Top Delicious Dishes & Drinks in MankatoVisit Mankato
Dine Like the Locals Do: Top Delicious Dishes and Drinks in Mankato, Minnesota
With so many choices for sipping and snacking in Mankato, Minnesota, how do you know where to start? Go where the locals go! Whether you’re craving breakfast, bar food, something sweet or want to taste a fresh brew, the city is brimming with restaurants to satisfy your appetite.
From polls, surveys and word of mouth, here are what those who call Minnesota home say are the must-try dishes and drinks in Mankato.
To taste pizza so good it regularly brings in pizza-lovers from Minneapolis and beyond, go to Pagliai’s Pizza. Located in the heart of downtown on Front Street (360° virtual tour) , Pagliai’s opened in 1969 and is Mankato’s oldest pizzeria. What makes it so tasty? Some say it’s the sauce while others say the crust, but everyone says it’s the best around. A must-try that gives you the best of both is the cheesy garlic bread (be sure to get a side of sauce for dipping).
When two brothers opened Tavern on the Avenue—better known as “The Tav on the Ave”—in 1988, they became waffle fry pioneers. They put crisscut fries on the sports bar’s menu to stand out from the places serving straight cut and shoestring fries. Since then, the waffle fries have been voted Minnesota’s best. Skip the ketchup and dip the fries in the Tav’s homemade ranch dressing.
Delicious tacos made with fresh ingredients are what you’ll find at Vero’s Tacos. The simple décor and straightforward menu keep the focus on the quality food. Your choice of shredded beef, steak, chicken or pork is served on a flour or corn tortilla with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, onions, cilantro, lime and salsa.
Select one of the specialty burgers or build your own at The Boulder Tap House. All burgers are made with freshly ground Angus beef and come with a choice of sides and fries, including Buffalo, Cajun or Parmesan fries. Try one of the stuffed burgers, which have a melting center of American, pepper jack or blue cheese. You can also opt for a turkey burger, black bean burger or chicken breast, and have it served on a pretzel bun or gluten-free bun. Wash it down with one of the restaurant’s 38 beers on tap.
Chips and dip
After strolling around Mankato City Center’s Entertainment District, go to Pub 500 for yummy appetizers and a great selection of beer to go with them. The potato chips are homemade and served with the house Southwestern dip. There’s also the homemade artichoke and spinach dip that’s served with warm pita bread, and Memphis BBQ nachos that are topped with pulled pork and Pub 500’s signature Ragtop BBQ sauce.
Bacon makes anything better, that’s for sure. For your fix, head to 3rd Street Tavern in St. Peter (located just 20 minutes outside Mankato) and order the bacon wrapped jalapeños. Fresh jalapeños are stuffed with sausage, cream cheese and house spices and then smoked and served with a bourbon glaze.
For authentic bagels that are kettle boiled and hearth baked, visit Tandem Bagels in City Center Mankato. It’s a fitting name for a bagel shop in the bicyclists’ paradise that is Mankato; you’ll find bike racks in front of the shop where you can park your ride while you eat. The bagels are made on-site from scratch, and the highly-rated coffee is locally roasted.
You don’t need to be a student at Minnesota State University, Mankato (360° virtual tour) to dine at Weggy’s On Campus. The close-to-campus eatery serves a hearty breakfast daily beginning at 6 a.m. The omelets come in a variety of styles and are served with hash browns and toast. Try the Mankato Omelet, made with ham, diced celery, green peppers and onions. Or the BLT Omelet, which is actually a BST omelet, made with bacon, spinach, tomato and cheddar cheese.
If you’re craving ice cream, head to Mom & Pop’s in Old Town (360° virtual tour) , near Riverfront Park in City Center Mankato. Mom & Pop’s has 32 rotating flavors of premium ice cream that locals say are the creamiest and richest around. Have a scoop in a waffle cone, or sip on a shake, malt or float. You can even make an ice cream sandwich with Mom & Pop’s chocolate chips or caramel pecan cookies. And if you want a cool treat without dairy, try its soy flavors or Italian ice.
