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By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
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Live band plays while guests dine at Icehouse restaurant.
Live band plays while guests dine at Icehouse restaurant.
CITY GUIDE

A local’s guide to Minneapolis

Live band plays while guests dine at Icehouse restaurant.
Live band plays while guests dine at Icehouse restaurant.
  • By Cinnamon Janzer
  • Photos by Nina Robinson
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While it might seem like a secondary Chicago to outsiders, Minneapolis is the definition of a hidden gem. And thanks to the resilience required to weather Minnesota winters, it’s poised to remain that way for eternity.

We have creative local art and food (think doughnuts sold out of someone’s backyard), an outdoors scene that rivals Denver (ahem, ours is one of the best bike cities in the world), and thriving Somali, Ethiopian, Hmong, Korean and Latinx communities. Even as it grows and changes, Minneapolis still oozes plenty of Upper Midwest goodness. The result is a city where down-to-earth, Middle America vibes blend with urban culture, creating a place that’s truly special.

Meet Cinnamon Janzer

Cinnamon Janzer is a writer and editor living in Minneapolis whose work stems from the intersection of travel, culture and social justice.

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IN THE ACTION
Northeast
As the name suggests, this hip yet rough-around-the-edges industrial-ish neighborhood is north of downtown and east of the Mississippi River. The southern part of Northeast, near Broadway Street, is walkable; the farther north you move, the more residential it gets. From dive bars and breweries to little shops and some of the best restaurants in the city, Northeast is a great place to book an Airbnb and experience some of the best the city has to offer. Find this neighborhood.
LOW-KEY
South Minneapolis
This stretch of the city that is about as far from the bustle of downtown as you can get makes it easy to stay in a spot with exactly the vibe you’re looking for. The western side of South Minneapolis is more upscale, with large, sprawling homes, boutiques and wine bars. Moving toward the center, there’s Eat Street, a.k.a. part of Nicollet Avenue, which will please any foodie. The eastern portion is filled with local haunts alongside parks and outdoor-focused activities, thanks to many lakes and its Mississippi River border with St. Paul. Find this neighborhood.
Neighborhoods

