Best of the Cities 2010

Yes, that ballpark rocks. And, getting there on the Northstar line is pretty cool. That kestrel is awful funny. And did you try the Vincent burger at the park? Those are just four reasons to celebrate the new stadium and the Twin Cities. Read on to discover 100 more reasons to love the place you live.


Emerging Music Star

Chris Koza

When Koza crashed the local rock-and-roll party six years ago with his remarkable debut, winning Minnesota Music Awards for best male vocalist and best pop recording, he seemed a local Ben Folds, melodic and playful and exquisitely angel-voiced. This year, the singer-songwriter has arguably become Minnesota’s most ambitious musician, forming the folk-pop band Rogue Valley from among the Twin Cities’ sharpest indie-rockers and slating four new releases before the year’s up. That’s in addition to collaborating with such notable locals as pop-rocker Jeremy Messersmith, jazz thrush Alicia Wiley, and poet Alex Lemon. •

New Fitness Class

American Swedish Institute

It’s the Ikea of exercise—simple, modern, and widely accessible. Margaret Nelson, a Stockholm native and former dancer with the Royal Swedish Ballet, has translated her movement skills into a new regimen that she teaches in weekly sessions at the American Swedish Institute. It starts with a tame cardiovascular workout followed by strength training and stretching, incorporating Swedish music, of course, and often a Swedish dance step, a perfect counterpoint to the institute’s famous smorgasbords. • 2600 Park Ave., Mpls., 612-871-4907,

Lecture Series

Great Decisions

If the Edina Library’s copy of War and Peace is checked out, consider its Great Decisions lecture series a worthy substitute. Since 2005, the Minnesota International Center has coordinated this monthly dialogue at the library, featuring such local speakers as retired Foreign Service officer Thomas Hanson and Robert Flaten, the former U.S. ambassador to Rwanda, illuminating topics as diverse and complex as the global food supply and the Middle East in the 21st century. • 5280 Grandview Square, Edina, 952-847-5425,

Fall Hike

Lake Maria State Park

No need to fly off to Vermont to relish the glories of autumn color—not with Lake Maria State Park right here in Monticello. Scarcely an hour from downtown Minneapolis, the park holds one of the few remaining remnants of the so-called Big Woods, the maple, oak, and basswood forest that once covered south-central Minnesota. Sixteen miles of hiking trails wind through 1,590 acres that blaze with hues of red, gold, and yellow come fall—all without flight delays and traffic jams. • 11411 Clementa Ave. NW, Monticello, 763-878-2325,

Public Artist

Wing Young Huie

The Minneapolis photographer’s six-mile-long “University Avenue Project” is the most ambitious public-art exhibition in Minnesota since, well, his last one, the seminal “Lake Street project.” In fact, Huie has taken things even further this time, not only papering the corridor with massive images of neighborhood residents but also hosting monthly cabarets with local performers, transforming an entire section of the city into an outdoor art space. •

Seasonal Cooking Class

Gale Woods Farm

Aspirations to eat local can fade faster than late-season lettuce when faced with a pile of purple kohlrabi or heaps of fall squash. Which is why the Folk School at the Gale Woods Farm is ready to walk you through such cooking conundrums, season by season. In Cooking from the Garden, you’ll learn to enliven even the most turnipy CSA box, while the Sweet Fall Harvest class focuses on what all those Minnesota apples—and a little bit of honey—can add to your autumn menu. • 7210 County Rd. 110 W., Minnetrista, 763-694-2001,

Unofficial Mascot

Kirby the Kestrel

When the Minnesota Twins moved into Target Field this year, so did a bird that—no offense, boys—has sometimes proved more interesting than the game. He’s been dubbed Kirby the Kestrel, and throughout the stadium’s inaugural season we’ve watched him dive-bomb the field, feast on neighborhood moths, and attract a mate to his hangout on the right-field foul pole. He’s become a regular on ESPN and FSN, and is yet more proof that the new stadium is a pretty good place to perch. •

Stress Buster

Global Harmony Labyrinth

Dedicated to the sister cities of St. Paul and Nagasaki, Japan, the Global Harmony Labyrinth in Como Park is a contemporary take on an ancient spiritual tradition: a pathway arranged in a circular pattern that leads into the center. It is designed for meditative walking that helps relax the mind and, in essence, centers you. Here, there are two paths, shaped as two stylized hands holding a globe. Whenever you feel stressed out, take both paths and you won’t need to call anyone in the morning. • Near Lake Como, just off Lexington Avenue.

Museum Addition

Elizabeth Armstrong

Until Armstrong came along, joining the Minneapolis Institute of Arts last year as its first-ever curator of contemporary art, the venerable museum was woefully understocked with art reflecting our own times. With two bold strokes, this year’s show “Until Now: Collecting the New” and the ongoing Art Remix series, which blends contemporary works into galleries of older pieces, Armstrong began to change all that, displaying more modern works in a year than the museum had acquired in many decades. • 2400 Third Ave. S., Mpls., 612-870-6323,

Urban Escapes

How to leave the city behind— without actually leaving it

Even the most jaded city slickers tend to melt before the vivid hues of the flowers and trees at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (, an impeccably maintained 1,100-acre haven that’s as accessible as it is expansive.

You’ve told those people who love being outside in winter to go fly a kite—and apparently they heard you: At the annual Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival ( on January 8, you can take horse-drawn wagon rides, try snowshoeing, roast marshmallows, and watch experts navigate the skies with dazzling, elaborate kites.

Looking for a place to play hooky? Try Lake Calhoun (, where strolling the three miles around the water, relaxing on the Tin Fish patio with a gourmet fish taco, or paddling a rented kayak to the center of the lake is first-class stress relief—if all your coworkers aren’t also there.

Eat. Drink. Eat. Shop. Eat. Did we mention eat? The Shops at West End (, in St. Louis Park, are a kind of ADHD dream come true, featuring more than 40 merchants (Anthropologie, Uber Baby, Republic of Couture), plus eight eateries, including Crave and Ringo, and—to top it all off—the Showplace Icon movie theater, which allows you to carry your dinner and cocktails to your seats. What to do? All of it, of course. And at once.




