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A Local View of Grand Prix Minneapolis

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Minneapolis is my city. While many of you have been here, I’ve found Magic articles on the city vary from improbable options to just laughably incorrect. I’m an art guy, so I won’t recommend you a museum to see due to this being a Painter’s Servant column, but I’ll give you the overview, some positive-EV tidbits, and some must-know information to save you some damn money.

Source: Sheknows.com

Minneapolis, Non-Capital

The Grand Prix is located in Minneapolis. It’s the largest city in Minnesota, but unlike many larger Midwest cities, it actually has significantly sized suburbs. Under ten miles to the east is our sister city Saint Paul, which is the capital and where the Minnesota Wild hockey game is located. The Twin Cities—or just “the cities,” as rural folk say—will be similar to any coastal visitor, but after living there for over a month, you’ll notice that Minneapolis is considered the flashier, topical city, while Saint Paul is the more blue-collar, “real” city. They’re often compared as sisters, with Minneapolis being the blonde sister you date and the Saint Paul being the brunette sister you bring home to mom to marry. A friendly competition is always underway between them. Imagine if Dallas and Fort Worth were closer, and you’ll start to understand.

If you’ve watched the move or new FX TV show Fargo, those people aren’t really residents of the Twin Cities. They’re the ones who border North Dakota and are located near Bemidji, MN. It’s really, really far north.

While there are almost four million people here, Minneapolis has under 400,000 residents. Bloomington, the suburb where the airport is located, is closing in on 90,000 folks. While we city folk may believe all of our suburbs are similar, due to the difference in lakes, each area is really different due to immigration. For example, if you’ve seen Mighty Ducks, you’ve met Adam Banks from Edina, MN.

Edina is a richer suburb that is located south of a string of lakes within the Minneapolis city boundary. They are affably known as cake eaters, being rich folk. More comically is that most up-and-coming wealthy people don’t live in Edina. They’re moving more west to suburbs that allow them to live on a lake with large yards and commutes in. The longest commute, really, to the Twin Cities is about ninety minutes and about sixty miles away. We’re laughably spoiled.

In case you’re wondering, Prince lives near the western suburb of Chanhassan, MN, quite far from downtown. He’s a reclusive guy and a bit strange in person, but yes, he does pop into clubs and plays from time to time. I’ve only seen him twice.

Local Culture

Lakes

Sadly, you won’t see much our culture in your visit. In May, spring is finally in full effect. You might need a thin jacket, but it should be warmish. To the point, we go to lakes. In Minnesota, we have over 14,000 lakes. Everyone and their mothers have some connection to lake cabins. It isn’t Nantucket douchey either. Most cabins are handed down from parent to child, and sharing with siblings is super-common.

My family doesn’t have a cabin or lakeshore, but my next-door neighbor, like many city residents, has a boat that is on a trailer. Public-access areas on Minneapolis lakes are super-common. Saturday mornings are filled with making sandwiches and filling coolers with booze, only to hit the lakes and relax until late afternoon to grill on the shore and relax after some wakeboarding.

“Going up north” means going to a cabin. Most cabins aren’t shacks. They’re often little houses with running water, bedrooms, and more, generally on one level. If they have more than one level, they’re technically a lake house, but only crazy-rich people call them lake homes. Even huge ones people ironically call cabins.

The half-dozen lakes within Minneapolis are always crawling with young folks and dogs. It’s great people-watching, and man, the views are nice. I’d post some bikini-laden shots of the Mrs. and me with friends, but they’re on Facebook anyway.

Lethe Lake

Nicollet Mall

The pedestrian-friendly zone in downtown Minneapolis is where you will see a lot of patio seating for restaurants and bars. These places are on par with any pricing of a Midwest downtown. Taking a picture with Mary Tyler Moore in front of Macy’s could be an Instagram-worthy selfie. Just saying. We’ll get into where to eat on it soon!

Neighborhoods

The Grand Prix is downtown, and more specifically, it’s in the convention center area. You’ll notice that I-94 is just south of the convention center. That area, the Franklin Street to I-94 area isn’t the safest. This Judgmental Map came out for Minneapolis, and people pretty were pretty angry about it due to that area and, well, North Minneapolis. North Minneapolis is called “Compton of the North,” and while it was a pretty scary place in the 1990s, when we were dubbed “Murderapolis,” it’s cleaned up pretty well. One of the best burger places in the country is actually near there now.

