Best of Southwest

We asked Journal readers to pick their favorite places to wander, eat, shop and hang out in Southwest. This was a tough task since the neighborhoods in Journal land are blessed with so many fabulous lakes, parks, restaurants and retailers. Thanks to all the readers who voted and shared their top picks with us. If you haven’t stumbled across any of these places yet, we hope this inspires you to plan a visit.

// Trail //

Minnehaha Parkway

Lake Harriet to Minnehaha Park

A walk through the wilderness can be had in the city, almost.

The trails along Minnehaha Parkway offer a great mix of urban and natural beauty, snaking along a babbling creek lined with parkland and some of the city’s most valuable properties. Minnehaha Parkway is a place to bird watch, people watch and house watch all at the same time.  

The parkway snakes from south of Lake Harriet east to Minnehaha Park.
// Park //

Lyndale Park Rose Garden

4124 Roseway Road

It has 3,000 plants in 100 varieties and it’s the second oldest public rose garden in the country, according to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

It’s a site to behold this time of year, as the roses start blooming and the visitors start pouring in. The garden stays in bloom until early October.

Hours are 8:30 a.m.–10 p.m. daily.
// Neighborhood //

Linden Hills

Linden Hills is a little village in a big city.

Perhaps the neighborhood’s best attribute is its business node at 43rd Street and Upton Avenue, an eclectic collection of stores in the heart of the community — isolated from freeways and other major transportation arteries.

Neighborhood residents often say they’re self-sustainable. They have a co-op grocery store, a variety of restaurants, boutiques and other shops, Lake Calhoun to the north, Lake Harriet to the east, a ton of parkland and some of the most valuable real estate in the city.

Linden Hills also has a long history of working toward environmental sustainability through efforts such as composting and using alternative energy sources.
// Lake //


West 43rd Street and East Lake Harriet Parkway

What’s not to like about Lake Harriet? It’s 344 acres of water surrounded by 67 acres of land that includes about three miles of trails, a park and a band shell.

Whether you’re looking to swim, kayak, windsurf, walk, bike, skate or take in a music concert, there’s no shortage of things to do on or around the lake.

Despite all this, the lake seems to be less jam-packed than its neighbor Calhoun to the north, which only adds to its appeal.

// Bakery //

Wuollet Bakery

2447 Hennepin Avenue
3608 W. 50th St.

Doughnuts, cookies, bread, wedding cakes — the staff at Wuollet makes all these tasty treats and more.

The family-owned bakery chain has been a Twin Cities institution for more than half a century and that’s saying something given the dwindling number of locally owned corner bakeries these days.

Ray Wuollet opened his first bakery in 1944 with a $1,000 loan. Today, his name is on two bakeries in Minneapolis, one in Robbinsdale, another in St. Paul and a fifth in Wayzata.
// Mexican restaurant //

Pancho Villa

2539 Nicollet Ave. S.

What is it that makes Pancho Villa stand out among all the other dining options on Eat Street?

Is it the two-for-one house margaritas? The karaoke nights when singers stand at their tables and belt out norteño anthems? The street-side seating on Nicollet Avenue?

It’s all three, certainly, plus the very tasty and fresh Mexican food to be found on the restaurant’s extensive menu. (Here’s a hint: The seafood tostadas are cheap, delicious and perfect paired with Tecate on a hot day.)
// Coffee shop //

Java Jacks Coffee Café

818 W. 46th St.

There’s no shortage of excellent coffee shops in Southwest, but Java Jacks in East Harriet topped them all.

Summer is the best time to visit Java Jack’s, as the shop has a vast outdoor patio and patrons inside can still enjoy the weather through large open garage-style doors.

Aside from a variety of coffee, Java Jack’s offers sandwiches, baked goods and free WiFi. The shop also books live music acts occasionally.


// Breakfast //

The Zumbro Café

2803 Upton Ave. S.

Fresh, local, organic ingredients are the key to this family-run restaurant’s breakfast creations.

The staff prides itself on healthful meals, made from scratch in-house.

With offerings ranging from Eggs Benedict to a tofu scramble, there’s a breakfast for everyone at Zumbro.

The restaurant even makes its own granola.


// American Bistro //

Café Maude

5411 Penn Ave. S.

Coziness cannot be underestimated in the dining experience.

Draped in crimson upholstery and awash in velvety lighting, Café Maude has plenty of it. It’s a kind of stylish, sophisticated coziness that has proven irresistible to Southwest residents.

There’s the seasonal menu, too, of course. It starts with enticing small plates that pair well with the martinis and cocktails on the inventive drink menu.

The prune-infused gin in the Montgomery Burns? Trust us, it’s good.


// Pizza //

Punch Neapolitan Pizza

3226 W. Lake Street

Quality Naples-style pizza served fresh and fast is what Punch does.

