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Best of the Cities

The spiciest curry, the stiffest drink, the greenest dry cleaner, the hippest adult entertainment (it’s not what you think), and the movers and shakers who make the Twin Cities a better—and more interesting—place to live. They’re all right here, in our annual best-of-the-best guide.

Best of the Cities

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He may be a descendant of the retail moguls, but you won’t find James Dayton selling shoes or suits: Since opening his architecture firm, James Dayton Designs in 1997, he’s envisioned and erected some of the area’s most unique structures. He spent five years under the wing of starchitect Frank Gehry before returning to the Twin Cities. Gehry’s influence is apparent in JDD works like the new MacPhail building, but Dayton retains an individual vision—and a certain Midwestern groundedness—that lay the foundation for his own claim to Dayton fame.

Good Guy

A couple of years ago, Officer Mark Klukow, a 13-year veteran of the Minneapolis police force, opened a lemonade stand on the North Side. It seemed crazy but it worked. His presence curbed crime while inviting friendly interaction—“policing through relationship-building,” as one fan puts it. Klukow, who serves as a board member on city councilman Don Samuels’s PEACE Foundation and often shoots hoops with neighborhood kids, is full of such unorthodox ideas, believing the best way for cops to turn lemons into lemonade is to cross the police tape and show they care.


Edwin Okong’o emigrated from Kenya to California in 1995 and labored for 10 years in warehouses and flipping burgers—and as a stand-up comedian—before pursuing journalism. Soon he was consulting for PBS, the New York Times, and Al-Jazeera on the Kenyan elections. Last year, Okong’o moved to the Twin Cities to edit Mshale.com, a global news source for African immigrants in the United States. This fall, he returns to Kenya (where he’s twice been assaulted by police while reporting) as a correspondent for PBS’s Frontline/World, to cover the Obama phenomenon from an African perspective.


Take Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s basketball skills, Bill Gates’s business chops, and Santa’s devotion to giving, and you’ll approximate the whirlwind that is Shelly Boyum-Breen. In 2006, the erstwhile Augsburg basketball coach started Foundation IX, a nonprofit helping Minnesota girls afford the equipment and registration they need to compete in sports. More than 350 applied for grants last year and Boyum-Breen could only help 68. Yet by securing major sponsors, she’s moving toward not only supplying more skates and uniforms for female athletes, but perhaps even college tuition.


Alex Roberts is now selling 2,000 meals a week out of his tiny Nordeast kinda-barbecue, kinda-totally-original restaurant, Brasa. That means he’s the sole supporter of a single chicken farmer, takes the entire shoulder-cut production of a local grass-fed beef distributor, and is about to become the only restaurateur in the state to directly supply his kitchen with beans from Minnesota growers. And, as of this writing, he’s in talks to open a second location on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. He’s managed, in other words, to make locavores happy year-round—and that’s no small potatoes.

TV Reporter

Mary Lahammer has been wonking out for Twin Cities Public Television viewers on Friday nights for a good 10 years now. If you didn’t know that, give the Smirnoff Ice a rest and check out Almanac, the local politics show Lahammer reports for, or her blog, Mary’s Page, where she surveys the legislative landscape with breathless incisiveness. In exploits like following Jesse Ventura around the world, to appearing in Rake magazine’s recent “Most Beautiful People at the Capitol” story, the Emmy-winning newscaster not only knows her politics but how to make it interesting.


St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman naturally would’ve preferred to host his own party’s convention this fall. But you’d hardly have known it. He set a good-natured tone when he joked that the event’s economic impact might actually be greater than if the Democrats had decamped here, suggesting Republicans have more money to spend (to which Governor Pawlenty replied, “We don’t spend it.”). Then, Coleman rolled out the red carpet for the GOP, helping muster convention volunteers and focusing his partisan energies on boosting Barack Obama rather than bashing John McCain.


If you don’t think a pickled bull’s head belongs in a hotel lobby, take it up with Ralph Burnet. The Coldwell Banker Burnet chairman (pictured with wife, Peggy), combined his two callings—as art patron and hotel tycoon—with his Chambers Luxury Art Hotel. But Damien Hirst’s work of bovine taxidermy is old news. After buying the Foshay tower for $16 million in 2006, Burnet revamped the skyscraper into a W Hotel. The renovations are meant to restore the art-deco masterpiece to its original splendor. But, in typical Burnet style, the W likely surpasses Wilbur Foshay’s most lavish dreams.


The Walker Art Center’s senior performing arts curator, Philip Bither, books plenty of big names (Merce Cunningham, Meredith Monk). But in his 11 years with the museum, Bither has also introduced Minnesotans to remarkable new talents, traveling the world to find the next great band, dance troupe, or theater artists. Lately, the journalism-grad-turned-tastemaker has banked hipster credentials by convincing indie-pop band the Magnetic Fields and art-folk singer Will Oldham to make rare concert appearances in Minneapolis, demonstrating his—and the Walker’s—clout.


