Bike Ride Date Night: Spend an evening in the North Loop and northeast Minneapolis
Two lovers bicycling together is a beautiful sight (and a common one in the Twin Cities).
Why beautiful, you say? Well, bicycling as a pair requires good communication. One person follows while the other leads, inspecting intersections for oncoming cars, notifying a bikemate of potholes and obstacles, and directing the route. Left turn, right turn, slow down at the stop sign, watch for that door. Pedal-pedal-pedal.
Cycling together also requires in-sync body action. To avoid pissing off your SO, you should both proceed at the same speed, never abandoning or falling too far behind each other. In this way, a couple bicycling is an illustration -- live, in-person -- of a functional relationship in action. Bicycling with a partner means traversing the world together, carving a path amidst human chaos, as a team.
So, all right, you're bicycling together. You've made it work. Now you're dressed up in your Saturday-night finery and you need destinations. We've decided to provide a date-night route, from drinks to dancing, accessible by bike. Turn on your bike lights. Strap on your helmet. Let's ride and fall further in love.
The numerous beers on tap at Republic.
Stage 1: Prime Yourself
We'll start our Saturday night early, in Uptown, with happy-hour beers at Calhoun Square's Republic. This cavernous restaurant, stationed on the square's second floor, is always lively, and offers excellent Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue people-watching.
Between gawks at the Uptown gentry, peruse Republic's quintillion craft-beer options. Named one of the top 100 craft beer bars in the U.S. by draft magazine, Republic offers ales; blondes, pilsners, and lagers; Belgian and Belgian-style intoxicants; IPAs; porters and stouts; and ciders. You can drink everything from a Goose Island Sofie (made in Chicago) to a Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout (Longmont, CO).
To fuel up for the bicycling ahead, consult Republic's commendable selection of apps, including ricotta fritters, tempura shrimp, and moules et frites. We also recommend the tasty-as-hell Fischer Farms Pork Tacos (for another night).
Stage 2: Fill Your Belly
Our dinnertime stop is Toast Wine Bar & Cafe in North Loop, a scenic jaunt away from Republic on the Midtown Greenway and the Cedar Lake Trail (CLT). Head to the CLT via the Greenway, then bike downtown-ward on Minneapolis's bicycling superhighway, with two lanes for cyclists and one for pedestrians. Exit at Second Avenue, just before the CLT drops off onto West River Road, then hit Toast.
This cozy, kickass little bar-café, tucked under Heritage Landing in the middle of NOLO, is a gem. Start your meal with a double shot of espresso (pinky's up) and a crostini (scrambled egg & chorizo is a great choice), then bring on the wine and the flat-bread pizza. Toast's roasted butternut squash, serrano ham, and blue cheese 'za is mighty tasty.
Wine-wise, Toast proffers sake, sparkling, rose, white, and red. Peep the Popova Kula Vranec Tikves, from the Republic of Macedonia, 2005, and the Oxford Landing Sauvignon Blanc, from Australia, 2010. But be sure to save stomach space for dessert. Toast's ever-changing menu always has something delicious. (Hope for the sea-salted chocolate tart.)
Stage 3: Bike It Off
Well satiated from Toast, let's apply butt to bike saddle and burn off those calories.
Hypothetically, it's a lovely, clear-skied night as you pedal away from North Loop on River Road. Follow the parkway along the river and under Father Hennepin, then cross the Mississippi River on the Stone Arch Bridge, a 130-year-old thoroughfare that once carried trains and now serves pedestrian and cyclist traffic. Stop at Stone Arch to look down at the awe-inspiring dams that replaced St. Anthony Falls, then pedal onward to Northeast. Across the Stone Arch, follow Southeast Sixth Avenue to East Hennepin. On the other side, find Fillmore Street, between Taylor and Pierce.
Fillmore, named like other Northeast streets for an erstwhile American president, is a designated bikeway that goes deep into this zone of Minneapolis. Follow it to 29th Avenue for a scenic, hilly look at a Nordeast neighborhood, pass by quiet houses, an athletic field, and Audubon Park, then skedaddle toward downtown on Monroe Street, which is reachable across Central Avenue. Pedal this leg slow to let the food in your stomach and the wine in your liver dissolve like an inoffensive mist. It's time to dance.
Folks hit the dance floor at Honey
Stage 4: Lose Yourself to Dance
Bicycling and dancing are like sriracha and peanut butter, a delectable combo. End your night in downtown's gateway to Northeast, just off the Hennepin Avenue bridge, where two excellent dance spots Honey and the Front can be found. Descending to the former is like visiting a seedy basement club in New York City, but its drinks are reasonably priced and its dance nights are plentiful. A scan of Honey's June dance calendar supplies names like DJ Dirty Dan, DJ Slamdunkapher, DJ King Otto, DJ Fundo, DJ Jimmy 2x, and DJ Palladium. Hip-hop is the prevailing dance-night theme at Honey.
Despite the protests of pretentious Minneapolis alts, there's much fun to be had at the Front. True, its soundtrack is pure Top 40, DJ'd by a man in big sunglasses and a silly hat, and it's filled with millennial yupsters shuffling and grinding around the dancefloor in flip-flops and cargo shorts. However, the Front's vibe is welcoming, easy, and laidback. You can make a fool of yourself and no one will judge you -- so return the favor and withhold your snark. A vibe like that is a huge plus when you're dancing like an idiot.
If you disdain dancing, St. Anthony Main is a fantastic, locally-owned theater along the river, with both Hollywood blockbusters, independent, and foreign film screenings. There's even a bike rack (and a jaw-dropping view of downtown) outside.
Stage 5: Conclusion
Beered, biked, wined, dined. Now ride home safe.
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