The New Classics
The Twin Cities are full of ageless wonders: Some have simply endured (think Al’s Breakfast); others have evolved—historic icons turned suddenly hip (the W–Foshay). From upscale eateries to classy characters, here’s a hand-picked list of places, people, ideas, objects, and items that, in our humble estimation, have stood the test of time yet are completely aucourant.
1. OLD DUTCH POTATO CHIPS
There are two sorts of Old Dutch consumer: There is the taking-Old-Dutch-for-granted consumer, who grew up with those twin packs of OD at every family picnic and thinks that their parents purchased them out of thriftiness; and then there is the new-convert Old Dutch consumer, who thinks the brand is an unheralded regional treasure. I am one of the latter. “Don’t you know Esquire magazine named Old Dutch one of the greatest chips in America?” I demand. “Don’t you know that these rank with other great chips like those from Utz and Zapp’s? Don’t you know that Old Dutch was founded in St. Paul in 1934 and has held its own against corporate giants like Lays because they’re great! And for no other reason! These aren’t a thrift chip! These are a cult chip!” Then I take my bag of Dutch Crunch salt-and-vinegar kettle chips into the corner and eat the whole bag by myself, never offering to share a single crunchy curl. Why? Because Old Dutch chips are simply too good to share with people who take them for granted.
—Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl
2. W MINNEAPOLIS-THE FOSHAY
Wilbur Foshay never moved into the three-bedroom, three-bath suite he installed for himself in the upper stories of his eponymous office tower/ego trip, the Foshay Tower. Instead, he was bunking in Leavenworth not long after his Minneapolis skyscraper opened with unprecedented fanfare in 1929. Yet the real punishment must have been watching his art-deco darling fill up over the next 80 years with the kind of humdrum, low-rent businesses that could’ve pushed paper in any old office space. It was akin to storing budget reports in the Washington Monument. But now that the W Hotel has moved in, the fallen Foshay has finally been restored to his over-the-top aerie. Night after night, sleek autos pull up beside the behemoth and the dark, gleaming lobby throbs with expectation, the chatter of big-shouldered majordomos on their headsets, and the clink of plates from Manny’s Steakhouse. The place is chockablock with rock stars (AC/DC recently rested their shaggy heads there), movers and shakers, and young entrepreneurs with dreams so big and bloated that they rival Foshay’s.
3. THE PARKWAY THEATER
There’s reviving an old movie theater, and then there’s what Joe Minjares has done with the Parkway in south Minneapolis. Minjares is the longtime owner of Pepito’s Mexican restaurant. He’s also a local actor with bit roles in NYPD Blue, The Truman Show, and Untamed Heart (as the boss of Christian Slater and Marisa Tomei). So, he knows how to entertain. Since taking over the Parkway last year, Minjares has hosted Lizz Winstead’s comedy show during the GOP convention, an Elvis tribute night, concerts by such local thrushes as Regina Marie Williams, and, of course, movies, including the area premieres of Love in the Time of Cholera, John Sayles’s Honeydripper, and Cinematic Titanic, the latest from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang. Best of all, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the price: Admission is still just $5.
4. GOPHER FOOTBALL
By the time I arrived at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 1990, the Gophers had been playing football at the Metrodome for eight years. The school was in what might now be called its “feedlot” era. These were the days of 400-student psychology classes taught by video in a room that expanded on test days to accommodate students who hadn’t bothered to show up all quarter. Get ’em in, get ’em out. Many dorm-dwellers returned home to their parents’ place on weekends, and hiking to the Metrodome to see a game only underscored the commuter-school feel. You could have distilled all of the U’s school spirit into a single can of Old Milwaukee.
Admittedly, I was too absorbed by Proust and Kerouac and the patchouli-drenched girls who loved them to notice that, during my five years at the U, the Gophers were getting shot down worse than I was. I went to exactly as many games as the number of coeds I went home with. So why would I give a ski-u-mah about the pending return of football to campus after 27 years?
It has to do with academics. Really. No one who knows football believes the new stadium and the sport’s return to campus will improve the Gophers’ record. But it may improve the U’s fiscal outlook. As at most universities, the football program helps subsidize the school’s other sports, which leaves more money in the coffers for other uses.
