Best Of Home

Best Neighborhood Gems: Minneapolis

April 5, 2011 8:19 AM

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Okay. So I am going to start off with a disclaimer saying, there are many great places to enjoy in each neighborhood of Minneapolis. For this list, I am going to keep it simple. Are you ever invited with a group of friends to an area you are really not that familiar with? Do you want to be the “smart friend?” Well this one’s for you.

Get educated on the best places to visit when out and about in what some call the “Mini-Apple.” If driving to the metropolis is either a chore, an “eye-roll” (especially when it comes to parking), or just simply a rarity, I have a feeling you’ll be visiting sooner or later. Here are some of the most fun places to visit, in no particular order.

coffee cup Best Neighborhood Gems: Minneapolis

(credit: Jupiter Images)

Matchbox Coffee

1306 2nd St. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
(612) 259-0069
Website | Directory

Northeast. Hands down, this hipster hangout is my favorite place to re-charge. Whether on the run or in need of some one-on-one therapy (gossip), you will leave feeling relaxed and a little more in-touch with our great city. If you are looking to embrace a good read or just escape from the paparazzi, don’t miss out on this real treasure. If you do go, be prepared that Matchbox’s seating space lives up to its name and is cash-only.

donny dirks Best Neighborhood Gems: Minneapolis


Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den

2027 N 2nd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55411
(612) 588-9700
Website | Directory

North. This is the one place in the city where I can honestly say, “Wow, that deathly looking zombie mask ties the whole room together.” This place is great for a small gathering and big enough for a party. If you are in need of a smile, amped-up spontaneity or in need of a great first date location, you won’t leave disappointed. Try the Prison Mints cocktail. It’s killer.

st anthony main Best Neighborhood Gems: Minneapolis


St. Anthony Main

212 2nd St. SE.
Minneapolis, MN 55414
(612) 378-5000

Website | Directory

St. Anthony Main. This small stretch of paradise, which borders the Mississippi River, is an area where you can take on an entirely new persona and pretend you’re in Vegas. Whether you’re hanging out at the Pracna patio (with its famous Bloody Mary in-hand) or at the scenic overlook at St. Anthony Falls, I doubt you’ll run into anyone you know. This niche of the city is best admired on a warm day and is definitely a place where the “locals” hangout. This is a place to bring a great friend and a perfect place for Facebook photos.

brave new workshop1 Best Neighborhood Gems: Minneapolis


Brave New Workshop

2605 Hennepin Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 332-6620
Website | Directory

Uptown. If you enjoy dry, sarcastic and slightly offensive humor, this comedy club may be your new calling. I have been here several times and I laughed just as hard after the show, when reminiscing with friends, as when I laughed during. Be prepared though, every time I’ve gone, an audience member has been brought on stage. If you are in need of some fresh one-liners, buy your tickets in advance. Oh, they offer improv classes as well.

sebastian joes Best Neighborhood Gems: Minneapolis


Sebastian Joe’s Two

4321 Upton Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55410
(612) 926-7916
Website | Directory

Linden Hills. Close your eyes and imagine the following words: Bailey’s Irish Cream, ice cream and raspberry truffles. You may be brought to a state of nirvana, so raise your jaw because you’re on the right track. I named the ingredients in the Bailey’s Raspberry Truffle, which is one of the many ice cream flavors to choose from. This location, nestled in a neighborhood, will make you feel like a kid again, minus the “ding-dong-ditch.”

may day cafe Best Neighborhood Gems: Minneapolis

(credit: May Day Café)

May Day Café

3440 Bloomington Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55407
(612) 729-5627
Website | Directory

Powderhorn. I discovered this gem last summer when I was in search of a quick place to eat lunch. I haven’t stopped going back. The service: exceptional. The fresh spinach quiche: filling and something to Tweet about. It is usually pretty busy, so be ready to sit at the community table and meet someone new. You can enjoy the freshly-baked goods and if you have your pooch with you, the café has plenty of doggie treats to go around.

103927006 Best Neighborhood Gems: Minneapolis

(credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Cuppa Java

400 Penn Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN 55405
(612) 374-4806
Website | Directory

Bryn Mawr. If you live in the city, shine up your bike. If you live in the burbs, pack up the minivan and tell the kids they can bring a friend. No matter how you get to this timeless Minneapolis neighborhood, it’s impossible to ignore the four huge parks that surround the area along with the mom-and-pop shops within it. My Bryn Mawr favorite is this café. Cuppa Java is a great place to read or get food to-go and have a picnic. The easy parking is a bonus.

toms popcorn shop Best Neighborhood Gems: Minneapolis

(credit: Tom’s Popcorn Shop)

Tom’s Popcorn Shop

4708 Cedar Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55417
(612) 721-8066

Nokomis. If you’re a member of Facebook, stop what you’re doing and “Like” this popcorn shop. If you ever saw the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the interior of Tom’s will give you déjà vu. It serves malts, shakes and of course, gourmet popcorn. Call me crazy, but the watermelon-flavored popcorn is awesome. Maybe walk around the lake to make yourself feel okay about finishing the entire bag. Just a thought.

als breakfast1 Best Neighborhood Gems: Minneapolis

(credit: Al’s Breakfast)

