Photos by Eliesa Johnson and Caitlin Abrams
The Mill Northeast in Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Mill Northeast
By the time you pass Otter’s Saloon (land of cheap beers and karaoke 365 days a year) driving north on Central, modern Minneapolis is just a shimmering collection of spires in your rearview mirror. The road ahead, despite a host of trendy newcomers (e.g., Spyhouse NE, Fair State Brewing Co-Op, Tattersall Distilling, Bauhaus Brew Labs), is one where downtown’s manifest destiny has never crept. And that’s the charm. It’s a street made for classics like throwback movie house the Heights Theater and 14-stool greasy spoon Ideal Diner, which has been slinging cakes and eggs since 1949. But it’s also an amazing melting pot and home to some of these most interesting hidden gems in the Twin Cities. Here are 10 of our favorites.
From University Ave. SE to 694 in Columbia Heights
El Taco Riendo
Be it the two-handed burritos or tortas the size of your head, Riendo lives up to its under-the-radar hype.
2412 Central Ave. NE, 612-781-3000, eltaco-riendo.com
Sen Yai Sen Lek
Featuring authentically prepared Thai food like street-style rice noodle stir-fry pad kee mao and a daily curry special (not to mention a solid local beer list), what really sets this family-owned spot apart is that it sources the majority of its food from local farms and purveyors.
2422 Central Ave. NE, 612-781-3046, senyai-senlek.com
Open to the public the second Saturday of the month, the 10,000-square-foot LEGO wonderland sells and displays custom-designed LEGO kits with themes like Civil War and WWII.
1620 Central Ave. NE, 612-545-5263, brickmaniatoys.com
Spyhouse NE is most people’s point of reference when it comes to Central Avenue cupping culture, and for good reason: It’s amazing. But so, we must say, is Anelace. Featuring a similarly clean-lined-meets-industrial vibe, what sets Anelace apart is its commitment to a rotating roster of single-origin-sourced coffee roasters.
2402 Central Ave. NE, 612-236-4870, anelacecoffee.com
Holy Land as a brand is nothing new, as its hummus factory’s been filling regional grocery store freezer cases for years, but people tend to forget about its full-service restaurant on Central. It serves a range of Middle Eastern grub from baba ghanouj to kebabs; you really can’t go wrong with the whole wood-fired rotisserie chicken dinner complete with sides for $19.99.
2513 Central Ave. NE, 612-781-2627, holylandbrand.com
One part market, one part eatery, what this Korean spot lacks in looks it makes up for in serving up bibimbap (rice bowl) and khao soi (curry-style noodles) within a stone’s throw of outlandish Korean karaoke CDs.
725 45th Ave. NE, 763-571-2009
Columbia Golf Club
Minneapolis has some of the best urban municipal golf courses in the country, and Columbia is no exception. The par 71, nearly 6,400-yard course has come a long way since it opened as a six-holer in 1919. And with a park footprint of 150 acres, it’s also a solid spot for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
3300 Central Ave. NE, 612-230-6520, minneapolisparks.org/golf/courses/columbia_golf_club
The Mill Northeast
A rarity for Central in that it’s a mixology-centric cocktail bar, The Mill also keeps it real with its fare, like the oh-so-good cheese curds and entrées such as beef roast.
1851 Central Ave. NE, 612-315-2340, themillnortheast.com
Founded in 2010 by a German-born baker looking to recreate the smells and flavors of his Bavarian homeland, Aki’s bakes a different lineup of breads for each day of the week, and it knocks out stuff like pretzels, hard rolls, and streusels daily.
2506 Central Ave. NE, 612-578-7897, akisbreadhaus.com
Jimmy’s Pro Billiards
First and foremost an old-school pool room, Jimmy’s slogan is “22 pool tables, 22 burgers, 22 beers” — and that’s no lie as, to go with all those beers, they griddle burgers ranging from a bleu cheese burger to a Reuben burger.
4040 Central Ave. NE, 763-706-1904