If the only thing you know about Minneapolis is that it’s frozen from November to April, let’s change that. Like the people who call it home, the City of Lakes isn’t flashy or trendy — at least not in the usual sense. More often than not, the beloved Midwestern city just does what it wants, builds what it wants and makes what it wants without too much regard for the trends of the moment. Pickling everything in the garden? That’s just what people do in the summer. Flannel? We need it to keep us warm all winter. Biking? I mean, how else would you get places? But somewhere along the way, it’s like the trends started quietly aligning with those farm-to-table, flannel-wearing, bike-crazy ways. If you find yourself in this incredible city of makers, here are 21 ways to make the most out of your visit.
Where to Stay
1. The Commons Hotel: Minneapolis is bursting at the seams with cool makers, but the hotel scene doesn’t always match up with the character of the city. Affordable boutique hotels are hard to come by, but The Commons is a great option if you don’t go the Airbnb route. The designer geek chic theme is spot-on throughout, and the location on the University of Minnesota campus makes downtown and the up-and-coming Northeast neighborhood extra accessible with public transit. Best of all, it’s budget-friendly.
2. Le Méridien Chambers Hotel: If you want to stay in the heart of downtown, Chambers is the place. This luxury art hotel is minimalist and modern, with an attached art gallery to roam in your spare time. In the winter their outdoor courtyard transforms into a frozen ice bar, complete with warm blankets and big bonfires.
What to Eat
3. Travail Kitchen + Amusements: Technically, Travail isn’t in Minneapolis, but rather in the nearby suburb of Robbinsdale, but it is, without a doubt, the most inventive dining experience in the metro. Travail is molecular gastronomy at its best — all of the mad scientist flavorbombs, none of the uppity attitude. The only thing they serve is an always-changing 10-course tasting menu ($110 for two people), so if you want to order a la carte, you’ll have to go to their equally delicious sister restaurants, The Rookery or Pig Ate My Pizza.
4. Patisserie 46: There are no words to describe how much love you should feel for pastry master John Kraus. He’s probably responsible for 40% of this writer’s annual carb intake, from rustic, flaky, ham and gruyere croissants to decadent desserts that look way too pretty to eat. And as with so many Minneapolis chefs, he’s ridiculously talented yet ridiculously humble. (Photo via Eliesa Johnson)
5. Pizzeria Lola: Betcha didn’t know that Neapolitan pizza is a huge thing in Minneapolis. There are a lot of delicious pizzerias, but Pizzeria Lola regularly ends up at the top of the list because, well, many reasons — but let’s start with two. First of all, the chef and owner Ann Kim is a certified pizzaiola (that’s like a cicerone or sommelier of pizza). Second of all, her pizzas are incredible, especially the Lady ZaZa with Italian red sauce, house-made kimchi, Korean sausage, serrano peppers, scallions, sesame and soy chili glaze. Or the one shown above, with Iowa-made La Quercia prosciutto and eggs.
6. Birchwood Cafe: Two words for you — savory waffle. More words for you — farm-to-table, bike-friendly and totally Instagrammable (it’s like the City of Minneapolis in restaurant form). Their savory waffle features a rotating cast of seasonal ingredients, so it’s a surprise every time. Last week it was a pumpkin, amaranth and gruyere waffle topped with red onion jam, apple cinnamon butter, bacon lardons and a sunny-side-up egg. P.S. In Uptown, Heyday is another solid brunch pick with Bloody Marys to spare.
7. Parlour: Many Minneapolitans would tell you that you simply have to eat a Jucy Lucy (the Twin Cities’ infamous molten cheese-stuffed burger at Matt’s Bar), but there’s an even better burger at Parlour. This dark, sexy cocktail bar boasts a greasy, dare-I-say perfect burger. If you often gravitate toward red currant preserves and fancy cheeses on your burgers, forget that. There’s none of that involved in this one. It requires no condiments whatsoever. In fact, if you even think about asking them for ketchup, this writer will reach through her screen and wag her finger at you in disapproval. In addition to this burger, you’ll find casual bar food paired with high-end booze, while their sister restaurant upstairs, Borough, has a more upscale menu that’s also worth a try.
What to Drink
8. Spyhouse Coffee Roasters: Minneapolis was recently named one of America’s best coffee cities by Travel + Leisure, in part thanks to this local roastery. Spyhouse has three different outposts around the city, but the new mothership in Northeast is the best when it comes to atmosphere. It’s a huge converted warehouse and has that edgy industrial thing down pat. Oh, and the coffee is on point, too… so chances are you’ll want to move in.
9. Five Watt Coffee: Five Watt’s incredible menu of coffee cocktails will make you forget all about your double-raspberry-nonfat-latte ways. The Kingfield is made with vanilla, Big Watt coriander bitters, espresso, milk and black Hawaiian sea salt. Stop in during Sunday Service (10 a.m. – noon) and you’ll enjoy your coffee with an oatmeal bar and live music on Five Watt’s house organ. (via The Midwestival)
10. Indeed Brewing: Minnesota’s been going through a kind of craft beer renaissance over the past couple of years. There are dozens upon dozens of new breweries to visit in Minneapolis, so we struggled to narrow it down to just one. In addition to cozy Indeed Brewing (order the Midnight Ryder Black Ale), there’s Dangerous Man Brewing, Fulton Beer, Harriet Brewing, LynLake Brewery and so many other cold ones to be had. You might as well make a crawl of it… and once Surly‘s Disneyland-scale destination brewery opens up, you should add that to the crawl, too. (via Indeed Brewing)
11. Marvel Bar: One thing Minnesota does better than pretty much anybody (except Wisconsin) is a dive bar. Marvel Bar is the opposite of that — a North Loop speakeasy for cocktail savants. Ask them to make you a punch, try one of the boozy masterpieces from the menu or learn how to make your own at one of their cocktail classes.
12. Norseman Distillery: The distillery boom followed the brewery boom, and you can find a lot of fledgling makers currently paving the way. Norseman Distillery is a favorite, currently offering five hand-crafted spirits made by one man and his two (canine) boozehounds. Tasting tours are offered regularly if you sign up on the website. (via The Midwestival)
Where to Shop
13. Forage Modern Workshop: This South Minneapolis shop is a central hub for Minnesota-made home furnishings and gifts. A few notable local offerings include fine leather goods by Spring Finn + Co., mid-century sideboards from Eastvold Furniture, blankets from Faribault Woolen Mill and handmade backpacks by Viska. It’s impossible to leave empty-handed. (via The Midwestival)
14. Cliché: The fashion-obsessed should head to this little boutique that always keeps Minneapolis-made designer threads in the mix. You’ll find wearables from local makers like Hackwith Design House (who also dabbles in tasseltry), Amanda Christine and more. And while you’re in the Uptown neighborhood, make sure to explore the Chain of Lakes… not necessarily a “maker” highlight, but it’s a must.
15. Wind + Willow Home: Araya Jensen makes covetable hand-dipped wooden servingware and painted soft goods. She just opened a studio in South Minneapolis in November, and you’re going to want to see her work her magic firsthand. Her unexpected color schemes are always flawless, as you can see in our interview with her last April. (via The Midwestival)
16. Askov Finlayson: The North Loop neighborhood is perfect for a shopping spree, starting at this men’s boutique. It’s all Northwoodsy threads and American heritage brands, so no matter your gender, you will want all the things. Once you’re done there, head to Arrow, The Foundry, Grethen House and Martin Patrick 3.