The Midwest's quietly ever-evolving hub
Once defined as the city belonging to Prince with the notoriety of First Ave, funk bands and Janet Jackson’s infamous shout-out on "Escapade," Minneapolis has been quietly revitalizing itself as a hub. From well-designed coffee shops, tree-lined streets, restaurants serving farm-to-table cuisine and an optimal bike-share system that allows for easy exploration of the city, Minneapolis is homegrown style with a twist. With a variety of growing cultures—Hmong, Somali and Nigerian—lending the tastes and sounds to the city, a well-respected music industry, arts festivals and outdoor summer parties, a budding advertising hub with names like Colle McVoy, Space 150 and Mono, it's a city beaming with talented men and women who dedicate their lives to improving the visual aesthetics of the city, while playing in it. And it prompts the question: Why don’t we hear more about Minneapolis?
Tucked in among the beautiful loft buildings of the North Loop neighborhood, the Bachelor Farmer stands as a one-of-a kind destination for Scandinavian cuisine. The menu is fresh, concise and full of surprises. With a brilliant staff to match an equally impressive setting, walking into the Bachelor Farmer is like walking into the stunning lobby of a five-star hotel somewhere in the Swiss Alps. Hardwood floors, patterned wallpaper, bare tables and artwork by famed photographer Alec Soth greet you as you enter the double doors. During their ongoing Sunday brunch, the dinning room is filled with bright light seeping through the large windows that overlook the cobblestone street below. Patrons sip on champagne while picking away at a three-tiered tray of treats (an assortment of croissants, scones and muffins) before delving into delectable platters of omelets, soft pancakes and fresh fruit. A Sunday tradition—keep in mind it's first-come, first-served—the Bachelor Farmer brunch is not to be missed. Owned and operated by Eric and Andrew Dayton, the Bachelor Farmer is part of an exquisite trio of businesses housed in the historic corner building. Next up could be a little shopping at their menswear boutique, Askov Finlayson, or refreshments at Marvel Bar.
A full-service bicycle repair shop and a coffee bar all in the same building, Angry Catfish is a special blend of necessity and comfort. This local hangout spot is a refreshing take on picking up that morning cup of Joe—especially if you bike to work. Serving Intelligentsia coffees in an inviting space with a very friendly staff, the Angry Catfish adds a dynamic feel to South Minneapolis as an ode to a sacred cycling culture. An old Ace Hardware store—fully gutted and renovated in 2009 with furnishings made from re-purposed bicycles—it's a customer-driven business that carries brands like Giro, Aether and Outlier, and focuses on building long-lasting relationships with each client. Grab a coffee at the bar while you pump up your tires, and get back to exploring MPLS.
Nestled on a quiet street in the historic St. Paul lays a beacon of style and quality wear, courtesy of BlackBlue. Carrying brands like Raleigh Denim, Jean Shop, Levi’s Vintage Clothing and Red Wing Heritage, BlackBlue is perfect for all kinds of sartorially minded gentlemen. With the help of friendly and knowledgeable staff, you're likely to find yourself immersed in a conversation about the city, local music and of course, pick up the perfect pair of jeans. Selby Avenue—paved with lights, corner shops and two-story houses—is a sigh in itself, reminiscent of a "Leave it to Beaver" era. The neighborhood is bike-friendly, lined with beautiful gardens and slower in pace than that of other parts of Minneapolis. In an ongoing series on their blog, the shop finds new ways to interact with their customers, posting images of shoppers in their new finds after purchase; so you might find yourself MPLS-famous too.
The coffee shop trend has not skipped out on Minneapolis. The city is piled high with unique places to get a good latte and scope the scene—and Urban Bean is the perfect spot. Housed in what used to be old Muddy Waters on 24th and Lyndale, this coffee shop is where high-design meets unbeatable craftsmanship. Built under the instruction of owner Greg Martin, Urban Bean prides itself on a visually pleasing aesthetic that is focused on cultivating conversations. The Urban Bean brand with its two locations—the other is on Bryant Ave and West 33rd Street—is dog-friendly, with ample room. At the Lyndale location, what instantly draws your attention is the large communal table set against the window—usually with three to four people quietly engaged in work on their respective laptops. Urban Bean is not just about great coffee; they believe in building community and understanding the needs of their customers. Each barista is knowledge not only about the beans or roasting process, but also about the brands they carry and the brewing methods that make for refined taste.
