12 Great Neighborhoods
An insider's guide to the Twin Cities nodes you need to know
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THE BOHO BOOM
• Character: Lowertown, the classic artists’ hub, is awakening from a deep, dark slumber to become the Warehouse District of St. Paul, albeit with more art and fewer nightclubs. What began with a ring of restaurants and bars around Mears Park now has developers leaping over one another, spurred by the Light Rail, the revival of Union Station, and a new Saints stadium. All those construction cones, locals insist, are a harbinger of good.
• Food: Locally loved, nationally known Heartland favors organically grown food from local farmers. The casual elegance of Tanpopo Noodle Shop has made it a favorite of artists, whose other nexus is the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar. The Amsterdam Bar & Hall is the place for craft beer and music. And Barrio’s Lowertown outpost lures in the happy-hour crowd with its fresh guacamole.
Photo by Todd Buchanan
• Shopping: Many of the area’s top restaurants source their food from the St. Paul Farmers’ Market, and visitors should start there, too, for fresh baked goods and live music—and stop back for produce before leaving. Start in on the galleries and studios during Lowertown First Fridays; it’s hard to beat the Northern Warehouse and Tilsner buildings, the original revamped artist co-ops, for atmosphere.
• Culture: Along with the spring/fall art crawls, the neighborhood’s biggest draw is its three-day Jazz Festival, June 27 to 29, which has attracted such top national acts as Esperanza Spalding and Chick Corea. The Baroque Room goes retro (like really retro) with chamber-music concerts, lectures, and recitals—a true 21st-century salon.
• Green space: The Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary is perhaps the best place for skyline views, but that’s not why locals come here: the 27-acre park is, well, a sanctuary in the city. There are soaring bluffs, prairie grasses, and a cave—the Wakan Tipi—that’s sacred to the Dakota. Plans to connect the neighborhood to the nearby Mississippi River are still in the works.
WHY I LOVE THIS PLACE
Lenny Russo, chef and proprietor of heartland restaurant and farm direct market
I’m from Hoboken, and sometimes I like to think of Minneapolis as Manhattan—a very cosmopolitan place—and Lowertown as Brooklyn. What you see here is a groundswell generated from the artistic community. That gives us a different kind of energy. There’s diversity, both cultural and economic, and there’s a lot of integrity. You can see that in the architecture, which we’ve generally preserved. You can see that at the farmers’ market, which is the heart and soul of Lowertown. It’s a real farmers’ market—you can’t go there and buy oranges. And we have some of the most incredible events, like the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, and Concrete and Grass. With so much development slated between now and 2015, we’ll have even more street vitality. For a long time, we had too much parking and not enough people. That’s beginning to flip-flop, but it’s a problem we’re happy to have.