Going world class
Minneapolis: From fine arts to culinary sparkle
For a theater fix, the Guthrie, is the place. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune / July 15, 2011)
It boasts impressive architecture, a vibrant arts community, and wonderful dining and shopping. And its proximity to Chicago — a little more than 400 miles — makes it ideal for a long-weekend getaway. Such a short visit necessitates smart use of your time, however.
But whether you're taking in an exhibition at the Walker Art Center or the Weisman Art Museum, seeing a play at the Guthrie Theater, boosting the nation's economy at the Mall of America in suburban Bloomington or catching the Minnesota Twins at Target Field, one thing you must do is eat.
One of the hottest restaurants, if not the hottest, is Piccolo (612-827-8111, piccolompls.com). Opened in early 2010, the 36-seat establishment quickly garnered a following, along with Best New Restaurant and Restaurant of the Year honors in the local press. Chef-partner Doug Flicker presents about 16 small-plate dishes — the menu changes — priced from $8 to $15. The one item that (deservedly) generated the most buzz is the scrambled brown eggs with pickled pigs' feet, truffle butter and Parmigiano ($9). Other menu highlights include lamb with ricotta gnocchi, spring onions, prunes d'Ente and black pepper ($14), and farm chicken with Parisienne potatoes, asparagus, radishes and chamomile butter ($13). There's also a formidable wine list. Piccolo is popular, so make reservations. It should also be noted that despite that popularity, diners are not rushed, nor is the atmosphere stuffy. The food arrives at a leisurely pace, giving you time to eat, enjoy and talk — most likely about the food.
If you're staying downtown, walk to Hell's Kitchen (it had the name years before the TV show, and it's much more enjoyable to boot; 612-332-4700, hellskitcheninc.com). There's a large selection of traditional fare and a few items that are not so traditional. One recommendation: the walleye BLT ($14.95). And if you're a breakfast person, stop at Al's Breakfast (612-331-9991), a 10-foot-wide, 14-stool diner in Dinkytown, a neighborhood near the University of Minnesota campus. You'll find traditional, inexpensive diner breakfast fare with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and, needless to say, atmosphere.
But if it's atmosphere you really crave, hit Donny Dirk's Zombie Den (612-588-9700, donnydirks.com).
An old neighborhood joint has gotten new life as a zombie dive bar. A cool '50s/Vegas feel is combined with the undead. Stop in for a Surly Furious draft ($6) and check out the decor, maybe watch a zombie flick on one of the Den's TVs. Then have another Surly Furious.
You'll need to walk off all that eating and drinking. Nicollet Mall, slicing through downtown, has upscale places to shop and eat, as well as little gems such as a well-stocked vegetable stand, street musicians and the famous statue of Mary Richards/Mary Tyler Moore throwing that hat in the air.
Other sights worth exploring — all walkable from downtown — are the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, home to the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry and 40 other pieces displayed over 11acres; Loring Park, between downtown and the Sculpture Garden (garden.walkerart.org/index.wac); and the Walker (612-375-7600, walkerart.org), where film director John Waters is curating "Absentee Landlord," taking 60 pieces of art from the Walker collection and re-imagining them as roommates in separate apartments, with him as landlord.
Minneapolis also has a slew of summer and fall events of note — the Minnesota State Fair (Aug. 25-Sept. 5); the Fringe Festival (Aug. 4-14), the Uptown Art Fair (Aug. 5-7); the Loring Park Art Festival (Aug. 6-7), a three-part celebration of the arts; and the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon (Oct. 2), featuring 8,000 runners. All those events conclude in time to get to Donny Dirk's for last call.