Restaurants and Hiking in Twin Cities
May 14, 2006 5:19 PM   Subscribe

What are good restaurants and hiking trails in the twin cities area (for a visiting Houstonian to go to)?

My aunt is going to be visiting us in the Twin Cities for a week. She will be staying with my parents in Highland Park (I myself now live in Minneapolis). So far, we have some ideas for what to do, so I don't need general 'things to do in the Twin Cities,' which has already been asked anyhow. She has told my parents that she would like to go hiking at some point, so I could use some suggestions for good hiking trails nearby. They're not looking to really leave the Twin Cities area, so within a 30-45 minute drive from Saint Paul would be good. Also, my parents would like to take her to eat somewhere that has food she will not be able to find in Houston. If you've read the thread mentioned above, you'll see that I obviously am recommending Punch Pizza, but I'd like some more ideas. I'm looking for anything that is available here, but not in Houston if you happen to be familiar with both areas, or just food in the Twin Cities that is absolutely superb and of a quality that will be hard to come by anywhere else.
posted by gauchodaspampas to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of food does she like? What price range? I'm a former Twin Cities restaurant editor, and the knee-jerk response is to suggest Scandinavian food, but even the Twin Cities is hurting for that these days -- and not many really like it, anyway.

I wouldn't say there is food in the TC area that you absolutely can't find in a place as big as Houston. But if you're OK with casual eats, Matt's Bar for Juicy Lucys (burgers stuffed with cheese, a TC fave) is a classic. Of course Houston has deep-dish pizza, but I find that the closer you are to Chicago, the better the deep-dish is. I'd recommend Davanni's, though it is a local chain.

If price is no object and you want excellent food that is not unique to the TV, my picks are D'Amico Cucina, Kincaids and St. Paul Grill.

If you want goofy atmosphere with food not as important, go to the original Mickey's Diner, the one in the train car in downtown St. Paul.

Walleye is also a TV favorite and may indeed be tough to come by in Houston. Tavern on Grand is your place for that.

And few places have a cafeteria to rival Cafe Latte on Grand. Get the sandwich sampler, a Mandarin latte, and a slice of turtle cake. Mmm.
posted by GaelFC at 5:25 PM on May 14, 2006

I haven't lived in the Twin Cities since '98, so I won't comment on the food issue. As far as hiking goes, I don't think you can beat Afton State Park. It's got some nice hills with views of the St. Croix River and the trails go through both restored prairie and some lovely forests. If you can't tell, I desparately miss having this fantastic park 30 minutes from my house. You might also try the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, which has the added attraction of many landscaped exhibits.
posted by mollweide at 6:03 PM on May 14, 2006

A good hiking trail can be found at Interstate state park. It's worth the trip to see the potholes. There is a hiking trail, but it is rather steep and rocky at points. If that is an issue, William O'Brien State Park may be a better bet and it's close by, and I believe admittance to one is good at the other (don't quote me on that, though). Plus both locations are close to Stillwater, which is cozy and quaint, and a good day trip by itself. And on the food recommendations, trust the foodie above. A jucy lucy at Matt's is not to be missed, but for full effect enjoy with a cold Grain Belt Premium. One other food suggestion: if you're feeling adventurous, try Tibet's Corner. Try the butter tea. It's. . . interesting (just be sure to drink while still hot).
posted by fantastic at 6:15 PM on May 14, 2006

Nye's Polonaise is unusual and tasty. In addition to being described as "the bar Captain Kirk would take his alien dates to for purposes of seduction", it has extremely tasty Polish food. Love their pierogies.

Less unusual but still extremely tasty is Restaurant Alma. Won the award for Best Restaurant in the Twin Cities a few years back.

Ummm... POP! is always fun.

Oh, and the owner of that uptown favorite, Saint Sabrina's Parlour in Purgatory opened a fun Tiki bar that serves wonderful appetizers and pizza: Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge.

And how could I forget The Sample Room, just around the corner from Psycho Suzi's.

Of the restaurants I mentioned, only Nye's could be considered regional cuisine. The rest are unusual and fun enough to be memorable for visitors.

Further updates as they occur to me...
posted by insyte at 10:42 PM on May 14, 2006

Don't know that it's something they don't have in Houston, but as long as you're in Highland Park you might as well grab a meal at the Highland Grill. Affordable, casual, and yet creative cuisine. I think Tuesday night is their half-price wine night.
posted by epugachev at 10:54 PM on May 14, 2006

Check out the DNR's website for a list of metro area state parks (Fort Snelling has 18 miles of hiking trails, who knew?!), go to the bottom of the page for the metro area links.

For restaurants, I'd highly recommend Cafe Brenda, they use only locally grown ingredients. You could also take your aunt for Vietnamese cuisine, go to either Quang's Restaurant or Jasmine Deli, both on East Street in Minneapolis. And I will third (fourth?) Matt's Bar and second Cafe Latte, both awesome. Just don't take her anywhere for seafood, tex-mex or cajun and you'll be fine!
posted by Buck Eschaton at 6:28 AM on May 15, 2006

Other than the many walking paths, there is a trail from Minnehaha Falls that you can take to walk out to the Mississippi River. There's a park bench when you get to the river. I had been to the Falls many times before I found out it was there. One way is about half an hour or 45 minutes. One of the only hikes (admittedly a short and easy one) I can think of that doesn't require you to leave the city. And it's REALLY close to Highland Park.
posted by marsha56 at 10:51 AM on May 15, 2006

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