A talented staff, fresh ingredients and an 800-degree wood-burning oven are at the heart of the process. Somehow the pies manage to emerge from the fire almost as soon as they go in without being underdone or burnt to a crisp. The pizzas end up with a unique texture that’s best enjoyed with a fork and knife.

Pizza names like Borgata, Palermo, Puttanesca and Toscano remind patrons they’re not eating at the average pizza joint.


// Vietnamese restaurant //


2719 Nicollet Ave. S.

The food gods have blessed the Twin Cities with an abundance of amazing Vietnamese restaurants.

Foodies will quibble over which has the clearest pho broth, the crustiest banh mi or the most succulent grilled pork chop. The great thing about Quang is it prepares so many of these dishes so well.

Quang’s weekend specials pack in the brunch crowd, particularly its famous sea bass soup with its perfectly tender, buttery chunks of fish flesh. Try the crabmeat soup, a funky, fishy take on tomato soup that requires no grilled cheese sandwich to enjoy.


// Vegetarian food //

French Meadow Bakery and Café

2610 Lyndale Ave. S.

French Meadow is synonymous with fresh, local and organic, not to mention a fair amount of gluten-free products. Unlike at some restaurants, the highlights of the menu are the vegetarian options: the tempeh Reuben, vegan black bean chili, the Healing Plate. Add to that blueberry corn pancakes or the high-energy breakfast, and it’s hard to go wrong at French Meadow any time of day.


// Thai restaurant //

Chiang Mai Thai

3001 Hennepin Ave. S.

There are so many Thai restaurants in Uptown you can barely walk down the street without getting red curry sauce on your skinny jeans.

OK, so the jokes are getting old. Apparently, Twin Cities diners don’t think the same of Chiang Mai Thai, given its many appearances on “best of” lists over the years.

Trendy Thai restaurants sometimes seem interchangeable, but Chiang Mai Thai stands out with an extensive wine list, with many bottles priced between $20 and $30.


// Middle Eastern restaurant //

The Falafel King

701 W. Lake St.

It’s a bold name, but the King deserves it. Go here to find the best gyros and falafels in town; just don’t stop there. We recommend the shawirma, kabobs or stuffed grape leaves as the next things to try.


// Fine dining and wine bar //


1432 W. 31st St.

The warm, orange glow emanating from Lucia’s large windows transmits a sense of elegance to passersby.

It’s impossible not to peek in at the diners. They are often well dressed, typically sharing a bottle of wine and almost always emanating their own satisfied glow.

It’s not just the wine or the lighting that gives them that look. It’s also the expertly prepared, seasonal dishes on a menu that changes weekly.


// Sushi //

Fuji Ya

600 W. Lake St.  

That low-slung glass box on West Lake Street with the rebar planted out front? You’d be forgiven for not knowing it’s the oldest Japanese restaurant in
the state.

The hip Lyn-Lake storefront is the latest incarnation of the restaurant first opened 50 years ago on the Downtown riverfront. In 1981, Fuji Ya introduced the sushi bar to Minnesota.

Much of the crowd gobbling sashimi at Fuji Ya barely remembers those dark days before you could pick up a spicy tuna roll at the grocery store. Times have changed, but Fuji Ya still draws them in.


// Italian restaurant //


5000 Penn Ave. S.

There almost is always a discouragingly long wait for a table at Broders’ Pasta Bar. And yet people pack themselves into the long, narrow hallway outside the dining room night after night.

That says it all about Broder’s, really. Minnesotans are willing to shrink their invisible bubble of privacy, order a glass of wine and rub shoulders with a bunch of strangers for 45 back-straining minutes just to get a bowl of house-made pasta dressed with top-quality ingredients.

And if they aren’t, they get takeout from Broders’ Cucina Italiana right across the street. What a world.


// Dessert //

Sebastian Joe’s

1007 W. Franklin Ave., 870-0065
4321 Upton Ave. S., 926-7916

A trip to Boston’s Little Italy inspired this ice cream shop, which opened in 1986 and has since become the source for ice cream in Southwest. It has Italian roots, but don’t expect gelato. Joe’s options are all real cream, with 15 percent butterfat. If you haven’t yet, try the raspberry chocolate chip.


// French restaurant //

Pierre’s Bistro

2221 W. 50th St.

Coq au vin, paté de campagne, escargots swimming in garlic butter — classic French dishes all, and all to be found on the menu at Pierre’s Bistro.

By most accounts, the small neighborhood bistro in Lynnhurst successfully replicates the atmosphere of a small neighborhood bistro in France. That’s in part because Pierre’s isn’t just a name; the owner, Pierre, hails from Dijon, in the east of that country.

