The Twin Cities' Greatest Hits 2012

Dig it. If all the world’s a song, these are the tastiest grooves in the Twin Cities right now. The best things to do, eat, drink, hear, watch, and wear, from the big hits (Trampled by Turtles, Bachelor Farmer) to the deep cuts (the best tailor, the dessert to die for). We did the digging. All you have to do is give it a spin.
 

FUN

THEATER FOR THE EAR

Audio-Visceral Productions

If the Twin Cities were Hollywood, actor Steve Hendrickson would be Morgan Freeman, with a voice that makes everything seem like Shakespeare. Now, thanks to his new Audio-Visceral Productions audio books, you can hear him whenever you want. Original stories, written by pros and narrated by him, are downloadable from the usual sources for just 99 cents. Enjoy Hendrickson in the car, the tub, wherever—he won’t ask. • audio-visceral.com
 

IMPRESARIO

Joe Spencer

To call him the coolest guy in St. Paul sounds like a backhanded compliment until you realize that Spencer, director of the city’s arts and culture program, has largely done what Mayor Chris Coleman asked of him: “Make St. Paul cool.” Among other things, Spencer has brought the Twin Cities Jazz Fest to Mears Park, the Amsterdam Bar and Hall to Lowertown, and the River’s Edge Music Festival to Harriet Island. We never thought we’d say it, but St. Paul is pretty cool. • @joeyspencer
 

NEW ALBUM

Trampled By Turtles’ Stars and Satellites

A few years ago, when these hirsute dudes emerged from Duluth with their joke of a band name, it was easy to write them off. No one’s laughing now (except maybe the musicians: all the way to the bank). Their latest album dominated the bluegrass charts all summer, the campfire immediacy of their stripped-down sound suggesting these guys knew what were doing all along: returning bluegrass to its DIY roots. • trampledbyturtles.com
 

MUSICAL BREAKTHROUGH

Chastity Brown

Brown isn’t sure how to label the banjo-driven music she brought here from Knoxville, burnished with bluesy rhythms and showcased last spring in her album Back-Road Highways. Americana soul? Appalachian neo-soul? We call it damn good. chastitybrownmusic.com
 

LOCAL RECORD LABEL

Secret Stash

The young, Surly-drinking ethnomusicologists of Secret Stash are the Indiana Joneses of the record business, indefatigable in their pursuit of lost musical treasure. Since 2009, they’ve unearthed rare old funk, soul, and reggae from around the world; recorded folk musicians in Peru; and, in September, released an album of classic Twin Cities R&B, prompting the mayors of both cities to declare “Twin Cities Funk & Soul Week.” They release the vintage stuff on vinyl, sometimes with sleeve art by local screenprinters Burlesque of North America. Dust off your turntable and revel in your newfound hipness. ➤  612-466-2224, secretstashrecords.com
 

Tweet Freak

@johnmoe

Why John Moe is tweeting 24/7 is none of our business. But since Moe is the host of MPR’s hit variety show Wits, it is his business: he uses Twitter to test comedy bits, flush with hashtags like #OneLetterOffConspiracyTheories (“Aliens are leaving crap circles all over the world”) and observations: “When are we going to get around to finding a proper name for The Moon?” Most are hilarious. • @johnmoe
 

Second Try

Mill City Nights

The first iteration of this club, the Brick, was so bad in so many ways that it closed after four months. But then it changed everything, from the capacity (smaller) to the acoustics (better) to the name (sounds like an ’80s flick starring Tony Danza as a gigolo, but why not). MCN is a rare humble bird among the strutting nightclub cocks. Rock on. • 111 Fifth St. N., Mpls., 612-333-3422, millcitynights.com
 

Music Venue

WIN
First Avenue first-avenue.com
PLACE
The Dakota dakotacooks.com
SHOW
The Varsity Theater varsitytheater.org
HONORABLE MENTION
The Fitzgerald fitzgeraldtheater.org

 

 

Theatrical trilogy

The Brother/Sister Plays

Frances Wilkinson knew a good trilogy when she saw it: the fast-moving, slickly written Brother/Sister Plays, about contemporary African American life, by Tarell McCraney. The Minneapolis philanthropist begged Joe Dowling to let her bring it to the Guthrie, and she was right to do so. Pillsbury House Theatre has now performed two of the three plays on the Dowling Stage, though one was enough to realize that we were witnessing a galvanizing talent.  • 3501 Chicago Ave. S., Mpls., 612-825-0459, pillsburyhousetheatre.org
 

Reading Series

Pen Pals

Pen Pals is the Hennepin County Library’s gift to the shy. For if you only went out once a month, you could still soak up all the intellectual sustenance you need by going to the Hopkins Center for the Arts and enjoying a reading by Salman Rushdie, Alice Kaplan, or Dennis Lehane. And that’s just this year.   • 1111 Mainstreet, Hopkins, 612-543-8112, supporthclib.org/pen-pals
 

New Music Series

The Current Sessions

Mary Lucia has been a deejay since 1994 (and Paul Westerberg’s sister for even longer) and yet, when chatting with bands on 89.3 The Current, she still sounds like the kid who lucked into a backstage pass.
If even a little of that enthusiasm translates into this new behind-the-music show at the Fitzgerald Theater—Lucia interviewed Conor Oberst during the first session, in September—we’ve got ourselves a whole new kind of concert. • 10 E. Exchange St., St. Paul, 651-290-1200, fitzgeraldtheater.org
 

Movie Theater

Uptown Theatre

For a long time, it looked like the famously frumpy Uptown Theatre was going to fade to black. Fin. Now, after an unexpected makeover, there’s a larger screen, seats as big as Laz-E-Boys, and the best second-date setup in town: grab wine at the new upstairs lounge and make for the loveseats in the balcony. It won’t matter what’s showing. • 2906 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-392-0402, landmarktheatres.com
 

