For the Early Birds

For the Early Birds

By Anne Lies

Traveling can be hard work, and if you’re going to get the most out of your day’s adventures, it’s essential that you fuel up. But don’t waste a perfectly good exploration opportunity on a chain restaurant experience. Skip the IHOP and venture into the city’s neighborhoods to get most important meal of your day, served with plenty of local flavor on the side.

In order to get the most out of your day’s adventures, it’s important to start with a good breakfast. Skip the IHOP and venture into the city’s neighborhoods for breakfasts with plenty of local flavor on the side.

Ideal Diner

The 1949-vintage sign not so subtly welcomes you from all the way down the block. Once you step inside, Ideal’s tagline tells you everything you need to know about the logistics: Fourteen stools. One counter. No bathroom. There’s nothing fancy in this “Nordeast” Minneapolis mainstay, just good, solid diner food, largely made from scratch. Ideal offers a bunch of variations on the foolproof two-egg breakfast, but also slings fresh biscuits and gravy, as well as omelettes stuffed with chili or steak and onions. Vegetarian options (including a Veggie Benedict) are available, and the prices are right.  

Breakfast hours: All day

1314 Central Ave. NE

Under $10

 

Hazel's Northeast

Owned by two brothers, the third generation of a restaurateur family, Hazel’s celebrates the comfort foods you’d associate with a small-town diner by giving them a twist here, and an update there. Sure you can get a classic two-egg breakfast, but why not try bacon, ham, and cheese all baked inside the savory Meat Waffle? Or splurge on the decadent Drunken Banana French Toast—topped with warm bananas and rum-soaked raisins drizzled with caramel and pecans. (There’s always Audubon Park, a couple of blocks to the west, if you want to go work some of that off.) Lines can be long, especially on weekends. Get there early if you don’t want to wait, but there are also shops to explore nearby if you miss your window of opportunity.

Breakfast hours: Weekdays 7am-11am, weekends 8am-3pm.

2859 Johnson St. NE

$7-$11

 

Hell’s Kitchen

 

Well known for quirky ambience and inventive fare, Hell’s Kitchen (and its bakery, Angel Food) is well worth the trip downtown. With its hellacious red and black basement interior, and frequent showings of vintage films and television shows, you might be tempted to think it’s all style. Fortunately, there’s plenty of Midwestern-inspired substance coming out of the kitchen. Bison sausage (on the side or in a Benedict), Walleye Hash & Eggs, and the Mahnomen Porridge (crafted from wild rice, dried fruits, and roasted hazelnuts simmered in cream) are all Minnesota icons, but few things inspire as much local loyalty as the Lemon Ricotta Hotcakes. Weekend brunch features the Jacked Up Bloody Mary and Champagne Mimosa Bar (9am-2pm), with hundreds of garnishes and hot sauces. Give yourself plenty of time for making decisions. House specialties, like their peanut butters and the Housemade Sausage Bread (do not fail to ask for a sample) are also available for purchase, if you’d like to bring a little Hell home with you. Hell’s Kitchen is best enjoyed with a reservation, especially on weekends, and—despite appearances—it’s also kid-friendly. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are available.

Breakfast hours: Weekdays 6:30am-11am, weekend brunch 7:30am-3pm with live music 10am-1pm.

80 S. 9th St

$6-$16

Al’s Breakfast

Classic diner fare  draws crowds to this old-school breakfast counter in the beloved Dinkytown neighborhood. The tiny space seats fourteen, so arrive early, and be prepared to wait in line. Flipping pancakes and pouring coffee for six decades, Al’s is a Minneapolis staple that you need to experience.

Breakfast hours: 6am-1pm, Sundays 9am-1pm.

413 14th Ave. SE

Under $10

 

Maria’s Café

Maria’s offers a fusion of North and South American cuisine cooked from scratch. The corn pancakes are favorites—with or without Cotija cheese—and this might be the only place a weary traveler can buy a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Vegetarian options available.

