Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
Minneapolis has museums, theater and outdoor activities for a great family vacation. It also has a great food scene. Years ago, the fertile land gave rise to mills that produced grain for most of the country. Cereal giant General Mills is still based in Minneapolis and the Mill City Museum, a Minnesota Historical Society museum, transformed the ruins of an old mill into a fun museum for all. The Twin Cities, Minneapolis and Saint Paul, have picture perfect summer days: endless blue skies and low humidity. Spring and fall are also great. Winter, well, locals embrace the outdoors.
The writer was hosted.
When my daughter decided to go to college near the Twin Cities, my husband and I were excited to explore Minneapolis (and Saint Paul) and the burgeoning food and drink scene. Now that’s she graduated and moved on, we were missing this wonderful place. So when I was offered a chance to spend a few days in Minneapolis, I jumped at the chance.
How to Work Up an Appetite in Minneapolis
Minneapolis and St. Paul boast great biking on greenways, protected bike lanes and bike boulevards. There is a robust bike share program, with e-bikes for those who need pedal assist. I stayed in The Canopy by Hilton, which also has free bikes for guest use. We tried to bike as much as possible to burn off all those calories seeking out the best restaurants in the Twin Cities. We had to go uptown, to south Minneapolis, northeast Minneapolis – even to St. Paul. That was 28 miles one day, all on heavy 3 speed bikes. But the flat terrain helps.
The Twin Cities light rail is $2 a ride – even from the airport. This September and October, rides are just $1 throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul. Rides are free along Nicollet Mall. And if you think you will be exploring the city a lot – from a Somali Museum to hiking trails to the George Floyd Memorial – you can get a day pass for $5, with unlimited rides. You can’t buy this at the airport, but if you plan ahead, you can buy it online and have it sent home. You can also buy it at Metro Transit Service Centers. The Metro Light Rail goes to Mall of America and to Target Field in downtown Minneapolis, where the Twins play baseball.
Although some of the city’s best restaurants closed permanently during the pandemic, most are back to dining in. In warm weather you can order curbside pickup or takeout and bring your meal to one of the many parks that interlace the city. We also ate ate outdoor tables wherever possible.
We found vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options in abundance, from fine dining to food trucks.
Best Minneapolis Restaurants for Families
114 South 8th Street
This breakfast and lunch place has an extensive vegan menu and a children’s menu with the usual kid’s faves. What sets it apart is the emphasis on local, organic ingredients. The menu runs the gamut from eggs to chicken and waffles to Mexican specialties like carnitas. There is also a separate vegan menu which excited us. We shared the vegan sloppy joe and Vegan Herbie with vegan eggs, Impossible sausage, vegan cheese, pesto, arugula, avocado and caramelized onions. Everything was wonderful.
For those looking for lunch, get a cheeseburger, crispy Buffalo chicken sandwich or mac and cheese with BBQ pork.
And we got a huge chocolate peanut butter brownie (not vegan) to go. Baked goods are made in house and worth every calorie.
Join our Private FB Group for more travel inspiration and tips! JOIN HERE
There is plenty of outdoor seating but no umbrellas to protect us from the sun.
708 S 3rd St
We stayed at The Canopy by Hilton Minneapolis Mill District, ideal for families or couples on a getaway. The dog- and kid-friendly hotel is two blocks from the Mill City Farmers Market, a seasonal Saturday happening filled with local foods, live music and free yoga in August and September.
Umbra, Canopy’s in house restaurant, is open to anyone Umbra has a wonderful breakfast buffet. The continental buffet includes plenty of fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal, bread, muffins and bagels, plus juice, milk and coffee. The full buffet, for $15 ($12 for kids 5-12 and free under 5) has at least three hot dishes. We had a frittata loaded with vegetables; there was also breakfast meat and another egg dish, plus potatoes.
If you want an early dinner with the kids, flatbreads are half price at happy hour, weekdays from 4-6pm.
There is no outdoor seating.
2990 W River Pkwy
The comfort food restaurant serves breakfast all day, plus more substantial food for lunch and dinner. There are salads, tacos, bowls, sandwiches and burgers. On the breakfast menu, you can add vegan or meat sausage to the egg dishes. This a a great place for brunch.
The kids’ menu – all $8 – includes fruit and goldfish. It has mac and cheese, burgers and grilled chicken.
This may not be fine dining, but it is one of the best restaurants since everyone will be happy. Longfellow is across the street from the river, with hiking and biking trails right there. There is a large outdoor patio.
Best Places for Couples to Drink in Minneapolis
520 Malcolm Ave SE
This brewery offers tours (not during the pandemic) and has extensive indoor and outdoor space. During the day, Surly is family friendly and has tacos and bar food in the beer hall. There is a sit down pizza restaurant upstairs. At night, with fewer kids, you can enjoy at least 30 beers on tap. The signature Furious is a must for first timers and returning out-of-towners.