News Anchor

Randy Shaver

No anchor in town suffered for their chance in the big chair like Shaver. After some 30 years at KARE 11—seriously?—and waiting out the likes of Mike Pomeranz—seriously?—the preternaturally youthful sportscaster finally ascended this summer. Then he promptly descended, having swerved his bicycle to avoid hitting a pedestrian, breaking an arm and bloodying his mug. Off the air for weeks, he did what we had come to believe anchors never bothered with anymore: reporting. • kare11.com
 

Cross-country Skiing

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Once the leaves fall, you may be tempted to write off the Arboretum. It’s an arbor, after all, and who wants to gawk at naked trees? You do. Where else can you ski that’s so deliberately scenic? Where else can you warm up in a tropical conservatory? It’s so ideal (not least because it’s classic-only, so there are no Lycra-clad skate-skiers disturbing the peace) you’d think it was planned. • 3675 Arboretum Dr., Chaska, 952-443-1400, arboretum.umn.edu
 

Public Art

Irrigate

No Twin Cities initiative has put the “public” in public art like this. The ambitious attempt to seed the construction-blighted Central Corridor route in St. Paul, along University Avenue, with hundreds of art projects has gone beyond eye-pleasing to real community development. (Like Clifford Dodd’s posters mapping black-owned businesses.) The urban planners receiving national attention for Irrigate call this “creative placemaking,” a buzzword for shaping an area through culture. We call it saving the day. • Central Corridor, St. Paul, irrigatearts.org
 

Urban Escape

East River Flats Park

Why do city folk always look down on the Mississippi? Because they’re usually staring at it from high above. Not so at East River Flats Park, where, 25 feet below the bluffs, urbanites can cozy up to the waterway. U students know it as a sprawl space—it’s just below Coffman Union—but cyclists and hikers swoon over the park’s secluded trail, a 1.4-mile jog through woods and past waterfalls before dropping onto a narrow “catwalk” bridge above the water. • 360 East River Rd., Mpls., 612-230-6400, minneapolisparks.org
 

Nightspot

Amsterdam Bar and Hall

There’s finally a place in the heart of St. Paul for skinny jeans. Live-music savants Jarret and Jon Oulman, of the 331 Club, opened their beer-soaked rebuttal to anti-St. Paul snobbery with two stages, kick-ass French fries, and connected bookers Holly Newsom, of Zoo Animal, and Martin Devaney, whose Eclipse Records is next door. • 6 W. Sixth St., St. Paul, 612-285-3112, amsterdambarandhall.com
 

Nerdy Nosh

History Happy Hours

Alexander Ramsey himself never had it so good. The Minnesota Historical Society installed a bar in his residence this summer and the History Happy Hours have since taught imbibers about early bicycles, tin-types, and other antiquarian oddities. On November 29, Eat Street Social’s mixologist, Jesse Held, will stir up winter libations. • 265 S. Exchange St., St. Paul, 651-296-8760, events.mnhs.org
 

Landmark

WIN
Stone Arch Bridge
PLACE
St. Paul Cathedral
SHOW
Spoonbridge and Cherry
HONORABLE MENTION
Grain Belt Brewery sign

 

 

Museum Addition

American Swedish Institute’s Nelson Cultural Center

Some people made a rather un-Swedish-like fuss when they heard that the ASI was adding a modern addition to the Turnblad Mansion, its castle of a home. Disrespectful, they said. A shame. They’re quiet now, awed by the Nelson, a museum, restaurant, and event center that, with its green roof, blue glass, and slate walls, offers contemporary Swedish design to a diaspora stuck in the past. We could use more disrespect like this. • 2600 Park Ave. S., Mpls., 612-871-4907, asimn.org
 

Regular Gig

Cactus Blossoms

What sway-backed horse did these guitar-pickin’ young yodelers ride in on? They sound like a jam session in Hank Williams’s basement, but they didn’t become a sensation by pure imitation. Their edge is real, their harmonies hard-earned. See for yourself at the Turf Club every Monday night, when the old rock club becomes a roadhouse—these 10-gallon hats go up to 11. • 1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul, 651-647-0486, turfclub.net
 

Parenting Podcast

Pratfalls of Parenting

Levi Weinhagen, the non-Scrimshaw half of the Comedy Suitcase duo, became a dad, which was funny enough. Then he began a podcast, wanting to hear from other artistic parents. The free download is the anti-mom jeans of these kind of shows, with such guests as author John Jodzio, comedian Bill Corbett, and comic actress Shanan Custer who link art to parenting. If only parenthood were always this funny. • pratfallsofparenting.com
 

Dinner and a Show

The Reel Deal at Mozza Mia

You want a cheap date but don’t want to look cheap. So hit Mozza Mia, the intimate, breath-of-Rome mozzarella bar at 50th and France, where Lady and the Tramp moments happen nightly thanks to an everyday date deal. Forty bucks buys a bottle of wine, a wood-fired pizza to split, two scoops of gelato, and a pair of tickets to the Edina Cinema across the street. Just remember to spring for a breath mint. • 3910 W. 50th St., Edina, 952-288-2882, mozzamia.com
 

Sports Team

WIN
Lynx
PLACE
Twins
SHOW
Wild
HONORABLE MENTION
Vikings
 

New Ticket Deal

Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

The SPCO is battling a cash-flow crisis that may make it harder to attract top-flight musicians. But they could hardly be easier to hear. Taking a cue from Netflix, the SPCO is offering unlimited concerts for a monthly membership of $5. Any concert, any time. • thespco.org
 

Music Venue

Cedar Cultural Center

Not long ago, this institution was short on cash and long on cobwebs. Today, the Cedar Seeder, a Kickstarter-like initiative, funds adventurous programs. And it’s the best-curated venue in town, ranging from indie-folk stars to African dance-music shows that are now the sweaty stuff of legend. If the Cedar were a radio station, it’d be incredible; as a live venue, it’s essential. • 416 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls., 612-338-2674, thecedar.org
 

Best Indoor Adventures

Climbing:

Vertical Endeavors

The 60-foot climbing wall at VE’s new Nicollet Avenue location offers the region’s greatest indoor challenge. • 2540 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-436-1470, verticalendeavors.com
 

