Where to Eat Along the D Line, from North Minneapolis to the Mall of America
The 'D' stands for 'delicious.'
8:58 AM CST on January 31, 2024
Most Twin Cities buses are poke-mobiles, halting their crawls for disorganized fare-payers and endless red lights. But Metro Transit's D Line and its lettered comrades? They can haul ass.
Blessed with signal priority and pre-boarding Go-To Card scanners, bus rapid transit service is the ordained future of Twin Cities transportation. Among the already-active BRT routes are the A Line, which connects the Roseville Mall, the State Fairgrounds, multiple college campuses, and Minnehaha Falls; and the D Line, which goes from Brooklyn Center through the North Side and downtown, then takes Chicago and Portland Avenues into Richfield and Bloomington before hopping onto American Boulevard for a final yeehaw to IKEA and the Mall of America. This won’t impress many car owners, but for Twin Cities transit folks, it’s big: Getting from Brooklyn Center Transit Center to the Mall of America via bus now takes only an hour and 15 minutes.
While you’re racking up all of this bus mileage, you’re bound to get hungry—or at least need a comfortable place to hang out for a little while—and the bus isn’t going to wait for you to pore over Google Reviews and Maps in order to plan out your stops. So here’s a cheat sheet of excellent eateries along the D Line.
(My picks are generally within a 10-minute walk of a bus stop; I’ll point out any longer strolls.)
44th Ave. & Penn
Most ramen joints are packed with pork, but Tori 44 uses poultry to develop their broth’s crucial savory flavors. Named after the Japanese word for “bird,” Tori opened on St. Paul’s Selby Avenue before taking over the old Victory 44 space in North. They’ve since moved their St. Paul location to West Seventh, but the North Side ramen shop has kept cooking, and its dishes are as decadent and nourishing as ever. Tori 44 serves Japanese curry rice, honey gochujang chicken wings, a gorgeous duck leg entree, and a plentitude of rich, salty ramen—which, at $17-$20 per bowl, might be a once-in-a-while treat, but will certainly make your day. Hot tip: Tori owner Jason Dorweiler used to be the GM/chef of United Noodles’ Unideli, so if you miss that spot’s DraMN, you’ll be happy to know that a chicken version lives on at Tori 44. 2203 N. 44th Ave., Minneapolis
The Get Down Coffee Company
44th Ave. & Girard
Remember that annoying Vogue profile of Jacob Frey? Then you may remember Frey’s friend Houston White, who praised the Minneapolis mayor’s “steely reserve” through the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder (and got a national outlet to erroneously identify the Webber-Camden neighborhood as “Camdentown,” a rebrand he cooked up). White is the owner of The Get Down, a specialty coffee shop across the street from North Market. There, you can sip a rich sweet potato latte ($6.75) while bouncing to Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack” or Whitney Houston’s “It’s Not Right but It’s Okay.” Honestly, I go to The Get Down when I need somewhere to eat my donuts from nearby Thirsty Whale Bakery. But if you need to use Wi-Fi, warm up with a hot drink, or purchase one of a multitude of Houston White-branded items (baseball caps, hair products), The Get Down would be a good place to do that. 1500 N. 44th Ave., Minneapolis
Thirsty Whale Bakery
42nd Ave. & Fremont
Thirsty Whale is back from the belly of the beast, which is to say financial distress. Former co-owner and head baker Kyle Baker (yes, a god-level aptronym) had been whipping up excellent cakes and donuts since 2018 before calling it quits in December. Thankfully, Alise and Luke MacGregor, owners of YoYo Donuts in Minnetonka, purchased Thirsty Whale just days after Baker announced its closing. Long live the blueberry old fashioned donut ($2.75), a tender marvel studded with blueberry pieces and topped with glaze and streusel. Long live the stunning whole cakes, which are available in 18 different flavors, including German chocolate, amaretto, and stout. And long live Thirsty Whale. (No seating is available here, unfortunately; you’ll have to walk to a good donut scarfing zone or hop right back on the bus.) 4149 Fremont Ave. N., Minneapolis
Good Deal Oriental Foods
Fremont & Lowry
This Hmong grocery store has an outstanding deli. There’s no seating, so plan to grab 'n' go, but please do plan to purchase some papaya salad, Hmong sausage and purple rice, and/or sai krok Isan (snackable links of fermented sausage served with raw cabbage and a bird’s eye chili). 1800 Lowry Ave. N., Minneapolis
Sammy’s Avenue Eatery
Fremont & Broadway
You’re going to feel better after eating at Sammy’s. There’s just no way you can eat one of their fresh, nourishing, affordable submarine sandwiches and not feel more centered and grateful. Whether you order the hot roasted chicken or the turkey club (approximately $7 for half-sandwiches and $13 for whole ones), the roll will be soft and chewy, the cucumbers will snap, and there will be just enough protein to get you through the rest of the day. Plus, there’s seating aplenty at this often sunshine-filled breakfast and lunch spot. 1101 W. Broadway #1, Minneapolis
Fulton Beer Taproom
Seventh Street & Olson
Even if Fulton’s not your favorite craft brewery, its North Loop taproom is undeniably good. High ceilings, a nice outdoor patio, board games, weekly cribbage nights, and a wide variety of beer styles make for a comfortable hang. Best of all is the proximity to Target Field, The Fillmore, and many of the North Loop’s marquee restaurants. If you arrive in the neighborhood earlier than expected, just duck into Fulton (or the nearby Modist Brewing) for a quick one. Note that you can’t bring food into this taproom, as Fulton serves its own (sliders, pretzel sticks, etc.). 414 N. Sixth Ave., Minneapolis
Tom’s Watch Bar
Eighth Street & Hennepin
Many restaurants dot the D Line route through downtown, from Murray’s to Cardigan Donuts. But if you’re stopping downtown, you probably already have a restaurant or other destination in mind, so I’ll just shout out one spot you may not have tried yet.