Global Tour

Urban Expeditions

Worried that your 6-year-old will never try kimchi, or that your tween will tweak at the idea of salsa dancing with you? Take them to the Landmark Center’s Urban Expeditions, a free series of afternoon activities that explore far-flung cultures through traditional crafts, cuisine, and dancing—a globetrotting tour for tots that leaves everyone with a mini passport, a postcard, and zero jet lag. • 75 W. Fifth St., St. Paul, 651-292-3225,

Arts Innovation

Community Supported Art

Inspired by the direct-to-consumer model of community supported agriculture, and Springboard for the Arts conjured a way to similarly sustain local artists: Community Supported Art. Nine artists were chosen to create original works and 50 “shares” were sold to supporters in just six hours. In their inaugural “farm boxes” of art, the lucky few received a run of screen-prints, limited-edition photographs, small original paintings, and other artistic morsels, with more to come this fall. •

Outdoor Entertainment

Target Field

It’s been called the best ballpark in America, yet the greatest thing about the new Target Field isn’t the structure but the lack of it. When the air is warm and the alchemy of dusk has turned the field and the skyline to gold, it’s hard to remember how we ever did without this for so long. We’ve been freed. •

New Auteur

Eric Howell

Howell was a stuntman for the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man before pulling an even better trick last year: writing and directing his own award-winning short film, Ana’s Playground, and shooting it on some of the Coens’ leftover sets in Minneapolis. Set in a nameless war zone where children have been dragged into the conflict, the movie has won 15 awards at an astounding 14 festivals, including enough top honors to qualify for the Oscars. •

Twitter Feed


You can’t possibly cram the energy and vitality of the most diverse and historic street in Minneapolis into 140 characters, right? Tell that to the Lake Street Council, which has been packing its Twitter feed, @VisitLakeStreet, with gorgeous photos, restaurant reviews, coupons, and breaking news from the people and businesses that line Lake Street. •


Buzz and Neil

After a two-year hiatus at a Detroit zoo, polar bears Buzz and Neil returned to new digs at Como Park Zoo in St. Paul with nearly the fanfare accorded their astronaut namesakes. Their new home mimics the Hudson Bay area with native vegetation, three pools (with live trout), and a 260-square-foot digging space. • 1225 Estabrook Dr., St. Paul, 651-487-8200,

Easy Stroll

Noerenberg Gardens

This park on a point in Lake Minnetonka’s Crystal Bay is popular for weddings—and for good reason. A world apart from the lake’s Jet Ski and Busch Light ambience, this former estate of Grain Belt Brewery founder Frederick Noerenberg is surprisingly idyllic. Stroll through the day-lily and perennial gardens, which shift with the seasons from spring wildflowers to autumn colors. • 2865 Northshore Dr., Wayzata, 763-559-6700,

Facebook Friend

Punch Neapolitan Pizza

As if their swoon-inducing pizzas weren’t enough, Punch’s Facebook page will have you BFF with the local chain faster than you can say, “Friend me.” Unlike companies that clutter Facebook feeds with inane trivia and “engaging” questions, Punch is judicious with its posts, which are almost always accompanied by clever deals—a free pizza and Peroni if Italy won the World Cup, for instance, or wine for the price of a soda. •

Stage Director

Michelle Hensley

The founder of Ten Thousand Things Theater has long been among the most consistently sharp and thoughtful directors in the Twin Cities. But she outdid herself this past season, producing a stripped-down but deep Othello, a psychologically taut take on Crime and Punishment called Raskol, and, of all things, My Fair Lady, highlighting the push and pull between who we are and who others would like us to be.


U of M Bookstore Author Events

The University of Minnesota attracts dozens of notable authors every year for readings, from David Sedaris to Garrison Keillor to Siri Hustvedt. But you don’t have to make the drive to enjoy them: The university records the talks and offers free podcasts through its website and iTunes. Listen to them at the gym or in the car and see if you aren’t a little wiser and happier at the end of the hour. If only the rest of our iPod playlists could do that. •

Train Ride

Northstar Commuter Rail

Used to be that if you lived in Big Lake or Elk River and worked in Minneapolis, you could spend a good chunk of prime morning sleeping time enlarging the ozone hole in rush-hour traffic. Well, sleep in, exurbs! Thanks to the Northstar Commuter Rail line that started up last November, you can cruise in and out of town at 79 mph while working a crossword puzzle or getting in some last-minute shuteye. And with an estimated 3,400 people a week lining up to ride the rails, the roads are less congested for those of us still on them. •

Family Outing

Minnesota’s Greatest Generation

Say what you will about the misty-eyed nostalgia propagated by the Ken Burns documentary. But taking the family to “Minnesota’s Greatest Generation” at the Minnesota History Center will put some facts behind the sentiment. With its 1930s soda fountain, an M8 armored vehicle made in St. Paul, and a 1950s hospital nursery with an “endless babies vista,” the 6,000-square-foot exhibit offers lots of reasons to admire our midcentury minders. • 345 Kellogg Blvd. W., St. Paul, 651-259-3000,

Great Outdoors

Where to seek nature—without all the nature seekers

You could drive scenic Highway 61 along Lake Superior—or, as of this year, you could bike it. The new Gitchi-Gami State Trail (, when completed, will parallel 86 miles of Highway 61 from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. For now, the 13 finished miles running from Beaver Bay to Gooseberry Falls State Park, passing through Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, make for a perfect afternoon outing.

Of Minnesota’s eight official scenic drives, the Edge of the Wilderness route (, from Grand Rapids to Effie, is the least-explored and the most fun to cruise: Nicknamed Highway Loop-de-Loop by locals, it’s best traveled in the fall, when the thick woods of the Chippewa National Forest are aglow.

The perfect picnic? Head east on Highway 8 to Interstate Park ( and work up an appetite hiking the bluffs above the St. Croix River before settling in the shade for comestibles gathered in nearby Taylors Falls.

Silverwood Park (, on the shores of Silver Lake in St. Anthony, used to be run by the Salvation Army as a place for city kids to explore nature. Now it’s everyone’s urban oasis, a unique center for arts and the environment where you can take nature-art classes, see shows in the amphitheater, and imbibe fair-trade beverages in the Silverwood Coffee Shop.





Tim McKee

If you could close your eyes and dream and float off to a magical restaurant with one table and one chef, what chef would that be? We’d go with Tim McKee, and are tickled to report that you can have this experience right now most nights at Solera, sitting at the eight-seat tapas bar, where McKee, our James Beard Award winner and guiding light at Sea Change, La Belle Vie, and Solera, has been cooking, personally, for anyone smart enough to request one of those eight precious seats. Sometimes dreams do come true! • Solera, 900 Hennepin  Ave., Mpls., 612-338-0062,


Lenny Russo

It took a chef from Hoboken to convince Minnesotans that we come from one of the most important food regions in the world. Lenny Russo showed us what tiny crabapples, wild plums, freshly milled wheat, South Dakota goose, Wisconsin rabbit, and Minnesota pork were capable of, and we had the good sense to respond with wonder and respect. Now Russo has relocated to a larger facility in St. Paul’s Lowertown, and we can’t wait to find out what the next phase of his vision will hold for us. • Heartland, 289 E. Fifth St., St. Paul, 651-699-3536,

