Best of MN, 2022

From dry-hopped lagers and Marty’s Deli to Houston White and Wild Witchery Co.—these are Minnesota’s premier people, places, and things of 2022

Illustration by Alexis Politz

This year was filled with highs and lows, openings and closings, surprises and successes. We wanted to focus on the positive from this year and asked several writers and editors to select some shining moments and outstanding items. Below, our categories are Food & Drink, Arts & Culture, and Shopping & Services.

Illustration by Alexis Politz

Best Brewery Special Release: Fair State Brewing Cooperative

Fair State runs on a current of pure imagination, with every limited release sparking new curiosity. This past year saw everything from Czech dark lagers to over-fruited sours to vegan smoothie ales alongside the ever-improving roster of hazy IPAs. Fair State also opened up a sandbox to some of the country’s best breweries, producing memorable collaborations with Cloudburst (Corporate Sellout Move), Bierstadt (Side Pull), and Creature Comforts (Doin’ Howdies). –Jerard Fagerberg

Arbeiter Brewing
Best New Brewery: Arbeiter Brewing

Photo by Kate Winkel

Best New Brewery: Arbeiter Brewing

The last days of Harriet Brewing were bad enough to scare anyone away from 3038 Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis, but since opening in early 2021, Arbeiter Brewing has proved more worthy than predecessors. While Arbeiter’s foundation is traditional European styles, it maintains an experimental streak, showcased best in Hoop Jump, the beer that introduced Minnesota to the now-ubiquitous “cold IPA” style. –JF

Best Beer Trend: Dry-hopped Lagers

IPAs have defined craft beer over the last decade, but recently, it is lagers that have become the darlings of the local scene. By dosing pilsners, maibocks, and helles with late-stage hops, Minnesota breweries have created an exciting bit of consonance—pairing bitterness and grassy aromas with the styles’ signature dry finish. Look to Fair State (Back of House), Insight (Avant), 56 Brewing (Can We Do a Lager?), and Lake of the Woods Brewing (Channel Marker) for sterling examples. –JF

Best Non-alcoholic Beer: Bauhaus Nah Hefeweizen

As the progenitors of Twin Cities nonalcoholic craft beer, it’s no surprise Bauhaus Brew Labs has built up the tastiest portfolio of buzz-free beer on the market. The Nah brand routinely takes classic beer styles and reinterprets them for drinkers who don’t want booze in their brew. The limited-release Hefeweizen was a particularly faithful achievement, abundant in the fruity flavors and floral esters of the German wheat beer. –JF

Best Chicken Sandwich: Bebe Zito
Best Chicken Sandwich: Bebe Zito

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Best Chicken Sandwich: Bebe Zito Ice Cream

Bebe Zito mixes nostalgia with indulgence. The ice cream and burger shop introduced a chicken sandwich this year, in the midst of the fast-food chains’ chicken sandwich wars, with a signature over-the-top touch. A huge chunk of cornflake-breaded chicken is slathered with honey butter and slammed atop neon green pickles, a monster that conquers all comers. –JF

Best Vegan Eats: Francis Plant-Based Burgers
Best Vegan Eats: Francis Plant-Based Burgers

Photo by Garrett Born

Best Vegan Eats: Francis Plant-Based Burgers

As the first vegan eatery to pop up at Sociable Cider Werks’ rotating residential kitchen, Francis followed a storied list of tenants including the Curious Goat, Sammy’s Avenue Eatery, and Yia Vang’s Union Hmong Kitchen. The cidery was right to take a chance on its first full-time vegan vendor—Francis has been a huge hit, and has since moved into a Northeast brick-and-mortar with an expanded menu of sandwiches, salads, house cocktails, and boozy milkshakes. –Em Cassel

Best Restaurant Revival: Little Tijuana
Best Restaurant Revival: Little Tijuana

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Best Restaurant Revival: Little Tijuana Neighborhood Lounge

