We love Southwest Minneapolis. You do, too, and you let us know by submitting dozens of entries to this year’s Best of Southwest poll.
This year’s list includes many returning favorites and several first-time winners. It’s a sampling of the best our community offers for recreation, dining and shopping. Thank you to all who shared their personal best-of lists with us!
What does Lake Harriet have that the rest of the lakes on the Chain of Lakes don’t?
Well, the Lake Harriet Bandshell, for one. Minneapolitans have gathered for entertainment on the shores of Lake Harriet since the Minneapolis Street Railway Company built a pavilion in 1888, and although that and subsequent structures were lost to fire and storms over the years, those losses were always followed by rebuilding.
Today’s bandshell has lasted 31 years and, as usual, it will be hosting music and movies all summer long. Grab a bite from Bread & Pickle and settle in for the show.
Lynnhurst residents have done it again, voting their neighborhood the Best of Southwest for the second year in a row.
They have plenty to be proud of: a swath of Lake Harriet shoreline, a stretch of Minnehaha Creek, one of the city’s most sought-after elementary schools and a large, centrally located park, among other amenities. They’ve got George and the Dragon, voted best neighborhood restaurant and best bar this year (not to mention the 2017 Best Wine Bar, Terzo, and a few other best-of winners a short walk away). What more can you ask for?
Like a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end, the paved bicycle and pedestrian trails along Minnehaha Creek carry travelers to Minnehaha Falls and Sea Salt Eatery, one of the city’s must-see landmarks next to what is arguably the park system’s finest dining location. But the journey is at least as worthwhile as the destination.
Originating at Lake Minnetonka in the western suburbs, Minnehaha Creek splashes along for 22 miles on its way to the Mississippi River. The trail that follows its wooded, winding course through 10 South and Southwest Minneapolis neighborhoods offers an escape from bustling city year round.
4135 W. Lake Harriet Parkway
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board completed its purchase of Lake Harriet’s shoreline in 1888, according to a Park Board history, making it the first in the city’s Chain of Lakes to become entirely public parkland.
Southwest residents obviously love the area — they voted Lake Harriet best lake in this year’s poll, too — but that’s been true for more than a century, now. In addition to the nearly 3 miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails circling its waters, the bandshell, playgrounds and beaches draw people to Lake Harriet — even in the winter, when the frozen lake hosts the annual winter kite festival, a wonderful excuse to head outdoors in January.
Best coffee shop
3350 Lyndale Ave. S. and 4301 Nicollet Ave. S.
545-5972 (Lyndale store)/353-5369 (Nicollet store)
With its locations on Lyndale and Nicollet avenues, two of Southwest’s busiest thoroughfares, Vicinity Coffee can include convenience on a list of attributes that also includes its intriguing selection of specialty drinks and pastries, both house-made and sourced from the expert bakers at Patisserie 46.
The spacious Lyndale Avenue store in the CARAG neighborhood came first. It opened in 2011 as Bull Run Coffee Bar but rebranded itself last year to maintain a separate identity from Bull Run Roasting.
Then came the Kingfield café on Nicollet Avenue, in 2014, adding scratch-made breakfast and lunch and Sebastian Joe’s ice creams to Bull Run’s successful formula.
4552 Grand Ave. S.
Who won best bakery in 2016? Patisserie 46. In 2015? Patisserie 46. How about 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011? You guessed it. 2010? Trick question; the multiple-award-winning Kingfield bakery didn’t open until that July, one month after the Best of Southwest feature ran in this paper.
It may be time to retire the category. Because when a bakery isn’t just the best of Southwest or the best of the city or the best of the state but a world-class destination, it just doesn’t seem fair.
To his many accolades, baker and owner John Kraus last year added an invitation to join the Relais Desserts, an association of the 100 top pastry chefs in the world. If any bakery in Southwest has a chance at taking best-of honors from Kraus, it may be Kraus, who last year opened Rose Street Patisserie in Linden Hills.
Victor’s 1959 Café
3756 Grand Ave. S.
What’s behind the devotion to Victor’s 1959 Café, yet another neighborhood favorite that ends up on this Best of Southwest list again and again?
Is it the mango pancakes, or maybe the uncommon option of breakfast with a side of plantains? Is it the warm feeling of settling into one of the cramped but cozy, graffiti-covered booths? Is it the patio, shaded by a ceiling of umbrellas and walls of potted tropical plants, that attracts crowds to this quirky Cuban bistro morning after weekend morning?
Whatever it is, Victor’s has it.
Best Thai restaurant (tie)
3024 Hennepin Ave. S.
Naviya’s Thai Brasserie
2812 W. 43rd St.
When it came to Southwest’s best Thai food, our readers couldn’t decide. We’ll call it a win-win.
