Say you have a layover in Minneapolis–St. Paul. You’ve heard about the area’s thriving craft beer scene and maybe even read about Minnesotans’ locavore obsession and how chefs here are scooping up awards and catching national attention. You’re thinking it would be a shame to be this close and not taste the excitement for yourself
Well maybe you don’t have time to explore the local hot spots, but you can still enjoy a culinary taste tour of the state’s notable dining scene at Mill City Tavern.
Mill City Tavern on Concourse G was conceived with the help of one of the Twin Cities’ greatest advocates for local, sustainable, seasonable food—food prepared to honor and highlight its natural flavors, rather than a chef’s sleight of hand. Lenny Russo is the chef and proprietor of Heartland Restaurant in Saint Paul and a four-time James Beard Award nominee for best chef in the Midwest. He helped create a menu for Mill City Tavern that is leaps and bounds above bar food, but still casual and welcoming enough to make any traveler feel right at home.
The best way to start your Minnesota taste tour is with the Steelhead Trout Gravlax ($14), a shareable homage to the state’s Scandinavian heritage and the fish that tempts anglers all the way up to the icy streams that feed Lake Superior. It’s a DIY appetizer: layer a thin slice of the buttery, cured fish on a sliver of toast, add a smear of crème fraiche and some pickled onions, or, perhaps, fresh cucumber and a little hard-boiled egg.
While the steelhead has its fans, Minnesota’s beloved state fish is the walleye. And you can’t really say you’ve been to Minnesota—even on a layover—if you haven’t tasted a fried walleye sandwich ($15). Mill City Tavern’s comes with a heap of skinny, crispy fries—the kind you might order after a day on the water at one of the state’s many lakeside summer resorts. The roast turkey sandwich ($13.50) (a hearty, towering meal) gives a nod to our neighbor, Wisconsin, with a layer of sweet-sour cranberry relish.
Mill City Tavern has a dozen local beers on tap, the king of which is Surly. A flight of Surly beers will take you from the pale, German-style lager, “Hell,” to the sweet, amber, hoppy “Furious” to “Bender,” an oatmeal brown ale. It’s a trip worth taking—and one that’s easy to fit in, no matter how brief your stay in the Twin Cities.