Vegan Food Guide to Minneapolis-St. Paul
 

The first thing that may pop into someone’s mind when they hear "Minneapolis-St Paul", is cold, but I'll stop you right there.  What they might not know about MSP, is that it has an incredible food scene. Seriously, I don’t know if the Bold North is just trying to put meat on your bones for the harsh winters, but the Land of 10,000 Lakes has some seriously tasty eats. From chichi gourmet doughnut shops and divey punk-rock diners, to a 100% vegan butcher, this is your guide to eating in Minneapolis-St. Paul. 

...and for when you're full, here's my list of other things to do and see in the Twin Cities.


BREAKFAST:

Glam Doll Doughnuts

2605 Nicollet Ave S Minneapolis, MN 55408 (note that there is another location at 519 Central Avenue NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413- while Glam Doll's website indicates vegan options are only available at the Nicollet Ave. location, reader Lily informed me she frequently spots them at the Central Ave. one as well); open Monday through Thursday 7 am-9 pm; Friday- Saturday 7 am- 1 am; and Sunday 7 am- 3 pm.

Imagine there's a vampy pin-up girl who decided to open a retro beauty parlor themed doughnut shop, complete with a charming photo booth, sputnik chandeliers, and better yet, stocked with ten plus varieties of vegan doughnuts. If this sounds like your cup of tea (I know it definitely sounds like mine!), Glam Doll Doughnuts should be at the top of your Minneapolis must-eat list.

Upon entering the pink, light-filled shop, we made a beeline to the vegan case all the way to the right of the counter. While it was almost too hard to pick between the selections, we opted for a Varga Girl, oozing with almond cream and chocolate icing; Femme Fatale, stuffed with raspberry curd and vanilla icing; and Night Moves, with blackberry Hennessy icing and topped with fresh jam and brown sugar crumbles. As a self-proclaimed doughnut connoisseur, it always makes me a wee bit sad that vegans are sometimes relegated to the world of all cake doughnuts, all the time, so these gooey-filled doughnuts were a welcome culinary departure. If you're looking for a recomendation, all of our selections were solid, but Varga Girl, a Boston cream doughnut with an almondy finish, was the showstopper.

In terms of food, Glam Doll is generally limited to doughnuts (although omnivore friendos can check out the brunch options at their Central Avenue location), but if the sugar rush alone isn’t enough to get you going, they also boast a full lineup of Intellegentsia coffee-based drinks.

The shop itself is full of retro furniture and upon our visit, stuffed to the brim with adorable hipster families and even more adorable pups. I can’t imagine anything better for a Saturday morning than sitting by Glam Doll’s huge windows, munching on a delicious doughnut, coffee in hand, and watching the world (or at least Minneapolis) go by.

Hard Times Cafe

1821 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55454; open every day from 6  am - 4 am.

If you take the polished glitz of Glam Doll and literally imagine the complete opposite vibe, you may be somewhere close to Hard Times Cafe. From the haphazard ‘80s board games stacked on shelves to the facetious menu signange alerting patrons of the stupid questions surcharge, this employee-owned cafe is pretty much the most divey greasy spoon you can imagin. While I imagine the gritty ambiance could be off-putting for some, the sunny corners filled with plants and photos of employees’ travels displayed proudly on the walls, kind of makes Hard Times Cafe feel more like you’re eating cheap, comforting diner favorites in your grumpy, but warm-hearted punk-rock friend’s basement.

The menu is all vegetarian (including plenty of vegan options) with a Tex-Mex twist, and like any good diner, breakfast is served all day along with other diner favorites to round out the menu. The ordering system is a bit confusing- you get a menu and an ordering slip from the counter, write down your selection and its associated price, and bring it up to the counter. This gives you plenty of time to peruse and select from the expansive menu, but I do suspect this method of ordering (and the overall utilitarian vibe of the restaurant) may discourage substitutions or other modifications to your order. Once you pay (cash only!), you just go sit down and people-watch the regulars (an interesting crowd, for sure) until they call out your order.

My husband ordered the vegan breakfast bagel, (with tofu scramble, a homemade vegan sausage patty, and cheese) while I opted for a vegan biscuit breakfast, which comes with tofu scramble, a sausage patty, hash browns, and a melt-in-your-mouth biscuit (while you can also choose to smother the plate in gravy, given the rest of our Minneapolis smorgasbord, my future muffin top told me to nix this option). The food is exactly what you would expect from a cheap diner- the coffee was watery, the hash browns extra greasy, and the biscuit fluffy and best with lots and lots of strawberry jam. I spent a lot of late nights as a teen in Denny’s, drinking black coffee and being OH SO HARDCORE, and there’s something so wonderfully nostalgic and comforting about sitting on a cracked vinyl seat and shoveling a plate o’ greasy carbs in your mouth, all while trading war stories with your dining companion.

