Love Letter to the Twin Cities

Red Amaryllis, Como Park Conservatory, Sunken Garden

The Mall of America is not the alpha and the omega of the Twin Cities. Besides the “royalty” of the State Fair carved into butter busts, the TC has some spectacular art. Who would know that these Midwestern cities offer shelter to some world-class sights? And some pretty good food. I thought that I might take you on an artsy, foodie field trip! It’s my wistful little love letter to the Twin Cities, now that I’m on the West Coast. Join me!

Detail of “The Algerian,” by Cordier

Cherry Spoonbridge, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden


Whether you find yourself in Minneapolis on a sunny day, or a snowy day, you will enjoy Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Walk beyond the tall, evergreen borders to become surrounded by art work and restful, peaceful plantings. It’s an oasis that seems beautifully matched to city life. When I visited it for the first time, I didn’t know anything about it. I won’t tell you anything more so that you can have that sense of discovery for yourself. Once there, you might as well walk across the street and enjoy the Walker Art Center’s free admission on Thursday evenings if you are a fan of contemporary art.

To see what people are creating and buying at this very moment, visiting galleries/stores in Uptown is a good bet. The tiny yet potent Moxie is a hair salon during the day, becoming a gallery at night. It’s actually rather striking to see paintings alongside huge mirrors, swivel chairs, and shampoo bottles. Across the street, Soo Vac acts as a community incubator for local artists. Next door, the very tiny Robot Love is perfect for a dose of pop design sensibility. Back across town, in downtown Minneapolis, the Rosalux gallery exhibits local art in the very lovely brick building of the Loft.

Despite my preference for modern art, my favorite museum in the Twin Cities, hands down, is the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Matchless, utterly matchless. (And admission is free, everyday!) It is world-class. It is large, occupying an entire city block. But there is no “fat” in it. It is no mere warehouse. Somehow, the curators are telling the story of humanity, binding each of us with each piece, each room, and every wall. And of course, the works are simply gorgeous!!! The Algerian, a detail of which is shown immediately above, belongs to its ancient art collection.

Also linking us to the past (albeit, less distant – the 1900s) in downtown Saint Paul is the Cathedral of Saint Paul. One of my friends told me that she did not need to take a photograph of the interior of the cathedral because it would be an image that would stay with her. I agree – there is no picture that could capture even the slightest semblance to the experience of walking within it. The stained glass, sculptures, and other aspects of the interior conspire to give you a sense of awe. I’ve included an image of the exterior, taken through a friend’s car window on a snowy day to give you a glimpse that Saint Paulites enjoy everyday. (An observant reader notes that this is a photo of…the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis!!! I’ve never been inside, but, I’m sure it’s potentially fabulous!!! And I’m working on finding a photo of the cathedral itself.) Update: 06.22.08 – someone has been kind enough to let me use his nighttime photo of the cathedral. Enjoy!

Basilica of Saint Mary’s, Minneapolis

Cathedral of Saint Paul, Saint Paul

Cathedral of Saint Paul, Saint Paul

North of downtown Saint Paul lies the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park, to the side of the immensely serene Como Lake. It is entirely charming to walk through the conservatory’s various chambers to view tropical plants or perhaps flowering bulbs, when the snow remains packed tightly on the land outside. People picnic within the conservatory, taking advantage of its beauty, definitely enhancing their meals. I took the picture of the red amaryllis at the very beginning of this post in the Sunken Garden, (shown immediately below) sometime last spring.

Sunken Garden in the Como Park Conservatory





Usually, I try to focus my posts on recipes and making food myself, in order to learn about cooking as well as attempting to cultivate the frugality habit. But sometimes it is quite nice to go someplace, eat, and not have to wash dishes afterwards! These are some of the places I shared meals with friends.

Takeout box from Pizza Luce

Punch Salad, of Punch Pizza (including prosciutto and walnuts)

Toscano Pizza, at Punch Pizza

Firstly, it’s difficult to survive modern life without pizza. Give into it!!! One of my west coast friends was shocked when she tried a slice of the Garlic Mashed Potato pizza at Pizza Luce in Uptown – like nothing she had ever had, and it was so very good. Amazing texture. Bright, tart feta with tender…potatoes? Potatoes that contribute an earthiness that rounds off the brightness of the feta and the fresh, chopped tomatoes. Simply amazing. I succumbed to the temptation of their free delivery policy many times. Their pizzas are unconventional, and so delicious. Should you happen to be around Xerxes and 50th, very west of downtown Minneapolis, Michaelangelo’s Masterpizza’s is a lovely, lovely, teeny and tiny place to eat with friends. The pizza sauce is unapologetically thick, laden with good, mellow cheeses, on an exquisitely textured dough. It is one of those neighborhood joints that deserves to become a destination. The much-praised Punch Pizza earns its accolades by being the absolute, unequivocal best.

