The Restaurant Guide: DOWNTOWN MINNEAPOLIS

Updated 10/4/2012

From the Warehouse District to the skyways, downtown by far offers the most restaurants per square foot. More ratings and reviews at vita.mn/food-drink

Butcher and the Boar

American • $$$ • 1121 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. • 612-238-8888

"The Butcher" is, above all other things, a brick-and-mortar tribute to the pig. Power team Jack Reibel and Peter Botcher are meat magicians, with Botcher acting as the butcher in question, while Reibel polishes things with fine-dining, classical chef sensibilities. While it's appropriate to dine here for special occasions, it's equally comfortable playing host to your after-work beer and sammich. The genius menu structure allows you to choose your own adventure, from an $85 cowboy steak for two, to an $8 "Yankee" ham plate -- a build-your-own affair of petit biscuits, a quenelle of housemade cheese whiz, pepper jelly and of course, the ham. Whether you're in it for a feast or a snack, you're in for some of the finest housemade sausage and charcuterie in the region. You'll know you're in the vicinity when curls of smoke on the air lift you from your shoes and carry you into the vestibule. In other words, real deal barbeque takes place in here -- where they're cooking with smoke, not fire. And, the butcher serves ham the way God intended, with the city's most extensive bourbon selection. You'll also find at least 30 beers on tap. It's the perfect place to do Oktoberfest right -- in a sprawling beer garden with a couple hundred of your friends. MECCA BOS

Cafe Maude at Loring

American • $$ • 1612 Harmon Place, Mpls. • 612-767-9080

Maude Armatage was a trailblazing woman's suffragist who served on the Minneapolis Park Board from 1921 to 1951. Thus it seems uncanny that her namesake Cafe Maude's new second location should be situated next to the urban greenery of Loring Park (in the former Nick and Eddie space). Maude's personal motto of "civilized leisure" is rendered in synergistic style here: high-technique cuisine via executive chef Matthew Kempf, a pre-Prohibition-themed cocktail menu and extended beer and wine lists, nightly live music and pro service. Decorative elements like harissa-red accents and golden cushions reflect the North African and Middle Eastern culinary flourishes on the menu, like the vibrant North African flatbread with spiced lamb, onion, tomato, Aleppo, Haloumi, parsley and walnut yogurt and Lablabi chickpea-garlic soup. Inspired by a different region entirely, the Wild Acres duck bahn mi salad has received rave reviews for its interesting assortment of pastrami, pâté and confit on a bed of Mississippi greens. Celebrating the ritual of brunch is an excellent proposition, with perfectly executed classics like buttery-crisp blueberry flapjacks, perfectly poached eggs with spinach and Hollandaise and soul-fueling breakfast cocktails (!) like the Corpse Reviver #27 featuring Beefeater gin, Cointreau, Lillet Rose, lemon and absinthe. All of this civilized leisure made us consider cashing in our retirement accounts to join owner Kevin Sheehy on one of his biannual guided tours of Istanbul. KAT KLUEGEL

Zen Box Izakaya

Japanese • $ • 602 Washington Av. S., Mpls. • 612-332-3ZEN

"Irasshaimase!" You're likely to hear this welcome shouted as you enter the threshold at Zen Box Izakaya, where the menu is inventive (no sushi!) and the service is as warm as Indian summer. If you're a "drink and a snack" sort of diner (and if not, perhaps you oughta be) then this place is made just for you. It's inspired by the Japanese tradition of izakaya, a one-word descriptor of what life is all about: Have a drink, have a snack, have another drink, press repeat. The snacketizer menu, with commensurate prices, encourages a couple hours of this leisurely behavior: small skewers of grilled meats, nuggets of lovingly fried chicken, little nibblies of edamame and wakame, pristine cuts of raw fish. ... Now have some sips of Sapporo and sake, and bookend it with some sour Japanese pickles, a shrimp dumpling, or perhaps a knee-bucklingly fatty slab of pork belly. And then -- press repeat. Look for ramen in limited quantities (it's one of the few kitchens serving up proper ramen in the Twin Cities), and visit the after-work happy hour for $3 to $5 eats and $4 and $5 libations. M.B.

