12 Jul 2022
Table of Contents
Welcome to Minnesota, WITness Success and Midwest Dreamin’ Salesforce community conference attendees! Wondering what to eat, drink, and do for fun while you’re here? I’ll show you a few of my favorite spots.
P.S. See my WITness Success cover letter workshop notes at “Words just CAN express how qualified you are.
Eat Street (Vietnamese)
The Hyatt is at the southwest corner of downtown, so you’re closer to some parts of Eat Street than you are to some parts of downtown.
My Huong Kitchen Vietnamese restaurant has some of the only “boba” bubble tea smoothies in town made out of fresh-ground fruit & veggies (yup, veggies – taro is really good, and they make one out of beans!). Most other places use flavored powder. Everything on their menu is consistently nice, though it’s the bubble tea that really spoils me. Tell the owners Katie says hi if you meet them!
Speaking of Vietnamese food, we’re known for it in the Twin Cities (people do banh mi crawls), and a lot of it is right down Nicollet Ave, also known as “Eat Street” for all its restaurants.
Not technically on Eat Street, but also south of the hotel: Sebastian Joe’s ice cream. I’m going to pick a fight and say it’s not the best overall handmande ice cream shop in the Twin Cities on average across all flavors (there’s pretty stiff competition). BUT … their “Oreo” variety can easily stand up for “best ice cream in town” against any other ice cream from any other shop. It does that thing where when you pull your spoon away, it kind of stretches like hot mozzarella on a pizza. They absolutely nailed the flavor and texture. It’s a bit of a longer walk, but I’ve done it from the Hyatt.
Trieste Cafe (Mediterranean so fresh you watch a guy chop lettuce for your salad) and The Brothers Deli (Jewish sandwiches) are the secrets your foodie downtown-office-worker friend will let you in on if you’re nice.
The Dakota Jazz Club is one of the most premiere jazz clubs in America (think Birdland-level).
Pizza Luce is a bit of an institution. It was the cities’ “fancy pizza place” before most pizza places were fancy, and they still do a really nice job. Will it be the best pizza you’ve ever had? Probably not. But it’s still good, and then you can say you ate there.
Lake Street (Mexican)
The Heavy Table blog’s review of every restaurant along Lake Street led me to my first and only meal in the little kitchen at the back of Super Mercado Morelia. Chicken Mole was the special, and I finally understood why mole sauce is a big deal. It was the first time I could actually taste chocolate in a mole sauce. I loved it so much.
That said, I love most of the Mexican food along Lake Street (and there’s lots of it).
It’s comforting and filling, but also, a lot of it is different from the Tex-Mex I grew up with. Try a huarache if you like refried beans – it’s like a stuffed-crust pizza, but with beans inside instead of cheese.
West Bank (Ethiopian & Chinese pastries)
Minneapolis - St. Paul is home to a lot of the Ethiopian diaspora in America (as are Washington, D.C. and Toronto, Canada). I haven’t had bad Ethiopian food yet. Imagine the texture of Indian curries, but make the flavor profile different, and eat it with a big piece of sourdough-tasting bread that’s spongy and soft like a really fluffy pancake. That’s Ethiopian food. It’s so good. Some of the restaurants serve a really lovely spiced tea as well. The “Cedar-Riverside” neighborhood on the western bank of the Mississippi River just outside of downtown is home to 2 Ethiopian restaurants: The Red Sea and Dilla. A little farther south by blue-line light rail train (on the way to Minnehaha Falls park) are Mesob, Selam, and Meseret. I recommend going with friends and including 1 veggie sampler and 1 meat sampler in your orders if such things are on the menu.
If you’re flying in from San Francisco or another city with a large selection of Chinese bakeries, you can skip Keefer Court but otherwise I order you to try a red bean cake with all haste.
Northeast Minneapolis (Mediterranean)
Gardens of Salonica, just over the river from downtown, is the kind of “really nice, but not stuffy or overpriced” restaurant that young people on a budget treat their visiting parents to, or that locals dine at before heading to the theater. It’s Greek, and everything’s good. Go beyond the gyro – there are a lot of interesting items on the menu you’re not going to find everywhere.
If you love vegetables, or are a vegetarian/vegan and have a car, make the trip to Zakia Deli. Even better if you can round up a group and try everything. The trick is to order the “sampler plate” of 5 cold deli “sides” (you’ll be choosing from about 20, hence the bring-a-friend-and-pass-things-around concept). Pretty much everything in that deli case is mind-blowing. Oh, and they have hot meaty things, too, for your carnivore friends. I actually quite enjoyed their gyro, and they have American foods like philly cheesesteaks on the menu as well. But the magic’s in the deli case.