600 Malcolm Ave SE
Right next door to Surly, this new distillery specializes in American Whiskey in an Irish style. There is a gorgeous cocktail bar upstairs, filled with comfortable couches and an outdoor area. We had two of the signature cocktails, a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned. Downstairs, you can also get small plates and desserts.
Note: You can also grab food and creative cocktails at the Market at Malcolm Yards, across the street from Surly and O’Shaughnessy. The Market has a tap wall with self serve beer and kombucha; you pay by the ounce.
165 13th Ave. NE
The James Beard award winning Young Joni is so popular that two months in advance, the only reservation I could get was at 8:15 on a Monday. But the Back Bar, a speakeasy through an alley, serves the same carefully crafted cocktails (along with the amazing Young Joni pizza). There is a ‘Stoney Negroni’ which includes CBD oil and an Old Fashioned with sorghum, a grain that is usually used in southern cuisine.
It was too dim to photograph our drinks, but trust me. You want to go to northeast Minneapolis and drink (and eat) here.
Note: This was one of the few Minneapolis restaurants not offering outdoor seating.
211 N 1st St, Minneapolis
This James Beard award winning bistro in the north loop has small plates and a lively bar scene. The black truffle arancini pair well with the craft cocktails and long list of wines by the glass. There are also a number of interesting ‘spirit free’ cocktails for those who don’t imbibe.
There are cozy tables outside, and the huge windows were thrown open, giving dining room tables plenty of air flow.
Lakes & Legends Brewery
1368 Lasalle Ave
The farm to glass brewery allows dogs inside the taproom. There is also ample outdoor seating. The beer is exceedingly fresh and when we visited there were four or five IPAs on tap, plus many other styles of beer.
TravelingMom Tip: Don’t feel like going out? Have DoorDash bring food to your hotel or vacation rental.
More Minneapolis Restaurants to Try (and St. Paul too!)
2121 University Ave NE
This Vietnamese street food restaurant, a James Beard finalist, is where we had my daughter’s college graduation dinner. It’s best to share a bunch of small plates and appetizers to try as much as possible. The menu includes Balinese and Thai influences.
The kids’ menu includes a rice bowl with protein choice (mock duck!) and coconut chicken.
3501 Nicollet Ave
Hola Arepa, in South Minneapolis, has Latin street food with Venezuelan arepas. The restaurant is owned by the Hai Hai team. The signature corn meal cake arepas come filled with fried chicken, black beans & sweet potato and eight other options. Almost everything here is gluten-free. And the leap from Asian food to arepas makes sense since dumplings are just another dough-filled appetizer.
2743 Lyndale Ave S.
5557 Xerxes Ave S
This was the first restaurant owned by Ann Kim of Young Joni. It specializes in wood fired pizza. Desserts include homemade soft serve and homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Prohibition Bar at the W Hotel
Living Room, 821 S Marquette Ave
This bar, on the 27th floor of the W Hotel in the landmark Foshay Tower had yet to reopen when I visited. But I got to take a peek at the bar, which offers panoramic 360 degree views of the Twin Cities, gorgeous original woodwork and craft cocktails.
420 1st Street S
I have no idea if this indigenous restaurant is good, because it had just opened and was fully booked the whole time I was in town. But it has great buzz and I’m excited to try it on another trip. Owamni features Native American heirloom and local produce. The menu voids dairy, wheat flour, cane sugar, beef, chicken and pork but has game and lots of vegetables. Owamni, run by a James Beard award winner, is in Water Works Park, with plenty of outdoor seating.
Owamni also opened Indigenous Food Lab, with a professional Indigenous kitchen to help local Native American communities. A store sells heirloom grits and other indigenous food.
169 N. Victoria Street
Saint Paul, MN
This plant based St. Paul favorite recently closed its dining room again but still offers curbside pickup of its reimagined American classics. The spicy BBQ Sandwich, Dirty Secret vegan cheeseburger and cauliflower wings are musts.
The kids’ menu, with vegan takes on fast food, could set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. The turkey ‘deli’ sandwich is a winner.
1668 Grand Avenue
St. Paul, MN
The Mediterranean restaurant Shish has falafel, kebobs and baklava. The kids’ menu has cheeseburgers and authentic Mediterranean food for adventurous young eaters: gyros and chicken shawarma. There are plenty of vegan and gluten free options.
What to Do in Minneapolis (When You’re Not Eating)
We interspersed our meals at the best Minneapolis restaurants with museums, learning about an early pandemic at the Hennepin History Museum, plants as medicine in the science oriented Bakken Museum and art from the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union at The Museum of Russian Art.
Luckily for us, there are more museums to explore and more restaurants to try.