This week we’re introducing a special flavor of our app Sujjest, called Sujjest Lunch. It’s an easy way for a group to choose where to eat. Participants suggests some lunch options, you tap the options you prefer toward the finish line, and the first to the finish is where you’ll eat! It’s also simple to invite people to join in the decision, you just share a link that your friends or colleagues can click to participate.

To celebrate the debut of Sujjest Lunch, this week we’re turning our eyes to the lunch landscapes of the two cities where Sujjest is most active. Last fall I took a trip to Minneapolis, where I was hosted by my friend and fellow Sujjest cofounder Sol. Since I managed to eat out quite a bit during that trip, I’ll tie in some of my personal perspective on the dining scene there, in addition to presenting the facts.

To get a fact-based perspective on the prevalence of different dining options in Minneapolis, we’ve done some statistical analysis of restaurants taken from the city’s Yelp listings for the 300 top-rated restaurants in the low and medium price ranges.

If you want the option of imbibing any alcoholic beverages midday, Minneapolis has you pretty well covered, with over a third of its eateries holding a liquor license. If having a beer with lunch isn’t your thing, I’d still highly recommend posing the prompt “What brewery?” to your friends with our main app for good times after hours. The creative and refreshing selection on tap at Eastlake Craft Brewery comes to mind as an option that I’d love to return to (their rotating tap selection isn’t listed online though, so you’ll have to go taste it for yourself).

Minneapolis’ own culinary self-image (presented neatly at https://www.minneapolis.org/blog/foods-minneapolis-is-known-for/) both matched up in some ways and diverged in others from my own personal experience and from the Yelp data. One thing Yelp.com, Minneapolis.org, and my experience all agreed on was the city’s burger scene.

After introducing Sujjest to the audience at Minnedemo 30 this past October, our team moseyed down the block to the Blue Door Pub (Longfellow), where I was introduced to two of Minneapolis’ best-known specialties: a “Juicy Lucy” (that’s a burger with molten cheese inside of it rather than on top of it) and a basket of fried cheese curds.

The Juicy Lucy I opted for, the “Mount Blucuvious”, came with ghost pepper cheese and fried avocado. Reckoning this was not enough calories, I also requested they “Make it a Jiffy” by slathering on peanut butter and thick-cut bacon. As minneapolis.org says, “don’t knock it until you try it!” Since I rarely eat burgers, when I do I like them to be more than a little preposterous and my burger at Blue Door certainly qualified.

Me, dressed up as Norway’s first king, Harald Fairhair, for a Syttende Mai parade.

Apparently Minneapolis is known for their Scandinavian food… or at least they think they are. As a guy named Kjell, you might think I’d be into that.

As it happens… I’m not particularly. If you are, you still might have a hard time finding a lunch place that serves Nordic specialties in Minneapolis though.

Despite Minnesota’s Scandinavian immigrant heritage, it just doesn’t seem well represented among local restaurants, at least among those downtown — though you’ll see at the top of the tower of European restaurants in the chart below that it’s not entirely absent.

Breakfast foods — whether served in the actual morning, or at any time of day — are the single largest standout feature of Minneapolis’ dining scene, with more restaurants self-identifying as a spot for breakfast and brunch than with any other label. As confirmed in the data, Minneapolis restaurants’ burger game is also strong (and innovative, as with the aforementioned Juicy Lucy’s), making it the top menu item in the city.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a midwestern metropolis, there are more restaurants that identify their style as “American” (dominated by its “traditional” and “new” subtypes) than any other block of regional ethnic food in the city. However, nearly a fifth of the restaurants in Minneapolis serve Asian food of some type or another, making Asian food almost as popular as American — not something I would have guessed before digging into the numbers! I imagine a big bowl of pho would be a delicious, warm consolation during Minneapolis’ frigid winters and the next time I visit I plan to check out one of Sol’s favorite Vietnamese restaurants, Bep.

One evening during my trip, Sol ordered in some delicious Ethiopian and Eritrean food from The Red Sea (slightly-tart, spongey injera to envelop shiro, kitfo, yabesh goman, ater kik, and derek tibs), which was wonderfully spiced. Cuisine from African countries is one of the least represented ethnic foods in many cities, so it was refreshing to taste it here in Midwest. It was unexpected meals like this that cumulatively left me with an impression of Minneapolis as a place filled with a lot of little gems that punch above their weight, offering surprises, ambiances and menus I wouldn’t tire of, and memorable spots to meet up with friends.

Early on in my trip, Ricky and Sadie, two friends who had moved to Minneapolis from Seattle, invited me to join them for breakfast at the Hard Times Cafe, a worker-owned vegetarian greasy spoon with a scrappy, ready-to-get-personal vibe reminiscent of endearing Seattle spots like Cafe Racerand Wayward Vegan Cafe. Breakfast at Hard Times felt like eating across multiple time zones at once. Open 22 hours a day, the space had that palpably lived-in liminal energy of a stage for the collision of the gauzy and the gritty, dreams and daylight.

One last parting note I hope you find as amusing as I do: a fancy James Beard award-winning restaurant in Minneapolis serves a dessert tray called the “Church Basement Cookie and Bar Plate”. I’m not nostalgic for church basements but it’s totally adorable that that’s a thing in MN.

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