New recipes

The Locavore Lover’s Dining Guide to the Twin Cities

The Locavore Lover’s Dining Guide to the Twin Cities

You may have heard buzzwords like "locally sourced," "sustainable," and "organic" on the Twin Cities restaurant scene lately. Those aren't extraneous adjectives tacked on by advertisers to attract attention; they're a statement about a venue's whole philosophy on food. Environmental politics aside, the fact is that the closer a menu's ingredients are to the place they were grown, the better tasting your meal will be. We've compiled a list of establishments that aim to shorten the distance between farm and table, ultimately ensuring a long-lasting, thriving restaurant scene that makes you feel as good about eating out as it would about a wholesome home-cooked meal.

Aster Café: This St. Anthony Main cornerstone is known first and foremost for its popular summertime patio, but the food at the Aster Café is what will keep you coming back no matter the season. The Aster offers mouthwatering breakfast and brunch, weekly taco night, daily happy hour specials, tea-infused cocktails and artisan pizzas all in one place. Indie musicians from the Twin Cities and beyond delight diners on the regular, adding class and sophistication to the already intimate venue.

Bachelor Farmer: Located in the North Loop, this locavore’s haven is run by the Dayton brothers. The menu, which changes daily, features Nordic cuisine made from local and organic ingredients, as well whole-animal butchery. In other words: no lutefisk.

Common Roots Café: This mecca of homegrown grub is ideal for the casual or solo locavore diner. Orders are placed at the counter and served either indoors or out. This innovative eatery is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or late-night, making it an Uptown mainstay for Minnesotans.

Heartland: When you think "farmers' market," contemporary and creative aren’t often adjectives that come to mind. This new-ish downtown St. Paul venue aims to change that notion with its chef-driven menu and fresh takes on upscale fare. Regional cheeses and plates indigenous to the Upper Midwest, such as rainbow trout, are highlights of this restaurant and food lovers' emporium.

Wise Acre Eatery: This cute Tangletown venue strives to be the "shortest distance between the Earth, the hand, and the mouth." With a seasonal menu featuring organic items from the owners’ 100-acre farm in Plato, Minn., you can dine assured that the beef is grass-fed and the chickens are free-range.

The Locavore Lover’s Dining Guide to the Twin Cities - Recipes

I happened to bump into the October 31 issue of Wine Spectator magazine this week and found an editorial by James Molesworth called “Are Locavores Also Locapours?” Although the local food movement has pushed farm fresh produce to the menus of top restaurants around the country, local wines have yet to do the same. By tracking a New York winery’s struggle to make it on big-city wine lists, he argues that consumers are willing to pay extra for local food on the table but are willing to put almost anything in their glass—just as long as it says Italy, France, or Sonoma on the label.

As a self-proclaimed locavore, I have often raised the same questions as Molesworth about the Minnesota wine market. With nearly 30 wineries and a thriving cold-hearty viticulture program at the U of M, it can be difficult to find an extensive local wine menu. Sit down at some of the Twin Cities best restaurants and you will be promised vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh-picked greens from local growers. More than likely you won't be offered a local wine. Minnesota is home to an international wine competition, but there are only 2 bottles—one white and one red—on the shelf in my grocer’s wine shop. Is it really better if it’s foreign and I can’t pronounce the vineyard’s name? What stands in the way of exclusively local wine menus? The sommelier and a wine education that often overlooks regional flavor? Or the customer who believes a trip to a local winery is a cute novelty, but not exactly the real thing?

La Crescent grape Like most challenges in our food system, a combination of micro- and macro-level factors stand in the way of Minnesota wines earning the respect and market share they deserve. But also like most challenges in our food system, an individual choice can go a long way in generating change. Here are three ways I try to show a little more “loca-pour”:

• This is an easy one: Visit a local winery and buy the wine. Minnesota has 4 wine trails, perfect for a day trip or weekend get-away. I take my friends and family for a visit, try the wines, and learn what to serve when they’re around. ( has a complete listing of wine trails by state that I use if traveling.)

• Ask the wine shop to stock what I want to buy. If retailers know that local wines will sell, they will be on the shelf. Sometimes a simple conversation can go along way. If not, I try to spend my dollars where my voice is heard.

• When I see a local wine on the menu, I’ll choose that and order my food to pair with it. If I don’t see one, I might ask the waitperson anyway. Again, a conversation can go a long way in communicating the message that to me, locapour means just as much as locavore.

Marquette grapes I left off recommendations for specific wines since I am by no means an expert--and my tastes for dry, robust reds completely contradicts my husband's preference for sweet, crisp whites. I believe wine is entirely about personal preference and sommeliers/experts are what discourage well-meaning drinkers in the first place. That being said, below I recommend three of my favorite local wineries with some "gentle" suggestions. All three offer different tasting and wine experiences and all three are within one hour of the Metro:

St. Croix Vineyards--Stillwater, MN. My favorite Saturday afternoons in early October involve St. Croix Vineyards. Located in Stillwater, just 30 miles from the Metro, their tasting room, vineyards and orchard are perfect for a picnic or strolling around with a glass of wine. My visits always include admiring the art from local artists on the tasting room walls while sipping on a glass of their Raspberry Infusion dessert wine. Any wine that pairs well with dark chocolate ranks at the top of my list. I typically grab a bottle or two of their Delaware, La Crescent, or Summer Red for the road all are great choices for those "show up with a bottle of wine" dinners and gifts.