Word is, they have one of the best French onion soups in town. For some people, that’s reason enough to check out a restaurant.


// Bar //

The Herkimer Pub and Brewery

2922 Lyndale Ave. S.

We’d be remiss to not first mention the sweet-potato fries, so we’ll start there — they’re one of the best complements to beer in Southwest. Of course, they’re not all the Herkimer offers, as the place is officially called a brewpub. That means in-house-produced beers from a German-trained brewmaster, constantly shifting selections and often intriguing, surprising flavors. The happy hour doesn’t hurt, either: 3–6 p.m. every day.


// Indian restaurant //

Namaste Café

2512 Hennepin Ave.

The simple, just-another-house exterior definitely doesn’t say “Come inside for familiar Indian cuisine.” No, Namaste doesn’t live up to the familiar; it exceeds it. A totally bright and welcoming interior, a vegan-friendly menu, fantastic chai tea and $9 lunch box specials all combine for a winning experience.


// Grocery store //

The Wedge Community Co-op

2105 Lyndale Ave. S.

The co-op of co-ops has come far from its days in the basement of an apartment building. It now is much more than a Southwest institution — it attracts shoppers from all over the city. (Recent sighting: Northeast City Council Member Diane Hofstede walking out with a load of groceries.) The Wedge is a leader in what it does, offering a wide array of fresh foods and fantastic produce.


// Record Store //

Electric Fetus

2000 4th Ave. S.

People love the Electric Fetus. Maybe it’s the eccentric name; maybe it’s the random gifts collection, including ridiculous action figures and a small but hip collection of clothes. It’s probably more the meeting-place atmosphere of this 41-year-old record store, which still stocks a large amount of LPs just as digital music is taking over the market. (Not to be outdone, the Fetus does also sell files online.) The store has the hard-to-find stuff, and an extremely knowledgeable staff to boot. Try stumping them at music trivia.


// Bookstore //

Wild Rumpus

2720 West 43rd St.

I still like to enter what my daughter named “The Tiny Door Bookstore” through the child-size door set into the “normal” door — despite that it makes me feel a bit silly. Little details like live chickens, polydactyl cats, a goldfish bowl bathroom mirror and a “haunted” house, for example, make kids (and some child-like adults) feel as if they have entered a world that’s just for them. A testament to this magical place: this “big” kid still loves to go to Wild Rumpus, even though her daughter is all grown up. Wild Rumpus is a great place to habituate, even if you don’t have a child. But if you do — well, all the better.


// Men’s clothing store //


3105 Hennepin Ave S.

If you are familiar with the meaning of the legal term, “in toto” (as in, “he bought the whole thing, hook, line and sinker”) you will understand why the shop is named as such. What wouldn’t you want to buy there? With lines for men including etro, theory, tse and citizens of humanity (to name a few), there is no reason to shop anywhere else, according to our readers. This swanky destination stand-alone has been a fixture on Hennepin Avenue for over a decade (maybe even two). I remember when Janet Jackson came to town — was it for her Rhythm Nation tour? — and bought out their t-shirts. Free parking behind the store, too!


// Women’s clothing store //

Birch Clothing

2309 West 50th St.

My spouse discovered Birch Clothing first. He was very excited to watch my face as I opened my gifts — not just because the clothing he gave me was all made under fair labor conditions with sustainable fabrics and materials; but also because his shopping experience was so pleasurable, he just had to coo about it. The customer service, he said, was phenomenal (I’ve since discovered he was absolutely right); prices well within his range; and selection terrific. Offerings have since been expanded to include stuff for him, too, as well as baby/toddler, gifts, jewelry and accessories.


// Vintage clothing store //

Via’s Clothing

2408 Hennepin Ave. S.

Victoria (Via) Vento opened Via’s Vintage in 1985 in downtown Minneapolis, about where the Target Center now stands, then moved to her iconic residence on Hennepin Ave. Might you remember when Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly graced the side of the building? The heydays of Via’s were the result of a life-long love of all things old, representing clothing from the late 1800s to about 1970. While Via passed in 2003 (very young — only 44!), her shop has lived on to delight — and is in a newer location just across the street, offering “2,000 square feet of fun.” You won’t just find exceptional vintage wear, but also the accessories to match: eyeglasses, shoes, purses, ties, hats and lingerie.


// Gallery //

Gallery 360

3011 W. 50th St.

The tagline for the art gallery is “art in every degree.” Gallery owner Merry Beck and her staff are on a mission to showcase a variety of artwork — everything from traditional art mediums (painting, photography and sculpture) to more offbeat shows featuring local fashion designers and multimedia window installations. Exhibitions rotate every six weeks.


