We hope your seatbelts are buckled, ’cause our good pal Erin Meister is flying us to Minneapolis, Minnesota, land of beautiful lakes, greasy spoons, groovy buildings, and damn serious coffee. Meister would know, too. Her new book, New York City Coffee: A Caffeinated History, hit shelves this summer, and is part of the American Palate series from The History Press. After more than a dozen years in NYC, Meister moved to Minneapolis in 2015 for a content specialist job at Cafe Imports.
“I’ve been in coffee for 17 years, as a barista, store manager, wholesale account rep, co-director of coffee, educator, and green sales before my current role,” she explains. “In my other life, I’m a journalist and freelance writer who’s contributed about coffee and not-coffee to The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Saveur, Serious Eats, and Food & Wine’s FWx site, among other places. I’m a Virgo, my favorite color is very deep red, and I love Martha Stewart.”
Could you ask for a better guide in Minneapolis? No, you could not. Here, Meister shares photos from a few of her favorite places…
“Outside the twisting modern facade of the fantastic Walker Art Center is this anchor of the sculpture garden, a whimsical enormous cherry that doubles as a spouting fountain, balanced atop a my-spoon-is-too-big bridge. The work, by husband-and-wife artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, was completed in 1988 and is a local landmark. In the summer, the Walker’s sculpture garden also plays host to a multi-artist designed mini golf course, just a putt or two away from the 1,200-pound cherry.”
“Beer, bowling, burgers, and great local bands—okay, also movies, theater, comedy, and a pretty respectable pulled-pork and gouda mac and cheese—combine to make the Bryant-Lake Bowl a one-stop shop for fun whether it’s a first date, a birthday, or just a random Tuesday. Roll a few frames on the all-wood antique lanes while sipping a selection of craft and local taps; order some of the way-better-than-bowling-alley chow (the charred kale salad with apples and goat cheese is a fave); swing into the theater for some improv or a documentary screening; and take advantage of daily specials and deals like Cheap Date Mondays—a couple can score two mains, a bottle of wine, and one game on the lanes for just $28.”
“Opened in 1937 and operated by the Central Minnesota Vegetable Growers Association, the Minneapolis Farmers Market—the largest of its kind in the Midwest—hosts about 230 farmers, vendors, and craftspeople as well as the odd tap dancer, banjo player, or harmonica master. It goes on all week long from April till November—though weekends are really where it’s at. Professional chefs and home cooks alike stock up on perfectly ripe seasonal produce from farmers all over Minnesota, whose stalls overflow with fresh-cut flowers, fire-engine-red strawberries, crusty sourdough, traditional Hmong herbs and vegetables, organic corn and tomatoes, Minnesota-native apple varieties, and an incredible array of herbs, greens, and you-name-it produce. Of course you can’t miss the mini donuts or the mega cinnamon rolls slathered with icing, but for my money, the flowers are where it’s at, with beautiful bunches starting at just $5.”
“Since I work in coffee myself, no round-up would be complete without a few of my favorite spots to get wired. The Lake Street location of Dogwood Coffee shares space with a fantastic home-goods and design store called Forage Modern Workshop, and I love to stroll around looking at hand-crafted ceramics while sipping a shot of the roaster’s Neon Espresso. Share a table with a fellow laptop-lounger at the Spyhouse Coffee Roasters in the Northeast neighborhood, where you can watch the 2016 U.S. Roaster Championship winner, Tony Querio, hard at work churning out delicious beans. (Don’t miss whatever specialty drink is on the menu—these baristas know what’s good.) Anelace Coffee is just starting to roast its own coffee—including this perfect single-origin espresso from Rwanda, on the bar now—and features it alongside Counter Culture and Ruby offerings. The Bachelor Farmer Cafe is another stunner, offering a house blend from Dogwood and a roasting roster of guest roasters (say that three times fast), whose coffee pairs perfectly with the house-made toasts, pastries, and killer sandwiches.”
“She turned the world on with her smile, and she’s probably Mpls’s most recognizable character both on TV and in bronze form: Mary Tyler Moore’s lovably quirky local newswoman, Mary Richards. A statue of Mary tossing her hat has been on the opening-credits spot on Nicollet Mall since 2002, and is as much of a local icon as the cherry spoon or Foshay tower. Mary’s temporarily on display at the visitor center, Meet Minneapolis, while the Mall undergoes renovation, but she’s gonna make it after all—there are plans to return Mare as soon as construction is complete this fall.”
“It’s easy to imagine Minnesota as being all lutefisk and pilsner beer, but there is a great diversity of food here thanks in large part to the great diversity of the population: Somali, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Thai, and Burmese culture is celebrated throughout the Twin Cities at restaurants, markets, and festivals. Red Sea Restaurant, the first Ethiopian eatery to open in Minneapolis in 1990, not only dishes out some of the best shiro and tibs in the Cities, it also offers a way to work off the extra injera at an adjacent nightclub, where dancehall or old-school hip-hop cranks well into the night.”
“Winter is harsh here, but once it thaws, Minneapolis is actually kind of like paradise—at least if you’re the outdoorsy type. Ranked the country’s most active city by Forbes and Shape, Minneapolitans spend the warmer (read: basically anything over freezing) months running, biking, sailing, and hammocking. (Lots and lots of hammocking.) Minneapolis has more than 220 miles of bike trails and a public bike-share program—it’s not the bike-friendliest city for nothing—as well as neighborhood car-free bike days in summer, and lots of organized rides and races. The chain of lakes is my personal favorite to ride around: I love whizzing past wildflowers, people watching the runners and dog-walkers, and gaping open-mouthed when a bald eagle flies over (and they routinely do).”
“It ain’t Gotham City, but the Art Deco–peppered skyline of Minneapolis is a sight to behold of its own. Against a great blue Northern sky, the Minne Apple cuts a welcome profile with its mix of modern glass buildings, funky old 1920s towers, and the sleek ship-like shape of the Vikings’ brand-new U.S. Bank Stadium. Though it’s been something of a struggle for local shops to survive as business and tourism moves out of downtown and foot traffic takes to the Skyways—above-ground tunnels that connect a network of downtown buildings to protect pedestrians from the brutal winter—the redesign of Nicollet Mall, an influx of new protected bike lanes, and improved service on the Metro should help rejuvenate this very accessible city center—and hopefully attract more small, independently owned shops and restaurants to the area.”
“Clogging arteries since 1939, the Band Box is a classic greasy spoon surviving by grit and gristle in my own neighborhood, Elliot Park. A compact little diner, it’s the last standing of a local 15-location chain that was designed with half a nod to the original White Castle. It is so beloved that neighbors rallied to raise $5,000 to buy new griddles and essentially save the restaurant in 2015. You know it’s the right kind of place when a ‘Baby Burger’ is a quarter-pounder (standard burgers weigh in at 1/3 lb.). If you’re feeling continental, order Ze French Lil’ Buddy for breakfast: an egg, cheese, and sausage sandwich on French toast.”
And that, friends, concludes Meister’s Minneapolis takeover. To keep up with her adventures, follow @justmeister on the ‘gram and pick up her new book, New York City Coffee: A Caffeinated History, available now on History Press.