Minneapolis and the Twin Cities, in general, will always have a home in my heart. It’s the city where I spent my 21st birthday, ushered into an inebriated form of manhood by my brother, who at the time had recently followed his now wife, a Minnesota native, to Saint Paul. I was in college back then and had only known the Twin Cities for their four professional sports teams. That alone should have been a big enough clue that there’s plenty of urbanity to discover behind the Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves and Wild.
Sleek and Sexy
Last Thursday I landed at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport for my fifth (or so) visit. Over the years I’ve discovered that the Twin Cities are, indeed, cities. Cities with streets instead of roads, walkable environments for pedestrians, and bike lanes — oh, the miles of bikes lanes — that encourages seeing the city firsthand instead of behind a wheel, trapped in an aluminum death-box.
To me, a city isn’t complete unless you can take a train from the airport to downtown. Minneapolis shines in this regard with a beautiful, sleek and sexy rail service that ushers you into the heart of downtown. (It’s worth noting that the cities are currently working on extending the line into Saint Paul.)
I stayed once again with my brother, now more Minneapolitan than his wife. Together they moved over the summer from inner-ring suburb St. Louis Park, home to the Coen Brothers and Al Franken, to Minneapolis’ Warehouse District. As you’d expect from the name, the neighborhood — locally known as the North Loop — is filled with blocks of well-maintained warehouses converted into apartments and shops. Hell, even the strips clubs are interesting to observe, and not for the reasons usually associated with strip clubs. Sex World is perhaps one of the coolest buildings in the neighborhood.
This trip revolved once again around visiting craft breweries and establishments that serve craft beer. After all, it just so happened to be my birthday weekend again, and my beer sophistication has greatly evolved past consumption of light beers for the sake of consumption since my collegiate days.
Beer Me That Beer
First, we visited Fulton nearby where the Twins were conveniently losing to our hometown Tribe in the midst of a playoff run. Though the proprietors might not have loved serving fans dressed in a different kind of red and blue, I was more than happy to partake in a glass of Sweet Child of Vine IPA. Plus I’m a fan of the, surprise-surprise, warehouse feel of the brewery.
It’s perhaps worth noting at this point that the state of Minnesota had relatively recently passed a law known as the Surly Bill — named after the brewery who helped push the legislation– making it legal to serve where you brew. Perhaps this is why most of Minneapolis’ breweries have a similar feeling to them, but in a good way, of course.
Friday was spent doing more of the same. But in Minneapolis, that’s at worst a good thing. Because here the minimal bar of activity or enjoyment is awesome.
We took Nice Ride — the city’s bike share — over to Nordeast where Dangerous Man and Indeed Brewing awaited. Here the neighborhood has a bit of grit to it, something as a Clevelander I can relate to and actually prefer to an extent.
Biking is where the Twin Cities kick most American metros squarely in their oversized, car seat-shaped asses. A rough estimate includes nearly 100 miles each of marked bike lanes, protected bike lanes, and a freeway system of sorts for commuters. Here bikes are treated as a lifestyle, not merely recreation. Needless to say, I’m a tad envious of the Twin Cities in this respect; coming car-free from a city with just 10 or so miles of marked bike lanes and no bike share.
(To be fair to my beloved Cleveland, the city is currently undergoing the obligatory study to see if bike share can work here. Though I’d argue no study is needed. Look at Minneapolis. It works pretty damn well.)
Beer and Beards
Dangerous Man is a proud supporter of good beer and beards. The logo itself is a man with a beard. One of the walls is dressed with a fish (a muskie?) boasting a beard of its own.
The name “Dangerous Man,” a fantastic name for a brewery, allegedly comes from a night when the founder slept on a living room couch at a friend’s place. This information was apparently not shared with the homeowner’s little girl, who found a stranger sleeping in their living room late at night. Frightened, she ran off to her parents’ room shrieking, “Mom! Dad! There’s a dangerous man in the living room!”
God, I hope that’s true.
It was quitting time around the city when we shuffled down the street to Indeed Brewing. The bar and patio were both packed with thirsty Minnesotans welcoming the weekend the best way possible.
I enjoyed a Day Tripper American Pale Ale. Nothing too hoppy, but just hoppy enough so you know you’re drinking a quality craft brew. Not to mention it was a perfect match with the late afternoon’s slight breeze and low-70s temperature — Jweather (Joe-weather) as I humbly call it.
For dinner we settled at Kindee Thai Restaurant back downtown where I demolished, to borrow a phrase from the dictionary, of the fratastic, pad see ew, followed by a cold scoop at Izzy’s just down the block. One of the better aspects of my brother’s new urban home is the ability to walk everything off after consuming mass quantities. And Lord, did I need some walking after a day of craft beer, Thai eats and ice cream.
Hallelujah, No Cars!
After a weekend of beer after beer (research as a beer writer), I needed to feel better about myself with a bit of a run. Because Minneapolis is a city that seems to prioritize people over rolling inanimate objects, I didn’t have to go far to find a trail. In fact, my brother’s backyard is essentially a park with a riverfront trail just around the corner that follows alongside the Mississippi before turning away to circle the entire city. With rowers, cyclists, and runners out, it felt like a metropark back home except in the heart of the city. The Stone Arch Bridge itself, an architecturally beautiful bridge for pedestrians and cyclists only (hallelujah, no cars!) with an incredible view of the mighty Mississippi, should be the envy of any city.
Following the run I refueled at Haute Dish with the appropriately named Landfill — a bastion of all things you could possibly want in a breakfast. Simply imagining it as I write this leaves me with the kind of yearning advertisers hope you get after a light beer ad featuring some scantily clad woman. Except the Landfill does not leave you sad and alone. Instead, you’re left in a state of egg, cheese, potato and bacon — oh sweet God of Pigs, the bacon! — bliss.
Monday was sadly an early morning exit, catching a seven-something a.m. train from Target Field off to the airport. I always hate leaving. But heading home on the Hiawatha line with the slightly alien looking Capella Tower behind me — that in my foreign opinion screams “Minneapolis” like Mark Mallman does in the chorus (how’s that for a local reference?) — is the ideal way to end a trip to my second home.
Luckily for me, there will always be a next time.