Just north of Downtown, on the outskirts of the Warehouse District, sits Minneapolis's fastest-growing neighborhood, North Loop. It's the place artists, young professionals, and empty nesters want to live, and it's the place creative agencies and sports teams want to work. It's got the fat stack of indie shops, buzzy restaurants, and edgy entertainment. It's even got the requisite dog park. Some say it's the next Brooklyn; we say it's your new favorite place to be. Let us show you around.
For many, North Loop is a revelation, but for some it's the neighborhood that's happened around them.
BY STEVE MARSH
You wouldn't—couldn't?—describe the view from my apartment as conventionally beautiful. It compels different adjectives, like "bleak" or "desolate"—words that are rarely compatible with "beautiful," except maybe in phrases like "a bleak, crater-pocked moonscape." I'm in Minneapolis's North Loop neighborhood, one block from Target Field's center field gate. Since 2008, I've lived on the third floor of the Historic Crane Building, a converted warehouse, and my drafty, old wood-framed windows are oriented 300 degrees north by northwest—I look down the elevated on-ramp to Interstate 94 like I'm looking down a gigantic concrete rifle barrel. If I line up all the yellow streetlights just so, it might be possible to bring St. Cloud into the crosshairs. Maybe Winnipeg.
The entire panorama appears industrial, or at least it was born that way: Panning left from that freeway ramp is the red brick Ford Center, where Model T's were built by hand back in 1914. In the foreground lies a BNSF railway line, where oxidized freight cars screech through the neighborhood every few hours. Looming in the background are the smokestacks of the Hennepin County waste incinerator, belching up a towering plume of condensed water vapor the county insists is safe for insufflation. The steel frame of an office building rises behind that; this building will soon house an enterprise (Be The Match) that matches bone marrow donors with recipients.
Late at night the wind carves its way through this manmade valley, mimicking the ambient sound of an airplane scraping away the top of the stratosphere. It's austere and far from green, but there's something gorgeous about it. I'm in love with my view. It's unique. At three in the morning it's like I'm the last one awake in Minneapolis, looking out on a past everyone else has forgotten.
You know how it feels when an under appreciated song or a record you were lucky enough to stumble upon finally finds a massive audience? Like, how back in college you loved, say, Nick Drake's "Pink Moon"? How you were basically a Nick Drake evangelist, playing it for your friends as often as you could, hoping that everybody would come to love "Pink Moon" just as much as you did? But then "Pink Moon" became the soundtrack for that surprisingly tasteful Volkswagen commercial, and suddenly every bro in a white hat was into the ethereal Nick Drake wisp that you'd discovered? In your quiet moments you realized your resentment was ridiculous, built on feelings of ownership you weren't entitled to in the first place—you were decades late to the sad little Nick Drake party yourself, man—but you couldn't help it.
Sometimes that's how I feel about this place that I look out on every night. The North Loop is the coolest neighborhood in Minneapolis, and now everybody else knows that too. Pink, pink, pink, pink moon. Pink moon gonna get you all.
Overnight, everything changes. By the light of day, the shiny blue and yellow trains of the Northstar Commuter Rail and the Hiawatha Line (now known as the Blue line) become more noticeable than the old freight trains. Bicycles cruise across the Cedar Lake Trail. You can even make out some trees—green—in the distance. There is a bustle around the entrance of the Ford Center, and you know the ad agency guys and the architects who work there now aren't going in to build Model T's.
The activity makes you want to go find a miel at one of the half-dozen options within walking distance. Sure, there is some residual melancholy when your favorite song becomes everybody's favorite song, but that's just me not being a morning person: Progress is progress. And the progress here has been sudden and slick. There is an undeniable upside to reaching what developers and city planners refer to as "a critical mass" here in the North Loop. One of the developers I talked to, Bob Pfefferle of Hines, sounded like a proud parent when he described the neighborhood as being conducive to an "18-hour lifestyle."