When Europeans think of the U.S., they must picture a place like Tom’s Watch Bar. Deep-dish nachos, 40-ounce beers, and even a nine-panel superscreen playing American football—it’s all on tap at the downtown Minneapolis location of this sports bar franchise. Here, you can listen to broadcasts, not just watch them, and for big games, a DJ plays Top 40 remixes during commercials! Tom’s is a highly evolved sports bar. The ultimate. The most mega. Plus, there’s a protected sidewalk patio with yet more screens and Hennepin Avenue people-watching. Of course I want to grab a beer and gawk at everything. 609 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Band Box Diner
14th St. & Chicago
We love a historic diner! Opened in 1939, the Band Box shut down from 2020 to 2023 as owners Brad Ptacek and Heather Danzen suffered one blow after another (pandemic, cancer, break-ins). Now that they’ve reopened their beloved Elliot Park hang, claim a stool and grab a Lunch Box burger and their incredible American fries. 729 S. 10th St., Minneapolis
26th St. & Chicago
Housed by the American Swedish Institute, this museum cafe is worth treating as a destination in and of itself. FIKA uses Scandinavian recipes and seasonal produce to create artistic lunches and coffee breaks in a bright, casual space. Dine in on Swedish meatballs, aquavit cocktails, and rice pudding with lingonberry sauce, or just grab a cardamom bun or crispy scone and espresso to go. 2600 Park Ave., Minneapolis
Mama Safia’s Kitchen
Chicago & Lake
The first iteration of Safia Munye’s casual Somali restaurant was destroyed in the civil unrest following George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Thankfully, she and her team have since relocated to the corner of Lake Street & Columbus Avenue, where Mama Safia’s Kitchen serves amazing East African food all day. I’m partial to their breakfast options, from malawax isbaso (sweet, crepe-like pancakes and a goat-bell pepper stew) to foul canjeero (stewed fava beans and a spongy, sour bread much like injera). For lunch or dinner, try rice or pasta with your choice of halal protein. And of course, sambusa and shaah (Somali spiced tea) make for an excellent snack. 720 E. Lake St., Minneapolis
La Michoacana Purépecha
Chicago & Lake
On the hottest days of a Minnesota summer, lines stream from La Michoacana Purépecha like drips running down a paleta. But these Mexican popsicles are so good they’re worth eating in any weather. Order the rich cajeta paleta, made with goat’s milk caramel, or opt for a fruity flavor like piña (pineapple) or kiwi. Beyond paletas, La Michoacana also offers mangonadas, aguas frescas, ice cream, and savory Dorilocos snacks. 701 E. Lake St., Minneapolis
Midtown Global Market
Chicago & Lake
Midtown Global Market hit a rough spot during the pandemic and the protests of summer 2020, but it seems to be on the upswing. A few new vendors have opened stalls in the past couple of years, including Slice Brothers, Soul to Soul Smokehouse, the Indigenous Food Lab by NATIFS, and most recently, Irie Jamaican Express. OGs Salsa a la Salsa (an underrated bar!), Manny’s Tortas, and Mapps Coffee & Tea are still kickin’ as well. It’ll be tough to say goodbye to Soleil Ramirez’s Arepa Bar, which will close at the end of January. But for my money, the Global Market is still one of the most fun places to eat (and shop) in Minnesota. As you’re wandering through the market’s aisles, make sure to stop at Moroccan Flavors: home to luscious tagines and a shockingly good mint tea. 920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis
Smoke in the Pit
Portland & 38th St.