Lilly Schwartz wants you to rock out—in Orchestra Hall. Since becoming the Minnesota Orchestra’s director of pops and special projects two years ago, essentially booking all the non-classical music at the hall, the outspoken Philadelphia transplant has launched the hall’s first jazz series, hired star New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield as its first artistic director of jazz, brought in Elvis Costello, and generally shaken up the orchestra’s image as an elite curator of dead dudes’ tunes. Now she’s day-dreaming of naming Harry Connick Jr. the new pops conductor—let the swooning begin.




It’s rare to find a vet that uses standard and advanced practices alongside holistic medicine—and at a price that doesn’t bust the billfold. Pomeroy’s Animal Hospital is far from modern (there’s no computer; notes from your visit are taken on 5-by-7 index cards), but a visit with Fred Pomeroy is like seeing the small-town doctor. The clinic is a family business (Fred’s uncle Ben, who practiced for 72 years, also worked there before he passed away in 2004), and they treat your pet like one of their own. Pomeroy can calm the most anxious pooch, and will give you a fair and honest assessment of their care. There’s no up sell, no unneccessary tests, only what’s best for your pet. Just what the doctor ordered. 185 E. Seventh St., St. Paul, 651-224-4815


It seems like everyone’s stylist is the person to see, but what makes Alan Gauvain special is how he communicates with you.Sit in Gauvain’s chair and discuss your strands, but really, really talk about it. It’s hair therapy and Gauvain is the ultimate counselor. He massages your shoulders and temples, then closes his eyes and channels your scalp’s master plan (Can it be curly? Which way does your part truly go?). After Gauvain left his previous job to come to Lili, one of his clients contacted the department of commerce for a list of new salons, then called each of them to find Gauvain (stylists typically have non-competes that forbid them from informing clients of resignation). Take a seat in Gauvain’s chair and you’ll understand their loyalty: It’s not just your hair that he’s changed for the better. Lili: A William & Friends Salon, 5757 Sanibel Dr., Minnetonka, 952-935-5000, salonlili.com

Personal Concierge

If you need an extra set of hands, Nook & Cranny has them. Owners Rhoda Mehl and Clare Riordan will do practically anything on your to-do list. Clean the house? Check. Walk the dog? Check. Pick up dry cleaning? Check. Grocery shopping? Check. Send out holiday cards? Check. Get a caterer or a contractor? Check. Wrap presents? Check. Time for you to read the latest best-seller? Check. And ahhhhh. 1023 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-823-2018, nookcranny.com

Shoe Repair

Name your shoe issue, and Randall Reichstadt, owner of the basement shoe-repair shop at Macy’s in downtown Minneapolis, will do his darnedest to fix it. He has been saving soles at this footwear clinic for 29 years. Reichstadt and his team will tackle any shoe problem—from cleaning Uggs to punching extra holes in straps to replacing women’s high heels and men’s half-soles. Now that’s a step in the right direction. 700 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612-375-2922


If the shoe fits, wear it. If the dress, jacket, or trousers doesn’t, visit Glamour Tailors. For more than 20 years, its elegant proprietress, Bich Trinh, has served a loyal clientele who rely on her for custom design, European hems, and wedding-gown alterations. Trinh wants what’s best for you and your favorite frock. If that means modifying it, you’re in skilled hands. But if nipping in the waist of a 1980s shoulder-padded blazer isn’t going to do you—or your figure—justice, Trinh will break it to you gently. 3515 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-825-2085

Wine Guy

Most days, you can saunter into Sam’s Wine Shop with a highlighted copy of Wine Spectator and walk out with what you came for. More fun, however, is to engage proprietor Sam Haislet in a conversation about his 1,000-bottle North Loop store and try what you never expected. Ask him about the quirky characteristics of Chile’s carmenere grape, or chat about why Minnesota’s “Frontenac” grape produces such a high-alcohol content. Think talk is cheap? Then take a look at the shelves. Haislet prices many of his bottles around $15—that is, for seekers, not just confirmed wine snobs. 218 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis, 612-455-1045, samswineshop.com

Pest Control

People don’t like to talk about bugs in the home, but it happens to the best of us. If it happens to you, please know that the extremely nice and customer service–oriented Glenn Buggs of—you guessed it—Buggs Pest Control, gets rid of bugs the Minnesota way: Nicely, cheaply, and permanently. buggspestcontrol.com


Forget everything you think you know about massage. At Spot Spa, all you need to know is that Nell Rueckl is going to find every muscle knot in your tired/sore/stressed bod. Then, she is going to employ a variety of massage methods to soften them: hot stone, knee-walking, deep-tissue, and lomi lomi, a soothing Hawaiian technique. Rueckl calls it bodywork, but you can just think of it as a fancy word for the most healing, relaxing, and rejuvenating massage you’ll ever receive. 401 E. Hennepin Ave. NE, Minneapolis, 612-331-4182, spotspas.com

