Best Of :: People & Places
Consider the commonplace. Be mindful of the mundane. And never "ho-hum" the humdrum. This seems to be the driving philosophy behind "Street Stories," a locally produced series available both at MPLS.TV and on YouTube. Executive producer Joanna Solotaroff, who works by day as a community organizer and by night as an improv actor, puts both skills to use curating the series, which seeks out ordinary residents and asks them to "tell their most interesting, weird, and moving Minneapolis stories on location." The stories are odd but not always shocking — there's a good chance you have a similar one in your own memory's cache. But what makes this series truly delightful is that Solotaroff and crew take the storytellers back to the locations of their tales and repopulate the scene with actors, animation, and illustration, allowing the narrators to dramatically re-create their anecdotes. Our favorite edition? When Solotaroff takes her own dear mother to Lyndale to tell a yarn about a first date gone awry — something about a freezer full of dildos. The endings are always unexpected and always sure to charm...even when they involve someone's mother and a stash of sex toys.
Sitting right on the border of Edina, the Armatage neighborhood has quickly staked its claim as one Minneapolis's unsung hotspots for foodies, families, and fitness, providing a little something for everyone. For the food lover, uber-popular Café Maude offers a phenomenal Sunday brunch (the full menu is pretty good too), Café Vin brings a French flair to the neighborhood, and just recently, Food Network star Guy Fieri swung by Pizzeria Lola for its appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Armatage has begun to see some turnover in recent years, with younger families moving into the area thanks to its easy access to downtown, as well as to Southdale Mall and even the airport. Finally, the budding community is just a quick run (literally) to Lake Harriett, giving weekend walkers and joggers a scenic route to stretch their legs. Being in Armatage is like having suburban living with an urban appeal.
Last summer, Minnesota was named "Most Hipster State in the U.S." by BuzzFeed, a website that regurgitates all viral media it considers worthy of regurgitation. As BuzzFeed put it, while Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood is allegedly the hotbed of hipsterism, it is actually the Minnesota hipster aesthetic that Williamsburg hipsters seek to imitate. So what is the most hipster neighborhood within our hipster state? Well, if you use BuzzFeed's categories of analysis, it ain't Uptown, it's Seward. Consider first the "Lumberjack Look." Folks who live between Hiawatha and the Mississippi, I-94 and the Greenway are a veritable sea of fuzzy red-and-black-checkered blue-collaredness. Never mind that many of them are men of a certain age who have been rocking this look since the 1950s. And speaking of that Greenway, consider also the category of "Bike Obsession" — check! "Food Co-Ops"? The Seward Co-Op is always a hotbed for dudes in flannel, shopping for organic pomegranate seeds and hummus. And how do they get there? This is the Seward, not the Wedge, so they come by bike, not by gas-guzzling SUV. "Live Theater"? Better than that, Seward is home to the Playwright's Center. And as for a thriving music scene? Chances are your favorite local band practices in Seward, lives in one of Seward's charming (or not so charming) duplexes, or performs onstage (or on the bowling alley) at the Hexagon or Memory Lanes. Oh, and let's not forget this one important bit of Seward history: Our original Minnesota hipster Bob Dylan recorded portions of his acclaimed Blood on the Tracks album at Seward's Sound80 Studio, now home to Orfield Labs.
There's nothing pretty about Rice Street. Named after fur trader-turned-politician Henry Mower Rice, who is buried in the neighborhood's storied Oakland Cemetery (the oldest in the city), the street was ushered into its status as the central corridor anchoring St. Paul's North End neighborhood in the 1890s with the arrival of the street car, and it's still about as utilitarian as a street can get. Commercial properties were built quickly to serve the railroad workers moving to the area. The "mechanic's cottages" and other small homes built in the neighborhood to house these workers are similarly practical — Summit Avenue this ain't. But these homes have an unpretentious charm, and the North End reflects well its neighborhood's working-class background, ethnic roots, and rich labor history. Early North End residents typified St. Paul, and today the European laborers, tradesmen, shopkeepers, and domestics who gave the town its ethnic charm are giving way to Asian and Latino immigrants. Completing your blue-collar tour of the North End, check out Italian restaurant and banquet hall Abetto's, as well as Tschida Bakery, both of which have been in the neighborhood for over 80 years. Be sure to stop for ice cream at Conny's Creamy Cone, eggs and bacon at the Coffee Cup, or fried chicken at Tin Cup's. And for nightlife, enjoy a night of blues at Wilebski's or one of the rare underground music performances at the Foundry Pub.
If you're looking for the best corner in the Twin Cities, why not pick one that represents our idyllic combination of small-town quality of life and cosmopolitan sophistication—and one where you can also eat like a king. In the comfy Kingfield neighborhood of south Minneapolis, the intersection of Grand Avenue and West 46th Street offers the best in food, drink, and community. On one corner, there's Kings Wine Bar, with a great beer selection to go with its award-winning wine list. The bar even runs a monthly book club, where members were recently reading the banned Czech novel Too Loud a Solitude and the American classic Fahrenheit 451. If you're hungry, cross the street and check out the Latin fusion cuisine at Café Ena. The restaurant's eclectic menu offers everything from crab meat tossed with mangoes to oven-roasted turkey sandwiches in mole sauce. And for dessert, cross the street again to Patisserie 46, the best French bakery in town. The delicate, exquisitely crafted pastries are as delicious to look at as they are to eat, and the shop now carries a new line of handmade chocolates.
Lake Street has pretty much everything. From the hoity-toity to the down-and-out, a vast array of humanity congregates along this throughway. The street's western end is nestled between Lakes Calhoun and Isles, where rollerbladers and yuppie types rule. To the east, Lake ends at the Mississippi River; the street changes names as it continues into St. Paul. Bicyclists and young families make up the bulk of the crowd there. And in between is everybody else. Lake Street has gone through many transformations over the years (there was once an amusement park there), but it has always attracted recent immigrants. That has led to a great diversity of businesses, from the still-going-strong Ingebretsen's to many Mexican restaurants to more recent halal grocery stores. These days the street even offers a place to experience all those cultures under one roof, the Midtown Global Market. All those comings and goings leave the middle section of the street looking perpetually in need of love, but abandoned spaces are eventually filled with whatever the next influx of residents is looking for. This road that runs east and west all the way through Minneapolis features too many landmarks to list, but the city's oldest cemetery, Pioneers and Soldiers, is a must-see. Not for nothing has Lake Street been immortalized in song by locals, including Lifter Puller and Atmosphere, and in photos with Wing Young Huie's awesome Lake Street USA project a few years back.