TC Eats Casual

The Twin Cities have some great restaurant offerings. Like wait one hour forty five minutes on a Tuesday for a party of two to sit at the bar great.

But being creatures of habit, we have a top 10 that we just visit on repeat. Plus Jack and I enter restaurants starving - we’re probably still married because we go to fast-casual restaurants with consistently good food and minimal wait times.

I’m breaking our fave places in the Twin Cities into two categories: Patio and Poutine

There’s a joke in Minnesota/the Midwest that there are two seasons: winter and road-construction. Jack and I joke there are two seasons: poutine season and patio season.

Poutine: Originally from Quebec, the dish is typically comprised of french fries topped with cheese curds and smothered in gravy. Poutine Season: Much like hygge, this is a feeling of warm, cozy, togetherness. Mellow and unpretentious. Much akin to the feeling of snuggling with your lover by a fire after coming off a snowy mountain. The restaurants listed in this category may or may not actually serve poutine, confusing I know. We’re talking about a feeling, not a dish.

Patio Season: Upbeat, vivacious, friendly, sunny, light, a little loud. Must be fun. If you don’t know about patio season you must live in a temperate climate. Lucky you.

Since we’re coming into fall, and who knows how much of this posting you’ll get through, I’m starting with poutine season.

The Happy Gnome is located at 498 Selby Avenue, St. Paul in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood.

Well right at the start I’ve already confused myself because The Happy Gnome actually has a beautiful patio. But we tend to go here when the weather gets colder. Housed in an ivy-covered brick building that functioned as a fire station in the 1800s, this rambling restaurant/bar features a long wooden bar, high ceilings and cozy leather booths that run along tall windows overlooking Selby Avenue.

The Happy Gnome’s upscale contemporary menu is made in-house daily with a focus on fresh, seasonal selections from local growers. Offers 89 craft drafts, scotch, whiskey, wine, craft cocktails…basically you won’t go thirsty here.

Eat: Poutine! House-made Pretzel, Chilaquiles with Braised Pork, Fried Jerk Chicken Sandwich

Red Cow is located at 393 Selby Avenue, St. Paul in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood.

Named ‘red' for the wine and ‘cow’ for the burgers, Red Cow offers a menu of diverse and flavorful burgers, wine, specialty cocktails, and craft beers. Even now with four Twin Cities locations I would recommend joining the waitlist before your arrival as waits can be quite long.

Eat: Poutine! the 60/40

Everest on Grand is located at 1278 Grand Ave, St Paul.

Unassuming North Indian-Nepalese eatery with a variety of veggie and vegan options, plus a lunch buffet. It’s so so good. We would always walk our dogs past this restaurant when we lived on Grand and wonder wtf are they serving because the building is a little dumpy but always overflowing with people. Now we know. They serve tastes of heaven.

Eat: Everything. Veggie Samosa, Thukpa, Chicken Tikka Masala, Garlic Naan

Drink: Order a bottle of wine: you’re worth it and it’s just more economical

Cafe Latte is located at 850 Grand Ave, St Paul.

A cafeteria style dining experience with gourmet-quality comfort food, served with a latte or a glass of wine. Selection of pretty cakes too. You’ll fight for a place to sit after fighting for a place to park (try the garage on Victoria) which is no easy feat while balancing hot soup and a hot latte on a cafeteria tray. Worth it though.

Eat: Chicken Salsa Chili, Turtle Cake, German Chocolate Cake, Salted Caramel Tres Leches, Mango and Blueberry Cheesecake…maybe just go here for desert

La Cucaracha Mexican Restaurant is located at 36 Dale St, St Paul in Crocus Hill.

La Cucaracha is a down-to-earth, neighborhood-style restaurant where people like to eat, celebrate and have a good time. This local organic Mexican restaurant offers a supreme happy hour. The spices in the food and the welcoming smiles of the staff will warm you up on any day. I think they say, “when you’re here, you’re family” about the Olive Garden but that’s actually more accurate here.

The homemade chips and salsa are inspired; we don’t like the guac so we don’t order it anymore. (If you want good guac go to Barrio.)

Eat: Chicken Tacos, House Soup, Nachos Azteca, Enchiladas Suizas, Guerrero Pork, Ole’ Mole

Drink: Bullfighter Margarita(s)

Cheers, we made it to Patio Season.

Notice we didn’t leave Saint Paul during Poutine Season, we get a bit more adventurous when the sun is shining.

Republic is located at 221 Cedar Ave, Minneapolis at Seven Corners.

Brick-walled gastropub offering an extensive selection of craft beers on tap plus gourmet bar food. This is the first place we visited in Minneapolis. It was during the polar vortex of 2014 and we came in here to warm up (it’s good during poutine season too). The atmosphere was warm, the food and drinks delish, near Jack’s school, no televisions in the bar, fam-friendly. It was and is our perfect spot, if we’re in Minneapolis. You don’t need a reservation, try to go during happy hour.

Eat: beer cheese nachos (happy hour menu), quinoa-mushroom burger, buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, slow roasted pork tacos

Salut Bar Americain is located at 917 Grand Ave, St Paul and at 50th and France in Edina.

Everybody needs a neighborhood French joint and Salut is just that: casual, comfortable, with a menu broad enough for Americans yet refined enough for zee French. Reservations not necessary, but if you have to wait to sit on the patio you can walk down Grand and visit the shops or walk down Summit and look at the historic mansions. Happy hour 3-6 pm daily.

Eat: Truffled Pommes Frites, Crispy Baked Brie, Moroccan Meatballs, Croque Madame, French Onion Soup, Steak Frites

Drink: Business Time Cocktail

Punch Pizza Grand Avenue is located at 769 Grand Ave in St Paul.

Brick-oven Neapolitan pizza (re: thin crust) and salads. Really couldn’t describe this place better myself so here ya go:

Phenomenal pies with crusts possessing just the right level of char, crispness and chewiness, gilded with salty-sweet sauce and super-fresh, inventive toppings; snappy, kid-friendly service hits its apex in the showmanship of the pizzaioli tossing dough in the open kitchen, and it all takes about five minutes from order to mouth. - Zagat

Eleven TC locations, all excellent

Eat: Punch Salad, Mimi Pizza, Margherita Extra Pizza, Maximus Pizza

Drink: Changing selection of wine and beer

Wally’s is located at 423 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis in Dinky Town.

Mediterranean and middle eastern cuisine. Parking in Dinky Town is a nightmare and this restaurant has a dedicated lot #blessup. You will want to try everything on the menu and the portions are really large so rally a group of friends and enjoy a feast.

Eat: Falafel and Hummus, Veggie Samosas, Arayes, Fries (topped with cheese and spices), Gyro, Falafel Sandwich, Baklava

Drink: Water, there’s no alcohol at this restaurant

Sweeney’s is located at 96 Dale St, St Paul.

Go for the patio, stay for the food and drinks. Sunny day? Sit under a canopy of trees. Chilly night? Sit near the stone fireplace. Don’t want to leave the dog home alone? Pup friendly. Long day? Full bar.

Eat & Drink: It’s bar food, you’ll figure something out.

There you have it. We don’t eat out often but when we do, it’s always to these places.

Christine HicksComment