Best of Southwest 2016

Reader picks for the best destinations in Southwest

Lake Harriet once again has earned the Best Lake title.

Southwest Minneapolis has so much to offer. From gorgeous lakes lined with biking and walking trails to an abundance of outstanding neighborhood restaurants and retailers, it’s a special place worth celebrating. Thanks to all our readers who participated in this annual Best of Southwest contest! Congratulations to all of the winners.


Best lake

Lake Harriet

Lake Calhoun may have that postcard view of the downtown skyline, but Lake Harriet is the lake for us. You know, the locals.

Let Calhoun have the beach bodies, the preening and flexing crowds. Let its parkway clog with Sunday drivers. Lake Harriet — the band shell, the beaches, the sailboats and the perfect wooded shoreline — is ours.

Best neighborhood


Beautiful homes? Check. Desirable community school? Check. Bustling neighborhood park? Check. Trails? Check. A piece of the Chain of Lakes? Check. Great restaurants? That’s, like, five checks.

Everything that you want in a Southwest Minneapolis neighborhood, you’ll find in Lynnhurst.

Best trail

Minnehaha Creek

CreekWebThe trail that follows Minnehaha Creek through South and Southwest Minneapolis is, one could argue, the best segment of the Grand Rounds.

Yes, there are the lakes and the Mississippi River gorge, and those are wonderful, too, but Minnehaha Creek is different. It has terrain: dips and climbs and S-turns that transport you far away from Minneapolis’ pancake-flat grid. And it has Minnehaha Falls and Sea Salt Eatery at one end, so there’s that, too.

Best park

Lynnhurst Park
1345 E. Minnehaha Parkway

Lynnhurst Park is one of those neighborhood parks that has it all: skating and hockey rinks in the winter, a wading pool, playground, tennis and basketball courts and just about every type of ballfield for the rest of the year. So what makes it the “best”?

Well, it is a link between Lake Harriet and Minnehaha Creek, but more importantly it gets used. A lot. If those tennis courts are ever empty it’s either: A, dark; B, raining (hard); or, C, February.

Best coffee shop

Dunn Brothers Coffee
Various locations

Before third-wave coffee swamped Minneapolis, depositing artisanal coffee shops on quiet neighborhood corners like so much light-roasted flotsam on a beach, there was Dunn Brothers Coffee.

Three decades after two brothers named Dunn opened a coffee shop in St. Paul, Dunn Brothers is still serving excellent coffee that’s good, in large part, because it’s roasted right there in the shop. Trends in coffee come and go every few years, but Dunn Brothers has stood the test of time.

Best bakery

Patisserie 46
4552 Grand Ave. S.


Best in Southwest? Best in Minnesota barely does justice to Patisserie 46 and baker-owner John Kraus who, in 2015, led the U.S. team to the bronze in the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie.

Translation: Kraus is one of the best bakers in the world. You walk into his shop and see all these delicate, perfect pastries under glass and think to yourself, “I can’t believe I’m going to eat something that looks this amazing,” and then you do and it’s unbelievably delicious. He’s that good, and we’re lucky to have him.

Best breakfast & vegetarian restaurant

French Meadow Bakery & Cafe
2610 Lyndale Ave. S.

Now celebrating a 30-year anniversary, French Meadow is the original vegetarian place in town, with an organic bakery founded at a time when the owner couldn’t find additive-free alternatives anywhere else.

Two organic gardens next to the restaurant feed herbs, tomatoes, rhubarb and greens into the kitchen.

French Meadow has expanded to open a wine bar and a second location in St. Paul, and the Lyndale menu remains a dependable place to find inventive vegetarian dishes. Current options include rosemary potato flatbread; tofu scramble with organic hash browns and vegan sausage; and the vegan tempeh Reuben, served with sauerkraut, firecracker slaw, daiya cheddar and tomato-soy aioli on organic sourdough rye.

Best Thai

Amazing Thailand
3024 Hennepin Ave. S.

The Great Uptown Thai Restaurant Shakeup began in late 2015 with the closing of Chiang Mai Thai. Then came word came that the owners of Roat Osha planned to move four blocks south into Chiang Mai’s old Calhoun Square space, sparking speculation about the future their other restaurant, Tum Rup Thai, located just a block away.

In the midst of it all, Amazing Thailand quietly and consistently did its thing. That thing includes great Thai food, a killer happy hour and a cozy patio that is one of Uptown’s hidden gems.

Best Pizza

Lake Harriet Pizza
5009 Penn Ave. S.

Since 1979, Lake Harriet Pizza has served pizza with its own sauce blend and real cheese. The family-owned venue offers pesto garlic toast, buffalo chicken wings and pizza toppings like smoked pepperoni, feta, kraut and sun dried tomatoes. Coupons are posted on their website. Pizzas are available for delivery, takeout or dining at the restaurant’s outdoor patio.