Amazing Thailand offers a killer happy hour and a wide selection of Thai classics in the heart of Uptown. Located in Linden Hills, Naviya’s is renowned for its skillful Thai-meets-seasonal-Midwest cooking, particularly when it comes to vegetables.
Try them both and play tiebreaker for us.
Red Wagon Pizza Co.
5416 Penn Ave. S.
Without naming all the names, we’ll just say the restaurants in this category faced the stiffest of competition. Southwest Minneapolis’ pizza game is, as the kids say, on point.
So, major kudos to Red Wagon for coming out on top.
Husband-and-wife owners Peter and Jacquie Campbell started slinging their pizzas at the Linden Hills Farmers Market and, with the help of Tilia chef and investor Steven Brown, opened their brick-and-mortar location in 2014. The Armatage restaurant’s wood-fired oven turns out inventive spins on the classic pizza-pie formula, ranging from a classic Margherita spiked with a drizzle of fig balsamic to a banh mi-inspired pizza with all the Vietnamese sandwich’s classic fixings.
Best Italian restaurant
Broders’ Pasta Bar
5000 Penn Ave. S.
Family has always played an important role in Italian cuisine, and the Broder family carries on this legacy in its own family of restaurants: Broders’ Pasta Bar, Terzo and Broders’ Cucina Italiana. Across from their deli, Tom, the restaurant’s second-generation chef, whips up daily specials and fresh egg pasta and his brother Charlie brings out curated bottles of rich wines. Regulars know well the date night special Sunday through Thursday, as well as the front-row seats on the pasta bar’s patio, one of the best places for outdoor eats in Southwest Minneapolis.
Best Vietnamese restaurant
2719 Nicollet Ave.
Few restaurants have the cult following of Quang, a staple of Southwest Minneapolis for over 20 years. Whether it’s the crispy egg rolls or the cheap vermicelli bowls, Whittier residents and Quang’s fans around the city — food stars like Andrew Zimmern included — all have their favorite order. The real treasures here are the large bowls of pho complete with a healthy helping of meat, aromatic Thai basil and a savory broth that can soothe both an empty stomach and any bad day.
Best neighborhood restaurant
George and The Dragon
813 W. 50th St.
George and The Dragon has become a neighborhood establishment, and that’s not an accident. Modeled after the pubs and public houses of England, the bar and restaurant has welcomed both residents and travelers to the Tangletown area for the past six years.
Owners Stacy and Fred Navarro serve a menu that’s truly their own with dishes from their very own kitchen, from the Asian Hangover — once something created to remedy Fred’s own hangover — to the bacon and onion dip. For families, there’s even a bookcase to entertain neighborhood kids.
Yet, the neighborhood secret may no longer be a secret. It was recently the subject of the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”
4552 Grand Ave. S.
The taste of a Patisserie 46 pastry will stay with you long after you’ve tasted the last bite, and that’s why owner-baker John Kraus is the best. It just took the entire world a few years to finally realize it. In the past two years, Kraus has opened a sister bakery, Rose Street Patisserie, in Linden Hills and achieved global fame in the pastry world, scoring a Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie medal — the Olympics of pastries — and being inducted into the Relais, which we non-bakers might as well call the confectionery Illuminati. And yet, Patisserie 46 does more than just desserts. Grab some delicious quiche and coffee for breakfast or a tartine or a hot sandwich made on a freshly baked baguette for lunch.
Best Mexican restaurant
4750 Grand Ave. S.
Chef Hector Ruiz has put his own twist on Mexican Nouveau cuisine around town with restaurants like Café Ena and Rincon 38, and La Fresca is no different. The Tangletown neighborhood restaurant is known for its seafood, whether it’s the snapper ceviche or the smorgasbord of fish in the traditional mariscada.
4624 Nicollet Ave. S.
The longstanding Pepito’s, which has a location in the Nicollet Shop Mall, is known for its best-selling Nachos Lupitas, six-layer fritters with handmade shells and all of the cheesy goodness you could ask for.
5309 Lyndale Ave. S.
The Lynnhurst neighborhood restaurant puts the southwest in Southwest Minneapolis with its Arizona-Mexican cuisine. Are you prepared for the ultimate taco Tuesday challenge at Saguaro? For $10 on Tuesdays diners can get as many tacos as they can eat.
600 W. Lake St.
Minnesotans have flocked to Fuji Ya, the first Japanese restaurant to even open in the state, for generations and for good reason. Nearly 60 years after founder Reiko Weston brought sushi to Minnesota, her family continues a legacy of authentic cooking techniques, eye-popping sushi specials and freshly served fish. And the Uptown restaurant at the corner of Lake & Lyndale knows how to pack people in. Regulars come for the Wednesday night ramen or book one of three private zashiki rooms with Tatami mats. But many come for the post-work and late-night happy hours. There are two Tuesday through Thursday and one on Friday and Sunday.
