14 Best Trendy Date Night Restaurants in the Twin Cities

Minneapolis is such a hidden gem for foodies. Although when it comes to dining, the Twin Cities is probably best known for its many (many) craft breweries, there’s no shortage of innovative, romantic, and yes, date night restaurants in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the surrounding suburbs.

Date night in the Twin Cities will take you on a journey from the spices of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas to the sweet tomatoes of Italy and the rich, grounded cuisine of Indigenous North American tribes. These trendy date night restaurants have no shortage of plates you won’t want to share and some of the best ambiance in the city.

I’ll admit that I hadn’t ventured too far into Minneapolis’ trendy dining scene until the “single girl” became the “taken girl” (shocked gasp, I know, but trust me—the single girl isn’t going away anytime soon. I’ve still been traveling on my own). Although these romantic spots are listed here as date night restaurants, they’re just as good alone or with a group of friends for a girls’ night out in the Twin Cities.

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trendy date night restaurants twin cities minnesota

The Best Trendy Date Night Restaurants in Minneapolis and Saint Paul

verdi pesto pizza sanjusan restaurant minneapolis

Sanjusan

33 N 1st Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401

Sanjusan is a sleek Japanese-Italian fusion spot by serial restauranteur and chef, Daniel del Prado. Born in Argentina, Chef Daniel del Prado (known locally as “DDP”), started his culinary journey in the Twin Cities as the executive chef of Burch Steak by staple Twin Cities restauranteur, Isaac Becker, before eventually opening Martina, along with 11 other restaurants in just six years (on this list, there are four).

DDP’s restaurants pay attention to every detail, and offer dining experiences completely unique to what existed in the Cities previously Sanjusan is no exception.

Sanjusan features a menu unlike any other, perfectly juggling Italian and Japanese flavors. The space is located under Kado No Mise, a sophisticated Japanese restaurant and whiskey bar, owned by one of Daniel del Prado’s business partners.

The enoki arancini is a must here, along with the eggplant katsu. My boyfriend swears that the Mentaiko Lumache is one of the best plates of pasta he’s ever had in Minneapolis (I wouldn’t know). I ordered the Verdi pizza, which was definitely solid by Twin Cities standards, but wasn’t necessarily mind-blowing—the arancini set a very, very high bar. Will I be back? Absolutely.

Owamni

420 1st St S, Minneapolis, MN 55401

There are very few restaurants in the Twin Cities that sell out instantly, and Owamni is one of them. Owamni is a James Beard award-winning, decolonized, indigenous restaurant near Mill Ruins Park in Minneapolis by Chef Sean Sherman. 

The menu uses local ingredients native to the upper midwest. As a result, Owamni excludes dairy, wheat flour, cane sugar, chicken, beef, and pork. The restaurant prioritizes sourcing from Indigenous growers for its seasonally-evolving menu.

The Roast Sweet Potato is an essential order—it was my favorite dish on the menu despite being someone with a strong disdain for them. Get the Blue Corn Mush if you’re feeling adventurous, and skip the Cedar and Maple Baked Beans. Cleanse your palette with one of Owamni’s indigenous tea blends. The Iced White Blueberry is the best tea I’ve ever had in the Twin Cities.

Both my best friend and my boyfriend loved the Game Tartare—I opted for the Grilled Forest Mushroom Nixtamalized Native Corn Tacos, which were totally different that what I was expecting! Finishing off your meal with the Wild Rice Sorbet shouldn’t even be a debate—it’s so good, especially if you’re a fan of savory sweets (the Maple Chaga Cake, is also solid, but not quite as divine as the sorbet, in my opinion).

By stalking Resy, I’ve managed to get a table twice here. If the idea of counting down the minutes to new reservation drops, or waiting in anticipation for a new reservation email isn’t appealing to you, Owamni does offer first-come-first-served walk-in seating at the bar.

Bar la Grassa

800 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401

You can’t search for “best restaurants in Minneapolis” without Bar la Grassa returning as a result. Isaac Becker’s Italian eatery has been around for years, but still remains a Twin Cities favorite for its now-famous bruschettas (the soft eggs and lobster bruschetta has made the feeds of many a Minnesotan foodie), and pasta such as the cauliflower and orange gnocchi.

