With all the lunch options, how could I possibly pick 75, you may ask? My aim was to be as geographically diverse as possible. Have a business lunch in Stillwater? In Bloomington? In Northeast Minneapolis? In downtown St. Paul? I've got a go-to list in every neighborhood.
Bombay Bistro South Indian
The south-Indian buffet can be accessed only from an interior hallway in the nether regions of the Medical Arts building, but it's worth the hunt: Paper dosa as thin as gossamer filled with silky potatoes blended with toasted cumin seeds and emboldened with roast vegetables and creamy black lentils as potent as coffee are only two of the two dozen or so items offered every day at the buffet for $10.99 per person, a worthy feast at twice the price.
The best sushi in the Minneapolis skyways is to be found at Kikugawa's little-known vest-pocket offshoot on the second level of 120 S. 6th Street. But you have to know it to get it - the sushi case in the front typically looks empty, with just a few paper labels fluttering forlornly. Don't be dissuaded! You actually order your sushi by paper-label and they make it to order, using the top-quality fish and mad sushi-sculpting skills that Kikugawa is known for. Also: They serve pork ramen! And bento box meals of grilled eel, fried pork, even quick made-to-order Japanese omelets. The place gets a fierce, brief rush every day about noon, after that it's the best kept secret in town.
The two-course, $12.50, Monday to Friday lunch at Vincent is one of the best reasons to love working in downtown Minneapolis. The fluttering white tablecloths, the diaphanous curtains making Nicollet Mall look like a bride, and there, as your date, a lush plate of risotto crowned with poached eggs in a creamy riff on classic carbonara.
25 years ago Lucia Watson, the founding Minneapolis chef, founded Lucia's, and while many restaurants are more popular today there's an easy argument to be made that Lucia's is still the best. That easy argument? The food is easy: relaxed, confident, understated, even, with an ingredient-first elegance and confidence you only get from being on top of your game, going on three decades. Anything with Callister chicken is particularly good, be it mustard-poached or roasted on a salad of new sugar snap peas.
This suburban-mall-looking spot in an unlikely hallway on City Center's east side conceals greatness: A $10.49 special of lamb chops nets four berry-red beauties well charred served with a well toasted pita and a Greek salad, the chicken kabobs are lemony and herbal. Everyone else in the crowded room will be eating gyros, but ignore them, there's more here than average lunch chow.