Some iconic Midwestern classics and where to get them in the Twin Cities
These local spots serve some iconic dishes in the Midwest
The Twin Cities are home to many classic Midwestern foods. Some of the most iconic dishes that developed in the city and have been around for years, while other dishes are from popular restaurants that have introduced their own unique spins.
Click here for the 5 Bites of the Twin Cities Slideshow!
These cities are known for being the birthplace of some seriously savory dishes. Some of these indulgences are classically American, like the Juicy Lucy, which is a cheeseburger that is stuffed with cheese rather than having cheese served on top. Others have more of an influence from international cuisines like the Hot Dagos, a sandwich with an Italian sausage patty covered (typically) in tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Along with these popular dishes, some restaurants are also gaining recognition for their new approach to certain classics, like the Reuben Benedict (corned beef with charred cabbage on a pumpernickel muffin topped with Thousand Island hollandaise) at Haute Dish.
Not all of these restaurants may not be the newest or trendiest spots on the block, but most have served the Twin Cities for years and are tried and true. Some are relative newcomers to the area, while others are still gaining popularity. Either way, when you’re looking for a great place to grab a bite and are excited to indulge in some beloved Twin Cities food, these spots are worth your attention.
Twin Cities Chef's Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the City of Lakes to the Capital City Hardcover – Illustrated, November 4, 2014
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Chinese 5-Spice Chicken with Roasted Figs and Onions
- 1 whole chicken, broken down
- 1 tbsp Chinese 5-spice powder
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 pint figs, quartered
- 1 large red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced and divided into white and green
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 cup chicken stock
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. Rub chicken pieces with 5-spice powder, salt, and pepper and place on prepared baking sheet.
Cook for 20-25 minutes, add figs, onions, 1 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook chicken until golden brown and until juices run clear. The onions and figs should slightly caramelize. Let chicken rest 5 minutes before serving.
To make pan sauce, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the white part of the green onions and cook 2-3 minutes until softened. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce until thickened, about 3-5 more minutes.
Serve chicken alongside roasted onions and figs. This dish is great served with steamed rice, green beans, drizzled with pan sauce and garnished with the green part of the green onion.
MNFoodBloogers – Heidi’s Minneapolis
When I started my blog I really expected it to be all food focused, which it mostly is. What I never counted on was meeting a devoted, inspirational, fun group of people and forming a network of really close friends and fantastic people who I consider my food blogging peers.
These are some of the most encouraging, smartest, kindest, coolest people I have ever met, and I feel so lucky to be a part of this amazing group! Whenever I’m looking for ideas, encouragement or just curious about something my Food Blogger friends are there to help.
Now Heidi’s was fantastic, we had a multitude of bit sized deliciousness that ranged from curried lamb bites to blue cheese on a crostini, but of course I was so busy talking to everyone I completely neglected to take any photos of the food. We also had a few speciality drinks made including a ‘blond bombshell’ and a ‘Kate in the Kitchen’. The Kate had celery bitters as part of the recipe and was fantastic!
I haven’t eaten a full meal at Heidi’s but based on this gathering I can’t wait to go back. It was a great combination of savory and rich but not over the top. I really enjoyed the food and look forward to coming back soon.
And as always, I can’t wait for the next MNFoodBloggers gathering.
Bite Of Minnesota: Eggplant Parmesan
Last weekend I had my 4-year-old niece tag along with me to two farmers markets: Mill City & Minneapolis, with an ice cream stop in between, of course. The girl loves her ice cream and orders it by its color rather than its flavor, totally kid style. Plus, I had to use some bribing (and sugar) to get her to do two markets in one day, exhausting for a little human.
My main reason for trekking to a second market was to stock up on tomatoes and eggplant, both totally in season and both totally affordable depending on where you shop. I’ve found that the Minneapolis and St. Paul markets are good places for stocking up on preservable goods, but be prepared to carry a lot of weight! We trekked back to the car and the little human offered to carry one eggplant, “because…I never give up” she says.
I sure am glad we bought all of those eggplants because I found a recipe that I had to make not once, but twice in the following week. If you’ve ever made eggplant parmesan, you know how tedious it can be: salt the eggplant, blot off excess water, bread and fry, and so on until you’re finally layering the eggplant to bake.
This recipe is much simpler, and comes from a newly discovered blog, Alexandra’s Kitchen. It calls for a red pepper-tomato sauce, which I made and is so delicious, but could easily be substituted with a store bought pasta sauce. Also, it’s healthier than traditional eggplant parmesan since there is no frying and it uses much less cheese. Head on over to her blog and give the recipe a try. I think you’ll agree that it’s a great use of eggplant.
