What should I see/do in MPLS to help me decide whether to move there?
September 7, 2016 10:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm a Chicagoan who has lived in Portland, OR for four years. I miss the Midwest and I'm considering moving to Minneapolis (or possibly St. Paul). Next week, I'll be visiting the Twin Cities to scope it out. Help me plan a kick-ass and productive itinerary for my limited time in town! Also, what small progressive church should I attend on Sunday morning?

I'm visiting next week to help me decide whether to move. I only have four days in town. So I'm seeking your help to prioritize what to do and see -- both awesome stuff, and any not-so-awesome stuff that might be unavoidable for Minneapolitans (and that thus I need to know about).

I will have access to a bicycle, a car, and public transit. And I enjoy walking.

What are your favorite/most important/least favorite things/places/activities/etc. in the Twin Cities that I ought to experience while I'm there? What is the best way to get a good feel for what it would be like to live there? If you've got an idea for a particular series of activities, route, or self-designed neighborhood tours, I'd love to hear that.

Some stuff that interests me: hiking, outdoor activities, bicycling, live music, architecture, art, museums, neighborhoods, history, infrastructure, community organizations, social justice, books, tools, science. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Also, where should I go for delicious food? It's a bit tricky to eat out because I am allergic to dairy, soy, eggs, and wheat (but not gluten -- just wheat -- so I can drink a lot of beers). I'm used to eating out, making nice with the wait staff, and making easy modifications to make stuff work. Or just ordering the fries. But cheese curds, poutine, Juicy Lucys, etc. are not gonna work.

Finally, I am hoping to find a lefty church service to check out Sunday morning. I usually worship in a small progressive ragtag congregation that's UCC, United Methodist, ELCA (Lutheran), Presbyterian, Episcopalian... something like that. Recommendations?

posted by cnidaria to Travel & Transportation around Minneapolis, MN (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You might like House of Mercy
posted by littlewater at 10:42 PM on September 7, 2016

Maybe Mac Plymouth? It's a Presbyterian/UCC-merged church near Macalester College with a big focus on social justice and caring for creation.
posted by Flannery Culp at 4:44 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Go to Minnehaha Falls. Walk around the park, then eat at Sea Salt (if you like seafood). If you're more in the mood for Indian food, Gandhi Mahal is not too far away and is delicious.

Museums! Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Walker, etc.

Bike the Midtown Greenway or the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway. Or walk around the Chain of Lakes.

cross the river and explore St. Paul: walk along Summit Ave (beautiful old mansions) & Grand Ave, go to Como Park

Church: Solomon's Porch (4:30pm on Sunday)
posted by belladonna at 5:26 AM on September 8, 2016

Grace Trinity Community Church in Uptown might be a good fit. I don't go there, but I've heard their pastor, Dan Vigilante, preach and was impressed. It is a smallish, progressive PCUSA congregation. Pastor Vigilante was one of the first openly gay pastors to lead a Presbyterian church.

I think the parks are a big part of living in these cities. The Trust for Public Lands ranks them as having the two best park systems among the 100 largest cities in the U.S. In 2016, Minneapolis was #1 and St. Paul was #2. So, I would suggest visiting either the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis, the Mississippi riverside area near the Stone Arch Bridge in Downtown Minneapolis, or Como Park in St. Paul (I don't know St. Paul that well, I'm from Minneapolis, so maybe someone will come in and suggest something better in St. Paul.) I'm a South Minneapolis person, so my vote would be for the Chain of Lakes.

I don't have any good restaurant recommendations. Sorry. I have kids so I don't get to eat out as much as I'd like. I would recommend hitting some of the small breweries up in NE Minneapolis. You can easily bike between Indeed, Bauhaus, and 612 Brew. If you go on a day that's a little slow (not the weekend), you might get some good tips and insights from the folk who work at those places. For museums, the Walker is worth a visit if you like more modernish stuff. The Russian Museum of Art is a nice small museum that's unique and worth a visit.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 7:00 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Walker United Methodist is one of the leftier churches in town, but it is also a very white church. The church community has been very active in supporting anti-racist organizations over the years, so it's not as though they refuse those concerns. Everyone in S MPLS of any vaguely hippie or activist persuasion has probably been to about a gazillion events at Walker. (This is their new church - the old one burned down a few years ago....we were all very sad at the time, but really the old church was getting pretty run down.)

