Best of Southwest

For the second year, we’ve asked Journal readers to share their Southwest favorites with us. Here are reader picks for the top places to unwind, eat, shop and find inspiration. Thanks to all who sent along votes for this contest.

Click here for an interactive map featuring the winners


Minnehaha Parkway

Lake Harriet to Minnehaha Park

In need of some solitude? Close that laptop and lace up your shoes and head to Minnehaha Parkway. It’s a beautiful, shaded trail that connects Lake Harriet to the Mississippi River. It’s about a four-mile stretch between Lake Harriet and Lake Nokomis. There are beautiful homes lining the parkway, trails for bikers and runners and of course, the gorgeous Minnehaha Creek to gaze at as you make your way along the parkway.


Lyndale Rose Garden

4124 Rosewood Road

Journal columnist Jim Walsh recently wrote a piece paying tribute to the Rose Garden. He interviewed friend Pete Christensen, who had this to say about the place: “The Rose Gardens for me is an urban retreat from this fast life. It’s a place where I can go to escape from the trappings of the mind, and just be present with the beauty of the surroundings and the glimmer of the lake through the trees.”



Tangletown is bordered by 46th Street on the north, Interstate 35W on the east, Diamond Lake Road to the south and Lyndale Avenue South to the west. It used to be known as Fuller. The neighborhood name was a tribute to Margaret Fuller, a 19th century feminist, poet, essayist, journalist and educator.



43rd Street and East Lake Harriet Parkway

A stroll around Lake Harriet is one of the most simple and satisfying pleasures you can experience in the city. It’s about a 3-mile loop around the lake and a major draw for bikers, walkers and runners. The band shell hosts concerts throughout the summer. All of the city’s lakes have their own special charm, but Lake Harriet has a vibe that makes it a favorite for so many.



3200 W. Lake St.

Rustica is an independent, owner-operated bakery with daily bread specials, tasty pastries and cookies and desserts. The bakers at Rustica don’t believe in short cuts. The end result means that the baked goods have more interesting textures and flavors. Highlights on the menu that caught our eye include a Pistachio Chocolate Danish and Rhubarb Galette.

Coffee shop


4301 Nicollet Ave. S.

Anodyne is defined as “something that soothes, calms or comforts.” This Southwest coffee shop certainly fits that description. The shop’s website says: “Anodyne Coffeehouse is about bringing community to the table. That means you, with a warm mug nestled in one hand, your laptop or newspaper in the other.” The coffee shop has a great selection of locally roasted coffees, homemade baked goods and plenty of delicious sandwiches and salads featuring fresh, local ingredients.


Lake Harriet Pizza

5009 Penn Ave. S.

Lake Harriet Pizza has been serving the neighborhood since 1979. Notable specials are the Mexican Combo, Chicken Club, Artichoke Deluxe and the Rebel (pepperoni, mushrooms and dry garlic).


Victor’s 1959 Café

3756 Grand Ave. S.

Victor’s is truly one of a kind. The brightly colored restaurant is a tiny cabin-like spot in Kingfield. Breakfast menu highlights include the Cuban Hash (seasoned ground beef with Creole sauce, potatoes, green olives, raisins, capers and eggs), mango pancakes and some tributes to the neighborhood — Kingfield oatmeal and the Grand Avenue (two eggs with toast).

American bistro


1432 W. 31st St.

Lucia’s is a Southwest institution. Head chef/owner Lucia Watson has earned three James Beard award nominations for best chef in the Midwest. The restaurant has been in Uptown for 25 years and showcases high quality, local ingredients.


Fuji Ya

600 W. Lake St.

Fuji Ya is the Madonna of Twin Cities sushi bars: It may be the oldest shop on the block, but it certainly doesn’t act that way. In its modern-vibe Lyn-Lake locale, the sushi is great, the drinks are great and the private, sliding-door dining rooms — well, they’re great, too. This Fuji Ya is actually the latest incarnation of a restaurant that first opened a half-century ago along the riverfront and first introduced the sushi bar in 1981. It sure doesn’t feel outdated in the least.


Broders’ Pasta Bar

5000 Penn Ave. S.

Broders’ easily makes up for what frequently is one of the most punishing restaurant waits in Southwest with its fresh, house-made pasta and inviting, cozy atmosphere. If you have a choice, take a bar seat over one at a table and watch the masters at work. There’s hardly a warmer environment in town.


