The Downtown Riverfront is by far the smallest byway district, covering just 1.2 miles. The path covers Main Street SE from East Hennepin Avenue to Sixth Avenue SE on one side of the river and West River Drive from Plymouth Ave N to 35W on the other. While the territory may be short on distance, the selection of eateries is amazing. And since you'll be biking, parking downtown will be free and easy. Starting at St. Anthony Main, here are some delicious detours you can make while admiring the bridges that stretch over the Mississippi.
125 Main St. SE
This St. Anthony Main joint is the ultimate bike path destination, serving breakfast, small plates, coffee, and adult beverages, all with an amazing view of downtown Minneapolis. The cafe is open early in the morning until midnight every night and has a great live music calendar. The casual atmosphere and selection of flatbreads and red velvet cupcakes should keep all bikers happy, especially when the patio is open.
2. Nicollet Island Inn
95 Merriam St.
While this might seem too-too for a biking excursion, consider a pre-cycling breakfast or an afternoon cocktail in the bar. And of course, if the patio is open, by all means lock up your bike and settle in. You don't need to order the Mother's Day brunch or prime rib to enjoy the amenities of this gem on the river.
3. James I. Rice Memorial Parkway
West River Pkwy near N 4th Avenue
While Nicollet Island Park gets the tourists, and Gold Medal has the new fab Mill City crowd, James I. Rice Memorial Parkway near the north end of the Grand Rounds is our choice for a more private picnic. The wooded area that looks out at Boom Island across the river is a serene oasis in the middle of the city. Pick up provisions on either side of the Mississippi (maybe something from Brasa), but remember that you can't bring alcohol into the park.
4. Toast Wine Bar & Cafe
415 N First St.
As evening descends, pedal right up N Fourth Ave. from the river to Toast. This small wine bar in the warehouse district has reasonably priced but impressive wines with serious cheese plates, polenta, and crostini as food offerings. The only complaint about the place is its dearth of parking, but for a biker that isn't a problem. Open at 5 p.m. daily except for Mondays, this is a good early evening stop.
750 S 2nd St.
806 S 2nd St.
These two restaurants are impeccable, each in their own way. Sitting next to each other, mere steps from the bike path on West River Drive, it is hard to recommend one over the other. Brenda Langton's dedication to ethical and healthy fare that tastes delicious can't be beat, while the sustainable seafood of Sea Change is amazing too, especially when sampled on the riverfront patio. These restaurants definitely raise the quality-of-life quotient in Minneapolis, as do the Grand Rounds and all the great biking trails in the city.