Bouldering:

Midwest Mountaineering

You can hang like a bat in MM’s cave—for free, including women-only nights every second Thursday of the month. • 309 Cedar Ave., Mpls., 612-339-3433, midwestmtn.com

 

 

Archery:

Rapids Archery Club

Make like Jennifer Lawrence with archery lessons at this family-oriented range tucked in Bunker Hills Regional Park. • 1255 133rd Ave. NW, Andover, 763-862-8163, rapidsarchery.org
 

Bicycling:

Fix Studio

Recreational racers and pro athletes alike have discovered this boutique bicycle-training and sports-massage facility. • 3725 Minnehaha Ave., Mpls., 612-220-0215, thefixstudio.com
 

Tennis:

Read-Sweatt Family Tennis Center

If you can shell out $26 an hour to hit in the winter, this place is your best—and cheapest—option. • 4005 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-825-6844, rsftctennis.com
 

Best Big Important Books

On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson (Crown, $30)

The Author: William Souder, lives in Grant
The Backstory: Souder’s Under a Wild Sky, a biography of John James Audubon, was a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist.
The Praise: Souder’s depiction of the embattled Silent Spring author was acclaimed by Publisher’s Weekly as “expansive” and “nuanced,” and his tracing of today’s political rift over the environment back to Carson’s book has sparked widespread discussion.

Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before it Conquers Us (Wiley, $28)

The Author: Maggie Koerth-Baker, lives in Minneapolis
The Backstory: Koerth-Baker is the science editor for BoingBoing.net, one of the country’s most-read blogs.
The Praise: Koerth-Baker’s clear-eyed demystification of our energy crisis—and the hard choices it presents—earned her a science column in the New York Times Magazine and speaking engagements from New York to Berkeley.

The Round House (Harper, $27)

The Author: Louise Erdrich, lives in Minneapolis
The Backstory: Erdrich’s A Plague of Doves was a 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist. Here, she returns to the same North Dakota Ojibwe community introduced in that book.
The Praise: Among the most accessible of Erdrich’s works, this story of murder and revenge gone tragically wrong was excerpted in the New Yorker and in Dave Eggers’s The Best American Non-
required Reading
.

THE WINNER: On a Farther Shore. Souder’s damning history shows how conservation became politicized and exposes the powerful lobbies holding government hostage.
 

FOOD

Tasting Menu

Travail Kitchen & Amusements

Say you want to go out for a big-deal celebratory meal, but you’re not really the shirt-and-tie type. And you’re about as likely to engage a sommelier for help selecting wine as you are to ask for directions. Then head to Travail, where you can get high-caliber food without any of the fuss. In fact, the chef/servers—chervers?—are so laid-back that they have been known to chug beer from a glass boot mid-service, and then send it around the dining room. Tasting menus are the best way to experience the crew’s playful, inventive, and tasty fare, which has included everything from a deconstructed beet salad with white chocolate and blueberries to foie-gras-and-Pop-Rocks lollipops. We can’t wait to see what happens when Travail moves to bigger digs up the street. • 4154 W. Broadway Ave., Robbinsdale, 763-535-1131, travailkitchen.com
 

Beverage

Deane’s Kombucha

Much like watching sausage-making, kombucha brewing isn’t for the squeamish. The process involves fermenting sweetened tea with a bacteria-yeast culture that might be generously described as a gelatinous glob of petrified mucus. But despite its unusual origins, the finished product—St. Paul-based Deane’s Kombucha is our local favorite—is a slightly alcoholic, probiotic-packed beverage with mild carbonation, juicy sweetness, and a vinegar-like tang. The taste is so clean and refreshing, you’d never guess its origins involved such peculiar alchemy. • deaneskombucha.com; available at various metro liquor stores; on tap at Mill Valley Kitchen, 3906 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-358-2000, millvalleykitchen.com
 

Place to Dazzle

Tilia

What impresses those who collect restaurant meals like they do Apple products, bicycle miles, and passport stamps? A brand-name chef. Loud music. Lines out the door. Check, check, and check. When your hip coastal pals come to town, take ’em to Tilia, the tiny Linden Hills eatery that often feels like one big party at Steven Brown’s house. They’ll dig the scene, of course, but they’ll be equally impressed by the inspired fare—from gourmet hot dogs to dry-aged duck breast with roasted shallots and preserved prunes—and the reasonable prices. • 2726 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-354-2806, tiliampls.com
 

Honey

Wolf Farms Extra Virgin Honey

Now that Rachael Ray has taught America everything it needs to know about EVOO (that’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for the uninitiated), it’s time for Extra Virgin Honey to get the attention it deserves. The EVH produced by Wolf Honey Farm in Baldwin, Wisconsin, is raw honey that hasn’t been heated or filtered. Because the honey is unprocessed, it includes bits of wax, propolis, and pollen, as well as, some fans believe, myriad immune and digestive benefits. But the stuff is worth enjoying solely for its sensual delights: the golden glaze has the consistency of spun honey, and its pure, floral sweetness spreads like frosting. • wolfhoneyfarm.com

 

 

Brunch

The Bachelor Farmer

Brunch is a meal that tends to be more about the mood than the food—low-key gatherings over coffee and eggs, maybe a Bloody Mary or two. But the Bachelor Farmer puts a few special flourishes into its brunch service to make it feel like a real event. For starters, there’s the cute red trolley that’s wheeled tableside, delivering fluffy rolls stuffed with cardamom cream and sparkling wines by the glass. (If you’d rather have something stronger, there’s always Breakfast Whiskey, a combination of bourbon, smoked maple syrup, and bitters.) But the heart of these morning meals are the Scandinavian open-face sandwiches, or smørrebrød, a variant on the restaurant’s well-loved toast appetizers—don’t miss the one topped with bacon confit •  50 N. Second Ave., Mpls., 612-206-3920, thebachelorfarmer.com
 

