Best of the Twin Cities 2011
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. The tastiest focaccia (the best Dara’s ever eaten). The hippest cover band (they know Weezer’s The Blue Album front to back). The most honest auto-body shop (they do exist). And, yes, the best candy store. Admit it, we’re spoiled rotten here. And that’s a good thing.
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Whatever your occasion to give a gift, Patina has it. Even for the toughest to please, like, say, an 18-year-old punk niece or the veteran dinner-party thrower or the father who doesn’t golf. And it always looks thoughtful and planned, even if it is purchased 15 minutes beforehand, thanks to eagle-eyed Patina buyers. 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 soon-to-be five metro locations, you’ll never have to go far to find that perfect gift.
Elizabeth Varghese is undeniably picky. And that’s why she consistently garners rave reviews: she carefully edits her shop, which just seems to get better with age. The mix of affordable, stylish labels and local designers’ handiwork (Hackwith Design House, Anne M. Cramer) strikes a tuneful chord with women looking to add a little trend without looking trendy. Plus, Varghese carries wonderful local and national jewelry and accessories lines, and can show you how to work them into your wardrobe to perk it up. (We also love her selection of small gifts near the holidays.) If you aren’t shopping at Picky Girl yet, you should be.
☛ 949 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-698-4107, pickygirlmn.com
Coffee Table Books
Walker Art Center Gift Shop
Can’t afford a Murakami? Neither can we. Fortunately, there’s a magical place that lets you take home a bit of the Walker Art Center without dropping millions: the gift shop. Filled to the gills with amazing gifts and toys for brainiacs, perhaps the most impressive section is the wall of heavily bound, could-crack-a-granite-countertop art tomes. The store also boasts a host of photography and modern art, from the very elusive and obscure to the Yves Kleins and, yes, Takashi Murakamis. Your wallet will only be a little lighter upon leaving, but your art knowledge—and your coffee table—will be heavy, man.
☛ Walker Art Shop, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-375-7633, walkerart.org
Gerten’s has been locally owned for three generations, and over that time has become a sprawling, 44,000-square-foot wonderland. Most of the plants—including annuals, perennials, and nursery stock—are still grown by the Gerten family, and all the tools you need to plant them in the ground are available at the store. The gift shop is also a goldmine, offering a little something for gardeners and the people who love them.
☛ 5500 Blaine Ave., Inver Grove Heights, 651-450-1501, gertens.com
There’s a fine line between sexy and trashy, and unfortunately most lingerie boutiques cross it. But not Jessica Gerard’s shop. The “marry-me” pink paint on the walls and the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling evoke a pin-up girl’s glamorous boudoir without getting too sickly-sweet, and the shop is full of romantic underpinnings that appear to be spun from gossamer by bluebirds. And then there are the accessories: thigh-highs and tights, lotions and soaps, and a little bit of jewelry, which make for perfect, sophisticated bachelorette or Valentine’s Day gifts. Who cares what Victoria’s Secret is when you can Flirt?
☛ 177 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul, 651-698-3692, flirt-boutique.com
It’s giant, and it’s a madhouse on discount Mondays, but it’s worth the chaos. Inside Valu Thrift, you might find a nearly-new Diane Von Furstenberg dress with the dry-cleaning tags still attached, a gently worn Coach bag, or a mint-condition North Face jacket. They also carry all manner of furniture, small electronics, toys, and books. Sure, there will be a lot of eagles painted on wooden slabs and ceramic ducks, but in there somewhere are some great Dansk pewter figurines. Happy hunting.
☛ 2145 Hudson Rd., St. Paul, 612-702-5920
Gifts for Baby (and Mom and Dad)
This is the place to get a baby gift when you’ve had it up to here with Pooh. For instance, you can pick up a Ramones onesie, or one of the brilliant Rockabye Baby! CDs, which remake awesome bands like Radiohead or the Pixies into instrumentals for rocking-chair time. The shop stocks everything from fun gifts and small toys to must-have gear like bottles, car seats, and strollers, all designed with a modern edge. We should be teaching our children well—about good design.
☛ Two locations, including 310 Hennepin Ave. E., Mpls., 612-623-8123, pacifieronline.com
Designer ‘It Girl’
Anne M. Cramer
This spring, you may have noticed a proliferation of darling, striped, bell-shaped skirts adorning 30- and 40-somethings all over town. Those in the know call it the Flynn, and it was designed by Anne Cramer, a gracious woman with impeccable taste. Her preppy, wearable line—which goes beyond the coveted Flynn—is every bit as stylish and fun to wear as Kate Spade or J. Crew by Jenna Lyons. It even contains the same cachet: if you own some, might it make you as elegant and irreverant as the maker?
Husband-and-wife team Mac and Kat McMillan are as cool as their names sound. After careers in real estate and fashion/publishing, the duo ditched the day jobs to launch their neckwear line. Designed in Minnesota and produced in New York by master craftsmen, the dandy wool and silk Pierrepont Hicks ties carry the weight of a heritage brand, even if they aren’t yet a generation old. You can thank them for introducing “natty” back into the local vocabulary.
Best Designer Clothing
For the Cutting Edge
4930 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-926-8725, grethenhouse.com
For the Runway Watcher
5014 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-475-2684, facebook.com/bumbershute
For Designer Wear
3365 Galleria (69th and France Ave. S.), Edina, 952-925-1565, arafina.com
219 N. Second St., Suite 404, Mpls., 651-602-94922, lateliercouturebridal.com
312 W. 42nd St., Mpls., 612-209-7822, joynoelle.com
For the Pocketbook
4936 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-929-7919, fashionavenueresale.com
[ Readers’ Pick ]
Voted on by Minnesota Monthly readers at MNMO.com
Best Neighborhood for Shopping
50th & France, Edina
Grand & Victoria, St. Paul
Hennepin & Lake in Uptown, Mpls.
Hennepin & University in Northeast, Mpls.