A Weekend in Minnie
Written by Shel Zolkewich
Fergus Falls, Minnesota
You’ll pull into town just in time to catch breakfast at the vintage Viking Café (203 West Lincoln Ave.) in downtown Fergus Falls. Settle in to one of the gleaming wooden booths and let the aroma of strong coffee and country cooking get your tastebuds stirring. The Vik Vuffin pays homage to that other joint that serves up an egg, cheese, and sausage stack on a toasted English muffin, but the Viking’s version is a lot heartier (and likely healthier).
It’s always a toss-up about where to stay. Downtown Minneapolis offers everything you might want in the bright lights, big city department. If you want swanky, check in to W Minneapolis—The Foshay (821 Marquette Ave.) Built in 1929, this Art Deco skyscraper was converted to a hotel in 2008, blending classic styling with contemporary finishes and conveniences. A night at The Foshay will set you back around US$300.
But staying in Bloomington, just south of the city centre, puts you next door to the Mall of America, and oh yes, we’ll be going to the mall. From the Radisson Hotel Bloomington (1700 East America Blvd.), you can see the big blue box that is IKEA. You can also hop on a shuttle that will take you to the doorstep of the Mall of America. A night at the Radisson Hotel Bloomington starts at just under US$100.
I think we’ll agree that it’s okay to skip lunch after that monster meal at the Viking Café. Instead, head to the Uptown neighbourhood at the southern end of Minneapolis. It’s the hippest ‘hood in the Twin Cities. Start at the intersection of Lake St. and Hennepin Ave. Urban Outfitters (3006 Hennepin Ave. S.) is a chain, but a funky one. Pick up a pair of trendy jeans or a laugh-out-loud copy of The Truth About Chuck Norris: 400 Facts About the World’s Greatest Human. Amble down the street and pop into the ultra-chic Apple Store (3018 Hennepin Ave. S.). Pick up a case for your iPad and the clerk will simply swipe your credit card through his tricked-out iTouch and send the receipt to you via email. Keep going down the street and you’ll smell Penzeys Spices (3028 Hennepin Ave. S.) before you see it. The charming wooden shelving and apothecary-style packaging will have you loading up on paprika, Szechwan peppercorns and caraway seeds.
Deciding where to have dinner in Uptown may be the toughest decision you’ll face on this trip. At Stella’s Fish Café (1400 W. Lake St.), you can’t help but notice the party going on atop one of Uptown’s busiest joints. The rooftop patio is the place for hip gatherings. On the two floors below, the menu at Stella’s changes daily to feature fresh fish, seafood and especially oysters. The jumbo barbecue black tiger shrimp entrée ($18.95) comes on two giant skewers the length of your arm (no kidding).
It appears that all the cool cats get their dinner at Chino Latino (Lake St. and Hennepin Ave.). You can’t miss the shimmering panel on the Hennepin side of the building and the rambunctious diners on the patio. This place twists street food into something a little more fancy. Expect fish tacos, lo mien, paella, jerk chicken, Cuban roast pork and even sushi.
Say no to the polite server at the restaurant when he asks about dessert. Instead, take a stroll to Lund’s (1450 W. Lake St.). A prettier grocery store does not exist. It’s just the right size, packed with organics, and a bakery counter that will make your head spin. Opt for a red velvet cupcake ($2) and your sweet tooth will be satisfied.
Start your morning off with a little culture. The Walker Art Center is home to that giant spoon and cherry sculpture that you may have spotted from the interstate. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (part of the Center) is fun, funky and free. Don’t miss Standing Glass Fish by architect Frank Gehry. The inscription beside the sculpture tells the story of the architect’s mom buying a carp and letting it swim in the bathtub before it became the family gefilte fish dinner.
Mercado Central (1515 E. Lake Street)
If you’re in need of a silver bangle, swishy new cowboy boots or lime-spiked mayo, Mercado Central is the place. This Latin American marketplace also has an entire row of indoor taco stands—just in time for lunch. Don’t expect the same fare you find at Mexican fast food joints. This is the real deal. Restaurante el Huachi dishes up a plate of taco chips, guacamole and salsa (be careful, even the mild isn’t so mild), taco de pezcado (fish tacos), taco de asada (beef tacos), tamales and a couple of bottled drinks (the Jarrito brand) for less than $20. Most menus are in Spanish but super-friendly cooks and helpful patrons are more than willing to translate while you point.
The stats speak for themselves inside North America’s second-largest mall (yep, West Edmonton Mall is bigger)—over 4.2 million square feet of space, 12,000 parking spaces, 40 million visitors each year and 520 stores. Surely, you’ll find something you like, but just in case, here’s a hit list to get you started.
Soma Intimates is lingerie for grown-up gals. No frilly pink, supportless pieces here. Look for the bra with a camisole built right in. Handy. Teavana always has delicious samples brewing at the doorway. Take home the modern red pot by artist Judith Weber for $189. Unique, unusual, fun. Call the collection what you will, but the stock in The Afternoon will keep you amused for hours. Magnets, books, jewelry and glassware, all against charcoal walls and a black floor.
No need to leave the mall just yet. After all, you have more than 50 restaurants to choose from. Have a seat at Crave and spend some quiet time inside this dark wood and amber light haven. Order the pesto shrimp appetizer. Order it twice if you really love shrimp. Otherwise, opt for the walleye dinner or a steak (all the cuts are excellent). Someone at the table wants sushi? No problem. Crave has that too.
Hell’s Kitchen (80 South 9th St.)
From the moment you leave this downtown eatery, you’ll be making plans to return and have another order of the lemon ricotta hotcakes. And you’ll want some Mahnomin porridge and the weird but wonderful toasted sausage bread. Don’t leave without checking out the delightfully creepy art in the restrooms. Get some homemade peanut butter too.
With a full belly and a full tank of gas, it’s time to head north. If you find an extra $100 in your pocket, pull off the westbound I94 at exit 202 into the Albertville Premium Outlets where stores like Coach, Le Creuset and Harry & David will quickly take care of that jingle.