Falconer Vineyards--Red Wing, MN. When I'm truly desperate for some wine-related R & R, a visit to Falconer helps recreate visions of sipping on a glass of white wine on the patio of a vineyard in Tuscany. The open patio overlooks a rolling valley of grape vines, and is a perfect spot to spend the afternoon catching up with a friend over a bottle of their full-bodied Marechal Foch. They recently began offering wood-fired pizzas and live music on the patio as well. Really, does it get any better than that? My favorites to bring home for the wine fridge are the Riesling, La Crescent Moon, and if I can manage to catch it in-stock, the Frontenac Rose.

Cannon River Winery--Cannon Falls, MN. I always like to bring anyone interested in becoming a locapour to Cannon River because of the extended wine tasting. For $7, you can taste all of the wines they currently have in stock, typically close to 15. It's an affordable way to sort out preference and try nearly all of the cold-hearty grape varieties that grow in Minnesota. Each time I try and bring home something new, although the Sogn Blanc and Cannon River Reserve can almost always be found on my wine rack.

Land of 11,800 Lakes

Speaking of water, fresh water in Minnesota is more than the staff of life it's a lifestyle. We have 55,000 running miles of lakeshore and riverfront. That's a real number, and please let it sink in. Consider the fact that California has just 840 miles of coastline, which, as we might say up here, is "nice for them." While the Minnesota license plate says we are the land of "10,000 lakes," the real number is actually some 11,800 lakes of more than 10 acres 28,000 once you throw in ponds and another 20,000 rivers and streams, as well as a vast coastline on the biggest freshwater lake in the whole wide world: Lake Superior. Fifty-five thousand miles! We have the highest per capita boat ownership in the nation. We have restaurants with dock slips think drive-ins like for cars, but for boats. There are 30 bridges crisscrossing the Mississippi in Minneapolis and St. Paul alone. What does it mean to be in Minnesota? It means you are always on the water.

Because of that, our most important foods that any visitor must try are those products of our pure and productive inland water. One of those water foods, our native wild rice, is our pride and joy. Here, we hold wild rice in the same esteem as the Italians do their Parmigiano Reggiano. And I guarantee that our rice is unlike any other wild rice you have ever tasted. This wolf gray–colored rice has a sweet, pure taste, sort of like water and mineral held together by a veil of sugar. To me, it tastes like an oyster, without the fishy elements. The rice has been harvested by Native Americans here for centuries by bending the water grass plant over a canoe and hitting it with a stick, leaving the plant intact. Then, according to tradition, the rice is smoke-dried over a wood fire, resulting in a roasted, nutty flavor.

We Minnesotans eat our wild rice straight up, but we also enjoy it in wild rice soup, casseroles, and even wild rice muffins, which are among our signature culinary treasures. You can order our rice from White Earth, which harvests it on a reservation in northern Minnesota. All proceeds go toward supporting the reservation.

If you ever find yourself in the Twin Cities, be sure to tuck into a bowl of wild rice soup at The St. Paul Grill, the iconic, century-old hotel where politicians and business leaders hobnob—20 years ago, it was the literal smoke-filled room where the fate of the state was sealed, but, of course, we don't smoke inside anymore. The St. Paul Grill's wild rice soup is nearly as creamy as a buttermilk pie—probably because, if this 2002 recipe in the LA Times is to be believed, it's made with mostly butter and cream. You can thank our booming dairy scene for that. If you really want to make wild rice soup like we do here, get some Hope Creamery butter it's from local, grass-fed cows and tastes sweet, pure, and fresh. I'd wager that it could compete with any butter in the country, or even in Europe for that matter. That's because the cows graze on green-grass pasture, which is as lush as any in Ireland, because, again, we have a lot of water. I was having dinner with a Napa Valley winemaker a few weeks ago, and he said: Coming from the drought, I look out the car window here, it's obscene, it's like you're rubbing our faces in it. We're sorry. But it's true: We have a lot of water.

Where to Find Traditional Somali Food in Minneapolis

“Most people are afraid of what they don’t know,” says Jamal Hashi, perhaps the best known Somali chef in the Twin Cities, credited for his “bridging” cuisine, which seeks to make traditional Somali cooking and restaurants more approachable to new communities. His restaurants and dishes are also popular with a younger generation of Somalis who have grown up in the states.

“Food brings the stress level down a bit. We come from a Nomadic culture,” says Hashi, one of about 75,000 Somali people who now call Minnesota home. “You are always someone’s guest, or they are our guest. Hospitality was a rule of law in Somalia, and it’s still in place. Survival depended on that.”

Minneapolis is home to over 25,000 Somali residents, about a quarter of all Somalis currently living in the United States. Many Somalis migrated to our state in the early 1990’s, fleeing the country’s civil war.

Our Cedar-Riverside area, also known as the West Bank (of the Mississippi river,) has been dubbed “Little Mogadishu,” the Somali capital of the United States. Dozens of Somali businesses dot the area, but examples of the surprisingly familiar, comforting cuisine can be found throughout the Twin Cities.

