Green Line: Eating Down the Stops

The excitement of riding the new trains along the Green Line, Metro Transit’s light rail line that connects our two fraternal Twin Cities, had me wishing I had an Easter bonnet to break out. While attempting to suppress my desire to sing, “Clang! Clang! Clang! Went the trolley!” and alienate all other riders I find I often work up an appetite. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite, a date night destination, or the intoxicating flavors from a faraway land, there are tons of options worth exploring. Here’s our guide to the spots worth seeking out at every stop.
Photo by Metro Transit

Photo by Metro Transit

Cedar Riverside/West Bank Station:

Triple Rock Social Club
This music venue has more to offer than just a great spot to see a show. Their menu is packed with bar food favorites, killer breakfast on the weekends, and arguably the most punk-rock vegan options in town. Order the Chef’s Revenge and gird your gullet.

Acadia Café
Listen to a little music and sip their eclectic beer selection. Order up a GLBT, their take on a BLT, but with the welcome added diversity of their house-made guacamole. The menu is stacked with comfort food classics with a twist.

East Bank Station:

U of M Farmer’s Market
On Wednesdays during the growing season you can pop in for all of your freshly plucked produce needs.

Stadium Village:

Eat like the students do! Down a massive burrito built to your specifications and never have to worry about calling mom to loan you a little extra money for your train fare.

Stub and Herb’s
Or, if your college years more closely resemble mine, drink in the nostalgia at this campus mainstay. It smells exactly as you remember. This year they’re celebrating their 75th in business.

Little Szechuan
You’ve got not one, but two of these fantastic Chinese restaurants on the line. This location includes the specialties that they made their name for: blazing heat is packed into their Ma Po Tofu and sizzling fish dishes. The beef in spicy broth will not soon be forgotten.

Prospect Park Station:

The brewery that brought us the taproom boom is finally taking shape! They’ve secured a chef and have begun the process of building the most hotly anticipated beer spot in recent memory. Look for them to open next year.

Photo by Metro Transit

Photo by Metro Transit

Westgate Station:

Get your sweet on with this award-winning bakery. Their personal-sized confections are filled with creative flavors and the enormous, steaming coffee mug at the edge of the building couldn’t be more inviting.

Dunn Bros Coffee
The locally owned coffee shop chain serves up their specially roasted brews and they have a cold case for some grab-and-go eating goodies.

Raymond Avenue Station:

Key’s Café
Don’t forget that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (although, Key’s has lunch, too). They serve up hearty plates and coffee you can down cup after cup to fuel a long day. Be certain to save room for a little something sweet. You’ll want one of those cookies or a mammoth cinnamon roll for later.

Foxy Falafel
No, her first name ain’t baby, it’s Foxy—Miss Falafel, if you’re hungry. This adorable shop run by Erica Strait churns out the most delectable falafel you’ll find anywhere. There are a bevy of other delicious treats awaiting your empty belly inside this storefront. These dishes are great for eating inside this café or grabbing to-go and hopping back on the train.

Caffé Biaggio
This adorable little bistro serves classic Italian dishes with a light hand like cioppino, veal medallions saltimbocca-style, and chicken marsala. With their lovely wine list, artistic atmosphere, and proximity to the Green Line, this favorite neighborhood secret might just be out.

Fairview Avenue Station:

Lucy Coffee Café
The cute little café will hook you up with your morning caffeine fix or fill your belly with their soups and sandwiches. Mostly, it’s fun to settle in and catch up with friends inside the artistic interior that is, in a word, fabulous.

Snelling Avenue Station:

On’s Kitchen
We can debate who has the very best Thai food in the city, but it’s easy to make the case that On’s is number one. On is in the kitchen pouring her heart and soul into these spicy dishes. There are classics like pad see ew and tom yum, but my favorite dish is the khao mun gai. Tender roast chicken (from an actual chicken, not those mystery paste strips that appear at other unnamed Asian restaurants) is served with sticky rice and a complex sauce of garlic and ginger.

Turf Club
The venerable music venue is temporarily closed for renovations, but when they open there’s promise of a menu! The art deco style, great drink prices, killer musical line-ups, and I can get a bite to eat (instead of the Taco Bell Drive Thru of Shame)? I can’t imagine a better night out.

Ethiopian cuisine is filled with flavors that beg to be explored and Fasika is often hailed as the best spot to begin your mouth’s new adventure. Berebere is an intoxicating spice blend of peppers, garlic, fenugreek, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and more—once you taste it, you’ll be wondering where it’s been all your life. Dive into the lamb key wot with some sour, spongy injera and see what I mean.


