by Molly Priesmeyer - 262 Reviews - 117 List
From Chain of Lakes to the Riverview Theater and from Birchwood Cafe to The Soap Factory, we've uncovered the Twin Cities' ultimate top 10 experiences.
Updated: September 02, 2009
In the summer months, there's no better place to be than at the Minnehaha Falls Park pavilion, where every day is a fish-fry party. Folks line up out the door for this little sea-side shack's fish baskets, po? boys, fish tacos with homemade salsa, calamari, oysters and other salty, fried, grilled, crispy and delicious sea creatures. We might be landlocked, but Sea Salt turns Minnehaha Creek into a Southern port filled with happy fish lovers and sun-kissed kids all summer long.
This little coffee shop?and we mean little, there are only about 20 or so seats?also does double duty as one of the best bakeries in town. The master bakers here create magic. The frosted espresso cakes, peach cobblers, basil-cheese scones, hummus focaccia, almond croissants and more appear so frequently and abundantly--and from the hands of only two busy bakers--it's as if they're made with wishes. Everything is so delicate and perfectly done it feels you stepped into a patisserie right in the heart of South Minneapolis.
Hands down, there is no better chicken in the Twin Cities than at the Himalayan, where the Choyola dish is marinated and rubbed with cumin, tumeric, ginger and other perfectly palate-pleasing spices and then slow cooked to juicy perfection in a fiery Tandoori oven. Pair with one of Himalayan's spicy vegan dishes and you have what could be one of the best--and most affordable--meals in all of the Twin Cities.
Any good wine lover knows that it's best to try before you buy. But that's not always possible, especially since wine-tasting parties can be somewhat intimidating and aren't always easy to attend. Enter the Riverview Wine Bar, a small but warm bistro in South Minneapolis serving up homemade pizzas and truffles alongside some of the most interesting wine flights you'll find this side of Napa. For around 10 bucks you can get a sampling of unoaked wines, ?funky? reds (or fave is from Argentina), shiraz and syrah and more. Best of all, on Wednesday nights you can create your own, sampling of four different wines from the 80 or so on offer at this unpretentious neighborhood wine bar.
People actually stop into this theater to pick up popcorn, which is made with fresh local corn and butter from Hope Creamery, another local outfit. But there are two more reasons to stop into this awesome, uber-cool theater: The interior, which is perfectly preserved in its mid-century modern splendor, and the cheap movies on offer, which include art-house films and blockbusters shown in the Riverview's comfy auditorium-style theater for either two or three bucks.
There's a reason the Twin Cities are world-renown for their bike paths, and the Greenway and Chain of Lakes trails are just two of them. The city skyline shines like the moon from every vantage point of these wonderful paths, which take you all around Minneapolis in nearly the time it takes to sit in traffic at rush hour. Stop at Sea Salt for lunch at Minnehaha Falls, then go for desert and a show at the Lake Harriet bandstand. Whatever your destination, the bike trails are sure to take you there and beyond.
It's no secret that Minnesota can feel like the moons of Saturn in winter. A thick enamel of permafrost quickly sets in across our lakes and our bones every December. One way to escape it?and celebrate it?is at Medicine Lake, where mid-January through the end of February the Soap Factory hosts the annual Art Shanty Projects. Local artists, musicians, performers, activists and more create the art shanties with the intent of inspiring an interactive ice-based community. And out on the ice, kids, dogs, families, artists, couples and people from all over the tri-state area become a part of it all, moving from shanty to shanty as if it's the perfect utopian neighborhood, which just happens to be on a frozen lake in minus-20-degree weather.
The dark-wood bar and tiled ceilings at this Victorian-era St. Paul restaurant turn make the space instantly cozy, like a Christmas card that comes in mitten envelopes. But it's the house-made drinks that make it feel perfectly fireside and toasty, like a gathering that's as heart-warming as it appears in those posed Christmas card photos. On super-cold nights, our favorite indulgence is the Ginger Snap, which comes with dark rum, molasses, ginger syrup and cappuccino.
A supporter of local foods since its inception more than 13 years ago, the Birchwood Cafe creates unique dishes made from the freshest local ingredients available. The laid-back cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner (and makes its own addictive granola), but everything served at this South Minneapolis restaurant is far from your average cafe fare: These are chef-created dishes using artisanal and fresh ingredients like goat's milk cheese, heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn and more. And the desserts? They're way better than what Grandma made. That's because the Birchwood uses real ingredients like locally made butter, fresh fruits and cream. Best of all, everything at Birchwood is done with community, sustainability and the environment in mind.