Planning a trip to the North Star State? When it comes to dining, know that Minnesota cuisine is more than just lutefisk and SPAM®. Our Native American and Scandinavian heritage influences some of the state’s favorite dishes, and up-and-coming chefs are shaking things up with new twists on Minnesotan classics. Here’s our list of must-try food for your visit to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
The original Minnesotans, the Dakota (Sioux) and Red Lake Chippewa (Ojibwe), were the first to harvest wild rice. In its most traditional form, wild rice grows naturally in lakes and creeks all over northern Minnesota. A sure sign that you’ve arrived “up North” is the proliferation of roadside stands and general stores advertising wild rice for sale. This Minnesotan staple can be eaten many ways, including as a pilaf, in pancake form, or stirred into creamy wild rice soup.
Where to try it: Cedar + Stone, Urban Table at Mall of America® offers wild rice in the traditional soup form, and also pairs it alongside leeks and fennel in an Atlantic salmon entrée.
Minnesota’s official state fish, walleye, fills both our 10,000 lakes and our dinner tables. This freshwater white fish is often served as a fillet, but can be eaten in more adventurous forms at the Minnesota State Fair (think walleye on a stick and walleye sushi). The Red Lake Band of Chippewa in northwest Minnesota wild catch the fish and then ship it to restaurants across the state.
Where to try it: FireLake Grill House + Cocktail Bar at Mall of America serves an heirloom corn crusted walleye sourced from Red Lake Nation.
Minnesota’s burger specialty is a ground beef patty stuffed with cheese. There’s a never-ending argument about which Minneapolis restaurant invented the Juicy Lucy – 5-8 Club or Matt’s Bar – and if juicy should be spelled with an “i”. One thing that’s not up for debate: diners should be careful when taking their first bite of the oozing burger to avoid burning their mouth on all that hot cheese.
Where to try it: Instead of taking a side in the OG Juicy Lucy battle, visit Hazelwood Food and Drink to sample the cheese and caramelized onion-stuffed “Juicy Linus”.
Here in the Great White North, we do things a little differently – including our casseroles. Minnesota’s traditional casserole is called “hot dish” and generally includes a mix of ground beef, cream of mushroom or chicken soup, a vegetable like corn or green beans, and a topping of tater tots. This simple yet savory recipe has been a Minnesota potluck staple for generations.
Where to try it: Find a local to make you a home-cooked meal. If that’s not an option, Cowboy Jack’s two Bloomington locations offer a traditional take on the tater tot hot dish.
Although our neighbor Wisconsin is known for their dairy, they don’t have the market cornered. Minnesota knows how to do cheese curds right, whether you prefer the “squeaky”, fresh version straight from the farm or the deep-fried bar food staple. Either way, true Minnesotans know that cheese curds are best paired with an ice-cold beverage – preferably a local beer like Grain Belt, Surly Furious, or Summit Extra Pale Ale.
Where to try it: Step into the nearest dive bar. Here in Bloomington, we recommend Shantytown Grill, Lucky’s 13 Pub, and Willy McCoy’s.
Here in Bloomington, two local restaurants are using a hyper-local ingredient in some of their dishes. Urbana Craeft Kitchen and FireLake Grill House + Cocktail Bar are both home to bee colonies, whose honey is harvested for use in food and cocktails. Worker B, located at Bloomington’s Mall of America, also sells honey-infused skincare, candles, and raw honey.
Where to try it: Look for the icon on Urbana’s menu that indicates dishes made with honey from the rooftop hives, then visit FireLake for an after-dinner drink (the Calhoun Loon and Bee’s Knees both feature rooftop honey syrup).
In addition to walleye and wild rice, indigenous Minnesotans have traditionally used ingredients such as bison, sweet potato, and corn. James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Sherman, otherwise known as “The Sioux Chef,” aims to bring Native American food back to the forefront in Minnesota. Sherman’s Indigenous Food Lab has broken ground on a new restaurant along the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, and in the meantime is working to promote and educate the next generation of Native American chefs.
Caribou Coffee: Our local roasterie is Northern-themed and more common than Starbucks
Food on a stick: Minnesota State Fair vendors have perfected the art of putting food (anything from pizza to pie) on a stick
Baked goods: Minneapolis was America’s top flour producer for many years, and history lives on in the form of delicious breads and pastries
Bloody Mary: This tailgate favorite is taken to extremes at Ike’s in Bloomington, where it’s topped with shrimp, American cheese, olives, and more