General markers of the cooking include tasty chapati and injera flat breads, fragrant spice cabinet seasonings, and a long colonization by Italy means noodles, red sauces, and even Alfredo. It’s a lively mashup of flavors that are easily accessible for the American palate, presented in dishes and techniques that can be eye-opening and altogether surprising and delightful.

Like any cuisine anywhere, Somali food differs from region to region, and like any cuisine anywhere, Somali restaurants differ in style and feel. Somalia is not generally a restaurant culture, with most meals being taken in the home. But around Minneapolis, you can find different kinds of eateries for different kinds of experiences.

Afro Deli

Visit this four location chain (two in Minneapolis, two in St. Paul) for fast-casual pan-African favorites. Acolytes come for heaping, steaming portions of Chicken Fantastic, the restaurant’s signature stir-fry of chicken and veggies cloaked in a Parmesan cream sauce and served over Somali rice. Other favorites include the keke, African noodles (shredded strips of injera) tossed with peppers, onions, and herbs, and served with fragrant and spicy red sauce. Lovers of Italian food will especially enjoy a new approach on an old favorite.

Afro deli has a legion of followers who come for straightforward takes on Somali steak, chicken suqqar, paprika and turmeric spiced chicken stir-fried, and served sweet and spicy. Dozens of variations on flavorful classics can be had here, served in sandwich style, over rice or pasta and even in a quesadilla. Don’t forget sides of sambusas, sweet plantains, Somali rice, and of course tea. Afro Deli is a great place to try brewed Ethiopian Coffee&mdashthe origin of Arabica coffee, the first species of cultivated coffee.

Safari Restaurant

If you’re in the mood for a more relaxed experience, check out Safari Restaurant, a true Somali dining experience with homestyle hospitality. Started by the aforementioned Jamal Hashi. When he arrived in Minnesota as a boy, there were only 37 Somali families living in the Twin Cities. That was enough for Hashi’s mother to relocate to the state, where they could begin to make a life among countrymen. As a chef, Hashi is credited with dishes approachable to Westerners, like Chicken Fantastic, or the Jambo Steak, which he says are like the “Chop Suey,” of Somali cooking. With both, you can expect marinated meat, served stir-fried or sauteed with vegetables fresh herbs like cilantro, rice&mdasha Somali meal is not complete without rice or pasta&mdashand Malawah, a house made flatbread made with eggs and milk like a crepe. Fresh green hot sauce called “bas baas”, will be served in a wee container, and always a banana, to eat in bites combined with the rest of the meal, the idea is to balance out the heat. Also, watch for lots of seafood. Somalia is home to the second largest coastline in Africa.

Upon being seated at Safari, it’s likely you’ll receive a carafe of fresh mango juice or spiced tea, or maybe both, for the table to share. “Tea is big during the day,” with two varieties, either Adani or Shaha, the latter much like Chai, with cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Both can be enjoyed with or without milk, and both are sweet and stimulating, satisfying both at the beginning or end of a meal," says Hashi.

At Safari, I highly recommend the curry goat, as well as their exemplary sambusas, which arrive with their own special recipe of a creamy baasbas sauce, a traditional fiery hot sauce. Don’t be fooled by the pastel color&mdashit offers formidable heat. Too hot? Take a bite of that banana to soothe you.

Safari Express

Located in the Midtown Global Market (itself a worthy spot for foodies to check out with cuisines on offer from all over the world,) Safari Express is the first fast-casual African restaurant in Minneapolis, where a look-and-point, build your own bowl experience can be had for less than about $10 and in fewer than ten minutes. Get heavily-spiced Safari (see above) favorites served in a bowl, wrap, or even with a side of fries. Keep your eyes peeled for their camel burger, seasonally available, but a bit of a Minnesota sensation.

Karmel Mall

For a once-in-a-lifetime glance at Somalia without traveling to the continent of Africa, check out the Karmel Mall, an indoor marketplace with hundreds of vendors, individually specializing in fashion, henna, beauty treatments, accessories for men and women, jewelry, an indoor mosque, and of course, food, food, food.

While you won’t go wrong with stopping wherever your eyes and nose direct you, check out two of Hashi’s favorites:

He says he’ll risk a parking ticket for tea at Hamdi, where the ultra-spiced concoction costs a fraction of what it does in any mainstream coffee shop, and is hand-brewed from scratch in large batches at regular intervals.

With your cup, order tea drinking snacks like the ubiquitous samosa, available in tea and coffee shops all over the Twin Cities, a hard-not-to-love meat pie wrapped in a phyllo-like dough and deep fried, served with the equally ubiquitous spicy bas baas.

Go one further and order a “nafaqo,” somewhat similar to a Scotch Egg&mdasha hardboiled egg enveloped by potato and deep fried&mdashbut this time with spice. The word literally translates to “nutrition,” meaning it’s a perfect on-the-go protein packed snack, and way, way tastier than any energy bar.

“Baija” are like a black eyed pea falafel, deep fried and served, again, with hot sauce. For less adventurous palettes, choose a “bur mandazi,” a fried bread not unlike a beignet without all the messy sugar, and instead infused with the light fragrance of coconut milk.


For a true taste of Somali home cooking, Willo’s is a cannot-miss mom & pop with the genius chef “Mama Willo” at the helm.

Open seven days per week, plus a catering operation and culinary classes, Mama Willo’s threshold is a revolving door of committed followers hungry for a taste of home.