5 Foods That Are Only Popular in the Twin Cities
In the Twin Cities—depending on how easily you can make a decision—you either have the pleasure or misfortune of having a plethora of options to choose from to get your foodie fix. Though the area is an ever-growing melting pot, there are certain foods here that you won’t easily find elsewhere.
With a foundation of dairy farmers, Swedes and 10,000 lakes, these Minnesotan foods with a Twin Cities twist are sure to delight. So the next time you’re ordering delivery in the Twin Cities area, look for these local gems!
WalleyePhoto courtesy of Tavern on Grand.
Walleye is a common fish among the lakes of Minnesota, but a dish that can be served in a variety of ways. Tavern on Grand is well-known in the Twin Cities for serving up the freshest walleye almost any way you’d like it—from walleye cakes to walleye bites, walleye tacos to a WBLT (walleye, bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich). Why pick just one? Make “adulting” look easy: order multiple walleye dishes and pack up the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch (just don’t use the office microwave!).
HotdishPhoto courtesy of Sweet Pea’s Public House.
What’s “hotdish,” you ask? It’s Minnesota’s version of casserole. But not just anyone can make a good hotdish—you need to make it with love. Sweet Pea’s Public House does just that. The self-titled “friendliest bar and pub in St. Paul” offers two different versions that are local favorites: one with tuna and one with tater tots. Explore the Twin Cities’ roots and order hotdish for dinner.Photo courtesy of D’Amico & Sons.
If you’re invited to a picnic or potluck in Minnesota, you can count on someone bringing bars. They have the flavor and concept of a cookie, only they’re baked in a brownie pan. D’Amico & Sons offers bars that are sure to hit the spot with flavors like toffee crunch blondie, chocolate chunk brownie and lemon. Add bars to your dinner delivery o r cheat and order some for your next potluck or dinner party .
Juicy LucyPhoto courtesy of Groveland Tap.
A food born and raised in the Twin Cities, a Juicy Lucy is a burger stuffed with cheese. Since its conception, several different versions have popped up in restaurants across the state. Groveland Tap has a section of its menu dedicated solely to the Juicy Lucy including the Buffalo Lucy, the Cajun Lucy, the Ellsworth Lucy (with cheese curds and Tap Sauce, pictured above) and even the Poutine Lucy. If you love burgers, order one of these cheese-stuffed burgers today.
Cheese CurdsPhoto courtesy of Blue Door Pub.
A Twin Cities staple. The breading can vary, but The Blue Door Pub likes to slather its cheese curds in a thick beer batter. The little pub serves its cheese curds in two styles: original curds with a marinara dipping sauce and flaming-hot curds made with spicy white cheddar and coated in an habanero cheddar beer batter with ranch dipping sauce (pictured above). Don’t feel like waiting for a table to get your hands on some? Get cheese curds delivered instead .
Introducing Chef Vang
Yia Vang is considered a trailblazer in bringing Hmong cuisine to the national table. Born in a Thai refugee camp, his family immigrated to the Midwest where he grew up inspired by the joy of large family meals. Today he’s passionate about passing on Hmong stories and traditions through the meals he creates.
Yia is co-owner of the popular Union Hmong Kitchen pop-up and soon-to-open Vinai, his first brick-and-mortar restaurant in Minneapolis. In 2020, the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen said his recipes were some of the tastiest they’d tried all year.
Small Commercial Break
Heart Disease is a BIG killer of women, in fact did you know that more than twice as many women will die each year from heart disease than from all forms of cancer combined? Yes, even including breast cancer.
This can be changed, and you can help! Join me at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s 4th Annual To Her Health Wine Dinner 2011 on May 12th.
Now, I know you’re thinking why am I reading a commercial? Well I’ll tell you why.
- I’ve had the pleasure of attending this event the past few years, and the food is amazing. It’s at a different restaurant every year. It has been held at swanky places such as Spill the Wine, Spasso and this year at TAXXI.
- Heart Disease is BAD NEWS, and YOU can help!
- WINE – good wine, and I find a new favorite every year!
- My father works at this amazing organization, and I will personally introduce you if you come!
As an additional bonus the EMCEE this year is none other than Brittany Thelemann, Miss Minnesota USA 2011.
Ok, commercial break over, now back to our regularly scheduled posts.
5 best things our food writers ate in the Twin Cities this week
From turkey legs to chicken and couscous, here’s a rundown of our dining diaries’ greatest hits over the past seven days. What were your top eats of the week? Share the details in the comments section.