Free Service

Some people prefer bon bons or bubble baths. When we want to indulge in one of life’s little luxuries, we take our knives to a Lunds/Byerly’s grocery store. Here, the friendly butchers behind the meat counter sharpen them—for free. Next time you pop in for a New York strip, simply drop off three of your dullest blades (no scissors or serrated knives) and in just 24 hours, they’ll be sharp as a you-know-what. lundsandbyerlys.com

Meals to Go

Swamped at work? After-school activities keeping you so busy that you can’t even think about dinner? Sociale is here to help. For the past four years, their gourmet takeout meals have saved families from dining disasters and fast-food overdoses. Led by a Le Cordon Bleu–trained chef, the Sociale employees develop a unique menu each month, using the ingredients and sauces made from scratch in their on-site kitchen. Your sanity is saved. No reservation required. 750 Cleveland Ave. S., St. Paul, 651-698-6100, plus three other Minnesota locations, socialegourmet.com

Pedal Pampering

If bicycles are the new cars, then it was only a matter of time before someone dreamed up this Minneapolis truck stop for two-wheelers. Modeled after a similar operation in Chicago, the Freewheel Midtown Bike Center opened this past spring on the Midtown Greenway bicycle thoroughfare and includes—for a small charge—showers for you and your bike, as well as valets to secure your ride while you browse the nearby Midtown Global Market. If your bike needs repairs or adjustments, Freewheel’s staff can fix ’er up while you sip a coffee in the café. Midtown Greenway, between Chicago and 10th Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-238-4447, freewheelbike.com

Party People



For more than 20 years, Après party and tent rental has provided premier supplies—luxe linens, dramatic lighting, lounge furniture—to weddings, corporate events, and private parties. The family-owned business is a top pick for local country clubs, and has set the stage for Twins Fest and the party for last year’s visit to Minnetonka by ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Addition. 7625 Cahill Rd., Edina, 952-942-5118, apres-party.com


Before you plan the menu, mix the music, and light the candles, set the tone for your party with paper invitations. Trust us—there’s nothing old fashioned (or fill-in-the-blank) about the designs you’ll find at Letterbox, Kimberley Yurkiewicz and Zach Barocas’s sunny shop. The design-savvy duo will even create custom invitations lickety-split, leaving you no excuse to Evite. Ever. 2741 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612-870-4529, letterboxcreative.com


Philip Dorwart has started a handful of hot eateries in the Twin Cities, including Table of Contents. For his latest venture, Create Catering & Consulting, Dorwart and his wife, Desiree, whip up fully customized, multi-course meals for intimate Minnesota events. Much of the bounty comes from their 35-acre farm, thus making good on a commitment to local, sustainable deliciousness. 1121 Jackson St. NE, Minneapolis, 612-331-3310, createcaters.com


In the world of Bastian + Skoog, there is no flower that can’t be transformed into a blossoming work of avant-garde art. The clever design duo of Liz Bastian and Heidi Skoog enjoys a challenge: Simply suggest a color or a bloom and they’ll produce a truly effervescent arrangement. Not planning an event any time soon? Pick up a less-pricey bouquet at Surdyk’s. 310 N. Second St., Minneapolis, 612-333-6450, bastianskoog.com

Going Green


Resource Guide

Finally, a good old-fashioned green movement anyone and everyone can get behind—and not feel pressured to buy, buy, buy into. Thanks to the Do It Green! organization’s Internet database (with categories like food, energy, and gardening), printed publication, and workshops, going green can be about the industry of individuals. 2405 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-345-7973, doitgreen.org

Dry Cleaner

Family-owned and unpretentiously operated since 1987, Uptown Cleaners rids all inconvenience from “Dry Clean Only” and ensures an environmentally safe process along the way. The first in Minnesota to utilize GreenEarth’s dry cleaning system, they’ve long since ditched any carbon-based solvents in favor of a nontoxic, odor-free liquid silicone. 1614 W. Lake St., Minneapolis, 612-822-6855, mngreenclean.com

Solar-panel Installation

When incorporating alternative energy sources into your home, let Sunny Day Earth Solutions be your guide. Owner Ramy Selim, the state’s only certified assessor, will perform a no-pressure analysis of your dwelling’s potential for solar power. Then he’ll install everything from panels to attic fans to create a more energy-efficient home. 1000 26th Ave. SE, Minneapolis, 612-455-1355, sunnydayearthsolutions.com

Pet Groomer

For all of those walks in the park, Fido cares about the Earth, too. Include him in your green lifestyle by taking him to Clean as a Whisker. This St. Louis Park–based groomer uses all-natural and organic products. Owner Jennifer Hall and her staff keep records of each pet’s care, noting special instructions to make every visit a treat. Now who’s a good boy? 3007 Utah Ave. S., St. Louis Park, 952-935-9114, cleanasawhisker.net

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