Trailblazers Athena and Sheffield Priest opened the Tin Fish in 2004 — the city’s first privately managed restaurant on park board property — in an underused refectory on the lake’s northeast corner.
“We saw this building and thought, ‘What a shame that no one comes here,’ ” said Athena. “Now it’s very much a community destination.”
Familiar ocean and freshwater fish — tilapia, mahi-mahi, salmon, scallops, shrimp, calamari, walleye and catfish, all sourced from Morey’s Market in Motley, Minn. — fill out the menu, served in sliders, sandwiches, platters, tacos and other quick-service iterations. The wide range of prices start at $4 and hover mostly in the teens. Top sellers?
“Probably the mahi-mahi tacos,” said Athena, a $7 favorite.
Dessert is eight flavors of Brown’s ice cream, cookies (pumpkin spice, in the off season!) and brownies, baked from Sheffield’s mother’s recipe. When the temperature climbs, look for the Kurb Side Ice Co., a vintage 1957 truck serving refreshing New Orleans-style shaved ice.
Bonus: The bar taps locally brewed beers, from Able Seedhouse + Brewery, 612 Brew, Surly, Urban Growler Brewing Co., and more.
Bonus, part 2: The adjacent Wheel Run stand rents out kayaks, pedal boats, canoes and paddleboards, along with cruiser, mountain and tandem bikes.
3000 E. Lake Calhoun Pkwy., Mpls., 612-823-5840, tinfishmn.com. Open noon to 8 p.m. daily, weather-permitting (11 a.m. to 9 p.m. starting Memorial Day).
Ever since the doors opened at Sea Salt Eatery in 2006 — it’s located within misting distance of the falls, now in peak spring-gusher mode — the restaurant has been making fans for its accessible approach to seafood. Expect fried crawfish po’boys, steamed shrimp tacos, crabcakes and soft-shell crab sandwiches, along with an impressive roster of daily specials that could include diver scallops with a wild rice pilaf or spicy jerk-style mahi-mahi. Raining? There’s indoor seating.
Bonus: The ownership team’s close connections to Coastal Seafoods pays off in countless ways, but none more obvious (or more blessed) than the restaurant’s highly civilized oyster selection. Raw, fried, broiled, it’s all good. Dining with friends? Order the epic “Infamous Oil Pan,” a grazer’s delight ($49.95) of oysters on the half-shell, peel-and-eat shrimp, pickled herring and a pitcher of beer or carafe of wine.
Bonus, part 2: Finding Sea Salt line-free is the dining-out equivalent of winning the Gopher 5. So here’s how to navigate when encountering a crowd: Start by stepping into the separate drink line (the craft beer list would be the envy of any self-respecting gastropub) and ordering a fortifying libation.
4825 Minnehaha Av. S. (Minnehaha Park pavilion), Mpls., 612-721-8990, seasalteatery.wordpress.com. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily (11 a.m. to 9 p.m., starting Memorial Day).
One of the many joys of restaurateur Kim Bartmann’s Bread & Pickle is the menu’s welcoming, picnic-hamper approach.
Egg salad sandwiches, lobster-shrimp rolls, a hummus plate with veggies, they’re all here, along with top-notch burgers, an excellent grilled walleye sandwich, a well-tailored chopped salad and munchies along the lines of truffled kettle corn. The tap beer and wine options? Outstanding.
Bonus: Bartmann uses her popular bandshell-adjacent venue to shine the spotlight on top-quality regional producers, including Sonny’s (ice cream), Jonny Pops (all-natural smoothies-on-a-stick) and Ellsworth Creamery (squeaky-fresh cheese curds). She doesn’t forget the lake’s four-legged fans, either; bags of house-baked doggy treats are $1.50.
Bonus, part 2: Morning walkers, joggers, bikers and sailors have a friend in B&P, which starts cracking eggs at 7 a.m. The made-to-order fare includes a scramble, design-your-own egg sandwiches and bagels piled with smoked salmon and cream cheese. The espresso machine gets a good workout, too.
4135 W. Lake Harriet Pkwy., Mpls., 612-767-9009, breadandpickle.com. Open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
When Piccolo chef Doug Flicker opened Sandcastle three summers ago — with spouse Amy Greeley and their friend and colleague Chele Payer — it was a made-in-heaven marriage of culinary prowess and concession stand mentality.
Hot dogs get the deluxe treatment (get the beef frank version, buried under punchy kimchi and a fried egg). Instead of a burger, Flicker offers seasoned ground bison on chewy fry bread. Sprightly pea falafel are the base of a tasty, you’ll-never-miss-the-meat wrap. On sweltering days, an octopus-shrimp ceviche acts like an edible air conditioner.
Flicker is mindful of classics: BLTs and pulled-pork sandwiches are expert crowd-pleasers — and the deep fryer goes into overtime with cheese curds, corn fritters and golden fries. Love the house-made aguas and horchata, and the tap beers and wines are chosen with obvious discernment.
Bonus: Flicker makes weeknights — three of them, anyway — extra special, making a party out of burgers (Monday), Sloppy Joes (Wednesday) and fried chicken (Friday).
Bonus, part 2: One measure of the Sandcastle fan base is how 268 Kickstarters kicked in $17,000-plus to fund a soft-serve ice cream machine. That support translates into silky-smooth, way-better-than-DQ goodness, in vanilla and chocolate.
4955 W. Lake Nokomis Pkwy., Mpls., 612-722-5550, sandcastlempls.com. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.