Top 10 steak houses in the Twin Cities

At the Twin Cities' best steak joints, you'll need is a big appetite, a sharp knife, and a thick wallet

At the Twin Cities' best steak joints, you'll need is a big appetite, a sharp knife, and a thick wallet

For all of the great advances and trends in local dining in recent years--fusion, small plates, exquisitely crafted platings, molecular gastronomy--for many meat-loving foodies there is still no experience quite like the primal thrill of biting into a big, juicy, perfectly cooked steak. And while the grass-fed, farm-to-table ethos has certainly enhanced the experience, many of the finest local steak houses seem immune to such concerns, lost in a time warp that has left them unchanged for decades; that retro chic, in fact, is part of their charm. So from modern to classic, here are our choices of where to find the best steaks in the Twin Cities.

See also: Top 10 martinis in the Twin Cities Top 10 romantic restaurants in the Twin Cities Top 10 burgers in the Twin Cities


10. Fogo de Chao

Here's the problem with most steak houses: how to choose. New York strip? Porterhouse? Filet mignon? Prime Rib? That's why Fogo de Chão, a churrascaria-style steak house, is great for commitment-phobes. Brazilian gaucho chefs dash around the room carrying giant skewers of flame-kissed meats; diners pay a flat fee for unlimited access to the meat parade, gained with a small paper disk--red on one side, green on the other--that signals to the gauchos whether they should stop. The price includes the chance to graze from Fogo's notoriously abundant salad bar (it's stocked with such gourmet goods as smoked salmon, prosciutto, and a wheel of Parmesan that could double as a car tire). While the gauchos serve lamb chops and chicken, they specialize in beef--everything from prime sirloin seasoned with sea salt and garlic to bacon-wrapped fillet. It's kind of like wine flights for meat. So next time you have to choose just one, at least you'll know what you like. (645 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.338.1344)

9. Erte

Whatever the Twin Cities have lost in terms of quality-of-life points, we should be gaining back thanks to the sheer volume of good, cheap steak available within a 10-or-so-mile radius of downtown Minneapolis. From the Eisenhowerrific Ike's to Dinkytown's oh-so-welcome Steak Knife (student-budget steak that doesn't taste like a hoary cliché!), this category is wide open. But, in the end, the fact is that no one gets everything as right, as consistently, as good old Erté. They've got the understated hip-romantic ambience, the thoughtful wine list, the knowledgeable, ruthlessly efficient and aching-to-please waitstaff, and the bar lighting that makes everyone 20 percent more attractive. Oh, and the food: unpretentious and almost uniformly terrific, with a couple of can't-go-wrong house cuts and just enough of a modern tweak to make steak house staples interesting again. You are hereby defied to find a better pair of pork chops in town than Erté's Guinness-marinated and Scotch-and-brown-sugar-glazed version. Come in for the food, stick around for after-dinner drinks and conversation, and you have our guarantee that your date will emerge impressed with both your fiscal sensibility and fantastic taste. (323 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612.623.4211)


8. Lindey's Prime Steak House

Part of the fun is in the journey to this restaurant, which looks like a 1950s inn, charmingly decorated with red twinkling lights. The vintage vibe continues in the dining room, which captures the cozy feel of a lake cabin, complete with wood paneling and a stone fireplace. But the reason so many devoted fans make this trek is the meat. The menu consists simply of three kinds of steak (with shrimp thrown in for good measure), and those steaks are as big as your noggin and grilled to perfection, served on a sizzling platter. The meal is completed with salad, family-style hashbrowns, and pickled watermelon rinds (an amazing granny touch, the rinds taste like they could win a State Fair blue ribbon). Lindey's has been family-owned and -operated since 1958, when it opened in a basement on University and Snelling. It moved to its current location in 1961. There's nothing fancy going on here -- this steak house is laid back and kid-friendly, boisterous and fun, yet still a perfect place to impress guests or business associates. Another very popular old-school touch is its birthday club: Join and receive $25 off dinner the week of your b-day. (3600 N. Snelling Ave., Arden Hills; 651.633.9813)

7. Mancini's Char House

The rise of so many great steak house options in the Twin Cities makes us appreciate the folks who have been doing it right for decades: Mancini's Char House in St. Paul. That's because a great steak house experience is about more than just carving up the perfect slab of medium-rare beef and slathering your baked potato in butter--it's having a Manhattan while sitting in a red leather booth as you wait for your table (half expecting a member of the Rat Pack to stroll in for a martini). It's smelling the char odor clinging to your hair and clothes hours after you've left. It's encountering Vulcans in the winter months and bocce players in the summer. Every hunk of perfectly charbroiled filet, New York strip, and sirloin comes with hefty helpings of salad, greasy grilled bread, potatoes, and some of the best people-watching the city has to offer. This sprawling family-owned restaurant has been filling stomachs since 1948, and the decor tells you that not much has changed since then. But why mess with old-school perfection? Mancini's has easily earned the right to call itself a St. Paul institution. (531 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651.224.7345)

6. Jax Cafe

Some things are beautiful in a moment, when the sun peeks out behind a cloud as the rain continues to fall; a hummingbird pausing by a rose; a shooting star. Blink and you'll miss the moment. Other types of beauty are meant to linger, endure, and gain a weathered patina, deepening the handsome grooves worn over time. Jax would be the latter. Not a lot has changed since it opened its doors. The servers, crisp in black and white, stand at the ready. The drinks are appropriately strong and smooth. Most importantly, the aged cuts are expertly prepared. As you cut through each tender hunk of charred beef, the walls fall away, time stands still, and the classic, American taste of a red meat reminds us that some things really do get better with time. (1928 University Ave., Minneapolis; 612.789.7297 )