Myriad special interests converged to make this possible: The $550 million Twins ballpark opened in 2010, bringing a transit expansion with it—first the Hiawatha light rail extension, followed by the opening of Target Field Station last summer. The condo boom was stymied by a global recession only to become the present-day apartment boom. A smattering of destination dining beachheads like Bar La Grassa (opened in 2009) and The Bachelor Farmer (2011) inspired an aggressively expanding restaurant ecosystem encompassing everything from lobster (Smack Shack) to pizza (Black Sheep) to burgers (Red Cow), all culminating in the opening of the most hyped Minneapolis restaurant in memory (Spoon and Stable). A groundbreaking men's store (MartinPatrick 3) now serves as a fulcrum for a bourgeoning fashion district that's become the envy of established shopping destinations like Edina's 50th & France. We finally landed our grocery store in 2013 (Whole Foods). A boutique hotel is planned for spring 2016, and Webster Elementary for K through sixth will begin classes just across the river next fall. All of these amenities have and/or will make my neighborhood the first in Minnesota where the urban, connected, car-less lifestyle is possible. You can live, work, and eat here, all in one Twin Cities neighborhood, without having to commute from or to anywhere else. The sidewalks are already full of dog walkers, the 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings that snarky old-school bartenders in the neighborhood refer to as "loopers." And soon, just like in Brooklyn or Wicker Park, these dog-walking loopers will transform into loopers with baby strollers.
In this way, the North Loop isn't that special of a case—there are dozens of places like this coming of age in America right now, former post-apocalyptic urban wastelands getting the full revitalization treatment. According to Aaron Renn, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who writes about this phenomenon on urbanophile.com, what's going on in the North Loop is just the local manifestation of a country-wide reurbanization movement. Renn says it's not just the big cities, places like Brooklyn and Chicago and San Francisco, that have benefitted from the suburban migration, but midsized cities, too. "Cleveland, a city that had been shrinking, added 4,000 people to its downtown in the 2000s," he says. "St. Louis added 3,000." The New York Times Census Viewer app shows the North Loop has grown by at least 3,000 people between the last census and 2010s, and the expanded growth since then has been even more obvious (if not yet officially counted).
Renn cautions against reading too much into the numbers, particularly because the media love any opportunity to regurgitate the most powerful marketing concept of the last 1,000 years: People love a story with a millennial generation hook. "Yes, there's been an apartment building boom that's primarily targeted the millennials," he says. "This resurgence is real, but what we've heard in the media is that people are going to abandon the suburbs and move back to the city en masse. That's not going to happen." Of course, Renn says, there are bona fide economic factors driving reurbanization: The earning power of the generation graduating from colontelege was hindered by the last recession, so they're still renting when previous generations would've been setting up shop in a cul de sac already. And this is happening to them at the exact same time as their parents—the baby boomers—are downsizing. Everybody is moving to the city, resulting in a massive demand for rental that the North Loop is capitalizing on, disproportionately to other neighborhoods. But perhaps more salient than the economics here is the cultural motivation, or what I call the "Lena Dunham Effect." Every generation has an avatar, and it turns out Dunham is the millennial generation's Tony Manero or Carrie Bradshaw—she's both the symbol and the inspiration for a mass exodus across bridges and through tunnels.
"If you do turn on the TV," Renn says, "if you go to these sites like CityLab, this kind of glamorous lifestyle is portrayed, and you want to be part of the zeitgeist." Renn thinks the pop culture draw of the city is an even more powerful driver than real estate dynamics. "You want to be part of the cultural movement that's going on," explains Renn, a gen Xer who came of age as a blogger during the dot-com era. "If this was the '70s, you would want to be at the hot disco. You would want to be in your community's version of Studio 54."
The actual numbers are pretty modest. In the North Loop, we're talking about 5,000 people in a city of 400,000. But the marketing narrative—the hippest generation of all time blowing off the white picket fence to make downtown cool again—is both provocative and seductive (and disseminated by special interests with big money). And from inside the belly of the revitalized urban beast, it can feel like a tautological frenzy. On the way to brunch you find yourself thinking, "I've never seen so many people going to brunch."
Loopers gonna brunch, and in 2015, the number of loopers eating fancy eggs at The Freehouse, HauteDish, The Monte Carlo, J.D. Hoyt's, Moose & Sadie's, and The Bachelor Farmer can be as reliable of an economic indicator as anything we have. The city has tried to spur this kind of development before—in the Mill District, in Uptown. This time, reurbanization is part of a larger national trend—it was destined to happen—but it happened here, in my neighborhood.