Tum Rup Thai

1221 W. Lake St.

With the explosion of Thai restaurants around Uptown, the market sure is saturated. But Tum Rup Thai — literally a block away from closest competitor Chiang Mai Thai and only a few more away from sister establishment Roat Osha — still stands out. Give it props for being less spacious than its neighbors, giving it a more romantic, cozier touch, and for the impeccably spiced dishes. Bonus points for free parking out back.


Salsa a la Salsa

1420 Nicollet Ave. S.

A subtle bend on a traditional Mexican restaurant, the menu plays off of the artistic mind of founder Lorenzo Azria. The popular Eat Street destination has what you’d expect from any quality, modestly priced taco/burrito/enchilada establishment, but offerings such as the cactus and white wine-infused pollo con nopalitos add an extra dose of quality.

Fine dining

La Belle Vie

510 Groveland Ave.

It’s hard to argue with a restaurant considered one of the country’s best and whose chef has won a James Beard award, so let’s not. Instead, enjoy the fancies of fine dining without a hint of stuffiness. Come for the scallops and sea trout, stay for one of the amazing dessert concoctions.



2719 Nicollet Ave. S.

What started as a hole-in-the-wall 21 years ago has grown into one of the keystones of Eat Street. It’s not hard to see why. With an affordable — and tasty — menu, business has boomed during the recession. There are plenty of good food options, but we recommend the steamy pho.



1600 W. Lake St.

Barbette combines the bohemian sensibilities of Uptown with the bohemian sensibilities of France for the perfect mix of ambiance, wine and pommes frites. It’s a charming faux French locale, an attitude it carries without a hint of kitsch. Go for a night of romance or just to chow down on a croque monsieur.

Indian restaurant

Namaste Café

2512 Hennepin Ave.

In an area abundant with non-American cuisine options, it’s a non-traditional Indian restaurant inside a traditional Southwest Minneapolis house that seems to always stand out. Consistently the recipient of nods —  for its chai tea, its welcoming interior, its vegan-friendly menu — Namaste Café is a fresh destination. It doesn’t hurt, either, that there’s now an everyday happy hour featuring half-price beer and wine.

Middle Eastern

The Falafel King

701 W. Lake St.

Cheap falafel and spanakopita served late into the evening in the heart of Uptown — finally something that budget-minded vegetarians and tipsy bar crawlers can agree on. And if you’re not into veggies, they serve gyros and fries, too. Sure, it’s a chain. And sure the dining room doesn’t exactly encourage guests to get comfortable. But what Falafel King lacks in interior design, it makes up for with large portions and speedy service, making it an ideal spot for a meal-on-the-go more exotic than the nearby fast food joint.

Local cuisine

The Corner Table

4257 Nicollet Ave. S.

Chef Scott Pampuch’s Corner Table is billed as a restaurant with “food that is farm driven, not chef driven.” Highlights of a sample menu on the website: a three bean salad with tarragon, parsley leaves and cider vinaigrette; an egg salad with tomato aioli, celery and pickled mustard seed; and a smoked trout crostini with charred corn relish. The Corner Table now offers a cooking school, too, so you can get a taste of what life is like in a busy restaurant kitchen.



2409 Lyndale Ave. S.

No meat, no heat. That seems to be the unofficial slogan of raw food restaurant Ecopolitan, where not only is the menu entirely vegan, but entirely uncooked as well. The lasagna is an unbaked stack of chunky veggies, tomato sauce and cashew cheese. The “uncookie” is sweet blend of nuts, dates and spices. And the smoothie selection is wildly exotic. And though the menu will lure you in, you may end up staying to poke around the restaurant’s other wellness facilities, which include an oxygen bar, a spa and even room rentals for overnight stays.

Wine bar and bar


4555 Grand Ave. S.

Bring a date here. Seriously. The wine menu is so quality and vast and adventurous that no matter what bottle you choose — even if you have never heard of it — will be tasty and unexpected, and you will seem like a worldly connoisseur. The space boasts a lively café atmosphere, but allows for more than a few intimate little nooks as well. The small plates make for good sampling and sharing, too — which, if you ask us, are the first two steps to canoodling. You can’t lose.

Grocery store


2440 Hennepin Ave. S. // 377-3448
5327 Lyndale Ave. S. // 822-2935

Maybe it’s the richly colored interior, that treated-wood finish that makes you feel like you’re shopping in a private home. Maybe it’s the salad bar, which offers a dizzying variety of olives and breads. Or maybe it’s those scrumptious cashew chicken wraps that the deli makes.