Weeknight Dinner

Sun Street Breads

As soon as Solveig Tofte, the lauded head baker of Turtle Bread, opened her own shop, the place was a hit. Tofte’s pastries were perfectly flaky, her biscuits uniformly tender, and her cookies cleaved without crumbling. It goes without saying that her breads were outstanding—a no-brainer in sandwich form, especially when stuffed with meatloaf, apple butter, and fried-shallot cream cheese. When Sun Street recently rolled out dinner service, its nods to regional Americana were a welcome surprise: fabulous fry-bread tacos topped with steak and roasted pineapple; cornmeal-crusted catfish with beans, rice, and collards. Who knew that the neighborhood’s favorite breakfast destination could be a great casual dinner spot, too? • 4600 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-354-3414, sunstreetbreads.com
 

Dessert

Harriet  Brasserie’s—Tres Leches Cake

Latin America’s famous tres leches cake sounds deceptively simple: douse a sponge cake in condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. Yet far too often, something goes awry, and the cake turns out soggy or the milky glaze is too sweet. Harriet Brasserie’s tres leches skirts both those issues with an unexpected lightness in both flavor and texture. The best part is the toasted-coconut garnish, which adds a subtle tropical nuttiness. • 2724 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-354-2197, harrietbrasserie.com
 

Best Frozen Yogurt

Wheel-of-Fortune Discount—FreeStyle Yogurt

500 Lexington Pwky. S., St. Paul, 651-699-1992

Base-flavor selection—Chilly Billy’s

314 15th Ave. SE, Mpls., 612-843-4278

Topping: olive oil & sea salt—Yogurt Lab

3100 Excelsior Blvd., Mpls., 612-926-8212; IDS Tower, skyway level, 80 Eighth St. S., Ste. 226, Mpls., 612-886-3084

Kids’ environment—Menchie’s

750 Cleveland Ave. S., St. Paul, 651-797-6428

Homegrown chain—Freeziac

375 N. Mall of America, 952-303-6801; 16532 W. 78th St., Bloomington, 952-934-4748;4105 Vinewood Ln. N., Plymouth, 763-383-0300
 

Breakfast

WIN
Hell’s Kitchen hellskitcheninc.com
PLACE
Key’s keyscafe.com
SHOW
Good Day Café 763-544-0205
HONORABLE MENTION
Al’s Breakfast 612-331-9991
 

Reinvention

Corner Table

Sometimes a personality becomes so associated with a place that it’s hard to imagine one could ever exist without the other. Scott Pampuch, the larger-than-life chef/founder of Corner Table, might be an example, as he and his restaurant came to be emblems of the Twin Cities’ locavore movement. But when Pampuch sold the restaurant to Nick Rancone and his wife, Chenny, the transition went as well as The Price Is Right’s Bob-Barker-for-Drew-Carrey swap: still good, just different. The restaurant’s plain, stripped-down ambiance remains the same, and the cooking’s just as skillful. The farm-to-table enthusiasm simply has a new face. • 4257 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-823-0011, cornertablerestaurant.com
 

Restaurant Décor

Wise Acre Eatery

Tangletown Gardens bought the vintage garage across the street and filled the former home of Liberty Custard with Wise Acre Eatery, the region’s first single-origin, farm-to-table restaurant. Most of the kitchen’s ingredients (meat, eggs, and produce, among them) come from the owners’ farm, located just an hour west of the metro. The restaurant’s décor and landscaping reinforces its urban-agrarian theme: at night, if you peek through the glass garage doors, the irregular array of dangling light bulbs resembles a sky full of fireflies. Inside, the walls are lined with dirt-filled pockets that grow greenery along the vertical spaces and the rammed-earth base of the bar was constructed with soil from the farm. Outside, stalks of kale sprout up among the patio plantings. Fortunately, hungry diners haven’t resorted to snacking. • 5401 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-354-2577, wiseacreeatery.com
 

Foodie Event

Heavy Table’s—North Coast Nosh

The Twin Cities are chock full of fun food and wine events, but because of our outsize foodie community, sometimes the crowds can get a little intense. For those seeking a cozier experience, the online food magazine Heavy Table sponsors North Coast Nosh, a series of sampling fêtes limited to just a few hundred attendees. Participating vendors tend to be small, local upstarts—think Joia soda and Lucid Brewing, not Pepsi and MillerCoors. And, often, the chief proprietor, such as the charcuterie-slicing Mike Phillips, Bogart Loves baker Anne Rucker, or Nate Beck of Natedogs, is on hand to dole out his or her wares. • heavytable.com

 

 

Cookbook

Eat More Vegetables

It’s been a long day. You’ve been on-the-go since sunrise, and you’re ready to drop. Needless to say, those golden arches look pretty good right about now. Stop. Put down the fries and pick up a copy of Tricia Cornell’s Eat More Vegetables (MHS Press, $28). The book—full of tips, tricks, and tools of the trade—makes cooking with veggies so quick, stress-free, and scrumptious you might even get the kiddos on board. And thanks to the Minnesota mom’s personal anecdotes and conversational tone, the read is both informative and enjoyable. When it comes to Cornell, those words don’t have to be mutually exclusive—and neither do healthy and delicious.
 

