MN Favorites

It takes a very steady hand, but every year MNMO’s oh-so-picky staff digs deep to extract the best items from the pile of fine shopping, eating, recreation, and cultural choices in Minnesota. Here are 75 things, from Cue’s polenta fries to Garrison Keillor’s new bookshop, that gave us a jolt—in a good way. Ouch! Ahh!

Photo by Terry Brennan

Foo-Foo Fighter

Todd Turfler. A guy with a name like that doesn’t dress his kids in no frou-frou baby blue or putrid pink. Rather, Turfler’s tots sport cool black T-shirts with matching doo-rags, screenprinted with vintage Dick-and-Jane type illustrations. But look closely and you’ll see these adorable children making secret devil signs. One shirt has a reminder that “It ain’t gonna change itself.” On another, varsity lettering reads, “My grandma rocks.” “My dad rocks.” Heck, “My dads rock.” And your little ones can too, ’cause while hip breeders on the coasts shop Rebel Ink Baby online, all this attitude emanates from Turfler’s St. Paul screenprinting shop. » Rebel Ink Baby, 1593 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-647-0655,

40-Year-Old… Um…

Becoming a local retailing legend is no small feat; most shops count themselves lucky to hit the five-year mark. In glaring contrast, the Grand (and Como and Northeast and Linden Hills) Dame of the gift bodegas, Roxy Freese, recently celebrated her Bibelot Shops’ 40th anniversary. She’s seen and survived it all—yes, even the Beanie Baby years with rabid collectors stalking the UPS truck from store to store. Alumni from her loyal staff rave about her generosity, work ethic, and unerring eye (rumor-mongers whisper that Freese is tailed by other retailers at trade shows to see what she sparks to). See for yourself at a store near you; no stalking necessary. » Bibelot Shops, Grand Avenue, Linden Hills, northeast Minneapolis, and Como locations. Visit

Deep-Fried Delight

Forget the State Fair’s batter-coated, oil-dunked candy bars and alligator hunks—the area’s best fried food made its debut at the Guthrie Theater’s new restaurant. Cue’s polenta fries, crusty cornmeal sticks flavored with Parmigiano-Reggiano and served with a side of aioli, beat ketchup-dipped potato wedges any day. » Cue, 806 S. Second St., Mpls., 612-225-6499,

Street Performer

Dan Dan the Accordion Man, a.k.a. Dan Turpening, is one of the few people who can make the accordion seem sexy. Pumping out lyrical European café music in a skyway near Orchestra Hall, he has inspired more than a few concert-goers imagining themselves sipping Chardonnay beside the Seine, and to wonder when Turpening, a teacher at the West Bank School of Music and an occasional musician with the Theatre de la Jeune Lune, will get his own night with the symphony.

Way to Drink Responsibly

Until recently, there’s been an assumption among enophiles that organic wines meant inferior flavor. But France 44’s Eco-Wine tags, which designate certified organic, biodynamic, or sustainable wines, have been drawing buyers to products that bust that myth. Don’t want sulfites? Need something vegan (many vineyards use animal products to draw out sediment when they filter wines)? Just ask a clerk to help you find something that will please your palate—and appease your conscience. » France 44, 4351 France Ave. S., Mpls., 612-925-3252.

Art Gallery With Attitude

It’s not subtle, but the name First Amendment tells you everything you need to know about the art gallery opened in northeast Minneapolis last fall by a clutch of young poster- and CD-cover designers: the art on display is brazen, occasionally political, and bound to bump up against the status quo. » First Amendment, 1101 Stinson Blvd. NE, Mpls., 612-379-4151.

Potential Neighbor

Few people know that Frank Gehry’s reputation, at least within the architectural community, really took off in 1982 when he designed a quirky, sculptural guesthouse to complement a boxy 1950s home by Philip Johnson (the architect who designed the IDS Center) on a hill in Orono overlooking Lake Minnetonka. Even fewer know that the lot is now being subdivided, so that you—yes, you, assuming you qualify for a $1,495,000 mortgage—can have the three acres next door at 1800 Shoreline Drive. Or just ask to crash in the guesthouse.

Food Fetish

Minnesota is known for wild rice, hotdish, and mojakka. Okay, so maybe the Finnish-American soup (pronounced MOY-a-kah) hasn’t quite caught on yet outside of ethnic enclaves. That soon may change: the annual St. Urho’s Day Mojakka Cook-Off held in Cloquet has helped popularize the fish- or beef-based stew since the event’s debut in 2003. According to the Ode to St. Urho, the Finnish hero “ate culla mojakka effery hour” to maintain his Samson-like physique. A remarkable feat, considering we weren’t able to finish the bowl we sampled at the Family Tradition Restaurant in Cloquet, due to its odd tinge of allspice and rutabagas. At least it tastes better than lutefisk. For more information, go to » Family Tradition Restaurant, 816 Sunnyside Dr., Cloquet, 218-879-1210.

