A map of RNC sites and recommended restaurants in Minneapolis-St. Paul created by Capital Spice

Here at Capital Spice, we know that both parties have their fair share of foodies who will be making the trek to the national conventions in the next two weeks.

Last week, we teamed up with Mile High Eater to offer our readers who are headed out to Denver some suggestions on where to enjoy the best Colorado cuisine.

This week, we turn our attention to Republican foodies who will be making their way to Saint Paul for the GOP convention.  Going right to the source for our recommendations once again, we found Twin Cities Eats, a terrific blog that has been chronicling the Minneapolis-Saint Paul dining scene for the past two years.  This prolific blogger has reviewed more than 100 restaurants, and her style makes reading through them all a treat.

Find her insider’s view of the top restaurants, the best cost-conscious options, and a selection of additional foodie destinations after the jump.

(Reprinted with permission from Twin Cities Eats)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Republican National Convention Eats

Welcome to the Twin Cities!

While most Minnesotans this week are focused on the Minnesota State Fair, those of you foodies coming in from out of town are planning your critical eating for the Republican National Convention. Here are my words of advice and picks for those of you coming in from out of town. If you have something else in mind, use the search function at the top of the page to see if I have written about it before or pop me an email at twincitieseats@gmail.com and I am happy to advise. And all you locals, I probably didn’t capture all your favorite places so please chime in. Post the Convention, check out the report from the Capital Spice Blog , a DC foodie who will be hitting the Twin Cities for the convention.

Please forgive in advance the cabs that run in the Twin Cities. They are a bit gross and there is no passenger’s “bill of rights” as there usually is in other cities so you are lucky to get a driver who is not on his mobile or smoking. And they raised the prices 25 % two weeks ago. Just grin and bear it because your destinations will be worth it.

Where to Impress the Party Bosses
A word here. I am guessing that most of these restaurants are fully booked but, don’t despair, definitely try calling the day of to see if there have been any cancellations and it may be worth showing up as they are sure to be holding a few tables for walk-ins. St. Paul itself has limited fine dining so you may want to take the 15 minute drive to the more restaurant and bar laden Minneapolis.
Meritage – Chef Russell Klein moved to the Twin Cities from New York City in 2002, where he worked in such kitchens as La Caravelle and Danube. He found love, decided to stay and has opened Meritage, which I would arguably call the best restaurant in St. Paul. Enjoy his french inspired, locally sourced cuisine within walking distance of the RNC.
Meritage on Urbanspoon

Heartland – Chef Lenny Russo’s acclaimed (did you see the Bizarre Foods episode?) Midwestern fine dining restaurant. His heart is with the local purveyors and his soul is in the tasting menus presented each evening – one meat and the other vegetarian. Not walking distance to the convention but still in St. Paul.
Heartland on Urbanspoon

Manny’s – Re-opened just last week in the new W Minneapolis, Manny’s is by far the most talked about steakhouse in Minneapolis… and there are a lot of them. Snag a table and enjoy impeccable service and gorge yourself on steaks the size of your head. My guess is there will be a lot of good politico viewing in the dining room.
Manny's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Saffron – This is arguably my favorite restaurant in the Twin Cities. Take Mediterranean food and put a Middle Eastern spin on it and you have the genius of the young Sameh Wadi. He is one to watch in terms of James Beard nods in future years. They will serve dinner until 1am during the convention.
Saffron Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

La Belle Vie – Gourmet Magazine named La Belle Vie one of the top 50 restaurants in America and Chef Tim McKee is James Beard nominated. It is a phenomenol tasting experience in a historic building and if you can’t get a table in the dining room, there is also a more accessible lounge. The space isn’t huge so definitely try to book ahead.
La Belle Vie on Urbanspoon

Cosmos – The perfect touches of molecular gastronomy meet fine dining at this modern restaurant run by Chef Stephen Trojahn (formerly of the 21 Club) in Graves601 hotel. The food is supurb and the hotel itself will have you wondering if you are really in the Midwest.
Cosmos on Urbanspoon