French Meadow Bakery & Café
2610 Lyndale Ave. S.
It makes sense why French Meadow Bakery & Café wins for its vegetarian offerings. No other restaurant has advocated for sustainably farmed fruits and veggies for as long as the 32-year-old business, the first certified organic bakery in the country. Despite its forward-thinking approach to food, the secret to French Meadow’s success is that it never stops evolving. Thanks to its killer brunch menu, bold bar program and all-around high quality of its food, the place is a sanctuary for all palettes, be it gluten free, vegan or simply starving. French Meadow has expanded its vision for healthful food to St. Paul’s Grand Avenue in 2013 and the University of Minnesota just last year.
Best wine bar
2221 W. 50th St.
If you were entranced by the wine bar escapades of Aziz Ansari’s character in “Master of None” this season, then perhaps it’s time to find a place to live your own Italian fantasy. For Neapolitan-minded Minneapolitans, look no further than Terzo. The wine bar, the latest addition to the Broder family dynasty at 50th & Penn, encapsulates the smells and flavors of contemporary Italy with local flare. The wine program has 300 or so vino varieties from regions across the Italian peninsula, including a huge range of wines by the glass. Because it’s a Broder establishment, you know the food is good too, from the hand-cut egg pasta to the slow-roasted pork sandwiches available at the Porchetteria window.
George and the Dragon
813 W. 50th St.
Local brands take center stage at the bar here — staff use Fulton Lonely Blonde in the beer batter and 2 Gingers Whiskey in the Irish whiskey bangers, and bartenders pour so much Rainmaker by Steel Toe Brewing that the local liquor store noticed a growing following. Three of the taps are nitrous, an alternative to CO2 for a smoother mouthfeel in beers like North Gate Maggie’s Leap and Boulder Mojo. Patrons can opt to share a beer bomber the same way they share a bottle of wine. Bombers offer a chance to try beers that are a bit harder to find, like the cellared barley wine Lift Bridge Commander and New Holland Dragon’s Milk, a bourbon barrel stout. Tap wine selections are available as well. The tap handle featuring St. George and the Dragon serves as a special rotating tap.
Jaide Organic Salon
4651 Nicollet Ave.
Michele Nadeau is out to prove that organic hair care is not a compromise.
“It can be done in a high-quality way,” she said. “We’re doing it without the toxicity and without the chemicals, because we all have enough of that in our lives.”
Nadeau’s eldest child was born shortly before she opened the salon in 2005 with her husband Tom. Each of their four children has a middle name that’s a variation of Jaide, which translates “I will help you” in French. The family lives eight blocks away, and the kids are dreaming up their own foot massage business ($4 for a yearlong membership) and bringing flowers to brighten up the salon.
“Where did 12 years go?” Tom said.
The organic products at Jaide include Eminence, voted favorite skincare line eight years running by American Spa magazine, and Ahnesti, a Minnesota company created by a former salon owner.
Best gift shop
1009 W. Franklin Ave. / 872-0880
821 W. 50th St. / 821-9315
One-of-a-kind gifts abound at Patina, a shop that’s increasingly commissioning private label products like Minnesota-minded pillows and socks that feature marshmallows over the fire. Locally-made gifts include jewelry by Larissa Loden and the mom-and-daughter team Tess+Tricia. The toy department provides lots of gift ideas, like doughnut-shaped float tubes, monkey swings and kid-friendly bow and arrow sets. The shop keeps on-trend as well. Cozy furniture in the “Hygge” style, along with books about the Danish design concept, are on display.
Minneapolis Institute of Art
2400 3rd Ave. S.
It’s hard to beat a museum that holds more than 89,000 works of art and offers free admission, not to mention a welcoming lobby with Dogwood coffee, Wi-Fi and a playroom for kids. The museum has enjoyed record attendance over the past five years. This summer, New York-based painter Aliza Nisenbaum will invite residents from the Whittier and Phillips neighborhoods to participate in large-scale group portraits for display in the fall.
Best record store
2000 4th Ave. S.
Open 49 years and counting, Electric Fetus is a Minneapolis fixture — last spring’s Record Store Day was the biggest event to-date.
The store makes it easy to shop new releases, and the staff members curate Spotify playlists to share what’s on their radar.
The gift area is a good place to find oddities like Yoga Joes (green army men doing yoga poses), hand warmer mugs and a creative cursing book.
And the shop enjoyed Prince’s endorsement. On his last visit before his death, Prince reportedly stood at the counter and said: “Electric Fetus…the best name ever.”
Best art gallery
908 W. 46th St.
The 20-year-old neighborhood gallery focuses on modern and contemporary photography. The current exhibition, running through July 1, features artwork by Ruben Nusz in which he shatters the canvas into pieces. The gallery quotes the artist saying: “Today, even our paintings are broken.”
