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The best small restaurants in the Twin Cities

Michelle Leon
Big island flavors, tiny space.

What's nice about dining in a small space? The coziness creates the ability for the chefs and barkeeps to really take time to give you their attention, and, while it's not every Minnesotan's cup of tea, you can also visit with your neighboring tables. Let's check out some of the smallest spaces that are home to the best bites in the Cities.

5. Caribe Caribbean Bistro
In a cozy space where both the atmosphere and food are colorful and vibrant, owner and chef Tony Panelli brings the flavors of his native Puerto Rico to the Midwest. In this little room, painted with bright murals, the sweet flavors of plantains, coconut, and rum meet the spice of peppers, onions, and jerk seasonings in a heavenly union. It's also important to show the businesses affected by the light rail construction a little support.
791 Raymond Ave., Saint Paul, 651.641.1446. Website.  Slideshow: Caribe restaurant tour


4. Piccolo
In a space that is simple; clean, contemporary, and filled with light, this wee little gem in south Minneapolis is the kind of place where you want to spend the most special of occasions, savoring a meal that lasts for hours. Chef Doug Flicker's ever evolving and revolving menu celebrates the joy of small plates, created with sparkling fresh ingredients. As this year's Best Restaurant (Minneapolis/St. Paul), the variety of beautiful little bites offers an entire palate of colors, scents, tastes, and textures.
4300 Bryant Avenue S., Minneapolis, 612.827.8111. Website.  Slideshow: Piccolo restaurant tour

3. Ristorante Luci  This is the kind of restaurant where you want your meal to last for hours; the petite space that houses Ristorante Luci creates intimacy, with traditional Italian dishes lovingly prepared, and expertly crafted, multicourse tasting menus, and a stellar wine list. This place is blissfully romantic, but also a lovely place to catch up with a friend while enjoying perfect antipasto and pasta. 470 Cleveland Avenue S., Saint Paul, 651.699.8258. Website

2. Pastor Hamilton's BBQ

Home to some of the best BBQ in town, Pastor Hamilton's is also a charitable endeavor, raising money for The Youth College Fund. Not only are the pastor's slow-roasted ribs, beans, and potato salad killer delicious, but half the fun is chatting with the friendly man behind the grill. Just a few seats in this joint, but hang out for a bit and you are likely to meet most of the neighborhood.
Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.. 1150 East Seventh Street, St. Paul, 651.772.0279. website

1. Al's Breakfast

Located in a former alleyway in Dinkytown, a hella narrow space with just 14 stools, this tiny locale has been home to the Cities' best hangover cures for over 50 years. The pancakes are where it's at, blissfully light and tasty, while a big plate of eggs and bacon is mighty fine, too. This classic greasy spoon--a Minneapolis legend--proves a small space can dish up an epic meal..
413 14th Avenue SE., Minneapolis, 612.331.9991


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