Whatever it is, Kowalski’s is one grocery store that doesn’t make shopping feel like a chore. We’re just as likely to pop in for lunch at the Uptown location’s elevated dining area as we are to do a full trip for provisions.

And since the Uptown store is open 24 hours, you know you can always pop in for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s at midnight.

Record store

Electric Fetus

2000 4th Ave. S.

We didn’t need to see Ringo Star wearing an Electric Fetus T-shirt on national TV at this year’s Grammy awards to know that this record store was world-class. And neither, apparently, did Southwest Journal readers, who for the second year in a row hailed it as the area’s best record store.

But the Beatle’s endorsement might have helped put the Fetus on Spin magazine’s radar. The rock rag listed it just this spring as the 13th best indie record store in the nation. With more than 40 years in operation, a deliciously deep vinyl selection and a venerable list of ex-employees-turned-superstars — Slug from Atmosphere comes to mind — the Electric Fetus rocks. But you already knew that. It’s the rest of the world that’s catching on.


Crema Café

3403 Lyndale Ave. S.

Here it is, the birthplace of the mouthwatering Sonny’s Ice Cream, the softest, most angelic substance to ever come in a cone. It’s been made here on the spot at 34th Street and Lyndale Avenue for more than 65 years. The ingredients are all locally sourced: the cream from happy Minnesotan cows, the love from happy Minnesotan employees. And if you’re hankering for something fruity, the creativity of the sorbet menu is sure to please. Pineapple mango basil, anyone? Of course, Crema serves beer and wine and espresso and a full dinner menu, too. But they won’t  mind if you just skip straight to the dessert.


Juut Salonspa

2947 Hennepin Ave. S.

The people who cut your hair at Juut are not just stylists, they’re “Daymakers.”

Employees at the independently owned Aveda spin-off are expected to act out founder David Wagner’s philosophy that small acts of kindness make the world a better place.

If that doesn’t make you feel better, this should: The Uptown Juut location is also the New Artists Academy, and haircuts from training stylists are offered at a discount.



2910 Hennepin Ave. S.

With all of the services offered at this Uptown den of relaxation, you could pull off an entire image transformation in a single day. Sure, they’ll design a haircut for you. And yes, of course you can get precision makeup, nail care, skin care and body treatments. But they’ll also coach you in wardrobe, analyze your silhouette and style a wig for you, if you’d like. In fact, splurge on the “Oprah” makeover package — which was featured on the TV show — and you’ll get a professional consultation, hair color, haircut, brow shaping, make-up application with lesson and silhouette analysis. Short of plastic surgery, it’s the most complete beauty transformation you can get in the city.

Gift shop


1009 W. Franklin Ave.

There’s one in every family: the relative (an uncle, typically) who shows up at birthdays or holidays bearing wonderfully odd and tacky gag gifts.

Where did he find the bacon wallet? Probably at Patina, which also offers chocolate bars, gum balls, floss and even bandages containing or resembling America’s favorite cured meat.

Of course, Patina offers plenty of useful, unique gifts for the home and office for just about any occasion you can think of. But it’s the range of items — from that bacon wallet ($12.95) to a purple snake clutch ($56) — that makes Patina worth a visit.


Magers & Quinn Booksellers

3038 Hennepin Ave. S.

What is the soundtrack of a bookstore?

At the popular mega-chains, it’s whatever adult contemporary CD they’re currently hawking punctuated by the regular whoosh of the milk foamer on the espresso machine. These are not sounds you will hear at Magers & Quinn.

You hear a string of bells jingle when the door opens, quiet chatter between customers and employees, the occasional ka-chunk of the cash register, wooden flooring creaking under the carpet. That’s what a real bookstore sounds like.

Bike shop

The Alt

3013 Lyndale Ave. S.

We’re considered the best biking town in the country so if you don’t have your own bicycle yet, it’s time to head to a nearby bike shop and take the plunge into the cycling world. Your Southwest neighbors suggest you check out the Alt in Uptown. They boast the fastest turnaround on bike repairs in the state and offer classes on basic repairs and maintenance if you want to learn for yourself.

Women’s Clothing

Buffalo Exchange

2727 Lyndale Ave. S.

Did hard times elevate a thrift store to the top of our list this year?

Maybe. Then again, Buffalo Exchange isn’t your typical thrift store.

It’s where young urbanites come to recycle their wardrobes, so the selection is less like grandma’s closet and more like the clothing-strewn bedroom of your cool neighbor. Bring in your own gently worn, still-fashionable clothing items for cash or trade.