Serving a head-spinning array of treats, from Halwa, a sweet treat of reduced tea with sugar, ghee, and nuts to caano, milk reduced to a caramel ball, sweets are only the beginning.

Here, sambusas get a life-changing variation, served warm with warm Malawah crepes riding sidecar, plus Mama Willo’s own tamarind-tinged hot sauce. The idea is that the sambusa gets wrapped in the warm malawah, then dipped in the sauce, for a savory-sweet-spicy bite you are not likely to ever forget.

Or, get a platter of spiced rice, a quarter chicken, and a side of plantains, and pinch up bites with flatbread the way you might in an Ethiopian meal.

“When you put a utensil between you and the food," says Hashi, “you can’t feel it.” Indeed, what begins as a five-sense affair can shrink to only four. Plus, convivial eating is what African food is all about.

Look around for a hand-washing station and wash up beforehand since you’re likely to be sharing, and try to only eat with your right hand, which is the traditional and respectful way.

Find Willo's on the 2nd floor of Karmel Mall.

Best Pizza in The Twin Cities: RANKED!

START ARGUING NOW! We have incredible pizza in the Twin Cities—from Neapolitan to fancy-pants to classic. I could do a cop-out here and list the best slice, the best ingredients, the best service, the best old-school…but I’m just going to rank it and let you tell me I’m wrong. Even though I’m not. But, seriously—I probably haven’t been to your favorite spot, so make sure to tell me about it in the comments.

The Twin Cities’ Best Pizza:

12. Delicata Pizza & Gelato St. Paul
The new kid in town, Delicata’s squash pizza with prosciutto and blue cheese is getting the attention, but don’t miss the pork sausage with ricotta and fennel.

11. Red’s Savoy Various cities
The classic red-sauce pizza—thin crust and an over-the-top amount of cheese. Around since 1965 and growing, as the owners are franchising it.

10. Pig Ate My Pizza Robbinsdale
The Travail team has brought the fun to pizza: Try the Piggy Pie, pepperoni three-ways on a brioche crust, and Bay of Pigs (Cuban sandwich-inspired)!

9. Pizzeria Pezzo White Bear Lake
Deep-dish pizza as close as you can get to Chicago-style in this town. Excellent crust holds up against the heft of the cheese, sauce, and fillings.

8. Young Joni Minneapolis
Ann Kim is the Pizza Goddess in this town. Her flavors at Young Joni are top notch: The Basque with chorizo and piquillo pepper is my fave.

7. Cossetta Italian Market & Pizzeria St. Paul
Underrated, NY-style slices at Cossetta. The pepperoni is perfect fold it up and enjoy.

6. Latuff’s Pizzeria Plymouth
Old, old-school pizza, cut diagonally. Why? You get more pieces with crust, but a bigger bite than square-cut. Young Chef Mike DeCamp worked here as a kid.

5. Hello Pizza Edina
Controversial that I like Hello Pizza more than Pizzeria Lola? This is a great slice, with terrifically chewy, yeasty dough. Why aren’t there five of these yet?

4. Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza Minneapolis/St. Paul
It’s the fennel sausage, and the hot salami, and that oyster mushroom/smoked mozzarella pizza. My love for Black Sheep burns hot.

3. Mucci’s Italian St. Paul
Fried pizza! Montanara is magic, and now you can buy the frozen version at local Kowalski’s.

2. Pizza Nea Minneapolis
The dough is so good I could eat it without any toppings, and Pizza Nea’s monthly specials are always stellar.

1. Punch Pizza Various cities
I know it’s not trendy to like Punch: Too many locations! It’s too soggy! But it’s excellent. Top-notch ingredients, fast-casual before that was a thing, friendly staff. It’s the best.

Young Joni’s Basque Pizza

Want to taste and vote for the best slice in the Twin Cities? Come see me Sunday at Minnetonka Orchards, where 10 different pizza places will square off! Buy your tickets here! Use the code “J&JSLICE” to save $5! And who’s competing?

Night Out

112 Eatery

One of the best spots for a late-night glass of wine and bite of dessert. The butterscotch budino is a local legend, even though chef Isaac Becker got the idea from L.A. chef Nancy Silverton’s recipe. Butterscotch pudding, capped with a thin layer of caramel, a dollop of crème fraîche, and a sprinkle of pink Hawaiian sea salt. Don’t sleep on the tres leches cake, either.


The rebirth of Alma as an all-day café and restaurant has made the desserts much easier to get. And what a treat to sit in the café at lunch and be blown away by the $9 chocolate dulce cake. Gluten-free, with a pillow-soft layer of coconut dulce cream. The cake alone would be enough, but it’s served with beautiful coconut sorbet and punctuated with a bright mint crisp. Wow! The restaurant is tasting-menu only, but smart sweets lovers sit at the top-notch wine bar in the restaurant to order any of pastry chef Carrie Riggs Imes’ seasonal desserts.

Edwards Dessert Kitchen’s Brookie Cookies

Photo by David Paul Schmit

Edwards Dessert Kitchen

A dessert-focused restaurant brought to you by the Minnesota company behind the frozen Edwards Pies? Hey, give Marshall-based Schwan’s Company and chef Jasmine Weiser’s team credit. They’ve created a true destination for dessert lovers. You’ll find inventive flavors: Chinese five-spice powder in a snickerdoodle yuzu and passion fruit in a cheesecake tart chamomile and rhubarb paired in panna cotta curried scotcheroo bars. With all that creativity, what’s their top seller? A decadent $5 chocolate chunk cookie.