But revenue at the Metrodome was pretty paltry, leaving the U scrambling to find dollars. Until last season, when budget cuts changed the picture, the U’s athletics program had hemorrhaged money, often running a multi-million-dollar deficit. Compare that with the $20.4 million in profit the University of Michigan athletics program made last year. If wealthy alumni pack the skyboxes at TCF Bank Stadium, that’s more money to retain professors, fund seminars, and prop up the humanities.
But my support is also about bringing back everything the U wasn’t when I attended. If the U is going to become, as President Robert Bruininks hopes, one of the world’s top three research schools, it needs to start feeling like one—which actually means resembling some of the country’s perennial sports powerhouses: UCLA, Michigan, Texas. These schools have proven that jocks and geniuses get along just fine, drawing top students and faculty because of, not in spite of, their investments in campus life.
So let’s encourage investment in student scholarships and prize-winning profs. But let’s also go a step further: We’d like to see the pom-poms shaking on the field and hear the roar of the crowd seeping into the library stacks. Maybe then the U, whose abbreviated nickname once seemed to symbolize everything it lacked, will begin to feel like a university.
5. COTTAGE VIEW DRIVE-IN THEATER
Most drive-ins exist today only in the flicker of memories, but in the 1950s Minnesota was home to more than 80 places where you could catch the latest Hollywood release without having to leave the comforts of your Buick—except to fetch popcorn, of course. The state’s largest remaining drive-in, the Cottage View on Point Douglas Road in Cottage Grove, recalls that magical era, right down to the twinkling marquee that still greets moviegoers and the $7.50 price of admission—for a double feature, no less. It’s a small price to pay for a starlit evening filled with comedy, drama, action, and adventure. Fans, by the carload, seem to agree: In 2007, they rallied to save the theater from demolition. In mid-April when it opens for business after the winter thaw, you too can pack a cooler with sodas, pile people into the SUV, and pick your spot in the gravel lot. Necking highly encouraged.
Say what you will about high food prices and weak financial forecasts, Cargill, the Minnesota-based agribusiness giant, is thriving: Revenues at the privately held company topped $120 billion in 2008, causing some critics to cry foul. The chief complaint? That the company’s reach extends around the globe, from seed to plate, giving Cargill too much influence over the world’s food supply. Yet for many of us, it’s the mystery of Cargill’s influence that most intrigues, the fact that, for better or worse, it pulls the strings at flour mills, salt mines, slaughterhouses, and grain auction houses around the world—and it does it all from a faux chateau on the shores of Lake Minnetonka.
7. ROLLER GARDEN
It’s 1988 and Rusty the DJ has just declared “Snowball!” at the Roller Garden on Lake Street in St. Louis Park. Pressed up against the wall with the other girls, I’m feeling confident in my favorite lavender cords and long, crimped hair. I’m trying to look aloof yet available. Surely, this time someone will ask me to skate. He’ll take me by the hand—it will be clammy—and we’ll go fast, stealing glances at each other but not talking. I’ll have to concentrate to keep from tripping when I do cross-overs. Oh please, God, let it not be the redhead with the really chapped lips….
Twenty years have passed, but the Roller Garden is largely unchanged today: a giant, red-brick dome that boasts a dinosaur as its mascot. What’s different is the crowd. Bill Staley, whose family has owned the rink since 1969, says that while attendance by kids and teenagers has waned, grown-ups have taken up roller-skating in droves. An adults-only skate on a recent night drew more than a hundred people. There were couples, jocks, punks, prepsters, a girl covered in tattoos, two sisters synchronize-skating, the cool guy (there’s always one) gliding around the rink backwards. The Roller Girls, Minnesota’s roller-derby team, practice here on a regular basis. On the weekend, the place is often packed with families during the day, and with adults in the evening, reliving their bygone youth or perhaps still fantasizing about finding the perfect Snowball romance. Anything seems possible, of course, when “Eye of the Tiger” is playing.