Lynnhurst UCC is also left-leaning and tends to be a very close church community - or at least it was a few years ago. (I have family who moved away but used to go there and I've heard a lot about it.)

What kind of stuff do you like? I tend to like the cheap and DIY-ish, plus I'm a die-hard SMPLS person, so I go to Boneshaker Books, Moon Palace (note the book clubs), Minneapolis institution Seward Cafe (it's much more low-rent hippie than the website makes it look, but you can't get much more SMPLS than the Seward, unless you go to Hard Times.) I like Peace Coffee and the Trylon Microcinema. In my opinion, Midori Floating World has the tastiest vegetarian and standard sushi in town - they don't have super fancy things like you might get at Masu, but the freshness and lightness of their sushi is just incomparable, IMO. Midtown Market is exceedingly convenient and home to many, many restaurants and small shops. I like the Tiny Diner for breakfasts - some of my friends feel that the food isn't...crafted enough, I guess you could say, but I feel like for local food at that price point it's really tasty.

Ancestry Books over North is an interesting pop-up bookstore which centers writers and readers of color. Their hours are limited, so check the website.

My favorite restaurant in all the Twin Cities is Teahouse Chinese, where you can eat dairy-free, wheat-free, soy-free Szechuan.
posted by Frowner at 7:28 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, if one is talking about what's "really" South Minneapolis, I feel like one should also check out the Mexican and Ecuadorian restaurants around Lake and Bloomington or Hamdi (Somali and East African food) inside Midtown Market. Local institution Maria's Cafe is very tasty but would only have a few items that you could eat.

If you are around for a Heart of the Beast event, it's usually worth going. It looks like there's a puppet cabaret on the 16th.

I've only just realized that there is a Museum of Somali History and Culture near me, but that is probably worth a stop.

South Minneapolis is frustrating and great. Frustrating because, since near south is a multi-cultural area with many immigrants, it is subject to racism, neglect and stepped-up policing, but great because it has such utopian qualities. This is a place with businesses and cultural institutions run by and for Somalian, Native, Ecuadoran, Tibetan, Mexican and African-American people, and many others. On a good day, you can walk around here and imagine what a better America would be like. The best play I ever saw was Bedlam Theater's West Bank Story, which deals with these ideas and the history of the neighborhoods on the west bank of the Mississippi.

(One of the neatest little things about living here is that, if you arrange your life right, you can literally cross the Mississippi multiple times a day. If you like, you can even use the joke I tell non-Minnesotans: You see, since the habitat of the grizzly bear is often described as extending to the western bank of the river, I always tell everyone that bears chase me until they get to the bridge, but then they have to stop. Every once in a while, you can find someone who will believe that we have grizzlies around here if you spin it right.)
posted by Frowner at 7:54 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

(Lived in the Twin Cities 1999-2011, so some of my experience is a little dated, but I loved it and miss a lot of things about it even though I'm back in Boston now, which I also love. I lived on the east side of St. Paul for a while, a block or two from 3M, then in Roseville and New Brighton, and then the last few years in Longfellow in Minneapolis. I liked living in Longfellow the most, I think, though some of those reasons were specific to 'friends very nearby' and commute sorts of things.)

If your book interests include either SF or Mystery, I recommend checking out Uncle Hugo's and Uncle Edgar's (genre bookstores by the Midtown Market, which I also recommend as above.)

Como is a good park to check out in St. Paul for the range of things to do (the Conservatory is gorgeous, and it's still good weather for the Japanese garden). I'm fond of Minnehaha in Minneapolis, but there's a bunch of other nice spots too.

If you'd be looking at jobs that would be in particular locations, I'd recommend checking out places that are a reasonable distance/preferred commute style for you, and also libraries in those neighborhoods. (Minneapolis and St. Paul have libraries with different approaches to some things, so if you're a big library user, you might also want to explore a couple of libraries in each city, or at least poke around a lot on their respective websites: you can check out materials from both, plus surrounding counties through MELSA, but the physical libraries vary a lot.) If job location is not a big factor, check out the libraries in neighborhoods you're interested in - the bulletin boards will tell you a lot about what's going on in the area, for example.
posted by modernhypatia at 8:19 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Hard Times doesn't appear to have a website, and Frowner's link goes to some chain in Maryland. But I do love the place for old school co-op vibe.
posted by RedEmma at 8:19 AM on September 8, 2016

OMG, I copy-pasted the wrong link! I meant to post the Hard Times Cafe facebook link.
posted by Frowner at 8:21 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just moved away after living a couple of years in western Wisconsin, but my wife and I would get into the Cities every once in a while when we wanted some big-city experiences or needed to shop at someplace other than Macy's or Sears. We didn't get much beyond the tourist level of things, but even at that, we would have felt comfortable moving there without hesitation, and we're originally from Southern California.

