Best Of :: People & Places
Our mayor can beat your mayor in a dance-off. Seriously. Anyone who's seen R.T. Rybak break it down knows it's true. While there's something to be said about a mayor who doesn't shy away from gyrating in public, it's not the only attribute that makes Rybak the best mayor in the Twin Cities. In the past year, we've watched him take on everything from property taxes to Local Government Aid to Tim Pawlenty. These are especially tough issues in a down economy, and Rybak has managed to stand his ground. We've also seen the realization of the Nice Ride bike-share program, of which Rybak was an advocate for years. The program has been a huge success and has helped make Minneapolis one of the best cities for cyclists in the world. We're selfishly glad that Rybak didn't win the governor's race. Who knows what mess our budget would be in if someone else was in charge?
If you're among those who think that Uptown (by which we mean the immediate Lake and Hennepin area) just ain't as cool as it used to be, the place you really want to hang out is a half-mile or so east, around the intersection of Lake and Lyndale. While Uptown may have gone mainstream, Lyn-Lake retains its neighborhood funk. It's easy to become a resident; there are plenty of duplexes and apartments for rent, many just rundown enough to be affordable without crossing the line into scary. Parking is pretty easy, the neighbors are mostly friendly, and the business district can't be beat. Shopping options are abundant: cool used duds at Tatters and Buffalo Exchange, sex toys at Smitten Kitten, plus shops for cell phones, beads, shoe repair, and more. For entertainment, check out up-and-coming indie-rock bands at Cause, drunken karaoke singers at the Country Bar, or bluegrass musicians at Dulono's, as well as some higher arts at the Jungle Theater and Highpoint Center for Printmaking. And oh, the food. You could dine out every day for months without leaving the neighborhood—sushi at Fuji-Ya, stir-fries at the Saigon, chef-driven fare at the relocated Heidi's, brewpub eats at Herkimer, and hearty dishes at It's Greek to Me are only a few of the choices. We're also compelled to mention Moto-i, the only sake brewpub outside of Japan, and the delicious Sonny's Ice Cream made at Crema Café a few blocks south. Your walk to Lake Calhoun will be a bit longer than from Uptown proper, but that's a tradeoff well worth making.
A part of the Camden community of north Minneapolis, the Victory neighborhood derives its name from Victory Memorial Drive, a regal and historic parkway dedicated to Hennepin County soldiers who died in World War I that runs through the neighborhood and features stately trees planted in memory of the fallen men, as well as a majestic flagpole and several statues. Most of the housing in the neighborhood was built during a period of growth in the 1920s and '30s, when tradesmen and middle managers from local manufacturers moved to the area because it was close to their jobs and had easy streetcar access to downtown. Many of the neighborhood's Craftsman-style bungalows and Tudors have been lovingly cared for over the years and are affordable alternatives to similar homes in other parts of the city, with access to beautiful parks and other amenities. The community takes great care in preserving its picturesque green spaces and the historic integrity of the parkway, and neighbors gather frequently at garage sales, ice cream socials, concerts, and a corner building that houses both a cheery coffee shop, Steamworks Coffee & Tea, and the renowned chef-driven gastropub Victory 44.
If you want a real taste of the Twin Cities, take a stroll down Nicollet Avenue South. Nicollet offers the full tour: the office buildings and upscale bars downtown; the old apartments and small shops in Stevens Square; the locally owned restaurants of Eat Street, just south of Franklin Avenue. Eat Street may be the most authentic stretch of pavement in Minneapolis. While so many areas have gone the way of corporate franchises, Eat Street has retained its humble charm, with gems like Pancho Villa, the Bad Waitress, and Spyhouse Coffee. A long walk down Nicollet is proof that Minneapolis is more diverse than most people think.
In a perfect world, the perfect corner has someplace to eat, someplace to drink, someplace to buy a loaf of bread and a quart of milk, and someplace to get a coffee. Three out of four ain't bad. Within the space of a few square meters, visitors to this Northeast Minneapolis stronghold can get a cup of joe and plate of eggs at Modern Cafe, a steak dinner at Erte or Northeast Social, and just good and soused at the 331. If we get generous with the boundaries of a "corner," only a short skip down the street there's plenty of browsing to be done at Shuga Records, Behind Bars Bicycle Shop, and Fried Bologna Vintage, not to mention a fresh packet of fish 'n' chips at Anchor. Even without the old corner store, it's easy to blow an entire day shopping, eating, and drinking local, all within a few short steps.
Since 2006, Eden Prairie, a suburb 12 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis and the 12th largest city in the state, has been named by Money magazine as one of the "Best Places to Live" in America. In 2010, it ranked No. 1 in the same survey. "Not only is it family-friendly, it has a dynamite economy too," explains the Money report. And it's true: In addition to beautiful parks, 17 lakes for swimming and ice skating, gently rolling hills and prairie, and bluffs overlooking the Minnesota River, the city's unemployment rate is nearly a point lower than the rest of the county's, and over four points lower than the national average. Numbers and statistics aside, some may decry the recent transition in the area from bucolic rural farmland to branded urban sprawl. Their objections may be quieted, however, by the addition of a number of unique and community-oriented businesses, including the Prairie Ale House, a European gastropub-style restaurant and bar opened in a former Timber Lodge Steakhouse by Town Talk and Strip Club alums co-owner Aaron Johnson, executive chef Tommy Begnaud, and bar manager Adam Harness.