// Spa //


2947 Hennepin Ave. S.

The Uptown Juut is the starting point for the metro’s most relaxing business’ up-and-coming stylists, color specialists, estheticians and massage therapists. The two-story operation combines retail and salon services on a spacious main floor, complete with huge windows along the Lake & Hennepin intersection. Because students do much of the work, clients can get services at a reduced rate.


// Salon //

The Chair

3554 Bryant Avenue South

Owners Michael Frear and Tim Cronin offer up glisteningly polished floors, walls decked with lush, soothing tones and best of all, Aveda products, a wealth of knowledge — and skill with the scissors and comb. Readers overwhelmingly gave The Chair their “thumbs up” for Best Southwest Salon. Be sure to visit this little gem of a salon soon.


// Antiques //

Hunt & Gather

4944 Xerxes Ave. S.

Hunt & Gather is not your typical antique shop. It has 25 stylized booths with all kinds of items. No “stale junk,” according to the website, with ever changing merchandise. If you want something unique and quirky, this is the place to go.


// Hardware store //

Settergren’s Ace Hardware

5405 Penn Ave. S.

Settergren’s is a great antidote to giant big box hardware stores that can intimidate even the most seasoned home improvement gurus with their massive aisles. This is a friendly place to head to when you need some tools to finish off a project or need some tips on how to fix something. It’s dog friendly, too.


// Bike shop //

Penn Cycle

710 W. Lake St.

If you don’t have a bike yet, get with it. Seriously. Everyone is riding these days. And if Journal readers have it right, a good place to go to find a bike and outfit it with snazzy accessories is Penn Cycle & Fitness on Lake Street. For more than 50 years, the company has been one of the most popular suppliers of bicycles and fitness equipment in the Twin Cities. It is one of the largest bicycle dealers in America and has seven retail locations in the metro.


// Garden store //

Tangletown Gardens

5353 Nicollet Ave S

I discovered Tangletown Gardens when the 156 was rerouted down Nicollet due to Diamond Lake Road bridge construction. Now, there’s a favorable outcome to the construction mess! With more than 3,000 perennial varieties, an incredible annual and heirloom vegetable selection, as well as shrubs, trees and indoor plants, Tangletown Gardens offers true inspiration, along with landscape design services, custom potting, delivery and workshops, too. Open year ’round, Tangletown Gardens grows its own plants locally, using the most sustainable practices. When they say they offer “the absolute urban garden center experience,” they’re not fooling.


// Gift shop //


In Uptown/Kenwood: 1009 W. Franklin Ave.; 872-0880;
In South Minneapolis: 5001 Bryant Ave. S; 821-9315

Whenever I need a gift, be it holiday, birthday, graduation, baby shower or hostess gift — my first thought is Patina. With a bright, responsive staff and out-of-the-ordinary gifts and indulgences, I never leave Patina empty handed. I have bought everything from yodeling pickles to the most exquisite holiday cards I’ve ever seen to Ice Bat Uglydolls to wind chimes, wallets and wine accessories. Stock is ever changing, which only serves to make me want to visit often. Best gift shop around, bar none.


// Home furnishings //

Harriann Upholstery

3537 W. 44th St.

Gee, you always loved that sofa. It was so comfortable and structurally sound, but the cotton damask was looking a little worse for wear: frayed/outdated/stained. So sad, set it by the curb and hope someone will spirit it away in the dark of night. Now, off to spend way too much money on a new piece. Let’s rewind. How about revitalizing that sofa? Since 1929, Harriann Upholstery has been repairing, recovering and refinishing “tired” looking furniture. With free delivery and pick up, as well as handy online estimates (just email a photo), you could keep that favorite sofa indefinitely.


// Museum //

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

2400 3rd Ave. S.

In a town all about the arts, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is a gold mine. The seed for the museum was planted in 1883 when 25 Minneapolis residents founded the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts. The original museum opened in 1915. In its early days, it had 800 works of art. The collection has since grown to include around 80,000 objects. The MIA has seven curatorial areas, including: Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; Architecture, Design, Decorative Arts, Craft and Sculpture; Asian Art; Paintings and Modern Sculpture; Photographs; Prints and Drawings; and Textiles.


// Theater //


1320 Lagoon Ave.

The five-screen Lagoon Cinema showcases a variety of independent and foreign language films. The theater’s namesake is the original Lagoon Theatre, which burned down in the 1930s and was replaced by the Uptown Theatre on Hennepin.


// Yoga //

CorePower Yoga

2930 Emerson Ave. S.

CorePower Yoga, a company based in Denver, Colo., has experienced rapid growth since entering the Twin Cities market in 2005. It first opened a studio on Washington Avenue in downtown Minneapolis and has since opened locations in Uptown, Eden Prairie, Edina, St. Louis Park, St. Paul and the Stadium Village area of the University of Minnesota campus.