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My 4-Star Twin Cities Restaurants

A lot of you were interested in my post on Rick Nelson’s 4 star Twin Cities restaurants. The concept of 4 stars is fun to me, and I really liked what Steph March had to say about them. 4 stars is a blessing and a curse: if something goes wrong at a 4-star, people aren’t very forgiving. If something goes wrong at a 3-star, it’s fine! Everyone makes mistakes!

But I like the idea of giving stars. I like having to make a definitive judgment, without all the backstory and the context. 4 stars means THIS RESTAURANT IS OUTSTANDING. It doesn’t mean perfect, but it means outstanding. It comes with requirements beyond great food (in my mind): excellent service, a proper host/hostess stand, more than one bathroom. I used to think that a bar with cocktails is required, but I’ve had 4-star experiences at places without cocktails.

Bear in mind, some of my favorite restaurants in town are in the 3-star range. The Strip Club in St. Paul is my favorite place to eat: I love the food, I love the people. But you walk in that room and you’re in the middle of the dining room. The restaurant is gorgeous with amazing views of St. Paul, but down the block you’ll find a condemned duplex. You can have 4-star experiences in a 3-star place, if that makes sense. Perhaps the Strib doesn’t have an easy place to find all the 4-stars because the reviews are a snapshot in time. They are a judgment of what the restaurant was doing at the time of the review, not a judgment that is conferred forever. That said, if I had to hand out 4 stars to Minneapolis Twin Cities restaurants, I’d go:

If I included Marvel Bar in The Bachelor Farmer complex, I would give that operation 4 stars too. And if I include the genius of the Heartland Market in the Heartland Restaurant, same deal. Plus, I need to have dinner at the new Corner Table location one more time to have a firm opinion on whether that should be 4 stars. So out of 13, I’m going 4 for sure, maybe 7. Pretty close to what Rick said, just tightening up the list a bit.

Not that I’m saying the other restaurarants aren’t awesome: they all are. And I’m not saying the restaurants didn’t deserve 4 stars when they were reviewed: they probably did. I’m saying today, with the standards of 2014 dining, this is where I’m at. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments:

4 Star Minneapolis St. Paul Restaurants

Another worthy 4 star restaurant! Spoon and Stable occupies an interesting place in the Twin Cities – I would argue it may be the most complete restaurant experience in town. The service is perfect, the room is gorgeous, the wine list is exciting and fresh ranging from affordable to luxury, the bar is sexy, the desserts are world class, and the food is absolutely delicious. UPDATED LIST AS OF APRIL 1 2015 As far as I can tell, Rick has given 15 restaurants that are currently open and operating 4 stars.

I think Rick’s in an interesting spot, because he has yet to review Brasserie Zentral, and the new Corner Table. Both are potential 4-star spots. UPDATES to ORIGINAL POST: Spoon and Stable lives up to the hype, in Rick’s 2015 review Rick Nelson has just given Heyday in Minneapolis 4 stars. I totally agree it’s worthy, as I foreshadowed in my write-up here. Boom. the Brazzerie Zentral review is finally out, and it gets 4 stars, 2014 Your thoughts? Are these restaurants worthy? Who else should be on the list?

OFF THE KIDS MENU: Heyday in Minneapolis

“Dad, can I have the beef?” 

“Sammy, you had the beef last time. You don’t even like steak.”

“I don’t care about the steak, I want the sweetbreads!”

This is apparently the new normal conversation I’m going to have with my 6-year-old, thanks to Heyday in Minneapolis. Soon, you’ll be reading all the real reviewers write-ups of this month-old restaurant, and I’ll be shocked if the critics aren’t losing their minds praising the place. It’s excellent.  Warm, comfortable surroundings, well-trained, very polished service team (headed by Loren Zinter), and perfectly imagined and executed food (thanks to chef Jim Christiansen)!


We’ve been twice with our sons, and we’ve eaten our way through the entire menu. The serving sizes are bigger than what you expect with fine-dining, and slightly smaller than you’d expect from a typical Minnesota restaurant. For me, it’s perfect. We can share- and everyone gets a couple tastes. And the prices are reasonable.

Lamb tartare ($12)
Sweet Beetroot and Hazelnut salad ($8)
Smoked Brook Trout ($14)
Crispy Lamb Belly ($12)
Roasted Chicken Thigh ($11)
Roasted Squab ($18)
Beef Filet ($22)
All the desserts

Start with the lamb tartare. It’s a shocking bright red in color because of a rich chili flavor on top; the crispy artichokes give an awesome texture.

Lamb Tartare

Then get the beetroot salad: and look closely at the beet. It’s covered with a gelatin, that looks like beet but isn’t. It’s preserved raspberry with beet coloring, so it looks similar to the beet. The two flavors match perfectly with the goat cheese.

The beef with sunchokes, morels(Sammy doesn’t like mushrooms but now loves morels), sweetbreads, and perfectly cooked steak is the most expensive thing at $22. It’s one of the best steak dishes I’ve ever had in the Twin Cities.

Beef Filet

There’s lots of fish for good reason: Chef Jim Christiansen is brilliant at it. The kids loved the smoked trout and the roasted monkfish. The fish dishes sound simple, but the sauces and accompaniments are complex and delicious.

Smoked TroutRoasted Monkfish

The squab is a real achievement: perfectly cooked so the squab has a crispy skin and moist inside. Then it’s placed on a bed of beet tapioca and smoked marrow. We told our kids the beet tapioca was like bubble tea – and they loved it! Holy moly.

Roasted Squab


Diane Yang has helped Jim craft a really cool dessert list. We had the Rogue River Blue cheese – a savory cheese course with shallot jam and little onion rings on it. It’s beautiful, and delicious ($5) – I would think about ordering it as a starter.

Rogue River Blue

The vanilla creme fraiche ice cream ($6) is a real achievement: the ice cream is rich and creamy, the frozen licorice is black and ashy in appearance, and adds a subtle anise flavor to the ice cream, and the whole dish is brightened up with rhubarb granita. Just lovely.

Vanilla Creme Fraiche Ice Cream


Bartender Britt Tracy is doing a great job with really approachable $9 cocktails. I like the Beetnick quite a bit, a tequila, Cynar, beet shrub combination. The Garter Belt is another great one. And last night they made my kids a kiddie cocktail that put the ones I make at home to shame!

My children love this place, my wife and I love this place, it sets a new standard for casual/high-end dining. By that I mean: a casual vibe, an affordable price, with quality that you’d expect at a high-end restaurant.
Heyday – dinner only, opens at 5pm
2700 Lyndale Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408