MINNEAPOLIS—You best be clever if you live with bad weather about nine months of the year.
Here, you can move through downtown, building to building, through the second-story Skyway System's glass-enclosed walkways. From Marshall Field's -- where you'll find the Mary Tyler Moore (Show) statue out front -- to the Convention Center, you can cover almost all of central downtown without risking rain, snow or sweat.
Finding the downtown gem, Nicol's Deli & Market Cafe, is accomplished by asking directions to the fourth-floor entrance to Neiman-Marcus.
At hip, friendly and clever Nicol's, you find great food at sensible prices plus a one-of-a-kind decor. Nicol's walls are covered by about 200 vintage metal lunch boxes like the ones Boomers carried to grade school. (Today's lunch boxes are plastic.)
The collection belongs to Nicol's co-owner Rick Hurley. As "curator," he's happy to talk you through his collection based on old TV shows ("The Flintstones"), pop culture phenomena (disco, Jonathan Livingston Seagull), ancient video games (Pac-Man) and, of course, pop bands (Beatles).
A downtown favorite since 1985, Nicol's moved into the Nicollet Mall in January 1999. The cafe is named for French scientist and explorer Joseph Nicolas Nicollet. "His feminine side," says co-owner Steve Hyde who's glad to tell you about his family member who conceived the downtown Skyway System.
Hyde and Hurley run a one-of-a-kind cafe with an inspired menu that runs from sushi to a Strawberry Walnut Spinach Salad with chicken. Salads, omelets and daily specials, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., makes Nicol's a must-eat (555 Nicollet Mall, Suite 475; 612-333-0680).
Thus fortified by Nicol's, you can venture outside to stores along the mall.
The nearby James & Mary Laurie Booksellers (921 Nicollet Mall) sells a first edition "Lake Wobegon Days" by Garrison Keillor ($88.50). Also, the Lauries sell maps and prints plus vintage WWII posters ($100 to $300). And you won't find a bigger inventory for artist Leonard Baskin's work than at this store. James Laurie was a friend of the noted artist who died in June 2000. (612-338-1114)
And, as long as you're wandering the outdoor Nicollet Mall, it'll probably be cold or hot, so you can stop at Brit's Pub & Eating Establishment (1110 Nicollet Mall) for a dark draft. How can you pass up a pub selling T-shirts with the motto: "Beer -- it's not just for breakfast anymore"? (www.britspub.com)