Downtown Minneapolis' evolution near US Bank Stadium has been moving at a steady clip. (It remains to be seen if the "Downtown East" or "East Town" tags stick.) Especially along Washington Avenue, business was already humming before the new Vikings home parked itself in the hole where the Metrodome used to loom.
Increasing numbers are hitting the revived district during events like the ESPN X Games, Vikings games, concerts, and the upcoming Super Bowl. And even during off days, the new condos, offices, hotels, and the light rail are exposing crowds to an impressive (but often overlooked) selection of restaurants and bars. For regular locals and visitors alike, come hungry and thirsty. We got you.
Here are our favorite places for food, alcohol, and hanging out near US Bank Stadium.
Erik the Red
It was inevitable that the closest real estate to US Bank Stadium, the old Hubert’s space, would morph into a barbeque spot at the prospect of football and hungry dudes. This is a “Nordic” barbeque restaurant where servers are dressed as lumberjacks and sexy Vikings and beer flows like mountain streams. What wasn’t inevitable was that the food would actually be good. Dry rub wings with lingonberry sauce, smorgasbords with smoked meats, pickled herring, and lefse; and smoked turkey legs served with rye bread shore up the northern influence, with a point of view (and a view) that’s pure Viking.
Ahead of Guns N' Roses (or any other big rock show) at US Bank, this nearby bar option requires zero formality, but still packs a lot of character. The Grumpy's experience centers around the four-sided bar, punk and metal blasting from the jukebox, and a laid-back, neon-lit vibe. Perfect for a pre-show beer or the place to recap the night's grittiest moments over a blurry nightcap or two, there's also a full menu of bar food. You'll need it to soak up everything else coursing through your system.
Band Box Diner
For breakfast almost any time of day (they close at 9 p.m.) it’s difficult to do much better than Band Box, Minneapolis’ most charming vintage diner, est. 1939. Inside, it’s all diner classics, with a few inventions tossed in. Try the Dude Ranch, a burger topped with an onion ring that becomes a reservoir for ranch dressing. Or, go classic and get a stack of the laciest pancakes anywhere, at working man’s prices. The priceless people watching is free.
For more time and energy directed into a bowl of ramen, it’s difficult do better than Zen Box. With a full Japanese menu including sushi, Japanese-style curry, plus drinking snacks, the ramen is the centerpiece of the menu. The casual space is akin what you might expect to find in Tokyo, complete with a robust “irasshaimase!” (welcome) upon entering. If you’re lucky enough to score the weekend ramen special, order it. The limited-number bowls garner a loyal following of regulars (and Instagrammers) but you can’t go wrong with a Sapporo and anything “fried, chilled, or grilled.”
One of the more elegant spaces in either Minneapolis or St. Paul, Sea Change at the base of the Guthrie keeps theatre goers satiated, but why should they get all the hamachi and langostines? A perpetual winner of foodie awards, this seafood behemoth wows with a rotating raw bar, inventive takes on sustainable fish, and lots and lots of oysters. For simpler tastes, see one of the better burgers in town (lunch only) available with a fried egg and bacon, if you please. Check out the twice-daily happy hour, where specialty cocktails go for $6, a true downtown bargain.
In a town where fine dining is all but a fading memory, consider Sanctuary. This defies-category lair in a clandestine Washington Avenue location is nothing short of a trip. Plus, gummy bears are incorporated into this classic French cookery. Gargoyles, wintertime cauldrons of mulled wine, and a chef who famously invents dishes like “Elk tartare with tabasco guanaja chocolate ganache, mandarin gel, and chips” means you’ll never get bored at the prospect of white-tablecloth dining. They put the fun back in fine.
For a decadent (but not too decadent) dinner, check out Eastside. Duck breast bumps up against beluga lentils and mustard green pesto, or a virtuous kale chop salad gets a lush blast of duck confit. Open for brunch, lunch, dinner, and happy hour, we actually like this place best for spot-on desserts like malted chocolate pudding with mascarpone pretzel bread crumbs or beignets with scotch caramel. But liquor is quicker, and the absolute best way to use this room is sipping a cocktail in the stunning space with gotta-see-it-to-believe-it Instagram-worthy tiling that’s like art on the floor.