The Minnesota Zoo is one of the best places in the Twin Cities area to see a concert. But if you’re not from south of the Minnesota River, you might wonder where to eat and drink before a zoo show.

One lesson we’ve learned: Don’t be afraid of dining in strip malls. Hey, it’s suburbia. Here is a dining guide, whether you’re going for the music or the animals:


Mason Jar

Details: 1565 Cliff Rd., Eagan, 651-340-7809,

Vibe: Casual but not informal, with Mason jars as lighting fixtures, window coverings and, of course, drinking glasses. There’s a nice enclosed outdoor patio next to a strip-mall driveway.

Food: Gourmet comfort food, from pot pie and pizza to blackened tilapia tacos and almond-crusted walleye. The desserts are by bakery extraordinaire Cupcake.

Pro tip: Get a dessert (or two) to go.

Post-concert: No.

Drive time to zoo: Five minutes.



Details: 1555 Cliff Rd., Eagan, 651-452-0200,

Vibe: Sports bar meets family dining, with an outdoor fireplace that seems superfluous in the summer.

Food: There are plenty of mesquite-grilled entrees as well as salads, flatbreads, burgers and Southwestern items.

Pro tip: If you’re in a hurry, eat in the bar.

Post-concert: Till midnight.

Drive time to zoo: Five minutes.



Details: 15435 Founders Lane, Apple Valley, 952-891-8808,

Vibe: Revamped last year, this stylish, sprawling restaurant has lots of windows, stone and wood. The patio is extensive, too, with a view of lots of big apartment and condo complexes.

Food: If you’ve been to Zelo in downtown Minneapolis or Bacio in Minnetonka, you’ll find this upscale menu familiar. Steaks, fish and lots of pasta and salad options.

Pro tip: Make reservations.

Post-concert: Open till 11 p.m. on weekdays, midnight Friday and Saturday.

Drive time to zoo: Seven minutes.



Details: 4625 Nicols Rd., Eagan, 651-454-6744,

Vibe: This super-casual place feels like a 1970s supper club with an adjacent bar in a barnlike structure that is vibrant and loud, with sports on TV and karaoke at night. The large enclosed patio is popular.

Food: The classics are the 24-ounce bone-in rib-eye, the walleye and “steak of the millennium,” a 16-ounce sirloin. Casper’s offers plenty of sandwiches, too.

Pro tip: The boisterous barn is for after the concert, not before.

Post-concert: Till 2 a.m.

Drive time to zoo: Seven minutes.


Doolittle’s Woodfire Grill

Details: 2140 Cliff Rd., Eagan, 651-452-6627,

Vibe: Handsome and unpretentious, Doolittle’s works for a business dinner, date night or family outing.

Food: The menu is deep and wide with an emphasis on woodfire options (chicken, ribs, steaks) and fish selections.

Pro tip: Make reservations; it can get crowded at dinner time.

Post-concert: 11 p.m. weekdays, midnight Friday and Saturday.

Drive time to zoo: Seven minutes.