It’s that time of year again: Dining Out For Life, an annual fundraising event involving the generous participation of volunteers, corporate sponsors, and restaurants. You’ll see KARE11 personalities, Sven Sundgaard, Rena Sarigianopoulos, and Blake McCoy—in addition to hundreds of volunteers—wearing red aprons at your favorite restaurants that are generously donating portions of their proceeds to benefit The Aliveness Project.
Dining Out For Life is now produced in 60 cities throughout the United States and Canada. Across North America, more than $3 million dollars a year is raised to support the missions of 60 outstanding HIV/AIDS service organizations. This year 200 participating restaurants in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Mankato, and Rochester have agreed to donate a portion of their proceeds to The Aliveness Project on April 30. Read the highlighted choices of hotspots and then plan your day to “Dine Out, Do Good” by checking out the full list of participating restaurants and the percentage of proceeds they’ll be donating at www.diningoutforlife.com/minneapolis.
The Saloon has food? Sure does! And it’s legit. There’s absolutely no need to find yourself famished on the dancefloor or peckish after a couple cocktails on the patio. Nibble some nachos or throw carbcaution to the wind and splurge on a big fat, juicy burger with fries and all the fixings. My money’s on the fried mushrooms and Southwest egg rolls. Your happy hour is about to get a whole lot happier.
830 Hennepin Ave., Mpls
Buster’s on 28th
When I first heard there’d been a fire at Buster’s last year, two things ran through my head: I hope everyone is okay and, dear god, will I ever have the steak sandwich again? Or the chicken wings with french onion dip? Or the onion rings? Thankfully, the people and the food are just fine. My favorite neighborhood hideaway has reopened its doors and the steak sandwich is better than ever. Ridiculously good food aside, their selection of beers from near and afar is sure to quench the palate of even the haughtiest of hop lovers.
4204 28th Ave., Mpls
The Bulldog Downtown
Whenever my hot dog quota needs to be met, I head to The Bulldog Downtown. Their creative assortment of crisp, meaty dogs defies convention and titillates taste buds of all shapes and sizes. Pro tip: do the Double Dare and pick two dogs from their devilish lineup. Who eats just one hot dog anyway? Guaranteed winners include the OMGyoucandothat?? bacon-wrapped Danger Dog, the perfectly porky Oinker Dog and the, wait for it, comfort food classic Mac N’ Cheese Dog. You’re welcome. Upgrade to tots and your life is complete.
1111 Hennepin Ave., Mpls
New Scenic Cafe
Never should a road trip to Minnesota’s North Shore be complete without a meal at the New Scenic Cafe. This secret garden of beautiful, delicious food nestled between Duluth and Two Harbors offers weary travelers a magical interlude of taste along some of the most scenic (get it?) shoreline in the state. The menu ebbs and flows with the season so don’t be alarmed if that favorite dish from your last visit has been replaced with something even more special.
5461 North Shore Dr., Duluth
You know a restaurant is on your top ten when you find yourself literally eating almost everything on the menu. And scaring your server in the process. That’s exactly what happened the first time my partner and I explored Rincon 38. The neighborhood tapas bar in South Minneapolis offers up some of the best small plates in town. Even though I’ve never actually traveled to Spain, I feel like I’ve been there after eating at Rincon 38. Grab a friend or four and head over for Dining Out for Life or your next night out. And don’t be afraid to overdo it. We set that precedent long ago.
3801 Grand Ave. S., Mpls
Eden Avenue Grill
For more years than I can count, Friday nights meant friends and good food at the Eden Avenue Grill. This quaint little diamond in the rough of Edina just off Highway 100 is the perfect place to unwind after a busy week. The food is solid and the service top drawer. Every week, without fail, I’d order the chicken sandwich with cheddar and bacon. The turkey burger was always a close second. Add fries and you’re golden. If you forget to order the chocolate cake, you’ll hate yourself the next day. It’s scratch-made and probably my favorite in the Cities.
5101 Arcadia Ave., Edina
You know what this town doesn’t need more of? So-called sushi restaurants schlepping over-priced rolls of an underwhelming caliber. We do, therefore, need more restaurants like Kyatchi. Japanese for “catch,” Kyatchi describes itself as a “Minneapolis restaurant inspired by Japanese cuisine.” The menu is littered with fresh, sustainably caught fish and seafood you can actually taste. Along with some of the best traditional sushi and sashimi in town, Kyatchi’s menu playfully offers a number of lesser-known delights like Japanese curry and donburi rice bowls. Make sure and add at least one hot dog to your order. You’ll thank me. And then you’ll order another.
3758 Nicollet Ave., Mpls
Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
St. Paul is home to a plethora of wonderful Vietnamese restaurants. Ngon is a jewel among them. My first meal there was Valentine’s Day a couple years back. It was the perfect place for a romantic evening, especially for two people who love to explore foods from afar. The ambiance is intimate and the food is a welcome mix of traditional and modern. The marriage of French and Vietnamese cuisine creates delightful surprises all over the menu. Soulwarming pho is just as comfortable next to Croque Madame as it is fresh shrimp spring rolls. Don’t overlook the spot as a happy hour hang out either. With sausage sliders.
799 University Ave., St. Paul
Bowl, watch sports, eat, drink, repeat. Any combination of the aforementioned activities goes at Park Tavern. It’s not a cliché to say there really is just about something for everyone at the 50-plus-year-old Twin Cities landmark. Have a beer with the buds, bowl a game or two, or just settle in to a plate of nachos and a burger. Wings and fried pickles are sure to make any night of the week better than the one before. If you’re feeling a bit fancier, don’t miss out on the once-a-month chef’s nights. Each month Chef Daniel elevates the alley way with a five-course feast at a ridiculously reasonable price.
3401 Louisiana Ave., St. Louis Park
Mattie’s on Main
There’s always something fun going on at Mattie’s on Main. Whether Erin Schwab is belting out Broadway showtunes or drag queens are camping it up during Sunday brunch, the colorful eatery along historic St. Anthony Main makes an event out of anything. The menu is equally eventful. And relaxed. The Monte Cristo dippers, for example, take everything you love about the classic sammy and turn it into a playful app you’ll covet at the cost your dinner companions. Tuck into a good burger or any number of solid sandwiches, but don’t forget to get a milkshake. Adult or otherwise, the flavors are creative and clearly designed to put a big fat smile on your face.
43 Main St. SE, Mpls