Over the past year it’s been impossible to mention the words Minneapolis and dining without uttering the name Gavin Kaysen in the same sentence. But while the Daniel Boulud alum’s restaurant Spoon and Stable gains plenty of national attention, the Twin Cities have boasted an impressive culinary scene long before Kaysen returned to his home state.

Both Minneapolis and St. Paul are Midwestern meccas for creative folks, many whom have opened their own restaurants—churning out inventive dishes such as Korean chicken-chile nachos with kimchi queso, and truffle-butter scrambled eggs with pickled pigs’ feet. While the creative bar is set high in their own kitchens, these chefs crave much much simpler fare when they’re off the clock: home-style burgers, tacos, and noodles, for starters. From seafood pancakes to tangles of homespun noodles, here are the favorite food hideaways of eight well-known local chefs.

Gavin Kaysen

Chef/owner at Spoon and Stable
Favorite under-the-radar spot: On’s Kitchen (1613 University Avenue W, St. Paul; 651-644-1444, onskitchen.com)

Kaysen says: “It’s a dive in the best way. I do not get to St. Paul, or any other city, that much due to me being at Spoon and Stable, but this place is worth the drive. The khao pad ga-prow with fried egg has insane flavor and the pad see ew reminds me of NYC. I used to get this almost once a week from a Thai place near my apartment when I lived there. It was so delicious, and when they closed I never ordered it anywhere again until here—and this is better.” (Photo: Yelp/Sarah T.)

Doug Flicker

Chef/owner at Piccolo
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Flameburger (4800 Central Avenue NE, Columbia Heights; 763-571-3267, theflameburger.com)

Flicker says: “It’s a place that time forgot. It’s been family run-and-owned operation since 1955, and it’s like stepping back in time. It’s weird because I swear to God if it’s 3am or 3pm it’s the same people. Everything is cooked on one griddle by a cook wearing a fast-food paper hat. I order one and one thing only: the Flameburger with bacon and cheese. It’s a six-ounce patty—which is just the right size proportionate to the bun—with cheap bacon, and the only cheese that should ever be put on a burger, American.” (Photo: Yelp/Jake R.)

Thomas Kim

Chef/owner at The Rabbit Hole
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Taqueria Los Ocampo (809 E Lake St, Minneapolis; 612-825-4978, taquerialosocampo.com)

Kim says: “What I like about Los Ocampo is that it is open until 4am, and that is a lifesaver for night owls like industry folks. I always order the cabeza and lengua tacos. Hits the spot and it’s such a great use of cuts people don’t often think to eat.” (Photo: Yelp/JD)

Russell Klein

Chef/owner at Meritage and Brasserie Zentral
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Marla’s Caribbean Cuisine (3761 Bloomington Ave S, Minneapolis; 612-724-3088, marlascuisine.com)

Klein says: “My wife and I try to support other owner-operated restaurants, and this place has great people cooking food that is really different from what I do, which I love. The jerk is fantastic, as is the callaloo. The spicing is real: When they say it’s hot, they mean it. It brings a little bit of the islands to me during our dreary winters.” (Photo: Yelp/Birgen H.)

Paul Berglund

Executive chef at the Bachelor Farmer
paulFavorite under-the-radar spot: Gandhi Mahal Restaurant (3009 27th Ave S, Minneapolis; 612-729-5222, gandhimahal.com)

Berglund says: “I’ve rarely had such depth and richness of flavor outside of India. And it’s so consistent, so I count on the place for a great meal every time. The seasonal thali allows me to have tons of different flavors in the same meal.” (Photo: Yelp/Amir K.)

Paul Lynch

Executive chef at FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Trung Nam French Bakery (739 University Ave W, St. Paul; 651-229-0887)

Lynch says: “Trung Nam is absolutely dialed in on its signature items, and I never order anything other than the bánh mì or pho. The sandwiches are very simple but so good. The bread really makes it—a small baguette with a soft interior and a thin crust so crisp it absolutely shatters when you bite into it. Order the pork paté and you will not be disappointed. They are dirt cheap, so I often get a bunch, along with some pho, and have a delicious, affordable meal to bring home to the family.” (Photo: Yelp/DJ)

Ann Kim

Chef/owner at Hello Pizza
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Dong Yang Oriental Food (735 45th Ave NE, Columbia Heights; 763-571-2009)

Kim says: “People always ask me for recommendations of Korean restaurants in the area, but it’s not quite that easy to do in Minnesota. I also have the luxury of living 30 minutes away from my mother’s home, so I rarely go out for a Korean meal. But when that isn’t an option, Dong Yang is the only place to go. It’s located in the back of a Korean grocery store in a suburban strip mall. There’s a television in the corner playing Korean dramas, florescent lighting, and cafeteria-style seating. If you’ve never been, the best bet is to go with what the ajimas (older Korean ladies) recommend, or look around to see what all the other Koreans are eating. I love the spicy beef and vegetable soup, spicy pork barbecue, seafood pancake, and any of the scalding hot stews that are served in a clay pot.” (Photo: Yelp/Jack F.)

John Ng

Chef/owner at Zen Box Izakaya
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Hong Kong Noodle (901 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis; 612-379-9472, mnhongkongnoodle.com)

Ng says: “A family-owned Chinese restaurant located on the University of Minnesota campus, Hong Kong Noodle reminds me of my childhood. You can find some of the most authentic and hard-to-find home-cooked Cantonese/Hong Kong-style dishes I grew up with. The beef chow fun is wok stir-fried with slightly charred, thick slices of marinated flank steak and flat rice noodles. Balanced with Asian chives and crispy bean sprouts, it’s perfection.”

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