A hidden gem that locals rave about is Rapidan Dam Store. The unassuming spot, serving comfort food along the Blue Earth River, has been open since 1910. It’s the perfect pit stop when biking in Mankato, and its homemade pie is legendary. There are a dozen or so flavors, which you can savor at a table outdoors while taking in views of the dam.
With brick-lined walls that feature work from local artists and a prime location in Old Town Mankato (360° virtual tour) , The Coffee Hag is a place where you’ll want to sit and enjoy your java, not just take it to go. The Coffee Hag serves espresso drinks, tea, and organic and fair-trade coffee as well as baked goods and vegetarian fare. A signature drink is the Turtle Mocha, made with Hershey’s chocolate, caramel and hazelnut syrup, with chocolate sauce drizzled on top to look like a turtle shell. The Coffee Hag has performances by local musicians on Friday and Saturday evenings, and hosts poetry readings, comedy shows and trivia nights.
To experience Mankato’s craft beer scene, check out Mankato Brewery. Since 2012, the brewery’s focus has been on producing authentic beers that are immediately recognizable by the eye-catching artwork on the cans. Children and outside food are welcome at the Tap Room, which has 12 draught lines and views of the brewhouse and tanks. A must-taste is the Mad Butcher IPA, an unfiltered American IPA that has bold flavors of tropical fruits, citrus zest and a hint of honey. Tours of Mankato Brewery are offered on Saturdays, and there’s live entertainment from local musicians on select evenings. Many more breweries are close to Mankato, so make a road trip out of your time here!
A brewery with a history
Minnesotans say the best brewery in the state is the August Schell Brewing Co., and you’ll find it only a half an hour from Mankato. Schell’s is one of the oldest breweries in the United States, with a history that dates back to the 1860s when August Schell began brewing beer like the ones from his native Germany. Six generations later, Schell’s has produced more than 100 styles of German-inspired beer. At the brewery in New Ulm, you can take a tour, sample brews and shop for glassware and gifts. Start with the Firebrick, a Vienna-style amber lager that’s a crowd-pleaser with its mild maltiness and light hoppy finish.
The Boulder Tap House takes the top spot for best happy hour as voted on by locals, and coming in a close second is Blue Bricks. Since 1999, Blue Bricks has been the place to be for beer, bites and pool in City Center Mankato. Happy hour is from 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday; and all day Monday. In addition to beer specials, all appetizers are a dollar off. Try the Mexi-Style Black Bean and Veggie Spring Rolls that are served with salsa and sour cream, or the Southwest Corn Kickers, savory bites of corn, bacon, cream cheese and jalapeño that are served with a sun-dried tomato sauce.
Wine by the glass
When you want to sip a glass of wine or share a bottle in an inviting atmosphere, go to The Wine Café Pub & Eatery in City Center Mankato. Also part boutique, The Wine Café has a selection of more than 1,300 rare, hard to find wines, and more than 70 imported and domestic beers. The winery hosts monthly wine tastings, live music Friday and Saturday nights and karaoke on Thursday nights.
Wine with a view
Less than 20 minutes from downtown Mankato, you’ll find the picturesque vineyards of Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery. The winery, established in 2008, takes its name from the Dakota word meaning “forest enclosed.” It is Minnesota’s second largest winery and produces white, red, rosé and sparkling wine as well as spirits including whiskey, gin and brandy. Try the La Crescent, a sweet white wine made from grapes of the same name that were developed by the University of Minnesota to withstand cold temperatures. And it’s worth a special trip just to taste the North Forest Krem Valnot. This unique cream liqueur is made with Mankato maple syrup, black walnuts, apple brandy and Minnesota apple wine. Enjoy a sip in the tasting room, outside on the tasting deck or on the patio by the fire pit. The menu includes dishes like wood-fired pizza and antipasti that complement the wines. Three other wineries make up the Mankato area wine route, so be sure to visit them all during your stay.
Want even more of the best of Mankato? Dine and drink your way through all of Mankato’s Best Ofs.