Tons of Twin Cities barflies mourned the loss of Little T’s—a late-night grease, strong-ass drinks paradise just off Eat Street—when it closed during the pandemic. Now it’s back, thanks to a trio of guys you may know from Petite León: beverage director Travis Serbus, executive chef Dan Manosack, and bar manager Bennett Johnson. They’ve traded Tex-Mex for Asian fusion in a way that feels every bit as fun and carefree as the neighborhood lounge’s predecessor but just a little bit cheffier. –EC

Best Restaurant Merchandise: Modern Times

Head inside through the left-hand door at Modern Times, and you’ll be greeted by a merch spread that rivals the offerings at any rock show. Mugs, T-shirts, hoodies, prints, water bottles—the collection takes up an entire wall, and many of the designs were created in collaboration with local artists like Casey Deming, Xena Goldman, and Lora Hlavsa. Don’t see something you dig? It’s unlikely! But just check back later if so, because they’re always adding new designs. –EC

Best Pop-Up Restaurant: Marty’s Deli
Best Pop-Up Restaurant: Marty’s Deli

Photo by Jimmy Eagle

Best Pop-Up Restaurant: Marty’s Deli

Two indisputable facts: We don’t have enough truly great sandwich shops in the Twin Cities, and we don’t eat enough things on focaccia. Marty’s Deli capably takes care of both. In the early stages of the pandemic, Marty’s—named for founder and sandwich maven Martha Polacek—started operating out of the Bar Brava kitchen in Minneapolis, gaining a following thanks to Polacek’s creative sandwich combos and delightful house-made focaccia. She’s got a brick-and-mortar spot in the works, but for now, find Marty’s popping up around town at spots including Bar Brava, Grumpy’s, and Dangerous Man. –EC

Best “Bottle Shop”: Marigold at Honeycomb

Earlier this year, the colorful bottles of shampoo and conditioner and other hair care products at Honeycomb Salon in Kingfield were joined by a few new kinds of bottles, these ones filled with non-alcoholic spirts and other beverages. The shift was subtle, and it came about as Honeycomb owner Erin Flavin prepared to open the city’s first completely non-alcoholic bottle shop in the space next door. Like many of us, Flavin took a hard look at her drinking during the pandemic, and the NA bev store, with its creative collection of alcohol-free wines and seltzers and sodas, is a reminder that drinking without drinking alcohol can be just as rewarding—if not more so. –EC

Best Dive Bar: The Spot Bar

With cheap beers, cribbage boards, darts, pinball machines, and a jukebox, the Spot Bar in St. Paul’s West Seventh neighborhood has been the go-to dive for locals for decades. Stop by the nondescript wood-paneled corner bar for the meat raffle and swing around the back to check out the new deck. And while the official opening time is 10 a.m., if you find yourself nearby earlier, give a pull on the door and you may be surprised. –Todd P. Walker

Best Sports Team to Watch: Minnesota Wild

The Wild’s general manager Bill Guerin is determined to make the team a contender. In three seasons as the team boss, the former NHLer has signed Russian superstar Kirill Kaprizov, drafted the team’s future in Marco Rossi and Jesper Wallstedt, and traded for goaltending legend Marc-Andre Fleury. The roster is unrecognizable from when he took over, and for the first time since the Marian Gaborik years, it’s the team to beat in the western conference. –JF

Best Bike Shop: Angry Catfish Bicycle Shop + Coffee Bar
Best Bike Shop: Angry Catfish Bicycle Shop + Coffee Bar

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Best Bike Shop: Angry Catfish Bicycle Shop + Coffee Bar

Bike shops can be intimidating places, especially those that cater to more experienced riders. Angry Catfish is certainly one of the higher-end shops in the Twin Cities, but it deserves recognition for how approachable and helpful the staff is. Whether you’re looking to hit some Cuyuna trails or commute to downtown, this staff will get you set up and empower you with the knowledge to become an everyday biker. Great coffee doesn’t hurt, either. –JF