Rising Star

Derik Moran

The story on Nick and Eddie this year runs like something a Preston Sturges movie. See, the restaurant was teetering on the edge of failure for months, with families and livelihoods hanging in the balance. Then, in came a hard-working young chef willing to start every day at the farmers’ market shopping for ingredients, followed by all-day-and-all-night cooking, and—hooray!—the kid saves the day! Nice work, Derik Moran. • Nick and Eddie, 1612 Harmon Pl., Mpls., 612-486-5800,

Home Cooking

Alex Roberts

As American foodie culture matures, an agreed-upon definition seems to have emerged on the difference between chef-cooking (chefs use fancy cooking to create fireworks, delight, and inspiration) and home cooking (if you don’t eat, how can you get anything done, from growing to laundry?) But what happens when a fine-dining chef tackles home cooking? Brasa is what happens: plain but delicious slow-roasted local pork, chicken, and beef, and a stunningly delicious array of sides. James Beard Awardwinning chef Alex Roberts, who runs Restaurant Alma, confesses he came up with the idea for his menu while talking to his wife about what to bring home for dinner for their three hungry kids. That’s everyday cooking we can believe in. • Brasa Premium Rotisserie, 600 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-379- 3030; 777 Grand Ave. S., St. Paul, 651-224-1302;


Sweets Bakeshop

Macarons are fluffy French cookies made of meringue and filling; they have nothing to do with the American coconut cookies called macaroons. And that point used to be a fairly arcane bit of epicurean knowledge, until 2010, when we went from having almost no macaron vendors to having loads. Still the best are easily the delicate darlings produced by Sweets Bakeshop. Try the chocolate-mint-basil or the fresh banana macaron. • 2042 Marshall Ave., St. Paul, 651-340-7138,

Pastry Chef

Khanh Tran

How much do you like dessert? Do you like it, or do you choose the restaurant based on it? If you’re among the latter types, the restaurants for you are Bradstreet Craftshouse and Cosmos—both staffed by pastry superstar Khanh Tranh. Upstairs at Cosmos, either in the dining room or the bar, you’ll find elaborate masterpieces. Say, a buttermilk panna cotta with herb meringue and fresh raspberries with lime foam and a bit of colorful passion fruit sorbet. Downstairs at Bradstreet Craftshouse you’ll find simple brilliant bites like a moscato gelée float, in which the sweet, musky wine is turned into a gelatin and floated over fresh lime soda, making a single dessert both eventful and effervescent. • Cosmos and Bradstreet Craftshouse, 601 First Ave. N., Mpls., 612-312-1168 and 612-312-1821,,

Gourmet To-Go

Where to go when you want Gourmet Grub to at home

West: Minnetonka’s Pairings has vast take-out offerings (the local Wild Acres turkey meatloaf is divine), an attached wine shop where clerks will pair wines with your take-out, a little store with delectable chocolates and all the parking you could hope for. All of which makes Pairings the number-one stop for husbands picking up very special take-out for a romantic night in. •

Central: What would it be like to have a James Beard nominated chef make dinner for you to eat in your pajamas on your couch? Stop by Lucia’s To-Go and find out: silky Bolognese sauce with already-cooked noodles, shrimp skewers with tarragon aioli, never-frozen Lori Callister rotisserie chickens with romesco sauce, a Lucia Watson-caliber green salad, and mashed potatoes. That’s as good as it gets folks. Jay-Z and Warren Buffet aren’t dining any better. •

East: Don’t you wish you lived in a world where homemade chicken potpies and home-made yellow butter cake with fudge icing made regular appearances? If you live close enough to Jerabek’s you do. That chicken potpie has a crust that’s buttery and just right. The filling is hearty and captures everything that’s right with living in the Midwest. •

South: Get a pan of frozen lasagna and maybe an antipasti (like roast asparagus) from Buon Giorno, Minnesota’s premiere Italian specialty market, then add a bottle of good Chianti from the attached wine shop. Go home, stick the lasagna in the oven, take a relaxing shower. Emerge to find your house full of delicious scents, dinner ready to go, and yourself relaxed and holding a glass of good Chianti. Buon Giorno indeed! •

Rising Star Pastry Chef

Niki Francioli

After you’ve gorged on the best seafood in Minnesota at Sea Change, you’ll be tempted to skip dessert: Don’t. Pastry chef Niki Francioli is one to watch—and by “watch” we mean “devour the work of” with great joy. Her yuzu tartlet, for instance, is a marvelously intense creation. Yuzu custard fills a tartlet shell, fancifully hidden beneath minarets of toasted meringue. To one side is a little goat-cheese Bavarian, given wings with a pale rectangle of lime candy, and beside that are macerated sour cherries attached by a little path of powdered lime to a small hill of graham crackers. The dessert is like nothing you’ve ever had: It’s sour and creamy and—but wait! It’s a Key lime pie—the fanciest in town. How surprising. How charming. Now, aren’t you glad you saved room for dessert? • Sea Change, 818 S. Second St., Mpls., 612-225-6499,

New Restaurant


The restaurant of the year is chef Doug Flicker’s Piccolo, a place that has dared to reimagine portion size (smaller), price-point (smaller), and ambition (much, much bigger). Consider a dish like Flicker’s house-smoked veal-tongue pavé, for instance. It looks like a fancy French pastry and consists of thin, alternating layers of horseradish-buttered potatoes and pastrami-cured, hickory-smoke-powdered veal tongue, served with a salad of paper-thin slices of cornichon and sweet onion pickles, all of it gilded with a fluff of caraway foam. It tastes like something that fluttered out of a three star Michelin restaurant in Austria and alit somehow, mysteriously, in a quiet corner of Minneapolis. • 4300 Bryant Ave. S., Mpls., 612-827-8111,

New Specialty Restaurant

Anchor Fish and Chips

Why do so many restaurants serve food they can’t cook? That’s the downfall of most restaurants: Typically, they have a couple things they do well, but then they go down the rabbit hole of serving things they think they should serve—like chicken wraps. Not Anchor Fish and Chips in northeast Minneapolis, which offers mostly giant portions of sustainably harvested, wildcaught Alaskan cod, fried crisp and plated with big hearty chips. Add a beer, and it’s not one iota short of perfect. • 302 13th Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-676-1300,



Risotto is a matter of rigor, restraint, and technique, and is rarely done well in Minnesota. Most of our local risottos are sloppily soft and overcooked. Surprised? Drop in to Italian native Gabriele Lo Pinto’s restaurant Risotto for the best local example. Each grain of rice is al dente and incomparably textured, yet all the grains together are creamy and full tasting. The version made with Sicilian sausage and saffron is especially good: dusky, spicy, and vibrant with rigor, restraint, and grace. • 610 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-4338,