5. Joan's in the Park

So often the entire steak house experience is steeped in testosterone. Manly men with the manliness aren't the only ones who know how to properly prepare a great cut of beef. Take, for example, this little neighborhood sweet spot that can hardly be called a steak house but that happens to serve some serious steak know-how. Owners Susan Dunlop and Joan Schmitt have a history steeped in steak knowledge. They have worked at the Capital Grille and Morton's. Chef Dunlop gets great hunks of meat (as big as she can fit inside their modestly sized kitchen) to break them down herself -- no one else can be trusted to get those steaks just so. What she does at each step of the process ensures a steak experience as delicious as anywhere else in town. They have also got an exquisite glass of red to pair with that steak. Who said that a perfect steak dinner needs to come with a heavy-handed clap on the back? Soft, subtle lighting in a not-at-all stuffy neighborhood joint can be the perfect accoutrements to a nice, red cut of perfectly seasoned meat. (631 Snelling Ave S., St. Paul; 651.690.3297)

4. St. Paul Grill

The room oozes class and elegance. The booze bottles behind the bar glitter like a studio-era Hollywood cast of players. Money has been both made and spent in this dining room. It's an ideal setting for a serious steak. Cut nice and thick, beautifully aged and served with the reverence you'd expect when the bill is likely to top three digits before the decimal point shows up. The St. Paul Grill is the kind of room where no one needs to prove their importance; that you're sitting inside these walls is proof enough. (350 Market St., St. Paul; 651.224.7455)

3. The Strip Club

The Strip Club in St. Paul isn't the kind of carnivore heaven where you're seated near a rowdy table of Cosby-sweatered louts and leave with a char stench clinging to your hair and clothes. In fact, you're more likely to head home with a new favorite drink from the creative bartenders. The meat is different too. Grass-fed beef from Thousand Hills in Cannon Falls makes for a more full-flavored taste of the three options diners choose from: a New York strip, filet mignon, or hanger steak. Then comes the tough part--which sauce should accompany your cut? You have eight to select from, and trust us when we say the SAT is easier to game than this delicious multiple-choice conundrum. Le Moulin Rouge offers criminis in red wine rosemary glace, while Tuscan Titillation promises cannellinis, onions, garlic, and sage. Simple poached carrots accompany every fleshy entrée, which lets you put your carnivorous focus where it should be: on the perfectly cooked, well-crusted meat your knife sinks into. (378 Maria Ave., St. Paul; 651.793.6247)

2. Murray's

You aced your Class B motor vehicle test. You won the Nobel Prize. You just found out Aunt Nedra left you the millions you thought were going to Mr. Chunky. You want steak. You'd prefer the steak to be the kind that yields to the gentle yet firm pressure of a silver butter knife. Murray's is your place. Its gleaming, mirrored walls and swishy pink curtains recall prom night 1946, or your grandparents' third dinner date. The restaurant is classy in a Nat King Cole kind of way, and the silver butter knife steak will drive you out of your mind and into your local credit union for a cash advance. At $99 for two, it's tender and perfectly textured, it gives completely at the tiniest tooth mark, and food writers have been known to avoid writing about the thing lest their prose become inappropriate for a family newspaper. Ah, Murray's: The spirit is willing and the flesh is medium-rare (or, actually, however you like it). (26 S. Sixth St., Minneapolis; 612.339.0909)

1. Manny's Steakhouse

The purpose of the steak house is to make you feel like the top carnivore on all of planet Earth, both in terms of scoring the finest red, red meat, and also in terms of scoring social privilege over the other bipeds. No place pulls this off better than Manny's. It's not just the steak, though we could go on all day about the excellent, deep, thunderous, winey, concentrated, specially cut dry-aged beef Manny's serves. It's also the social theater: There you are, in a dining room bursting with some of the best, biggest, hugest, giantest, most prestigious bottles of wine in all the world. All around you are captains of business, real estate, and industry, and their dates. Then, along comes your server. He rolls up a cart of steaks, chops, and, often, lobsters that are probably altogether worth more than your first car. He displays them to you, with a little song and dance about the excellence of each. You select your victims from the cart and tuck into either your perfectly poured cocktail or your bottle of well-aged wine that is more than likely never ever seen except inside the homes of obsessive wine collectors. How do you feel? Like a million bucks. Like the winner of everything. Like the top carnivore, the top predator, the top of the top of the top. It is that exact moment in time that makes Manny's the greatest steak house. (825 Marquette Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.339.9900)


Previous coverage:

Top 10 wine bars in the Twin Cities

Top 10 Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities

Top 10 craft cocktail bars in the Twin Cities

Top 10 Japanese restaurants in the Twin Cities

Top 10 sandwiches in the Twin Cities

Top 10 Middle Eastern Restaurants in the Twin Cities

Top 10 Italian restaurants in the Twin Cities


Top 10 Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities

Top 10 farmers markets in the Twin Cities

Top 10 street eats in the Twin Cities

Top 10 cupcake shops in the Twin Cities

Top 10 breakfasts in the Twin Cities

Top 10 dive bars in the Twin Cities

Top 10 late-night restaurants in the Twin Cities

Top 10 romantic restaurants in the Twin Cities


Top 10 bloody Marys in the Twin Cities

Top 10 margaritas in the Twin Cities

Top 10 macaroni & cheese dishes in the Twin Cities

Top 10 burgers in the Twin Cities

Top 10 sushi restaurants in the Twin Cities

Top 10 ice cream shops in the Twin Cities

Top 10 coffeehouses in the Twin Cities

Top 10 martinis in the Twin Cities


Top 5 gay bars in the Twin Cities

Top 10 hot dogs in the Twin Cities

Top 10 pizzerias in the Twin Cities

Top 5 brewpubs in the Twin Cities