David Frank, board chairman of the North Loop Association; Greg Walsh and Dana Swindler, co-owners of MartinPatrick 3
So how did the North Loop become the North Loop? The name is a relic that a marketing organization picked off an old streetcar map. David Frank, president of the North Loop neighborhood association, says the association first used "North Loop" 15 years ago when it was seeking official recognition from the city. Frank, a former developer for Schaefer Richardson who now works on transportation issues at City Hall, lives in the 730 Lofts and has been in the neighborhood since 2004. "We moved down here when my daughter was a senior in high school," he says. "She thought it was weird." Eventually, he says, she realized that there's something cool about these old buildings with their converted loading docks and their faded ghostwritten signs. Frank believes the diversity of building stock—new condos, old warehouses, small brick, new timber—is what really sets the North Loop apart. The consummate salesperson, Frank says, "we're competing for as large a share as possible, be it residents or restaurantgoers."
And if there's a throughline between the restaurants and the housing and the workspace, it's the sense of history these buildings hold in their bones. Our thirst for the concept of authenticity has been the salient cultural narrative of the last few years, and whether we're talking the Red Wings on sale at Askov Finlayson or the heirloom tomatoes at the produce stand at Local D'Lish, "authenticity" is often just the latest buzzword for romanticizing the past. We've always romanticized the past, especially if we can live in the scrubbed up, renovated part of the past that's clean and safe and convenient.
More than a century ago, this part of town was the staging area for all the river commerce—timber, flour—the Mississippi would bear. It was so heavily industrial the city paved over Bassett Creek (which still flows below ground) because it was grossing everybody out. Post–World War II, places like C.J. Duffey Paper Company and Brin Glassworks built factories in the neighborhood (Duffey is still here). And then came the long, slow decline of industry in the '70s and '80s. The North Loop became a quilt of scrapyards and old warehouses crammed full of junk. Kevin Hammerbeck has run Kilroys antiques—cool vintage Coke machines, neon signs, and jukeboxes—out of North Second Street for 30 years, with the last 15 years operating out of the building's basement. ("Please don't use the term 'mantiques,'" he begs, after using it to describe his own inventory.) "When I first got here," he says, "the neighborhood was drunks and prostitutes and junk people." And cheap rent, and where there's cheap rent, there are bohemians and artists. In the mid-'90s the artists had unearthed enough band rehearsal space and photography studios to make it seem safe for ad agencies and design shops. Greg Walsh, owner of MartinPatrick 3, opened his first design studio in the Ford Center in 1995, before opening his first storefront on North First in 2001. "Now I hear, you're so lucky to be in the North Loop," he says. "I tell them, you should've seen it 20 years ago!"
In 1991, Peter Kirihara opened Moose & Sadie's on Third Avenue North. "It used to be a smoky, dirty coffee shop," he laughs. Now Moose is a smart, clean café. Kirihara co-owns a mini North Loop empire: a wine bar, Bev's, and a gay nightclub, Jetset, on nearby blocks. The creative class that followed them eventually jump-started the condo boom of the early 2000s and helped to create the neighborhood that exists today.
Jacob Frey is the North Loop's 33-year-old city councilperson—the neighborhood is split between two wards, but the bulk of it is in Frey's Ward 5. Almost more importantly, he's the perfect reurbanization mascot. He's a young, handsome, retired professional distance runner from an artistic East Coast family who was a gay-rights activist before becoming a politician. He won his seat by promising the loopers an elementary school, and when the school opens in the fall he will have delivered on that. Now he's an advocate for the neighborhood becoming something he calls an "innovation district."
"You already have the density of residential," he says, "Now you want the density of science and technology." He tells me the number of patents that are delivered per capita goes up 30 percent with every doubling of employment and residential density. It's a much more impressive metric than my brunch statistic, but I wonder if the North Loop is really destined to become a petite Left Bank crossed with a mini Silicon Valley. I worry that as the density in the neighborhood goes up, counterintuitively, the diversity in the area seems to be trending down. If we're going to have a freewheeling exchange of ideas, don't we need as many different points of view as possible?