New Cheese Shop

St. Paul Cheese Shop

What’s so fantastic about the teeny-tiny, little, vest-pocket cheese shop that just opened near the Macalester College campus? The ambition, mainly. Led by Benjamin Roberts, a fan of cheese and charcuterie, this little shop does so much more than anyone has a right to ever expect. More, as in: sourcing and smoking its own local veal tongues, being the go-to source in St. Paul for hard-to-find ingredients like delicate pink fleur-de-sel and Italian hazelnuts, and offering a whopping three different sorts of Neal’s Yard Dairy blue cheese. Oh, and it sells hard-to-find Rogue Chocolatier bars. • 1573 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-698-3391,

Middle Eastern Pastry

Crescent Moon

Middle Eastern pastry is an entity unto itself and deserves to be judged by its own standards. And if you don’t believe this, report immediately to the pastry case at the Central Avenue Crescent Moon for baklava as light as air, yet weighty with nuts and honey, and spinach pies made with a crust that’s chewy, buoyant, and springy. • 2339 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-782-0169, Wine Bargains Hennepin-Lake Liquors There are two sorts of wine shop customers, those who need assistance picking out wine, and those who already have a cellar that’s the life work of 30 years of collecting. Hennepin-Lake is the wine shop for the latter: The aisles are cramped and chock full of hard-to-find prestige bottlings, usually priced a good 20 percent below what they commonly are. Sure, they don’t take credit cards, and you’re unlikely to find a lot of help if you don’t know wine already, but if you know what you want, this is where you want to want it. • 1200 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-825-4411

Wine Bargains

Hennepin-Lake Liquors

There are two sorts of wine shop customers, those who need assistance picking out wine, and those who already have a cellar that’s the life work of 30 years of collecting. Hennepin-Lake is the wine shop for the latter: The aisles are cramped and chock full of hard-to-find prestige bottlings, usually priced a good 20 percent below what they commonly are. Sure, they don’t take credit cards, and you’re unlikely to find a lot of help if you don’t know wine already, but if you know what you want, this is where you want to want it. • 1200 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-825-4411

Fish & Seafood

Who says Minnesota lacks a sea coast? Not at these restaurants it doesn’t.

Overall: Sea Change has utterly altered the fish situation in the Twin Cities since it opened. Now the freshest fish in town is often not sushi, but the more inventive crudo-like preparations here, like the truly exquisite raw langoustines with olive oil and herb flowers. They taste like a sunbeam glinting off a wave at sunset. •

Single-item specialty: The lobster roll at Meritage last summer gave the Twin Cities the one thing it desperately needed—that definitive taste of Cape Cod, Maine, and Nova Scotia, without the trouble of the plane ticket. •

Sushi: It’s remarkable that no rival has made a real run at wresting away Origami’s sushi crown: Is that because there really are so few locals who truly appreciate gizzard shad in pristine condition? It’s meaty and sea-deep rich. No, really! Oh well, more for us •

Local: We were recently in deep rural Wisconsin, and took to repeatedly ordering fried smelt, that lake-country treasure. And durn it all if every rural authentic version was merely half as good as the crisp and fresh little fish on offer at northeast Minneapolis’ Red Stag, the artsy hipster supper-club that dares to make rural local specialties better than the rural locals do. •




Everyday Wine Shop

Solo Vino

Sure, Solo Vino has aisles filled with the most tastefully selected, most interesting wines from all over Europe. But what everybody really loves about it is the ever-changing bargain bins in front of the store that are stocked with everyday drinkers, wines priced under $15, and often under $10, wines that are easy to justify when you’re sitting on the couch watching Project Runway with a carton of Thai take-out. • 517 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-602-9515,

Wine Shop for Collectors


Surdyk’s is famous for its vast selection of both collectible and everyday-drinking wines. But did you know that Surdyk’s has wines you can’t even see? It’s true, Surdyk’s airplane-hanger-sized basement is stocked with all sorts of things you have to know to ask about, like the famous Guigal “La La” wines (La Mouline, La Turque, and La Landonne), hard-to-find German Ausleses, and back-vintages of collectible Bordeauxs, such as Château Léoville-Las Cases. Does this sound like Greek to you? Fear not, Surdyk’s is famous for stocking its aisles with real wine professionals: people happy to talk to you on whatever level you’re most comfortable. But if you’re someone who does know what the above means, now you know something else very valuable. • 303 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-379-3232,

Wine Shop for Newbies


WineStyles may be a chain, but it does an awfully good job of being clear and non-threatening to novices. It divides its wine offerings into a handful of styles including: crisp, silky, rich, fruity, bubbly, mellow, bold, and nectar, and then offers a manageable number of wines in each style. The genius in WineStyles is actually that all of its wines are approachable and appealing, which leads to a very comforting shopping experience. • Three metro locations: 12484 Champlin Dr., Champlin, 763-422-9120; 314 Clydesdale Trail, Medina, 763-478-4488, Shakopee; 8170 Old Carriage Ct., Shakopee, 952-445-3513

New Gastropub

Victory 44

Victory 44 opened as a gastropub, then grew into something vastly more interesting. The cooks, led by chef-owner Erick Harcey, get their ingredients in the morning, figure out what to do with them, write the names of their creations on a chalkboard, then greet you at the door, explain their ideas, take your order, pull your beer, deliver it, cook your entrée—you get the idea. But the genius is there’s never a dish they don’t know intimately. Shouldn’t every restaurant be like this? • 2203 44th Ave. N., Mpls., 612-588-2228,


Salty Dog by B.T. McElrath

Chocolate bars used to be a booming Minnesota export, as local candy makers used our prime position on the railroads and our nearness to sugar-beet sugar to make a world of fantastic-sounding chocolate bars, including the Cherry High Ball, Nic-L-Nut, and Seven-Up. (That last one was seven different flavors in individual chocolate squares, all held together in a chocolate line.) Things haven’t gone too well for the reputation of Minnesota candy bar since World War II, but that may change once the world gets wind of the Salty Dog—a B.T. McElrath chocolate bar in which dark chocolate is combined with finely chopped butter toffee, the whole thing sprinkled with fleur de sel. Eating a square of the chocolate treats you to waves of flavor, deep dark chocolate flavors, buttery nutty toffee flavors, and the salt to focus and reset your palate. Will Minnesota be a chocolate-bar power again? If you take this Salty Dog out for a walk, it just might. • B.T. McElrath Chocolatier, 2010 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-331-8800,

French Fries

Bar and Cafe Lurcat

The crisp, golden, bubbly French fries at Bar Lurcat and Café Lurcat are something beyond French fries, and seem almost like a tourist attraction, like the pommes soufflé at Arnaud’s in New Orleans. No plane ticket required. Pair them with a Lurcat Basil Haden Manhattan, and a walk around Loring Park in the moonlight with someone who can appreciate that rare meeting place of low-brow (French fries!) and high-brow (done with seriousness.) • 1624 Harmon Pl., Mpls., 612-486-5500,


