Petite Leon Background
It’s hard to spend any amount of time in the Twin Cities food scene without hearing rumblings of an up-and-coming challenger to the best burgers in the Twin Cities.
According to the hype, Le Petite Cheeseburger at Petite Leon is worth the visit alone.
But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that this new spot, bravely opened right in the middle of the pandemic, has a ton going for it.
For one, there’s the all star cast.
Jorge Guzman is the Executive Chef. He’s most known for his James Beard nominations while running the Brewer’s Table at Surly, but he’s also got a decorated past that includes the old Solera in Minneapolis and Pollo Pollo, his hugely popular chicken pop-up.
Travis Serbus is responsible for the cocktail menu, and his past includes time at Meteor Bar and Lyn65, the latter being a place of shared experience with co-owners Dan Manosack and Ben Reits.
Who cares! We’ve already booked our reservation and can’t wait to get tasting!
Petite Leon Location, Vibe, and Atmosphere
Petite Leon sits in an old cafe, and the atmosphere somehow mixes that warm and cozy neighborhood vibe with an evening lounge.
Along one wall is an impressive bar, with plenty of alcohol stacked to the sky. The other nestles a collection of private booths, each one lit by one of those tiny brass antique lamps for a fun, intimate touch. Splitting the middle is a long row of plush leather seating, with a few small tables dotting the landscape.
Oh, and we can’t forget to mention the awesome and enormous mural of a human-lion hybrid!
The host sat us in one of the cozy booths, and the little wall mounted lamp made me feel like I was sitting in my very own speakeasy inside a restaurant. So, I immediately got to ordering drinks as if I was!
Petite Leon’s drink menu has a long list of cocktails, a small but well-chosen handful of tap beers, and a respectable wine list.
I like to veer towards whichever part of the menu seems to have been given the most love, so cocktails it is!
Over the meal I ordered two different cocktails:
- The “Verde” – a mix of mezcal, aquavit, tomatillo, pineapple, lime and cava.
- The “Brawndo” – a mix Tequila, Orange, Avacado, Lime, and Habenero
They must have been good drinks, because for the life of me I can’t remember which one is pictured above.
I WILL say that whichever one is pictured above was one of my favorite drinks in the entire Twin Cities! Making my poor memory even more hilariously embarrassing.
Hey, nobody said DTC was filled with professional food critics! You get what ya pay for…
Update – special thanks to a life-saving reader who pointed out that it’s The Verde drink I fell in love with.
In any case, Petite Leon definitely takes their cocktails seriously, and I’d highly recommend you trying one.
Lily is the big Wedge Salad fan in the group. She’s ordered these things all across the Twin Cities, so after her first few bites and her enthusiastic claim that Petite Leon’s was easily one of the best in the entire metro, I took notice.
Their wedge was definitely an impressive elevation of something simple. They mix their ranch dressing with queso fresco for some extra creaminess, and they smoke their croutons and crumble them small for the perfect crunch on every bite. But if I had to pick a standout? It’s those pickled tomatoes, which add a bright acidic pop to what’s normally a routine appetizer.
I’d heard these meatballs were one of the most popular menu items, so of course I’m helpless to resist.
Like most things on the Petite Leon menu, these meatballs take a Latin spin. The menu describes it as a “salsa birria” which a round of googling tells me is a traditional lamb stew made with chiles and spices.
The taste is absolutely one of the more unique bites around.
Le Petite Cheeseburger
As mentioned in the intro, this was another of our “must eats” since we’d heard so much about it.
And I’ve gotta say, this is one incredible burger.
It never ceases to amazing me how many incredible restaurants in our city continue to push the envelope of bun-meat-cheese mixes, and Petite Leon’s definitely sets a high bar.
Ours came out extra charred, extra juicy, and with extra pops of flavor thanks to a hefty dose of their pickles and caramelized onions.
I mean, just look at that thing! Definitely a home run dish.
And you know I had to get some fries with that burger. They were thick and crispy, just like a like them!
Pollo al Carbon
For some reason, foodie snobs think it’s cool to hate on chicken dishes. But those folks better check themselves at Petite Leon, because this is yet another dish that put this spot on the map.
For a brief period of time, Chef Guzman was operating out of Pollo Pollo al Carbon, a pop-up chicken concept that quickly grew an avid collection of die-hard fans around the cities. And the star of the show?
You guessed it! The Pollo al Carbon, now a fullt-time menu item at Petite Leon.
To put it simply, this chicken blew my socks off.
As expected, it’s cooked to tender perfection, so no worries there. But what isn’t expected is that incredible Mexican dry rub coating the outside, nor the addicting sauce/salsa combination ready for dipping each bite.
Out of this world chicken, and my personal favorite dish of the night.
Tarta de Queso
This is a basque style cheesecake, and yes, I had to look up what a basque style cheesecake is. Apparently, that’s a cheesecake with Spanish origins and a “burnt” twist. (It’s not actually burned, but it sure is a deep, dark brown!)
The result is unique, unusual, and delightful. The crisp outside is a sharp contrast to a creamy cheesecake’s soft inside, and Petite Leon takes the whole thing to the next level with some vanilla wafer crumble for the perfect amount of texture and complementary flavor.
Yep, the hype is real.
Petite Leon is one of the coolest openings we’ve seen to our food scene in some time.
The Mexican-inspired menu, mixed with home runs classics like their delicious burger, make this a must-visit for any Minneapolis food lover.
A casual and approachable vibe, a wonderful cocktail menu, and fantastic food makes Petite Leon the perfect choice for a down-to-earth date night spot, or even just a fun choice for anyone looking to tap into their inner foodie.
Either way, you need to go!
What’s the service like?
It’s full wait service that’s casual and friendly.
Oh, and they’re a no-tipping operation, instead opting for a 20% surcharge to provide fair wages and benefits to the entire team.
Average Plate Cost
Metered street parking.
3800 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55409