While you may be able to come by a last-minute dinner reservation on a Monday, you’ll definitely need to book a few weeks in advance to get a table for dinner Thursday-Saturday. With a little luck, and the help of a very nice hostess, I managed to snag the only remaining 7 pm reservation on a Friday night last-minute (insider tip: if the table you want is sold out on Resy, try giving Bar la Grassa a call).

Bar la Grassa is truly the best Italian restaurant in the Twin Cities. We started dinner with the ricotta with pickled tomato bruschetta—the restaurant’s take on the traditional Italian starter. While the bruschetta’s creamy ricotta and plump tomatoes definitely lived up to the hype, the true star was the pasta. I opted for the gnocchi with cauliflower and orange, Bar la Grassa’s most popular pasta, while my boyfriend went for the pasta nera with mussels and braised tomatoes.

The gnocchi with cauliflower and orange is unbelievable. The dish is rich but still bright, and perfectly seared. It’s one of those plates that’s so good it stays with you, only for you to crave it months later. The pasta nera is not to be scoffed at either, though I will say to approach with caution if you’re on a first date, at a business dinner, or have plans after dinner—the black squid ink will leave its mark on your lips.

What seals Bar la Grassa’s position as one of the best restaurants in Minneapolis is the staff: despite how busy the restaurant was, the staff went out of their way for us and were incredibly attentive.

Josefina

739 Lake St E, Wayzata, MN 55391

Josefina is Daniel del Prado’s first venture in Wayzata (he now has another, Macanda, which I’ve yet to visit). It’s a cozy, inviting Italian spot in the restaurant space formerly home to Gavin Kaysen’s Bellecour. When I first saw it, I fell in love with the warm green covering the space.

This Wayzata newcomer isn’t just design—it’s one of the best upscale Italian restaurants in the Twin Cities.

Both the appetizers and entrées are worth your attention here. The true test of a good Italian restaurant is how well they do the simple things, and Josefina didn’t let us down. We started with the burrata, which was served with perfectly grilled bread, before moving on to the Rigatoni Diavolo and Margherita Pizza (yes, I managed to talk Sean into splitting).

The rigatoni may have looked like your typical rigatoni all vodka, but the flavor was such a surprise. It acknowledged the concept, but was lighter and brighter, making it one of the best iterations of the dish I’ve had so far (I think about this pasta all the time). The Margherita Pizza held its weight and was exactly what you want a Margherita Pizza to be, definitely redeeming my lackluster pizza at Sanjusan.

In the summer, getting a reservation at Josefina can be tricky, but we managed to walk in. We waited 45 minutes for a table, which, for a perfect Friday night on the lake in August, wasn’t bad at all.

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Dimly lit bottle wall with floral wallpaper at the Back Bar at Young Joni.
The Perfect Pickle Pie topped with fermented pickles, dill, caramelized onions, Old Dutch potato chips, and a ranch drizzle at the Back Bar at Young Joni.

Back Bar at Young Joni

165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413

Young Joni is one of the most popular pizza restaurants in Minneapolis, but few Minnesotans know that the restaurant is also home to a speakeasy-style bar in the back.

When you walk down the alleyway between Young Joni and Dangerous Man Brewing Company and past the red light, you’ll reach the Back Bar—Young Joni’s wood-clad speakeasy. Covered in floral wallpaper and featuring a TV Guide-themed bar menu, the intimate space feels like a retro living room.

You won’t miss out on any of Young Joni’s signature pizzas here. The Back Bar at Young Joni features the restaurant’s full pizza menu, in addition to an extensive cocktail menu unique to the bar. Cocktails are named after popular TV shows through the decades (the bar has gone so far as to specify the episode that inspired the drink).

Topped with Old Dutch potato chips, fermented pickles, and a ranch drizzle, the perfect pickle pie is the most unique pizza on the menu. It’s absolutely worth trying—I’ve never had a pizza even similar to this one, and it was phenomenal.

Reservations are available but are not required. We managed to walk in on a Friday night around 7 pm without issue, but the space was almost at capacity. We overheard staff cutting off walk-ins while we were dining, so if you are planning on visiting without a reservation, go early.

Cardamom

723 Vineland Pl, Minneapolis, MN 55403

Located in the Walker Art Center, Cardamom is a complete 180 from the typical museum restaurant. This Aegean and Mediterranean restaurant has made such a splash that we went to the museum, for this restaurant.