Al’s Breakfast

414 14th Ave. SE.
Minneapolis, MN 55414
(612) 331-9991
Website | Directory

Dinkytown. Whether you just need a hearty breakfast or if you have to nurse yourself back to health, go to Al’s. I am a big fan of old, retro-style diners and large meal portions. This place has just 14 seats at its long counter, so prepare to wait in line to get in. Just go with the flow and bring your appetite. This is one of the best breakfasts in the city. Only your mom can do better.

moose sadies Best Neighborhood Gems: Minneapolis


Moose and Sadie’s

212 3rd Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Downtown. My boyfriend introduced me to this place over a year ago and I’ve become a regular. Located in the North Loop, this curbside restaurant is a big win. Sitting on the sunny patio is the payoff for baring our cold winters. If it’s breakfast you’re after, get the huevos rancheros and a made-from-scratch pastry. You’ll be so excited, you’ll drink your coffee with a pinky out.

-Justin Reis is a WCCO intern studying broadcast journalism at the University of Minnesota. His passion for finding the “best” in the Twin Cities is inspired by his role as a group fitness instructor and interests ranging from “anything artistic” to “anything social.” Please leave a comment on what you think of his recommendations.

View Comments
  • Jack Parker

    I’m really enjoying these Best Of… articles. Thanks Justin. They’ve given me some new favorite haunts and brought me back to a few long forgotten ones. I may not agree with all of them (Like Brave New Workshop. I’m not into raunchy and offensive.) but nobody IS going to agree because taste is subjective. To those commenters who constantly argue over what IS and ISN’T on these lists, just try to enjoy them. It’s impossible to please everyone.

    • Justin Reis

      Thanks for the comment, Jack! I am glad this post has reminded you of some of the great places to visit in Minneapolis. Each of these are my personal favorites… It was not easy narrowing down to the one, best place, in each neighborhood!

      As far as Brave New Workshop, I couldn’t help to add it to the list. The great places to go in that area are really endless, however, BNW is a classic staple. …Where is your favorite place to go in Uptown? I’d love to try something different. Justin

  • Eric Gilseth

    LOVE this post. Matchbox, May Day and Moose & Sadies… could NOT have picked any better places. Donnie Dirk’s has a batphone that calls directly to Psycho Suzi’s. #amazing.

    And, Matchbox is employee-owned and operated. Gotta love that!

    Nice work.

  • Jack Parker

    Hi Justin. What I do like about BNW is that they’re like an Independent Film and not your average ho-hum performance. For that reason alone they deserve to be on your list. (It’s just that I, personally, have a more “family” sense of humor.)

    I haven’t been to St. Anthony Main in years. And I just made plans with a friend to try Donnie Dirk’s Zombie Den. Thursday is my day off and will be taking a walk around the lake — after a visit to Tom’s Popcorn Shop. How can I not try Watermelon Popcorn?

    A place I think is the bee’s knees is on 36th Street and Bryant Ave S., called Our Kitchen. It’s like Mel’s Diner meets Mom’s house. It’s owned by two brothers and the waitress is very sweet and quick to remember regulars and their orders. It looks like a quaint little house (across the street from Gigi’s Cafe). When you walk in, it takes two steps to get to the counter that seats, I believe, eight people. There are two smaller counters at each window that seat three people. A dozen folks will fill the place! It’s only open for breakfast and lunch. Your food is made right in front of you. If your arms are long enough, you could flip your own bacon!

    Thanks again for the Best Of… articles. In a crazy world going more insane by the day, exploring the places mentioned has made me feel like I can slow the world down to “normal” for an hour or two.

  • mplsuc

    Who comes up with these? Comparing St. Anthony Main to Vegas? Really, our city isn’t really that great.

  • dnakedpotter--San Diego

    Finding Minnesota and now The Best of—- It is now 25 years since I left Mn for the Salty air of SoCal, but I do come back each morning for MPR and A Quicky Mn Feast. It was Al’s in Dinkytown, that brought back great memories. Back when Al was RRRunning that counter, you never asked for a cup of Tea, Al would make you a ‘subject’ for the whole morning and he never forgot you. Peter Leach’s Pottery Coffee cups were for Coffee only. Now I must forward this article to my daughter, living down in Red Wing—-gotta lov MN.

  • Jerry Brosious

    Justin, your “Best of…..” series is enjoyable and it’s always interesting to see a place named where I’ve never been. I love the warm and intimate feeking of the May Day Cafe with vibes of 70’s counter-culture that I think comes with the neighborhood—and great baked goodies. For years I’ve been intrigued by that little “hole in the wall” Match Box Cafe but nver gone inside, and now I’ll be sure to. And Moose and Sadie’s with its east-exposure patio is great place to sit on a sunny weekend morning. For me, anyplace that is housed in an old building has a leg up, as does a place with some and preferably a lot of natural light where I can bask in the sunshine with rich coffee, a friend or a book.

    Barrio’s I don’t know, so will add that too to my list.

  • Jerry

    I’m enjoying keeping my shirt tags “tucked in” (fart) while enjoying other cultures – oh and have you seen Barb and Avery do their standup routine over by the Pickled Shirt? Ohh that was a hoot! (Fart)

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