8. ST. PAUL FARMERS' MARKET
There are plenty of farmers’ markets in the Twin Cities, but only St. Paul can brag about having the state’s oldest and longest-running one—it opened in 1852. What’s more, it’s the first market in the area to require that everything on sale come from local farmsteads. The weekly event, located at the corner of Wall and Fifth streets, runs year round and can draw a crowd even in the depths of winter: Families and single shoppers alike pick up prime cuts of meat and root vegetables and even Christmas trees. The mood is always cheery, and there’s an added bonus: free parking spaces. Good luck finding that near Nicollet Mall.
9. WALTER MONDALE
Walter Mondale turned 81 in January. That’s important only in that the man started his political career when he was 20, when he helped Hubert H. Humphrey win his seat in the U.S. Senate. That’s more than 60 years in the public eye, during which time, of course, he has served as the state attorney general, a U.S. Senator, the vice president of the United States, ambassador to Japan, and a U.S. Senate candidate. Along the way, of course, Fritz has had his share of notable achievements. As a member of the Church committee, he helped expose widespread abuses among the country’s intelligence services. As Jimmy Carter’s No. 2, he redefined the role of the vice president. And as a nominee for president in 1984, his pick of Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate put one rather sizeable crack in that glass ceiling that got so much publicity last year. More recently, as a high-profile Democratic Party superdelegate, he let Senator Hillary Clinton know that the time had come for her to give up her primary fight. “I was for Hillary—I wasn’t against Obama,” he said upon announcing that he was switching his support to the Illinois senator. It was a classic Mondale move, done with class and clarity. Hillary was out the next day.
And yet, Mondale is just as important for how behaved as much as what he accomplished. During those six decades in public life, he never gloated about his wins and he never sulked over his losses (at least not publicly). He never embarrassed us or betrayed our trust. In short, he taught us what it means to be a public servant.
10. HEXAGON BAR
There are two kinds of hipster bars in Minnesota. First, there’s the kind with $14 martinis garnished with allspice-scented star fruit. Those come and go. The more important kind of hipster bar is the one where women with tattoos of World War II bomber pin-up paintings stand hip to hip with regulars who have been living in the same neighborhood since VJ Day. The Hexagon is one of those. ¶ This family-owned bar opened in 1934 in the Seward neighborhood and was originally named for a six-sided stand-alone bar which bar-patrons are said to have waltzed around while being serenaded by fiddle and accordion players. The Hexagon trucked along happily, if reasonably quietly, through the rest of the 20th century, when suddenly, in the 21st, it was discovered by the new generation of rock ’n’ roll–loving, nose-ring-wearing, iPhone-toting kids who were making Seward their home. The place quickly became known for its lovably crotchety old-school staff and the house policy of hosting new young bands and (almost) never charging a cover. Now the Hex has joined the ranks of Minneapolis and St. Paul’s most vaunted old-school hipster bars, like the Turf Club and the C.C. Club, and anytime a band plays, you can find the cutest girls in town sharing lighters in the cold night with men whose only use for an allspice-scented star fruit martini would probably be to kill squirrels.
—Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl
11. THE LEXINGTON
Some love the Lexington for its peerless political people-watching. Some love the Lexington for its light, fluffy, standard-bearing chicken pot pie or gratifyingly theatrical Châteaubriand for two. Some love the Lexington for its completely serious yet campy Versailles-meets-Mount Vernon décor. But we love the Lexington because it is classic St. Paul, open since 1935 and host to generations of celebrations surrounding engagements, anniversaries, birthdays, and even wakes.
—Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl
If you want to be centered, live deeply in the moment, and appreciate every dollop of existence with a Zen master’s attention, then I figure you have two options: You can meditate and work on your breathing, or you can shop at Byerly’s. Why? Because Byerly’s was founded, in 1968 in Golden Valley, on the revolutionary premise that women’s housework, like grocery shopping, should not be drudgery. And to back it up, Don Byerly put carpets in the aisles and hung chandeliers over the frozen foods. To this day, that idea that time spent food-shopping should be deemed valuable and respected persists: The prepared foods at Byerly’s seem more deluxe, the produce seems prettier, the cashiers seem nicer and happier, the little impulse items of chocolates or exotic pickles seem more carefully chosen than those at other grocers. Then you go sailing out the door, unencumbered by carts or bags, not unlike, say, Jackie Onassis in her prime, to fetch your car so that strong, happy Byerly’s employees can load the groceries into your trunk. Is that inner peace? On a Wednesday night, between leaving work and putting dinner on the table, yes, that’s inner peace.
—Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl
13. FALLON MINNEAPOLIS
As budding copywriters, my college friends and I would debate our favorite Fallon McElligott ads—“Perception/Reality” for Rolling Stone; “Where the women you hate have their hair done” for Horst salons—like they were Talmud. And when Tom Mc-Elligott disappeared from the ad biz (a second time), we awaited his return with the devotion of disciples. More recently, however, we’ve wondered what happened to his former agency. In recent years, Fallon Minneapolis lost the accounts for United Airlines and Citigroup, bids for Volvo and Microsoft, and even Pat Fallon (to its parent company). ¶ But now the makings of a comeback are being assembled. The creative directors behind Fallon’s award-winning BMW films have returned. A new, youthful CEO has taken the gilded reins with Pat Fallon’s endorsement: “He will see to it that we regain our rightful place of prominence.” In fact, it’s already happening: Fallon won Best in Show from the Advertising Federation of Minnesota and gold at the London International Awards. We still don’t know where McElligott went, but that’s as it should be: Fallon is once again ascendant.
14. THE JUICY LUCY
Whenever I’ve got bigwig food editors from the coasts in town, I block out an afternoon for old-school Jucy Lucy spelunking. First, I explain to them that it’s not spelled “Juicy” (not at Matt’s anyway), and that it refers to two beef patties pressed together to create a little envelope around cheese. Then, I explain to them the great rivalry between Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club, both on Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis, and each convinced that it originated the concept and that it has the best Jucy Lucy. Sometimes my guests ask me why on earth anyone would want to put the cheese of a cheeseburger inside the burger, but I make it a policy of answering them only with riddles: Why must Chicago deep-dish pizzas be so deep? Why must layer cakes be so layered? Ours is not to question why.
First we go to Matt’s: “Look at them cook that thing!” I order, as we sit on Matt’s barstools and admire the vinyl wallpaper and wood paneling. Cook it does, sizzling on the griddle behind the bar, and then it cooks and cooks and cooks some more, until the exterior of the thin beef patties is slick and crisp with a beefy char. The bartender presents the burger, and I warn my guests that the interior is as hot as lava, and we better just sip our Grain Belts for a while. While waiting, we absently munch frozen-tasting, unremarkable fries, as is the local custom. Finally, the moment of truth! The very taste of south Minneapolis—ultra-crisp beef, liquid cheese—the essence of grilling in a bar brought to life.
Then I take the out-of-towners to the 5-8. We sit on newer barstools, we soak in the family-roadhouse atmosphere, and we wait for Juicy Lucy’s—the ones branded with the correct spelling. When they arrive, they’re meatier, the bun is sweeter and fresher-tasting, there’s less char but more cheese than at Matt’s. “Now,” I tell the visitors, “to be a true Minnesotan you must choose your favorite.” Usually they hem and haw, one is meatier, one has that transcendent char…. If they waffle for too long I take them to Adrian’s, at 48th and Chicago, for a third Juicy Lucy and let that be the tie-breaker.
At this point, they see the light: “Oh, this is your cheesesteak, your po’boy, your pizza,” they say. “There is no right answer.”
“You are right,” I say sagely. “There is no right answer, only a glorious life of comparisons, partisanship, and the accompanying Grain Belt. Now, Grasshopper, ask me whether ice cream or frozen custard is better.”
—Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl
15. STONE ARCH BRIDGE
Over the past century and a quarter, lots of spans over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis have come and gone (including, tragically, the original I-35W bridge). But the Stone Arch, built by railroad magnate J. J. Hill, endures. A newspaper article announcing its completion in 1883 praised its sturdiness: “Firmer than the earth which supports it, it is constructed to stand the test of time until the golden age shall arrive when the problem of aerial navigation shall have been solved, and railroads and railroad bridges will be useless works of engineering.” ¶ Fortunately, neither the advent of aerial navigation nor the demise of passenger rail travel to and from Minneapolis could topple the majestic monument. The last train traversed its 21 arches three decades ago (there were originally 23 arches, but two were replaced by a steel truss when the St. Anthony Falls Upper Lock was built), but in 1994 the bridge reopened to cyclists, strollers, joggers, and others traveling under their own steam. ¶ The view from the bridge encompasses not only lots of Minneapolis real estate but the entire sweep of the city’s history, from St. Anthony Falls and the mills that fed off it to the gleaming Guthrie Theater and the swank condos ushered in by riverfront revitalization. With the recent addition of atmospheric lighting to the bridge’s arches, the Stone Arch Bridge has literally entered a golden age.
16. Betty Crocker
27. NYE'S POLONAISE
Pure camp only gets you so far. At some point, you have to pull your tongue out of your cheek if you want a taste of authenticity. That’s why would-be hipsters who can only savor Nye’s Polonaise seasoned with a liberal sprinkling of irony are missing out on the true flavor of this northeast Minneapolis institution.
Sure, it’s easy to train a sardonic eye on the Rat Pack–era lounge décor, the sauerkraut-heavy dinner menu, or even the framed photograph of founder Al Nye hanging by the entrance. Yes, it looks like nothing much has changed at Nye’s over the last half century or so. But more important, what remains the same is the genuine good feeling that envelops all Nye’s patrons, whether they’ve come to sing along with Sweet Lou Snider at the piano, hop around to the bouncy tunes of Ruth Adams’s polka band, tuck into a cabbage roll and some pirogies, or just sip an honest cocktail at the bar.
It all started humbly enough back in 1950, when Al Nye bought an old blue-collar bar on the corner of Hennepin and Prince. In what’s now a storeroom, Nye cooked up sauerkraut and Polish sausage for the mill workers who would come in for a hearty lunch and a cold beer.
Nye built the more upscale Polonaise Room in 1964, adding two more dining rooms—named for Chopin and Pulaski (a heroic Polish-American general in the Revolutionary War)—within the next decade. He sold the business in 1994 and died in 2004, a couple years before Esquire magazine named Nye’s “The Best Bar in America.” But the welcoming spirit Nye instilled still permeates every room. And even though it’s only in that photo by the door, Al—like everyone else in the place—is still smiling.
28. SEVEN CORNERS HARDWARE
Some places make you nostalgic for an experience you may never have had. Seven Corners Hardware in St. Paul is one of those places. Even if you never wandered the aisles of an old-time hardware store looking for a router bit or a socket wrench, you’ll still feel like you’ve come home when you walk through the door on West Seventh Street. ¶ The store opened in 1933, when the country was tooling up for the New Deal. Its well-trod floor boards groan as customers pass through the warren of bins, pegboards, and display cases stacked with every imaginable whatchamacallit and thingamajiggy. How much stuff does Seven Corners carry? Well, its catalog contains more than 700 tightly packed pages. Still can’t find what you’re looking for? Just ask one of the guys in blue shirts for help—they’ll be happy to explain the characteristics of a perfect hammer or tape measure. That’s the kind of classic expertise that doesn’t exist at Home Depot.
29. ELSIE'S BOWLING CENTER
We know. We know. There’s a lot of “change” in the air these days. Real change. Change we need. Change you can believe in. But what about things that don’t need changing? What about things that are sorta perfect the way they are? What about places like Elsie’s, which hasn’t changed all that much since Elsie Nelson opened the Nordeast landmark in 1956. Sure, over the years, more lanes (there are now 16) and a restaurant have been added (the place serves enough deep-fried goodness to satisfy any self-respecting Midwesterner). And every couple of years, a new batch of twentysomething ironists show up to discover that—wouldn’t you know it?—bowling is actually pretty damn fun. But the thing that makes people come back to Elsie’s year after year hasn’t changed. It’s still a microcosm of all the best stuff about Northeast, a place where factory guys, nurses, hipsters, and grad students don’t just get along—they belong. And today, that spirit—that vibe—isn’t any different than it’s always been. And God willing, it never will. That, to put it in terms the kids might understand, is unchange you can believe in.