 

Mona

American • $ • 333 S. 7th St., Suite 190 • 612-259-8636

Mona is the kind of cozy, dark-wooded downtown oasis that you might imagine Don Draper sneaking off to after a heated board meeting for some smoky-smoked oysters and a cathartic Perfect Spring Martini with Prairie Organic Vodka, Beefeater Gin, mint, lime syrup and cucumber. It could also be a perfect pit stop for an aching bike messenger during happy hour for a $3 PBR and a messy snack of crisp suicide fries: a poutine-esque mix of house-made bacon, Caesar dressing and fresh corn. Tucked away in the Accenture building downtown, Mona is a welcome little refuge from downtown work-related storms featuring locally sourced small plates with smoky, Mediterranean influences. Chef Lisa Hanson even makes her own bacon, with pork from Hidden Farm in Elgin, Minn. The scallops with swiss chard, golden raisins, juniper cream and preserved lemon lacked the flavor punch I was expecting but you can't go wrong with the lusty marrow on rotating flavors of toast or a good old-fashioned slab of pork belly sitting on a potato pancake with smoked shallot jus. K.K.

 

Devil's Advocate

American • $ • 89 S. 10th St., Mpls. • 612-843-2260

Devil's Advocate is a downtown watering hole with an eclectic and expansive selection of 40 beers on tap and some serious balls. Owner Erik Forsberg's dedication to affordable, elevated bar fare is based on a brilliantly simple meatball-and-sauce premise, bun optional. Choose a single ball and sauce combo for $3 or shoot for the stars with the Chef's Sampler ($10) to revel in the ball-sauce possibilities. Pork balls are especially tender, made with co-op-sourced pork shoulder and best enjoyed with the creamy Sunday Gravy to emphasize their luscious porky punch. Chicken balls made with thigh, crispy skin and thyme evoked a feeling of Crock-Pot comfort when accompanied by the creamy mushroom sauce. And the recipe for the vegetarian falafel ball has been tweaked since its opening; the version we enjoyed was impressively smooth-textured and nicely spiced. We only wish there were more of that sauce to slather about. Flavorful sides include braised greens with kale, pickled ramps and a resounding pork zing. The future of Devil's will include down-home live music and an adventurous-sounding cocktail menu (cachaca, anyone?). And of course, plenty of tasty balls for all. K.K.

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Band Box Diner: Breakfast/lunch. Vintage 1930s diner serves up classic short-order grub including pancakes, hash browns, burgers and fries, for breakfast and lunch. (729 S. 10th St., Mpls., 612-332-0850.)

Black Sheep Pizza - Minneapolis: Pizza. A hot-and-dry-burning coal-fired oven turns out pizzas with superb toppings (house-made fennel sausage; mushroom-mozzarella-rosemary; tomato-oregano) on glorious crusts. (600 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-342-2625.)

The Depot Tavern: American. The First Avenue spinoff is a casual, friendly paean to all-American fried foods. (701 1st Av. N., Mpls., 612-388-8388.)

Bombay Bistro: Indian. A wide variety of Indian lamb, chicken, seafood and vegetarian entrees, most under $10. (820 Marquette Av. S., Mpls., 612-312-2800.)

FULTON BEER: Taproom. Flagship brews like Sweet Child of Vine and the Libertine -- with a food truck such as Vellee Deli, Chef Shack or Gastrotruck parked outside. (414 6th Av. N., Mpls. 612-333-3208.)

Hell's Kitchen: Breakfast. A distinctive, fun-loving breakfast (and lunch and dinner) destination. Do not, under any circumstances, miss the lemon-ricotta hotcakes; the house-made maple-glazed bison sausage is pretty special, as is the hearty wild rice porridge. (80 S. 9th St., Mpls. 612-332-4700.)

Kieran's Irish Pub: The popular pub relocated to Block E in 2010. Full Irish menu, including Irish beers. (600 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-339-4499.)

The Loon Cafe: American casual. Burgers, sandwiches, salads and specialty chilis. (500 1st Av. N., Mpls., 612-332- 8342.)

MARUSO STREET FOOD BAR: Fusion. Chef-driven interpretations of international street food. (715 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. (612-333-0100.)

Moose & Sadie's: Cafe. Sunny cafe brings counter service, fresh fare and affordable prices to the condo-crazy neighborhood. (212 3rd Av. N., Mpls., 612-371-0464.)

