Cheesesteaks and chowda: Where to find top Twin Cities takes on Philly and New England faves

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It's as good as it looks. Frank From Philly

So you’re visiting from the East Coast for the Super Bowl, and you’ve already eaten your way through the iconic foods of the Twin Cities.

You sank your teeth into a Jucy Lucy and burrowed into some tater tot hot dish, and if another person tries to get you to order fried cheese curds or walleye fritters from the happy hour menu you’re gonna erupt in a geyser of grease.

Now you’re looking for a taste of home -- a hoagie and a Yuengling, or chowda and a ’Gansett tallboy. And what you really want, we’re willing to bet, is to try our takes on your favorite regional fare and tell us all the ways in which we get them wrong.

Well folks, City Pages food editor Emily Cassel and beer editor Jerard Fagerberg grew up in the Philly 'burbs and New England, respectively, and we’re here with good news if you like good food and bad news if you're looking to complain: You can find a mean baked bean, a beautifully buttery lobster roll -- and yes, even a damn good cheesesteak -- in the Twin Cities.

Let us tell you where to go.

If you’re in from Philly...

What you’re craving: A cheesesteak
Where to go: Frank From Philly & Andrea Pizza, 1235 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis
I know, I know. Complaining about what other cities try to pass off as a “Philly Cheesesteak” is as much a point of pride for us as Ben Franklin. Or Rocky. But this 2017 City Pages Best Sandwich winner comes wiz wit on an Amoroso’s hoagie roll and rivals anything you’d get at Pat’s, Geno’s, or even Jim’s, which -- I’ll say it -- we all know makes the city’s best steak.

What you’re craving: Pierogi
Where to go: Kramarczuk's, 215 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
As a part-Polish Pennsylvanian (grandfather’s surname: Gajderowicz), I know my way around a pocket full of potato. You can’t do much better than the ones at this deli in Northeast -- even though, full disclosure, Kramarczuk's has Ukrainian origins. Doesn’t matter: The excellent ‘rogi at the Eastern European favorite might be even better than the ones your babcia used to make.

What you’re craving: Soft pretzels
Where to go: New Bohemia Wurst + Bierhaus, 800 W. Lake St. and 233 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Fourteen dollars for a soft pretzel? Yeah, this is not the grab-and-go, street-cart-style favorite you can track down on every corner in Philadelphia -- it’s a bigger-than-your-head behemoth made in the traditional German style. Dotted with just the right touch of salt and served on a baking sheet, this baby positively begs you to tear into it. (It's so good, we once wrote a 500-word love letter about it.)

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LOOK AT IT. Facebook: New Bohemia

What you’re craving: Water ice
Where to go: Grand Italian Ice, 920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis
Something I’ve learned: No one knows what you’re talking about when you ask for water ice -- or, in our southeastern PA parlance, wooder ice -- out here in the Midwest. I’m also 98 percent certain you’d be crazy to crave it, given the forecast. But if you are, for some reason, saddened by the lack of local Rita’s, you’ll find the closest Twin Cities surrogate at Grand Italian Ice. As a bonus, it’s situated in Midtown Global Market, which you should visit anyway, for Eastlake beer and Hot Indian Foods taco flights and Halal fare from Holy Land.

What you’re craving: Yuengling Lager
What to order: Schell’s Deer Brand
Find yourself missing the pride of Pottsville? Order a Schell’s. They might not hold the title of the country’s oldest brewery, but they have been brewing for 150 years, and their classic, crisp American lager boasts a comparable, sessionable ABV -- 4.8 percent to Yuengling’s 4.5 -- plus a shimmering amber hue that’s not unlike the Pennsylvania-brewed standard.

What you’re craving: Wawa
Where to go: Ha. Ha. Hahahaha.
Sorry, folks! It genuinely pains me to break it to you, but there’s no convenience store on this earth that rivals the ’wa. Welcome to the barren, Hoagiefest-less hellscape that is my life! You’ll just have to ride it out, and rest easy knowing at least you get to return to the promised land when the Super Bowl wraps up, while I slowly rot in a town with subpar gas station iced teas.

If you’re in from New England...

What you’re craving: Clam chowder
Where to go: Stella’s Fish Cafe, 1400 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
Yeah, no one makes a better mug of chowder than your grandma from Methuen, but clam chowder has traveled well to the Midwest. People out here have a chemical dependency on cream and butter, so the Minnesota interpretation of chowda is sufficiently rich. Stella’s in Uptown does it best, with big chunks of potato and clam stirring in the broth. Since I’m a hardline Masshole, I order mine without bacon.

What you’re craving: Baked beans
Where to go: Smoke in the Pit, 3733 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis
Beans taste like cardboard organs floating in gutter soup. But add a dollop of molasses and slap the modifier “Boston” in front, and you’ve got a goddamn classic side dish. South Minneapolis BBQ shack Smoke in the Pit steeps its beans in a creamy, sweet sauce that’s a worthy peer of the East Coast original. But they step it up with a hearty layer of smoke and spice.

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Joel Koyama, Star Tribune

What you’re craving: Lobster roll
Where to go: Smack Shack, 603 N. Washington Ave., Minneapolis
I have a dream that Smack Shack will one day rebrand as Legal Sea Foods Midwest. It’s got everything but the name, and as such, it’s the closest thing you’ll find to a New England embassy in Minneapolis. Their lobster roll is the genuine article, right down to the buttery, griddled roll. Order it Connecticut Style if you’re one of the few Constitution Staters who doesn’t root for the Giants.

What you’re craving: Johnny cakes
Where to go: Revival, 4257 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis, and 525 Selby Ave., St. Paul
Though it’s more famous for its fried chicken and paradigm-shifting burger, Revival also has the best johnny cake selection in the Cities. That is to say, the soul food mecca is about the only place that even makes them. Revival’s corn flatbreads come smothered with ham, cheddar, black-eyed peas, and a poached egg. It’s definitely an upscale interpretation fit for an extravagant Super Bowl weekend.

What you’re craving: Steak tips
Where to go: Eagle Street Grille, 174 W. Seventh St., St. Paul
When I moved to Minneapolis, I was horrified that no butcher or sub shop in the Twin Cities had ever heard of steak tips. Come on! It’s the tip of the steak! That is, until I found the St. Paul Police Dept. at Eagle Street. More a sampler platter than a proper steak tip entree, the St. Paul Police Dept. comes with juicy tenderloin cuts, fried onion petals, and sauteed peppers with three sauces (ranch, chipotle, and the goddamn mandatory teriyaki). It’s not quite the same as getting a post-game $11 gut bomb smothered in American cheese on Comm. Ave., but it’ll do while you’re in town.

What you’re craving: Narragansett Lager
Where to go: Grain Belt Premium
Every region has its own local budget beer. Texas has Longhorn, the Pacific Northwest has Rainier, and the mid-Atlantic has National Bohemian, but none of these bargain brands have the affectionate following of ’Gansett. Revered for its refreshing body and proficiency at washing down steamers, ’Gansett is a nearly irreplaceable cultural touchstone in New England. Luckily, Minneapolis has a similar relationship with Grain Belt Premium. If you love the Official Beer of the Clam, you’ll revel in the classic simplicity of the Big Friendly.


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