Minneapolis is the largest city in the state of Minnesota, with over 407,000 residents. Together with St. Paul, it makes up the “Twin Cities”, the 14th-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. Minneapolis lies on both banks of the Mississippi River, and there are over 20 lakes and wetlands in the city area. Its known for humid summers and cold, snowy winters. The Twin Cities is the second largest economic hub of the Midwest, behind Chicago, and is home to five Fortune 500 companies- Target, U.S. Bancorp, Xcel Energy, Ameriprise Financial and Thrivent Financial. It’s also a cultural hub, drawing in creatives with its many popular theater, art and music venues. And let’s not forget the booming restaurant scene the Twin Cities has become! Three Minneapolis chefs have received a James Beard award; in 2012, Food & Wine named it the nation’s best and best-priced new food city; in early 2015, Minneapolis-St. Paul was awarded the Readers Choice Best Local Food Scene by USA Today. Read up on this cool city with the help of Minneapolis local, Liz!
THE LOCAL: Liz
WHY YOU SHOULD TRUST HER: Liz has lived in Minneapolis for three years, and as a transplant from down South, she has a unique perspective on what makes Minneapolis awesome. She’s lived in several of the city’s neighborhoods – Northeast, Uptown, South Minneapolis- and she currently works downtown. Many people only know Minneapolis for its cold winter weather. What they may not know about is its vibrant theatre and arts scene, its many wonderful restaurants, its walkability and the very friendly people. With several large lakes in the city itself, the outdoor activities in both summer and winter are great. Liz is a commuter biker, a regular at the many farmers markets and she LOVES to eat!
1. Favorite Street to Wander/Stroll in Minneapolis?
Hands-down this would be Nicollet Avenue, and not just Nicollet Avenue South, or “Eat Street”, as it’s known around town. This street passes through many well-known neighborhoods- from Tangletown to Kingfield- and goes all the way downtown. It has some of the best restaurants in Minneapolis – from authentic ethnic food (Pho Tau Bay, Vietnamese) to trendy hipster bars (Pat’s Tap). There are boutiques, theaters, and other attractions along this street as well. Some favorites:
- Pho Tau Bay: Amazing pho, vermicelli noodle salads and spring rolls, among other dishes. This place beats out even Quang’s (which is also on Nicollet and another mainstay in the neighborhood).
- Glam Doll Doughnuts: Retro styling meets inventive and memorable (not to mention delicious!) doughnuts. You have to try the Calendar Girl with salted caramel and chocolate.
- Revival Restaurant: Newly opened, serving Southern fare with fabulous fried chicken and the best white cheddar grits I’ve had this far North.
- Hola Arepa: Food truck turned restaurant that serves arepas, which are basically corn cake tacos.
2. Best Coffee Shop or Bakery?
There are many cool local coffeeshops: Spyhouse, Bull Run, Kopplins (St. Paul), Peace Coffee; but Five Watt, again on Nicollet, is my favorite. It has specialty drinks and beautifully crafted coffee, although you will pay for it. They often serve Patisserie46 pastries – a French bakery on Grand and another favorite.
3. Minneapolis Local “Secret” (Hole-in-the-Wall, Dive Bar, or Hidden Gem)?
The Spot, in St. Paul, is a favorite hole-in-the-wall bar. I also love the CC Club on Lyndale- it was the hangout for local rockers and has a great jukebox. Perhaps a little-known secret is that Prince lives near Minneapolis, in a compound called Paisley Park in Chanhassen. He plays surprise concerts there often!
4. Your Recommended Sunny Day Agenda?
Wake up early, head to the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis, rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore Lake Calhoun and Lake of Isles. Then, head to the Kenwood neighborhood, ogle at the amazing mansions along the lake and get brunch at The Kenwood. After, stop next door at Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore owned by National Book Award winner Louise Erdrich. Then take a nap!
5. Essential Minneapolis Tip?
The summertime is one of my favorite things about Minneapolis. You’ve never seen an entire population so happy and in such a great mood than on the first day of the summer. The city, while still very active in winter, comes alive during the summertime. Also, if you’re here at the end of the summer, the great Minnesota get-together, also known as the Minnesota State Fair, is a must-see. Twelve days of delicious fried food, great music, and awesome people-watching.