While I wouldn’t recommend this place as a fancy date-night spot, it is the perfect place to soak up some booze at 3 in the morning or fuel up for an early morning hike.


LUNCH AND DINNER:

The Herbivorous Butcher

507 1st Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413; open Tuesday-Friday 10 AM-7 PM;; Saturday 10 AM-6PM; Sunday 11 AM-4PM.

The main reason my husband and I were in Minneapolis was to see one of our favorite bands, Bon Iver, perform, but I’m not going to lie, a big portion of why I wanted to visit was the Herbivorous Butcher. If you follow any sort of vegan social-media accounts or mainstream media sources, you may have heard about this butcher shop that sells regular cuts of Italian sausage, barbecue ribs, pepperoni, and cheeses like camembert and dill havarti, all 100% made from plants (the shop was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and the Internet was all atwitter about their stint at Coachella 2018, where they served attendees a BLT with fried chicken patties in lieu of bread, fit to make even Colonel Sanders blush). While this sister-and-brother-run operation started as a stand at farmers’ markets and breweries across Minnesota, they soon thereafter opened a full-blown butcher shop (complete with sterile tiled walls and glass butcher display case) in Northeast Minneapolis in early January of 2016 and even recently launched a food truck.

This brick-and-mortar location functions similarly to a typical butcher shop, where patrons can come and pick up cuts of meats and cheeses to take home for grilling or baking on their own (as well as selected other vegan wares, like vegan honey). Each week, however, the shop has a few sandwich selections that will be made on-site for hungry visitors to take home. On our visit, we chose to pick up The Forager, consisting of roast beef, smoked gouda, marinated mushrooms, sauteed kale, and mushroom mayo, and a breakfast sandwich, with All-American breakfast sausage, a tofu egg patty, white cheddar and spinach, with a red-pepper sauce, served on focaccia.

Likely a function of the shop’s stunning popularity (which hosted some 5,000 visitors its opening weekend alone), it does not have a dine-in option. We took our sandwiches to a nearby park, St. Anthony’s, to bask in the gloriousness of our lunch from the comfort of a picnic table. Everything about the sandwiches was incredible- from the Forager’s bread, dripping with au jus to the velvety mouthfeel of the roast beef with spicy red-pepper sauce. Vegan cheese, which sometimes can be a bit hit-or-miss, was definitely the stand-out of both sandwiches- the tangy taste of the cheddar was on point, and I will forever be dreaming of the smoky flavor and creamy mouthfeel of the gouda. Oh so goud-a, I’d definitely recommend picking up a couple ounces to take home with you (I’m sorry; the pun could  simply not be avoided).

In light of the shop’s popularity, expect long lines if you go during lunch; so if you’re in a hurry, I’d recommend trying it at off-times. Long lines be damned, this shop is 100% a do not miss spot in Minneapolis.

J. Selby’s

169 N Victoria St, St Paul, MN 55104; open Monday through Friday from 11 AM-10 PM; weekends from 8 AM-10 PM.

As someone who actively stalks lots of plant-based social media accounts, I’m not sure how I had never heard of J. Selby’s prior to heading to the Twin Cities. Boy, oh, boy, does it deserve all of the Instagram (and real life) followers. This all-vegan comfort-food based eatery dishes up seriously huge portions of stick-to-your-ribs favorites- think chili dogs, spicy peanut stir fry, and chorizo-stuffed tacos, as well as a wide-selection of MSP brewed beers. While a physician opened this restaurant to accommodate others who follow a vegan lifestyle, there is certainly few things I would classify as "healthy".

Upon arriving at the restaurant, you will order at the register and a server will give you a number and guide you to your table. When we arrived, the place was packed and we had to wait in an about twenty-five minute line. While this could be chalked up to the fact that our visit fell on the anniversary of their opening-week, I suspect demand for this restaurant is generally pretty high- upon first opening, the shop had to temporarily close for a week to restock on food and hire more staff to accommodate the overwhelming customer demand.

We ordered the buffalo cauliflower wings as an appetizer, the Dirty Secret, a Big Mac throwback, and a buffalo soy curls wrap. I’ve had my fair share of buffalo cauliflower wings, but the ones here are INSANE- the tender cauliflower encased in the tangy, crunchy batter is the perfect texture combination, not to mention the creamy ranch for dipping. While it's hard to play favorites with this meal, the Dirty Secret was a nostalgic beefy wonder, with two burger patties (supplied by the Herbivorous Butcher, naturally), special sauce, and American cheese on a sesame seed bun. This sandwich is downright tasty and sure to please even the most adamant omnivore. The buffalo soy curls wrap was no slouch either; the meaty mouthfeel of the soy curl wraps is almost a bit disarming, and perfectly complemented by the bright pop of tomatoes and lettuce.

