Now that spring has finally kicked winter to the curb, activity on Minneapolis's Chain of Lakes is swarming with those gratefully relieved of cabin fever. Releasing all that pent-up energy is bound to work up an appetite, but who wants to cut the day short searching for a bite to eat? Lake Calhoun's the Tin Fish and Lake Harriet's newly opened Bread & Pickle are great for dining right on the lakes, but they're far from the only options, as a wide array of great cuisine can be found within walking distance, no driving necessary. From burgers and pizza to curries and crêpes, here are our picks for the top five restaurants within walking distance of the Chain of Lakes.
1. Tilia A mere two blocks from Lake Harriet, Steven Brown's boisterous neighborhood eatery serves up everything from soups and salads to sandwiches and small plates nearly all day, as well as full-on entrees at night. Sidle up to the bar or grab a table and get an order in for creamy celery root chowder with oysters, caramelized brussels sprouts with walnuts and ham, hot dogs loaded with bacon and pickled cauliflower, or dry-aged Wild Acres duck breast. Better yet, snag a seat at the kitchen counter and watch the cooks in action. The beer list is extensive and thoughtfully chosen, with 21 selections on tap and and several more in bottles and cans, including Rush River, Full Sail, and Dave's Brew Farm.
2. Burger Jones If a day at the beach calls for burgers, but you just don't feel like grilling them yourself, head to Burger Jones, a block off the northwest edge of Lake Calhoun. The patties are juicy and beefy and can be dressed with everything from lettuce and cheese to chicken-fried bacon, cheese curds, and chili. Burger Jones also offers an impressive beer list, with 19 selections on tap and an array of domestic, imported, and craft bottled beer. Top it off with an order of poutine and a hard shake if you must, but you might want to log a few extra laps around the lake when you're done. Just sayin'.
3. Punch Pizza Craving pizza but don't have a lot of time to spare? Head to Punch, just a few doors down from Burger Jones off of Lake Calhoun, for a Neapolitan pie cooked to order in 90 seconds flat. Prices run from around $6 to $12 per pizza, and toppings include everything from Mt. Vesuvio tomatoes and mozzarella di bufala to prosciutto, goat cheese, and fresh herbs. Get it to go if you're jonesing to get back to the water or stay and pair it with a side salad and a beer on Punch's outdoor patio. Either way will have you back to your lakeside activities in no time.
4. Namaste Cafe If you're in the mood for Nepalese cuisine, head to Namaste Cafe, just five blocks east of Lake of the Isles. Set in a calming old house on Hennepin Ave., Namaste serves up local, organic fare for vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores alike, including dal, chaat, and a variety of curries. Order a glass of wine or a pot of chai and relax in the sunny dining room, or head to the patio outside for prime people watching.
5. Barbette Just a few blocks east of Lake Calhoun lies Barbette, where you can order up French fare like buckwheat crêpes, Niçoise salads, and steak frites from nearly sunrise to well past sunset. French Laundry alum Kevin Kathman helms the kitchen and sources local, organic ingredients whenever possible. Unwind with a glass of wine and a giant platter of fresh, hot French fries in the funky, eclectic dining room or at one of the bright, multicolored tables outside and enjoy a relaxing time out from a day at the lake.