Best of the Twin Cities
By Ellen Burkhardt, Katie Dohman, Tim Gihring,
Variety is the spice of life, right? Sure, but we think the wondrous mix of things to do, eat, drink, buy, and enjoy in the Twin Cities is better described as, well, pretty sweet. It’s a veritable Candyland out there, and on the following pages we highlight the things that make us feel good as gumdrops.
Best Gift Shop
Whatever your occasion to give a gift, Patina has it. Not only do they have their finger on the pulse of the latest trends, but they also have the know-how to dial it back for, say, a conservative grandma’s 85th birthday. With five metro locations, you’ll never have to go far to find that perfect gift.
Best Place to Buy Local
i like you
Visiting this northeast Minneapolis shop, with its Astroturf carpet and gigantic front-window swing, is like taking a skip through a playground. Sift through the expansive card selection, sample top-shelf eco-friendly body-care lines, try on jewelry, peruse home-décor pieces and art, and go gaga for the excellent baby/kids’ section. Shopping here supports local retail economy and artist incomes—win-win!
501 First Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-208-0249, ilikeyouonline.com
Broders’ Pasta Bar
This family-run Italian restaurant is a rock of consistency, thanks to executive chef Michael Rostance’s 25-year history with the company. Rostance takes a traditional approach to the pasta press, pushing the dough through an extruder made with bronze dyes that make his noodles porous and spongy— chewy conveyor belts for a heavenly tomato cream sauce.
5000 Penn Ave. S., Mpls., 612-925-9202, broders.com
From the rolling cart of beef, with its astonishing $80 Bludgeon of Beef (and the even more astonishing $110 Double Porterhouse) to the bottles of rare wines, there’s nothing like Manny’s.
825 Marquette Ave., Mpls., 612-339-9900, mannyssteakhouse.com
Why is Tilia the best brunch place in town? One answer: the waffles. Cornbread-based, topped with delicate lobster, hugged by spinach bathed in garlic-butter, and crowned with a bacon-touched hollandaise, this is a waffle that will leave you humming with joy.
2726 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-354-2806, tiliampls.com
The great thing about the food at Evergreen Chinese is that you can fill a generous banquet table with it, and never repeat a dish’s flavor profile. The pepper-fried mock pork brims with ginger and is thick and meaty. The Vietnamese curry mock duck is sweet and fragrant. And that’s only the smallest fraction of this extravagantly various, terrifically delicious wide-ranging array of vegetarian triumphs.
2424 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-871-6801, evergreen-chinese.com
Best Fish ’n’ Chips
Anchor Fish & Chips
Each forkful of the sustainably harvested, battered-and-fried Alaskan cod from Anchor Fish & Chips is the ideal yin-yang of soft and hard, salty and sweet, comforting and precise. The chips are just right, too, soft, caramelized, and just porous enough to soak up plenty of curry sauce, vinegar, and praise.
302 13th Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-676-1300, theanchorfishandchips.com
Best Ice-cream Drink
The Drive In
Kids love gimmicks, and what’s a drive-in if not a bonanza of gimmicks? Minnesota’s archetype of the genre, the 55-year-old Drive In, goes all out: a giant, rotating mug of root beer for a road sign; a wait staff of teenage “car hops” in poodle skirts; a sound system pumping 1950s-era rock ’n’ roll. There’s even a mini-golf course. Your kids will flip. You might, too, if you order the root-beer float, the Drive In’s pièce de résistance, poured with house-made root beer.
572 Bench St., Taylors Falls, 651-465-7831, taylorsfalls.com
Best Cocktail Bar
Having a cocktail at Bradstreet Crafthouse is like having a drink in another era. See that heavy velvet curtain? Pull it back and reveal the Parlour Room, a secret, swanky bar-within-a-bar, the closest thing the Twin Cities has to a speakeasy. The drinks are old-school, too, scratch-made with house-pressed juices, house-made bitters, specialty syrups, and tennis-ball sized spheres of ice that are 40-percent colder than your typical cubes. 601 First Ave. N., Mpls., 612-312-1821, bradstreetcraftshouse.com
Best Jazz Venue
Prince played here—the first shows he ever did. Which should be reason enough to check out this renovated Art Deco theater. But here’s another: it’s a regular home to the best vocal-jazz performers in the Twin Cities—Greta Oglesby, Dennis Spears, Sanford Moore—all of whom you can hear in this intimate, clubby setting for a fraction of what you’d pay to see them in musicals at the Guthrie or Ordway. No staging. No plots. Just great music.