Yet another Daniel del Prado venture (alongside Shawn McKenzie, co-founder of DDP’s Café Cerés, and executive pastry chef of several Minneapolis mainstays including Burch, Bar La Grassa, and most recently, Rustica), Cardamom is airy and bright, with a romantic, vaguely desert-like feel to it. It’s a wonderfully unexpected spot for a date night in Minneapolis, especially during the summer. The restaurant is just steps away from the Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden (home to the famous Cherry and the Spoon), which is always worth a stroll.

Cardamom’s appetizers here are absolutely outstanding. You must order the cauliflower and burrata—its warm spices make it truly unlike any burrata I’ve ever had—and the fried potatoes. The fried potatoes may not sound like much, but they’re a knockout (take that with a grain of salt, I’m a sucker for starch). Light, floral cocktails complimented the richly flavored plates.

One of my main gripes with DDP restaurants is that at several, the appetizers set a high standard, and entrées tend to underwhelm (If a strong entrée is what you seek, I direct you to Josefina, then Sanjusan). Unfortunately, Cardamom is the biggest offender.

I ordered the restaurant’s only vegetarian entrée, the Oyster Mushroom Kebab. After such a standout round of entrées, I was excited to see what Cardamom had imagined for this plate but was met with tough oyster mushroom stalks on kebab skewers. The stalks were so tough that not only was I having a difficult time chewing them, my knife would barely cut through. The garlic dip listed on the menu lacked any and all flavor.

While Cardamom’s main courses might leave much to be desired, it still makes this list for its appetizers unlike any other in the Twin Cities and bright space. Come after a stroll through the sculpture garden on a perfect summer day for a cocktail and mezze, then skip to somewhere else for dinner.

volsteads cocktail bar speakeasy uptown minneapolis minnesota eva phan restaurant booth velvet curtains

Volstead’s Emporium

711 W Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

I raved about this uptown speakeasy on my stories all summer, and I’ll do it again (@eva_phan, if you’re wondering). Volstead’s may not be a restaurant, but it is my favorite cocktail bar in Minneapolis.

The space offers some of the best ambiance in Minneapolis, balancing design elements of an indulgent Prohibition-era lounge with the familiar feel of a cozy-yet-grand living room, in a whimsical way. The cocktail bar’s design has some fun hidden quirks, which I’ll let you discover for yourself.

The cocktails themselves aren’t necessarily the most interesting I’ve ever had, but they don’t need to be. They’re a solid bunch, and delightfully drinkable. If you’re feeling food, the French Onion Dip is dangerously addictive (we can’t resist ordering it every time).

Volstead’s is not to be missed for a unique date night in Minneapolis—whether you’re just taking yourself, or going with someone else.

Sooki & Mimi

1432 W 31st St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

I recently ended up at Sooki & Mimi with a close friend, after one of our favorite late-night spots in Minneapolis, Wakame, had a list so long that we decidedly could not with it. Nestled in a residential area of Uptown, that’s close to the action yet somehow feels miles away, Sooki and Mimi is James Beard award-winning Chef Ann Kim’s Korean-Mexican eatery.

You may recognize Chef Ann Kim for her three previous pizza restaurants in the Twin Cities, Hello Pizza, Pizzeria Lola, and Young Joni. Pizzeria Lola was Minneapolis’ shining star in the pizza scene for a few years, but recently, Young Joni has been stealing the scene (I’ve been dying to go myself!).

Sooki and Mimi, which got its name from “two grandmothers with decidedly different culinary backgrounds,” is completely different, bringing Kim’s growing culinary empire in the Cities to a whole new level. The restaurant is all things cozy and comfort, from the menu to the design, with warm lighting and wood accents. We settled in on a freezing cold winter night in Minneapolis, and I couldn’t think of a better spot to be.

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Plates aren’t pizza, but rather Korean-Mexican small plates meant to share. I ordered the Mushroom Birria Tacos, which our waiter flagged as one of the best plates on the menu, and described as “vegetarian comfort food.” I could not think of a better way to describe it. Made of confit maitake, queso chihuahua, shiitake crema, and vegetable consommé, these had to be the best tacos I’ve ever had in Minneapolis thanks to the crispy, gooey “tortilla.”

I’ll go ahead and say it—I think Sooki and Mimi is the best restaurant for a first date in the Twin Cities (tied only with possibly, Sanjusan). The restaurant is quiet enough to speak comfortably, and elevated without being pretentious.