Best Italian

Broders’ Pasta Bar & Cucina Italiana
Pasta Bar: 5000 Penn Ave. S., 925-9202
Cucina Italiana: 2308 W. 50th St., 925-3113


Broders’ remains a family enterprise at 50th & Penn. The boys who played with pizza dough as kids are now selecting wines and running the kitchen, while their mother Molly oversees it all and mentors other small business owners.

Tom and Molly Broder opened their restaurant in the mid-80s with plans to make fresh pasta and focus on authentic Italian cooking with artisan ingredients. Guests can order antipasto and wine at the Pasta Bar patio, making the wait for a table as enjoyable as the dinner inside. The Cucina Italiana across the street remains a go-to spot for meals in a pinch.

Best Vietnamese

3450 Lyndale Ave. S.

For the scoop on Vo’s, we asked Claire Harley, a regular who visits almost every week. She recommends the egg rolls, the beef pho with “amazing” broth, Vietnamese chicken curry with coconut milk and steamed rice, and the com suon nuong (barbecued pork).

A list of 15 lunch specials are priced at $6.50 or less, including the Vietnamese banh mi and egg roll, and the Surly is on special every day.

Best Neighborhood Restaurant

George and The Dragon
813 W. 50th St.

Burgers are big sellers at George and The Dragon, but a couple of other menu favorites have earned a following. One is the bacon and onion dip, a “perfect example of decadence” featured on the show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Another is the Asian Hangover, a dish that co-owner Stacy Navarro made for her husband Fred on Father’s Day in 2011. The couple figured if they ever opened a restaurant, this would have to be on the menu. The spiced pork shoulder is braised up to four hours until it falls apart, and it’s served with Jasmine rice, garlic green beans and a fried egg.

“It’s truly one of the things people come here for,” Fred said.

Incredibly low staff turnover is another sign of good vibes at the restaurant — Fred said 70 percent of staff have stayed since the beginning four years ago.

“The people we have here are great, it’s very much a family atmosphere,” he said.

Best Dessert

Sebastian Joe’s
Linden Hills: 4321 Upton Ave. S., 926-7916
Lowry Hill: 1007 Franklin Ave. S., 870-0065


Sebastian Joe’s recently scooped the flavor Nicollet Avenue Pothole at former mayor R.T. Rybak’s book release party. Originally created for the Kingfield neighborhood, it’s chocolate ice cream with salt, toffee acting as gravel and fudge symbolizing the tar.

A new flavor this season is the black cherry truffle: black cherry ice cream sprinkled with dime-sized cups of black cherries (sort of like peanut butter cups, only with cherry juice).

Watch for the shop to swap out its regular vanilla for South Minneapolis vanilla flecked with vanilla bean. They’re also bringing back Loco Coco, strawberry ice cream with cayenne-toasted coconut.

They’ve been in business since the early 80s, and the brothers behind the shop are always trying something new. They adapted production to provide kosher ice cream scoops in 2010, and they’re currently giving the Sebastian Joe’s brand a makeover. Their new website going live this month will allow customers to check the current flavors at each store.

Best Mexican

La Fresca
4750 Grand Ave. S.

With its tucked-away neighborhood locale, the patio, the sangria and nouveau Mexican cuisine, La Fresca invites guests to “pretend you are on vacation, if just for one night.”

Restaurateur Hector Ruiz grew up south of Mexico City, where his mother ran a small restaurant out of their home. His cooking incorporates French influences he absorbed while apprenticing for a master chef in Paris.

The house-made guacamole features roasted tomatillo sauce, and the empanadas include roasted duck, caramelized onion, sweet tomato & chia sauce and chipotle aioli. The weekend brunch menu runs until 2 p.m., with dishes like roasted corn pancakes served with agave crema, orange syrup, roasted potatoes and fried eggs.

Best Sushi

3758 Nicollet Ave. S.

It’s generally agreed that hot dogs are a fine addition to this sushi bar’s menu, which includes the salmon and avocado roll (featured on the happy hour menu, it’s easily the most popular) and the Battera, a cured mackerel pressed sushi.

“As far as we know we are still the only place in the Twin Cities that has pressed sushi,” said owner Sam Peterson. “The Suzuki pressed sushi has a slight sweetness to it from the ponzu sauce and the Sake pressed sushi has a nice tartness to it from the lemon.”

The menu also features house-made miso soup; bowls of hot ramen; and dogs that come with fixings like shishito peppers, red ginger or chopped egg with a side of Japanese potato salad.

Don’t forget the late-night happy hour from 10 p.m.-12 a.m. or the Monday special: A bowl of ramen and a pint of beer for $13.