TRIPADVISOR’S TOP FIVE MINNEAPOLIS ATTRACTIONS
1. Minneapolis Institute of Arts – I have never been here, but I’ve heard it’s great.
The other major Minneapolis art museum is The Walker Art Center, which I love. They have the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry in their outdoor sculpture garden, and in the summer they have artist-designed mini golf holes, and playing the course is really fun. The Weisman is an art museum on the University of Minneapolis campus, and is also worth a visit just to see the unique architecture of the building itself.
2. Target Field – Thumbs up for sure! Seeing a Twins game is definitely worth the trip. It was one of the first things I did the summer I moved to Minneapolis.
3. Guthrie Theater – Thumbs up!
The Guthrie has several theaters and plays to choose from at any given period, but if you don’t have time to see a show, it’s worth it just to walk by to see the interesting sci-fi look of the building. There are some great restaurants within walking distance if you want to do dinner and a show… Sea Change, Sanctuary, and Spoonriver to name a few.
4. Escape MSP – I haven’t done it, but I’ve heard these are popular.
Alternative fun attractions you might consider are Vertical Endeavors (indoor rock climbing in St. Paul and So. Minneapolis), lawn bowling at Brit’s Pub downtown, the mill ruins at Mill City Museum and Mill Ruins Park on the Mississippi Riverfront, or ice skating at the Depot downtown.
5. Minnehaha Park – Thumbs up! Minnehaha Park is great – it’s situated close to both Minneapolis and St.Paul. It has walking and bike trails, a waterfall, and an awesome restaurant open in the summer called Sea Salt Eatery.
ZAGAT’S MOST POPULAR MINNEAPOLIS RESTAURANTS
1. Travail Kitchen and Amusements – I haven’t been here, but I’ve heard it’s amazing; definitely an avant-garde type of restaurant. It has a ticketed reservation system, but there are limited walk ins each night too. It’s actually in Robbinsdale. The restaurant group also owns two other restaurants- Rookery and Pig Ate My Pizza. All are supposed to be amazing and worth the 15-20 minute trip to Robbinsdale from Minneapolis.
2. Restaurant Alma – I also have not been here, but the menu constantly changes, so there’s always something new.
3. Manny’s Steakhouse – Thumbs up! There is an ongoing debate about the best Steakhouse in the Twin Cities; Manny’s is always at the top. It’s really an institution in Minneapolis. You can preview Manny’s Meat Cart on their website… it will make you hungry! Other great steak restaurants would be Burch on Lyndale and The Strip Club Meat & Fish in St. Paul.
4. La Belle Vie* – Thumbs up! La Belle Vie is a French Mediterranean restaurant and definitely more of a special occasion experience. The restaurant is very elegant, has fabulous service, and the food is delicious. I ordered the five course tasting menu and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. La Belle Vie is a nice alternative if you’re craving a more relaxed, less expensive experience.
5. 112 Eatery – Thumbs up! I recently dined at 112 Eatery for my birthday dinner. The homemade pastas are my favorite (i.e. gnocchi, tagliatelle with foie gras, stringozzi with lamb sugo). They also make a brie burger which has been rated the best burger in town. And everything is very reasonably priced.
MINNEAPOLIS LOCAL TIPS
The plethora of craft brewhouses: Surly, Indeed, Bauhaus, Dangerous Man, Fulton, Harriet, Steel Toe. If you like beer, you should check these out. Du Nord Craft Spirits is also great if you are into distilleries and cocktails.
Juicy Lucy: Basically a cheeseburger with the cheese inside the meat. People fight over who does it the best: Matt’s bar, the 5-8 Club, The Nook Bar, Blue Door all have great contenders. I recommend Blue Door.
Other Top Restaurants: There are a plethora of amazing restaurants… many with ‘B’s in their name: Butcher and the Boar, The Bachelor Farmer, Bar La Grasa, Borough. Spoon and Stable is the newest and trendiest and bucked the ‘B’ trend.
Music: I love the Dakota Jazz Club (live music every night!) and 7th Street Entry/First Avenue for shows. Some others for smaller acts would be Icehouse, the Hexagon Club, 331 Club (no cover!), and Turf Club in St. Paul.
*As of November 2015, La Belle Vie has permanently closed. Chef/owner Tim McKee continues as a partner and vice president of culinary development for Parasole Restaurant Holdings, the company behind Manny’s Steakhouse, Chino Latino, Salut Bar Americain and other properties. He’s also owner of Smalley’s Caribbean Barbeque in Stillwater.