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Food & Drink

Some New Twin Cities Restaurants I Really Liked in 2023

The 9 new restaurants that most charmed and/or delighted Racket’s food and drink editor this year.

1:05 PM CST on December 21, 2023

Em Cassel

Congrats—you made it through another year. Your reward is this list of places to get food!

As in the previous years I’ve done Racket’s year-end dining rundown in this style, it’s not meant to serve as a “best of” guide to 2023’s new restaurants, exactly. We don’t do as much fine dining here as most other publications in town, and even if we did, I’m just not sure how to judge a vegan cheeseburger against a $300 steak.

Like our food and drink coverage more broadly, this recap is more attuned to the way we eat when it’s not a special occasion, just a Tuesday night. The list below highlights some sit-down dining establishments, but also sandwich shops, fast-casual spots, takeout joints, and… liquor store deli counters. That kind of thing. I think it’s more fun and honestly more rewarding to highlight some of the places I don’t usually see on year-end best-of lists. 

The best reaction I ever got regarding one of these annual roundups was from someone who said they thought it was about a different city until they got about halfway through—they hadn’t heard much about most of the places highlighted. Thanks to you all for sticking around and appreciating the way we approach food and drink writing at Racket. And tell me about your favorites in the comments!

Oh also, St. Paul is woefully unrepresented here. My apologies to the good people of Pig’s Eye. I’ll get to Herbst one of these days. 

Em Cassel

Indigenous Food Lab

Owamni is wonderful, and you don’t have to take our word for it—just ask the New Yorker, the James Beard Foundation, the New York Times, Vogue, etc. But for a laid-back lunch during the week, I’ve come to love the Indigenous Food Lab at Midtown Global Market. My go-to move is to order a čhoǧíŋyapi (it’s like an open-faced corn cake-based sandwich) with smoked turkey and wóžapi (a berry and maple sauce). The taste approximates a pilgrim sandwich, with all of the harmonious flavor and none of the colonization. But what makes the Food Lab so nice for a weekday lunch is finishing your meal, then browsing the market for Indigenous-made hot sauce and jerky and pottery and getting a little treat on the way out the door. NATIFS and chef Sean Sherman have made something very cool here. 920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis.

Em Cassel

Francis

Francis won me over early, during its residency at Sociable Cider Werks’ rotating restaurant trailer. No surprise then that the burger bar they opened in Northeast this January is such a treat. Well, actually… some surprise! I was really thrilled by the design choices here: the dark and moody bar lounge, the neon lights, the iconic red-lit bathrooms. The burgers have only gotten better—big fan of the meatless, dairy-less wonder that is the Francis Juicy Lucy—with a suite of chicken sandwiches I often opt for instead. The buffalo fries simply rock. So do the boozy shakes. As a meat eater, you want a vegan spot to really deliver, and Francis does. 2422 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis.

What a wonderful pile of sandwichesEm Cassel

Marty’s Deli

It’s tough to play favorites on a list that’s full of ‘em, but… well, I already told Eater Twin Cities, so I might as well tell you, too. For me, the most exciting restaurant opening of 2023 was actually a deli opening. Marty’s Deli is so easy to love that when we attempted to rank their sandwiches earlier this year, we struggled to figure out what should sit near the bottom. They’re just that good. There’s the briny, crunchy magic of the Pool & Yacht, the salty, slaw-y sorcery of the Raffi Luigi, the gorgeous and colorful (and vegetarian-friendly) joy of the Seward—and all are served on fluffy, squishy slabs of focaccia. And then, the breakfast sandwich! 400 NE Lowry Ave., Minneapolis.

