You might be surprised who has the highest concentration of places to eat among Minnesota cities

What’s the most restaurant-crazy city in Minnesota? 

Maybe… MinneapolisSt. Paul?  Both are great cities for dining, with some of the most acclaimed and beloved restaurants in the U.S., but neither of those communities have the hunger for eating out that, say, Brainerd does—or Virginia, or Pine City for that matter.  Among all urban places in Minnesota (with populations of over 2,500 people), those are the top-three cities ranked by restaurants per capita.

The Pine Poker took a look at Urbanspoon’s count of restaurants per city in Minnesota and ranked them by the number of restaurants per capita.

Click here to see the results of our number crunching. 

Brainerd (pop. 13,590) has 153 eateries, or one for every 89 residents, while Virginia (pop. 8,712) has 96 eateries, or one for every 91 residents.  And, Pine City (pop. 3,127) has 30 places to eat, or one for every 104 residents.  Compare that to Minneapolis’ one restaurant per 287 people, and St. Paul’s one restaurant to every 437 people.

In fact, Pine City opened two new restaurants just this summer.  It now is home to Bamboo Kitchen, a Chinese and Thai restaurant, as well as Scotty’s Parkside Café, downtown, overlooking Robinson Park in the town square.  Who knew Pine Citians liked to eat out so much?

A photo of Scotty's Parkside Cafe in Pine City as it was preparing for its soft opening in May.

A photo of Scotty’s Parkside Cafe in Pine City as it was preparing for its soft opening in May.

To put the numbers in perspective, there are about 616,000 restaurants operating in America. That means that the average density in the country was about one restaurant per 500 people.  There are 9,985 restaurants statewide—or one restaurant for every 531 Minnesotans, which is just a tad less than the national average.

Rounding out the list of top-10 most restaurant dense cities in Minnesota were Park Rapids (pop. 3,709, 35 restaurants), Detroit Lakes (pop. 8,569, 79 restaurants), Alexandria (pop. 11,070, 86 restaurants), Perham (pop. 2,985, 22 restaurants), Ely (pop. 3,460, 25 restaurants), Wabasha (pop. 2,521, 17 restaurants) and Bemidji (pop. 13,431, 86 restaurants).   Ham Lake (pop. 15,296) with its mere seven restaurants was the least restaurant-dense city in Minnesota; it only has one restaurant per 2,185 residents.

You’ll notice the Minnesota list leans a little heavily toward touristy areas, which tend to attract many more restaurant customers than full-time residents.  And, there are far more restaurants per capita in Mnnesota’s small towns versus its bigger cities and suburbs.  Still, it’s a fascinating, unusual list.

Just outside of Pine City, one can enjoy Rock Creek Motor Stop's World Famous Chicken Dumpling Soup, comfort food.

Just outside of Pine City along I-35, one can enjoy Rock Creek Motor Stop’s World Famous Chicken Dumpling Soup, comfort food.

As for smaller cities (with populations below 2,500), Dovray, Minn. (pop. 57) was the most restaurant dense, with its four restaurants, or one for every 14 people.  Rounding out the top-ten small cities list were Leonard (pop. 41, three restaurants), McGregor (pop. 391, 20 restaurants), Beaver Bay (pop. 181, nine restaurants), Longville (pop. 156, seven restaurants), Kerrick (pop. 65, three restaurants), Bena (pop. 116, five restaurants), Garrison (pop. 210, eight restaurants), Odessa (pop. 135, four restaurants) and Mentor (pop. 153, four restaurants).

Janesville (pop. 2,256) may not be a restaurant destination for you as it has just two eating establishments in the whole town, Tropics Bar  (with a “limited menu“) and a Subway, and the lowest restaurant density among Minnesota’s smaller cities.

Filing period for Pine City mayor, city council closes Aug. 12

For those interested in running for mayor or city council, the time is now. The filing period for city races in Pine City opened Tuesday, July 29, and will close at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12.

In Pine City, the mayor seat and two city council seats—now held by Mary Kay Sloan and Paul Miller—are up for grabs.  Incumbent Mayor Paul Janssen has not announced whether he will be seeking re-election.

To be eligible for city office, one must be an eligible voter, must be at least 21 years old and have maintained residence in the City for 30 days before the general election, Tues., Nov. 4.

Candidates can file at City Hall, in the Pine Government Center, at 315 Main St. S.  There is a $2 filing fee.  For more information, contact City Administrator Holly Wilson at 320.629.2575.

For information on polling places, visit the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State website at and click on “Vote: Elections and Voting.”

Where to celebrate Independence Day

The day before the holiday weekend and the calls start rolling in… “Will Pine City have fireworks this weekend?”  My response each year is the same… “Pine City’s fireworks display was held last Saturday as part of the Freedom Fest celebration… but I can share a list of places that you can view them in surrounding areas.”

So… if you are a resident or visitor to Pine City this weekend, here are just a few of the nearby options to enjoy fireworks.

July 3rd – Onamia, fireworks at dusk

July 4th – Finlayson, fireworks at dusk in Downtown Finlayson

July 4th – Cambridge, fireworks at dusk at the Isanti County Fairgrounds

July 4th – Braham, fireworks at dusk, north of high school

If you are looking for just a few other ways to celebrate this weekend, here are some additional opportunities:

Friday, July 4th at 6:30 PM – the Whitesidewalls will perform for Art in the Park, hosted by the Pine City Arts Council.

Saturday, July 5th beginning at 1:00 PM you can enjoy the Cross Lake Association’s annual Boat Parade.  The route begins on the east side of the lake at Yorston’s dock.

Saturday & Sunday, July 5th & 6th is the Birchbark Bonanza at the North West Company Fur Post.  Costumed interpreters will demonstrate the many uses of the tree bark of the paper birch.  Want more information, call 629-6356 for details.