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Word of Mouth: Minneapolis


Word of Mouth: Minneapolis

Packing a weekend of dining and shopping into the arts-loving city, with scenic views in between

by Nara Shin
on 14 October 2014

A city of constant construction is putting a lot of hope into its future, but we found Minneapolis, Minnesota to be inviting in its present form, too (it helps that we visited during perhaps the most ideal month, September, when clear skies—not wind chill—were the theme of the weekend). While it's often coupled with its neighbor St. Paul as the "Twin Cities" in many travel guides, arts-loving Minneapolis (home to Prince) has plenty to offer on its own, aside from just the acclaimed Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

Parking can be a headache and gets pricey; but visitors can steer clear from all of that by taking advantage of the city's bike share program, Nice Ride. On two wheels, we appreciated how bike-focused the city is, with wide bike lanes and few potholes. While we covered must-visit places in our Minneapolis City Guide, below are additional venues visitors can pack into a single weekend.

Tin Fish

Fresh fish tacos, a plastic cup of wine and a view of Lake Calhoun make for a memorable afternoon, serviced by the Tin Fish. Everything at this walk-up restaurant is made from scratch and cooked to order—which explains the long wait during peak times, but also the incredible flavors of the clam chowder soup. Here, ducks are the pigeons of Minneapolis; they're tame and sit patiently at your feet, waiting for crumbs to drop. There's also a conveniently located shop next to the Tin Fish that rents out kayaks, pedal boats, canoes, paddle boards and more—starting at $12 an hour.


A pit stop at Pharmacie is sure to cure any gift shopping headaches and any pangs for design-driven home goods and furniture. Minnesota natives Roger Barrett (exhibit designer at Science Museum of Minnesota), and Sam Beberg (Hot Plate restaurant owner) have clearly invested many hours into researching an extensive and captivating store inventory, with a focus on unique goods made in the US. We spent a good hour perusing everything from a beaver skull to custom built sliding doors. Some favorites include a magnetic desk lamp from Polaris in Brooklyn, steel wire wall hooks from Strand Design in Chicago, leather and sycamore wood counterstools from Minam in Philadelphia, and beautiful topographic map cards from Crafterall in Minneapolis.

The Third Bird

Perfect for dinner after a day at the Walker Art Center, new restaurant The Third Bird opened by Loring Park this past August. The entrance isn't on the main street but invites guests to walk through a quaint alleyway, one of Minneapolis' best-kept secrets, and it's indicative of the unique ambience The Third Bird offers. Reading off the paper menu which doubles as a placemat, we tried the toasted tajarin pasta with chicken liver and rabbit sugo (a long-simmered meaty red sauce) for $14; the chef has transformed a meat that some people find challenging into something extremely rich and appetizing. We finished with a deconstructed crème brûlée that looked like it had been dropped off a building; the "debris" was cleaned up quickly in a few bites.

Common Roots Cafe

Here, the staff won't take your order before a "Hello" and "How are you?"—and before we knew it, our small iced tea was upgraded to a large, for no reason and for no charge. Throughout the bright orange and robin's egg blue walls, Common Roots Cafe proudly places infographic posters that share data on purchases, expenses and environmental impact so customers can see the commitment to the cafe's values: on average, 88 cents of every dollar spent goes back to the local community; 66.6% of purchases during the month of September 2014 were local. There's plenty of space for meeting, working, eating and parking, and the shady outdoor seating on the porch is the best place to enjoy the seasonally changing menu (though prepare to hear lots of cars driving by on the main road).

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Downtown Food Trucks

While you might have to venture to uptown or north Minneapolis for a perfect date restaurant, during the day, the active food truck scene downtown offers some solace to office workers. There are made-to-order salads and wraps at the new Green + The Grain, veal tongue sliders at Andrew Zimmern's Canteen and Venezuelan-stuffed arepas and yucca fries at Hola Arepa. The options are endless but the tilapia curry bowl (basil, parmesan cheese, pecan, and seasonal sautéed veggies on basmati rice) from Brava on Wheels for $9 is a solid choice.

Izzy's Ice Cream

Perhaps the toughest decision you'll be faced with in Minneapolis is choosing between Sebastian Joe's or Izzy's Ice Cream for your post-meal sweet treat. Both offer kick-butt homemade gourmet ice cream, with original flavors. Izzy's original location is in Saint Paul but last summer, to great fanfare, they opened a new ice cream kitchen and factory in downtown Minneapolis. Here, they make ice cream for grocery stores and restaurants, but not to worry—they also serve single servings, too. There's plenty of seating, but we recommend taking your scoops of Basil and Swedish Garden Party over to Gold Medal Park, a few blocks away, and soak in the view of the Mississippi River.

Askov Finlayson

The brothers who founded Minneapolis' popular Nordic-inspired restaurant Bachelor Farmer, as well as Marvel Bar, opened men's store Askov Finlayson in 2011. Bringing brands like Postalco, Japan Blue, Lotuff and Schnayderman's to Minneapolis, Askov Finlayson has even developed their own product line over time. The store throws some pretty unusual events, like their annual Bubble Hockey tournament or celebrating the North American launch of Red Wings' Ice Cutter by freezing the boots in ice for a week. Revisit our interview with Andrew and Eric Dayton to learn more about how their dream shop became a reality.

The Commons Hotel

Located smack dab on the University of Minnesota campus, The Commons Hotel is an affordable option—especially when traveling with a larger group. The lobby area, with an open fireplace, makes a perfect meeting environment, where sofas and chairs are plentiful. The former Radisson-turned-Noble House Hotel was given a head-to-toe renovation and offers useful amenities like complimentary WiFi and free access to the University's impressive Recreation and Wellness Center (which also just went through a $60 million expansion). Though it's not a walkable distance to downtown, there's a courtesy shuttle that will do pick-ups and drop-offs anywhere within a five mile radius—which includes the Walker Art Center.

Word of Mouth presents a destination the way we experienced it. Following both trusted tips and our own whims we explore with the goal of finding what's unique to that place. For deeper looks at some of our favorite metropolises, check out our CH City Guides.

Store image courtesy of Askov Finlayson, all other images by Nara Shin

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