Best Wine Bar

Terzo Vino Bar
2221 W. 50th St.

Terzo has made a name of itself, even among the Broder family’s other Italian outposts, for its lush wine list and crave-worthy dishes.

For $8-12 for most wines by the glass, Terzo offers one of the cheapest tastes of Italy thanks to its expansive cellar of wines and knowledgeable staff, who can guide newcomers through the country’s wine-producing regions — no flight or gondola necessary.

Terzo has also gradually built out its food menu from smalls plates to a full-fledged, multi-course tasting menu featuring seafood, house-made pasta and more. And for quick service, check out the porchetta window for a number of crave-worthy sandwiches.

Best Bar

Pat’s Tap
3510 Nicollet Ave. S.

The promise of skee-ball gets many in the door at Pat’s Tap, but a consistently impressive list of craft beers and a constantly rotating list of creative burger specials have caused them to stay. The hip hangout spot, another concept from Minneapolis restaurateur Kim Bartmann, is now a mainstay on what was once an under-utilized corner in Kingfield. If a skee-ball game and a new beer don’t get diners to stay at this gastropub, the “party boobytrap” (happy hour) eats like cheese curds, mussels and fried pickled cauliflower surely will.

Best Salon

HAUS Salon
4240 Nicollet Ave. S.

Kingfield’s HAUS Salon has elevated new hairdos since first opening in 2011, garnering local and national acclaim for hairstyles and its spa services. Founders Jessica Reipke and Charlie Brackney, a quick riser in the local salon industry, offer a complete array of services, from cuts and colors to blowouts, hair therapy and much more. The Nicollet Avenue salon has since expanded with an even larger North Loop location, meshing well with all that is modern and chic in the city’s hippest ‘hood, not to mention adding services like body waxing, massage and facials.

Best Spa

Tula Spa
323 W. 48th St.


This Tangletown-based spa, named after a Sanskrit word meaning balanced, aims to rejuvenate with its “beautifully balanced” approach to massage therapy and skin treatments. Tula Spa offers massages, from quick 30-minute sessions for busy schedules to those with specialized additions like oil remedies, aromatherapy and detoxifying qualities. With skincare, Tula has something for everyone, with services targeting guys, new moms and the “organic goddess” in you. If you need massage and skincare services for an event or simply want a staycation, Tula Spa also has a travel options corporate meetings, entertainers and more.

Best Gift Shop

821 50th St. W., 821-9315
1009 W. Franklin, 872-0880

Each visit to Patina awards several tough decisions: Should I buy this stress-relieving coloring book? Or this Minnesota-themed pillow? How about any number of cute thank-you cards?

The boutique has been a local business success story since founders and locals Rick Haase and Christine Ward opened the gift store’s flagship location in south Minneapolis back in 1993. Patina, which has since expanded to seven boutiques across the Twin Cities metro, features a wide, but highly curated selection of gifts, from the latest styles of home décor to trendy jewelry, stationary and seasonal items.

Best Museum

Minneapolis Institute of Art
2400 3rd Ave. S.

The Minneapolis Institute of Art is one of the city’s most popular art destinations, and it’s one of the largest, both in terms of size and influence. Rebranding as Mia last year, the museum has also managed to constantly bring in new audiences through its popular Third Thursdays, its teen-centric Rated T @ Mia events and, most recently, through a series of new digital initiatives, including its mobile app Journeys and the My Mia feature on its website. On top of rotating exhibits, the museum’s collection continues to grow with nearly 90,000 items that span six continents and represent 20,000 years of art history. It’s hard to believe admission is free.

Best Record Store

Electric Fetus
2000 4th Ave. S.

Generations have flocked to this nearly 50-year-old record shop for its welcoming atmosphere and extensive, yet unpretentious selection. The Electric Fetus is home to both serious record collectors looking for rare finds and young music fans looking to find the latest new music. More than just a shop, the Electric Fetus also hosts plenty of free in-store performances and signings, along with popular events like on Record Store Day. The store also offers a unique range of gifts whether you’re musically minded or not, from incense and candles to an assortment of novelties and its own merchandise.

Best Art Gallery

Gallery 360
3011 W. 50th St.


Since first opening its doors 16 years ago, Gallery 360 has made a name for itself hosting “art of every degree” while nestled between the independent boutiques at 50th & Xerxes. The charming contemporary retail gallery boasts regular exhibitions from local and national artists featuring painting, sculpture, photography and jewelry. For shoppers flocking to the area, owner Mary Beck also stages multimedia window installations for art shows from the sidewalk and offers a selection of contemporary art jewelry and locally designed fashion. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Thursday and 12-5 p.m. on Sunday.

Best garden supply store

Tangletown Gardens
5353 Nicollet Ave. S.