Minnesota Wine

Alexis Bailly—Voyageur

In 1973, David Bailly established Minnesota’s wine industry by planting French vines on an acreage just outside of Hastings. He spent the next several years experimenting with grape varietals and techniques—including burying vines as gardeners do rose bushes, so they might better survive harsh winters—such that his Alexis Bailly Vineyard, now run by his daughter, Nan, produces some of the state’s most interesting wines. If Minnesota-made wines tend to run too sweet for your taste (as they do ours), introduce yourself to Bailly’s Voyageur. The dry red wine is a blend that includes some of the vineyard’s oldest and newest plantings—grapes come from old-world French vines as well as the new-world cold-hardy hybrid, Frontenac, developed by University of Minnesota breeders. The resulting wine smells a bit like a raisin-y port, but the flavor isn’t so much fruit as smoke; it drinks soft and mellow with just a whisper of acid on the finish. • Available at various Minnesota liquor stores, abvwines.com
 

Roof Deck

Crave

At Crave’s downtown location, the trek up the stairs from the indoor dining room to the outside rooftop patio can seem like a scene straight out of Hitchcock’s Vertigo (we recommend taking the elevator). But the perspective is worth the perspiration: downtown towers loom large as you quaff your cocktails, and on blue-sky days, you can practically see the Dakotas. Our recommendation: go for Sunday brunch when there’s a parade streaming down Hennepin Avenue, or for a nightcap when fireworks are scheduled. • 825 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-332-1133, craveamerica.com
 

Best Mile of Ethnic Eats

Thai—Bankok Thai Deli & Supermarket

315 W. University Ave. St. Paul 651-224-4300

Chinese—Little Szechuan

422 W. University Ave. St. Paul 651-222-1333

Barbecue—Big Daddy’s Barbeque

625 W. University Ave. St. Paul 651-222-2516

Vietnamese—Ngon Vienamese Bistro

799 W. University Ave. St. Paul 651-222-3301

Mexican—Homi Restaurant Mexicano

864 W. University Ave. St. Paul 651-222-0655

 

 

Year-Round Beer Garden

Butcher and the Boar

When Butcher and the Boar opened a year ago, we worried that there simply wasn’t enough space inside the Hennepin Avenue restaurant to hold the hordes agitating to try chef Jack Riebel’s excellent charcuterie, chops, and long rib. So when word spread that the acreage behind the dining room would be fenced in and transformed into a beer garden, we hoisted a pint in approval. (It didn’t take much—we’d already had a few Surlys.) What a transformation! You can drink a Weissbier under the stars on a summer night, watch a Twins game while devouring the Cities’ best footlong (a slender wurst served on a pretzel roll and topped with cilantro and French-fried onions) in fall, and—thanks to a recently installed, temporary tent roof—quaff a milk stout and warm your hands by the fire in the dead of winter. • 1121 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-238-8888, butcherandtheboar.com
 

New  Food Truck

Sushi Fix

You can usually spot the newbies in line for their first Sushi Fix, fidgeting nervously with their cash, looking around as if about to bolt. It’s hard to blame them for being skeptical: something about the idea of fresh fish served from the side of a parked truck just seems, well, dangerous. And it is, but not for the reasons you might think. Since the spring debut of his truck, chef Enkhbileg “Billy” Tserenbat has made a business of turning skeptics into believers of his sushi. The alum of Fuji Ya and Yumi’s prepares gorgeous nigiri, sashimi, and salads worthy of a fancy sit-down dinner. Which is where the real danger lies: after spoiling yourself with this utterly satisfying lunch, making it back to work can be a challenge. • sushifix.net
 

Haute  Happy Hour

Gather

Most happy-hour deals are cheap for a reason: the house red comes in a bottle labeled with a cartoon critter, and the deep-fat fryer can do wonders disguising lesser-quality ingredients. But at the Walker Art Center’s restaurant, Gather, the Thursday evening happy hour offers the same stellar experience as the regular service: food and drink as artful as the museum itself. All the globally influenced small plates—short rib banh mi, gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches, sweet-corn empanadas—are discounted to just $5, as is a seasonal cocktail. And when a guest chef is in residence, on the first Thursday of each month, a couple of his or her special creations are sent out free of charge. • Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-253-3410, gatherbydamico.com
 

Ice Cream Shop

WIN
Sebastian Joe’s sebastianjoes­icecream.com
PLACE
Izzy’s izzysicecream.com
SHOW
Grand Ole Creamery grandolecreamery.com
HONORABLE MENTION
Crema Cafe cremacafe­minneapolis.com
 

Coffee Shop

Kopplins

When we were first introduced to Kopplins several years ago, we didn’t think it could get any better. Its youthful proprietor, Andrew Kopplin, approached his trade with a dedication that helped kick off the Twin Cities’ coffee revolution: sourcing rare beans, hosting cuppings, and turning latté foam into art. Kopplin showed us that coffee could have the depth and personality of wine, with flavors ranging from bright citrus notes to funky forest mushrooms. (Even cream addicts took their beverages black.) He introduced us to the innovative Clover brewing machine and the luxury of Rogue hot chocolate. And then, last year, Kopplin further improved our coffee-drinking experience by moving his business to bigger, more comfortable digs. • 2038 Marshall Ave., St. Paul, 651-698-0457, kopplinscoffee.com
 

Park Concessions

Bread & Pickle

The moment we knew the Twin Cities dining scene had truly become world-class occurred as we were peeking through the window of the Lake Harriet refectory, watching a cook zest limes. This seemingly unremarkable act was indicative of something larger: that even at this humblest of eateries—a place where one expects to be served only hot dogs and popcorn—real cooking was taking place, the kind that involves fresh ingredients and hyper-attention to detail. Kim Bartmann (owner of Barbette, Red Stag, etc.) even brought her sustainability-minded ethic to the lakefront stand (the packaging is compostable, the beef grass-fed), making Bread & Pickle one of the country’s greenest park concessions. The locavore picnic fare includes deep-fried cheese curds made from organic Wisconsin milk. Yum. • Lake Harriet Refectory, 4135 W. Lake Harriet Pkwy., Mpls., 612-767-9009, breadandpickle.com
 

Guilty Pleasure

Toby Keith’s—I Love This Bar & Grill

There’s a little cowboy in us all, and Toby Keith is trying to prove it. His theory: serve up classic American entrées, beer in mason jars, and live country music, and even the most blue-eyed of Swedes will soon be shouting YEEHAW! The recently opened St. Louis Park location of Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill provides a leave-your-problems-at-the-door atmosphere for Keith’s southern-fried brand of entertainment. And you really shouldn’t even try to resist it, because once you belly up to the 85-foot, guitar-shaped bar and let one of the whiskey girls pour you a few, you’ll soon be belting out the lyrics to “I Love This Bar” with the rest of us. • 1623 Park Place Blvd., St. Louis Park, 763-450-9999, countrybarmn.com
 