The thing that separates the North Loop from the national trend of reurbanization is that our gentrification isn't about large-scale displacement. Before the recent growth, most of the buildings were either industrial workplaces on the decline or just straight-up empty. As Frank, the neighborhood association president, says, the goal of "more neighbors" is filling that vacuum. The developers are still busy turning surface parking lots into new residential buildings, and I believe my fellow loopers are all about becoming closer and closer to more and more people. This isn't a NIMBY problem. But while the few remaining artists left downtown will continue to struggle to hang on in the face of rising rents, Frey does promise that there are mixed-use and lower-income projects on the way. But a healthy downtown needs pockets of strange, and, as Peter Kirihara is noticing at Jetset, that sense of the weird might be disappearing. "I wouldn't say it's a problem, and I don't want to come across like [Jetset's] exclusively a gay bar, but the last night I worked, I turned to the other two bartenders and I was like, OK, are we in a straight bar right now?"
The risk is, the coolest place can suddenly become not the coolest place anymore. And that's no trifling concern—it's too early to tell if the recent Target upheaval will have a noticeable impact on my 'hood, or maybe the Vikings Stadium/Wells Fargo development will give Downtown East the momentum. As Renn says, "neighborhoods that get hot sometimes do crash." Which is to say, while it might be maddening that everybody suddenly fell in love with the song you discovered, it would be way worse if everybody suddenly fell out of love with it at the same time. Right now, development continues to gain steam; it feels like the biggest danger to North Loop's cool factor might be an overwhelming sameness. There has to be a way Minneapolis can figure this out, some way to protect and nurture the diversity—the eccentricity!—that's part of every great urban community. It's something to think about, maybe, during the 3 a.m. solace that comes with staring down 94's concrete rifle barrel, onto the gorgeous former industrial wasteland below.
By day, by night, or as a local, we've got the perfect North Loop itinerary for you. So, what are you waiting for? Get over there already.
MOOSE & SADIE'S
It’s where the neighborhood wakes up so why shouldn’t you? Lattes, huevos rancheros, whatever you’re craving, Peter Kirihara’s cafe has been slinging it for more than two decades. 212 3rd Ave. N., 612-371-0464, mooseandsadies.com
This minimalist corner shop feels like the little sister to the flagship Edina store. Expect designer lines, but a slightly different inventory (more denim, slouchy sweaters, cool jackets) and a slightly lower price. Also some up-and-coming jewelry lines from local designers—think gold, copper, and simple. 212 3rd Ave. N., 612-339-5702, grethenhouse.com
Owner/designer Stacey Johnson showcases her own jewelry—a modern, earthy mix of gemstones and metals—as well as some of the most affordably priced women’s apparel and accessories in the neighborhood. 212 3rd Ave. N., 651-808-7663, thestatementstore.com
It’s become the epicenter of North Loop shopping—a boutique department store featuring room after room of impeccably merchandised home furnishings, apothecary, men’s apparel, and gifts. Worth seeing, even if you’re not shopping for menswear or furniture. 212 3rd Ave. N., 612-746-5329, martinpatrick3.com
This retail cooperative features contemporary and designer women’s apparel and accessories from several retailers—Bumbershute, Bluebird Boutique, Arafina, and more—under one lofted roof. There’s even an InVision Distinctive Eyewear optical boutique, and they plan to continue adding more partners, including an art dealer, throughout the year. Oh, and there’s a liquor cart, because it’s always happy hour at D.NOLO. 219 N. 2nd St., 612-584-3244, dnolo.com
THE MONTE CARLO
Such a throwback that you’ll never give a second thought to your decision to day drink a martini with lunch on the best patio in the area. Waiters, not servers, know how to treat you right, and Frank the bartender is a veritable Scotch encyclopedia. 219 3rd Ave. N., 612-333-5900, montecarlomn.com
