On our radio show Weekly Dish we often get criticized for focusing too much on restaurants in the city. But let’s face it, up until more recently, the suburbs were a wasteland of chain restaurants, and it was hard to find decent, thriving locally owned spots. I live in St. Paul, and my radio partner lives in Orono, so it’s not like we don’t get out to the burbs on occasion but… I took the challenge to crowdsource and find some of the “Best of the Burbs” for the Jason Show and here are some of my favorite picks by region:
The Mad Hatter Restaurant and Tea Room — Anoka:
Whether you go for their fantastic daily brunch or a ladies lunch or tea – the Mad Hatter in Anoka on the Rum River is one of the most quaint and lovely spots on the list. Wednesday through Sunday they have brunch service featuring chicken and waffles, eggs benedict, pulled pork French toast, and they have tea service with a reservation featuring scones, finger sandwiches, and lovely desserts. You can sign your kids up for a children’s tea service or check the calendar for events such as a kids evening tea party complete with fairy wings and a visit from a special magic fairy. This place is special!
Texas Roadhouse — Coon Rapids:
I usually would not include a chain restaurant in my list of places to go to, but Texas Roadhouse is one of those chains that do it right. Hand-cut meats, dressings made from scratch and their delicious ribs make them a place to check out that rises above a typical chain. Their prime rib, porterhouse steak ranch dressing and fresh dinner rolls made in house are my favorite reasons to go visit. Watch for them to open in Woodbury by the first of the year.
Lyn-65 — Richfield
Lyn 65 is a fantastic gastro pub located in Richfield. It is often my halfway place to meet friends coming from the West, and it’s delicious. Whether you visit them for happy hour or brunch, make sure to get the fried chicken and the fantastic cheeseburger with housemade pickles and duck fat fries. The charcuterie platter is world-class, and the togarashi or dry rubbed Chicken wings are not to be missed.
Vivo Kitchen — Apple Valley:
This is a beautifully designed restaurant with a fantastic patio that overlooks Legacy pond and specializes in scratch cooking. They have happy hour each day from 3-6 and do a great job with large groups or for special events. They specialize in classic Italian fare like chicken fettuccini and gnocchi, but also do a great job with their woodfired pizza, meats, and desserts. Make sure to visit their glorious patio in the summer and look for their food truck about town.
Osteria I Nonni – Lilydale
When I came back from Italy, this was one of the first places I headed to when I was craving busteca and an aperol spritz. Situated on a beautiful man-made lake I Nonni serves up classic Italian fare like your mom would make if she lived in Italy her whole life. Try their saltimboca veal chop with a lemon chive butter or their ravioli stuffed with ricotta and English peas with shrimp and lemon. Their ed sauce dishes are fantastic too as is the boozy tiramisu.
Angelinas Kitchen and Bistro — Woodbury
Angelinas is a favorite among the Woodbury set. Their pesto sauce is a local favorite as is the ciopinno, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna and the cannolis. You can visit the grab and go counter, order to go or pick up take and bake items that you can finish at home. Angelinas is known for their pretty patio for happy hour or schedule them to cater your next party.
San Pedro Café Hudson
When you dine in the San Pedro café in Hudson, you feel like you are in a Caribbean island cottage. Rice and beans, banana mashed potatoes and conch chowder can be accompanied by jerk chicken, Cuban meatloaf or the delicious Yucatan pork stew. Drinks here are delicious, and you’ll find a lovely patio out back to tuck into some duck nachos and a jalapeno blood orange margarita or any of the various mules they offer.
Lat 14 — Golden Valley
This is one of the most inventive menus in the Twin Cities and is not to be missed. Ann Ahmed is combining flavors from Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines in what I think has been the break out restaurant of the last year. Don’t miss the Thai basil chicken wings or the laab wraps.
Hazelwood Grill and Tap Room in Excelsior
Popovers are always a hit with me, and the popovers at Hazelwood are delicious. I also love their chicken pot pie and their take on the seafood clay pot which is a Meditteranean preparation of shrimp, salmon or walleye with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, white wine and herbs all nestled in a clay pot. Prime rib Thursday through Sunday and a ribe eye with smoked gouda and crispy hash browns will have you coming back for more. Brunch is also served, and they too have private dining options for large groups.
Noble Lion in Victoria.
The Noble Lion bills itself as a small-town restaurant, which it is but… the large airy, spacious rooms, and farm to table menu make you feel like you could be sitting in a fancy bistro in the heart of town. Their French onion burger is a half-pound of magic topped with caramelized onions and gruyere on a brioche bun with Belgian fries and curry ketchup and the scallops with bacon, fresh Minnesota corn and cream are show stoppers.
This list is by no means as comprehensive as I would have liked, but maybe we can get another segment down the road to talk about Giannis in Wayzata, Bourbon Butcher in Farmington, Lakeville Brewing, Café Thyme in Chanhassen as well as all the great spots popping up in Stillwater like Feller, Lolo American Kitchen and Pier 500 in Hudson.