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you will be awestruck when visiting Tangletown Gardens. It’s a gorgeous green oasis on Nicollet. The garden center has thousands of plants — annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, heirloom vegetables and much more. The business also offers landscape services if you’re looking for expert advice for your garden. Scott Endres and Dean Engelmann, University of Minnesota Horticulture alumni, started Tangletown Gardens 12 years ago. If you need a bite to eat after your visit, check out their restaurant Wise Acre Eatery across the street.

Best home furnishings

319 W. 48th St.

Araya Jensen founded Willful: Goods with Intention after a career in interior design. It got its start as a curated web shop of handmade home goods — mostly wooden spoons, bowls and other small vessels. It has since grown to include a line of several modern and elegant home goods in playful colors. Willful also sells very unique hand carved wooden necklaces. The Minneapolis showroom in Tangletown showcases its lovely products.

Best book store

Magers & Quinn Booksellers
3038 Hennepin Ave. S.

Magers and Quinn is an Uptown treasure. It is one of the largest independent bookstores in the Midwest. Denny Magers moved the bookstore to Uptown in 1994 after operating it under the name All Books near the University of Minnesota.

It would be easy to spend a day browsing the store’s collection, which includes thousands of current releases and rare and collectible books.

The bookstore also regularly hosts readings from authors, including many local writers.

The website also has book lists curated by Magers and Quinn staff if you need help finding a good read.

Best theater

Bryant Lake Bowl Theater
810 W. Lake St.

The Bryant Lake Bowl Theater in Lyn-Lake has an eclectic mix of entertainment — everything from comedy to dance classes. A sampling of upcoming performances include “Father!,” featuring local storytellers discussing fatherhood on Father’s Day June 19; “Rock of Love: A Readers’ Theater Presentation,” inspired by rock star Bret Michaels’ VH1 reality series June 21; and “Kids Class! with Miss Torrie,” a music class for children taught by Torrie Rinehart on June 25.

Best antiques

Loft Antiques
3022 W. 50th St.

Antique lovers are bound to find something at Loft Antiques, a 4,000-square-foot store packed with old gems. The collection includes Mid-Century Modern furniture, glassware, pottery, jewelry and vintage fabrics, among other things.

Best bike shop

Tangletown Bike Shop
322 W. 48th St.

The bike shop lost its namesake earlier this year when owner Charlie Siftar passed away suddenly. Siftar opened his beloved bike shop in 2013 and left behind a career as an engineer and salesman to pursue his passion. Shop co-manager Mike O’Leary told Southwest Journal columnist Jim Walsh earlier this year that Siftar was a mentor. He also said he plans to keep the shop open to honor his legacy.

“I can safely say that a big reason I am the person I am today is because of him,” he said. “He showed me what it was to reach out to the community and spend his time doing things for everybody else. It’s going to be sad that he’s not going to be here anymore.”

The shop sells a wide range of bikes, has rentals available and also provides tune-up packages.

Best yoga studio

One Yoga Studio
721 W. 26th St.

One Yoga in Uptown is a nonprofit studio with the mission of making yoga more accessible. Through its outreach program, it has matched yoga teachers with people experiencing serious illnesses, addiction and trauma, among other things. The studio encourages donations to help cover its expenses and outreach program. A sampling of its partners include the women’s prison in Shakopee, St. Stephen’s Human Services and Project for Pride in Living.

The studio offers classes in a wide variety of yoga styles, including Mysore, Hatha, Vinyasa, restorative, Kundalini, Ashtanga and Yin, among others.

Best grocery store

Uptown Market & Wine Shop, 2440 Hennepin Ave. 377-3742
Lyndale Market, 5327 Lyndale Ave. S., 5327 Lyndale Ave. S. 822-2935

Woodbury-based Kowalski’s has two location in southwest Minneapolis — one in Uptown and another in the Tangletown neighborhood.

Jim and Mary Kowalski got their start in the grocery business in the mid-1980s when they purchased Red Owl stores on Grand Avenue in St. Paul and White Bear Lake. In 2000 they built their first Kowalski’s market from the ground up — designing it to look like a European village with a glass-walled bakery oven, three restaurants within the store, a gift shop, meeting area and JUUT Salonspa.

The chain now has 10 locations throughout the Twin Cities.

Best hardware store

Settergren Ace Hardware
5405 Penn Ave. S., 922-6055
2813 W. 43rd St., 920-2813

Settergren Ace Harware has locations on Penn Avenue and in Linden Hills. The store bills itself as more than a hardware store. The website notes: “we are your friendly, old fashioned, greet-you-at-the-door, high service, customer-first, get-what-you-need, knowledgeable sales staffed, neighborhood hardware store, and this is how we’ve been for over a hundred years.”

Visitors will also get a chance to meet the store dog Jager.