walk northwest to the riverfront to the striking Guthrie Theater. Inside, you’ll find Sea Change, where James Beard Award–winning chef Tim McKee creates exceptional fresh seafood dishes. Grab a seat on the outdoor patio to enjoy river views while sampling favorites like the octopus with salsa verde and Spanish peppers.
6. Another must-try local recipe is the beloved hotdish—a baked meat-and-veg casserole made with creamed soup and often topped with tater tots. Head to HauteDish for a refined version made with braised short rib, porcini mushrooms and, yes, tater tots.
7. The beauty of fine dining in downtown Minneapolis is that you don’t need a trust fund to eat well. James Beard Award–winning chef Isaac Becker runs three of the city’s top dining spots, among them the softly lit 112 Eatery, where locals have fallen hard for his sophisticated take on comfort food. Sample tagliatelle with Becker’s famed foie gras meatballs, or savory sides such as summer squash with mint pesto.
8. For a palate-cleansing brew, head to a downtown taproom. A 2011 law gave Minnesota breweries the right to serve beer at the source, and the number of breweries in Minneapolis alone has grown to 35 and counting. We suggest heading up North 5th Street to Fulton Brewery. The folks who started it out of their garage in 2009 have expanded to two breweries and a warehouse taproom where visitors can taste the goods, from all-American blonde ales to snappy IPAs.
9. Still hungry? The Eastern Europeans who settled northeast Minneapolis left its citizens with an ardent love of all things wurst. The best handcrafted sausages in the city are found at Butcher & the Boar. Pair a pork-and-cheddar sausage or an enormous steak with some of the city’s most irresistible sides, such as red-hot Brussels sprouts and pancetta mac & cheese. Don’t want to tackle a full meal? The sausage sampler is the perfect way to end your downtown food tour.
Cover image © iStock.com /Jim Parkin