You’re almost never going to have room for dessert after a giant steak dinner at Manny’s, so why not make a special trip for sweets only? There’s a reason the brownie dessert is legendary—and the $22 price tag is only part of it. Brownie on the bottom, then caramel, then another brownie, then whipped cream, ice cream, and a dish of strawberries on the side so you can pretend you’re having fruit. Share it with five of your closest friends, or not!

Mucci’s/Trattoria Mucci’s

A great menu item creates an emotional reaction, and nothing has done that with me like this tiramisu. Growing up, we didn’t eat out much, but when we did, my mom would often order tiramisu. This one takes me right back. Homemade ladyfingers take a bath in rum the marscapone has just enough sugar to make your teeth tingle. It is soft—not quite runny—with notes of coffee and a cocoa snowfall on top.

P.S. Steak

How can you resist the absolute tableside showstopper that is the flaming baked Alaska? A base of coffee-flavored cake, topped with salted caramel ice cream and fluffy meringue, soaked in herbaceous Green Chartreuse liquor. Pastry chef Jo Garrison’s flavors here are intense, and the strong flavor of Chartreuse balances out all the sugar. P.S. Steak executive chef Mike DeCamp lights the whole thing on fire, charring the meringue. So far, he’s spared his long beard from being torched.

Bellecour’s Lemon Crêpe Cake

Photo by David Paul Schmit

Spoon and Stable/Bellecour

Diane Moua gives you art, she gives you soul, she gives you among the best plated desserts I’ve ever had anywhere in the world. Sit at the bar at Spoon and Stable and you’ll order her honey-and-cream cake with what, at first glance, looks like strawberries on top. But it’s quince. (Moua cooks the tart fruit just enough to turn it a muted shade of red.) Seasonal, inventive, her creations are never quite as simple as they seem. Bellecour’s French desserts are classics reinvented: a Paris-Brest with hazelnut, a crème brûlée with white chocolate crumble.,

The St. Paul Grill

A classic restaurant doing classic desserts so well. There’s a lovely carrot cake with caramel sauce and toasted coconut. A chocolate molten lava cake with a punch of bourbon. A chocolate sundae with three scoops of vanilla bean ice cream. There’s a reason these desserts have stood the test of time.

Sift Gluten Free’s Ginger and Orange Cookies

13 Overlooked Photo Ops in Minnesota

I came to college in Minnesota because I wanted to get out of good ol’ Wisconsin, fast. I wanted to experience something new, and I needed some skyscrapers nearby to accomplish that. Minnesota turned out to be the perfect place for me. I’m an artistic person, so I needed a state that could be just as colorful as me, and Minneapolis lived up to my expectations. I immediately found myself trying to capture as much of the city streets as I could on my tiny smartphone. I tried to absorb everything, and for a girl with dreams bigger than the city itself, that posed a challenge. As I ventured in and out of the city, I found that Minnesota had treasures scattered throughout. The wanderlust doesn’t stop at the city lines, and St. Cloud and Duluth offer some great photo ops, too.

1. Aria Event Center

105 N. First St., Minneapolis

At the beginning of the year, I attended a fashion show at Aria Event Center called Fashionapolis. Located on First Street, this award-winning structure is in the Minneapolis North Loop. Not only did I get to walk my first red carpet while attending the fashion show, but I was able to witness the beauty inside Aria. It’s every Tumblr lover’s fantasy apartment. The combination of brick, greenery, and delicate chandeliers all conspire to create a beautiful, hipster aesthetic, and ancient gears and industrial equipment against modern, bright-colored accents provide a steampunk atmosphere. The decor plays on the way brights can harmonize with a dark atmosphere, which also gives it an emo vibe. Close to the front doors of Aria, there’s a wall completely made out of colored pieces of chopped wood. Obviously, my friend and I had to snag a picture.

2. The Amber Box

818 S. Second St., Minneapolis

Minneapolis has its fair share of art scattered throughout its streets, but I have to say that the Amber Box room inside of the Guthrie Theater is one of the coolest places to take pictures. The Amber Box earned its name from the yellow windows that wrap around the room. Constructed by Jean Nouvel, he said his inspiration for the Amber Box came from his yellow-tinted ski goggles. He liked that the golden tint made the world seem as if it was sunny indefinitely, and enjoyed seeing the world infinitely “sparkle.” The Amber Box is open to the public, which allows for limitless picture possibilities. Let’s just say I wouldn’t mind living in a yellow world.

3. Hard Times Café

1821 Riverside Ave., Minneapolis

While having a Saw movie marathon with a friend at midnight, I decided I wanted coffee. Well, in St. Cloud, no coffee shop is open that late—so that took us to the Twin Cities. An hour’s drive later, I found myself at Hard Times Café, the most interesting cafe I’ve ever been thanks to its odd array of artwork. Pictures of birds with human faces covered the patterned walls of the building. Strangely, I didn’t find this aspect weird at 1:44 in the morning. Instead of judging the oddity before me, I took a bunch of artsy pictures of my caramel macchiato against the “bird woman” background to capture my 2 a.m. adventure.

