Last week we took a tour of the best breakfasts in St. Paul, and after all the comments claiming that we "missed" restaurants that are actually in Minneapolis (ahem), we decided that yes, we needed to make things right with the world. So this week we're hopping across the river to give St. Paul's sister city the same morning meal treatment. It should be noted that we only selected places that serve daily breakfast and not just weekend brunch. That's another top 10 list entirely.
And now that we've cleared up all the details, let's get down to the nitty gritty. Here are our 10 favorite breakfast restaurants in Minneapolis.
You'll find nothing but breakfast basics at Milda's in the Near North area of Minneapolis. But everything is done with the pancake-flipping confidence of a place that's been around for decades. Grits are creamy, French toast is lacy at the edges and custardy in the center, and Kielbasa is one of the side sausage options, which really should be available at more restaurants. You might walk in thinking you're the first to discover Milda's, but regulars keep lining up for the affordable prices, enormous, fluffy-soft caramel and iced cinnamon rolls, and general lack of pretense. If you don't fill up on eggs and hash browns at breakfast, come back at dinner for simple, well-seasoned broasted chicken and Milda's famous Iron Range-style pasties.
Is Al's still worth the wait and the cramped conditions? Devotees will tell you it's all part of the charm. There are times when the environment is a hindrance, but we do tend to agree that when you're hankering for an Al's pancake (get the blueberry or blackberry ones when they're available), there is truly no substitute. To maximize your chances of having an ideal Al's experience, come early on a weekday, with an empty bladder (no bathroom), cash in hand, and know what you're going to order as soon as a seat frees up. If it sounds like a lot of work, just repeat this mantra to yourself: bacon waffle bacon waffle bacon waffle bacon waffle...
Going out for breakfast with a mixed bag of dietary needs? Make a beeline for Modern Times Cafe in Powderhorn. This grungy but great breakfast and lunch spot accommodates the needs of carnivores, omnivores, locavores, and the gluten-averse with a whole host of delicious dishes like the Mexican migas with textured vegetable protein chorizo and poblano sour cream; an earthy hash of roasted beets, goat cheese, eggs, and bacon called the Beet Up; and a couple of hearty, savory fried brown rice bowls, loaded with veggies, eggs, herbs, and all kinds of satisfying textures. Lest you think this is only a place for the virtuous to dine, there is the Croque John Paul, essentially a Frankenstein's monster of eggs Benedict and a Croque Monsieur sandwich.
We've said it before and we'll probably say it again: God bless Victor's for making the concept of breakfast happy hour socially acceptable. If you can snag a spot outside on the lovely patio and manage to decide between the mango pancakes or the weird-sounding but totally delicious Cuban hash with olives, raisins, capers, and sweet plantains, you'll be feeling about as tropical as one can in the middle of Minneapolis. On the more Gringo side of the menu, the pressed breakfast sandwich and wild rice porridge are also top-notch.
6. The Mill NE
Looking for more than the same old standards at breakfast? The Mill NE's daily brunch will not disappoint. Their wild rice pancakes and "biscones", a buttery, crumbly biscuit and scone hybrid that is incredible with their peppery mushroom gravy, both have a well-deserved cult following. But on a recent visit we discovered the shirred egg bake, made with cubes of perfumey caraway and mild, melty halloumi cheese on top. If you plan to hang out awhile, consider getting the BYO Bubbly -- a sort of mini bottle service featuring cava and a bunch of fresh fruit purees, juices, and a glass of creme de cassis.
5. Hot Plate
Full of thrift store art, cozy charm, and a hundred cool lighting fixtures, Hot Plate has long been loved for its fluffy-yet-thin pancakes and Lingonberry-tinged compound butter. But every time we try something new here -- like the smoked trout hash or Drive-Thru breakfast sandwich with sausage, fried egg, and American cheese (one of those instances where no other cheese will suffice) on a house-made biscuit -- we fall for Hot Plate all over again. It's never too too crowded, too too noisy, too too expensive, or too too greasy. Mainly though, we love Hot Plate because we always get such sunny, smiling service here.
4. Zumbro Cafe
One of the slightly "fancier" options on our breakfast short list (we save the really fancy stuff for weekend brunch), Zumbro Cafe in Linden Hills often gets overshadowed by its admittedly impressive culinary neighbors. But Zumbro has as much to offer kids with the gimme-gimmes (teddy bear pancakes!) as it does gourmand grown-ups. Think: chicken wild rice hash that's a play on the classic hot dish with creamy rosemary gravy; spongy, melt-on-the-tongue cornmeal pancakes; and maybe the best eggs Benedict on this list. Use a walk around nearby Lake Harriet as before-or-after breakfast motivation accordingly.
Is the original location better than the new one? That's a debate for another Dish-cussion, but the ironically named Colossal Cafe near the intersection of 42nd Street and Cedar Avenue is most definitely still going strong, even after expanding. The scrambled eggs they make for biscuit sandwiches and omelets are still impossibly fluffy; the red pepper and fennel breakfast sausage is still hand-pattied and super-savory; and again -- the yeasty flapper pancakes are a state treasure. It's the smack-in-the-neighborhood, wrap-it-in-wax-paper, open-til-closed vibe that gives this location its enduring character, and we can't get enough.
This quick, counter-service bakery breakfast in Kingfield, is home to one of the most crazy-indulgent dishes we have ever had the pleasure of starting our day with: the Southern-fried biscuit. It's a buttery biscuit sandwich with a hunk of super-solid de-boned fried chicken, chewy-crisp strips of bacon, and a side of peppery sausage gravy for dipping. Though it's hard to pass up the Southern-fried (get a side of deep-fried mashed potato balls if you're feeling ravenous), we've also been known to get the tangy sourdough flapjacks or just load up on expertly made pastries like the rhubarb turnover, raspberry scream scone, or chocolate-hazelnut bear claw. The full menu of Dogwood Coffee drinks is just the icing on the cake here.
Oh savory waffle, how we missed you! It was a dicey few months there, as Birchwood closed for renovations, but now they're back and better than ever. The Seward/Longfellow-area staple has been serving an all-organic, vegetarian-friendly (and very non-vegetarian-friendly -- hello lardons!) breakfast for years, but the new Birchwood 2.0 has all kinds of expansions and upgrades that make the experience of eating there all the more pleasant. There's a bigger dining room, an expanded kitchen -- complete with deep fryer, and new spring menu items. The asparagus and snap pea quiche is rich but airy and bright and the unexpected sweet pea pancakes with grapefruit marmalade are a creation only the Birchwood could pull off.