Strip Club Meat & Fish

The Strip Club, the nouveau steakhouse with the grass-fed, ethical, and local focus, is easy to love. Half of you can enjoy the restaurant purely in terms of mindless indulgence: Oh, those berry-sweet, finely mineral, yet puzzlingly affordable steaks! And half of you can enjoy the intellectual underpinnings that make it ethical and right, as brought to you by philosopher-locovore chef J.D. Fratzke. Those two halves add up to one perfect night. • 378 N. Maria Ave., St. Paul, 651-793-6247,


Cedar Summit Farms

Cedar Summit cream comes from a mixed herd of a few hundred Holstein, Normandy, and Jersey dairy cows who live near New Prague and eat exclusively pasture grass and forage year-round. (How’s that possible? They live seven months out in the fields, and five months indoors, just like the rest of us.) Pop the pale yellow top off a pint of Cedar Summit cream and you’ll typically find the top of the bottle plugged with a layer of solid cream. Stick a chopstick in there and swirl up a teaspoonful to pop in your mouth: This is fresher than the most expensive burrata, sweeter than butter, and changeable with the seasons (you’ll taste hay in winter, green herbs in spring, and smell flowers in summer). It’s like having clear access to the purest taste of life, as lived out of doors. • Available at many stores including some Lunds, Byerly’s, Kowalski’s, and the co-ops,


Rochdale Farms

Hand-rolled butter doesn’t come in neat blocks like regular butter; it comes in wax-paper rolls, like a section of hastily wrapped jellyroll cake. And Rochdale Farms’ hand-rolled butter, from a cooperative of Amish farms that make butter and cheese in Richland, Wisconsin, doesn’t taste like regular butter—it tastes sweeter, lighter, more vanishing, more energetic, not necessarily richer, but very much fresher. Cut a curl of this handmade butter with a cheese knife, and let it adorn a warm biscuit, or a slightly tangy bit of bread, and see how the simplest, most old-fashioned things weren’t improved by improvements. • Available at local co-ops, including the Wedge and Seward.


Nothing delights the eye like a big pizza pie—especially these

Authentically Italian: You get Punch Pizza’s Vesuvio with the spicy salami and hot peppers, we’ll get the Margherita, the $5.95 wonder of just-basil-tomatoes-and-fresh-mozzarella that tastes so sweet and light. We’ll go halvsies on the pizzas, one fiery, one sweet. We’ll both love the blistered, wood-fired smoky crusts, and we’ll raise glasses from our pitcher of beer to toast the cheapest great food in town. •

Authentically New York: A New York slice should be so crisp you can fold it like a greeting card, and only the coal-fired pizza at Black Sheep Coal-Fired Pizza allows this miracle. Get yours with hot salami if you’re in a Brooklyn mood, or with oyster mushrooms and smoked mozzarella if you’re in a more Soho-boho state of mind. •

Authentically Minnesotan: Red’s Savoy cuts their pizza the way heaven, Paul Bunyan, and Babe the Blue Ox intended: Like a checker- board. Sure, this means the interior squares are bordered on four sides by cheese, which gives no good fingerhold, but if you’re eating pizza with someone you’re not comfortable holding melted cheese in front of, you must not be from around here. • Various locations

Authentically Vegan & Gluten-Free: Pizza Lucé has long been the first-choice of vegan and vegetarian pizza lovers, with their cashew-based cheese substitute, and bounty of vegetarian toppings. But did you know they have a good gluten-free crust, and train their staff in cross-contamination to eliminate risks of the regular crust passing on to gluten-allergic customers? Someone buy those good Pizza Luce folks one of a gluten-free brownies as thanks, won’t you? •

Ballpark Food

The Vincent Burger

We all loved the Dome Dog, but now that we’ve got a sophisticated new Twins stadium, it’s time we kicked our ballpark fave up a notch, too. That’s why we order up the Vincent burger, cradle that $12 sandwich in our hands like the priceless gem that it is, then gobble it down faster than you can say “peanuts and crackerjack.” The gourmet burger, made with Angus beef and stuffed with smoked Gouda and braised short rib, has been wowing Vincent fans for years, and the new home for the burger puts Twins’ ballpark food a league of its own. • Six Hennepin Grille locations within the stadium

Coffee Shop

Bull Run at Rustica

Lots of people call themselves coffee fanatics, but there’s a good argument to be made that locally it’s really only Greg Hoyt, the owner of coffee-roaster Bull Run, who can truly claim that title. How fanatical is he? The beans are sourced from all over the world and roasted specifically in artistic ways. The water for his regular coffee and his espresso are filtered differently. There are three different ways to order that regular coffee (including a “siphon” which looks like it was lifted straight from a chemist’s laboratory). The baristas are so well trained they can wax on wisely about which style you might enjoy with which coffee and why. Oh, and if you get a latté, the milk will come from a single Wisconsin dairy judged to make the best milk to go with the espresso. Aren’t fanatics wonderful when they’re on your side? • 3220 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-822-1119,


D’Amico Kitchen

The worst part of going to the best museums in the world is, of course, the overpriced, canned-tasting lunches one is forced to endure. Oddly, D’Amico Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis’s Chambers has utterly inverted this situation, using the Chambers’ world-class art collection as the mere gilt on the lily of its flavorful, affordable lunches. How affordable are they? How about three courses for $10? How flavorful? The truffled mushroom risotto echoes with deep umami flavors; the beet salad is bold and well flavored; and options like the suckling pig panini or veal meatball sandwich are Italian in just the right way, full of ingredient-first flavor, rich, and plain. • 901 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-767-6960,


Savory Pastry

Salty Tart

Pastry need not be merely sweet! Some of the most wonderful offerings at Charlie Trotter alum Michelle Gayer’s bakery Salty Tart are savory, salty, spicy, and otherwise unmarked by sugar. For instance: milk bread buns topped with bacon-fat-sauteed chanterelles; double crusted apple pies scented with rosemary; twice-baked croissants filled with a house-made herb-cream cheese, local ham, and a melting blend of Gruyere, provolone, and Asiago; cakes filled with crème fraîche; and red-wine cupcakes. What’s that? Did you savory fans just drive off to the bakery in the middle of this sentence? Good for you. Life is too short to resist pastry this good. • 920 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-874-9206;

Bánh Mì


Bánh mì are Vietnam’s answer to the hoagie: They’re feather-light, French-bread rolls filled with any sort of filling, from lushly tender meatballs cooked in a tomato-chili sauce to simple cold-cuts. The best are from Saigon Restaurant and Bakery on University Avenue, and you know they’re the best because there’s a line for them nearly every lunch hour, and all afternoon on the weekends. We also predict that when the light-rail construction brings every other business on University Avenue to a halt, bánh mì fans will come climbing over the backhoes just to reach Saigon’s door. • 601 University Ave. W., St. Paul, 651-225-8751