4. Graffiti Window

On a remote island amid the Mississippi River stands a shooting-range window that’s covered in graffiti, with a single opening that reveals the simple world on the other side of the busied wall. Located on Sportsman Island, which is part of the Beaver Islands in St. Cloud, this abandoned piece of art stands alone in a browning field while its vibrant colors distract onlookers from the dullness of the surrounding area. If you capture it right, the image turns out to be quite distorting, confusing the viewer on what exactly is real.

5. Highpoint Center for Printmaking

912 W. Lake St., Minneapolis

A simple coffee run turned into a night of art as my friend and I wandered the streets of Uptown, Minneapolis. Our travels took us to an art show, featuring prints. All the art for sale was created by students and local artists. The displayed prints came in different forms: some were abstract, impressionistic, minimalistic, or contemporary. One unique aspect of Highpoint Center is that all the art is not only showcased but also created there. A large printmaking studio sits in the middle of the facility, with huge windows so visitors can witness artists making the magic happen. It wasn’t long before I became disappointed due to the fact that my empty wallet prevented me from purchasing a print. I really wanted a piece of that night to bring home with me, but I guess I’ll have venture back.

photo by victoria volkmann

6. Secret Room Behind Spyhouse Coffee Roasting Company

907 N. Washington Ave., Minneapolis

Spyhouse Coffee Roasting Company may be the one of the hippest coffee shops in Minnesota, but the average person might not know that one of the best picture places in the city is tucked just behind the Spyhouse back door. An empty, windowed room is connected to Minneapolis’ most popular coffee hotspot. With walls for windows, and the city as its backdrop, the picture possibilities are endless. My friend found this place originally, and I fell in love with it immediately. It has earned its title as one of Minneapolis’s “hidden gems.” If you’re feeling adventurous, just head to the back of the coffee shop and go through the back door. It’s like Narnia!

7. Black Coffee & Waffle Bar, Saint Paul

2180 Marshall Ave., St. Paul

Most everyone has heard of the Black Coffee and Waffle Bar in Minneapolis—and if you haven’t, you need to experience its pure waffle bliss. Many take an artsy picture in front of the black brick wall that displays the waffle bar logo. As Pinteresty as that photo wall is, it’s becoming overplayed. Get your waffles at the same establishment, but be more original. The Black Coffee and Waffle Bar in St. Paul is just as artsy but has a bohemian vibe. The St. Paul location’s dark oak tables, simple, single-bulb hanging lights, and strategically placed cacti create an airy, freeing atmosphere. I found it to be much more my speed. I felt like a classy brunch woman, “a wedge of lemon and a smart answer for everything.” It was great. Not to mention, I took cute pictures that could beat out the black brick wall any day.

Minneapolis location, photo by grace sautner

St. Paul Location, Photo by Parker Hunstiger

8. Vikre Distillery

525 S. Lake Ave., Duluth

Located right next to the scenic Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth, Vikre Distillery is a beautiful place, stumbled upon by one of my adventurous friends. The establishment is best known for its craft alcohol. Many people visit Duluth to experience the beauty of nature, but you shouldn’t overlook the artistic buildings scattered throughout the picturesque scenery downtown. The distillery’s vintage-looking brick against the industrialized metal bridge provides a hard and soft contrast that’s perfect for photo practice.

9. Giant Stairs in Minneapolis

One below-freezing night in Minneapolis, my girlfriends and I decided it would be a good idea to wander the city streets. With the naive notion that “when you’re in the city, things just happen,” we wanted to tough the night out. After almost getting hit by a train, crashing my car, and turning down a one-way street, my friends and I stumbled upon these giant stairs located in the middle of towering skyscrapers. It was almost Christmas, so the stairs were illuminated by the twinkled lights atop the trees standing along the stairwell. Upon this discovery, we needed to take a unique city picture to commemorate our very cold nightlife experience. The stairs reminded me of the red stairs located in New York City’s Times Square. The design was similar, but the stairs were concrete and people weren’t crowding around to take pictures. Even though this staircase is located in downtown Minneapolis, people underestimate the artistic potential of it. With the stubs of skyscrapers lingering in the background, the Minneapolis staircase is a kooky spot from which to capture the city.

photo by claire breitenbach

10. Xcentric Goods

3252 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis

While strolling the streets of Uptown, I came across an old White Castle building. Thinking that I could grab a quick bite to eat, I found that the wafting smell of fast food was replaced with the scent of dust and wood. What was once part of the White Castle fast food chain is now a small store called Xcentric Goods. This historic White Castle No. 8 building has been transformed into a vintage and antique business. How could a person not snag a pic in front of this iconic building? I’ve seen some interesting, artistically designed buildings while in Minneapolis, but this ironic little remnant has won me over.

11. Gold Medal Flour Sign

700 W. River Pkwy., Minneapolis

The Gold Medal Flour sign atop the historic Washburn Crosby Milling Complex is not only iconic but a great place to showcase your photography skills. As you drive into the city, the Gold Medal Flour sign rises prominently in the sky, hearkening back to the late 19th century, the days of Minneapolis’ award-winning flour production. Made of steel frames and galvanized iron, this sign has old-time charm, and I’m even planning to have my next photoshoot there.