Jäm Session

Roll over, Beethoven. Get down, Mozart. Minnesota Orchestra music director Osmo Vänskä is a closet jazz clarinetist. And a talented one at that: his surprise shows (with MnOrch trumpeter Chuck Lazarus) at the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant in Minneapolis haven’t inspired him to trade his baton for a zoot suit and a goofy nickname, but here’s hoping for many encores to come.

Secret No More

The professionals who style and prop local and national advertising shoots have the same problem as the rest of us: too much stuff. So, once or twice a year, Gwen Leeds and other top stylists join forces and throw Greed Gone Wild, a sale that’s a hip notch above any other. Expect one-of-a-kind couture, antique finds, and, if you’re there on opening day, the need to put Minnesota Nice on hold. The sale is customarily held at Patina Prop Rental twice a year, depending on stylist whim and excess. Watch the newspaper classifieds for announcements.

Photo by Eric Moore

Shop Dog

She’ll lie quietly on her cushy dog bed while you poke through the racks of designer clothes at Bluebird Boutique, her owner’s chic 50th and France shop. But come around the counter and greet her with an excited voice, and Aiya the vizsla is likely to get right to work. Wagging entirely—from shoulders to tail—she’ll climb up on a bench so you can communicate nose to (wet) nose. » Bluebird Boutique, 3909 W. 50th St., Edina, 952-746-8675.

Bridezilla Enabler

Everything must be perfect. Amy Jane Bridal makes it so with couture gowns that turn any girl into a movie star dodging helicopter paparazzi on her way down the aisle (try on the Angel Sanchez gown worn by Sandra Bullock). A very select collection from a very select group of designers. » Amy Jane Bridal, 493 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-602-9492.

Recycling Project

It’s been a long time (36 years) since the Foshay Tower was our tallest building, but it still looms large in many hearts. Inspired by the Washington Monument, the 1929 art-deco edifice was the first built in the United States by an all-union contracting team and the first awarded patents for design and construction. And now developer Ralph Burnet is spearheading its transformation into a trendy W Hotel. The overhaul, which is expected to cost at least $50 million, is slated to be finished in spring 2008 and include retail space and possibly condominiums in addition to 229 guest rooms. » W Hotel, 821 Marquette Ave., Mpls.,

Crafty Agenda

Where do up-and-coming local artists sell their crafty creations, including fabulously unique T-shirts, one-of-a-kind fashion accessories, and ingenious, well-made housewares? Get your cool on at the second annual Craftstravaganza coming up this spring. Last summer’s fair featured designers and artists with a stunning array of finds; this year’s will repeat the DIY workshops, kid activities, and live music that turned a fair event into a great one. » Craftstravaganza Rogue Art & Craft Fair, April 28, Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Building,

Green Dream

Countertops sparkling with post-consumer soda bottles. Bamboo flooring harvested responsibly and stained to a mahogany glow. A chic low-flow toilet that—er—takes care of business. Natural Built Home offers all these clean-conscience choices and much more, so you can build your castle in heaven while outfitting your split-level on earth. » Natural Built Home, 4020 Minnehaha Ave., Mpls., 612-605-7999,

Photo by Terry Brennan

Designer Bling

Princess cuts are everywhere. And so 1995. At Studio Vincent, the jewelry is imaginative and extraordinary. One betrothed couple couldn’t stop at one diamond and platinum band. She got a stack. And a few months later, he got a Harley—without a bit of negotiating. » Studio Vincent, Gaviidae Common, 651 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-332-3646.


Anachronistic Art

At Kenspeckle LetterPress in Duluth, Rick Allen and Marian Lansky churn out note cards, posters, books, and custom work featuring Allen’s gorgeously old-school wood engravings—if you can use “churn” to describe the duo’s painstaking, 19th-century methods. As indicated on their business cards, they sell “Curious Engravings, Eccentric Broadsheets, Unique Invitations, and Printed Emphemera,” which is to say, everything cool. » Kenspeckle Letterpress, 394 Lake Ave. S., Duluth, 866-727-3706,

Pitch Pipes

Mozart declared the organ the king of musical instruments. Which makes the Fisk organ at House of Hope, arguably the best in Minnesota, something of a king of kings. Built in 1979, the organ combines elements of centuries-old French and German styles, but speaks with its own distinctive personality. No wonder—its creator, Charles Brenton Fisk, was an organ builder who trained as a physicist and worked on the Manhattan Project. So you might say he abandoned work on an instrument of mass destruction to labor instead on an instrument of timeless joy. » House of Hope Presbyterian Church, 797 Summit Ave., St. Paul.

