Best use of celebrity clientele to end the Juicy Lucy debate. When the leader of the free world, President Obama, decided to swing by Matt's Bar for a Juicy Lucy this summer, it effectively ended the "who has the better Juicy Lucy" war in the Twin Cities once and for all. But if the mere fact that Barack Obama approves Matt's message still doesn't convince you, maybe you'll believe the Timberwolves' new dynamic duo of 19-year-olds, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins, who stopped by and approved it as well. mattsbar.com
Best Minnesota maker on Instagram. The architect turned clothing and textile designer's Instagram account (@mwmmpls) captivates us with every shot of beautifully dyed fabric and rich knits against the backdrop of her spare white studio.
Best form of groupthink. If you can get everyone to agree on one thing during your festive night out, let it be the punch bowl at Marvel Bar. For anywhere from $50 to $200, you'll be able to sip to your heart's content, won't have to flag down a server for every errant refill, and have your mass quantity of high-end elixir poised right at your table.
Best new Sunday tradition. We still may not be able to buy wine on Sunday, but we've taken a step closer to modern times with recent legal changes that now allow breweries to keep taprooms open and sell growlers on Sunday. It's the right move to support a growing industry that bolsters our economy, and helps make Vikings games a bit more palatable.
TACOS EL PRIMO
Best gas station tacos. Sometimes the best traditional taco stands are the most unlikely ones. Nowhere is that more evident than Tacos El Primo at the CK Food & Fuel in Kingfield, which griddles perfectly cooked, just-greasy-enough brain, lengua (tongue), cabeza (head), and all sorts of regular-meat tacos—all from right next to a rack of T-shirts of Larry Fitzgerald, the Arizona Cardinals wide receiver who grew up nearby. 4751 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls.
THE TRAVAIL CALENDAR
Best chef-made calendar that, ironically, might make you lose your appetite. Available exclusively to people who contributed to Travail's Kickstarter campaign, the outlandish 2014 Sexy Chef Calendar—which includes visual gems such as two chefs recreating the Dirty Dancing water lift, the entire restaurant being ravaged by a zombie apocalypse, and Mike Brown as a bearskin rug—just may be the reason Travail destroyed its original $75K goal by raising $255,669 in just 30 days.
Best excuse to wear a disposable thong. Stripping down to a disposable thong and hairnet might not sound appealing (if it does, we can direct you to a different publication). But when it's in the name of a gorgeous, natural-looking faux glow that lasts about 10 days and is administered by a team of sweet, down-to-earth gals who have seen it all, well, consider yourself golden. theglowlounge.com
BEST LOCAL EXPANSIONS
Several independent boutiques successfully added doors around the Twin Cities, proving that there is room to grow and reach new shoppers without leaving town. Among the standouts: Grethen House North Loop, Parc Boutique Edina, Brightwater Clothing & Gear in Edina, MINQ at 50th & France and downtown Minneapolis, CorAzoN in St. Paul, Hammer Made at the airport, and Primp—all over the place, from Excelsior to Woodbury.
Best boozeless happy hour trend. If you can handle having tiny needles inserted all over your body, then surely you can handle doing so in the presence of strangers. That's the spirit behind Spot Spa's Tuesday night group acupuncture. It's an opportunity to adjust your chi or alleviate whatever ails you—all for only $25 a session. Seasoned professionals and soft music included. spotspas.com
Best clothing designer that may or may not be your neighbor. Local designer Lisa Hackwith continues to refine her minimalist aesthetic and take on more challenging designs, which her fans grab as soon as they become available in small batches online or in stores—showing that it is possible to thrive while keeping operations small. (At least for now!) hackwithdesignhouse.com
Best green thumb. Owner Jackie Reisenauer can make a sprig of green leaves look exquisite, a bouquet of white flowers dynamic and unique. Munster Rose is the next generation of floral design —from weddings to styling, their modern aesthetic is catching fire. Follow along on Instagram (@munsterrose) for daily inspiration. munsterrose.com
Best $100 million makeover. The best new performance venue in town is also one of the oldest. After undergoing a three-plus-yar, $88.2 million makeover, the University of Minnesota's beleaguered Northrop Auditorium was transformed into a state-of-the-art concert and performance hall with amazing acoustics, excellent sightlines, and—equally important—more bathrooms. Trimmed to 2,700 seats from 4,847, the new Northrop looks and sounds nothing like the old Northrop, which is a very good thing indeed. northrop.umn.edu
Best reason to get out of bed on Sunday in winter. Think of Hola Arepa as a cozy haven where you can lumber around in your UGGS and parka. The tropical environ is filled with fried chicken on cachapas, chilaquiles, and Wild Rice Horchata & Rum: a brandied wild rice horchata drink that you will begin to consider life sustaining. holaarepa.com
MALL OF AMERICA
Best raising of the roof. It’s taken retailers a long, long time to realize that natural light is not a shopping deterrent—in fact, people feel better inside a space when they can see out. But how do you shed light on a dreary three-story enclosed mall corridor? You build up. Mall of America did a clever thing on the depressingly dark west side of the mall: They built a glass ceiling above the existing one, then broke through to let the light in without ever disrupting operations. What a day-brightener!