Heirloom Tomato Tart
Despite the past week’s glorious weather, the end of the growing season — and, with it, the outdoor farmers market season — is an inevitability. That means we’ll be saying goodbye to locally cultivated tomatoes. Cue the tears.
Until then, this highly recommended recipe really makes the most of those treasures. It’s also easy to prepare and comes together quickly because it relies on two labor-saving shortcuts: premade pie dough, and premade pesto.
Here’s a tip (for non-vegetarians, anyway): Always keep a supply of locally produced Pappy’s Pie Crust Dough in the freezer. Made with lard and a supermarket staple since 1966, it rolls out beautifully and bakes into tender, golden flakiness.
But despite those helpful cheaters, the results, in terms of both appearance and taste, announce that you fussed (no one needs to know otherwise), and that ever-enticing combination of tomatoes and basil is an ideal way to celebrate the last glimmers of summer. Find the recipe below. ( Rick Nelson )
An Instagram-fueled obsession this week led me to Nashville Coop’s new headquarters on St. Paul’s Snelling Avenue, not for the chicken but for this mammoth cookie that’s been lighting up social media. (Who am I kidding? For the chicken, too.)
Turns out, one of Nashville Coop’s founders, Kamal Mohamed (who’s also known as Kamal Minneapple) was the driver behind the creation of a cookie that could hold its own against the restaurant’s wildly spicy (and popular) chicken strips and sandwiches. When he was living in New York, a friend handed him a cookie from Levain Bakery. Thick and craggy and jammed with chocolate and nuts, Levain’s cookies are kind of a legend.
“I’d been thinking about it ever since,” he said.
The entrepreneur thought the Twin Cities could use a cookie like that one, and he tried — and failed — to reproduce one on his own. That’s where his friends, spouses Sarah and Sahr Brima, come in. Sarah, a speech and language pathologist, took on the challenge of re-engineering that Levain cookie and nailed it.
The three of them went into partnership together, launching Love You, Cookie in late August, first on the Nashville Coop food truck, and then indoors when the hot chicken business went brick and mortar last month. You’ll find the $4 monster of a cookie, loaded with dark chocolate and cashews and sprinkled with sea salt, behind a glass case on Nashville Coop’s counter.
“The part that was intriguing to me is that it’s different from a typical cookie,” Sarah said. “It’s huge, first of all. There’s this balance you get. It’s crispy on the outside and gooey on inside. People have said, ‘I feel like I’m eating a scone.’ It’s a different consistency, but also a chocolate chip cookie at the same time.”
Sahr, an attorney, added: “It’s what every chocolate chip cookie has been trying to be forever.”
The team has big plans for Love You, Cookie. They’re already in a handful of coffee shops, such as Nokomis Beach and Gray Fox, and will be showing up in more within the next few weeks.
“We’re excited about this concept and getting it out everywhere,” Sahr said. “The cookie sells itself.” ( Sharyn Jackson )
Find them at Nashville Coop, 300 Snelling Av. S., St. Paul. Open 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Tue.-Sun. Follow them on Instagram for other locations.
Shut out of tickets to the extension of the Minnesota State Fair’s drive-through Food Parade? The Minnesota Renaissance Festival is having its own, complete with giant pretzels, fries, cheese curds and other fair fare.
If you’re missing State Fair name brands, such as Mouth Trap and Sweet Martha’s, this won’t hit the spot. But if you find yourself craving a caveman’s feast of smoked turkey, hot and dripping from the bone and served by a wench in period clothing, this event has you covered.
Entry is $20 (not including food), and grants you a slow motorized crawl past sleepy village facades. Costumed staffers come to your window to take your orders for food as well as souvenirs as you roll past their stations. The best find, besides the turkey leg? Beaked plague doctor masks. Who knew 2020 would make the Renaissance so relevant? ( S.J. )
3525 145th St. W., Shakopee. Hourly entries 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.-Sun., through Oct. 18.
My appetite for comfort food continues unabated. Since this particular craving frequently ends up translating into “chicken,” I was delighted to find myself at this Midtown Global Market star, run by spouses Hassan Ziadi and Samlali Raja.
The key here is the marinade, a fragrant alchemy of ginger, turmeric, garlic, preserved lemon and parsley. Post-braise, Ziadi fashions a sauce from that stewed marinade, fortifying it with slightly sweet onions. The results are lovely, legions beyond the yawn-inducing chicken that I’ve been preparing all these months.
It’s served with seasonal vegetables — right now, that means squash, carrots, cabbage and chickpeas — and available with couscous or turmeric-scented rice.