Antidote to a Digit-al World

The new Opposable Thumbs store in northeast Minneapolis combines two rather analog pleasures—records (as opposed to CDs) and books (as opposed to blogs)—making smart pairings possible: a circa 1984 Dirty Dozen Brass Band album, say, with the New Orleans novel A Confederacy of Dunces. » Opposable Thumbs Books, 2835 Johnson St. NE, Mpls., 612-706-2020.

Happy Hour

Early-bird specials aren’t exclusively the feeding ground of elderly flocks. Five Restaurant & Street Lounge’s $15 three-course meal (soup or salad, entrée, and dessert) is served between 5 and 6 p.m. to welcome neighborhood hipsters whose tastes have upscaled faster than their pay scale. » Five Restaurant & Street Lounge, 2917 Bryant Ave. S., 612-827-5555,

Photo by Terry Brennan

Above-average Joe

Coffee-lovers are buzzing about Kopplin’s Coffee in Highland Park, opened this spring by 24-year-old Andrew Kopplin. A veteran employee of local coffee shops, Kopplin is a man in pursuit of the perfect shot (check out for accounts of his obsession with milk-foam bubble size and the “Stockfleth” method for packing the grounds). From the thick, sweet, never-bitter espresso, to the decorative design in the crema, Kopplin’s cappuccino deserves (black) gold at the Midwest Regional Barista Competition taking place this month. » Kopplin’s Coffee, 490 Hamline Ave. S., St. Paul, 651-698-0457,

Artists Calling

Making a cell phone call in an art gallery might violate most museums’ etiquette—but not at the Walker Art Center. The new Art on Call system expands on traditional audio guides by allowing patrons to call into the information system to hear curator and artist comments about pieces in the Walker’s collection, including works in the Sculpture Garden. (Be sure to mute your ringer.) Or, before your visit, download a Walker MP3 or podcast at » Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-374-8200 for Art on Call.

Photo by Terry Brennan

Sweet Satisfaction

Homemade marshmallows are so hot these days we’re worried they’re going to catch fire. But these aren’t the roasting kind. Mom-turned-entrepreneur Laura Dhuyvetter, of St. Joseph, turns out an amazing array of fluff through her company, Laura’s Candy, including such flavors as peppermint, pumpkin, butterscotch, black jelly bean, pomegranate, cranberry, and—for adults only—Jack Daniels. Our favorite, Razzle Dazzle Raspberry, was so beloved for its foamy texture and actual-fruit flavor that we were able to overlook one taster’s comment that it looked “like flesh.” Come Easter we’ll put ’em to the true test: how do they stack up against Peeps? » Laura’s marshmallows are available at Golden Fig & River Chocolate Company, 790 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-602-0144, The Wedge, 2105 Lyndale Ave. S., 612-871-3993, and other locations listed at

“In” Outlet

The downside of outlets is that you may drive halfway across the state only to find the dregs of last season for 10 percent off. Twin Citians, however, can nab natty $9 button-downs at the Kuhlman Outlet in Calhoun Square—hardly a daunting drive. Here and there they’re bumped up to $19 or $39, but all you need is a sawbuck to walk out feeling like a million. » Kuhlman Outlet, Calhoun Square, Hennepin Ave. and Lake St., Mpls., 612-824-0030.

Addictive Aioli

It’s rich. It’s spicy. It’s addictive. The Edina Grill’s chipotle aioli is served with sweet-potato fries and veggie burgers, but calorie-unconscious diners have been known to savor it directly from the dish. Its garlic-mayonnaise base is expertly augmented with chipotle peppers, Parmesan cheese, and ground peanuts. The signature sauce is also served at the Highland and Longfellow grills. » Edina Grill, 5028 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-927-7933,

Hot Seats

Part of being in the theatrical know means recognizing the best vantage point from which to see a show. And that doesn’t always simply mean rows 10 and under. The Ordway, for example, often projects English subtitles above the stage for operas: unless you plan to see your chiropractor the following day, score a seat in the balcony. Orchestra Hall was designed to reverberate sound equally, so acoustically, all seats provide the same experience. Insist on sitting up front, though, if you’ve got Osmo fever. The intimate nature of the historic Hennepin Theatres—the Orpheum, State, and Pantages—allows many prime seats, but the floor is VIP when touring shows are in town. Members get first dibs. » Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington St., St. Paul,; Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.,; Hennepin Theatre District,