It seemed to us that the restaurants in midwestern cities (that we frequented anyway) were more conscientious about labeling items on their menu for vegetarians, vegans, and gluten intolerant people than places we went to back home. Your restrictions are a bit more stringent, but most of the places we went to at least had an air of accommodation to them, so you should be OK. We went to the St. Paul version of Teahouse that Frowner mentions, and found it to be good. We also tried Evergreen on Nicollet, south of downtown Minneapolis, and found them to be good for vegetarian and vegan options. As a bonus, the menu comments are pretty funny. Our favorite place was Brasa, northeast of downtown Minneapolis on Hennepin - most of their dishes are meat stews served with a side of rice. There's some cheese and other things on the menu, but depending on what's in the sauces the meats are cooked in you might be OK there.

We didn't do a whole lot there, but uptown and Lyndale Heights seemed like neat neighborhoods. We enjoyed the museum in the old flour mill, but that's probably not something you'd do as a regular activity. We also enjoyed renting the available bikes and riding around on the north side of the riverfront - there was a Polish festival going on one weekend when we were there. Overall, the city seemed pretty vibrant and not at all fitting the mold of decaying rust-belt cities that people on the coasts tend to imagine. (Shhh!)
posted by LionIndex at 8:29 AM on September 8, 2016

Peppers and Fries is good and so is the Longfellow Grill. Ride the Light Rail to the Lake Street stop and then take a #21 east from there to get to them. They are both on east Lake Street in the Longfellow neighborhood. Uptown was/is the trendy neighborhood but Nordeast (yes that's how it is spelled) is a newer trendy spot, which is anything east of the river and north of Downtown.

Biking is a big part of the culture and this page gives you lots of info about rides to take. Nice Ride is our local bike share.

You should spend at least one day in St. Paul. There are plenty of museums downtown and lots of nightlife along West Seventh Street. Architecturally speaking, it has a bit of an edge on Minneapolis. Back over the river, I prefer Mia to the Walker, but you will enjoy either one.

As for what to avoid, the rush hour traffic downtown has been particularly bad this summer due to multiple road closures and construction projects. The last week has been okay, but it changes all the time. The main pedestrian road, Nicollet Mall, has been closed to buses and taxis all summer and will continue to be closed for another year or so. Pedestrians can still walk along it and cross it in most places, but it is all torn up and not beautiful. Then they have been closing 1-2 lanes on many of the 3 lane roads that cross downtown in the other direction and this causes serious gridlock. Avoid downtown from about 3-6 pm on weekdays unless you are bussing in. I would not want to ride a bike in that traffic.
posted by soelo at 8:40 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Gah! If only you'd be here THIS WEEK instead of next week, you'd be able to join tonight's Joyful Riders Club bike ride.
posted by jillithd at 11:23 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hello from Chicago! I've only visited Minneapolis, but I've loved it every time I've been. A few weeks ago when I was there, I ate and drank at Hola Arepa (which, despite what the site says, is a restaurant and not a food truck) and thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I can't wait to go back there again.
posted by smich at 12:25 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I will second Hola Arepa and the Seward Cafe - I share two of your allergies (soy and wheat) and am able to safely eat at both places, and Seward is great with modification requests. At Hola Arepa, all you'll have to do is ask to hold the cheese. You may also want to check out Taco Cat.

You can also get frozen desserts - sorbet at Sonny's, and a vegan ice cream (hey, no dairy) at Milkjam.

For biking, there is a bunch of bike infrastructure - check out the greenways, and there are bike paths around most of the lakes. This is a fairly safe place to ride for transportation, and there are a lot of cyclists.
posted by bile and syntax at 3:23 PM on September 8, 2016

Thank you for all the excellent and useful advice, everyone. I think I'll be able to put together a great itinerary. To start, I purchased a ticket for next week's Friday evening puppet carabet (thanks, frowner!).
posted by cnidaria at 7:01 PM on September 8, 2016

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