12. Quarry Park and Nature Reserve

1802 County Rd. 137, Waite Park

When I got shipped off to college, my mom told me one thing. She said, “Don’t go to the quarries in St. Cloud it’s too dangerous.” So, as any teenager would do, I went to the quarries for a swim with a group of friends. Besides the fact that I spent most of my time cliff jumping and swimming in a bottomless pit, I was able to enjoy the beauty of the rocky interior of the St. Cloud quarry. The turquoise water and the chiseled rock spiking out everywhere captured the dangerously alluring aspects of the sinkhole. As the life-threatening activities at the quarry literally took my breath away, the view did, too. Sadly, I’ve only had time to pay the quarries a single visit, but when Minnesota’s winter ends (so approximately at the end of May) I will definitely be going back to snag more images of its incredible views.

On the Road Eats: FN-Approved Breakfast Spots

Make the most-important meal of the day the most delicious with Food Network-approved breakfast favorites from around the country.

Related To:

Photo By: Danny Batista ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Danny Batista ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Steve Legato Photography

Photo By: Winnie Jeng ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Louisa Chu ©Louisa Chu

Photo By: Mandy Schaffer ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved OWNED - No Limitations on time/terms, territory or media as long as the images are only used in direct promotion of the related network(s), show and/or talent

Photo By: Jason Little ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Roberto Gonzalez ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Breakfast Coast to Coast

With coast-to-coast picks, including the award-winning blueberry pancakes at New York's Clinton St. Baking Co., gooey cinnamon buns at Chicago restaurant Ann Sather and eggs Benedict made with fresh Dungeness crab at Lowell's Restaurant & Bar in Seattle's famed Pike Place Market, you're sure to find a delicious reason to rise and shine — and dine.

Photo courtesy of Clinton St. Baking Co.

Bottega Louie — Los Angeles

Magnolia Pancake Haus — San Antonio

Magnolia Pancake Haus Chef-Owner Robert Fleming is "raising the bar on breakfast" with the restaurant's high-quality, made-from-scratch morning meals, according to Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Come for the light and airy Buttermilk Pancakes the restaurant proudly calls "The World's Best," and stay for the deliciously unique Pfannekuchen, Bavarian puffed pancakes packed full of Granny Smith apples, zesty cinnamon and secret spices. For a savory spin on a breakfast classic, Guy recommends the "ingenious" Bacon Waffle.
Recommended Dish: Bacon Waffle

Grampa's Bakery & Restaurant — Dania Beach, Florida

Guy visited this home-style family breakfast joint in Dania Beach and deemed the comfort food &ldquorighteous&rdquo on Triple D. He&rsquos not the only one who likes it: The homemade pancakes draw a crowd, and not just for breakfast, but all day long. Guy dug in, calling them &ldquoreally light, but texture-y.&rdquo

Recommended Dish: Blueberry Pancakes

Ann Sather — Chicago

Lowell's Restaurant & Bar — Seattle

Hash House a Go Go — Las Vegas

Next time you're in Las Vegas, leave the overrated buffets behind in favor of hearty comfort food from Hash House a Go Go, where Rachael Ray says, "You won't find disco balls, but you will find gigantic portions." Indulge in the Fried Chicken Benedict: sage fried chicken with fresh spinach, hardwood smoked bacon, market tomatoes, griddled mozzarella, chipotle cream and scrambled eggs, all layered precariously on top of a fresh split biscuit and griddled mashed potatoes.

Recommended Dish: Fried Chicken Benedict

Crest Cafe — San Diego

Situated in one of San Diego's 24-hour neighborhoods, Crest Cafe serves up outrageous comfort food for both morning and night. Don't miss the ricotta French toast topped with fresh raspberries and a heap of vanilla, orange zest and honey-laced whipped cream. The plate is truly over the top, even for Guy, who stopped by for a bite on Triple D.
Recommended Dish: Raspberry Ricotta French Toast

Lankford Grocery and Market — Houston

Houstonians are known to flock to Lankford Grocery and Market for the juicy, piled-high burgers. On Triple D, Guy couldn't resist the Firehouse Burger basted with cayenne butter and loaded with hot-sauce mustard. If you're looking to kick-start your morning, Guy recommends the Texas Hash, which features roasted habanero-spiced chicken, sauteed peppers and onions, plus a rich cheese sauce spooned over crispy fried corn tortillas.
Recommended Dish: Texas Chicken Hash

Honey's Sit 'n Eat — Philadelphia

Two genres of comfort cuisine unite at this husband-and-wife-owned restaurant, where Southern classics meet Jewish flair. Guy thought the brisket Frito platter &mdash twice-cooked brisket topped with corn chips &mdash was "incredibly enjoyable." The chicken chili Frito pie garnered praise for its guajillo chicken, and the locals rave about the warming matzo ball soup. But for brunch, there's nothing quite like the behemoth plate of Huevos Rancheros, a medley of refried beans, salsa and shredded cheese piled onto two fresh corn tortillas, then crowned with two fried eggs and sour cream.

Recommended Dish: Huevos Rancheros

Walker Bros. The Original Pancake House — Wilmette, Illinois

This beloved Illinois franchise may be known for its fluffy buttermilk pancakes, but on The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Melissa d'Arabian took a moment to wax poetic for the restaurant's "cheesiest, meltiest and tastiest" oven-baked bacon and cheese omelet. The eatery's secret? The three eggs that go into the omelet are whipped to make the resulting product extra fluffy and moist. Best of all, the omelet comes with a stack of pancakes, so you can sample a taste of the restaurant's namesake.