Food

Minneapolis is a huge foodie city. There’ve been a lot of write-ups as of late with some pretty great national reviews. You can Google them if you care much about that. Some things to note are that we don’t pay outlandish prices for no food. The pretentious you-can’t-get-a-table places just don’t really exist. You can find food anywhere if you just make a reservation ahead of time. This is why I’m writing this so far ahead of Grand Prix Minneapolis—I want you to be ready.

Our restaurants are off the beaten path a bit, such as La Belle Vie, Piccolo, Butcher and the Boar, Victory 44, 112 Eatery, Tilia, Fika, Travail, Bar La Grassa, Brasa, and the Bachelor Farmer. All of them are incredible, but check the menu. La Belle Vie will cost you your entire GP winnings . . . when you win. Though Brasa is approachable Spanish cuisine (that pork though) that is also a chain. Mention any of these places, and you’ll sound smart.

Feast of the Unicorn
Footbottom Feast

Breakfast

Hueveos Rancheros at Hell’s Kitchen; Source: Hell’s Kitchen

The downtown best options are Hell’s Kitchen or Keys Café. Luckily, both are within two blocks of the convention center. I find the Hell’s hueveos rancheros to be of absurdly tasty quality. Keys has everything and is a safe choice if you just want a larger, good, breakfast.

Options farther afield would be Bad Waitress, Tilia (among the best places in the entire state), Fika in south for Swedish amazing breakfast, and The Freehouse. Fika is in a Swedish museum and castle, really, and it’s high-modern inside. It’s awesome and fairly cheap, and the parking is free. It’s worth checking out if you know a friend with a car.

Lunch

I would try to find a food truck for lunch. You’re here for Magic—you need to eat and make it back ASAP. It’ll probably be faster than standing in line and eating terrible convention food. Walk up Marquette Ave, say, 9th Street to 11th Street, and you’ll see food trucks. Additionally, walking down Nicollet Mall will have a ton of them, too.

The World Street Kitchen should have a food truck right by the light rail stop. And their curry burrito is bingo-bango amazing.

Source: Minnpost.com

If you’re feeling like sitting down, check out The Local. It’s an Irish bar that is known for Jamison whiskey and ginger. It sells a lot of them, but for lunch, grab their “wee lunch.” It’s a slide, fries, or greens and a soda. It’s cheap and pretty good. Don’t waste a ton of money on lunch; you just need to get some food in! However, The Local has great little booths with doors where a great little game could be played. Cube it up there, and discuss MTG business. No, really, it’s a great spot for that.

There is also a downtown Target store. It isn’t huge, but you could cobble together a yogurt/Lunchable/snack-meal sort of situation if you’re super-stretched for a budget. It’s also on Nicollet Mall.

If you can sneak away with a friend for an hour, trying Culver’s, a Wisconsin/Minnesota burger chain, is worth your while. Their butterburgers are amazing and really aren’t found outside our two states. They also have fresh custard instead of ice cream. It’s among the only places where a pot roast sandwich is actually pot roast. Imagine Burger King but actually locally-sourced food, it’s actually good, and you don't feel terrible after. I know my editor Adam Styborski will be heading there. Maybe I’ll join up with him. There’s one near the airport, but you will have to take a cab to get there.

Dinner

For my bachelor party, we decided to visit every steak house in Minneapolis and try the best steak on the menu. Each member in the party had a bite with a cocktail, and at the end of the night, we were objectively able to say what was best. With that knowledge in hand, we tried Manny’s, Murray’s, Jax Café, Ruth’s Chris, and The Capital Grille, and we skipped Fogo de Chão, the Brazilian steakhouse. We came to the conclusion that Murray’s had the best experience and service, but The Capital Grille had the best meat.

Manny’s is the steak house in your Delta Airline Magazine. Yes, it is good, but it’s safe and overpriced, and frankly, it’s forgettable. It’s the place you can win into at a side event at Grand Prix Minneapolis. Don’t get me wrong—it’s good, but if you want meat, go to Butcher and the Boar. That’s what you write home about. It’s a “strictly better” choice.