BEST PLACES TO RUB ELBOWS WITH A CELEBRITY
More often than not you'll spot hometown boy Josh Hartnett nursing a drink at Linden Hills resto Tilia.
Detroit Tigers' pitcher Justin Verlander recently dined with girlfriend Kate Upton at Seven, and Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson was arrested there.
The Galleria, where the wives of failed third-string quarterbacks—we're looking at you, Samantha Ponder—indulge in retail therapy.
The Grand Hotel is so used to hosting celebs—think Derek Jeter, Lauren Graham, and Tiger Woods—it rolls out velvet ropes for fans.
Pre- and post-game, you're likely to see Wild players on a bro date at lululemon, picking up the latest underwear and yoga pants.
If you hang around long enough you're bound to spot Nate Berkus, and walk away with a few must-haves for your family room.
BEST STUFF WE'RE PRETTY GOOD AT...
- Arts Funding. Our pockets are deep according to Accenture. Minneapolis came in at number one in arts funding.
- Health. Breathe easy knowing that Forbes named our twin towns the second healthiest in America.
- Kindness. Minnesota Nice must be a real thing because Men's Health named Minneapolis first and St. Paul fourth as the friendliest cities in America.
- Being Cool. The Huffington Post called Minneapolis one of the top five cities to keep on your radar.
- Facial Hair. The Opinion Research Company called Minneapolis the sixth friendliest city toward facial hair. Paul Bunyan would be proud.
- Biking. We are often lauded for our cycling prowess, so it came as no surprise when Bicycling Magazine ranked Minneapolis as the third best bike city.
BEST STUFF WE'RE PRETTY BAD AT...
- January. Weather.com's list of America's 20 Coldest Major Cities stated the obvious by declaring the Twin Cities top of the heap.
- Walking. Our pedometers must need a tune-up since Walk Score ranked Minneapolis the 58th best city to live car-free.
- Winter. Travel + Leisure called the Twin Cities the 34th best city for winter travel—looks like we've got some room for improvement.
- Biking. We're looking at you, St. Paul. Contrary to our twin town's ranking at number three, Bicycling Magazine put the other side of the river at number 40.
Best repurposing of a retired grain bin. If you're going to have a brewery and taproom all in one room, you might as well maximize the space and make it circular. And since you're making it circular, you might as well just go ahead and use a 1,300-square-foot grain bin as your structure. At least, that's what the husband and wife owners of Bang Brewing in St. Paul thought when they conceived their uniquely cozy space. bangbrewing.com
Best tap kombucha in the Minneapolis skyway. In an effort to get their live-yeast wunder-drink into more hands, Minneapolis tea shop Verdant branded their kombucha "Prohibition" and started doing crazy things like putting a kegerator at skyway whole foods shop Simpls. simpls.com
89.3 THE CURRENT
Best reason to listen to the radio. Minnesota Public Radio's upstart radio venture 89.3 The Current celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, proving that good music curated with taste and intelligence still has a place in this world. There isn't much of it on the radio these days, but The Current continues to battle the forces of mediocrity.
Best April Fool's joke in March. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts' More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness technically opened in March, but it contained the best art gag in recent memory. As part of the exhibit, the museum announced that it had discovered behind a wall of plaster the hidden and perfectly preserved office of the MIA's first modern art curator, Barton Kestle, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The office—complete with a vintage Underwood typewriter, Kodak film canisters, and an old overcoat—was actually the work of artist Mark Dion, who specializes in fictitious "period rooms" that look like the real thing, but aren't. Barton Kestle never existed, it turns out, but many an MIA visitor is still convinced he did. artsmia.org
Best show on earth. When you walk into the newly constructed Rookery and Travail Kitchen, it's not unlike entering the big top. Whether you take a seat in the a la carte Rookery, nab a bar stool for a little modern drinkery, or tuck in for the full tasting menu on the Travail side, you'll be treated to mariachi bands, chefs on stilts, perhaps a concert cellist, and plate after plate of food that is equally titillating and thrilling.