Breakfast hours: All day

1113 E. Franklin Ave.

Under $10

 

Modern Times

Bright (as in, can’t-miss-it neon green and orange), funky, and welcoming, Modern Times serves up American breakfast fare with an emphasis on organic, local, and sustainable ingredients. The super flexible menu accommodates vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and carnivorous diners.

Breakfast hours: Weekdays 7am-noon, weekend brunch all day

3200 Chicago Ave. S.

$4-$11

 

Victor’s 1959 Café

All the flavors of Cuba are right here in the North Country. Victor’s is a cozy spot for authentic island recipes and American breakfasts with a twist. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options are available.

Breakfast hours: 8am-2:30pm

3756 Grand Ave. S.

$7-$12

Uptown Diner

Breakfast and lunch menus are served all day in Uptown’s airy and art-filled diner. Faves here include the Kamikaze Waffle, which is topped with blueberries, bananas, pecans, and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar--it also comes in French toast form. The Cajun Breakfast is a mess of hash browns, green peppers, onions, and fresh mushrooms, under a blanket of over-easy eggs and cheese, topped with hollandaise sauce. Not only is the Uptown open round the clock Thursday through Saturday, if you need those Kamikazes after-hours, but you can get delivery, too.

Breakfast hours: All day (Thursday-Saturday open 24 hours)

2548 Hennepin Ave.

$7-$13

 

Common Roots Café

Common Roots is dedicated to using local and organic ingredients in its made-from-scratch offerings, and the straightforward recipes let the quality shine through. Vegan and gluten-free options are available.

Breakfast hours: weekdays 7:30am-2pm, weekends 8am-2pm

2558 Lyndale Ave. S.

$7-$13

 

Nighthawks Diner & Bar

 

Named for Edward Hopper’s iconic painting of a starkly lit corner diner and its lonely denizens, Nighthawks is indeed a diner. And it’s on a corner. And that’s where the similarities end. You are unlikely to feel lonely in the warm, gleaming atmosphere of Nighthawks. Nor are you likely to eyeball your plate with the weariness and boredom of Hopper’s subjects—it’s just not possible in this chef-driven haven. Brunch delicacies include a poutine with pulled pork and poblano gravy and unexpected omelettes such as foie gras and brie, or chanterelle and corn. If you’re leaning more toward lunch, the cheeseburger is pretty unbeatable. But really? It’s the pancakes that make getting out of bed worthwhile. A straight-up stack of buttermilk will put a smile on anyone’s face, but the adventurous are rewarded with gleeful combos like lime-coconut-pineapple and bacon-kimchi-scallion. The neighborhood setting doesn’t allow for a full bar, but you’ll find beer- and wine-based cocktails in a similarly creative vein, such as a Spiced Sangria, a Pineapple Shandy, and the SoDak (house-pickled PBR and tomato juice).

More of a nighthawk yourself? You can get your eggs and cakes any time of day—just like in any self-respecting diner.

Brunch hours: Weekends 10am-2pm

3753 Nicollet Ave. S.

$6-$15

 

Wise Acre Eatery

 

Most of Wise Acre’s ingredients are sourced directly from their own Minnesota farm (which also supplies Tangletown Gardens across the street), so chances are whatever is on your plate has just come from the field. Un-fussy and lovingly-crafted brunch items are sure to put pep your step for whatever adventures await.

Breakfast hours: 9am-3pm

5401 Nicollet Ave. S.

$9-$17

 


Anne is a Minneapolis-born freelance writer, editor, and photographer who currently lives, gardens, and cooks among the cornfields outside of Madison, Wisconsin. When she's not traveling in search of a great meal, she can be found in her garden growing one. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

Anne is a Minneapolis-born freelance writer, editor, and photographer who currently lives, gardens, and cooks among the cornfields outside of Madison, Wisconsin. When she's not traveling in search of a great meal, she can be found in her garden growing one. Follow her adventures on Instagram.