The D Line detours around George Floyd Square at 38th & Chicago, but you’ll still want to walk to the Square to score some barbecue from Smoke in the Pit. It’s a take-away spot—nothing fancy inside—but owner Dwight Alexander and his team have been selling smoked meats and Southern sides there since 1998. To the best of my memory, only Animales, FireBox, and C&G’s Smoking Barbecue make comparable Twin Cities meats. Smoke in the Pit’s brisket has an incredible bark, and I love their rib tips, mac 'n' cheese, and yams. 3733 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis
Tacos El Kevin
Portland & 38th St.
South Minneapolis is the taco hub of the Twin Cities, and Tacos El Kevin is a noteworthy little spot across the street from a bus stop. Order your tacos and raspados (shaved ice slushies) at the counter. Then, grab a seat in the clean, bright dining area, which doubles as a convenience store; it’s lined by drink fridges, chip stands, and shelves of pantry staples, such as masa and canned beans. Tacos El Kevin also serves sopes, tortas, and burgers, but I haven’t strayed from the tacos, which come with salsa and bonus radish slices, a roasted green onion and green pepper, and plenty of juicy lime wedges. Two tacos are $7.07 before tip! 3751 Portland Ave., Minneapolis
Chicago & 52nd St.
Should a single-serving salad cost $20 after tax and tip (and $29 if you add chicken)? I don’t really think so. But if I am going to buy a $20+ salad, I’m going to buy it from Heather’s. Longtime Lucia’s manager Heather Asbury opened this neighborhood restaurant in 2020, carrying on the Lucia’s tradition of flavorful farm-to-table food in a tasteful atmosphere. Fresh produce—from perfectly ripe summer stone fruits to hearty beets and Brussels sprouts—reigns here. Passersby can use the takeout window to buy coffee and housemade pastries. 5201 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis
Guavas Cuban Cafe
Chicago & 56th St.
Whereas Victor’s 1959 Cafe is a bustling, hard-nosed Cuban brunch spot, Guavas Cuban Cafe is a more mellow and accommodating all-day hang. Pothos plants dangle from shelves, and green walls line the large seating area. Guavas’s counter service model and free Wi-Fi are perfect for laptop workers seeking sweetened espresso (a colada or a café con leche), sandwiches, and/or guava cheesecake during the day; nighttime patrons can dine on heartier entrees, such as churrasco steak frites and paella. It’s squarely in the north flight path from the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport, but despite the occasional roar, this spot makes for a cozy, low-key date night. 5607 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis
Dairy Queen (Treat)
Portland & 60th St.
This ice cream palace placed at No. 2 on Racket’s authoritative ranking of Twin Cities Dairy Queens. If that’s not reason enough for you to stop by, consider that it’s been around since 1961; that it serves the best-ever soft serve treat, Blizzards; and that it has transcended ice cream shop status to become a true neighborhood gathering place on those long summer evenings. While you order inside, the only available seating space is on the patio, which means it closes every winter. 6014 Portland Ave., Minneapolis
Kataki Sushi + Ramen
Portland & 66th St.
For a casual sushi meal in Minneapolis, visit MOMO Sushi in Northeast. To ball out, head to Kado no Mise or Billy Sushi in the North Loop. For the Goldilocks level of atmosphere, price, and quality, Kataki Sushi + Ramen is your best bet. Housed in the former Vina Vietnamese space in Richfield, Kataki serves excellent sushi and housemade ramen in a clean, comfortable atmosphere. Oh, and there’s a happy hour from noon to 4 p.m. every day with $7 hot sake, $5 appetizers, and $12.95 sushi rolls! Kataki is an 18-minute walk from the bus stop, but it’s worth the hike (and the hype). 6401 Nicollet Ave., Richfield
- Captain Crab (Xerxes & 56th Ave., Brooklyn Center)
- Dancing Bear Chocolate (44th Ave. & Penn, Minneapolis)
- T-Shoppe Bar (Fremont & 42nd Ave., Minneapolis)
- StormKing Brewpub & Barbecue (7th St. & Olson, Minneapolis)
- Rise Bagel (7th St. & Olson, Minneapolis)
- SK Coffee (8th St. & Hennepin, Minneapolis)
- Modern Times (Chicago & 34th St., Minneapolis)
- Creekside Supper Club (Chicago & 48th St., Minneapolis)
- Taqueria y Birrieria Las Cuatro Milpas (Portland & 77th St., Minneapolis)
- IKEA (American & Thunderbird, Bloomington)
- Mochinut (Mall of America, Bloomington)
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