Coffee Shops with Benefits

Light- or dark-roast? Far more intriguing choices--like booze!--await at a new generation of coffeehouses.



I initially planned to center this review on Gigi's and on Mill City in northeast Minneapolis. Gigi's is a South Side coffee shop with a lot of heart, a lot of big wooden tables, homemade soups, fun desserts, and a super selection of wine. Then I called them up to find out about the owners, and so forth, and learned that every visit I had made heretofore was all but irrelevant, as they had just hired a chef, and were soon to be rolling out dishes cooked to order, in ovens. So sometime between now and summertime Gigi's will have an almost entirely new face; gone will be the cheesy lasagna, in will come the...who knows. So what's a girl to do? Recommend a restaurant in deep flux? Speak only of the wine? Group the joint in with a lot of other coffee shops that now sell wine? Something.

Gigi's: Café society is back
David Fick
Gigi's: Café society is back

Location Info


Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar

308 Prince St.
St. Paul, MN 55101

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

Gigi's Cafe

822 W. 36th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

Mill City Cafe

2205 California St. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Northeast Minneapolis

In any event, and no matter the flux, I do think Gigi's is a great little place. One night I watched the cutest group of moms convene, three with glasses of wine, one with a cup of tea. They each had a ball of yarn and knitting needles, they set a copy of Knitting for Dummies in the middle of the table and appeared to have a rollicking evening, knitting a little, laughing a lot, and generally looking to have a completely wholesome good time in a completely non-corny way. Another night I watched a young couple split a bottle of wine and a giant fruit and cheese plate while their infant sat in a highchair waving a piece of apple around as if he were grand marshal in a Fourth of July parade. I never knew a slice of apple could withstand such a workout. I never knew you could visibly observe a serious, khaki-clad couple unwind in the course of an hour, transforming from taut to loving as the cheese and wine dwindled.

Another night I seriously considered punching a DFL blowhard who would not shut up about what an insidery insider he was, and how the coming south Lyndale Avenue rethink will transform the city in our lifetime. In any event, I can only imagine that whatever changes are coming to Gigi's will be pleasant ones, and whether you need someplace to spread out your architect's plans, park your baby's stroller, eavesdrop on your councilperson's minions, or just generally lead your life, Gigi's is a nice place to do it. GIGI'S CAFÉ; 822 W. 36th St., Minneapolis, 612.825.0818



When the Gigi's thing went south, I figured, "Well, I still have Mill City, a sweetheart of a Northeast coffee shop that has a full wine, beer, and liquor license and has been serving nice Greek comfort foods with hardly a customer to enjoy them." Again, however, a phone call revealed that the very pleasant nights of $8 plates of Greek moussaka, or $9 casseroles of pork stew, each rich and comforting, emanating the most winter-charming scent of nutmeg, and making me feel like I was in my Greek nana's breakfast nook eating perfect Greek leftovers--all of that was now kaput, irrelevant, and about as useful as a dead rat to a blind man. Eh?

Evidently all of Mill City is about to be painted, cleaned, re-themed, and basically entirely redone by the man who opened Psycho Suzi's. It will be a pasta bar. There will be dollar Black Label specials on some nights. It will be kitschy, but not as kitschy as Psycho Suzi's. Mill City even refused to let our photographer take a picture of the joint, because they didn't want any recording of the way it is now. Well, in the meantime: Please know that Mill City has a full liquor license, so you can get a shot of Maker's Mark with your latte in the morning. You can't take it with you, but you can get it. And sometime in the future, everything will be completely different. MILL CITY CAFÉ; 2205 California St. NE, Minneapolis, 612.789.8262



Kids today don't know how lucky they are. Or actually, who cares? More interestingly: Do you have any actual idea of how lucky kids today are? Get this: Today college kids can sit in a coffee shop such as the Loring Park Coffee House and Wine Bar, all stylish curry-colored walls and dark-slate floors, and they can sit there in front of a fireplace, and if the cutie from Intro to Sociology needs help with her term paper, they can just download one off the internet using Loring Park Coffee's free wireless internet access! And if things go well after that, they don't even have to leave that fireplace, they can just order an Anchor Steam (on tap!) or a bottle of wine, such as the light and fruity Tin Roof Sauvignon Blanc ($5 a glass or $17.50 a bottle). And they can even just put it on a credit card! Do they need panini, soups, scones, salsa? Put that on the card too!

You know, when I was in college, courtship, studying, eating, caffeinating, and drinking required several changes of venue. Which was almost exactly the same as carrying a 50-pound block of ice up five flights of tenement stairs in Hoboken. Kids! LORING PARK COFFEE HOUSE AND WINE BAR; 1301 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, 612.332.9094,

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