Blast from the Past

Sure, Oronoco’s a bit of a drive (unless you live in Rochester), and the direct turn to Mom’s Antique Mall has been closed off. But this 30-dealer treasure trove is worth the gas—and the now-quirky back-roads approach. Mom’s is where you might find the jadeite towel bar that will restore the soul of your 1920s bathroom. Or the vintage Cootie game with every leg and antenna in place. Into kitchen collectibles? One well-stocked booth will have you stirred up for sure: sifters and breadboxes and timers, oh my! » Mom’s Antique Mall, 1110 Minnesota Ave. S., Hwy. 52 S., Oronoco, 507-367-2600.


Cool-Kid Cinema
Do you think Á bout de souffle is some kind of battle with a French dessert (instead of the native title of Jean-Luc Godard’s film masterpiece Breathless)? Here’s an easy way to one-up even your hippest friends: Talk Cinema, a series at Edina Cinema in which the cream of the movie festivals are screened on Saturday mornings—well before the films’ general release, and often including a discussion with the filmmaker. Talk-goers were among the first to see Borat and Transamerica. But the real novelty is that you don’t know what you’ll be seeing until you show up. » Talk Cinema, Edina Cinema, 3911 W. 50th St., Edina, 651-649-4416 or 952-926-0358.

Photo by Eric Moore

High Life

Minneapolis flexes its architectural muscle with The Carlyle, a 39-story condominium—the tallest residential building in town—going up on the riverfront. The luxury building faces the Mississippi on one side and the downtown skyline on another. Residents can avail themselves of ï¬ve-star amenities, including a rooftop whose landscaped deck contains an open-air ï¬replace, swimming pool, spa, and outdoor barbecue. » The Carlyle, 100 Third Ave. S., Mpls., 612-359-8500.

Doughnut Fix

The Lone Doughnut Café fried its final fritter this summer and Minneapolis office workers who feared their waistbands might slacken flocked to A Baker’s Wife. Gary Tolle’s south Minneapolis neighborhood bakery might seem a reaction to his early days in the fussy, pretentious side of the biz (he once worked in Leona Helmsley’s kitchen). It’s cluttered with the sorts of books, knickknacks, and children’s drawings you’ve been trying to purge from your parents’ place. But Tolle’s cake doughnuts have such crisp crusts and rich, sweet interiors that it seems sacrilegious to dunk them. And with prices this old-school—a mere 44 cents for a basic doughnut—you can return to work with a bag full of sweets for the price of a Starbucks latte. » A Baker’s Wife, 4200 28th Ave. S., Mpls., 612-729-6898.

Photo by Eric Moore

Girlie Goods

Fresh flowers are nice. Blooming plants, too. But there are times when you want a little something unexpected to bring to a birthday party or a best bud’s bedside, and a bouquet just won’t cut it. Enter Wink, a retail boutique launched by Bachman’s last April. The goal was to attract younger female shoppers to the home and garden centers with an affordable assortment of girlfriend gifts, and so far, sales are strong and women are lingering—even laughing—over the somewhat sassy stuff. Wink, wink. » Wink, 6010 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-861-7600, and five other metro locations.


He’s a best-selling author, columnist, radio host, humorist, and, of late, movie star. But can Garrison Keillor stem the assault? He has cast a strong vote for the future of independent bookselling through the newly opened Common Good Books, housed in the same St. Paul building where F. Scott Fitzgerald’s mother, Mollie, once resided. » Common Good Books, Blair Arcade, 165 Western Ave. N., St. Paul, 651-225-8989.


Sprint Supplier

In St. Louis Park for 18 years and more recently in Edina, Gear, the oldest running store in Minnesota, is a regular pit stop for the everybody-knows-everybody running circle. It’s a one-stop shop not just for top-quality merchandise and expert shoe fittings, but for race info and general training advice from a staff of passionate triathletes and sprinters. » Gear, 4406 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-926-2645,


Expect designer denim, distressed jackets, trendy tees, shoes with soul. Atmosfere is where fashion-savvy guys go for wearable cool—casual clothes sure to stand out among the Dockers-dominated crowd downtown. » Atmosfere, Gaviidae Common, 555 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-338-9899; Calhoun Square, 3001 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-823-4699.