My Burger: American. Small, cheery, counter-service shop has made the fast-food burger relevant once again by keeping things simple. The burgers are tops in their class. (601 Marquette Av. S., Mpls., 612-436-0330.)

O'Donovan's: Authentic Irish pub serving full menu of Irish cuisine, including boxty, corned beef and fish and chips. (700 1st Av. N., Mpls., 612-317-8896.)

Peoples Organic Coffee & Wine Cafe: American. Breakfast all day, grab-and-go lunches and an emphasis on local and organic. (IDS Crystal Court, 80 S. 8th St., Mpls. 612-353-5499.)

Toast Wine Bar & Cafe: American. Owner Erin Tomczyk really nails the wine-bar food thing, keeping her nibble-friendly menu short and uncomplicated while emphasizing fresh, generous flavors at affordable prices. (415 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612-333-4305.)

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112 Eatery: American. Chef/owner Isaac Becker does beautiful work with such highbrow fare as sea scallops with wild mushrooms and seared ahi tuna with chimichurri sauce. But don't miss his great takes on basic bar grub: the sweet and sour crab salad, a cold cuts/pickles plate, bacon-harissa sandwich, one of the Twin Cities' best burgers. (112 N. 3rd St., Mpls. 612-343-7696.)

Barrio - Minneapolis: Mexican. Headliners of the Mexican chain-restaurant stable -- tacos, enchiladas, tostadas -- are given an invigorating new life through a potent blend of ingenuity, enthusiasm, cooking prowess and impeccable ingredients. (925 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-333-9953.)

Be'wiched Deli: American. High-end culinary practices are scrupulously adapted to the humble sandwich. The results include an astonishingly great pastrami, a luxurious tuna and a positively seductive pulled pork version. (800 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-767-4330.)

Bradstreet Craftshouse: American. Designer cocktails and small plates in a swanky Graves Hotel street-level setting. (601 1st Av. N., Mpls., 612-312-1821.)

Brit's Pub: English. Traditional English fare including Scotch eggs, bangers and mash, Cornish pasties, as well as salads, burgers and vegetarian dishes. Upper-level patio with outdoor dining and grass lawn for lawn bowling. (1110 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-332-3908.)

COPPER POT INDIAN GRILL: Indian. Attractive and intimate new operation in the Lumber Exchange Building features extensive lunch and dinner menus, a full bar and a $9.99 buffet lunch, notable for its value, variety and quality. (10 S. 5th St., Mpls. 612-331-5577).

Dancing Ganesha: Indian. Entrees include a long list of robust lamb, chicken and shrimp stews, along with specialties such as a paper-thin rice and lentil crêpe stuffed with potatoes and onions, and a host of meat-free options. (1100 Harmon Pl., Mpls., 612-338-1877.)

Eli's Food & Cocktails: American. A neighborhood-style bar and grill for downtown. (1225 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-332-9997.)

Gather: American. The Walker Art Center's lunch-only restaurant has a locavore focus, which comes out in seasonally focused salads, sandwiches and seafood. (1750 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. 612-375-7600.)

Ike's Food & Cocktails: American. Americana classics and more sophisticated fare for lunch and dinner, with a retro theme. (50 S. 6th St., Mpls., 612-746-4537.)

Imperial Room: American. Serving steaks, prime rib and rotisserie meats. 415 1st Av. N., Mpls., 612-376-7676.)

Kindee Thai Restaurant: Nuntanit Charoensit, a Bangkok native, is cooking her heart out; we're crazy about her lettuce wraps, her spring rolls and her rich, aromatic curries. (719 S. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-465-8303.)

King and I Thai: All the Thai basics, served in handsome surroundings. (1346 LaSalle Av., Mpls., 612-332-6928.)

The Local: Irish. Authentic Irish pub atmosphere, traditional pub food and a beverage list that includes Guinness, Irish whiskies and scotches. (931 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-904-1000.)

Masa: Mexican. Traditional south-of-the-border fare gets a haute cuisine treatment in a stylish contemporary ambience. (1070 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-338-6272.)

News Room: American. Prices are mostly reasonable, and the newspaper-themed menu is much more varied and imaginative than the usual theme restaurant. (990 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-343-0073.)

Rock Bottom Brewery: American. First-rate beers, brewed on the premises, plus a varied and imaginative menu. (825 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-332-2739.)