According to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, gallery founder Martin Weinstein’s passion lies in vintage black-and-white images from now-classic photographers like Elliott Erwitt, Gordon Parks and W. Eugene Smith.
Best garden supply store
Wagner Garden Center
6024 Penn Ave. S.
The fifth-generation family business began in 1901 with German immigrant August Cornelius’s greenhouse and field vegetables. Today the company ships plants across the country from its 4.5-acre production space in Minneapolis and another plot in Hugo.
Local gardeners will find everything from hybrid tea roses and tomato plants to patio geraniums, evergreens, outdoor glazed pottery and garden accessories. A special section of the greenhouse is devoted to backyard edibles this season.
Best home furnishings
3045 Hennepin Ave.
The patio furniture is out at CB2, a shop that positions itself as a more affordable and modern offshoot of Crate and Barrel. The Uptown shop carries reindeer hide rugs sourced from farmers in Northern Finland, stilt high dining tables and Peruvian pottery. CB2 describes its aesthetic as spare and simple, with attention to detail.
Magers & Quinn
3038 Hennepin Ave. S.
Magers & Quinn offers a mixture of new and used books that you wouldn’t see in a typical corporate bookstore. A 23-year fixture of Uptown, the store has special arrangements with publishers that allow it to be competitive with pricing, owner Denny Mager said. “It’s a very much book-oriented non-corporate atmosphere,” he said. “The bright and shiny fixtures aren’t the most important things. It’s the books.”
The store hosts a constant stream of author events and book readings, about which information can be found on its website. Also there is a list of featured books — all below the publisher’s price.
1320 Lagoon Ave.
The 22-year-old, five-screen theater shows everything from blockbusters to documentaries and Royal Opera House shows. It’s part of the Landmark Theatres group, which includes the nearby Uptown Theatre and Edina Cinema. The auditoriums have the steepest inclines allowable, according to the theater website, to create a great view of the screens. Check out its website for a variety of special events and a gift card giveaway.
Best women’s clothing store
4755 Chicago Ave. S.
Owners Michele Henry and Wesley Uthus founded Primp in 2010 with the idea that you shouldn’t have to spend big to be a snappy dresser. That credo has proved popular, with the duo opening a total of nine locations around Minnesota and South Dakota in the years since. Nothing in the stores is above $100, and stores typically only get six of each item. Henry and Uthus have also created two in-house lines, called Henry + Martin and Local Love. All locations are staffed with stylists who can personalize the shopping experience.
Best men’s clothing store
This category received fewer votes than the others and no store got more than one vote, so we didn’t pick a winner this year. But keep it in mind for 2018, Southwest shoppers, and let us know who you love.
Best antique store
hunt & gather
4944 Xerxes Ave. S.
At hunt & gather, you can find old furniture, taxidermy and pretty much anything in between. The store has been located in Southwest Minneapolis since 2003 and works with 15 dealers to fill its two floors. Customers write online that they enjoy the variety of goods and how there is something for everyone.
Best bike shop
Tangletown Bike Shop
322 W. 48th St.
“The epitome of a neighborhood bike shop” is how owner Mike O’Leary described his store, and for good reason. The shop has bicycles for all ages and abilities and offers a complete list of repair services and rental options. The shop is located near Fuller Park and just a few minutes from Lake Harriet and the Chain of Lakes. It also support’s Southwest High School’s 612MTB mountain bike team. “At the end of the day, we really do cater to the neighborhood,” O’Leary said.
Best yoga studio
4325 Nicollet Ave.
Up Yoga may be one of Southwest Minneapolis’ newest studios, but that hasn’t stopped it from making quite the impression. Husband-and-wife duo Lindsay Grabb and John Sinna opened the studio in May and offer classes seven days a week. The studio teaches Vinyasa classes inspired by the Baptiste methodology and also offers longer workshops. It has a smartphone app for those who want to plan ahead and offers an unlimited first month of yoga to new students for $40.
Best grocery store
5327 Lyndale Ave. S. (Lyndale)
2440 Hennepin Ave. (Uptown)
5615 Chicago Ave. S. (Parkkview)
Kowalski’s has 11 locations across the Twin cities, including multiple in Minneapolis. You can find there all sorts of fresh and organic produce, all-natural meats and signature products such as cakes, specialty cheeses and fresh pasta sauces. The company also offers full-service catering, online shopping, classes and an assortment of online recipes.
Best hardware store
Settergren Ace Hardware
5405 Penn Ave. S. (Penn)
2813 W. 43rd St. (Linden Hills)
Settergren bills itself as an old-fashioned hardware store, but that’s certainly not a bad thing. The store boasts strong customer service and just about every product you could expect from a hardware store, from LED light bulbs to all sorts of paints, lawn equipment and more. Plus, keep your eyes out for the store dog!