Places I love in Minneapolis.
Recently, I took a short trip to Minneapolis. These are a few of the spots I visited and LOVED. If you're making a trip to Mill City, and looking for some cool spots to stop, I hope you give a few of these a try!
I received recommendations to visit these spots from various online sources, and delightful talks with each server or bartender I met in the city. If you're ever a visitor in a city and don't know what to do - ask the locals!
Go for a walk, lazy pants.
First of all, Minneapolis is a great city for a walk. The Mississippi River cuts right through an area of downtown that is sprinkled with old flour and lumber mills, and there are great well-lit walkways to traverse as you enjoy the sights. I walked from my hotel in the North Loop area to the riverside and enjoyed the architecture of all the old buildings as well as sights of the many bridges, like Hennepin Avenue. Seriously, go for a walk. You'll like it.
Eat your heart out at Zen Box Izakaya.
To best experience the awesome food coming out of the of this quirky Japanese kitchen, you need to order a couple things off the menu. The dishes are meant to be shared, but if you're dining solo, don't let that stop you. I had a killer early dinner here after a long plane ride and my tummy and tastebuds were both very happy.
What did I actually eat? I slayed an entire bowl of the Miso Mussel Sakamushi and an order of Age Gyoza along with a healthy glass of red wine. The fresh Maine Blue mussels were cooked in miso, garlic-butter and sake and served with grilled bread. The broth in this dish is amazing. I dunked everything in it. The mussels went for an extra swim before I shoved them in my mouth and the grilled bread got a serious dunk as well. I even dipped a few of my crispy chicken dumplings in it toward the end of the meal, even though the house Kamikaze sauce was seriously good, I just couldn't get enough of the broth. Because of this, I'm sure the ramen from this spot is awesome. I almost ordered a bowl after eating my existing spread, but figured a food coma wasn't a good idea on my first evening exploring.
I happened to visit Zen Box around 5:00, when they reopen for dinner, during their happy hour. I've seen a lot of happy hours in my day, and this is a good one. Both my dumplings and wine were only $4.00 each, and I'm not mad about that. I'm sure lunch is amazing too.
Get a coffee from The Bachelor Farmer.
Although The Bachelor Farmer is more than a coffee spot, I grabbed an early morning latte at the cafe sweetened by some of the house made vanilla and it was one of the best lattes I have ever had. The coffee flavor was strong, and not over powered by the sweet. It was truly delightful.
The cafe is a very cool spot with beautiful tile work, lots of windows and an extensive pastry cabinet. I'm not one for sweets in the morning, but I was very tempted. The cafe starts to serve lunch later in the day, and has brunch on Saturday and Sundays beginning at 10:00 AM. For me, it was just the coffee, but my gut says the food from this hidden spot without a sign would be amazing too.
I sat at the bar by one of the large windows in the cafe and sipped my latte before starting my day. Behind the pastry counter sits a turntable where the baristas regularly switch between vinyl that is of very good taste. Good music and good coffee in combination are very likely to create my ultimate happy place.
Buy something cool at I Like You.
When I pay a city a visit, I like to get some little something made by a local artist. Over the past few years, I have been trying to purge things from my life that have no meaning and slowly replace them with baubles and art that are meaningful. I often find these things at markets. Sometimes I buy them off the side of the street. My eyes are always peeled.
When it comes to shopping in Minneapolis, everyone thinks Mall of America. However, when I think Mall of America, I think of my personal hell. Malls are not my favorite. They don't have any character and are rarely filled with cool or unique things. While downing a glass of red before attending a comedy show at Acme Comedy Company, I asked the most wonderful bartender where I should go to get something unique. She suggested I Like You, and mentioned that she sold jewelry there. Having once been a jewelry maker myself, I know and respect that hustle and decided to visit the shop the next day. It is awesome. I could have fun looking around in this place without even making a purchase. I bought a set of earrings (made by the bartender who pointed me to the shop), and a lovely print from a local artist. This spot is a must visit.
Eat so much pasta at Bar La Grassa.
I nearly needed to be rolled away from the pasta bar at Bar La Grassa. The bread, the Aperol Spritz, the fresh cavatelli, the decadent sauce. I could have stayed in my place at this pasta heaven for hours and hours. For goodness sake, I ate braised rabbit, people. BRAISED. RABBIT.
Sitting at the pasta bar at this dimly lit, high-energy Italian kitchen is perfect for the person dining alone or two on an intimate date. I was beyond entertained by the noodle slinging chefs and flaming pans that were less than 30 feet from me - and then they brought out the bread. Oh my goodness, the bread. Rolled in a cloth napkin and served with butter you will find two kinds of bread, one of which is a baked tomato bruschetta. Eat it all. Eat all of it for me, please.
I was sinking deep into a flavor coma when my dish came - fresh cavatelli pasta with braised rabbit in the most wonderful creamy red sauce. I sank face first into the bowl. I wanted to order more, to try more things, but my tummy was full and I was happy. If you are a person who is into pasta (aren’t we all), then do yourself a favor and pay this place a visit. The dishes come in two portions, making it easier to try more dishes and share with your friends and the menu is very well rounded. You and your tastebuds will have a great time.
Grab breakfast at The Freehouse.
In my opinion, breakfast is for real the most important meal of the day. When I am blessed with the luxury of enough time for a hot breakfast, I want one - and I want it bad. When I am planning my day, I will browse breakfast menus with enthusiasm, and often I will visit a place just to try one specific dish. With regards to my visit to The Freehouse, this is the case. When I saw gnocchi listed on the breakfast menu I stopped - and then I drooled. Gnocchi is one of my favorite things, and call me sheltered, but I have never seen it utilized as a breakfast item. I had to have it.
When I saw that the tag line of this all day eatery is “from breakfast to beer,” I knew it was my kind of place. Sometimes, I may even want a beer with my breakfast, though some may find that to be unacceptable. The Freehouse starts serving from its “Rise & Shine” menu at 6:30 AM, but limited breakfast is available all day. When I arrived, I was delighted to see that they even offer a $5.00 breakfast special each weekday (if I lived in the Twin cities, I would be at this spot every morning), but I came for the gnocchi, so the gnocchi I would have. The breakfast dish of my dreams was loaded with mushrooms, pesto, bacon, arugula, and fried gnocchi, then topped with a poached egg and served with toast. It arrived at my table promptly, and was devoured soon after. It was good. It was very, very good. The folks in the kitchen knew what they were doing when they added the toast to the plate, because it was perfect for soaking up the most wonderful sauce and the remains of runny egg yolk in my bowl. Hot breakfast success.
Are there places in the Twin Cities you love? Share them with me in the comments below!