Take a break from stocking your closet (and belly) to check out this studio where local designers Bridget O’Malley and Amanda Degener create handmade paper.Located in the basement, nay “cave,” of the Inkunabula Arts Building, the workshop/gallery is accessible through the side entrance where you’ll ring the doorbell to get in. 212 N. 2nd St., 612-359-0645, cavepaper.com
The bright indie shop features an accessible, youthful mix of casual, contemporary women’s apparel, accessories, and beauty products. Owner Ashley Kilcher coordinates events for the North Loop’s small business group, so she’s always in the know about comings and goings. 113 Washington Ave. N., Ste. 100, 612-294-6583, roewolfe.com
THE FOUNDRY HOME GOODS
Foundry raised the bar for North Loop shopping. Its simplistic genius is the ability to curate an elevated mix of otherwise everyday objects like brass flatware, organic dish soap, Japanese chambray towels, and modern ceramics. 125 N. 1st St., 612-333-8484, thefoundryhomegoods.com
A North Loop old-timer, the Japanese spot’s solid on sushi and offers a chef-curated experience called “Omakase.” Should you be there in January or February and feeling brave, they import fugu, the Japanese pufferfish notorious for the lethal poison it emits when prepared incorrectly. But don’t sweat dying, regulations don’t allow the importing of wild fugu, only a variety that’s farm-raised to breed out the poison. 30 N. 1st St., 612-333-8430, origamirestaurant.com
Slide into a booth for brunch food that doesn’t take itself too seriously: smoked bologna sandwich on an English muffin, bacon and egg fried rice, and fried chicken and sourdough waffles with bacon maple syrup. 119 Washington Ave. N., 612-338-8484, haute-dish.com
WILSON & WILLY'S
The new kid on the block’s all about indie brands from the United States and Europe that make apparel for men and women, furniture, accessories, and gifts. This store is so trendy that it has a shop dog named Lamont who has his own Instagram account (@lamontstagram). 211 Washington Ave. N., 612-315-2280, wilsonandwillys.com
As sad as we were to see Handsome Cycles leave its retail space to focus on building bikes, Chrome is a solid replacement, specializing in urban cycling gear—messenger bags, apparel (mostly men’s), and bicycle shoes that look good enough to wear all day. Although Chrome is based in San Fran, its North Loop digs skew local with reclaimed seating from Northrop Auditorium and a back wall covered in doors acquired down the street at Bauer Brothers Salvage. 115 Washington Ave. N., 612-886-2211, chromeindustries.com
The first national retailer to set up shop in North Loop, these guys fit right in with an American heritage focus. The Detroit-based retailer sells watches, bicycles, and leather goods. (Great gift tip: Add a monogram to any journal or bracelet for free.) Sister brand Filson specializes in high-end men’s outerwear and bags. While you’re there you can even recharge with an espresso at the Dogwood coffee bar. 228 Washington Ave. N., 612-338-5493, shinola.com
JAMES & MARY LAURIE BOOKSELLERS
After more than 20 years in the industry, the Lauries’ inventory speaks for itself. Boasting 120,000 books and a substantial catalog of vintage jazz records, it’s worth spending an entire afternoon getting lost in their dusty stacks. 250 3rd Ave. N., Ste. 115, 612-338-1114, lauriebooks.com
The neighborhood has grown up around this treasure trove of tribal arts and artifacts from Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. The owners offer appraisals, restoration services, and archival textile mounting. It’s like a natural history museum, only you can touch everything! Worth walking the couple of blocks to find it, just off Washington. 530 N. 3rd St., 612-333-2151, indigompls.com
The thick inventory of exotic imports—ranging from prayer statues to ornate dressers to enough essential oils and beads to make the Dalai Lama jealous—is just the tip of the holistic iceberg as the full-on wellness center also offers yoga and massage therapy. 250 3rd Ave. N., 612-339-4977, jeromeo.com
BLACK SHEEP PIZZA/ SMACK SHACK