The Khao Poon from SlurpEm Cassel

Slurp

No two ways about it: Slurp slaps. Or, slapped. In fact, maybe the only criticism I could have levied against Yia Vang’s pop-up noodle bar on Lake Street is that it was a temporary situation, eventually replaced by Mee-Ka, and Mov, and finally, another location of Union Hmong Kitchen. But a few weeks ago, there was good news for the soup freaks among us: UHK’s Graze food hall location recently transitioned its menu, and it’s now “Slurp by Union Hmong Kitchen.” It’s big, hearty bowl of broth season, folks. I’d recommend fortifying yourself with some Khao Poon ASAP. 520 N. 4th St. Minneapolis.

That's a damn good $17 burger.Em Cassel

Flora Room

I haven’t been to Porzana yet. (It’s on the list!) I have made it to Flora Room, which is probably more my speed anyway, and maybe more yours too. The basement bar beneath Daniel del Prado’s new Argentinian steakhouse had marvelous, Marvel Bar-sized shoes to fill, and while it doesn’t quite approximate the laid-back cool of its predecessor, it’s also not really trying to. They’ve got plant-witch decor, cocktails served in funky glasses, and a really killer, classically perfect smash burger. In other words, there’s something for everyone, and if you’re anything like me, there’s everything for someone. 200 N. First St., Minneapolis.

I wish this picture was better too, but look how cute the It (left) and Candyman from ESC's horror movie cocktail menu were! That's a little paper boat garnish!Em Cassel

Eat Street Crossing

Maybe your friend group is, like the Racket staff, divided when it comes to the relative merits of the food hall. I fall into the “for ‘em” camp, though I’ll admit that some work much better than others, and the ones that don’t work… I mean, I hate paying $17 for mediocre food anywhere, let alone in a cafeteria setting. But Eat Street Crossing has really nailed the things that make a food hall sing: a super-fun bar program, a great mix of food from around the globe (I’m partial to the Brazilian pizza from Ouro), and thoughtful decor that makes ya feel a little fancy. Biking over here, grabbing a seat at the big, central bar, and meeting up with some friends for drinks on a Saturday afternoon—to me, this is the good life. And if you like wine, you’re gonna love their wine wall. 2819 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis.

D's Banh Mi Saigon. The picture... does not do justice to the size.Brian Fanelli

D’s Banh Mi

Reviewing D’s Banh Mi for Racket earlier this year, Brian Fanelli described the Banh Mi Saigon from D’s as “absolutely massive.” “This bahn mi is fucking huge,” Racket’s Keith Harris messaged our work chat in October, during his first D’s experience. And even with those phrases bouncing around in my head, I was shocked by the size of these things when I finally got my hands on one—though size aside, the sandwiches are great, packed with flavor and delivered on crusty, hearty bread. (Though be warned, getting your hands on one is no easy feat—the storefront opened and then closed again, and it sounds like right now they’re available by DM for delivery only.) 1848 E 38th St., Minneapolis. 

A great neighborhood Thai spot? Life-changing.Em Cassel

Thai Curry

Takeout Thai food is one of life’s great pleasures; an order of curry and cream cheese wontons is one of the surest ways I’ve found to make a normal weeknight into a pretty good weeknight. And Thai Curry, which landed on Nicollet just a few months ago, has insinuated itself into my life so quickly that it’s kind of hard for me to remember a time before it existed. What was I even eating on a Wednesday when I watched a movie at home before this delightful and unassuming hole in the wall opened? My wish for all Racket readers is that you have a Thai spot this good open near your house. 3752 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis.

The Racket staff loved every sandwich here.Em Cassel

South Lyndale Liquors

Look, I like sandwiches. If it’s not obvious enough from their outsize influence on this list, perhaps you’ve noticed Racket’s disproportionate amount of sandwich coverage. (Hell, just search our website for “sandwich.”) They are perhaps my favorite “kind” of food; I’ve said before that if I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be a sandwich. And the new South Lyndale Liquors, which opened in October, might have the single most memorable sandwich I ate this year: the roast pork, served on a sesame roll, with a heap of meat and a pile of bright-green broccoli rabe. It’s divine. So are most sandwiches here. You’ll love ‘em, I promise. 5516 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis.

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