Al’s Breakfast of Minneapolis

Sausage Patty, Eggs, Light Rye Toast, homemade strawberry rhubarb jam, at Highland Park Cafe & Bakery

I love love love breakfast. I’ve expressed my passion for breakfast in previous posts regarding Minnesotan breakfast eateries: Jay’s Cafe, in the Saint Anthony neighborhood of Saint Paul, South Asian Foods in Fridley; my beloved Highland Park Cafe and Bakery in the Highland Park neighborhood of Saint Paul, and Al’s Breakfast, in Minneapolis’s Dinkytown (James Beard awardee). Besides breakfast, I found a few other places I enjoyed. Cecil’s Deli, in the heart of Highland Park, is quite the institution. I love their Reubens. They also make a lovely, lovely hammentashen in the bakery. One day a friend and I were trying to decide between two flavors of the hammentashen – we just ended up getting both. They were large, and simply fabulous. Kramarczuk’s, a Minneapolis landmark, serves a brilliant holubet. I always appreciated the curries at Chiang Mai Thai, nestled in the heart of Minneapolis’s Uptown. All of the food looked really good, but, I stuck to ordering curry because it was relatively inexpensive, and because, well, I LOVE curry!!! In Saint Paul’s Frogtown, Saigon Cafe serves a mean, mean banh mi (ranging from the budget-friendly $2.50 to $3.50). They make their own mayonnaise, pate, and and bake their own excellent bread for this amazing sandwich. And when I asked for extra pickled carrots and daikon – why, by golly, they gave it to me!!!

Reuben on Dark Rye, Cecil’s Delicatessen, Highland Park, Saint Paul

Parking Lot of Kramarczuk’s Delicatessen, in Minneapolis

Miscellaneously Fabulous:

Next to the Mississippi, the Riverview Theatre is a lovely place to see a movie (for only $3.00!!) in a gorgeous, gorgeous 1950’s setting. They also have the best, best popcorn and thoughtfully provide Cheddar powder to enhance it! The Willey House, in Minneapolis, is a teensy Frank Lloyd Wright example. The official website lets you tour virtually, as does a fan site.

Lobby of the Riverview Theatre, Minneapolis

Hot Buttered Popcorn, in the Riverview Theatre

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this mini-tour of the Twin Cities. I shall be going on blog-cation for a few weeks, but will try to stay on top of any comments and emails you might send my way. (You must know bloggers LIVE for comment luv.) I always thought the 46th Light Rail Station in Minneapolis was really pretty, and made commuting such a pleasure. And so I’ll close this post with that. Thanks for coming along!!!

46th Street Light Rail Station, Minneapolis

*********************** Rolling Credits ***********************

Here are the fellow flickr-ites who kindly permitted my use of their works:

All others – Red Amaryllis at the Como Conservatory (first photo), the Pizza Luce takeout box, Punch Salad at Punch Pizza,Toscano Pizza at Punch Pizza, Reuben on Dark Rye from Cecil’s Deli, Fountain at the Como Conservatory, the Saint Paul Cathedral, and the 46th Avenue Light Rail Station in Minneapolis – by yours truly!


11 responses to “Love Letter to the Twin Cities

  1. Since most of my knowledge of the Twin Cities comes from Garrison Keillor, I was thrilled to take your tour. Beautiful job.

  2. thank you thank you Lillian!!! So glad you enjoyed it :-)!

  3. I regret that I did not stay in TC longer last time.
    It is such well written piece that I am tempting to visit again.
    Good Job!

  4. Thank you! I think they are terribly underappreciated and underestimated cities.

  5. Wow, this is a really good travel review!

  6. Thank you thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I really had the best memories of those places.

  7. Excellent review. Now take it down! NOW! I command you! I don’t want others to find out the secret beauty of the city and overrun us. 🙂

  8. Yes, they are very steathily gorgeous! So glad you enjoyed it :-)!

  9. i’m down with the
    “cherry spoonbridge”. your photo has great colors, the with the red cherry between the rows of lime-green trees

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