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Eat

BREAKFAST
Victor’s 1959 Cafe
This Cuban diner is known for its mango pancakes, Cuban bread and pretty much every other offering on its menu. When the weather is warmer, dine in the portion of the parking lot that transforms into an outdoor patio. Options for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free eaters abound. Victor’s is a great launchpad for a stroll through this section of South Minneapolis or a weekend bike ride.
BTW: Bring a marker. Practically every surface of the restaurant is covered in scribbles from guests, and you’ll want to add your name.
Victor’s 1959 Cafe, 3756 Grand Ave. S, Minneapolis, Minn. 55409
BREAKFAST
Bogart’s Doughnut Co.
Bogart’s in Uptown is not far from the Chain of Lakes, so in addition to the sweets, the location is an ideal way to start a day of exploration. It has one special doughnut most days, but its daily lineup is full of standouts like brioche doughnuts filled with Nutella and a classic glaze. When the weather’s warm, there’s a bucket of chalk outside ready for creative customers.
BTW: Bogart’s is dog-friendly. Arrive early enough and they’ll get a treat from the staff, who tend to remember canine regulars by name.
Bogart’s Doughnut Co., 904 W. 36th St., Minneapolis, Minn. 55408
LUNCH
Midtown Global Market
Eateries often describe themselves as having something for everybody, but this market actually delivers. The variety of cuisines — Middle Eastern falafel, Latin favorites (tacos), Somali and pan-African dishes like camel burgers (!), alongside beer, coffee, desserts and more — is so broad, you’d be hard-pressed to not find one thing you like.
BTW: Parking can be tough here, so consider getting dropped off.
Midtown Global Market, 920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis, Minn. 55407
LUNCH
Pizza Luce
Every city has its signature pizza place. Many would argue that Minneapolis’s is Pizza Luce. With locations across the Twin Cities and suburbs, Luce is beloved by almost everyone in town. The often-limiting dish is as inclusive as possible here, with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options — and some of the vegan pies are so good that carnivores are known to order them with a meat on top.
BTW: Can’t commit? Any pizza can be split in half to provide two choices.
Pizza Luce, 3200 Lyndale Ave. S, Minneapolis, Minn. 55408
DINNER
Sea Salt Eatery
While everyone crowds the more notable restaurants across the city, this seafood spot is where to have a casual dinner like a local during the warmer months. It’s such an institution that the seasonal restaurant opening is treated as a signal that spring has sprung in Minneapolis; it opens in April and closes in late fall. Make sure you pick the right line when you’re ready to order: They’re separate for food, drinks and ice cream. Then head outside to the patio.
BTW: Hit up the drink line first and sip on a glass of white wine or a chilled beer while you wait in the food line. Don’t forget your I.D.; the place is a stickler about carding.
Sea Salt Eatery, 4825 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis, Minn. 55417
DINNER
Colita
Giving unique takes on Oaxacan food in a stucco oasis, Colita has been a smash since opening in late 2018. Its bar is a plant-filled respite that serves drinks conceived by Marco Zappia, a rising star in the beverage industry — come ready to drink. The deconstructed elote is a must-try, as are all the desserts. The tortillas are hand-ground in-house each day with Oaxacan corn and are cooked to order.
BTW: During busy times, the bartenders are known to hand out samples of drinks to patrons waiting to snag a seat, which is what you’ll probably have to do without a reservation.
Colita, 5400 Penn Ave. S, Minneapolis, Minn. 55419
LATE-NIGHT
Matt’s Bar
The molten-cheddar-cheese-stuffed Jucy Lucy burger is a Minneapolis icon, and although some still debate its exact origins, many would bet their lives that it originated at Matt’s Bar in 1954. The bar is a dive classic, with wood paneling and leather bar stools that fill up on game days. Do yourself a favor and order the Jucy Lucy with onions and pickles with fries and you won’t be disappointed. Versions of this burger can be found across the globe, but no place does it like this Minneapolis icon.
BTW: This place is an old-school, cash-only spot. There is an ATM, but it comes with a larger-than-usual fee.
Matt’s Bar, 3500 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis, Minn. 55407
LATE-NIGHT
Pat’s Tap
The thing about Pat’s Tap is that it’s great at any hour, in an ideal location and serves “elevated bar food” in the best way possible. The place is kid-friendly until about 9 p.m. and dog-friendly on the patio at all hours. Known as a Packers bar, during football season it’ll probably be filled with a sea of fans decked out in green. While there are all kinds of goodies on the menu, the spicy ketchup that accompanies the cheese curds takes them to the next level.
BTW: Bring quarters; there’s Skee-Ball in the back. The machines are so old that one always seems to be working for free, so hang around long enough, and a local will clue you in to which one.
Pat’s Tap, 3510 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, Minn. 55408
(Minneapolis illustrator Kelvin Lee for The Washington Post)
LOCALS THINK YOU SHOULD KNOW
  1. Yes, the Mall of America is close by, but there are plenty of local stores to shop in Minneapolis.
  2. Hammerschlagen — a game that entails hitting nails into a log with the wrong side of a hammer — is way more fun than it sounds.
  3. “Minnesota Nice” is a thing. People are more than happy to welcome guests to the city. But it can also be used as an insult. If someone says, “That’s different” … they probably don’t like it.
(Minneapolis illustrator Kelvin Lee for The Washington Post)

