Over the last year or two, the food scene in Minneapolis has blossomed from hot dish to haute dish, and now is the time to head to the Twin Cities to indulge in the new face of Midwestern cuisine. Though they still have plenty of corn dogs and fried food on sticks, the twins have grown up and so have the restaurants. From gourmet takes on classic Minnesota fare to innovative uses of foie gras, there are plenty of reasons to eat this city up.
What better place to start this food frenzy than at the aptly named Haute Dish, which takes its name from the iconic casserole known in the state as hot dish (tater tots, ground beef and cream of mushroom soup)? Owned by South Dakota-born Landon Schoenefeld, Haute Dish epitomizes laid-back elegance, what with chandeliers dangling from the high ceilings and brilliant woodwork along the walls. The menu features artisanal takes on Midwestern gastronomy, including its namesake dish that features porcini mushrooms, short rib, green beans and housemade tots. Other ways Schoenefeld turns everyday Minnesota fare into a delicacy can be seen in the tuna noodle, which has soba, wasabi peas, tender sea urchin and, for crunch, togarashi potato chips. His macaroni and cheese comes with king crab and truffle oil, and the French onion dip is paired with truffled potato chips. It’s Midwestern cuisine at its finest.
One of the most celebrated eateries in Minneapolis is this James Beard-nominated restaurant inside an 1881 warehouse that was a base for various wool and fur companies. The space is owned by Eric and Andrew Dayton, sons of Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. Here, the brothers have skipped the politics and, instead, have hired chef Paul Berglund to tap into the Norse food craze by adding a Scandinavian twist to dishes, many of which utilize vegetables and herbs that are grown on the rooftop garden. Berglund makes sugar- and salt-cured Alaskan salmon on toast with cucumbers and horseradish, grilled duck breast with roasted radishes, and a bay leaf flan that comes with basswood sponge candy, cinnamon whipped cream and walnut sandbakkel (Scandinavian cookie tarts). This homage to the north isn’t just following the latest trend; Minnesota has one of the largest Swedish populations in the United States, and often you can see twinges of this culture at diners, church dinners and even in the grocery story. Lucky for the Daytons, though, the time to highlight this cuisine is now, and they have done it well.
Right below The Bachelor Farmer, through the “secret” purple door, you can find Marvel Bar. Though owned and operated by the same team as the restaurant, this small cocktail den is led by barman Pip Hanson. Marvel Bar has a Mad Men vibe (retro décor and quaint, cozy booths), though the drinks are thoroughly modern. Try the Silverado for a horseradish-flavored twist to classic tequila sour, or double your fun with the Deuce Deuce, a rye drink made with two types of vermouth and two different bitters.
Finally, check out James Beard Award-winning chef Isaac Becker’s downtown restaurant located in what appears to be an old townhouse. With dark wood tables and chairs, exposed brick walls and low light, the two-story eatery feels like an antiquated gastropub, but in the best possible way. It’s cozy without being cheap, and the energy of the space feels youthful. The dishes have a nouvelle aura as well. For example, foie gras meatballs grace a plate of handmade tagliatelle; the cheeseburger comes topped with Brie; and the local corn with chorizo aioli is a sweet and spicy take on creamed corn. You might need a foodie lexicon to understand what some of the ingredients are, but that, too, is all part of this switch from canned soup and casserole to housemade and artisanal.
Photos Courtesy of William LaVigne and John Reed Forsman