Ngon Bistro

It’s not every Vietnamese restaurant that offers a charcuterie plate with a house-made, five-spice, local elk sausage, Wild Acres duck confit, and Fischer Farms pork terrine. It’s not every Vietnamese restaurant that offers a micro-brew list to draw in the most discerning beer snob. It’s not every Vietnamese restaurant that makes specials like Vietnamese toad-in-the-hole, with sweet Vietnamese pork sausage baked in a Yorkshire pudding with anise-spiced gravy. And it’s not every Vietnamese restaurant that offers these grace notes in a dining room that looks like stylish British models would happily have high tea there. And it’s not every Vietnamese restaurant that does all that and serves a pho that easily wins any championship in which the criteria are authenticity and deliciousness. No, it’s not every one, but it only takes one: Ngon Bistro, you are the only one! • 799 University Ave. W., St. Paul, 651-222-3301,


St. Paul Bagelry

Very few bagel bakers in the United States achieve true bagel nirvana, but St. Paul Bagelry has found it. Their bagels are so tender you can squish a bit of the interior in your fingers like a warm marshmallow. Every chewy bite produces tug and resistance, in the manner of al dente pasta. If you’ve never had one, repair your error immediately, and if you’ve never had a bagel with that interior bit of bounce to its soul, you’ve never had a bagel. • 1702 Lexington Ave. N., Roseville, 651-488-1700,

Butcher Shop

Clancey’s Meats and Fish

Clancey’s is sort of like a jewelry shop for meat lovers: Peer into the case and your acquisitive heart will leap and dance. What today? Bratwurst made with fennel pollen? Burgers made with blue cheese and scallions? Dry-rubbed Kansas-City-style spareribs? Or even smoked-scallop-and-corn chowder? If you’re wondering who cuts these jewels, so to speak; here’s who: Clancey’s draws lots of ambitious young chefs who like to work there for a few months or a few years to bone up (literally) on their whole-animal skills, and these chefs make soup, stock, sausage, and everything else you can think of, and turn locally raised meat into the gems of dinner. • 4307 Upton Ave. S., Mpls., 612-926-0222,

Shopping & Services

Dress Designer


Joy Teiken has come a long way from her first sewing project: a beret for her mother, who was undergoing chemotherapy. But the quality and thought behind her designs are ever-present. The audience always gasps and points when Teiken’s creations come down the runway. And her designs are always clearly hers: Romantic ruffles, architectural details, bold prints, and even bridal wear has her personal stamp. With appearances in Daily Candy and Women’s Wear Daily, she could be living in New York, but she’s living here, and boy, do we love her for that. • Joynoëlle Boutique & Atelier, 312 W. 42nd St., Mpls., 612-209-7822,

Workout Wear


What you’ve heard about Lululemon Athletica’s Groove Pants is absolutely, positively true: They truly do flatter the posterior. Of course, the price tag might make you wonder if these yoga pants are spun from gold. But Lululemon has managed to make supremely functional, darling “athleisure” and athletic wear that will make your butt look better than J.Lo’s. And, ladies, you know that’s worth more than gold. (Psst: Lululemon has a men’s line too, made with Silverescent, its own anti-odor ingredient.) • 2313 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-929-2014; 1639 West End Blvd., St. Louis Park, 763-545-9069,

Beauty Crusader

Becky Sturm

Becky Sturm’s shop, StormSister Spatique, is a little like the Cheers of the beauty world. When you walk through the door, she’s already got product recommendations tailored especially for you. She’ll remember your name and preferences. And she’s got an agenda to clean up the beauty world, so the products on her shelves are the eco-friendliest and most effective that she can find. Not sure where to start? She’s educated and opinionated and will get you on the right track. Looking to make friends or create your own product line? She’s a megaphone and a connector. Now, if she’d start serving champagne, we’d really have a bar. • StormSister Spatique, 635 Smith Ave. S., St. Paul, 612-716-5480,


Nelle Handbags

For the record, we loved Laura Nelli’s handheld confections before Oprah did—but we’re thrilled all the same that O Magazine recently recognized her terrific totes. Her girly Nelle line is perfect for a picnic by the park or a walk down the bridal aisle. The latest designs, the Harold line, are day totes that can’t be beat. Get one now. Later, when it’s worth a mint, you’ll be able to say you bought it when. •


Northrup King Studio 435: Susan Frerichs, Betty Jäger, Emily Johnson, Britta Kauppila

It’s hard to believe these four jewelers sharing a studio haven’t created some kind of supernova black hole and shot straight into the next universe with all their shimmering talent. Each woman tends to her own designs, but Frerichs’s stark skulls and telephone poles, Betty Jäger’s romantic-gothic statements, Emily Johnson’s feminine-edgy mix, and Britta Kauppila’s organic shapes complement each other perfectly. Plus, their wares are handmade, one-of-a-kind, gorgeous, and affordable. • Northrup King Building, 1500 Jackson St. NE, Mpls.,


Angie’s Hats

The elegant chapeau is no longer just for churchgoers and Kentucky Derby attendees. To do it up right, though, you need to see Angie Sandifer. She knows how hats are made—wide brim, cloche, giant floral adornments, lace. Make an appointment to see her ready-to-wear collection, or have one custom-made. • Northern Warehouse Artist Co-op, 308 Prince St., Studio 610, 651-208-4442; 24 W. Seventh Pl., St. Paul, 651-208-4442,


Everything old is new again. Twin Cities vintage can’t be beat.

If your style leans toward classic with a reinvented twist, the home wares and jewelry created by Style Minneapolis proprietor Shayne Barsness will be a revelation to you. Barsness, who considers the lush, well-worn, collected look of European design her inspiration, gives new life to the old. She transforms aged furniture and accessories with dreamy, weathered finishes and fashions wonderfully up-to-date jewelry out of vintage pieces. • 4501 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-377-3331

There’s no need for frugal fashionistas to sort through mountains of chaff in the hope of finding a single grain of wheat at June, a Minneapolis resale shop with a well-edited collection of gently used designer clothing. Owner Daune Stinson has stocked her boutique with the likes of Escada, Dolce & Gabbana, Trina Turk, and Laundry—priced at a fraction of retail. • 3406 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-354-3970,

For a truly vintageous day, hit the St. Paul Retro Loop, near University and Snelling. Each store has a little of its own specialty. Lula can’t be beat for vintage dresses. Swank excels in home décor and entertaining. Up Six has a fun 50/50 mix of clothing and furniture (check out its Craigslist listings). Classic Retro @ Pete’s has Pete, the extremely knowledgeable owner, plus some higher-end items. And Succotash is a postage-size romp through the 1950s and ’60s. •