Bison bones? Martian markings? No one knows for sure how the large rock outcrops at Blue Mounds State Park in Luverne came to be. But modern-day seekers appear on the first day of spring and fall every year to witness the alignment of the 1,250-foot rock formation at the southern end to the sunrise and sunset. » Blue Mounds State Park, 1410 161st St., Luverne, 507-283-1307,

Hometown Couture

Find the latest and greatest from local fashion and jewelry designers—without worries about getting auf’d by Frau Klum. This is Design Collective. Make it work! » Design Collective, 1311 W. 26th St., Mpls., 612-377-1000.

Good-Guys Gang

The Guardian Angels troop is back in Minneapolis, patrolling the streets of Nordeast. The citizen’s league walks the streets to protect the public, clad in trademark red berets. Volunteers train for three months, learning self-defense, first aid, and the legalities of citizen arrests before donning signature red caps and treading troublesome territory. The Angels’ founder, Curtis Sliwa, who started the group in New York City in 1979, aims to lower crime and alleviate fear in north Minneapolis next. » The Alliance of Guardian Angels,

Icy Reception

Winter is one of the few seasons that isn’t fleeting in Minnesota, so take full advantage of it by strapping on your skates and heading to a nearby rink. Join a game of pick-up hockey at Lake of the Isles—but beware the former college bruiser who might be brushing up on his or her skills at your expense. Early- and late-season snow-free freezes can be particularly rewarding on the chain of lakes, since you can skate from the southern end of Lake Calhoun to the northernmost tip of Lake of the Isles—and even on to Cedar Lake. Or, until January 17, you can rent skates for $2 (free for Wells Fargo customers) at Rice Park and warm up at the community hearth in Landmark Place. If you prefer not to weather the elements while you practice your triple lutz, head to Mariucci Arena, where there are various open-skate times available. » Mariucci Arena, 1901 Fourth St. SE, Mpls., 612-625-6648.

Photo by Eric Moore


In the 1960s, virtuoso jazz saxophonist Frank Morgan was poised to leap from Minneapolis to the national stage. But he panicked under the pressure and landed in the world of drugs and jail instead. Cleaned up now, he’s back in town and blowing at the Artists’ Quarter and other venues, and he seems hardly to have missed a beat. » Artists’ Quarter, 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-292-1359.

Extreme Makeover

Whining about Dayton’s becoming Marshall Field’s becoming Macy’s is about as Minnesotan as chastising cheeseheads. But ch-ch-ch-changes are sometimes for the better, shoppers. Witness the physical transformation of the downtown Minneapolis department store formerly known as all of the above. Macy’s has given the historic 12-story space a much-needed makeover. The natural light streaming through the new windows on Nicollet Mall is just the beginning. See for yourself. » Macy’s, 700 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-375-2200.

Carpets with Conscience

Good news underfoot: it is possible to own elegant, hand-knotted carpets without worrying that children have been exploited in the manufacturing process. Every rug made by Odegard, the creation of Twin Cities native Stephanie Odegard, bears the Rugmark label, an assurance that it was made by adult artisans, not children. And 1.75 percent of the purchase price goes to the Rugmark Foundation, a nonprofit group devoted to raising awareness of child labor and providing educational opportunities for kids in Pakistan, India, Nepal, and other countries. There are Odegard showrooms and dealers around the world, from Miami to Milan to Minneapolis. » Odegard at Michael Sydney, 210 N. Second St., Mpls., 612-455-6100,

Place to Hang Wind Chimes

Who knew that the real windy city is not in Chicago but in southwestern Minnesota? Buffalo Ridge boasts nearly constant winds and an unusual skyline that capitalizes on them. Hundreds of wind turbines harness the formerly underutilized natural resource, increasing farm revenues and decreasing carbon-dioxide emissions. Where Minnesota meets Iowa, old energy strategies are being reinvented for the present and future.

Cool Dessert

All these years we’ve been naively licking the curly tops off Dairy Queens while our neighbors to the east smugly savored a richer, smoother treat and never said a thing. Well, Wisconsin, we’re on to you. And now we’ve got our own frozen custard parlor smack in the middle of south Minneapolis. Liberty Frozen Custard, housed in a former Standard Oil station and decorated with Americana to spare, offers flavors-of-the-day (cinnamon roll, anyone?) enticing enough to liberate you from your diet. » Liberty Frozen Custard, 5401 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-823-8700.

Greeting Card Nirvana

There are just a few vertical card racks at Corazon, but the sentiments are sublime, ranging from clever and offbeat to surprising and snide. One metro mom is still beaming over the card bought for her here last May: “Mother Nature. Mother Teresa. Momma Mia. You run with a pretty impressive crowd.” » Corzaon, 204 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-333-1662.