Meanwhile, the menu is fascinating to even the most well-ate diners, but, by playing off of classic dishes such as tacos and Korean fried chicken wings, is still able to entice those who may be less experimental. After dinner, you can walk around to the back of the restaurant for Basement Bar, Sooki and Mimi’s speakeasy that feels like “your grandpa’s basement, but with better snacks.”

colita restaurant minneapolis minnesota bar

Colita

5400 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55419

Colita, a modern Mexican (specifically Tex-Oaxacan) restaurant, is the del Prado restaurant that sparked Sean and I’s scavenger hunt across the Twin Cities to  well, “catch ‘em all.” We started at Martina, which don’t get me wrong, was the talk of the town for years after opening, but now feels over-polished compared to Daniel del Prado’s other ventures.

Visiting Colita felt like stepping back into El Cielo in Medellín due to the lush greenery spilling behind the bar and dramatic lighting. In daylight, the restaurant is bright and airy, with such demand in the early evening that the trendy, upscale crowd here would gladly stand at the bar if the restaurant allowed. Colita’s cocktail menu is a flashy, smokey, fruity whirlwind with drink presentation that’s made the Instagram feeds of half my childhood friends (The Naked Dani is bubble bath-inspired, topped with a rubber duck for the full effect).

Plates are small and meant to be shared. We tried the Charred Eggplant Tostadas, Corn Elote, Tlayuda, Mushroom Tacos (for me), and Lamb Barbacoa tacos (for him). We finished the meal with churros. The Charred Eggplant Tostadas were topped with burrata and a perfect example of harmony in contrast. The Mushroom Tacos were passable, but for the price, could have been doing more. The Tlayuda and Corn Elote aren’t worth mentioning at their price points.

I wouldn’t take a first date to Colita. The restaurant is such a fun date night if you’re feeling something lively, but it’s also loud, and tight quarters (getting in and out of our table felt like playing Jenga). Come with someone you already know, or just hang out by yourself.

Snack Bar

800 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401

Every restaurant on this list has its own distinct appeal, and for Snack Bar, it’s the schupfnudeln, a cheesy German potato dumpling dish that on most menus at a place like this, I’d overlook. Yet, it stays living in my head rent-free.

Snack Bar is James Beard award-winning Chef Isaac Becker’s take on “New York slice shop meets wood-paneled and red leather tufted lounge.” Becker is perhaps the Twin Cities’ most well-regarded chef right now, originally of Burch Steak, Bar La Grassa, and 112 Eatery fame.

Pizza is the main attraction here, complimented by an array of unexpected, Italian-esque small plates that have a flavor all their own, in true Isaac Becker fashion. After coming over from cocktails at Prohibition, I was craving a good slice of pizza.

We did order one, but unfortunately, our waiter was unclear on the meat in the restaurant’s signature amatriciana pizza sauce, and I couldn’t eat it (though, the bite that I had was promising, but not outstanding). 

Despite our pizza snafu, the schupfnudeln is enough for me to want to give Snack Bar a round two, and it makes the list for its unexpected menu and sexy, industrial feel.

Tenant

4300 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55409

I’m hesitant about putting Tenant on this list, but it’s making the cut for the experience, location, and service alone. Like Owamni, Tenant is one of those “blink-and-you-miss-it” reservations. I can’t even tell you how many table alerts from Resy I missed out on, before finally managing to snag one (on my birthday, no less).

Tenant is a snug, homey, tasting menu-only restaurant, located in South Minneapolis. The bar is just six stools looking straight into the kitchen (request to sit here if you can). The restaurant only has five additional tables. If you’re feeling as though this is already sounding like a difficult reservation, think again: the restaurant seats only two times a night—once at 6 pm, and again at 8 pm. Come early, or stay after for the speakeasy bar in the back.

Everything about the ambiance here is right. There’s something about the elegantly casual, micro, open yet homey approach Tenant has for its dining room that has a certain magic. The space is carefully considered and engineered at every turn. Reinforcing the thoughtful approach further is the ultra-friendly, impressive staff. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten better service in the Twin Cities.

Tenant’s 6-course tasting menu is $75 a person, accompanied by a $30 wine pairing (it’s three full glasses of wine, which at a restaurant like this, feels like a bargain). Not too long ago, the tasting menu was just $50, if you can believe it. 