Best Donuts

Raspberry hibiscus—Donut Cooperative

2929 E. 25th St. Mpls. 612-516-3626

Crullers—Puffy Cream Donut Plus

3390 Coachman Rd. Eagan 651-686-8342

Beignets—Mojo Monkey

1169 W. Seventh St. St. Paul 651-224-0142

Maple-Bacon Long Johns—YoYo Donuts

5757 Sanibel Dr. Minnetonka 952-960-1800

Cinnamon Sugar—A Baker’s Wife

4200 28th Ave S. Mpls. 612-729-6898

 

 

Restaurant ’Hood

50th & France

There are plenty of good restaurants in the Twin Cities, but outside of either downtown, it’s hard to beat the concentration of culinary choices that beckon at the crossroads of 50th & France. Pick your plate: sushi, spaghetti, steak frites, shepherd’s pie—it’s all there. Courtesy of the neighborhood’s recent renaissance, there’s even kid-friendly (Mozza Mia), pint-pouring (Pig & Fiddle), spicy (the fried jalapeños at Cocina del Barrio), sweet (the gelato at Pandolfi), and dramatic (Raku’s flaming Playboy Roll). And if you’re inspired to hit the pans after sampling those dishes, you can drop in at one of the area’s two kitchen stores: Cooks of Crocus Hill or Sur la Table.
 

Caterer

Chowgirls

It’s your party, and you can cry over the details if you want to.  But you shouldn’t have to, or at least that’s what the fab duo behind Chowgirls Killer Catering believes. The long-time favorite of area brides and businesses has it all figured out, from renting equipment to setting it up and taking it down (and even composting it). And when it comes to the menu, the possibilities are endless. Want a burger bar? Got it. Jambalaya? You bet. Indian curry? Chicken, lamb, or veggie? If there’s anything you can’t find on their extensive menu, the girls welcome requests. So relax, dry your worried tears, and start thinking about the detail that really matters: your grand entrance. • chowgirls.net
 

Sushi

WIN
Fuji Ya fujiyasushi.com
PLACE
Origami origamirestaurant.com
SHOW
Masu masusushiandrobata.com
HONORABLE MENTION
Kikugawa kikugawa-restaurant.com
 

Burger

Icehouse

Here’s how you know a burger’s good: when you’d rather eat the juice that drips out of it—the stuff you will have no choice but to lick off the plate—than most other actual burgers. The secret to Icehouse’s success is that chef/owner Matt Bickford grinds his own meat, blends it with shallots and thyme butter, and bakes his own buns. For an extra 10 bucks, he’ll top that already amazing patty with truffle butter, duck demi glace, and foie gras. It’s a stack of meaty richness upon meaty richness; umami neatly packaged. It should go on the top of any carnivore’s to-eat list • 2528 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-276-6523, icehousempls.com
 

Big Plans

Union

Remember all that talk about stadiums with retractable roofs? Well, the idea doesn’t seem to have been lost on restaurateur Kim Talebi, the entrepreneur behind Urban Eatery and the ever-expanding Crave concept. Talebi has plans to transform the old Shinder’s building in downtown Minneapolis into Union, a multi-level boîte featuring a—drumroll, please—four-season rooftop patio under a—gasp!—all-glass retractable roof. (At press time, the scheduled opening was November.) Even more breathtaking is the fact that chef Jim Christiansen, the La Belle Vie alum who opened Sea Change, will be captaining the kitchen. We can’t wait to order the pheasant under glass, under glass. • Coming soon to 731 Hennepin Ave., Mpls
 

STYLE

Makeup Lesson

Julie Swenson Beauty

You wonder if Julie Swenson ever sleeps, given her penchant for great business ideas. She topped herself this year when she opened her beauty annex, featuring one of her brightest ideas yet: bring-your-own-makeup classes. All those jars, droppers, and potions you had to have but now rattle around in a drawer? She’ll give you step-by-step instructions on how to make the best of them. That, or diplomatically tell you that, yeah, the salesperson who talked you into that sparkly cobalt eye shadow wasn’t being totally honest. • 1026 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 612-741-0288, julieswensonbeauty.com
 

New Boutique

Arrow

In so many ways, Arrow picks up where the dearly departed Intoto left off. The shop’s two owners are former Intoto staffers, and they’re bringing back the cutting-edge, cult-classic, designer clothing we didn’t even know we needed in our closets. This is where Twin Cities fashionistas get haute. • 121 N. First St., Mpls., 612-339-1663

 

 

Suburban Fashion

Roe Wolfe

Roe Wolfe could easily hold its own in Minneapolis or St. Paul proper, but man, are those of us in the east suburbs glad they set up shop where they did. Peruse the likes of cool-girl Siwy denim, Winter Kate clothing, Coclico shoes, delightful fragrances, and more. Stereotypes about suburban style: busted. • 750 Main St., Ste. 107, Mendota Heights, 651-330-4434, roewolfe.com
 

Shoes

Mrs. P. Hicks

Thankfully for consumers, those who design great brands and products usually can’t stop at just one. Katherine McMillan, one half of the dapper men’s line Pierrepont Hicks, stepped out with her American-handmade menswear-inspired women’s footwear line this year. All these descriptors, though, belie the root of her great design sense: simplicity. • mrsphicks.com
 

Tailor

Tom’s Tailor

Shop owners swear by him. Brides trust him. Men and women alike leave his store feeling like a million bucks. Tom of Tom’s Tailor is not only speedy, but honest, competitively priced, and kind—oh, and according to Satchel Moore of St. Paul men’s shop BlackBlue, Tom also has incredibly soft hands. What’s not to like? • 672 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-222-5953

Bridal

L’Atelier

Many women dream of their big day decades before it happens. But they might not imagine where that big white dress comes from, or the lovely experience of trying it on for the first time. Well, the dress of those dreams—labeled with an exclusive name like Oscar, Vera, or Jenny—is likely hanging in a giant industrial-glam loft in the North Loop, just waiting for its star turn down the aisle. L’Atelier’s move to the fairytale location cemented its status as a national destination for the stylish bride. • 219 N. Second St., Ste. 404, Mpls., 612-367-8120, lateliercouturebridal.com
 

