The best restaurants in Minneapolis, according to chef Sean Sherman
Sean Sherman gives his Minneapolis picks — Photo courtesy of Heidi Ehalt
In 1996, after graduating college in South Dakota, chef Sean Sherman moved to Minneapolis. He got his start working in restaurants like French Meadow and California Café, located at The Mall of America. “I lasted about four months because that was about all I could take of the mall,” Sherman said.
Thankfully, in 2014, he started his indigenous food company, The Sioux Chef. Since then, he (and co-writer Beth Dooley) published a James Beard Award-winning cookbook, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, and he and a team created The Sioux Chef catering company.
In 2019, he plans on opening a non-profit indigenous restaurant in Minneapolis called Indigenous Food Lab; eventually he’d like to open them all over the country. And in 2020, he and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board hope to open a restaurant on the Mississippi River.
Over the years, Sherman has watched the Twin Cities food scene change for the better. “It’s so normal just to see local product on menus all over the city,” Sherman said. “It is a small community of restaurant people and chefs, so we always like to go to each other’s restaurants and visit.”
When he’s not traveling – in 2018 he said he traveled to seven countries and 24 states doing chef pop-ups and various other indigenous foodways education – here are 10 spots in the Twin Cities that he enjoys.
In 1999, chef Alex Roberts opened Alma near the University of Minnesota. In 2010, he won the James Beard Award for “Best Chef Midwest.”
Alma is divided into two parts: a casual café entitled Café Alma, which serves daily brunch, dinner, coffee, a limited afternoon menu and has a bakery, and dinner-only Restaurant Alma, offering a three- to four-course prix-fixe menu. They also have a seven-room hotel.
“I really love the restaurant,” Sherman says. “The restaurant’s been a staple for a long, long time.”
Sherman especially appreciates the restaurant’s longevity. “Chef Alex – I remember him when he first opened it. There weren’t a lot of people doing farm-to-table back in those days. He’s created such a beautiful and lasting restaurant featuring local flavors, but also just being really creative in being able to come up with all sorts of stuff throughout the years. And the accomplishment of having something as popular as it is for as long as it’s been open, is huge.”
Broders’ Pasta Bar
In 1982, Molly and Tom Broder opened red-sauce joint Broders’ Cucina Italiana in southwest Minneapolis, and in 1994, they opened Broders’ Pasta Bar across the street. They source locally as much as possible and they even grow a garden in their parking lot.
“Broders’ has been in the neighborhood for many years,” Sherman said. “Actually, I worked there over 20 years ago, when I was an actual sous [not Sioux] chef.” Every Sunday through Thursday, they offer a date-night prix-fixe menu, with entrees like stringozzi alla spoletina (eggless pasta, tomato, olive oil and garlic) and risotto with chicken.
Glam Doll Donuts
For breakfast or brunch, Sherman and his son hit up Glam Doll Donuts. “They have, like, a thousand different kinds of donuts,” Sherman said. “They have a large mix, including some weird and interesting ones.”
Owners Teresa Fox and Arwyn Birch make “hipster donuts” such as A Sunday Kind of Love (an old fashioned donut with a bit of lemon), Femme Fatale (raspberry curd filling and vanilla icing), a Peek-a-Boo (tres leches, whipped cream and toasted coconut), as well as a collection of vegan donuts.
Honey and Rye Bakehouse
When Sherman and his son want non-donut baked goods, they visit Anne Andrus’ Honey & Rye Bakehouse in St. Louis Park. Andrus bakes artisan breads, three flavors of soft pretzels (everything, cheese, sea salt), scones, monkey bread and banana bread, and she also offers coffee, quiches and sandwiches.
“Anne does an amazing job there,” Sherman says. “She just has a great selection, and my son always goes for the pretzels.”
“Minneapolis is a small city,” Sherman said. “We’ve got a lot of diversity, and I feel like there’s just a lot of great chefs doing really focused foods in different areas.”
One of those chefs is Thomas Boemer and his partner Nick Rancone. Together they own Southern restaurant Revival and In Bloom, located at St. Paul food hall Keg and Case (2019’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Award winner for Best New Food Hall). Revival Meats, also located at Keg and Case, focuses on Carolina barbecue.
“In Bloom has the most amazing wood fire,” Sherman explains. “It’s a 25-foot long fireplace.” The restaurant specializes in venison, including roasting an entire leg over an open fire. They also roast veggies, pheasant and shellfish.
“I just really love what Thomas is doing with his restaurants, and I think he’s just a super solid chef and so is everybody that works for him,” Sherman said. “I want to spend more time at Keg and Case.”
In terms of newer establishments, Sherman mentioned The Lynhall (opened in 2017), which houses a restaurant (serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch), a bakery, an event space and a state-of-the-art kitchen studio, The Linney Studio.
“We’ve done a few events at the studio, and I really enjoy meeting people there,” Sherman says. “It’s one of my cozy spots I head to.” The roaring fireplace adds to the ambiance, as does their Garam masala oatmeal, a croissant breakfast sandwich (layered with bacon, over-medium egg and pepper jack cheese) and a toasted caprese sandwich for lunch.
Sherman likes Hola Arepa’s slow-roasted pork arepa — Photo courtesy of Hola Arepa
In 2011, chef Christina Nguyen and her partner Birk Grudem founded Hola Arepa as a food truck and opened a brick-and-mortar in 2014. They draw from Venezuelan-style stuffed arepas, or stuffed cornmeal dough. “I like the carnitas one (slow-roasted pork),” Sherman explains. “I think it’s awesome. Arepas are always a favorite, especially with my group.”
Besides 10 types of arepas, they offer empanadas, yuca fries, shitake cachapa (sweet corn pancake), tropical cocktails and a few different breakfast arepas for weekend brunch.
A visit to Minneapolis isn’t complete until you try a “Jucy Lucy” at the famous cash- and check-only institution Matt’s Bar. According to the restaurant, around 1954, a customer suggested putting a slice of cheese between two hamburger patties, and the gushing cheeseburger was born. “We’ve been there quite a few times,” Sherman says. “That’s also a staple.” But does he think it lives up to the hype?
“Well, you know exactly what you get when you go there. They’re consistent and they’ve been doing it forever. It’s amazing what a big brand that’s created off of the smallest kitchen in the world.”
With four locations across the Twin Cities, as well as a location in Winnipeg, Dogwood has cornered the market on third wave coffee. Sherman said he’s “a big fan of espresso” and drinks a lot of it, so that’s what he orders at Dogwood.
“They’re always solid with their product,” he said. Espresso roasts include Neon espresso, Bear Hug and the aptly named natural blend Snow Emergency.
This beer joint’s been open in south Minneapolis since post-prohibition (it was named CC Tap), but for the past several decades, it’s been known as a music spot that launched local bands Soul Asylum and the Replacements. Tom Arnold once lived across the street and threw after-hours parties here.
“I spent a lot of my youth playing pool at the CC Club,” Sherman says. “I feel pretty old when I go in there nowadays, but that was always a favorite.” They offer an assortment of food, including pizza, wings, burgers, nachos and hot dogs – and hangover Bloody Marys.