Eat. Again. Dive into the meatball-ricotta pizza, hot salami sandwich, or straight-up house salad. Or head to Smack Shack, where the patio makes a great daytime stop, what with all the lobster rolls and Hurricane drinks. 600 Washington Ave. N., 612-342-2625, blacksheeppizza.com; 603 Washington Ave. N., 612-259-7288, smack-shack.com
THE FREEHOUSE/ FULTON TAPROOM
The Freehouse has full-menu capabilities for snacking with its house-brewed beer plus growlers to go. Or check out the Fulton Taproom—it’s all about the brew (plus a food truck or two). 701 Washington Ave. N., Ste. 101, 612-339-7011, freehousempls.com; 414 6th Ave. N., 612-333-3208, fultonbeer.com
The minimalist boutique features fashion-forward lines for men and women, and caters to some of the cities’ most sophisticated shoppers. 121 N. 1st St., 612-339-1663, arrow-minneapolis.com
STEPHEN VINCENT DESIGN/ L'ATELIER COUTURE
Try on engagement and commitment rings at Stephen Vincent Design, where you can not only customize your sparkler, you can actually design it. If you’re serious about buying one, point her in the direction of l’atelier couture, the designer bridal boutique showroom that carries high end lines such as Vera Wang, Oscar de la Renta, and Jenny Packham. 212 N. 2nd St, Mpls., 612-338-1481, svstudio.com; 219 N. 2nd St., Ste. 404, Mpls., 612-367-8120, lateliercouturebridal.com
The Dayton brothers’ retail shop specializes in rugged goods designed for climbing and canoeing, but stylish enough for the pages of GQ and Vanity Fair. More than flannels, Explorer pants, and sleek flasks, Askov is selling the “North,” a more intentional take on hearty, sexy midwestern living of late.200 N. 1st St., 612-206-3925, askovfinlayson.com
Head through the lower back door of TBF to find Marvel Bar and the liquorati making cutting-edge cocktails within. Let them guide you to a drink you might not have ordered yourself: The Oliveto, Gatsby, and Tomas Collins are easy entry points. 50 2nd Ave. N., 612-206-3929, marvelbar.com
SPOON AND STABLE
Gavin Kaysen’s Twin Cities debut restaurant remains one of the hottest tickets in town, filled with beautiful light, beautiful people, and beautiful food. Make a reservation well in advance, but it’s also possible to find a seat at the bar or a lounge table. If you’re lucky you might even score a seat by the front window, which opens wide, spilling out onto the street. 211 N. 1st St., 612-224-9850, spoonandstable.com
Hiding under Borough, Parlour’s a solid choice for a post-dinner stop as the drinks are fantastic, forward thinking, and always served with true hospitality. 730 Washington Ave. N., 612-354-3135, boroughmpls.com
If you’re in the mood to dance, head to Jetset, the New York-style lounge. Or, if you’re in for a night without the flash, head to Bunker’s for live music. 115 N. 1st St., 612-339-3933, jetsetbar.com; 761 Washington Ave. N., 612-338-8188, bunkersmusic.com
BAR LA GRASSA
Grab a bar-side bite at Bar La Grassa, which is open until 1 am on weekends. Get a small order of gnocchi with cauliflower. 800 Washington Ave. N., 612-333-3837, barlagrassa.com
Start your Saturday doing yoga with a skyline view on the rooftop of the women’s athletic wear store.337 Washington Ave. N., 612-584-3014, lolewomen.com
As the neighborhood’s evolved, this longtimer’s evolved with it. Owner Ann Yin’s vast knowledge of Minnesota-made foods is reflected in her market’s deep-cut artisanal selection of salsas, soup mixes, popcorns, ice creams, breads, cookies, meats, sandwiches, drink mixers—you name it. 208 N. 1st St., 612-886-3047, localdlish.com
ONE ON ONE
Bring your own flashlight and dig through the “Junkyard” in the basement of One on One Bicycle Studio for used bikes and all kinds of crazy parts, or have a coffee in the more-polished bike shop/ gallery upstairs. 117 Washington Ave. N., 612-371-9565 oneononebike.com
A selection of frames that ranges from Venetian to vintage and Bauhaus to baroque, this is where the locals go to get all that cool art on their massive loft walls framed. For daily doings they also have cards, candles, and small gifts. 213 Washington Ave. N., 612-676-0696, mitreboxframing.com
SPRING FINN & CO.
