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Remember the Mad, Mad Mexican, East Lake Street purveyor of remarkably thin enchiladas and other questionable Southwestern fare? Of course you do, because for years and years it was virtually the only middle-of-the-night alternative to Perkins, Embers, and, even lower on the stoner munchie food chain, Winchell's. It wasn't so long ago, come to think of it, that only those Midwesterners living on the furthest social fringes failed to roll up their sidewalks at a respectable, defensible hour.
Now that Twin Cities bars have another hour to peddle their liquid fun, there's plenty of demand for local eateries able and willing to cushion stomachs into the wee hours. Things can still be a little hit-and-miss after prime time, though, which is where we hope this late-night dining guide will come in handy. We looked around and found a smattering of everything, from old-fashioned diners to slinky lounges that keep their neon signs glowing a little bit later than the rest. Here are some of the brightest.
2550 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; 612.813.1200
Azia is your stylish but low-key lounge, bar, and restaurant. It's also a late-night hot spot for stylish but low-key south Minneapolitans wishing to commune over a half-priced menu that covers appetizers, bottles of wine, martinis, and the city's largest selection of sakes. Peruse the offerings, but don't be surprised if you find yourself staring down a plate of their most popular item, the cream cheese wontons. They're punched up with sweet, tart cranberries, and made savory with fresh scallions, earning them the hugely coveted honor of being the best in town. Don't worry if you're not down with the wontons. Since the flatteringly lit, sexy spot also serves its full menu till 2:00 a.m. every night, it's well loved by just about every south Minneapolitan who has ever subscribed to Details or W.
119 N. Fourth St., Minneapolis; 612.333.7359
3200 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.827.5978
2201 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.332.2535
What makes a city cosmopolitan? Ever-ready midnight- or late-breakfast-pizza slices with artichokes next to a good beer is as good a definition as any, so hallelujah for these beloved Minneapolis gems. All three restaurants serve up a crisp crust, potent red sauce, and more toppings than you can shake an antipasto at: calamata olives, roasted red peppers, homemade sausage, barbecued chicken, and spicy mock duck, to name a very few. (Vegans, please note: Lucé has more animal-free possibilities than just about any other metro restaurant.) Trying to pick between them? The Lyn-Lake and Seward locations are neighborhood joints with easy parking that close at 1:00 a.m., 2:30 a.m. on the weekends. The downtown Lucé is the most hopping, offering a full bar, full-service and counter sections for seating, and is open till 2:00 a.m. on weekdays and an invaluable 3:30 a.m. on weekends.
1201 Harmon Pl., Minneapolis; 612.604.0585
Jamaican jerk pork. Cayman Island fish tacos. Dominican peeky-toe crab cakes. A standout "Bermuda" cheeseburger with sweet potato fries. Despite these tempting tropical delicacies, your first priority at Tiburón will probably be one of their late-night happy-hour cocktail specials. Try the first-rate mojitos, served with a sugar-cane stirrer, or a potent sangria, amped up with top-shelf liquors. (The Minneapple is the cutest drink in town, a martini tribute to the most famous sculpture in town--so see it for yourself to figure out more.) Once seated at Tiburón, enjoy gazing at the vast aquarium that bisects this large, 260-seat restaurant and imparts a lightly glamorous, fun James Bond (circa Live and Let Die) feel. And if island hopping leaves you so very tired that you never feel like leaving, that would be better accomplished here than most places, because Tiburón serves their full menu till 2:00 a.m. on weekends.
36 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651.222.5633
1950 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651.698.8387
It should come as no surprise that America's All Day Favorite Meal at Mickey's consists of the genius some call "breakfast." As Midwesterners, we have--or should have--certain inalienable rights, primary among them the right to have eggs grilled in butter 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Mickey's is just about the last place in town to recognize that constitutional guarantee: Burgers, malts, eggs and pancakes all day, Mulligan stew, sundaes, BLTs, and some darn good fries issue forth from the modest grills in a raging, corn-fed, red-white-and-blue river. In the middle of the night, you can find hockey fans sitting next to bikers sitting next to Ordway-goers. Close your eyes and the sizzling griddle sounds like the drum roll leading into the national anthem.
2700 E. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.728.1778
Tortas mean a lot of things to a lot of people. But at Manny's they mean crisp French bread, hot and sweet chipotle mayo, and fillings, ranging from the massive Manny's Special (which starts with steak, ham, and Swiss cheese, adds piles of sautéed vegetables, and builds dizzyingly from there) to the rich and decadent veggie (with refried beans, fresh avocado, sautéed mushrooms, and Swiss cheese--ask for extra hot peppers). Manny's is also an after-bar miracle, as this particular location is open till 3:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, serves beer and wine, and takes credit cards--which also means a lot to a lot of people.
1600 W. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.827.5710
Named for transgressive Barbette the Enigma, a Parisian circus aerialist who captured the imagination of Cocteau and Man Ray, Barbette of Uptown is a bit of an enigma as well. How do they serve such unusual, such excellent wines for such low prices? How do they manage to have some of the best fries in town, and also such estimable fresh oysters? How do they do it for such good prices in a place that is so conveniently open from the wee early hours of the morning to 1:00 a.m. every night? Oh well, if Barbette of Minneapolis chooses to be all transgressive and violate the established norms of price and value in Uptown, who are we to complain?
2916 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.824.7878
If you're a hot enough country, you're cool enough to have your cuisine represented at red-hot Chino Latino: Thailand, Jamaica, Polynesia, Korea, take a bow, you're in! But at night it's their self-proclaimed "Mexican hangover food" that rules the world's hot zones. Get a jump on the next morning with $2 plates of chicken enchiladas. Or celebrate the shadowy hours with the popular French Toast of the Dead, made with orange and anise bread and topped with a rum caramel sauce. If you're hot enough to sip powerful, fruity, yummy drinks in a dazzling sort of red-toned Blade Runner sequel of a restaurant, look no further than this two-level style palace. Open until 2:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 1:00 a.m. Sunday.
2450 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; 612.870.8000
Yummy is one of the most authentic Chinese restaurants in the Twin Cities, serving Hong Kong-style dishes of almost endless number and variety. In fact, perhaps a little too endless, starting with dim sum and running into hundreds of items. And that list never shrinks, not even as the restaurant approaches its 1:00 a.m. weekend closing time. Here's a quick cheat-sheet: Order a live fish from the wall of tanks and you'll receive pressure-steamed, green onion-, cilantro-, soy- and rice-wine-enhanced fish of trembling, cloud-like texture and unforgettable subtlety. Add any of the hot pots; the eggplant with garlic sauce is so sweet and rich you'll swear the slices of eggplant were injected with honey. Finally, round out the meal with fresh pea shoots in garlic, bright as springtime and vibrating with flavor, and you'll finally understand why people go so gaga over authentic Chinese food, and why so many locals are so gaga over Yummy.
601 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.312.1168
If you find the concessions stand at a Timberwolves game less than alluring, take a post-buzzer victory jog to the stunning Cosmos. Full menu service ends at 11:00 p.m. on the weekends, but late-night bar fare continues until 2:00 a.m. If their club sandwiches and burgers are still too pedestrian, indulge in the fine appetizers of cheeses, foie gras, and sweetbreads. By the time you're swooning over your plate, you will have mastered at least one of the mysteries of the cosmos--namely, where the heck the place is. (Up on the fourth floor of Le Meridien hotel, on First Avenue across from the Target Center, and accessible only through the hotel lobby.)
Lindsey Thomas contributed additional reporting to this article.
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