Where the Chefs Eat: 3 Minneapolis–St. Paul restaurateurs share their favorite dining spots

Nobody knows food like a chef, so it stands to reason that they’ve got strong opinions about where to eat. We talked to three well-known cooks in Minneapolis–St. Paul about where they like to dine and came up with a list of some remarkable restaurants that are worth a visit.

Eddie Wu

Eddie Wu at Cook St. Paul // Photo by Tj Turner

Eddie Wu is the owner of Cook St. Paul on St. Paul’s East Side. He has been awarded 2nd best parent by his daughter Khan seven years in a row.

Sole Cafe

Without a doubt the best Korean food in Minnesota. The owner, Kimberly Firnstahl, works the kitchen by herself open-to-close six days a week—a feat that I don’t know any other chef in Minnesota could do. Everything is really good, but her soups are the standouts—try the yukaejang, it’s my death row meal.

Ramen from Zen Box Izakaya // Photo by Kevin Kramer

El Jibarito Food Truck

Wherever they are, go there. Mofongo, the El Jibarito, tostones: if they make it, it’s delicious.

Tea House St. Paul

I love the whole staff here; they’re as welcoming and friendly as can be. They have really good mapo tofu, and also their garlic chicken is the real deal. Lots of great options. It may seem boring, but I really love their egg drop soup.

Zen Box Izakaya

Tempura avocado with spicy mayo dip?! Drop the mic. Also, everything else is great. Ramen, rice bowls, katsu; you can’t go wrong.

Kyatchi

Their sushi is seriously good—chef Hide Tozawa is world class (and my favorite chef ever), but it’s the non-sushi items that put them over the top. The chicken karaage, gyuhire skewers, and the Portlandia roll (veggie roll) are all phenomenal.

Grand Szechuan

It may be a little away from the rest of the Twin Cities hustle and bustle, but man, that mapo tofu is a bowl full of perfection. I’d also recommend their Kung Pao potatoes—every restaurant should have that on their menu.

Tammy Wong

Tammy Wong at the wok in the kitchen of Rainbow Chinese // Photo via Rainbow Chinese Facebook

Tammy Wong is the chef and owner at Rainbow Chinese Restaurant and Bar, an Eat Street institution since 1987. She is actively involved in the Minneapolis Farmers Market community, where she can often be seen trading egg rolls for local produce with local growers.

Burch Restaurant

It’s always super consistent, great food at Burch. My favorite is the schupfnudel.

Rose Street Patisserie // Photo by Tj Turner

Szechuan Spice

I love Szechuan Spice for their Pig Ear salad, cold-cut spicy pork stomach, and of course mapo tofu. I love sneaking out of the restaurant and taking a break over at Szechuan Spice.

Rose Street Patisserie

Rose Street has amazing pastries; I love the peanut butter cookie especially.

Black Sheep Pizza

They’re up the street from my restaurant and they have great food. Especially the spicy eggplant dip—great for happy hour.

Sushi Takatsu

Really good, reasonably priced, simple sushi rolls. It’s a great opportunity to glimpse into the skyway lunch culture of downtown Minneapolis.

Vincent Francoual

Vincent Francoual prepares a dish // Photo by Tj Turner

Vincent Francoual prepares a dish // Photo by Tj Turner

Vincent Francoual serves as the culinary director for Cara Irish Pubs. He worked under Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin, and also owned and operated Vincent A Restaurant in Minneapolis, a local favorite for 14 years.

Moroccan Flavors

Owner Hassan Ziadi’s work and food ethic are second to none. His salads and tagines are the closest to authentic Moroccan food you can find in the entire state of Minnesota. The integrity and honesty of Hassan and his wife (who works with him) really show in the products they make.

A selection of wines from Terzo // Photo by Tj Turner

Terzo

Terzo is the place that, as a family, we keep coming back to. I also always learn when we eat there, whether from the wine list (I’m working on drinking through their Sicilian wine selections) or from their original food products, such as the neonata sauce they brush the branzino with.

Tinto Kitchen

Tinto is owned by Rebecca Illingworth and also Thierry Penichot, who worked at Vincent A Restaurant. Tinto makes their own tortillas for their tacos; I love their vegetable tacos topped with fried avocado. The mahi-mahi ceviche is also nice and not overwhelmed by too much acidity.

The Kenwood

Kenwood’s brunch is the best in town, a bit of elegance but not too much. The rest of the week’s dinner is at the same high level of food and service. Chef Don Saunders isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, he’s just using tradition as a platform and tweaking it with his own inspiration.

Lowry Hill Meats

Owner Erik Sather has great access to local beef and it shows in the burger. The beef is of high quality, and the grind is perfect to leave enough texture in each bite. The homemade pickles are colorful and crunchy, the lettuce is fresh and crispy, and the pork fat-based bun complements the meat without taking over. When I go to Erik Sather’s butcher shop, I’m like a kid in a candy store.