You may have already had a chance to ride the new light rail Green Line that opened last month, linking downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul. But have you had the opportunity to dine the Green Line?
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Rachel Hutton, food editor of Minnesota Monthly, spoke to MPR's Tom Crann about some of her favorite restaurants along the route between the downtowns.
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Tom Crann: University Avenue is lined with restaurants. How do you avoid being overwhelmed by choices?
Rachel Hutton: The light rail's website, onthegreenline.com, offers a searchable directory of all the bars, restaurants and coffee shops along the line, and there are a ton of them. I stopped counting at 100. I'd recommend narrowing the list by focusing on eateries that offer a unique experience you won't find in other parts of the Twin Cities.
Crann: Well, should we start in Minneapolis and work our way east?
Hutton: Sounds good. First stop is on the West Bank, an area where craft beer at places like Town Hall Brewery, Acadia, and Republic mixes with Ethiopian food — Red Sea, Dilla's. But it's the funky dives on the West Bank that are really like nothing else in the Cities.
The most accessible is the Triple Rock Social Club, a music venue and bar that does great "alternative" bar food, such as vegetarian hot wings and vegan mac and cheese. A few blocks away, there's the Hard Times Cafe, a collectively owned vegetarian restaurant that's long been a hang out for students, activists, artists, hippies since it's open 22 hours a day.
Finally, there's the Wienery, which might just be the dive-iest of the dives, but the hot dogs and french fries are tasty. Last time I visited, several years ago, the owner was displaying a collection of booking bracelets donated by customers who had just been released from jail.
Crann: Next stop: Stadium Village.
Hutton: The U of M campus is of course packed with restaurants — among them the tiny Kimchi & Tofu House, which offers a Korean tofu stew soondubu jjigae, which diners can customize with additional ingredients and spice level. Remember that for next time you have a head cold.
Crann: What about Raymond Avenue?
Hutton: One of my favorites is Foxy Falafel, one of the first food-truck concepts to go brick-and-mortar. Foxy puts a new twist on its signature dish, making curry and beet falafel in addition to plain.
Crann: Heading farther east, what do you like in the Midway area?
Hutton: There aren't very many places to get Russian food in the Twin Cities, so traveling University Avenue is a good excuse to stop at the Russian Tea House. It's a lunch-only place serving comfort fare such as piroshki, which are buns filled with seasoned ground beef, and Russian tea cakes for dessert.
There also aren't a lot of places to get good soul food in the Twin Cities, but a few blocks further east, a nightclub/music venue called Arnellia's serves fried catfish, hush puppies, and other Southern fare.
Crann: How about one more stop in Frogtown?
Hutton: The eastern stretch of University has terrific Asian restaurants, mostly Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisine. One of the most unique spots is Trung Nam French Bakery, which serves the croissants and Vietnamese coffee of the country's French colonial era. It's a great quick breakfast stop on the way to work.