Brainy Toy Store

Marble towers, fairy skirts, modeling beeswax, wooden dollhouses. This is Kid Stuff unplugged. What else would you expect from Wonderment, the brainchild of three Waldorf moms in the heart of Linden Hills? » Wonderment, 4306 Upton Ave. S., Mpls., 612-929-2707.

Photos by Terry Brennan

Great Restaurant You Always Forget About

You’re making dinner plans and, uh oh, suddenly the names of every restaurant in town seem to escape you. Much less that of a cozy little neighborhood place with tasty, homegrown food that’s not too expensive or fussy. So write it down, say it five times fast, slip it in your wallet, or tape it to your face—just don’t forget it: Corner Table. » Corner Table, 4257 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-823-0011.

Use of Radio Waves

The name says it all: Just Good Music—four hours of the most eclectic, inarguably gorgeous tunes representing just about every genre (and a few you didn’t know existed), playing Wednesday evenings on KBEM (88.5 FM). Where else will you hear a 45-minute Indian raga sandwiched between a Matthew Sweet pop-rock stunner and an a cappella choral number? One recent show featured, among other artists, Bob Dylan, Mahalia Jackson, Cat Stevens, Ray Charles, and Malian musician Mamadou Diabate. As Duke Ellington once said, “If it sounds good, it is good.” Hear, hear!

New Brew

Local beer drinkers are intoxicated by Surly Brewing, which rolled out its first barrel just a year ago. Omar Ansari and Todd Haug, who named the company after “the anger fueled by the inability to find a good beer,” are distributing their hop-heavy Furious and Bender brews to restaurants and bars all over the Twin Cities and, most recently, to liquor stores in 16-ounce cans. » Surly Brewing Co., 4811 Dusharme Dr., Brooklyn Center, 763-535-3330,

Masquerade Outfitter

Indulge that alter-ego to the hilt. Get your over-the-top, to-the-detail outfitter at Costume Rentals, a warehouse-size closet containing the combined costume stock of the Guthrie Theater and the Children’s Theatre Company. » Costume Rentals, 855 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-375-8722,

Cultural Immersion

St. Paul’s Yinghua Academy, the state’s only Chinese-immersion charter school, has opened its doors to 81 enthusiastic students. Ranging from kindergarteners to third graders, the students learn Mandarin Chinese language and culture along with traditional subjects. With plans to expand through eighth grade, Yinghua will be able to grow and welcome more students each year. » Yinghua Academy, 1355 Pierce Butler Rte., St. Paul, 651-379-4112,

Minnehaha Moment

The song of Hiawatha is especially wondrous during summer and early-fall evenings, when the Minnehaha Falls are illuminated and bands play in the park. » Minnehaha Falls, 4801 Minnehaha Ave. S., Mpls., 612-230-6400,


Effortless Entrées

Easy make-and-take dinner outlets have proliferated in recent years, but sometimes the family chef is too busy to make even minimal meals. Sociale offers a ready-made option in addition to the standard assembly program. Prepared entrées (bringin’ home the bacon shrimp, chicken cha cha cha), sides (to be orzo not to be), and desserts (ssweet-potato dream) are available at seven Minnesota stores; some locations even offer home delivery. » Sociale, 6551 York Ave. S., Edina, 612-866-3200, and other metro locations,

Bull Market

Farmers’ markets have been cropping up all over, and the latest and greatest is the Mill City Farmers’ Market, which opened last June in a former train shed for the Washburn A Mill. All the foods—produce, meats, fish, poultry, dairy products, and ready-to-eat snacks—come from local operations that employ sustainable farming practices. The market opens for the season in early May. Come for the goods, stay for the live music and cooking demos. » Mill City Farmers’ Market, Chicago Ave. and Second St. S., Mpls., 612-341-7580,

Renderings by Jerry Ohm, courtesy of Oslund and Associates

New Urban Oasis

The Guthrie Theatre is getting a 7.5-acre side yard, thanks to a donation by former UnitedHealth CEO William McGuire. The design for Gold Medal Park includes four winding concrete paths that mirror the way water flows down into the Mississippi River. One will spiral from a lighted perch on a 32-foot hill. Linden trees will line a boulevard along Second Street, and maples will dot the park. An invitation to luxuriate on park benches won’t be necessary, but a bell to remind you it’s curtain time may be. » Gold Medal Park, Second St. S. between Ninth and 11th avenues, Mpls.