Salon/Spa

WIN
Juut juut.com
PLACE
Spalon Montage spalon.com
SHOW
Simonson’s simonsons.com
HONORABLE MENTION
Revamp & New Reflections revampsalonspa.com newreflectionssalon.com
 

Party Rental

Après

Whether you have a venue in mind or need them to build a space for you, Après has you covered. Their dozens of tent, linen, seating, draping, lighting, and flooring options (not to mention glassware, china, tables, bars….) guarantee your event will be custom-made, not cookie cutter. Unless that’s what you want, in which case they’d be more than happy to oblige. • 7625 Cahill Rd., Edina, 952-942-3399, apresparty.com
 

Best Blowdry Bars

Blowdry

Blowdry was the first to open, and is owned by the indomitable team of Charlie Brackney and Jessica Reipke of Haus Salon, 1203 Lagoon Ave., Mpls., 612-824-4878, blowdryblowdry.com

The Wow Bar

Owned by the one-and-only Jason DeAvalon, The Wow Bar is cranking out gorgeous coifs in Edina. 5037 France Ave. S., Edina, 612-334-3333, thewowbar.com

Blast

For those in St. Louis Park. 1668 West End Blvd., St. Louis Park, 612-564-6959, blastdrybar.com

Juut

The time-tested, well-loved standby. Several metro locations, juut.com

The Hive

For green, natural, organic products and a vintage ambiance. The Hive Salon, 400 Lowry Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-781-4483, thehivesalon.com
 

Gift Shopping

WIN
Patina patinastores.com
PLACE
Bibelot Shops bibelotshops.com
SHOW
I Like You ilikeyouonline.com
HONORABLE MENTION
Corazon corazononline.com

 

 

Landscaping

Phillips Garden

Phillips Garden does more than transform yards. Since putting down roots in Minneapolis’s Phillips neighborhood in 1985, Ed Burke has worked to improve the historically crime-ridden community through meaningful collaborations and an open invitation to neighbors to enjoy his shop. That people-first focus extends to the projects Phillips takes on, too, meaning each job is tailored to accommodate customers’ budgets, desires, and long-term visions. • 2646 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls., 612-721-1221, phillipsgarden.com
 

Designer Consignment

June

Secondhand is no longer a dirty word—or a secret. We can thank Daune Stinson of June for helping to turn that particular tide. Women now publicly crow about their steeply discounted Chanel jacket, Marc Jacobs bag, or Prada shoes—some of which still bear tags when they’re resold to Stinson at her Lyn-Lake boutique. Yes, secondhand is now being sold boutique-style—and no fakes fool her stylishly bespectacled eagle eyes. • 3406 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-354-3970, juneresale.com
 

Heated Yoga

Moksha Yoga Minneapolis

If you’re going to get sweaty, you might as well do it for a good cause. Every Friday night, uptown Minneapolis’s Moksha Yoga studio hosts a karma class: for a minimum $5 donation, you can stretch, tone, and sweat in the Earth-friendly hot room all while benefitting the chosen charity of the month. Your body and soul will thank you. • 3252 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-920-3004, minneapolis.mokshayoga.ca
 

Men’s denim

BlackBlue

Owner Steve Kang and right-hand man Satchel Moore have become fit pros, getting men outfitted in premium selvedge denim, which results in that perfectly worn-in look and feel. They cost a bit more, but consider it couture—your body creates the perfect fit, and they only get better with age. • 614 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-260-5340, blakblu.blogspot.com
 

Eyeglasses

Specs Optical

Specs owners John Oliva and Nancy Krant regularly travel around the world in search of the sexiest, most fabulous frames to fit your face. Since buying the Minneapolis shop in 1995, they’ve expanded their inventory to include more than 1,200 handmade and limited-production options from the leading designers in eyewear. If you can’t find it here, chances are good they’ll find it for you. • 2204 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls., 612-374-2114, specsoptical.com
 

Comeback

Faribault Woolen Mill Co.

Once upon a time, half the nation’s wool blankets were produced right here on the banks of the Cannon River. Then, a couple of years ago, Faribault Woolen Mill Co. shut down. But investors/owners Chuck and Paul Mooty wouldn’t have it, and revived the heritage brand this past spring. Now, they’re filling orders for the Waldorf and Plaza hotels, and collaborating with local design-stars Pierrepont Hicks. Long live the inventors of thermal weave, washable wool, and the Park-A-Robe—the world’s first Snuggie. • faribaultmill.com

 

 

Best Online Shops

Parc Boutique

Parc expanded its darling northeast Minneapolis boutique—worldwide. parcboutique.com

PrettyMommy

PrettyMommy seems to know what every woman wants: gorgeous clothes and accessories, plus gotta-have-it home goods. shopprettymommy.com

Lily and Violet

Newcomer Lily and Violet is already making a splash with its lower-priced, higher-quality bohemian style. lilyandviolet.com
 

Deejay

Jake Rudh

He’s spun his records in more than 100 Twin Cities venues. He hosts weekly dance parties at Club Jäger and a Thursday night show on MPR’s 89.3 The Current. He does weddings, corporate events, galas, you name it. There’s no crowd Jake Rudh can’t get to boogie down, and we love him for it. • jakerudh.com
 

Running shoes

Run N Fun

The knowledgeable staff and comprehensive collection make Run N Fun a repeat stop for walkers, joggers, and marathoners. Show them your stride, and they’ll show you the perfect shoe—it might even take some of the sting out of 26.2. Plus, the prices in the sale room can’t be beat. • 868 Randolph Ave., St. Paul, 651-290-2747
 