Best way to cheaply impress a date. The obvious trend in restaurants the last couple years has been small plates. The less obvious one: perfection of the budget steak. With the $14 flat iron at Burch Steak, the $17 feather steak at Libertine, the $18 sirloin at Erte, the $23 sirloin at Red Stag, and the $22 steak frites at Le Town Talk, there has never been a better time in the Twin Cities for the discriminating cheapskate carnivore.
Best public-facing private hot tub. Love it or hate it, you know you secretly wish youwere in the luxury apartment complex's hot tub suspended above Lake Street. thewalkway.com
Best music to our ears. For most of the year, the sounds coming out of the Minnesota Orchestra were all bad. While its new $50 million performance hall sat empty, the Orchestra slogged through a contentious 15-month lockout. Then the good news came in waves: The conflict ended, president and CEO Michael Henson resigned, conductor Osmo Vänskä returned as artistic director, the orchestra won a Grammy, and more than $13 million in anonymous donations was reported, including a single $10 million "leadership" gift. Thus ended the longest orchestra lockout in U.S. history, which was music to everyone's ears.
Best next-gen power-elite meeting spot. Closing a deal on your next app and sealing the details on the collaboration you're pitching with a collective of artists and beer makers requires something important: pie. Get to Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen, where you'll find great coffee, DIY cred (they Kickstarted!), and killer gluten-free cupcakes to celebrate. copperhenkitchen.com
Best St. Paul posterboy. Having grown up in St. Paul, mere blocks from The Lexington, which will be reborn under his deftly cheffy hands, Jack Riebel reps the city well. While waiting for the Lex, Riebel also amped up good ol' St. Paul bar Half Time Rec with a kicky Irish menu and some of the best fish 'n' chips in the metro. What's next? halftimerec.com
Hopefully this rookie quarterback turns out to be the hero Vikings fans deserve.
This new president of the Minnesota Film & TV Board just might be the breath of fresh air we need to lure Hollywood back to town.
Anyone who can keep Dave Ryan on his toes as his KDWB morning co-host earns our props. Guys want to date her; girls want to shop with her.
The second baseman became the sixth player in Twins history to join the 20/20 club—20 homers and 20 stolen bases in a season.
With her beauty products available at anthropologie.com, she’s busy bringing dewy skin to the masses.
Whenever we think of this NYC chef turned local purveyor of new hotspot Spoon and Stable, our stomachs growl. Loudly.
BEST EATS: VEGGIES
Best food trend that is also mother-approved. No longer confined to a medley sidekick role for protein, veggies have become the star of the show for many chefs. These jewels of the local landscape are inspiring tasting menus and amazing dishes that deliver a depth of flavor that satisfies even the carnivores among us.
Landon Schoenefeld found a brighter side to his pork-heavy menu and instituted a fresh veggie-centric menu every Monday and Sunday. 119 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., haute-dish.com
The seasonal vegetables in a buttery bagna cauda sauce are further amped by the addition of herb ash, which chef Jim Christiansen makes weekly by charring and pulverizing local veg. 2700 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., heydayeats.com
The legendary tasting menu has a vegetable counterpart that is as stunning, delicious, and well executed as the standard. 510 Groveland Ave., Mpls., labellevie.us
Making healthy eating easier for the grab 'n' go set, this resto puts kale in a breakfast sandwich and cauliflower in the chicken salad. 2939 Girard Ave. S., Mpls., agra-culture.com
Even in the meat den that is Butcher & the Boar, the Buffalo-sauced Brussels are a top seller.
Sunchokes are often thought of as artichokes, but they're more like a root vegetable with a grassy flavor. They do particularly well in a puree, as in The Third Bird's sunchoke veloute soup.
Best up-and-comer. We’re not quite ready to call it the next North Loop, but Glenwood Avenue, just west of downtown Minneapolis, is being dubbed the “creative corridor.” KNOCK Inc marketing agency and eyebobs recently moved steps from The Firm’s still-sparkly workout studio. While Washburn Center for Children just opened a sleek 55,000-square-foot headquarters nearby. And across the street from International Market Square, keep your eye on 811 Glenwood, a storage building that is being renovated by First & First. Last month, Spyhouse Coffee tested the waters with a pop-up coffee house—a sure sign of cool things to come.
