If what you eat is just as important as what you do while on vacation, you’ve come to the right place. Minnesota has no shortage of culinary delights for every type of eater, from the famous Juicy Lucy and State Fair food-on-a-stick to fine dining and avant garde fare from award-winning chefs. And don’t forget to wash it down with locally brewed beer, wine or spirits. Find more tasty ideas below, add them to your favorites, and plan your Minnesota foodie getaway today.
While the Twin Cities and Duluth are well-known regions for craft beer, cities across southern Minnesota are fueling the revival of the state’s brewing traditions. From small, upstart brewpubs to the second-oldest family-operated brewery in America, southern Minnesota has a delicious list of must-drink local brews.
When you think of Minnesota food, you might think of a few classic staples: nutty wild rice, flaky walleye, and stick-to-your-guts hot dish. Change, of course, has arrived with a vengeance as a food revolution has swept the state, and tradition is increasingly seen as a platform for invention. Chefs around the state revel in adapting and sometimes completely transforming hidebound dishes, creating menus that riff playfully on familiar flavors and foods.
What's the definition of a "cozy restaurant"? It varies from diner to diner, but it usually includes warm hospitality, comforting food, a lack of pretense, and quiet surroundings. The restaurants that follow illustrate the idea that while Minnesota may not lack glossy, contemporary fine dining, it also has some charmingly low-key spots to grab a bite to eat and reconnect with those important people in your life.
Minnesota has a proud history as the nation's breadbasket, from its fields of wheat, to its pork and dairy farms, to the grain mills of Minneapolis. It's no coincidence, then, that the swath cut by Minnesota's food personalities is a wide one indeed. You can see them on national television, hear them on the radio, and taste their creations by way of books and the Internet. And their influence cuts from the biggest of the mass-market heavyweights to the highest-flying of the gourmet, as illustrated by this (brief and greatly abridged) collection of biographical sketches.
You can learn a lot about a place by the way people eat. A plate of food doesn't appear from nowhere; it's informed by the land, cultural traditions, and the destination a place is traveling toward. Increasingly, the same is true about the way people drink: More and more, what's in your glass can tell you a story about where you are.
The fertile countryside of southern Minnesota is dotted with farms and creameries, and some of the best cheese in the region is emerging from small independent makers working amid the area's gentle hills and broad plains. Food lovers have a number of options for places to visit—and creations to taste—throughout the region.
Food trucks are about as polarizing as things get in the world of good eating: They're seen by some as hipster-driven trend machines, and by others as the vanguard of modern food. When you start to eat your way through their ranks, however, you’ll soon find that food trucks come in as many colors and flavors as jelly beans. Regardless of your budget or brow elevation, there's a truck slinging something you'll truly enjoy.
Brunch is big in Minnesota. In fact, Yelp ran the numbers nationwide and found that Minneapolis-St. Paul was the second-biggest metro area for brunch after our Midwestern cousins in Chicago. From Bloody Marys in the city to buffets at lakeside resorts, there's a great deal to choose from for the hungry weekend traveler.
Old-fashioned malts, a frosty mug of root beer, hot dogs oozing with chili or ketchup, and a big twisty cone with a perfect curl on top: It’s drive-in season in Minnesota. While Winona’s Lakeview Drive Inn dates back to 1938, most opened mid-century when post-war, automobile-loving America embraced any excuse to go out cruising and cool off. Since then, interstates, central air-conditioning and fast-food chains forced many drive-ins to close up shop, but those that remain are perfect for vintage dinner dates, family stops en route to the lake, or simply savoring a tasty slice of Americana.
The southwest corner of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area is well known for its many scenic lakes and attractions like the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. And in 2016, the Ryder Cup will come to Hazeltine National Golf Course in Chaska. But did you know this area is quickly becoming a hot spot for beer, wine and spirits connoisseurs?
When you head north to the stunning rocky shores of Lake Superior, food may not be the first thing on your mind. But the region has a lovely gastronomic style all its own. From smoked fish to fresh berries to cured meat to some of the region's tastiest breakfasts, the foods found here can transform a pleasant trip into a great vacation.
Airport dining has evolved, and we're all better for it. While there are still plenty of spots to grab quickly prepared, mass-market fast food, restaurants that emphasize creative use of high-quality (and often local) ingredients are starting to take over the concourses at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. A recent overhaul of Concourse G in Terminal 1 has brought in a whirlwind of internationally inspired dining, but other spots of note are scattered throughout the airport, as well, including the formerly sparse Terminal 2. If you're swinging through MSP, bring an appetite—you've got options, and they're delicious.
Classic doughnuts, both cake and raised, are available throughout Minnesota, made with old-fashioned love and a lot of sugar, powdered or otherwise. But the last five years have also seen a nouveau doughnut renaissance in the Twin Cities, with newer shops offering exotic twists (maple long john with a strip of bacon on top, anyone?) and cupcake-shop-level marketing.
What makes a perfect pie? Much is made of crust (butter versus lard, shortening versus everything else), and its flakiness, or lightness, or general durability. But the real heart of a pie is the filling—so much filling veers toward the goopy, and/or the oversweet, that it's a delight to find a pie with a sense of balance and restraint to it, something that challenges you not just to finish a piece, but to avoid finishing the whole pie.
While Minnesota is known for producing foods like wild rice, sweet corn and blueberries, it’s the state’s drinkable crops that are making headlines. Wineries, breweries and distilleries – the latest local craze – continue to up the ante with new facilities, recipes and events, and they’re inviting visitors to come taste the results.
The Juicy Lucy—Minnesota's claim-to-fame burger that features molten cheese oozing from the center of the patty—has lured countless tourists, numerous TV shows and even President Obama to get a taste of its chin-dripping, finger-licking goodness. But burger lovers needn't stop there. From creatively topped varieties and non-beef options to greasy diner-style classics, a smorgasbord of America's favorite sandwich awaits visitors and residents alike in every corner of Minnesota.
Take a tour of Minnesota eateries that have been featured on the Travel Channel, Food Network and Bravo.
A handful of Minnesota farms host “pizza nights,” when piping hot pies with freshly picked toppings have visitors flocking from miles around.
I love all four seasons, but there are few greater things in life than the first days of a Minnesota spring. We love celebrating another winter survived, and if you’re anything like me, food plays a huge role. I can’t wait until restaurants unveil their spring menus, teeming with fresh ingredients we’ve been craving all winter. There are a few spots across the state that do an especially great job working directly with farmers to source local ingredients. Here’s a look at some places that say farm-to-table—and actually mean it.
Minnesota summers may be short, but we never take a sunny day for granted. We jam-pack Memorial Day-Labor Day with events celebrating the food, drink, art and music that make Minnesota an amazing place to live. You probably already know that my favorite food festival on earth is the Minnesota State Fair. But there are several other culinary celebrations around the state that are worth checking out.