Best Skate Park: 3rd Lair Skatepark 

3rd Lair feels like a level in “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.” The massive warehouse in Golden Valley has everything from a bowl to half pipes, high boxes, and rails, welcoming every level of skater. All winter long, the coping is rocking, with some of the best pro skaters in Minnesota doing the kind of moves you’d expect to see in a video game—as well as those who are just hoping to be inspired to drop in. –JF

Best Minnesota Sports Moment: Aurora FC goes undefeated in inaugural season

Despite the success of Minnesota women’s sports teams, they rarely get the adulation they deserve. Even so, no sports story has been as sensational as the pre-professional soccer team Aurora FC. The team went undefeated in its first season, finishing 11-0-1. Players couldn’t complete the perfect season, though, tragically falling in overtime in the finals. –JF

Best Urban Hiking Location: Pike Island

Along the southern limits of St. Paul is an island formed by the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Pike Island is a peaceful spit of land that feels like it’s miles away from the Twin Cities, with a woody 3.7-mile trail surrounded and calm, dandy beaches. In the winter, it’s one of the most scenic cross-country skiing locations within a short drive. –JF

Best Reason to Believe in Minnesota Sports: Justin Jefferson
Best Reason to Believe in Minnesota Sports: Justin Jefferson

Courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings

Best Reason to Believe in Minnesota Sports: Justin Jefferson

Not since Randy Moss wore No. 84 has there been so much hope for the Minnesota Vikings. Since his sensational 2020 rookie season, Justin Jefferson has lit a fire in the fandom, reeling in passes in a way that makes you wonder if maybe—just maybe—this team could be for real. He has redeemed Kirk Cousins. He has redeemed the Stefon Diggs trade. Now in his third year, could “JJettas” redeem the entire franchise? –JF

Best New Music Venue: The Treasury

A new all-ages, alcohol-free venue from the same folks behind the Garage in Burnsville, the Treasury is an important addition to our local music scene. There are so few places in the Twin Cities where young people can go and experience live music in a space that’s safe, welcoming, and encouraging—but also fun. The Treasury, located in the basement of the Old Swedish Bank building in St. Paul, is one of them. –EC

Best TikTok/Instagram Comic: Sam Schedler (@samsched)

This Twin Cities registered-nurse-slash-comic’s deadpan delivery and aura of baffled disappointment have been a hit with disillusioned millennials and zoomers alike, and Schedler’s follower count (more than 150,000 on Instagram and almost 200,000 on TikTok) speaks for itself. Whether you’re following for the baking content (“and that’s a threat”), the “Where the Crawdads Sing” hate, or the polite pleas to mechanics from those of us who don’t know what kind of oil we use, thank you very much, odds are you’re laughing or quietly groaning in agreement. –EC

Best Up-and-Coming Illustrator: Alexis Politz (alexispolitz.com)
Best Up-and-Coming Illustrator: Alexis Politz (alexispolitz.com)

Photo by Cassidy Lyn

Best Up-and-Coming Illustrator: Alexis Politz (alexispolitz.com)

Alexis Politz has done work for all kinds of local and national businesses, bands, and brands: Copycats Media, KFAI, Soundset, Car Seat Headrest, Lydia Liza, and Black Garnet Books, to name just a small fraction. But this year, some of their most important work was done in collaboration with Planned Parenthood, for whom Politz worked on a series of graphics about states with abortion access. “Abortion is still safe and legal, and you betcha we’ll fight to keep it that way,” Minnesota’s reads. –EC

Best Film Series: Nic Cage, “National Treasure” at the Trylon
Best Film Series: Nic Cage, “National Treasure” at the Trylon