If you’re done on Friday slightly early, I would attend Murray’s for their early dinner special for $20. It’s a three-course meal and only runs from 4:30–6:00 P.M. Eat this to save some room for late-night eats.

If you want to something memorable—and this is my personal urging for you to try—embark on a quest to get a jucy lucy.

A Jucy Lucy Source: RoadFood.com

Jucy Lucy

Every city has a specialty with residents adamant that they know the best place to eat it. I spent four cab fares in Phoenix to eat animal-style In & Out Burgers because I knew I had a limited time to eat them. Folks, get a cab, and get a Jucy Lucy.

Chicago has its Italian beef sandwich while Philly has its cheese steak sandwich. In Minneapolis, we have the Jucy Lucy. It’s a hamburger with molten cheese injected into the center of the burger. You eat it slowly, as a big bite will leave molten cheese on your face, literally burning your skin. I shit you not. Eat it slowly.

It originated in South Minneapolis, where I live, and two establishments fight over who was first—Matt’s Bar or the 5–8 Club. I’m a Matt’s fan, but 5–8 is much easier to get into. 5–8 also lets you choose your cheese, but due to the burgers being larger, the interiors can often be undercooked. I’ve seen it, and it’s not awesome.

Other locations that have them are the Blue Door Pub, one in Minneapolis, one in Saint Paul. There’s also The Nook, located in Saint Paul next to the private high school where Joe Mauer went to school. And finally, the Groveland Tap, a blue-collar bar in Saint Paul also has one.

Off that path, a ton of other places have Jucy or Juicy Lucies but it’s more of a “deconstructed” or some other hipster garbage word to describe it. If you spell juicy correctly, you’re at the wrong place.

Go to Matt’s via a cab or a local friend. If you can get there, it will make the entire weekend memorable—I guarantee it.

Sushi

A chef placing the sushi on the boats! Source: Ichiban.com

If you want sushi, Ichiban is right near the convention center. They have an all-you-can-eat special that’s under $25 if you go for early dinner. It’s an oval of stools around a center prep area that has boats on which the chefs place sushi . . . that rotate around. It’s pretty cool. It’s also hibachi grill as well and would be great for pictures/Instagram/the credit card game, if you’re into that.

Other places are Origami—in the North Loop/Warehouse district of downtown. It’s great. I’d go there if I were staying in a hotel near there. Nami has taken a nosedive in quality as of late. I’d skip it. Other place is also an option, but it’s not as great.

Late-Night Eats

I would check out 112 Eatery. It’s a short walk from the Westin, the official Grand Prix Minneapolis hotel and well worth the visit. It serves until 1:00 A.M. sharp, and the egg, bacon, and harissa sandwich is amazeballs. They also have small plates that you could easily share with two or three people and eat a lot of food for really not that terrible expensive. You won’t be able to find a table, but just sit at the bar with up to a group of four.

Pizza Luce is also super-popular here and damn tasty. They deliver, and they’re downtown. It’s a solid pizza local chain and one of the few places that’ll deliver on Friday or Saturday past 2:00 A.M. They’re open until 3:30 A.M.! Playing Cube until around 2:00 A.M.? Call Luce.

Beer

Minneapolis has had a huge influx of small breweries in the last few years. I don’t want to say it’s a renaissance, but new breweries are frickin’ everywhere. I think we’re closing in on one hundred places. Not all have public taprooms, but our liquor laws are changing to make it more accessible. Politicos I know argue that with the advent of brewing establishments popping up and bringing in crazy-good tax revenue, legalization of marijuana isn’t far behind due to the economic benefit. It’ll be under five years, without a doubt.

While our Saint Paul Summit is a comparable to Sam Adams, the new upstarts are well worth trying if you have a choice:

  • 612 Brew, with its Gateway Park Lager
  • Dangerous Man, with its Chocolate Milk Stout
  • Surly, where everything from Cynic to Bender to Furious is good
  • Fulton, which has a great blonde ale

There are a ton more, but if you’re at a bar, ask if they have a 612/Dangerous Man/Surly/Fulton on tap. All are worth your time.