Tech Repair

General NanoSystems

Spyware, data migration, optical drive, motherboard: these terms make us squirm. If you’re as unsavvy as we are when it comes to all things tech, scurry on over to General NanoSystems the next time your computer randomly shuts down. Or won’t shut down. Or does anything else wacky. They won’t even roll their eyes when it turns out all you needed to do was reboot. • 3014 University Ave. SE, Mpls., 612-331-3690, generalnanosystems.com
 

Minnesota Brand

WIN
Target target.com
PLACE
Aveda aveda.com
SHOW
2 Gingers 2gingerswhiskey.com
HONORABLE MENTION
Spam spam.com

 

 

Relocation

Peapods

It feels like Peapods was selling safe and natural wooden toys and baby gear the first time it was popular. What goes around comes around, and this time Peapods was ready for the demand with its new, larger space in St. Anthony Park, and expanded inventory, which now includes things like cribs and cloth diapers. • 2290 Como Ave., St. Paul, 651-695-5559, peapods.com
 

Yoga wear

Foat Design

Twin sisters Kaja and Zoë Foat are Jivamukti yoga instructors who also happen to make adorable gym-to-streetwear clothes and accessories (and bridal gowns, actually). Their Earth-conscious approach means that many of their handmade pieces are multifunctional and made from upcycled materials. Wear the om. • 1828 Marshall St. NE, Mpls., 800-658-1448, foatdesign.com
 

DIY Trend

maker spaces

Co-ops and shared studios are booming nowadays, thanks to the less-than stellar economy. Here’s the drill: pay in, then enjoy access to space, tools, classes, and other resources that fuel a hobbyist’s passion or a small-business CEO’s bottom line. • The Mill, mnmill.org; Leg Up Studio, legupstudio.com; Hack Factory, tcmaker.org; North Country Woodshop, northcountrywoodshop.com; Big Table Studio, bigtablestudio.com
 

New men’s shop

Askov Finlayson

The Dayton family just can’t stay away from retail, and that’s the Twin Cities’ gain. The unlikely store name comes from the road signs along Highway 35 heading north to the family cabin, and the gear inside feels like the crossroads of super-stylish clothing and fancy cabin gear. Their exclusive collaborations are a don’t-miss. • 200 N. First St., Mpls., 612-206-3925, askovfinlayson.com
 

Best Home Stores

Midcentury chic—Jonathan Adler:

combatting the blues, one brightly colored, midcentury-inspired design at a time.
1439 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-353-5311, jonathanadler.com

Modern, high-end—Roam

Roam roamed its way from downtown to Uptown, gaining space and more great goods.
2914 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-377-6465, roaminteriors.com

Modern, affordable—Cb2

Hip, clean-lined design from Crate & Barrel’s younger sibling.
Cb2, 3045 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-821-9303, cb2.com

Fixtures—Kohler

The granddaddy of bathroom fixtures and more, now with a gorgeous showroom in Edina.
Kohler, 7101 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-314-9032, kohlersignaturestoreedina.com

 

 

Wellness Treatment

Minnesota Community Acupuncture

With the rising cost of healthcare, wellness treatments are becoming ever more paramount. But they don’t necessarily come cheap. Enter Minnesota Community Acupuncture, where acupuncturists diagnose and treat your various maladies, from anxiety to morning sickness to back pain. Plus, they help you heal the way the Chinese intended: in a group setting (dim lighting and tinkly music included). If nothing else, it’s proof that it’s totally possible to fall asleep with needles sticking out of your face, hands, and feet. • Three metro locations, 952-746-3478, minnca.com
 

New gift shop

Honeyshine

Buy anything, from a hilariously inscribed flask to artwork to a church pew—your intent might to be to give it away, but you know what happens to good intentions. For a small fee, the owners will even come to your house to show you how to style it. Once you get a glimpse of their gorgeous shop, you’ll want them to. • 414 Penn Ave. S., Mpls., 612-377-7300, honeyshine.net
 

Suit fitting

Heimie’s Haberdashery

Heimie’s strikes the balance between the old-timey quality of a word like “haberdashery” and style for the modern gentleman. We know most men shop as follows: never, then all in one burst, searching out a singular very-nice thing that will last forever. Heimie’s is the spot for just that. This is also the spot for suits: get one custom made (they excel at it) or walk out with one that just looks like it was. • 400 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-224-2354, heimies.com
 

New esthetician-based spa

Sonja Eileen Aesthetics

Facial fairy godmother Sonja Boatman opened up her own petite, focused space this year in which to steam, extract, and slather potions—and her skills have never been sharper. Be sure to pick up a few of the superlative Hylunia products, and don’t miss the chance to kick back and enjoy her stellar reflexology. • 4748 Chicago Ave. S., Ste. 13, Mpls., 612-799-3588, sonjaeileen.com
 

Literary Source

Common Good Books

Common Good Books curates. It might be a buzzword, but it’s totally accurate here. Their new space allows for even more of their well-done display tables, showing off subjects you might never have known you were interested in. The handwritten recommendations are insightful and funny. You’ll walk out with an armload of books and a boosted IQ. • 38 Snelling Ave. S., St. Paul, 651-225-8989, commongoodbooks.com
 

Skincare Service

Hydrafacial

This isn’t your usual cucumber-on-the-eyes sort of facial, but it delivers professional-grade results without downtime or pain. Instead of a dry microdermabrasion, the treatment is shot through with a variety of serums, all of which deliver the good stuff. Get Hawaii-plump skin in the dead of winter. • Skin Klinic, 3916 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-920-7546, mplslaser.com
 

Expansion

MartinPatrick3

It’s hard to top the best, so it’s especially thrilling when the best tops itself. Even though MartinPatrick3 keeps expanding, it hasn’t lost its clubby feel or exclusive product mix. Both male and female customers alike keep returning for the quality, service, and dead-on design. • 212 Third Ave. N., Mpls., 612-746-5329, martinpatrick3.com
 

Furniture Store

WIN
Room & Board roomandboard.com
PLACE
Gabberts gabberts.com
SHOW
Jonathan Adler jonathanadler.com
HONORABLE MENTION
Roam roaminteriors.com
 

 

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