Saffron Restaurant & Lounge: Mediterranean. Star chef Sameh Wadi emphasizes around-the-Mediterranean-flavors, meant-to-be-shared portions and mostly affordable prices. Don't miss the slow-cooked stews known as tagines. (123 N. 3rd St., Mpls. 612-746-5533.)

Spoonriver: American. Owner Brenda Langton is still dedicated to locally grown and organic ingredients, with surprising and delicious twists. (750 S. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-436-2236.)

Thom Pham's Wondrous Azian Kitchen: Asian. Pham's remake of Azia features many of the same popular dishes (see: cranberry puffs) and drinks, in a sprawling, kitschy downtown location. (533 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-338-1479.)

WILDE ROAST CAFE: American. The coffee/cafe/wine/beer hybrid brings easygoing and affordable breakfast, lunch and dinner options to a spacious and attractive riverfront setting. (65 SE. Main St., Mpls. 612-331-4544.)

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Atlas Grill: Middle Eastern. Well-prepared noon-hour fare. At night, it takes a Persian turn, with fire-roasted seafood and meats. (200 S. 6th St., Mpls., 612-332-4200.)

The Bachelor Farmer: Scandinavian. Chef Paul Berglund tackles contemporary Scandinavian farmhouse cooking; do not miss the lingcod brandade, the sockeye gravlax or the rabbit liver terrine. In the lower-level Marvel Bar, Pip Hanson concocts some of the city's most refreshing cocktails. (50 N. 2nd St., Mpls. 612-206-3920.)

Bank: American. The Westin Hotel transformed a former Art Moderne bank lobby into a drop-dead gorgeous restaurant/bar. Fine power breakfasts, winning pastries, spectacular soups and imaginative daily specials are all on the menu. (88 S. 6th St., Mpls., 612-656-3255.)

Bar La Grassa: Italian. Spouses Isaac Becker and Nancy St. Pierre (112 Eatery) collaborate on this hot North Loop pasta joint, combining great energy and wonderfully simple food. (800 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-333-3837.)

Basil's Restaurant: American. Breakfast, lunch and dinner highlight the use of fresh herbs, including basil, of course. 710 Marquette Av. S., Mpls., 612-376-7404.)

Cafe Lurcat and Bar Lurcat: American. This D'Amico venue has a one-two punch: an eye-catching atmosphere and a terrific New American menu, with simple, beautifully prepared fare. The bar, a Beautiful People magnet, pours more than 40 wines by the glass and has a great small-bites menu. Service is generally first-rate. (1624 Harmon Pl., Mpls., 612-486-5500.)

Crave Restaurant - Downtown Minneapolis: American. A vast "Real Housewives of New Jersey" setting (including the last word in rooftop patios) has a something-for-everyone menu, which covers sushi, pizza, pasta, salads, seafood and other familiar, all-American pastimes, along with plus-size desserts. (825 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. 612-332-1133.)

D'Amico & Sons - Gaviidae: Italian. The passionate cooking at Le Meridien Chambers is both rustic and detail-oriented. Noteworthy pasta dishes include one tossed with tiny clams and zesty sausage. Scallops, the roast chicken and hanger steak are all excellent. Breakfast is a standard-setter. (901 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-767-6960.)

FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar: The menu is eclectic, but most of the fare is classic Americana with a few "gourmet" touches, prepared with care from high-quality ingredients. (31 S. 7th St., Mpls., 612-216-3473.)

Fogo de Chão: The prom-queen-popular Brazilian steakhouse chain is basically an upscale Old Country Buffet-meets-Outback. It can also be a lot of fun, with an unending cavalcade of spit-roasted meat and poultry. (645 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-338-1344.)

Haute Dish: American. Chef Landon Schoenefeld displays his passionate love affair with rich foods. The vast majority of the menu finds him twisting a familiar dish, each seemingly culled from a retro church cookbook or a vintage food magazine. (119 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-338- 8484.)

McCormick & Schmick's - Galleria: Seafood. Menu changes daily but offers two dozen ocean- and freshwater fish selections, along with a dozen varieties of oysters on the half-shell. (800 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-338-3300.)

Mission American Kitchen & Bar: American. Popular business lunch destination for contemporary comfort food. (77 S. 7th St., Mpls., 612-339-1000.)