Men’s Clothing

American Apparel

1433 W. Lake St.

Guys like T-shirts. American Apparel makes, arguably, the best T-shirt out there, and in about a million colors.

There’s a bunch of other stuff, too, including hipster-approved oxford shirts, a variety of slacks and even ties (the latter two items offered in sizes ranging from narrow to skinny). Still, the retail chain’s real strength is its basics, like form-fitting hoodies and polo shirts.

And those T-shirts. Even if you wouldn’t be caught dead in a “mineral wash stretch bull denim slim slack,” you would definitely wear an American Apparel T-shirt.

Garden store

Tangletown Gardens

5353 Nicollet Ave. S.

Dean Engelmann and Scott Endres almost magically transformed a former service station into a mini-chateau when they opened Tangletown Gardens in 2002, but the real trick is what they do for Minneapolis gardens.

The University of Minnesota horticulture alumni and former farm boys are known for their lawn masterpieces painted with a palette of thousands of perennials, woody plants and rare species not typically found in the frozen north. Give Endres a container and he’ll create a dazzling plant sculpture — and if you’re a magazine editor you’ll then give him his own magazine, something that happened recently.

Vintage Clothing

B. Squad Vintage

3500 Nicollet Ave.

B. Squad Vintage, packed to the rafters with a century’s worth of odds and ends, is ready to satisfy all kinds of nostalgic yearnings.

Looking for an ’80s Metallica tour T-shirt? B. Squad.

Some ’70s vinyl for your LP collection? Check.

A vintage cocktail dress for a ’60s-themed viewing party when the new season of “Mad Men” debuts this summer?
B. Squad again.

Home furnishings

Harriann Upholstery

3537 W. 44th St.

“Older Furniture is Better!” shouts the Harriann Upholstery website.

It also, in many cases, is greener and cheaper than buying new. Get that ratty old couch re-upholstered and enjoy the enhanced comfort that comes with knowing you have kept it off the trash heap for a few more years and probably saved a couple bucks, to boot.

Harrian Upholstery says it can repair, recover or refinish your furniture “at ½ the Price of Buying New!” (another exclamation point!), and even offers free online estimates. Nice!


Hunt & Gather

4944 Xerxes Ave. S.

I drive by Hunt & Gather on my way to work everyday, and I’m never tired of looking at the colorful displays parked outside the storefront. There’s always a group of people hanging out in the morning drinking coffee in the adjoining parking lot — the place just looks so … well, loveable. I heard Sheryl Crow stopped by last summer and bought some cool stuff. Does this mean more than just us Southwest consumers love it? I hope so.



3011 W. 50th St.

It’s Gallery360’s 10-year anniversary this year, and we lined up once again to anoint this neighborhood gallery as our favorite. On June 5, the gallery celebrated with a new show featuring works by the talented artists that have shown in the Gallery over the past 10 years. The openings are always a gas — great people watching, a nice glass of wine poured by friendly staff and an ever-changing array of local and national artistic talent to enjoy.


Minneapolis Institute of Arts

2400 3rd Ave. S.

What I appreciate so much about the MIA is not just that it can get the likes of the Louvre to hand over part of its collection for a spell, but also that it embraces (and takes its share of criticism for) the once every decade Foot in the Door exhibit, which celebrates Minnesota artists of all ilk. Right now, we’re enjoying “Until Now: Collecting the New (1960–2010),” which is another step outside the box for this museum. Did I mention the best part? Two words: Free Admission. Two more words: Every Day.


Sigh Yoga + Boutique

612 West 54th Street

Sigh Yoga + Boutique has formed a community of yoga enthusiasts who don’t just love the wide range of classes for any level of experience or ability, but also subscribe to Sigh’s philosophy of “you get what you give.” From beginners to practitioners, people come to have breath transform heartbeat … and also peruse the wonderful array of products in their adjoining boutique.


Lagoon Cinema

1320 Lagoon Ave.

As much as the Uptown Theatre holds a spot in my heart as the place I saw “Comfort & Joy” with my future husband on our first date, it’s its sister cinema, the Lagoon, I migrate to when I must see something on the big screen. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the Lagoon has five screens showcasing independent and foreign films with a décor that harkens to our nearby lakes.

Hardware store

Settergren’s Ace Hardware

5405 Penn Ave. S.

I went in for a bag of standard ice melt this winter and left with a bucket full of clever little puck-shaped objects that, I was told, were selling out fast because they worked so well. The advice was right on, as always. Basically, any time I go into Settergren, I am not just helped, I am advised, made to feel welcome and often receive help carrying out purchases to my car.