We’re fresh off a plane from our Minnesota adventures, and still talking about the amazing food we ate while in the North Star State. We’re pretty particular about food quality when we travel, and do a lot of up-front planning and preparation to make sure we’ve got good restaurants and local food markets all lined up for our weekend. We thought we’d share with you a little about our travel process, seeing as (a) we travel a LOT, and (b) we’re pretty sure most of you travel from time to time, too, and might appreciate some tips and tricks to make your on-the-road culinary experiences fresh and healthy. We’ll also share where we ate this past weekend, so you Minneapolis folks can get your Paleo on in your own hometown.
The first thing we do in the days before a trip is get on Yelp. Yelp, ladies and gentlemen, is a traveler’s best friend. Ratings, reviews and mapped locations make it easy to find all kinds of specialty foods. The trick is to make your search specific. Instead of searching for “breakfast”, search for “organic breakfast” or “vegetarian breakfast”. (We’ve found most vegetarian-friendly joints are also more likely to be concerned with food quality, offering pastured eggs and organic, local, seasonal fruits and vegetables.) However, Yelp is not always to be trusted with locations, hours and menu offerings. So at the same time, we’re also on Google, searching for the same terms + the city or neighborhood we’re visiting. This often brings up newspaper articles or local magazines featuring restaurants that meet our criteria. Between Yelp, Google and a few quick menu reviews, we’re almost always able to find breakfast options that meet our high standards of food quality.
- We had breakfast at the Birchwood Cafe, in a neighborhood called Seward. The cafe features free range, organic eggs, locally sourced organic produce and free trade coffee. (The coffee left a lot to be desired, but the food was fantastic.)
- The second breakfast find was the Seward Community Cafe, in the same neighborhood. The Seward cafe features the same quality of food – local, organic and fair trade – and runs their establishment based on principles of social and environmental responsibility, self-reliance, and cooperation. Dallas said it was a bit like eating at the homeless shelter, but the food was amazing – super fresh and prepared with care. (And because they’re vegan and vegetarian friendly, there was no shortage of fresh, seasonal vegetables to scramble in with our eggs.)
The next set of searches on Yelp and Google included the terms, “grass fed steak” + “Minneapolis”. Amazingly, there was no shortage of restaurants with high quality animal protein offerings – grass fed beef, pastured chicken and pork and wild caught fish. Most of it was also locally sourced, and one of the chefs we spoke with said he actually shakes the hand of the farmer when purchasing his steak. Brilliant! One word of caution – we found a few discrepancies between the food descriptions on Yelp and Google and the way the items were described on the restaurant’s own web site. When in doubt, we just called the place directly. Asking, “Do you serve grass-fed beef?” is a quick and direct way to confirm your food quality – and sends a message to the restaurant that food quality matters.
- We hit Barbette for a raucous dinner on Friday night (our reservation was for 10 PM, and the joint was packed). Barbette serves grass-fed beef, free-range organic pork, and free-range organic chicken and eggs, all locally sourced. The food was delicious, but we were so tired after our CrossFit Minnesota evening workshop to sit and enjoy the full meal experience.
- Saturday night found us at the Strip Club in St. Paul – a fantastic establishment with a wicked sense of humor. Head chef J.D. came out and spoke to us about their food quality – local, organic, grass-fed, pastured sources of meats and local, organic produce. He’s visited the cattle ranch on several occasions, putting into practice our recommendation to “know where your food comes from”. Our meals, start to finish, were gorgeous, and we even indulged in a pecan/maple torte for dessert to celebrate Dallas’ birthday.
- Finally, we visited Brasa, a high end Creole-inspired rotisserie in downtown Minneapolis. This was casual dining at it’s finest – fresh, local, organic and grass-fed/pastured ingredients. We had lunch and dinner there, including rotisserie chicken, freshly made guacamole, and a cabbage salad made with fresh mint and cilantro.
The last Google search in our preparations is either “Whole Foods” or “Natural Food Store”. We always search out a health food market in our travel towns, so we can stock up on vegetables, fruits, and good fat sources. We often bring our own protein along on these trips – pastured hard boiled eggs, wild caught smoked salmon or pre-cooked pastured chicken survive a two hour flight just fine, and high quality protein is often the hardest to find when traveling. But making sure we’ve got lots of “snack foods” during workshops and our travels makes the experience of being away from home much more enjoyable.
We can’t always find food this good when we travel – but we do as much planning and preparation as possible to ensure we can make the best available choices in our temporary cities. We hope this guide helps you in your travels, too. (And a special thanks to Christine Hirtz, Executive Director of CrossFit Minnesota, for her help guiding us to good food in Minneapolis!)
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