At $50, or even $60, Tenant’s tasting menu would have felt like a steal. But at $75, it feels a little steep for Minneapolis. The expectation walking in at that price point in the Twin Cities raises the bar to a point that Tenant starts to reach, but can’t quite meet. While the food is solid, it doesn’t live up to the same quality standards at tasting menus of a similar price point, especially when taking into consideration cost inflation when comparing the Minneapolis fine dining scene to culinary meccas such as New York.

But still, that’s not to say that the food wasn’t decent—it was still enjoyable, just not exceptional. I found it charming that my first course was dill egg salad on an admittedly adorable tiny piece of toast, enjoyed the wild rice soup, and loved that they ended the meal with a simple crème brulée. The meal was perfectly timed and choreographed, again cementing the restaurant’s thoughtful approach. Who knows, the restaurant has unbelievably high reviews, and I may have just caught a menu that wasn’t quite as strong as previous rotations.

More Trendy Restaurants in Minneapolis

Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten the chance to visit these date night restaurants in Minneapolis yet, but they’re high on my “must-visit” list.

Cocktails at a date night restaurant in Minneapolis.
Image: John Yuccas via Petite León

Petite León

3800 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55409

Hidden away in South Minneapolis’ Kingfield neighborhood, Petite León is a venture by Chef Jorge Guzman and mixologist Travis Serbus. Despite opening at an inopportune time, Petite León has managed to make waves, earning spot no. 38 on the New York Times’ “50 places in America we’re most excited about right now.”

At its heart, Petite León is a neighborhood restaurant designed to give you all of the feelings of community with refined, simply good food—exactly what’s needed on a quiet night out for two.

The dining room at Demi, a fine dining restaurant in Minneapolis.
Image: Libby Anderson via Demi

Demi

212 N 2nd St Suite 100, Minneapolis, MN 55401

Demi has made it clear that it’s gunning for Minneapolis’ most impressive restaurant. The brainchild of Minneapolis superstar restauranteur and James Beard award-winning Chef Gavin Kaysen, Demi is an intimate, indulgent tasting restaurant in the North Loop.

A sister restaurant to Kaysen’s Spoon and Stable, Demi is located just next door, but couldn’t be more different. The space is meant to restore, featuring only a handful of seats, mood lighting, and an open kitchen.

Demi’s menu is ever-changing and Kaysen focuses on making the meal a flowing experience to get lost in over a set duration, rather than dinner being dictated by the number of plates. Mara’s signature 11-course dinner menu available on Friday and Saturday nights, the WC Whitney Experience, will set you back $165 per person (more for holiday meals), but reviewers feel as though the price is well-justified.

Diners hoping to get a taste of the restaurant without the $165 price tag have the option of reserving the Barrington Menu. Recently reintroduced by Kaysen, the $105 menu offers seven innovative courses on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday evenings.

I’ve had Demi on my list since it opened, and hope to make it soon.

Dinner food at Mara, a date night restaurant in Minneapolis.
Image: Roy Son via Mara
A trendy restaurant in Minneapolis.
Image: Don Riddle via Four Seasons

Mara Restaurant & Bar

245 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401

Mara is one of the Twin Cities’ most recent hotspots, opening with the brand-new Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis downtown. Another Gavin Kaysen venture, Mara is an inviting Mediterranean spot pulling inspiration from all 22 of the region’s countries.

Lauded by my friends for its seafood, the restaurant has a beautiful mod-meets-Mediterranean feel, with a menu that’s just as interesting to look at as the ingredients that are in it.

While I can’t attest to the food yet (and diner reviews are a bit mixed), Mara is a promising new date night spot in the Cities. Just six months after opening, the restaurant was named “Restaurant of the Year” by both Minnesota Monthly and the Star Tribune.

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Looking for more of the best things to do in Minneapolis? Click here or on the links below:

21 Unique Cocktail Bars in Minneapolis, Minnesota

16 Best Places for Late Night Food in Minneapolis and Saint Paul

22 Best Restaurants for Breakfast and Brunch in Minneapolis and St. Paul

13 Authentic Vietnamese Restaurants in Minneapolis Worth Every Bite

14 Best Restaurants in Edina, MN

xx,
E

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2 Comments

  1. Bjørn Iversen
    June 25, 2023 / 5:31 am

    Reading about Petite León in this article you say that it is located in the Kingston neighborhood – it is in fact Kingfield. Minor error
    I enjoy reading your reviews!

    • Eva Phan
      Author
      June 25, 2023 / 10:46 am

      Can’t believe I didn’t catch that. Thanks for flagging, Bjørn, I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

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