Best new kid on the block. The first national brand to set up shop in the North Loop is one that has received widespread attention for bringing manufacturing back to Detroit. That’s where Shinola makes its watches, leather goods, and bicycles—all hot commodities these days. 228 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-338-5493, shinola.com
Best survival plan for the next polar vortex. Bundle to the max and plan the shortest route to St. Paul’s Little Szechuan. Once safely inside, order the hot pot and happily dunk meats and veg into simmering broth in spice-ladened and beguiling combinations until your soul is fortified. 422 University Ave. W., St Paul, 651-222-1333, littleszechuan.com
Best chef fetish. All the chefs are in a race to make the best fried chicken. You’ll find it in different irresistible incarnations at The Rabbit Hole, on every table in whole-chicken buckets at Lyn65, and on summer Fridays at Doug Flicker’s Sandcastle. Now you’ll also find it at Revival, the fried-chicken spot from the gang at Corner Table. More than a trend, it’s a crispy and crunchy tsunami a cracklin’ through the state.
Best use of old wood. Recycling hits its most elegant form when barrels used to make various whiskies, rums, what have you, are used by local brewers to age beers, as they do in the special cask cellar of Town Hall. Now with the distillery boom, we have people aging bourbon in sherry casks, and rum in tequila casks—where will this delicious madness end? 1430 Washington Ave. S., Mpls., 612-339-8696, townhallbrewery.com
Best live show from a band who was big in the ’80s. In a year that saw lauded sets from Hüsker Dü’s erstwhile former frontman Bob Mould (twice), the Pixies, Prince, and even Paul McCartney, it was The Replacements at Midway Stadium that truly triumphed. After opening act The Hold Steady set the proverbial stage with local-hewn grit, Paul Westerberg and Co.’s first Twin Cities show in more than 20 years proved worth the wait and reminded the world just how tremendous their Hayday truly was.
Best way to look like Jennifer Aniston without getting “The Rachel.” The man who spends his days running his fingers through Jennifer Aniston’s luscious locks recently joined forces with Donna Pohlad, owner of dpHUE in Edina, to up our color ante. Pohlad hired Hollywood hair color expert Justin Anderson as creative director, which means the land of natural blondes just got a whole lot brighter. 4944 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-922-0049, dphue.com
FIVE WATT COFFEE
Best way to bring local cocktail culture to mornings without getting fired. Why have we only been using bitters in cocktails when clearly aromatics make coffee so much better? Thank Lee Carter, Five Watt’s co-owner, for leading us to this new brilliant horizon about iced coffee: black walnut bitters make coffee taste deeper, grapefruit bitters make it brighter, and each bitters drink makes coffee taste totally new. 3745 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-259-7519, fivewattcoffee.com
BAUHAUS BREW LABS
Best repurposing of a car impound facility. The factory and foundry building turned car storage building in Northeast was in pretty shabby shape when the Schwandt and Haines families first thought of making it their brewery space last year. But thanks to inspired branding, a lofty revamp, painted signage by sign-man-of-the-moment Dan Madsen (of Dusty's Signs), and lest we forget, super tasty German-inspired suds, Bauhaus Brew Labs is pretty much the Wunderstuff now. 1315 NE Tyler St., Mpls., 612-276-6911, bauhausbrewlabs.com
Best moment of vintage brilliance. What does a sommelier drink on a night off? The answer, according to Bill Summerville’s wine list at The Third Bird is everything unique and nothing common. Personal and quirky, if more wine lists were this brave, Minnesota would be a greater wine state. 1612 Harmon Place, Mpls., 612-767-9495, thethirdbirdmpls.com
Best old-school breakfast done for new-school eaters. American diner food got a bad rap when lazy folk started using pre-packaged junk. Cook St. Paul is a trip back to the good old days with homemade cinnamon rolls, local farm eggs, real ham steaks—the works. You’ll learn why everyone was happy in those old Norman Rockwell paintings: The food was that good. 1124 Payne Ave., St. Paul, 651-756-1787, cookstp.com
Best empire rebuilder. Name a former underutilized historic building that’s been reimagined into an architectural novel (Aria, Icehouse, Vertical Endeavors)—odds are that Peter Remes and his company First & First are behind the facelift.