No Corporate Sponsor for Me
Here are a few more accessible options especially if the above contenders are raising their prices during the RNC week.
Salut Bar Americain – Their new location on Grand Ave in St Paul has a fabulous patio from which to savor their endless brunch menu and excellent pommes frites. The service is always spot on and everyone in your party will find something wonderful to eat.
Salut Bar Americain on Urbanspoon

Little Szechuan – My former boss from China says this is the most authentic Chinese food in the Twin Cities and most foodies adore this place. Great prices, fast service and a large dining room. An easy trip from the convention site. You can also try the huge and beautiful Mai Village Vietnamese restaurant down the block.
Little Szechuan on Urbanspoon

Barbette – head to Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood for a great meal at Barbette – they serve breakfast and stay open for food late into the night. Menu varies from croque monsieurs to full entrees. The ambiance is fabulous and the servers characteristic of the Uptown scene.
Barbette on Urbanspoon

Jasmine 26 – Hit Eat Street in Minneapolis and Jasmine 26 should be your first choice. A bit more upscale than the average Vietnamese restaurant, Jasmine 26 makes great Sea Salt and Pepper Fried Tofu and has alcoholic bubble teas. The Twin Cities has a rich Southeast Asian culture so if you can’t make Jasmine 26 definitely aim to try at least one other option while you are here.
Jasmine 26 on Urbanspoon

112 Eatery – Still one of the hardest tables in town to get, 112 Eatery is known for their affordable, flavorable food and late night service (which is typically hard to come by in this town!). One of my favorite bartenders in town; the other is the PhD behind the bar at Saffron across the street.
112 Eatery on Urbanspoon

Worth the Wait
These are some great options for classic Twin Cities fare. No reservations here. Be patient and wait in line with all the locals who haven’t run away and rented out their houses.
Punch Pizza – I have eaten a lot of pizza all over the world but Punch Pizza is still my favorite – thin crust, wood-fired and great, fresh ingredients. Order it DOC with the buffalo mozz and you will be in heaven. There are a couple of locations – Highland Park in St Paul has table service and the others will get you your fix much faster.
Punch Neapolitan Pizza on Urbanspoon

Izzy’s Ice Cream – Recently featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, this is pretty gosh darn famous ice cream and the lines of locals prove the point. Get in the queue and plan your flavor along with the little melonball extra scoop you get of an additional flavor. People love the salted caramel and coffee flavors although everyone has their own favorites.
Izzy's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Brasa – Fitting the recent trend of fine dining chefs opening lower priced options, check out Brasa in hip Northeast Minneapolis. Chef Alex Roberts (of James Beard nominated Restaurant Alma) cooks up your meat and two sides in a more Latin American/Caribbean style. The converted auto garage is a site to see.
Brasa Rotisserie on Urbanspoon

Minnesota State Fair – If you get in early, the State Fair runs through Labor Day and it is a granddaddy of a State Fair; nothing like the sickly State Fair I grew up with. And a huge part of the focus is the food. Don’t blame me if you can’t get up the next morning thanks to the fried everything on a stick topped off with a bucket of chocolate cookies and buttered corn on the cob.

St. Paul Farmer’s Market
– Right in Downtown St. Paul, if you are here on either weekend definitely take a walk through this abundance of heartland products. Everything is grown within 50 miles and the farmers all love to chat. Take home some foodie souvenirs from here or from the local food shop The Golden Fig, on Grand Ave also in St Paul.

Midtown Global Market – Over in Minneapolis is a diamond in the rough of eating your way through the varying cultures that have immigrated to Minnesota over the years. This market is almost all about eating. Try everything from Mexican tortas to Swedish pastry to various dumplings from all parts of Asia. Closes early so escape here for lunch. You can even ride over on the 21 bus from the Xcel Energy Center – probably a 25 minute ride but worth it.
Midtown Global Market on Urbanspoon

We hope this list (and the accompanying Google Map that locates all of these destinations in relation to the convention sites) are as helpful for Republican food-lovers as our previous offering has been for Democrats planning their visit to Denver. 

If you know of any other can’t-miss restaurants, bars, or food-focused destinations in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area, we’d love your input!

Huge thanks to Red Pepper of Twin Cities Eats for her great suggestions and a terrific post!