2027 W. Broadway Ave., Mpls., 612-643-2050, thecapritheater.org
Best Culinary Crawls
Twin Cities Food Tours/Taste Twin Cities Food Tours
If you’re dining at just one restaurant per afternoon, you’re missing out. You could be noshing at half a dozen historic and specialty restaurants on one of the Twin Cities Food Tours, a 1.5-mile trek through the Warehouse District into northeast Minneapolis. Or you could take one of the similarly named Taste Twin Cities Food Tours, which launched last summer with a slightly different itinerary, heading from the Mill District into Northeast. Our recommendation? Do both.
Best Urban Retreat
Sometimes overshadowed by its more boisterous boutique cousins in town, the Ivy makes for a perfect couple’s escape. Women will enjoy the good food, posh bed, and spa. Guys will enjoy the big TV, the Esquire on the bedside table, and the oversize Jacuzzi from which they can watch the game—when they aren’t staring into your eyes, of course.
201 S. 11th St., Mpls., 612-746-4600, starwoodhotels.com
Best Club to Hear Singer-songwriters
Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant
Surely we’re confused. Singer-songwriters at a jazz club? What have we been smoking? The better question: where have you been? The Dakota, recognizing a nice crossover between fans of jazz and fans of old-school singer-songwriters, recently began booking legends like Judy Collins, Maria Muldaur, and Bettye LaVette. In fact, about a quarter of its lineup is now comprised of folk, pop, blues, and R&B acts. And we can’t think of a better place—so relaxed, so cozy, so full of good food—to hear them.
1010 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-332-1010, dakotacooks.com
Best Urban Adventure
Lebanon Hills Regional Park
This Eden, in Eagan, is dense and immense—bigger than many state parks. Last fall, the visitor center got an upgrade. New picnic shelters and mountain-bike trails were also added, just in time for summer.
860 Cliff Rd., Eagan, 651-554-6530, co.dakota.mn.us
Best Retro Supper
Vino & Vinyl at Corner Table
Every Thursday night, Corner Table, the quintessential south Minneapolis neighborhood restaurant, becomes a gourmet rec-room: guests bring old LPs for the chefs to spin during dinner. Also, the usual $12 corkage fee is ratcheted down to $1—another flashback to the good old days.
4257 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-823-0011, cornertablerestaurant.com
Best New Brewery
If your stein hath runneth over with the flood of new Minnesota microbreweries over the past couple of years, don’t worry. Only one has focused on supplying you with a local and affordable version of exotic, Belgian-style ales—the champagne of beers, no matter what Miller says. Take home a growler, take a tour, or just take it from the tap at some 31 local watering holes.
3036 Minnehaha Ave., Mpls., 612-225-2184, harrietbrewing.com
Best Date Night
For movie buffs
3951 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 763-788-9079, heightstheater.com
For music fans
Cedar Cultural Center
416 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls., 612-338-2674, thecedar.org
For English majors
University of Minnesota Author Readings
Locations vary, see website: bookstores.umn.edu/genref/authors.html
For culture vultures
Salon Saloon (every fourth Tuesday at Bryant-Lake Bowl)
810 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-825-3737, bryantlakebowl.com
For art lovers
Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ Third Thursdays
2400 Third Ave. S., Mpls., 612-870-3000, artsmia.org
For cocktail connoisseurs
50 Second Ave. N., Mpls., 612-206-3920, thebachelorfarmer.com
4154 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale, 763-535-1131, travailkitchen.com