Poster by Dan Murphy

Best Film Series: Nic Cage, “National Treasure” at the Trylon

The “Nicolas Cage is good, actually” movement has been growing for a while now, and the critical reappraisal was lovingly skewered, or at least made meta, in this year’s “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” a fictional tale in which Cage plays a bizzaro version of himself. The Trylon seized on the renewed appeal of one of America’s weirdest and most prolific talents, hosting a summer-long salute to the polarizing actor that included everything from the blockbuster hits (“Con Air”) to the zany love stories (“Moonstruck”) to the psychedelic horror flicks (“Mandy”). –EC

Best Day Trip: Pepin, Wisconsin 

The Lake Pepin area is reachable in under two hours from the Twin Cities and features a number of good times, whether you are interested in dining, hiking, or shopping. If you haven’t been invited by a friend with a boat to spin around this picturesque lake, hop aboard the Pearl of the Lake riverboat, which is a replica of the paddlewheels from the 1800s. Continue exploring the area by traveling along the Great River Road with a stop at Reads Landing Brewing Company near Wabasha. If you travel along the Wisconsin side of Lake Pepin, stop at the Harbor View Cafe in Pepin or grab a piece of pie at Stockholm Pie & General Store in charming Stockholm. –TW

Best Pickleball Court: Lucky Shots Pickleb​all Club

It’s impossible to avoid the pickleball craze these days, and the premier playground for enthusiasts is Lucky Shots Pickleb​all Club in northeast Minneapolis. Lucky Shots has 12 indoor courts and leagues available for all levels of players. Another bonus: The club is right next door to Brother Justus Whiskey Company. –TW

Best Music Festival: Lakefront Music Festival

This outdoor two-day festival adjacent to scenic Prior Lake has been growing larger and larger each year because it caters to both country and rock music fans with a day dedicated to each genre. Gourmet food and drink vendors elevate the experience. –TW

Best Baby Name Predictor: Emily Kim

Minnesotan TikToker Emily Kim (@emdoodlesandstuff) has made an art form out of predicting influencer baby names for her nearly 205K followers. After carefully observing the curated lifestyles of influencers, she makes predictions based on previous children’s names, cultural backgrounds, home aesthetics, and fashion styles of the micro-celebrity parents-to-be. While Kim is not always right (though she did predict Colleen Ballinger’s son’s name and influenced one momstagrammer to name her baby August), it’s always fun and in good humor. –Katherine Lawless

Best Local Writer: Abby Jimenez

Abby Jimenez is a Minnesota author of four books and the founder of cupcake bakery Nadia Cakes. The USA Today best-selling author is also a winner of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” and was on two seasons of TLC’s “Fabulous Cakes.” Her most recent book, “The Happy Ever After Playlist,” is now being turned into a movie. The story follows main character Sloan Monroe as she attempts to track down the owner of an adorable dog who jumps into her car one day. The owner turns out to be a traveling musician and, over time, the two hit it off. It’s a touching love story that focuses on new beginnings and leaps of faith. –Samantha Johnson

Best Legislative Push: CROWN Act

February saw the Minnesota House passage of the CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” and seeks to clarify the definition of “race” in the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The goal: to protect against hair-based discrimination. Unfortunately, the Senate Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee did not submit it for consideration by its deadline, an echo of an earlier attempt in 2020. –Lianna Matt McLernon

Best Store: Cake Plus-Size Resale

Cat Polivoda opened Cake Plus-Size Resale in 2017, but the shop is just as notable today as when it began. Besides providing a body-affirming space, where people can try on apparel and receive style consultations, Polivoda has increased online shopping options and has grown the event lineup, with an annual plus-size burlesque show. This year, the team also added monthly virtual Fat Chats and kept the pre-pandemic annual pool party alive with casual Fat Beach Days. –LM

Best Clothing Line: Houston White line
Best Clothing Line: Houston White line

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Best Clothing Line: Houston White line

