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SHOP OP: St. Paul's Grand Avenue Indeed

By Carolyn Spencer Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 31, 1997; Page E02

St. Paul's Grand Avenue, a larger, more democratic version of Boston's Newbury Street, is one of America's last unspoiled shopping districts. A couple of miles from downtown (a $3 cab ride) or seven miles from Minneapolis via I-94, the Grand Avenue shopping area extends east to west for three miles from Dale Street to Cretin Avenue. It consists of neighborhoody clusters of around 300 establishments, including one-of-a-kind boutiques, sidewalk cafes, pubs, gourmet restaurants, cozy mini-malls and the occasional chain store interloper -- all mixed in with apartment buildings, duplexes, private homes, college campuses and small businesses. The center of the Grand Avenue experience, both literally and geographically, is Victoria Crossing, where much of the nightlife is located.

"St. Paul is considered the last city of the East, more like Boston with its genuine, authentic neighborhoods," sniffs one Grand Avenue local. "Minneapolis, the first city of the West, has more cosmopolitan pretensions."

And yet shops along Grand Avenue are far more cosmopolitan than their better publicized, wall-to-wall mall brethren. The Red Balloon (891 Grand, 612-224-8320) is an outstanding children's bookstore, featuring items for serious junior linguists, with titles like "My First European Dictionary" and Maurice Sendak's "Wo die Wilden Kerle Wohnen." There's Bibelot (1082 Grand, 612-222-0321), a feel-good department store for women that stocks funky, loose-fitting clothing, books on finding love and deciphering dreams, tchotchkes for discovering the child within and an ample supply of scented soaps, lotions and candles. Sorella (867 Grand, 612-298-8747) has lovely hand-painted gifty picture frames, candlesticks and small home furnishings. If you're inspired by the artistry (or dissuaded by the prices) there's a paint-your-own pottery workshop in the back.

Hungry Mind (1648 Grand, 612-699-0587), a stalwart independent in these days of mega bookstore chains, is a real book lover's hideaway. The store stocks university textbooks for nearby Macalester College students and more mainstream fare for the local literati. It's also got America's broadest collection of literary-minded books on travel. The piece de resistance is Hungry Mind's adjacent eatery. The highly rated Table of Contents (612-699-6595) is one of the hottest restaurants in town. Its full-service bar offers both cappuccino and distinctive wines.

At Linman & Wood (1672 Grand, 612-699-4674), the standout stuff is the vintage and/or locally made apparel stashed in a back room. Garden of Eden (867 Grand, 612-293-1300) has exquisite and offbeat toiletries and is the only place around with "Tomato pick-me-up" cologne spray, which it ingeniously displays alongside cans of Campbell's soup.

One favorite refueling stop among many is Cafe Latte (850 Grand, 612-224-5687), a chic cafeteria-cum-wine bar that specializes in everything from pizza and fresh salads to afternoon tea and decadent chocolate desserts. Other terrific restaurants include Saji-Ya (695 Grand, 612-292-0444) for Japanese and the Vietnamese-oriented Lotus (867 Grand, 612-228-9156). Grand Ole Creamery (750 Grand, 612-293-1655) is best for ice cream.

It takes only a day to shop Grand Avenue (though you may return again and again for the nightlife and the cafes). When you're through, head back downtown via tree-lined Summit Avenue, which parallels Grand one block north. Summit Avenue is home of Minnesota's governor and other local hotshots, and is considered by many historians to be among the nation's most beautiful urban streets. It's one block north of Grand.

From Washington, United, US Airways, Northwest and Continental are quoting round-trip fares starting at about $325, with restrictions. Occasionally, Northwest will offer a CyberSaver weekend fare at a significant discount, posted each Wednesday on the World Wide Web ( for travel that weekend. St. Paul is just a 15-minute drive from Minneapolis-St. Paul Inter- national Airport, or a $12 cab ride. Hotels offering weekend discounts include the venerable St. Paul Hotel (1-800-292-9292) and Embassy Suites (1-800-362-2779). Both provide shuttle service to and from Grand Avenue. Also, the Radisson Hotel St. Paul frequently offers cyber deals on weekend stays, starting at about $69 per night (http://www For more information on the Grand Avenue shopping district, check out

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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