Recommended Dish: Oven-Baked Omelets

Milktooth — Indianapolis

Jam — Chicago

Pinewood Social — Nashville

Silver Fork Lodge — Brighton, Utah

Pies 'n' Thighs — Brooklyn

Franks Diner — Kenosha, Wis.

Kanella Restaurant — Philadelphia

Studio Diner — San Diego

Studio Diner carries breakfast round the clock — yes, it's even available for lunch and dinner. Take it from Guy, who says "everything is top-notch" here. Owner Stu Segall insists on flying in whole belly clams and lobster from Maine. For a real late-night treat, divulge in a deep-fried favorite, the Monte Cristo. But for breakfast in the morning, Guy says there's nothing quite like the Crab Cake Benedict: two blue crab cakes on two English muffins, topped with creamy poached eggs and a classic hollandaise sauce.

Related Articles

To narrow your search considerably, focus on oak trees. Specifically, white oaks.

White oaks are most easily distinguished from red oaks by their leaves. White oak leaves have curved lobes, while the leaves of red oaks have those little spiky points. This is an over-simplification of our oak varieties, but it’s good enough. (Knowledgeable deer hunters scouting the woods this time of year know that white oaks produce an annual acorn crop, while reds usually produce every other year.)

I’ve found both chanterelles and hens deep in forests and in fairly open oak savannas. But wherever I’ve found them, the soil is soft and luscious, but not swampy.

Find a grove of white oaks like that, and you could find both hens and “shanties.”



Check out beautiful landscapes in comfort. Air-conditioned buses carry visitors to four private gardens in the metro area. Auxiliary members and homeowners will be at each site to answer questions. A ticket includes a champagne brunch or lunch with live harp music on the Arboretum’s Morgan Terrace and access to the botanical gardens. Proceeds benefit the Arboretum. Registration opens in the spring.

Where: Departs from Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska

Tickets: Reservations must be made in advance prices, TBA


This self-guided garden tour begins at the Octagon House before guests meander to a half-dozen private gardens. The Hudson Women’s Club, assisted by the Hudson Home and Garden Club and Hudson Independent Business Organization, hosts the annual stroll as a fundraiser for hanging baskets in downtown Hudson. An option to ride on the Hudson Trolley to the gardens is also available for an additional cost. Shop while there — a local artist’s painting will be featured in poster form and sold at the Octagon House.

Where: Hudson and surrounding area

Tickets: $12 $25 with trolley ride


Whether featuring tulips in the spring, lilies in the summer, mums in the fall or poinsettias during the holidays, the conservatory stays in bloom year-round. Flower shows highlight the best of the season and are always festive, colorful and delightful.

When: Summer, now-Sept. 29 fall Oct. 5-Dec 1 holiday, Dec. 7-Jan. 12, 2020 winter, Jan. 18-March 22, 2020 spring, March 28-May 3, 2020 summer May 9-Oct. 4, 2020, fall Oct. 10-Nov. 29, 2020

Where: Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, Como Park, 1225 Estabrook Drive, St. Paul

Tickets: Free suggested donation adults, $3 children, $2


This is a favorite Mother’s Day weekend tradition. Stroll past 50 privately owned trees throughout the Ordway Gardens that are brought in by members of the Minnesota Bonsai Society to highlight the ancient horticultural Japanese art form. Members will be on hand to answer questions.

Where: Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, Como Park, 1225 Estabrook Drive, St. Paul

Tickets: Free suggested donation adults, $3 children, $2


Landscaped ponds, waterfalls, streams, water plants, fish and “non-water” gardens are featured in this annual self-guided tour of a dozen sites. Sponsored by the Minnesota Water Garden Society, members are on hand to share their experience.

Where: Twin Cities metro locations

Tickets: $15 in advance $20 at the door


A celebration of nature, design, art and music, this annual celebration spotlights unique gardens and local art in the Twin Cities. A self-guided tour presents gardens of beauty and originality in Minneapolis, featuring spots by local artists followed by a music festival on the Wise Acre Eatery and Tangletown Gardens grounds. Festival fare is provided by Wise Acre. Proceeds from the tour tickets help to fund public art, charities and garden projects throughout the Twin Cities’ area.


In its 13th year, the West End Neighbors Garden and History Tour will feature yards and gardens east and west of the north end of the High Bridge. In addition to the gardens, the self-guided history tour will feature the founding neighborhood of St. Paul, as well as one of the oldest neighborhoods in Minnesota. The booklet and tour are free. A plant sale and flea market are also part of the event.

Where: West End neighborhood, starts at 974 W. Seventh St.


It may be cold outside, but this Winter Carnival event makes you forget all about it. The Orchid Society of Minnesota and the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory join forces to exhibit one of the largest displays of privately owned orchids in the region in this tropical extravaganza. Hundreds of orchid plants by the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory as well as those from individual and commercial growers will be on display. The American Orchid Society (AOS) will award the best in show, and vendors will be on hand to sell plants and more.

Where: Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, Como Park, 1225 Estabrook Drive, St. Paul

Tickets: Adults, $5 children ages 3-12, $3 ($1 off admission for Como Friends Members and for visitors with Winter Carnival button)