The impossibly charming shop and artist studio hidden above The Foundry Home Goods in a two-room apartment that feels more Paris than Prairie School is where Talin Spring makes leather bags, belts, and other goods. She also carries European fabrics. Call ahead. She might even make you tea. 125 N. 1st St., 612-245-7861, springfinnandco.com
From the hearty soups to the fresh salads to the massive sandwiches, it’s scratch all the way at Be’Wiched. The P&E (pastrami and egg) is legendary, and usually a brunch-only item unless you ask nicely, but don’t ignore the specials like reuben sliders, mortadella melts, or any kind of chowdah. 800 Washington Ave. N., 612-767-4330, bewicheddeli.com
Because waxing your brows is irritating, get them threaded instead. 700 Washington Ave. N., Ste. 215, 612-338-5211, blinkforbeauty.com
Sign your dollar, stick it on the wall, take your no-frills boilermaker, and chow down on your Friday night ghost pepper quesadilla without a shred of irony. 507 Washington Ave. N., 612-339-6211, cuzzys.com
A dog park, you say? Yes. The North Loop really does have everything. Forgot the fetch stick? Pick up some tennis balls at nearby Gardner Hardware. N 3rd St. & 8th Ave. N.
TOAST WINE BAR
Hidden and a bit underground, Toast is off the beaten path for when you need a break and a great glass of wine. Nosh is refreshingly simple, thin-crust pizzas, meat plates, burrata and crostini, all of which are created with a thoughtful eye and quality ingredients. Pro tip: This is the secret whiskey bar. Co-owner Scott Davis worked at 45th Parallel Distillery in Wisconsin and knows about sippin’ mash and talkin’ trash. 415 N. 1st St., 612-333-4305, toastwinebarandcafe.com
THE BACHELOR FARMER
Pop in to TBF for its Sunday Supper. Each week the set menu changes, but it’s always three courses with a family style entree, totalling around $32 per person. Like a good Sunday, decisions are minimal, satisfaction is maximal. 50 2nd Ave. N., 612-206-3920, thebachelorfarmer.com
ACME COMEDY CO.
One of the most important comedy clubs in the country (USA Today named it one of the 10 places in the country where “comedy is king”) has been perched understatedly on the first floor of the Itasca Building since 1991. 708 N. 1st St., 612-338-6393, acmecomedycompany.com
1. Get the burger at Parlour.
2. Local D'Lish has way better produce than Whole Foods in the summer. And it's cheaper.
3. And it has these incredible beer-flavored chips, locally made by Barrel o'Fun. Why are these not found everywhere?
4. MartinPatrick 3 has the best discount room in back.
5. And complimentary chocolate-covered raisins and peanuts throughout the store.
6. Moose & Sadie's has the best fruit pies in town. Amazing crust.
7. You can get tater tots at Cuzzy's if you need them. It is the last authentic Loop dive.
8. The guy who makes keys at Gardner Hardware is surprisingly strict about the "DO NOT DUPLICATE" stamp.
9. James & Mary Laurie Booksellers is the best bookstore in the city. Their little terrier seems formidable but he's harmless.
10. Scratch has great cheese curds. The best. Give them a chance. They have a beautiful sign.
11. If you can't get a table anywhere else in the neighborhood, you can get one at HauteDish. It's not fair, but it's true.
12. SexWorld is the only place to buy cigarettes after 2 a.m.—it's singlehandedly upholding our 24-hour authentic urban neighborhood status.
13. Kilroys Slot Machine is the most magical place in the universe. You can play with the vintage Zoltar fortune teller machine, bathe in the light of the old neon soft-drink signs, and waste an entire rainy day there, no problem.
14. Junior at J.D. Hoyt's is my favorite bartender in the Loop, and Hoyt's Sunday brunch is legendary. The pork chops are incredible.
15. Yes, that's a real Miro print in the bar at Monte Carlo.
16. Tom at Bar La Grassa is my second favorite bartender in the Loop.
17. Transmission at Clubhouse Jager on Wednesday nights is still cool, but the best DJ night is Worldwide Discotheque on the second Friday of every month.
18. Monday Night Open Mic Night at Acme Comedy Co. is a national treasure. It should be protected by an agency or something. Louis Lee is important. And so is his club.
19. Bryan Gerrard spins at Jetset on Saturday nights. Pro tip: You don't really need to request "Uptown Funk" or anything by Beyonce. Or anything by Taylor Swift. It's a gay bar, remember? He'll get to it!
20. JR is my third favorite bartender when he's at Jetset but he's my favorite barista at Moose & Sadie's.
21.-29. The editors of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine would like to apologize to Steve's fourth through 12th favorite North Loop bartenders who were tragically cut for space. Steve says, "You know who you are."