Groundswell Coffee. Photo courtesy of Groundswell Coffee

Groundswell Coffee. Photo courtesy of Groundswell Coffee

Hamline Avenue Station:

Dream of East Africa through the plates served inside this woman-owned restaurant. Sambusas are meat- or lentil-stuffed, heavenly spiced goodies wrapped inside a crispy pastry shell and devoured moments after arriving at your table. Start there to stave off the hangries and then enjoy exploring the entire, delicious menu.

Groundswell Coffee
What was, until recently, just a neighborhood coffee shop has blossomed into a café that has the foodies flocking for killer veggie burgers, beautiful breakfasts, and a pastry case that has the gluten-free and full swooning. Stop in for a date night with a bottle of wine or local craft brew or linger all day over a pastry and anything they have listed on that specials board.

The Town House Bar
Sometimes you just want to be where everyone knows your name, or at least your drag name. Whether you’re popping in at The Town House Bar for a little bingo, karaoke, or to take in a show, you can fill your belly with some bar food classics like Heggie’s pizza or their spinach and artichoke rangoons. It’s been a gay landmark for the community since 1969.

Lexington Parkway Station:

Hoa Bien
It’s possible to explore all the flavors of Vietnam through this neighborhood. Begin your quest inside Hoa Bien with steaming bowls of pho and glass noodle salads served with a pile of aromatic green herbs.

Victoria Street Station:

Que Nha
Steps away from the station platform are a host of Vietnamese dishes awaiting your hungry stomach. Creamy congee will soothe you and the hot pots will snap your taste buds to attention.

Ngon Bistro
If you still haven’t been to this beautiful little Vietnamese bistro using local, sustainable ingredients, what are you waiting for? Life isn’t complete until you know what that crispy rabbit dumpling is all about. Between their killer patio and full bar there has never been a better time to visit this perennial favorite.

This neighborhood is brimming with ethnic eateries, but short on Mexican restaurants. Homi delivers with tamales, tacos, and long-stewed entrées perfumed with spice and rich flavors.

Trung Nam Bakery
Ever wonder where those beautiful baguettes made perfectly for a proper banh mi come from? This bakery. They also have a host of French pastries including croissants that are almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.

Photo by Metro Transit

Photo by Metro Transit

Dale Street Station:

Big Daddy’s Barbecue
Smoke takes patience to work its mysterious magic on a hunk of meat. Save yourself some time and just head on into Big Daddy’s for slabs of ribs or tender smoke-kissed chickens because nobody does it better than these guys. Pro tip: you can buy jars of their rich and tangy sauce to bring home. Just know: the spicy is no joke in the heat department.

Art Song’s Hickory Hut
It’s all about the wings inside this spot. I’m sure there are plenty of other things on the menu, but watching them work two enormous fryers and turn out massive amounts of these super crusty, highly seasoned, succulent wings…I don’t know how to order anything else.

Daily Diner
From the New French Bakery bread to the Peace Coffee, there are touches of “Minnesota Nice” threaded throughout this spot’s menu and location. The restaurant also employs people from nearby Union Gospel Mission looking to rebuild their lives. All that goodness and fresh-baked cinnamon rolls the size of your head. It’s a great way to begin your day. (Plus, they’re open until 7:00pm on weekdays, for those who start their days later.)

Trieu Chau
Oh, we’re not done with the Vietnamese cuisine just yet. You haven’t tried the bun at Trieu Chau yet! Rice noodles are topped several ways with a wide swath of flavors and textures to delight your mouth.

iPho by Saigon
Consider yourself the Pho King master? iPho has a mammoth food challenge for the big eaters, where you can take an enormous bowl of this brothy soup down and you can win yourself a t-shirt! For the rest of us, a more reasonable size of the stuff more than satisfies.

Sweet teeth delight in this spot that is decked out with doughnuts for miles. Whether you want cake, cruller, bear claws, Old Fashioned, glazed, frosted, or sprinkled, they’ve got the fried little breakfast beauty to satisfy your craving. They also have muffins with craggy tops and tender interiors.

Photo by Metro Transit

Photo by Metro Transit

Western Avenue Station:

Little Szechuan
The restaurant that introduced the Twin Cities to their fiery love of the Szechuan peppercorn has evolved again into a hotspot. Linger over bubbling cauldrons of broth into which you can dip everything from noodles to veggies to tofu to raw meat and watch them all cook in front of you.

Cheng Heng
We may have finally eaten our way through Vietnam and now we’re heading headlong into Cambodia. These are some of the best spring rolls in the Cities and their fresh cut coconut served with a straw will help cool you down after feasting on the seriously spiced curries.