J. Selby’s also has a wide variety of desserts from nearby bakery, Vegan East. While my body physically could not consume anything further after their enormous portions, I’d definitely love to come back and give their carrot cake a whirl. Or better yet, maybe even try their weekend brunch, with its offerings of unique takes on breakfast classics, like a Mediterranean scramble or blueberry granola buckwheat pancakes. Next time, Minneapolis!

Pizza Luce

Multiple locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area; hours vary by location.

By the time Justin and I arrived in Minneapolis for the weekend, it was 11 pm. Where could two hungry vegan travelers find some grub at an hour like this? Turns out, one of Minneapolis’s most beloved pizza chains.

Pizza Luce prides itself on inclusivity, from its policies allowing employees to flaunt their tattoos and piercings to its sign on the doors proclaiming their welcoming attitude towards LGBTQ folks to it expansive gluten free and vegan menu. While this place is not exclusively plant-based, the plentiful vegan offerings are marked as such on the menu. I always try to eat at local small businesses, but I am extra appreciative of restaurants that go above and beyond to make a social differences (as I write this article, their website is advertising an event where the restaurant will donate 35% of its dine-in proceeds to a local charity that supports individuals affected by HIV/AIDS; pizza and social justice is one of my favorite combinations).

Immediately upon sitting down, our extremely nice (some might even say “Minnesota nice”) waitress told us it was late night happy hour (from 10 pm-1 am at their St. Paul restaurant, but double check if you’re headed to another location!), which meant that their enormous list of locally brewed beers were all about $3. For the record, favorite way to start a meal ever!

After sipping our tasty brews, we selected the garlic cheese toast appetizer and the Fire Breathing Dragon, a pizza topped with sweet chili sauce, spicy Jerk tofu, pineapple salsa and green onion- both of which you can select between topping with either Daiya mozzarella or housemade cashew cheese. While I’m super happy to find restaurants that offer Daiya as an option, I am over the moon THRILLED when places offer housemade alternatives, so we opted for the cashew cheese on both accounts.  For those unfamiliar with cashew cheese, it should come with a disclaimer that it’s a bit different than the typical gooey, stringy texture of cheese. This cashew option is likely more akin to a nutty (extraordinarily tasty) spread than its dairy-based cousin- so if you’re in search of that nostalgic texture in a non-dairy alternative, you may be better off sticking with Daiya.

The garlic cheese toast was crispy and buttery, and I could have (....and may have) eaten the garlicky marinara dipping sauce by the spoonful. The Fire Breathing Dragon likely would not have been my initial pick, but it was recommended by our waitress. And am I glad she did. The spicy-sweet combination, in concert with the explosion of textures (creamy cashew cheese, crisp green onions, firm jerk tofu), was just what my weary traveling body needed before resting up for our next big adventure.

Restaurant with good vibes and good eats? Would return again.


For Dessert:

Crepe and Spoon

339 22nd Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418; open Tuesday-Thursday- 3-10 PM; Friday-Saturday- 11 AM- 10 PM; Sunday- 11 AM-8 PM.

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My hometown of St. Louis is pretty vegan friendly, but we sadly don’t have any all vegan ice cream places. Imagine my awe and delight to find that Minneapolis boasts a dairy-free ice cream shop AND creperie (gluten-free people, rejoice! A gluten-free crepe is also available)!

Upon entering the sunny shop, you can order up a bowl or cone of one of the unique ice cream flavors, like lavender chocolate raspberry or Thai tea, or alternatively, a sweet or savory crepe, stuffed with options ranging from vegan cheese and ham to lavender lemon curd. Justin ordered mint chocolate chip, as well as a flavor called “banana and friends”, a banana ice cream swirled with chocolate, Oreos, and peanut butter. Some vegan ice creams miss the mark in terms of texture, but Crepe and Spoon’s was velvety, creamy, and right on target. I indulged my inner fat kid and ordered a banana bread crepe, stuffed with gooey banana sauce, crunchy pecans, and brown sugar, topped with a scoop of their coffee ice cream. As someone who has missed crepes since adopting a vegan lifestyle, I can’t imagine a more glorious reintroduction than this impossibly indulgent combo.

This adorable place would be perfect for families on a hot summer day or for a quick late-night date for a couple with a sweet tooth. Rachel Booth, one of the shop’s owners, told us they were trying to create a space where no kid is ever left out because of a dietary restriction- mission accomplished, Crepe and Spoon!


Well, that’s a wrap for my Twin Cities recommendations! While there were plenty of other places I wanted to check out (I’m looking at you, Holy Arepa, Vegan East, and Evan’s Organic Eatery), my stomach will have to wait until the next time I’m in the area. Have you been to Minneapolis-St. Paul and given any of these places a try? Any other must-eat recommendations? Let me know below!