Minnesota may be known for hot dish and walleye—and our chefs are darn good at making those foods—but the flavor of Minnesota goes far beyond homestyle comfort foods. It’s dim sum, empanadas, curry, and chapati, too. It’s scratch food made from local ingredients. It’s generational recipes and fine dining, all served with superb Midwestern hospitality. Across the state, we have options for any group and any palate. Here are some quintessential Minnesota bites to consider for your event.
From Our Capital to the Lakes
In Minnesota’s capital city of St. Paul, Cossetta Alimentari has been serving up Italian food for more than a century, and its Louis Ristorante & Bar has a private dining room for up to 50 with views of the city’s historic cathedral. A little newer but just as beloved is W.A. Frost & Co., which has given locals contemporary American cuisine in a European ambience since 1975. Indoor private dining can accommodate up to 60 attendees, and if you gather in warmer months, the patio is also available.
Both northern and southern Minnesota offer more musts: The New Scenic Cafe in Duluth and Twigs Tavern and Grille in Rochester. The New Scenic Cafe—the 2023 winner of the Minnesota Monthly Holiday Dining Bracket Challenge—serves New American food along the shores of Lake Superior with private dining for 26 or full buyouts for up to 74. Twigs Tavern and Grille is a New American spot featuring a picturesque patio, amber lighting, and—most importantly—a menu where every item has an equally delicious gluten-free version prepared in a separate kitchen. Book the back room for up to 60 or have them cater your gathering at the meeting rooms at the connected Centerstone Plaza Hotel. Either way, consider trying the award-winning butternut squash ravioli.
There is no shortage of international cuisine across the North Star State, either. Near Stillwater, about 30 minutes east of the Twin Cities, you’ll find Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter serving delicious German dishes in its renovated banquet room that can accommodate nearly 100 people. The banquet room is slated to reopen this February. Union Hmong Kitchen, by Chef Yia Vang (featured in the TV show “Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend”), has catering; Vinaian, which will open this spring in Minneapolis’ Northeast neighborhood; and a stint at North Loop Minneapolis’ Graze | Provisions + Libations, a food hall with semiprivate spaces for up to 200. A full buyout option is also available.
Abdirahman Kahin came from Somalia and started Afro Deli & Grill in the Twin Cities (also in Northeast)—snagging the 2023 National Small Business Person of the Year award from the U.S. Small Business Association—and although the locations don’t offer private dining, its catering—and sambusas—are not to be overlooked.
And then, of course, we have Ann Kim’s James Beard Award-winning pizzeria, Young Joni, also located in the Northeast neighborhood and offering buyouts for up to 125 people. One of Young Joni’s many clients was the McKnight Foundation, which held its Distinguished Artist Award celebration there in 2022 for theater leader Faye M. Price. Everyone was wowed by its beautiful space, hospitality—the staff even secured additional parking for guests—and the food, from the cocktail reception to the family-style entrees. Want an insider’s tip? A beloved local favorite is the
Korean short rib pizza.
“The beautiful part about this was that while all of our guests were seated throughout the restaurant at different tables, we all experienced each dish at the same time as they were brought out one by one,” recalls McKnight Senior Project Manager Maria Thu Salas. “To this day, when I see folks who attended the event, including Faye, they talk about how magnificent that evening was because of the ambience and, most importantly, the food.”
Intention in Every Dish
Owamni and Wise Acre are even more Minneapolis favorites offering a taste of the land. Chef Sean Sherman—otherwise known as “The Sioux Chef”—has a decolonized menu at Owamni that showcases the world of Indigenous food, with no colonial ingredients such as wheat flour, cane sugar, or dairy. Groups of up to 40 can gather in the private dining room at this James Beard Award-winning restaurant, and many say the food is unlike anything they have eaten before. As for Wise Acre, the eatery offers three-course meals, family-style dishes, or bites and snacks for its private buyouts (accommodating up to 36 in the winter and up to 75 with outdoor options), and the menu highlights seasonal produce and meat from its chemical-free farm 45 minutes away.
Finally, we would be remiss not to include Chef Gavin Kaysen’s Spoon and Stable. Winner of a James Beard Award and recognized as one of the “40 Most Important Restaurants of the Past 40 Years” by Food & Wine in 2018, this North Loop Minneapolis restaurant has three private dining options for up to 32 people and a buyout option for up to 130. Zinc Agency, a national entertainment and event agency, has done about 10 to 15 private events there, and Co-President Will Steinberg says Spoon and Stable is one of the first places he pitches if a client is looking for a place to host in the area.
“We know the level of hospitality they accomplish,” he says. “It’s not just private dining—it’s private dining, plus we partner with Chef Kaysen, who’s usually a part of the event, mingling, taking pictures, and signing autographs, but he’s also always doing a really fun, unique cooking demonstration.”
“Eating like a Minnesotan” can mean so many things when it comes to Minnesota cuisine, but, hopefully, this gives you a place to start. And if your attendees are really hankering for a classic burger and fries, it’s a must to take them to a spot with a Juicy Lucy—a burger originating in Minnesota featuring melted cheese inside two hamburger patties.