Food Fight

When our two favorite pizza chains each opened outposts in the other’s “turf,” we worried: might Punch Neapolitan Pizza (endorsed by Meryl Streep) knock out Pizza Nea, or the other way around? We’d like to keep the competition coming, because we now know what it means: more primo pizza for all of us. Puffy blackened crusts topped with luscious Neapolitan ingredients—now that’s a slice of heaven. » Pizza Nea, multiple locations, including 306 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-331-9298. Punch Neapolitan Pizza, multiple locations, including 210 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-623-8114.

Way to Take a Hike

Sure, the treadmill has its allure—the soothing electrical hum, the reassuring LED—but if you want to navigate some terrain other than your dank basement “exercise room,” try a Walk on the Wild Side: Thursday Night Hike, a free weekly event that takes participants to some of the metro area’s most breathtaking sites, including the Mississippi River gorge, Minnehaha Creek, and Capital Hill. And after you’re done with the three- to four-mile hike, head to a nearby restaurant with your new friends for a post-hike treat. We promise your treadmill won’t miss you. » Walk on the Wild Side, Various locations,

Wayside Rest

David Salmela designed the Joseph N. Alexander Visitor Center at Gooseberry Falls State Park to complement rather than compete with the stunning scenery. Low-key exhibits educate onlookers about area animals and geology, and they encourage excursions to the falls. The Civilian Conservation Corps created the Highway 61 rest stop in the 1930s; stone and wood from the original site were incorporated into the newer building. » Gooseberry Falls State Park, 3206 Hwy. 61 E., Two Harbors,

Second Chance

On a good day at GH2, you’ll find all the big couture names, gently worn: Prada, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Versace. On a great day, you’ll discover new designers and labels that will have you hot under your looks-better-than-consignment-bargain collar. » GH2, 318 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-378-0509.

Visionary Valet

Pedal up on the Schwinn to partake in Café and Bar Lurcat or Campiello’s free bicycle valet parking, an innovation sweetened with a complimentary dessert for cyclists who purchase an entrée. » Café Lurcat and Bar Lurcat, 1624 Harmon Pl., Mpls., 612-486-5500; Campiello, 1320 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-825-2222.

Place to Go Overboard

Someone in the lowly field of, say, publishing could easily exhaust a week’s pay at Oceanaire Seafood Room without even going beyond starters. The Minneapolis restaurant’s oyster bar is the finest in the state and its caviar service, well, it would be worth your while to pick up some fast freelance work. » Oceanaire Seafood Room, 1300 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-333-2277,

Photo by Eric Moore

Creative Catering

Had enough peppered-cheese cubes and watermelon boats? For the past two years, Chowgirls Killer Catering has enlivened area art openings and with-it weddings. Amy Lynn Brown and Heidi Andermack rope in repeat clients with their signature tarts, tapenades, tenderloins, and trifles (as well as many delicious items that do not begin with the letter T). » Chowgirls Killer Catering, 1316 Fourth St. SE, Mpls., 612-203-0786,

Photo by Terry Brennan

Meet the Parents venue

Taking the in-laws out to eat is risky. Select too fancy a place and you’re deemed a spendthrift; too frugal and you’re cheap. In either case, a poor prospect for managing the family fortune. But it’s hard to go wrong with a good Italian bistro. Pane Vino Dolce in Minneapolis and Luci Ancora in St. Paul will demonstrate excellent taste, in more than just your romantic partner. » Pane Vino Dolce, 819 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-825-3201; Luci Ancora, 2060 Randolph Ave., St. Paul, 651-698-6889.

Kid Connections

You probably know the threadbare tale: an old man, an endless beach full of starfish, and the importance of doing what you can to make a difference. Bolder Options, which has matched hundreds of adults with at-risk kids through running and cycling mentor programs, has focused on changing lives through fitness activities and plenty of one-on-one time with mentors. Led by former NFL and Gopher gridiron great Darrell Thompson, Bolder Options is expanding to St. Paul in 2007, which will allow it to help more kids build a foundation for academic, social, and life success. Do it to make a difference in a child’s life. And do it because it will make a difference in yours, too. » Bolder Options, 2100 Stevens Ave., Mpls., 612-379-2653,

Car-Free Commute

The Midtown Greenway is proof that you don’t need to leave the city limits to get away from it all. Once an abandoned railroad line, the greenway is now a beautiful and convenient way to commute, car-free. Stretching from the chain of lakes to the Mississippi River, the asphalt trail enables you to walk, run, or pedal across the heart of the city. But don’t focus too single-mindedly on reaching the river. Along the way, be sure to marvel at the postcard-pretty skyline that soars over the northeast section of Lake of the Isles, take a break on a bench at the gardens near Lyndale Avenue, and buy a meal or a souvenir at the Global Market just off of the 13th Avenue exit. » Midtown Global Market, Lake St. and Chicago Ave., Mpls.,