If you find yourself in Northeast Minneapolis and don’t have time to explore Lake Street, Maya has the best “extra toppings bar” I’ve seen at a Mexican restaurant. Almost a dozen sauces and all the extra cilantro/radishes/pickles/etc. you can eat.
Lyndale Farmers Market
Probably the only other place in America that you’ll find a fresh-grown local vegetable economy like Minnesota has is California.
The Minneapolis Farmers’ Market’s Lyndale Ave. location opened in 1937. It almost died in the later 20th century, with its “licensed resellers” of excess grocery-store food saving the market from ruin (in thanks, those licenses are still active and indicated on stall names, which is why you’ll see the occasional stand with lemons and bananas – the rest of the stalls are all locally-grown produce).
One of the driving factors behind its revitalization was the engagement of Hmong-American refugees in vegetable farming.
Hmong-American farmers revitalized the sector and enabled farmers’ markets in Minneapolis and St. Paul to thrive once again as demand increased at the turn of the millennium.
- Hmong American Farmers Association - our story
- Hmong farmers adapted to cold climate, unwelcoming people and thrived
- The Hmong Farmers Who Feed The Twin Cities’ Farmers Markets
- Minnesota’s Hmong Farmers Drive Local Food Economy
The Minneapolis Farmers Market is a nonprofit entity whose massive Lyndale Avenue location, with 3 long red-roof-capped rows of vendors, is immediately adjacent to a for-profit entity called the Farmers Market Annex, resulting in one of the biggest farmer’s market venues you’ll probably have the chance to explore in America.
What’s more, you’ll see vegetables you’ve possibly never heard of before – people drive from Oklahoma for the specialty vegetables grown in Minnesota. In late July, in addition to encountering peak blueberry season, you should be able to see:
- Gongura (here’s a stew recipe from a 106-year-old woman)
- Molokhia (the same jute plant whose stems burlap sacks are made of – its leaves go into a yummy soup)
- Black nightshade (yes, people can eat it if they start young with small doses – don’t mess with it on your own out of nowhere, lest you get a tummyache)
- Water spinach
- Sweet potato leaves (absolutely fantastic as a stir-fry)
- Squash leaves (good in soup)
- Squash blossoms
There are some prepared-food vendors at the market, too, so you shouldn’t go hungry (though vegan / gluten-free prepared meal options may be a bit limited).
Stone Arch Bridge
Stone Arch Bridge, 100%. You can’t be a tourist unless you go there and gaze over the waterfalls of the Mississippi River. That’s the rule. I didn’t make it up. Your dance card will be checked at the airport / state border as you leave.
Just make sure you hug the outside of the bridge if you’re a pedestrian rather than walking in the middle, and look both ways before crossing from one side to the other.
The inside is reserved for bikes to get through safely.
You can cross it and loop back into downtown over the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, which you can get to directly at Main & Hennepin or by turning off onto Nicollet Island just a little east of that and taking the stairs up into the middle of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.
Or if you’re really a power-walker who wants to put on some serious miles, once you’re on Nicollet Island, go north under the Hennepin Avenue Bridge across the train tracks past DeLaSalle high school, past the houses, and cross the pedestrian bridge to “Boom Island” park (no longer actually an island), then exit the park at 8th Ave. NE (which becomes Plymouth Ave. on the downtown side), taking it west to West River Road. Come south down West River Road and then take Hennepin back through downtown to the Hyatt.
Loring Park and Walker Sculpture Garden
It’s also a pretty easy walk from the Hyatt to Loring Park, and from there there’s a pedestrian bridge over to the Walker Art Museum’s sculpture garden, where you can pose for a picture in front of our iconic big cherry and spoon.
Minnehaha Falls has bike, trike, and pedal-based surrey rentals – plus a pretty waterfall and a food stand (though it’s a very long line on a nice day, so don’t go starving).
Lake Nokomis has boat rentals but doesn’t go much of anywhere.
Bde Mka Ska (Lake Mka Ska) has boat rentals and is attached to 2 other lakes, so much more distance to cover. I think it has bike rentals, too. Make sure you follow the 1-way trail rules if riding a bike around the Chain of Lakes. You can also get onto the Midtown Greenway and go a long way with a flat trail.
Kristen Putikka pointed out that you can also rent a spot on a really big boat – there are riverboat cruises on the Mississippi.
Minneapolis & St. Paul have so many miles of quality bike trails & on-road paths that you can put together a 100-mile ride without repeating yourself or going very far out of town (although some key trails from downtown to Uptown are closed for construction in 2022). Our touristy bike share program is called Nice Ride, and it’s a great way to make a short 1-way trip to Northeast, Cedar-Riverside, Uptown / Lake Street, the Stone Arch Bridge, etc.
Allie Lawler wrote up her favorite ideas on the Cirrius Solutions blog.