Owner Steve Swanson and the crew at Danish Teak Classics restore and sell the best the genre has to offer, from sideboards and secretaries to occasional tables and bedroom furniture. They eat, sleep, and breathe good design, so they’re encyclopedias of information. • Northrup King Building, 1500 Jackson St. NE #227, Mpls., 612-362-7870,

Fashion Booster

Anna Lee

This year, several people of influence flew in to see Voltage: Fashion Amplified, the go-to, local, annual showcase of designers, at the Minne- apolis club First Avenue. People came to us. Why? Designer Anna Lee. Over the years, this show has become the capstone to a week of bona fide fashion events—New York be damned. Lee’s soft-spoken demeanor belies her hardworking, creative force—she’s undoubtedly our design community’s greatest cheerleader, rallying the troops and parading them down the catwalk. •

Kids’ Stuff

Danish Bohemia

Danish Bohemia is one of those little gems tucked into a house along Grand Avenue, and it’s quiet and unassuming. But when you step through the doors, it’s like entering a magical, soft fairy tale, where elves frolic among oversized toadstools and everything is cozy and covered in felted wool. Where this boutique really shines is with children’s items—clothing, décor, and toys. If modern baby décor is too sharp or grown-up, but Dora or the Disney princesses leave you wanting something with more depth or polish, this is the place for you. • 1144 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-222-8383,


Locally Made Products

A plan for some local economic stimulus

This inside version of a flea market/art fair, First Mondays at the Commodore is held the first Monday of the month, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., October through June, at St. Paul’s legendary Commodore Hotel. Shoppers browse vintage jewelry and clothing, antique collectibles, and assorted artisan wares, while non-shoppers will enjoy the art-deco bar, once frequented by F. Scott Fitzgerald. • The Commodore, 79 Western Ave., St. Paul, 651-222-1751

Curated by Judy Wilds Shimota, the W7 Collective popped up in the Historic Pilney Building as a way for artists to showcase their wares in an occasional-store setting. We’ve seen cheeky stationery by Vandalia Street Press, gorgeous photography by Shanon Gass, edgy jewelry from Infrared Studios, and more. Don’t miss the launch parties and occasional open evening. • 1032 W. Seventh St., St. Paul,

The Grand Hand Gallery has solidly anchored the Grand Avenue & Dale Street intersection for years now, and is as good as it has ever been. Gallery owner Ann Ruhr Pifer curates beautiful collections of clay, glass, and wood pieces, as well as jewelry, paintings and other fine crafts. And at least half her space is devoted to local and regional artists. • 619 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-312-1122,

Sarah Sweet and Angela Scandin’s shop is whimsical, and we don’t use that term lightly. From the front-window swing to astro-turf carpeting, shopping at I Like You is like a romp in a very stylish park. And if you feel inspired by the crafts you see, take one of their classes, held in the back area of the store. We guarantee you’ll find something to like. • 501 First Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-208-0249,

Women’s Boutique

Picky Girl

Thank you, Elizabeth Varghese, for being the picky owner. Thank you for opening up shop on Grand Avenue, and for topping yourself every year. Thank you for showcasing local design talent—and not just one token designer. Thank you for maintaining such a well-edited mix, and for showing us what our closet should look like. Thank you for considering price, but not sacrificing quality. And most important, thank you for always being honest when we step out of the dressing room and ask for your opinion. • 949 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-698-4107,

Natty Accessory


Hicks bow ties The world is just a better place when the terms natty and dapper are bandied during discussions regarding men’s dress. Gentlemen, listen up: If there’s one skill you need to master this year, it’s how to tie a bow tie. Bows are back, in no small part thanks to Pierrepont Hicks, a husband-and-wife team based in the Twin Cities. Smart checks and crisp tartans—a dapper-dresser’s paradise. •

Men’s Boutique


BlackBlue is a stylish men’s shop that men won’t be afraid to shop in. Nothing poofy or weird here. Just classic, stylish men’s clothing that manages to feel simultaneously slightly throwback and very, very modern. They carry Tretorns, original Penguin, Pendleton, Hyden Yoo, Alternative Apparel, and Fred Perry. And there’s a small selection of women’s items and vintage. Did you hear that, ladies? • 614 Selby Ave.,”¯St. Paul, 651-260-5340,

Bridal Boutique

L’Atelier Boutique

For the ultimate bridal experience, point your feet toward Selby and walk through L’Atelier Boutique’s doors. Vera, Oscar, Lela, and Carolina are all waiting to be tried on and loved—the moment you know that this is the dress. Owner Amanda Kautt has exacting taste and makes it feel as though you are the only woman to pass through her doors with a wedding on the brain. As for accessories, don’t miss the Penny Larsen jewelry and Mahvash flowers. • 493 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-602-9492,

Budget Haircut

Juut New Artists Academy

You’ll get the full salon experience—tea, a soothing head massage, and peppermint aromatherapy—but not the salon price tag. For just $25, you can get a haircut through Juut’s New Artists Academy where young professionals hone their skills with top-level guidance. You’ll look great—and so will your bank account. • 2947 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls., 612-332-3512

Green Beauty

Nature of Beauty

If you think eco-friendly beauty means you’re stuck swirling and buffing with Bare Minerals and you’re never going to have any color on your face or a signature fragrance—think again. Terri Bly and her crackerjack team have set up a shop-within-a-shop at Eco-Tique. Find glorious red gloss by Coleur Caramel, skincare from Israeli line Buta’i, luxe bamboo brushes by Ecotools, and even hair dye! It’s like a whole new ecologically beautiful world, and Bly and company are your ambassadors. • Eco-Tique, 1045 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-222-3127,

Paper Goods


Attention, paper addicts (as Lunalux owner Jenni Undis calls personalized-stationery and card fanatics): Stationery Saturdays continue at Lunalux’s Loring Park studio. At open houses each month, you can watch as Lunaluxers use antique lead and wood type to create a unique design, ink up the press, and print personalized stationery Gutenberg-style. The shop’s top reputation for custom-designed, letterpress-printed invitations, stationery, calling cards, announcements, and more continues to grow. • 1618 Harmon Pl., Mpls., 612-373-0526,

Perfume Shop

La Petite Parfumerie

Elite fragrances, beauty products, and handbags are no longer just for the French. Serge Lutens, Fragonard, Hermés, and more are all available in downtown Excelsior. Owner Diane Wissink seems to wave a magic wand and bring Twin Cities beauty junkies exactly what they’ve wished for, including Bond No. 9, Acqua di Parma and Creed fragrances, skincare from Caudalie and Kiehl’s, and Diptyque candles. • 287 Water St., Excelsior, 952-475-2212,