Natural Selection

If you were that kid in science class who always remembered the difference between deciduous and coniferous and never had trouble identifying animal tracks, the new Minnesota Master Naturalist Program will help you see the forest and the trees. Each 11-week course teaches students about the plants, animals, ecology, and geology of one of Minnesota’s three biomes (glossary check: a biome is a community of living organisms in a major ecological area). Sign up fast, though—there’s already a waiting list of more than 100 people. » Minnesota Master Naturalist Program, various locations, 888-241-4532,

Hot Potato

It lacks the machismo of the Eelpout Festival (Walker) and the historic gravitas of the Defeat of Jesse James Days (Northfield), but for making much out of little, the Barnesville Potato Days Festival can’t be topped. Elevating the boring brown spud into an object of intrigue and sophistication, the festival features picking and peeling contests, mashed-potato wrestling, a lefse bake-off, a Miss Tater Tot competition, and a potato-sack fashion show. » Barnesville Potato Days Festival, August 24–25,

New Restaurant

There’s been plenty of chatter about the Town Talk Diner since the Hi-Lake icon re-opened last winter. And for good reason: between the deep-fried pickles, alcoholic malts, and red-vinyl bar stools, the place is something most dining experiences aren’t—an awful lot of fun. » Town Talk Diner, 2707 ½ E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-722-1312.

Numismatic Nirvana

That cache of Depression dimes in grandma’s boudoir may be worth more than you think. Get an estimate on the collection at the 73rd Annual Northwest Coin Show, the largest numismatic event in the Upper Midwest, where dealers and collectors from all over the country converge to buy, trade, sell, and ogle currency. Condition and rarity are at a premium, but all your old American paper, gold, and silver should garner a pretty, er, penny. Note: leave your post-1964 silver coins home. They’re mostly copper nickel, not silver. » 73rd Annual Northwest Coin Show, Earle Brown Heritage Center, 6155 Earle Brown Dr., Mpls., March 16–18.

Creative Kid Stuff

While children have been decorating our buildings with murals—both legal and illegal—for some time, the Grand Marais Mosaic is special. Artists Kelly Dupre and Joyce Klees have worked with Jana Larson’s fourth graders at Sawtooth Elementary School for four years to depict the seasonal “culture and critters of Cook County” on the side of the Whole Foods Co-op building. The students have planned, designed, and created the work, made possible by grants and donations from local businesses. The final phase, depicting winter, will be completed this year.

Snowy Ride

When the snow flies, your inner child may feel tempted to take a sled to the nearest steep road and let ’er rip. But to avoid oncoming headlights, take to the slopes of Theodore Wirth Park, where you can rent tubes and snowboards (lessons available) and revive at the chalet with hot chocolate. The hills are lit after dusk, and the park has the capability to make its own snow if the temperature is low enough. » Theodore Wirth Park, 1301 Theodore Wirth Pkwy., Mpls., 763-522-4584.

Spiritual Salvation

The ultimate goal of yoga is liberation from worldly suffering, but the first step is finding the right center or teacher. The process is complicated by the many types of yoga, from hatha (slow-paced and fluid) to ashtanga (physically demanding linked movements) to iyengar (uses props in holding poses) to vinyasa (breath-synchronized movement) to bikram (practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees). To find the right fit, you can sample each style at the nonprofit One Yoga Studio, a stylish oasis of calm that offers some donation-based classes, where you can pay what you can. Along the way, you may achieve inner peace and outer tone. » One Yoga Studio, 2100 B Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-872-6347,

Teen Trust

The Children’s Theatre Company’s Cargill Stage serves children too young or old for the conventional “family” shows. The teen shows often focus on empowerment, as does protocol at the concession stand: adolescents are on their honor to drop a dollar in the kitty before grabbing a coffee, soda, cookie, or bag of chips. And they do. » Cargill Stage, Children’s Theatre Company, 2400 Third Ave. S., Mpls., 612-874-0400.

Poetic Justice

There once was a governor named Tim. Who considered a state poet a whim. One we couldn’t afford, lest we go overboard, and hire artists ’til we’re filled to the brim. Well, actually, he dryly postulated that “We could also see requests for a state mime, interpretive dancer, or potter” when he vetoed the bill establishing a state poet laureate. Luckily, Duluth isn’t so easily spooked: the city appointed Barton Sutter its first poet laureate last April, and St. Paul soon followed, naming Carol Connolly to the job. She read her first official verse before a mayoral budget address, which focused on raising taxes. Let’s see, what rhymes with “regressive”?