30. The Basilica—
34. Jax Café
38. MINNESOTA STATE FAIR
There is only one real reason to love—truly love—the Minnesota State Fair. And it’s not because it’s so kitschy (though surely it’s the only place in the universe where both Spam burgers and seed art are so highly venerated). And it’s not because it’s so successful (even though, after 150 years, it’s one of the biggest, best-run, and most popular fairs in the country, drawing 1.7 million visitors last year). No, the reason to love the state fair is that, in an age of cheap accolades and unearned hype, it is that rarest of things—everything it promises to be: a place where cows and kids, hicks and hipsters, politicians and Pronto Pups all come together, reminding us all just how weird and wonderful a summer night in Minnesota can really be.
39. VARSITY THEATER
You know you’re in for a damn good time long before the lights go down at the Varsity. It starts when you catch sight of the blazing marquee, its wattage seemingly illuminating all of Dinkytown. The seven letters of the venue’s name, stacked like alphabet blocks, tower over an all-caps notice for the evening’s usually eclectic entertainment (a Ting Tings concert? A Policy and a Pint discussion?). Stepping into the lobby, you’re instantly charmed: It’s as if you’ve stumbled into a Parisian café, all velvet sofas and soft lighting and hissing espresso machines and Sure, if you’d like white wine, a micro beer, or even a pair of ear plugs, we’ve got that, too. But you can tell that it’s not the Left Bank because the posters on the wall aren’t Degas or Renoir, but rather bills for acts that have come and sung and gone on to find fame and greatness and even Grammy nominations (Amy Winehouse, Suzanne Vega).
You funnel into the auditorium with high expectations, and you’re not disappointed: The Varsity—built as a vaudeville house in 1915, transformed into a cinema, briefly abandoned, and then opened again four years ago as a music/theater/event spot by Jason McLean, the bohemian businessman who runs the nearby Loring Pasta Bar—is very much alive. Red drapes mask the walls, and half-a-dozen disco balls and strings of blinking white lights hang from the ceiling. Concertgoers are crowded around tiny cocktail tables lit by tiny lamps that cast tiny pools of light. The effect is romantic and Old World and electric and new all at the same time. (Oh, my god, are those actual, living ferns over there?!) By the time the opening act arrives on stage, you’re buzzed and happy and pretty much already satisfied with the evening. And you’re the first—the very first—to applaud.
40. Paul Bunyan
46. KELLER GOLF COURSE
Like old people, old golf courses usually have at least one obvious quirk. At Keller Golf Course in Maplewood, it’s the par-3 fourth hole, where a sizeable oak stands directly in front of the green. That oak has gotten the best of more than one of the many scratch golfers that have tried their luck at Keller. Gene Sarazen, one of the game’s greatest, reportedly walked off the course after shooting a 10 on the hole and never returned.
Starting the year after the course opened in 1929, the event that drew the biggest names in golf to Keller for nearly four decades was the St. Paul Open, an annual stop on the PGA tour. Sam Snead won it in 1937, and finished on top of the leaderboard again when the Western Open came to Keller in 1949. Two PGA Championships were also held here, in 1932 and 1954, as well as the LPGA’s Patty Berg Open from 1973 to 1980.
The tour doesn’t stop at Keller anymore, though its memories live on in the numerous black-and-white photos of Snead, Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer, and other legendary pros that cover the walls of the WPA-built clubhouse. Mature trees now fill in what was originally a more open layout, and what used to be the back nine is now the front (and vice versa). But the course is still a clear winner to the legions of local golfers who flock there each year to stroll the same well-maintained fairways trod by Slammin’ Sam and Arnie’s Army.