New Shop

The Guild

The Guild: A Professional Design Collective—the best new entry in the Twin Cities sputtering home-décor retail market—started life as a pop-up boutique during the holidays last year. Fortunately, Pam Mondale had the good instincts to make it a year-round venture. The Guild offers goods and services, selling vintage and new home furnishings, jewelry, and clothing, as well as the expertise of local stylists, designers, and home stagers. Nowhere else will you find Organic Diva cosmetics alongside home accessories from Nola Home, furniture recast by upholsterer Debra Pesek, and styling inspiration courtesy Jim Hansen—all in one 3,500-square-foot space. • 4414 Excelsior Ave., St. Louis Park, 952-378-1815,

Art Photos

Affordable art is just a click away at, an online gallery dedicated to unearthing the work of outstanding photographers and selling gallery-quality prints that are matted and ready to frame at reasonable prices—many under $100. Original work by local and nationally known photographers makes this easy-to-shop site a visual treat. And the shooters themselves receive 50 percent of each sale. •


Wood from the Hood

Few Twin Cities sights are more disheartening than big orange X’s painted on the trunks of trees once proud parts of our urban forest. Those trees often end their days chipped into mulch or hauled to a landfill. Unless Rick and Cindy Siewert, the owners of Wood from the Hood, get their hands on them. They mill the trunks of felled trees into flooring, wood architecture, furniture, picture frames, and more. • 612-581-0252,

Mad Men Chic

Past Present Future

Pack-rat extraordinaire Steven Mogol has hundreds of pieces of furniture and other objects (a conservative estimate) in a Minneapolis warehouse, home base of Past Present Future. There, he stockpiles midcentury (and older) office furniture: metal desks, file cabinets, chairs, credenzas, bookshelves, you name it. Find a desk you love, and he’ll restore that stolid metal lump to its original luster—or into a screaming-yellow showstopper or electric-blue work of art worthy of the hippest décor. • 336 E. Franklin Ave., Mpls., 612-870-0702,


Pet Groomer

Bubbles & Couture Organic Spaw

Gladys Tay and Frank Foo turn out the best-tressed pooches in town, paws down. It’s one thing to wield clippers and a fur comb, but quite another thing to style with care the way they do. The husband-and-wife team run a super-clean shop—they use safe, organic grooming products, and they treat your furbaby with the gentlest, most holistic care. And bonus: Fido won’t be kenneled after the cut. • 883 Smith Ave. S., West St. Paul, 651-457-1815,



Framing is one of those things best left to professionals. So if you’re going to hire a professional to frame your priceless art (anything from kindergarten refrigerator art all the way on up), call Mitrebox. It’s not just a magic knack they have for finding the right framing style—these ladies are interior designers. They understand space and how art should look amongst your other belongings, and they are comfortable with traditional, eclectic, and modern framing styles. Plus, they have a shop dog, wonderful gift items, and sometimes, cupcakes from Miel y Leche. • 213 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-676-0696,


Lomilomi from Nell Rueckl at Spot Spa

Lomilomi is an ancient Hawaiian technique of massage that requires a little more oil and a little less modesty than the hard-working Swedish massage. So if you’re going to do it, you might as well see the best. That’s Nell Rueckl, one of the few locals who has trained with lomi masters and has the technique down, well, pat. Lie back and imagine those ocean waves pummeling you. It’s really her hands, elbows, and feet, but it’s as restorative and relaxing as an ocean swim. Walk out feeling about six inches taller from the repetitive head-to-foot strokes. The bliss will follow you for at least a week. Splurge on the two-hour version and really let Nell work the aloha. • Spot Spa, 401 Hennepin Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-331-4182; 1600 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-7768,

Threading/Waxing/ Hair Removal

Blink for Beauty

You know you’ve got a good aesthetician when everyone knows them by first name. And you may have been hearing a lot about Christina and Brook at the glam Blink for Beauty in the North Loop. Christina’s threading skills make for virtually painless hair removal, and Brooke waxes off with gentle Shoba Azulene wax. Facials and makeup applications are luxe and low-pressure. The best part? The products they use are all approved by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. • 700 Washington Ave. N., #215, Mpls., 612-385-7000,

Salon Splurge

Brazilian Blowout

When it comes to hair, we almost always want what we don’t have. But we all want sleek, silky, perfectly blown-out locks that look as though we just left the salon. Enter the Brazilian Blowout, a keratin treatment that involves washing hair with a specific shampoo and then, well, a blowout and a flatiron session. Hair is strong, healthy, glossy—and most importantly, frizz-free for at least a few weeks. This treatment may be offered now at your favorite salon, but if not, hit up the Twin Cities pioneer, Spalon Montage. •

Spa Splurge


You can always get a massage, but if you want something a little more, say, meditative, Shirodhara at Solimar spa is just the thing. Traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine for times of change or challenge, the experience can leave you feeling focused and calm, and many report vivid dreams that evening. Lie back and enjoy an Abhyanga massage, then relax in silence as warm oil is dripped onto your third eye through a beautiful funnel. Then, the rapture: a head and face massage with the oil and Ayurvedic herbs. Tension—it’s gone…. • 1121 Town Center Dr., Suite 105, Eagan, 651-686-6686,

Pilates Instruction

Vitality Pilates

Yoga and Adventure Owners Alaya and Chad Sexton really do care about your health and wellness. Alaya, a certified Stott Pilates instructor, and Chad, an RKC Kettlebells instructor, have built a beautiful boutique gym, with a welcoming vibe but challenging workout. Choose from a variety of classes or semi-private or private lessons. Heft kettlebells in Mears Park. Complement a workout with chiropractic care, Thai massage, or Reiki. Or embark on one of their adventure-travel trips. Oh, and if you walk or bike to the gym, you’ll get a discount on your class fee. • 145 E. 10th St., St. Paul, 651-225-4151,

Floral Design

Wisteria Design Studio

Russell Toscano, owner and artistic director of Wisteria Design Studio in International Market Square, might just as well sign his floral creations: his arrangements are that distinctive. Wisteria has won an array of “best florist” awards from bridal magazines, both local and national, and its lush and lovely work invariably manages to be simultaneously funky and elegant, dramatic and artistic. • 275 Market St., Suite 50, Mpls., 612-332-0633,

Container Design

Tangletown Gardens

Even if you don’t know his name, you’ve seen showstopping container gardens designed by Scott Endres, owner of Tangletown Gardens. You’ve probably even commented on the dramatic combinations of tropical Elephant Ears, wild colors, and even edible plants displayed outside local retailers and homes. That’s because Endres has a well-known flair for planters—colorful, bold, theatrical, and always eye-catching. • Tangletown Gardens, 5353 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-822-4769,