THE LIBRARY BAR
Best gin-sipping/vintage-smoking-jacket-wearing experience. The Library Bar in the basement of Marin is the sexiest quiet library-like place to drink in the cities, and it’s positively encyclopedic when it comes to gin: dozens of varieties, showcased in an ever-changing array of Negronis, as well as enough fresh and new martinis to make the most jaded martini hunter sigh. Chad Larson, bar manager and gin fanatic, is Minnesota’s chief librarian of gin. 901 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-252-7000, marinrestaurant.com
ANDREW WIGGINS + ANTHONY BENNETT + THAD YOUNG > KEVIN LOVE
Best trade return ever (we hope). Timberwolves co-owner/general manager/head coach Flip Saunders was in a pinch this summer when the team’s whiney superstar Kevin Love took away the Wolves’ trade leverage by making it clear he wanted outta Minny. So when LeBron James signed with Cleveland and declared he wanted to win, Saunders was quick to offer them the player that could help King James do just that. And what he got in return was what you might call a king’s ransom: Andrew Wiggins, this year’s number one pick and the most touted high school player since LeBron, last year’s number one pick Anthony Bennett, and Philadelphia 76ers superstar Thaddeus Young. Not too shabby for a team that’s never actually had the number one pick.
Best no parking zone. Because parking cars along curbs is so 2013, the City of Minneapolis started to put temporary parks in some of these spots instead. “Parklets” (a.k.a. functioning extensions of the sidewalk) are business-sponsored public spaces made from modular decking installed on the street and topped with a perimeter of planters surrounding café tables and chairs. The first Parklets are in Northeast Minneapolis and on south Nicollet with more planned for spring 2015.
HARMAR BARNES & NOBLE
Best place to lament the decline of books. Now that the Barnes & Noble bookstore in St. Paul’s Highland Village has closed, there are only a few left in the Twin Cities. The best Barnes & Noble is in Roseville’s HarMar shopping mall, where the coffee café is located smack dab in the middle of all that merch. There is no better place to lament the decline of books in our culture, or to get up and do something about it. 2100 Snelling Ave. N., Roseville, 651-639-9256, barnesandnoble.com
Best remake of a stereotype we can’t shake. Never mind our bitterness that the TV remake of the Coen brothers’ 1996 flick Fargo isn’t actually filmed in Minnesota (or that it’s named after a town in North Dakota despite being set in Bemidji), the first season premiered in April and racked up nearly 30 accolades, including two wins in the Emmy’s Outstanding Miniseries category. FX renewed the drama for a second season, dontcha know.
EAST ST. PAUL
Best new food ’hood. A decade ago, the most common words to describe Payne Avenue were not flattering: eyesore, blighted, and neglected. That was then. But now, a throng of entrepreneurs has turned the historic main drag of East St. Paul into an exciting food destination. To the north is Polly’s Coffee Cove, where they roast coffee and make homemade ice cream. A little south of there is Tongue in Cheek, a contemporary gastro-pub with scallop crudo, chili-basted pork belly, and bourbon cream pies. Next comes La Loma Tamales, with a $7 chilaquiles plate to keep you full all day, and then Cook St. Paul, the scratch-diner sensation. The southern anchor, food-wise, of the best new food street in Minnesota is Ward 6, with its gorgeous french fries, rye whisky–spiked milkshakes, and hot brunch beignets. Payne Avenue used to be known for the shady nightclub the Payne Reliever—anybody up for new street banners calling it the Hunger Reliever?
Best comeback kid. Years of debate, construction, and languishing businesses long past their prime finally gave way this year to a re-energized Lake Street in Wayzata, with new stores appealing to younger shoppers, new concept Lunds & Byerly’s Kitchen providing boaters (and the rest of us) a fresh option in causal dining, and of course the new restaurants. The rooftop at 6Smith is a place to be seen (even for city dwellers) while the wait for a table at CōV topped three hours some summer nights—and no one seemed to mind. Expect more Wayzata openings in 2015.
Best reason to go downtown during the day. For those who’ve been locked up in a Walmart these past couple of years, let us make the declaration once again: The North Loop of Minneapolis—that area just east of North Washington Avenue that used to be a forlorn part of the Warehouse District—is on fire. Some of the most high-design stores (MartinPatrick 3, The Foundry Home Goods, Askov Finlayson), salons (HAUS), and buzziest bars and restaurants (Gavin Kaysen’s Spoon and Stable, The Bachelor Farmer) call this ’hood home, and there is much more on the way in 2015 as businesses clamor to get in.
Best treatment you’ve never heard of. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Nor is it easy to describe. “Rolfing improves body alignment and structural balance through working the connective tissue network,” says Emily Savage. The soft-spoken practitioner at Fusion LifeSpa has become an injury whisperer of sorts, healing people’s chronic aches and pains when everything else has failed. The experience is akin to the best massage you’ve ever gotten, minus the fluff. Runners take note: Savage has a soft spot for fixing feet. 18142 Minnetonka Blvd., Wayzata, 952-345-3335, fusionlifespa.com
More Best of 2014
Alright, already. Here’s the good stuff we know you’re dying to know: our list of the best stuff to taste, try, buy, and imbibe.