47. ST. PAUL HOTEL
When the St. Paul Hotel opened in 1910, it was one of the largest and most expensive projects of its kind in the state, costing $1 million to construct. The opening ceremony drew 500 guests, including some of the most notable people in town (Lucius Ordway, James J. Hill, Archbishop John Ireland), the stately old building, equipped with telephones in every room and typewriters for crafting correspondence, quickly became a home-away-from-home for weary travelers. Over the years, the St. Paul Hotel has hosted wealthy entrepreneurs, presidents (Teddy Roosevelt was a prominent guest), and a multitude of celebrities. (When the film version of A Prairie Home Companion was filming at the Fitzgerald Theatre, all the cast members kept rooms there.)
The hotel has become the hub of St. Paul. But this is not just a place for paying guests: The St. Paul Grill remains a popular spot for business lunches and champagne brunches and romantic dinners. The hotel regularly hosts theatrical and musical performances, too, and there are classes on etiquette and afternoon teas—all open to the public. If St. Paul seems more civil than most places, the hotel might just be the reason why.
48. SCOTCH TAPE
Last fall, scientists in California confirmed what some had long suspected: Scotch tape, made by 3M, is Minnesota’s greatest gift to humankind. Not only does it seal birthday packages and bind up tattered book pages. It also emits x-rays. Not constantly, of course. But in a vacuum, unpeeled at a rate of about 1.2 inches per second, the tape generates an electrical current—sending out electron bursts that are roughly a billionth of a second long and emitting some 300,000 x-ray photons per flash. That’s bright enough to take an x-ray of a finger. Pretty cool, eh? ¶ Researchers hope to use that knowledge to develop lighter, cheaper, more moveable x-ray machines that, we’re guessing, will exist in every dental office by 2034, but we actually believe Scotch tape is worth extolling for altogether different reasons. See, the sticky clear film was invented in the 1930s, a time when people didn’t have a lot of stuff and needed to keep the stuff they did have in working order. If socks got holes, you darned ’em. If the toaster broke, you had it rewired. And if the pages of a textbook ripped or the corners on the Monopoly box got torn or the hinges on your spectacles went kaput, you got out the Scotch tape and fixed everything up again. (You’re beginning to see where this is going, right?) Everything, it seemed, could be made as good as new. And we’re not just talking paper dolls and plaster figurines. Even dog-earred dollar bills could be taped—and saved.
Coolness used to hang out in Uptown. It smoked at Café Wyrd, drank at the Rainbow Bar, bought CDs at Cheapo, and breakfasted on Denver omelettes and bloody marys at the Uptown Bar and Grill. Coolness thumbed novels at Orr Books and wardrobed itself exclusively at Ragstock. It occasionally panhandled—just for kicks—at the corner of Lake and Hennepin.
But coolness, as anyone who has tried to chase it knows, is fleeting. And so, it departed the Uptown neighborhood years ago, decamping to Nordeast and then, briefly, Seward. Flickers of cutting-edgeness began to surface in other corners of the city, along Washington Avenue, at 48th and Chicago, but coolness was never there for long. Meanwhile, Uptown still managed to draw gawkers and drinkers from Woodbury and Maple Grove, but the locals knew the gig was up. The last bit of cool had vamoosed from Uptown long before retail chains like Victoria’s Secret and the North Face arrived.
Where did it go? Not far, it turns out. Coolness, we recently discovered, has settled in just down the street from its old digs, at the intersection of Lyndale and Lake. Once home to a dozen auto-body shops and garages, this south Minneapolis crossroads now features a new sake bar and a tapas joint. It’s a place where a woodworking shop shares the same block with a store selling leather pants, and where a dusty old rock shop doesn’t look out of sorts standing alongside an upscale sex-toy boutique. Here you can find a global menu of sushi and moussaka, California burgers and sangria. You can partake in shiatsu massage and salsa-dancing, buy the latest in gaming software, or gear up for snowboarding. Need cashews or olive oil in bulk? There’s Bill’s Foods. More interested in a meat raffle? Try the VFW. Denise Arambadjis, owner of the restaurant It’s Greek to Me, says the neighborhood has come a long way since she moved in 26 years ago, an era when most visitors dropped by to visit the local porn shop (now long gone). The arts are more visible. And there’s more parking. But some things remain the same: “I’ve watched all manner of kids come in and out of Tatters over the years,” Arambadjis says. Coolness, we’re guessing, may stay for a while.