“Me, I like couscous,” said Ziadi. “But I’ve learned something here in Minneapolis, and that’s people like options. The more options you give, the better you look.”
The portion is more than generous what’s pictured here is a fraction of the vegetables and couscous, and the chicken’s tender, juicy meat can only be described as “plentiful.” Leftovers are a given. At $9.95, this meal, which holds up well as takeout, ranks as one of the Twin Cities’ great values. ( R.N .)
In the Midtown Global Market, 920 E. Lake St., Mpls., 651-410-0361. Open 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. daily.
If only all get-out-the-vote campaigns involved classic 9-by-13 pan bars.
One reason why this version of the Special K Bar — also know as Chocolate Scotcheroos — has been a Yum! fixture is because owner Patti Soskin grew up making them.
“I started cooking when I was really young,” she said. “And they’re easy to make.”
At Yum!, these breakfast cereal-based goodies mostly adhere to the familiar formula, right down to the peanut butter bite. Still, Soskin takes one deluxe detour. For the key finishing touch, she relies upon a decadent and glossy dark chocolate ganache, which advances this crunchy-chewy bar beyond home cooking territory.
Soskin has been in a get-out-the-vote mode for weeks. Beyond using frosting (and patriotic sprinkles) to telegraph her nonpartisan message, she has quietly been inserting artist-designed stickers from the #turnuptheturnout campaign into the restaurant’s takeout packaging.
She’s upping the ante on Friday by playing host to artist Brandon Litman, who will be spray painting his (free) posters and lawn signs. They feature his stencil of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the word “Vote” (and the hashtag #voteRUTHLESS). Litman is a driving force behind kindly.org, which is using technology to improve volunteer opportunities.
For this one-day-only event, find him outside the restaurant from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.
“I heard him say that he was going to be at the Minneapolis Farmers Market the next day,” she said. “So I went and basically stalked him and eventually said, ‘I would love to have you come to our restaurant.’ ”
Turns out, Litman’s benefactors, spouses Charlie Rounds and Mark Heimenz, are Yum! neighbors and customers.
“I love what Patti said, which was, ‘I want to blanket St. Louis Park with these signs,’” said Rounds. “We’re not telling people who to vote for. Mark and I just want to put our money into ways to get out the vote, and we see this as being effective because Brandon is so bright and talented and innovative and pragmatic.”
Drop by, pick up a poster and vote. And don’t forget about indulging in an enormous Special Yum! Bar ($3.95).
“I swear to god, people are eating more desserts than ever before,” said Soskin with a laugh. “It’s these times.” ( R.N. )
4000 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-922-4000. Open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.
Heirloom Tomato Tart
Note: This recipe, adapted from the New York Times, is fairly flexible. The original recipe called for sliced heirloom tomatoes, but they seemed too juicy (a few tips: roast them for 10 to 15 minutes, or sprinkle them with the recipe’s salt and then place them in the colander, or pat them dry with paper towels after draining them). I had a variety of cherry tomatoes on hand, and liked the results. Instead of mozzarella, try goat cheese, and add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard when whisking the eggs and cream.
• Store-bought dough for a 9-in. single crust pie, rolled into an 11-in. round
• 1 pint cherry tomatoes (or about 4 medium heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/2-in. slices)
• 3/4 c. shredded mozzarella (about 3 oz.)
• 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
• 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Place in a colander to drain excess tomato liquid for 20 minutes, or place cut-side down on paper towels.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fit the rolled-out dough into a 9-inch tart pan, allowing the edges to rise about 1/4 inch above the rim of the pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork.
Line the dough with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes until crust is beginning to brown at the edges. Remove from oven and carefully remove the foil and weights. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Spread pesto in an even layer over the par-baked tart crust. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the pesto. Sprinkle the basil and oregano over the cheese.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper until combined.
Place the sliced tomatoes evenly over the cheese and herbs in a decorative pattern. Pour the custard evenly over the tomato slices. Swirl the pan to evenly distribute the liquid. Bake until the filling is set and won’t jiggle when shaken, about 35 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving warm. This tart can also be served at room temperature.
Sharyn Jackson • @SharynJackson
Rick Nelson • @RickNelsonStrib
Sharyn Jackson is a features reporter covering the Twin Cities' vibrant food and drink scene.
Minnesota Wild Berries
Berry picking - on blueberry hills and raspberry patches around the state - is a great summer treat in Minnesota. Both blueberries and raspberries tend to come into season in July (there's global warming for you). Find wonderful ways to use your haul with this Guide to Blueberries and these Berry Recipes.