Walking past the Soap Factory, you would never guess that one of the most important art galleries in Minneapolis is just a few feet away. There is a darkness to the building that is eerie and a nearby loading dock that has an abandoned feeling almost always catches visitors off-guard. This is all due to the fact that the gallery is located in the old National Soap Purity Company; a 48,000 square foot factory that was built back in 1884. But the Soap Factory is one of the most interesting and forward-thinking spots in the city. Year round, it acts as a teaching tool as well as an experience-based gallery, where people can directly interact with subjects through visual arts. Showcasing sculpture, paintings, installation and also performance and video, the gallery gives artists a chance to utilize the space in whatever form or shape, ultimately presenting a raw and authentic version of the art. Whatever exhibit is on display, it always feels authentic—not just about the the artist as a creative, but also the artist as a person. This is because the gallery works from the basis of promoting the artists by having the community rally around them. Not to be missed, the Haunted Basement is a crowd favorite; a yearly exhibition during Halloween designed by an artist and used to both terrify and amuse patrons.
Once a quiet coffee shop on 24th and Lyndale (now new home of Urban Bean Coffee), Muddy Waters could have won the award for best transformation over the last couple of years. Moving a few blocks up the street to the middle of Uptown (Lyndale and Lake), Muddy Waters is a beacon of Minneapolis culture. From artists to rappers, models to city politicians, everybody and anybody can be found enjoying a large selection of locally brewed beer, mini pizzas and fresh salads. With a small indoor patio, summer, spring and fall are magical and, if you're lucky, you could attend on a night that local DJs are playing everything from soul to hip-hop. At all costs, make sure to look out for the small side bar featuring coffee and bakery, all made fresh for the daily commute—with plenty of gluten-free options. From Thai coffees to the Muddy’s Cubano, the coffee shop is a nice pairing to the curious house menu including the peach chipotle BBQ pork. A safe bet for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Muddy's offers some of the best comfort food in town.
As one of the city's premier galleries for contemporary art, the Burnet Gallery at Le Meridian serves as a Minneapolis hotspot for international, national and local work. Being connected to an award-winning hotel has its perks; the many guests who have frequented the 60-room residence have had the opportunity to scope out art by names like Will Cotton, HOTTEA, Drew Peterson, Sharon Louden and Damien Hirst. Outside the gallery space and throughout the hotel, over 200 pieces of original artwork can be found situated strategically, thanks to hotel owner Ralph Burnet and his own private collection. A space that truly promotes growing young talent, the gallery partners with Minneapolis College of Art & Design for a yearly exhibition that showcases the work of students in the MFA program. Called "Get stARTed," the show is an invaluable experience for artists who are just establishing their careers as it offers the chance to not only exhibit, but to also consult with the gallery's curator Jennifer Phelps on everything from installations to art prices, preparing bios and dealing with press. Located in the downtown area, the gallery is just a few minutes away from the famed Nicollet Mall, a 12-block pavilion lined with restaurant patios and bookshops, allowing for a scenic art jaunt against the backdrop of iconic Minneapolis buildings.
A visit to Minneapolis would not be complete without a day trip to the birthplace of Minnesota. Just a 30-minute drive outside of the Twin Cities, Stillwater is a picturesque town on the river St. Croix, situated on a beautiful hill that entirely envelopes you as you enter. From a bevy of antique stores, to Irish Pubs and cafés on the nearby dock, the town is a much-needed getaway from the mayhem of Minneapolis. During the summer and spring months, Stillwater hosts a number of outdoor festivals, picnics and boat tours on the river and it’s not unlikely to see lines forming outside of ice-cream shops, or public parking lots with “full” signs. Joined by the Stillwater Lift Bridge, Wisconsin and Minnesota are easily connected and share much of the foot traffic that descends on Stillwater throughout the year. Visitors opting to stay overnight have the choice of resting at the historic Lowell Inn and dining at Domacin, followed by a visit to the local favorite, the Mad Capper Saloon.