In September, Target launched a line of clothes with Houston White, resulting in a menswear-inspired brand and multi-year partnership with the North Minneapolis artist. For those who don’t know White, he has a barbershop (the start of a community hub), a coffee brand, and multiple fashion lines, plus he’s the OG champion of Minneapolis’ Camden Town neighborhood revitalization. You don’t need to know White’s resume to appreciate this collab, though. The bold colors and patterns speak for themselves. Find the inaugural 40-plus products at Target locations including Lake Street, Brooklyn Park, and St. Paul Midway, or check it out online. –LM

Best Lipstick Brand: Lip Esteem
Best Lipstick Brand: Lip Esteem

Photo by Roosevelt Mansfield

Best Lipstick Brand: Lip Esteem

Tameka Jones started Lip Esteem in 2020 and a year later earned a New Kid on the Block award for new St. Paul businesses. This year, she has opened the brand’s brick-and-mortar home on Selby Avenue. Best-selling products include the cinnamon-mauve I Promise and scarlet Lady Boss matte shades, but all are praised for being long lasting, moisturizing, and smudge free. As a bonus, the brand checks off the “feel good” boxes: They are plant based, gluten free, and cruelty free. –LM

Best New Collective: Coalesce Collective
Best New Collective: Coalesce Collective

Photo by Pa Vang

Best New Collective: Coalesce Collective

Coalesce Collective’s debut at spring Fashion Week MN shined a light on AAPI and other BIPOC creatives with polished looks drawing inspiration from Hmong, Vietnamese, Somali, and other cultures. For its second event, in the fall, Coalesce focused on the glam of the 1920s, when women’s rights and the power of the arts, culture, and race were on the rise. Follow the individual designers on social media—it’ll be well worth the inspiration flooding your feed. –LM

Best Skincare Guru: Jenny Liu

Jenny Liu (@derm.talk) is the straight-shooting, board-certified dermatologist/influencer of your dreams. When she’s not working as an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, she shares much-needed (and science-backed) skincare tips and tricks with her hundreds of thousands of followers across TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. Liu covers everything you need to know to take care of your body’s largest organ, including luxury skincare dupes, the truth about physical exfoliants, and the rules of retinol. –KL

Best Secondhand Stylist: Everyday Ejiji 

Stylish. Sustainable. Supportive of women of color. What could be better? Everyday Ejiji is an Afro-Latina-owned vintage and secondhand shop in Minneapolis that specializes in bold and bright fashions perfect for everyday fashionistas and your most glamorous events. Not only does founder Ashley Becerra have the best of the Twin Cities’ thrifting finds, but she also lends her expertise as a professional stylist. –KL

Best Trinkets: Larissa Loden

It can be difficult to find high-quality jewelry that goes with everything but still fits your personal style. Or at least it was before Larissa Loden came on the scene. Her St. Paul-based brand includes necklaces, earrings, and bracelets in classic chains and hoops, along with plenty of customizable styles bearing your name, zodiac sign, birthstone, Myers-Briggs type, Enneagram, etc. Her handmade creations make the perfect gift for any occasion. –KL

Best Jeweler: Wild Witchery Co.

Hailey Houge is the designer and creator of Wild Witchery Co. As a silversmith and a practitioner of electroforming (a process that uses electro-conductive paint and involves multiple layers of metal), she gained popularity for her “forever bracelets,” dainty yet beautiful chains made of sterling silver and 14-karat gold that are custom fitted and carefully welded. Along with forever bracelets, Wild Witchery also creates beautiful pieces of jewelry, such as necklaces, earrings, and stacker rings with colorful stones. –SJ

Best Vintage Shopping: Tandem Vintage
Best Vintage Shopping: Tandem Vintage

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Best Vintage Shopping: Tandem Vintage

With the goal of providing a little “joy for your closet,” Tandem Vintage is a secondhand shop run by owner, buyer, photographer, and self-proclaimed “stain queen” Amanda Baumann. Her love of colors, patterns, and all things fun led her to create this space on West 38th in Minneapolis where all are welcome. Tandem features local brands under BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or woman/non-binary owners, with sizes up to 3X, so everyone can learn to love secondhand shopping. –SJ

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