Bangkok Thai Deli
They’ve moved out of the dark grocery store deli and transformed a one-time Burger King into a Thai cuisine destination. The Thai-style papaya salad is perfect for a steamy, hot summer day when it’s actually better to sweat from the inside out.

Capitol/Rice Street Station:

Hmongtown Marketplace
Just a couple of blocks away from the station is a culinary wonderland filled with crispy, spicy sausages the length of a belt, ultra-crispy fried chicken wings stuffed with ground meat and glass noodles, plus fiery, sour, salty, sweet green papaya salad from several different vendors inside this market place. Bonus: you can shop for all kinds of things you didn’t know you needed—from Dora the Explorer backpacks to tiny bitter melons—inside and outside at this spot.

Robert Street Station:

Food Truck Rallies
Midday, look just beyond the Capitol to John Ireland Boulevard for a row of brightly colored trucks slinging their delectable dishes. If you happen to spot Neato’s Burgers, Fork in the Road, Wacky Wing Wagon, or Gastrotruck, you’re in luck.

Black Sheep Pizza. Photo courtesy of Black Sheep Pizza

Black Sheep Pizza. Photo courtesy of Black Sheep Pizza

10th Street Station :

Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza
Coal fire creates a wonderful char on this yeasty dough topped with incredibly fresh ingredients. The zesty meatballs mingled with pillowy ricotta will have you wishing you didn’t have to share this pie. Better order another to distract the other diners. Don’t forget your vegetables, either—the Farmers Market salad is always built with the bounty of the season and never fails to impress with deftly built flavors. I know! Salad at a pizza place? It’s true.

The country’s first Kurdish restaurant has been serving this part of St. Paul for seventeen years. Tuck into a little biryani with tender rice studded with sweet raisins, potatoes, vegetables and an aromatic mix of spices, and imagine yourself in a far away land and taste the love of the family that built this beloved spot.

Key’s Cafe
If you missed them on the Raymond stop, now’s your chance for that cinnamon roll you’ve been craving.

Whether you’re in the mood for a little happy hour or a swanky spot to take a break from all this public transit, CAMP has got the rainbow community (and friends) covered. You can grab a few bar food bites from their menu or get a snack from one of their neighbors: Sawatdee, Black Sheep, or Key’s.

The originators in the Minneapolis Thai restaurant scene and perennial reader’s favorite in just about every dining poll, the St. Paul location has all your favorite dishes. From creamy green curry to Pad Thai to sticky rice with mango, it’s all here plus they have brunch and a full bar.

Central Station:

Amsterdam Bar and Hall
Downtown St. Paul’s answer to First Avenue, this scrappy little club brings in some fantastic abuse for your ears. Sit back, rock out, and don’t forget to order some food. Their little plates are perfect for keeping that delicious demon alcohol at bay. The full bar and beer selection requires some thorough exploring as well.

French cuisine has never been so approachable as it is at this brasserie. Whether supping on moules frites, cassoulet, or their smoked confit wings, this restaurant never misses with their dishes.

Senor Wong’s
A mash-up of Asian and Mexican cuisine inside a restaurant/bar has fans flocking for their cocktails and crispy, savory foods. Check out the kalbi shortribs, wonton poppers, or the tacos and wash it down with a cocktail mixed with top-shelf ingredients.

Heartland. Photo courtesy of Heartland

Heartland. Photo courtesy of Heartland

Union Depot:

Opa! We’ve made it to the end of the line and found the sweet smell of gyros. If you arrive midday, Christo’s lays out a buffet full of Greek favorites. For dinner, entrees include fortifying dishes like moussaka or lamb shanks. Save room for dessert because you can’t miss their crispy phyllo wrapped classic baklava.

Before farm-to-table was a full-on movement, Lenny Russo was cooking exclusively with seasonal, local ingredients. The warehouse space houses a more casual bar, fine dining restaurant, and a market featuring many of the goodies they use to create their dishes.

Tanpopo Noodle Shop
Noodle fiends love to slurp up the dishes inside this beloved spot. Choose your flavor adventure from soba or udon noodles, cold or hot, along with several other Japanese dishes like chicken kara-age and several sushi rolls.

Kelly’s Depot Bar
You have to love the tenacity that they kept the name “Depot” through the time that the Depot sat vacant. Luckily, those days are over and you can ride right up to this neighborhood pub with delicious thin-pattied, yellow-cheese draped burgers. Not only has the name hung on from a bygone era, but the prices here seem to also be from yesteryear. You’ll leave with plenty of change for train fare home.

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