My parents are coming into town this week, and possibly my cousin who lives out in Hudson. I'm trying to figure out a good place for us to go out to eat, but it needs to be something, price-wise and dish-wise, that would appeal to my small town Midwestern parents. Any suggestions? I'd prefer to do something nicer than a brew pub (which usually works fine for them) but I usually can't get too adventurous with them either...
I'm going to translate that request to mean entrees priced less than $20, and mostly American or Italian fare (no sushi, Indian, etc.), but also a chance for you to try someplace you normally wouldn't go by yourself because your parents are picking up the tab.
Your two best bets for Italian fare in that vein would be Broders Pasta Bar in South Minneapolis (but they don't take reservations, so you'll have to go early or late, or be prepared to wait at least 20 minutes) or Trattoria Tosca in Linden Hills, which has fewer pasta options but offers a few meaty entrees that the pasta bar lacks.
For American fare, Victory 44 in North Minneapolis offers a pub atmosphere with more "chef-y" fare, but it's still very accessible (burger, roast chicken, etc.). The retro-feeling Modern Cafe in Northeast would be a step fancier, offering a more upscale take on comfort food--an amazing pot roast that you can pair with a nice glass of wine.
If you can eek a few bucks more out of the parental pocketbook, I think you'd also do well at the relaxed French eatery Cafe Levain in South Minneapolis or the more Midwestern-experimental Haute Dish downtown--if you want to keep the bill down, avoid the spendier options like Duck in a Can, and order the "middle" dishes as entrees.