Best Bars

While this is ever a contentious issue, I would argue heading across the Mississippi River into Northeast Minneapolis is the best bet. Technically called “Nordeast,” this is where the GQ visitors always argue that the Polish polka bar Nye's Polonaise Room wins. It’s Hennepin Ave and Central Ave, and they converge in a little hip areas. It’s just a throwback and a ton of space if you want to Cube with four to eight friends—really. There are so many damn tables.

Also there is Mac’s Industrial. They’re super-particular on IDs, so if you have a fake one, I’d skip there. I go there for the decent beer list and, most importantly, the Grand Marnier chicken wings. Oh man, they’re so tasty. It’s worth stopping in and then bar-hopping.

Take the #10 bus up Nicollet Mall to make it there—it’s under $2.

Karaoke

As long as you’re in Nordeast Minneapolis, there are three karaoke bars within two blocks. Nye’s has it, and the hits they rock are endless—so many old-school jams.

As for the Vegas Lounge and the Otter Saloon, I like both, but the Otter is tiny. It’s hard to bring a group and even harder to get consistent drinks. Imagine a New York apartment trying to have a party.

There are some farther afield, like the VFW in the LynLake area, but you’d have to drive there. (Lyndale and Lake Street, and yes, it is a real VFW.)

Instagram Shot Needed?

If you need some super-Instagrammable pictures, the hot spots are the Twins baseball statues outside Target Field, the Mary Tyler Moore statue on Nicollet Mall, the giant art sculpture at the Walker Art Center of a Spoonbridge and Cherry, and the yellow-tinted end of the hallway at the Guthrie Theater. Any of those are taken a bajillion times if you’re into that.

If you’re the winner of the GP, go to the spoon and cherry.

Stop by it before you leave if you drove. It’s free, after all, and it’s super-close to the convention center.

Spoonbridge and Cherry Source: Walker Art Center

Other

Job hunters – If you’re looking for a job and trying to get information on anything local, you’ll want to check these out: Target Corp, Activison, Best Buy Corp., Fantasy Flight Games, and General Mills. If you’re super-smart, you’ll arrive Thursday night, have an informational interview on Friday, feel great, and then crush at the Grand Prix.

Coffee – Dunn Brothers is the local one, and while it’s not incredibly better, it’s the same price as Caribou Coffee or Starbucks, so you might as well. We have one Duncan Donuts, and it’s not anywhere near downtown.

Strip clubs – They’re all on Hennepin Ave, conveniently on the Light Rail.

Dance clubs – Same area

Cops everywhere – If you see people wearing bright blue and yellow all over downtown, those aren’t cops. They’re the Downtown Improvement District folks. They’re like a mix between a tourism initiative/clean streets/friendliness campaign. If you have a question, ask them. They’re super-great with helping you get situated, and they’re really friendly. Again, they aren’t cops, but they will protect folks if a homeless person or someone loses his or her cool. Think of them as first responders and as walking information booths.

Fireworks – Fountains and things on the ground are legal. Any cool stuff that explodes or mortar shells/bottle rockets are not.

Mall of America – If you have a few hours before your flight, check out the MoA. The H&M and Nordstrom Rack are great places to check out. The LEGO store is indeed awesome. The indoor theme park is cool, but it’s a bit expensive. A ton of discounts exist for them in coffee shops.

Movies – The easiest is Mall of America. It’s a trek, no doubt. Roseville, MN has a movie theater, and that would be also not close. It’s not really an option.

Theater – The comic Lewis Black is playing a show at the State Theater on Friday night at 8:00 P.M. Tickets are around $40 to around $70 if you’re crazy-bored or a friend of yours is a huge Lewis Black fan.

Cheesy gift – Minnesota is really known for its wild rice. It’s a Native American dish, and outside the city, people eat the hell out of it. You can find it anywhere, even the airport. If your significant other wants something, get that. Other options could be: a screen print from local artist Adam Turman, a six-pack of Surly beer, a small set at the Mall of America gigantic LEGO store, or just nothing. That’s an option, too.

Local Twitter Folk in Minneapolis Well-Worth a Follow over the Weekend




Enjoy the city, and good luck in the Grand Prix!

-Mike

P.S. I hear Mead Hall, a local store, is throwing a party Saturday night. Details coming soon. Follow them on Twitter here @TheMeaderyMTG and @MeadHallGames.


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