Do

Lake Nokomis
While Bde Maka Ska and the others that compose Uptown’s Chain of Lakes are where people flock, Lake Nokomis and adjacent Lake Hiawatha are smaller and more frequented by locals. Spend a day relaxing or rent a paddleboard on Nokomis. Once you’re done, stop by the Sandcastle for dinner and a local beer outside. If you’re visiting in winter, the lake becomes an ice-fishing and ice-skating wonderland, where people can have a cross-country skiing adventure and give their dogs an off-the-beaten-path walk on the ice.
BTW: Because parking can sometimes be a drag, consider biking instead! The lakes are ringed with bike paths, and there are plenty of Nice Ride — the city’s bike-sharing program — stations nearby.
Lake Nokomis, 4955 W. Lake Nokomis Pkwy., Minneapolis, Minn. 55417
Twin Spirits Distillery
Minneapolis is a brewery town, but this female-owned distillery tucked into deep Northeast is well worth the drive. Michelle Winchester’s endeavor to renovate the 1920s building to make it the operation it is today made Twin Spirits the first one-woman-owned distillery in Minnesota. Whether you’re on the hunt for an Old Fashioned done right or are looking to sample one of Twin Spirits’s more creative rotating offerings, featuring the vodka, gin, rum, whiskey or moonshine distilled on-site, this distillery’s got it.
BTW: It’s open Wednesday through Saturday evenings and in the afternoon and early evening on Sundays.
Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave. NE., Minneapolis, Minn. 55418
Guthrie Theater’s Amber Box
If you’re looking for a less expensive way to visit the Guthrie Theater, or if theater isn’t even your thing, a trip to its Amber Box is a must-do. This architectural oddity is free and offers a unique vista over one of Minneapolis’s charming neighborhoods (St. Anthony Main) from within — you guessed it — a yellow enclosure. When you’re done, head down to the Endless Bridge, a cantilever that extends 178 feet from the building, for a neutral-toned view of the city.
BTW: There are several bars and restaurants inside the Guthrie; it’s a great place to pass a rainy afternoon.
Guthrie Theater’s Amber Box, 818 S. Second St., Minneapolis, Minn. 55415
Northrup King Building
While tourists are flocking to the Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Institute of Art, locals prefer to hit up art studios directly, like those in the Northrup King Building, in the artsiest part of Northeast. Given what’s nearby, plan a day of brewery- and studio/gallery-hopping. If you can’t make it to Art-a-Whirl, the Northeast-wide art-and-brewery fest every May, see Northrup King’s 350-plus tenants and 300-plus artists during the building’s First Thursdays and Open Saturdays.
BTW: Ashley Mary’s color-filled pattern paintings are a local favorite; you’ll start to notice her work all over the Twin Cities once you’ve seen it.
Northrup King Building, 1500 Jackson St. NE. Minneapolis, Minn. 55413
Minnehaha Falls dog park
The broader Minnehaha Falls waterfalls are a sight to see (especially when they freeze mid-drop for the winter), but for those who are less into crowds of people and more into packs of dogs, head to the off-leash area. This portion lends itself to hikes surrounded by dogs zipping through what seems more like a forest than a dog park. Afterward, head to the nearby dog-friendly Venn Brewing for some of the best local beers around with a patio that’s hard to beat in the summer.
BTW: If you bring your dog to the park, you will need a permit, which can be purchased on the park website.
Minnehaha Falls dog park, 5399 Minnehaha Park Dr. S, Minneapolis, Minn. 55417
Live music at Icehouse
While First Avenue is perhaps the hottest venue to catch music in Minneapolis, Icehouse is frequented by smaller, local acts. Located in what were once storage spaces for an ice company in the pre-refrigerator days, the industrial spot spans two levels and includes a restaurant, bar and an expansive patio. From jazz to poetry, there’s hardly a night that doesn’t offer a reason to head to Icehouse.
BTW: One of the best things about Icehouse is its “Eat Street” location. Within a few blocks of the venue, Nicollet Avenue is packed with everything from pho to doughnuts.
Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave. S, Minneapolis, Minn. 55404
Cinnamon Janzer
Cinnamon lived in Minneapolis in the late 2000s while getting her undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus. After years of living elsewhere, she visited a friend in the western Twin City in summer 2016 and quickly remembered how much she loved it. She moved back soon after.
Nina Robinson
Nina is a contributing photographer to The Washington Post based in Minneapolis.

CITY GUIDES