Monte Carlo Bar & Cafe: American. Popular watering hole serving burgers, sandwiches, pasta and other American fare. (219 3rd Av. N., Mpls., 612-333-5900.)

Nami: Sushi, served in stylish Warehouse District surroundings. (251 1st Av. N., Mpls., 612-333-1999.)

Origami: Sushi bar with many vegetarian items. (30 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612- 333-8430.)

Porter & Frye: American. The swank Hotel Ivy's restaurant and bar has gone from high-flying culinary flights of fancy to a more low-key locavore approach. (1115 2nd Av. S., Mpls., 612-353-3500.)

Restaurant Max: American. Glitzy Hotel Minneapolis spot shines at lunch with tasty, surprising variations on such standard themes as Cobb salad and an egg salad sandwich. There is much to admire at dinner: rack of lamb, duck, a New York strip steak. (215 S. 4th St., Mpls., 612-340-0303.)

Rosa Mexicano: Mexican. Contemporary Mexican flavors in a sprawling, dramatic settling, from pork belly-scallop tacos and crab empanadas with tomatillo salsa to ancho chiles stuffed with slow-braised pork and garlic toast spread with roasted bone marrow and cane sugar-chipotle sauce. (609 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. 612-656-7144.)

Sanctuary: American. Cozy destination showcases the imaginative talents of veteran chef Patrick Atanalian. (903 Washington Av. S., Mpls., 612-339-5058.)

Sapor Cafe and Bar: Fusion. The name is Latin for "flavor," and the around-the-world food lives up to it. (428 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-375-1971.)

Sea Change Restaurant & Bar: Seafood. For its in-house restaurant the Guthrie hired highest-profile chef Tim McKee and is offers a sustainable seafood focus. Much of the food is sublime, and prices are kept reasonable. Tantalizing small plates await at the raw bar. (818 S. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-225-6499.)

Seven Sushi Steakhouse, Ultralounge and Skybar: Steak/sushi. A frothy mix of nigiri, sashimi, cocktails and flirting. Perfectly competent fare at slightly higher-than-competitive prices. No surprises, no disappointments. (700 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-238-7777.)

Solera: American. An homage to the Spanish tapas tradition, Solera hoists the humble appetizer onto a pedestal and worships it for all it's worth. (900 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-338-0062.)

Spill the Wine: American. When it's good, it's great. You can't be displeased by the tender, subtly spicy calamari and the cool, nicely plump shrimp cocktail. Salads are excellent. There are nicely grilled lamb chops and a tender pork chop. (1101 Washington Av. S., Mpls., 612-339-3388.)

Vincent: French. Chef/owner Vincent Francoual's elegant restaurant offers such dishes as seafood cappuccino, pan-seared scallops and sesame-crusted halibut. (1100 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-630-1189.)

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Capital Grille: Steak. Steakhouse specializing in dry-aged Angus beef in a clubby atmosphere. (801 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-692-9000.)

Cosmos: American (fine dining). The restaurant and bar in the Graves 601 Hotel is beyond gorgeous. And the menu, one of unadulterated luxury (and brushes with molecular gastronomy), continually changes. (601 1st Av. N., Mpls., 612-312-1168.)

La Belle Vie: American. High-art dining in high-art surroundings. The eight-course tasting menu may be the ultimate Twin Cities dining experience. The chic lounge is the place for a beautifully rendered cocktail by mixmaster Johnny Michaels and a roster of carefully prepared small plates. (510 Groveland Av., Mpls., 612-874-6440.)

Manny's Steakhouse: Steak. Locker-aged steaks and polished service in a classic steakhouse setting. Huge portions are meant for sharing. (825 Marquette Av. S., Mpls., 612-339-9900.)

Murray's: Steak. The 66-year-old landmark, famous for its Silver Butter Knife Steak, recently unveiled a brand-new renovation, along with a new lighter touch into lunch and a casual bar menu. (26 S. 6th St., Mpls., 612-339-0909.)

Oceanaire Seafood Room: Seafood. The one-time innovator has been revamped at a far livelier new street-level address. But what we notice (and lament) most is a slimmer, less quirky fresh-fish selection. The crab cakes remain one of the city's pinnacle culinary experiences. (50 S. 6th St., Mpls., 612-333-2277.)