Last week, you and I finished exploring the skyway system downtown and were about to cross the Hennepin Avenue Bridge into the Northeast neighborhood of Minneapolis.
There are two main drags in Northeast: continuing up Hennepin Ave. toward Central or heading right onto Main instead, the Riverfront District. I opted for Main St. first, wanting to try Wilde Roast Café (65 Main Street SE), which had buzz for being one of the best coffee shops in the area. It’s in the Riverplace building, right past the green awning.
What’s not to like about a place with peacock pillars and a tapestry of Oscar Wilde? It’s a combination of coffee shop and restaurant, so table service is available during lunch and dinner hours, but order at the counter otherwise. I was charmed by the fake flower stems used for signing credit card receipts — you now realize how little it takes to charm me. The location is right on the riverfront, and free wireless is available.
My cappuccino was adequate, and I was enthralled by the jelly roll cake you can see on the top shelf of the bakery case.
Overall, though, Wilde Roast Café had a more formal feel than I like for a coffee house. It’s probably a great option for an affordable, artsy dinner plate.
After an hour or so of working at Wilde Roast, more exploration was in store. There’s a charming church hidden right behind the Riverplace building, Our Lady of Lourdes.
But I wasn’t really in Northeast for sightseeing. I was there to try Kramarczuk Deli (215 East Hennepin Ave.) on a recommendation.
It’s an impressive Polish deli with one half dedicated to meats and gourmet products and the other more of an eatery. There was a range of sausages, goulashes, and the like. I chose a Hungarian sausage roll and opted to have red cabbage on it instead of sauerkraut.
Everything else I added on the dog after getting it. The sausage and pickle were top notch, but the bread could definitely be more exciting, and the red cabbage was virtually flavorless. Perhaps I should have tried the sauerkraut anyway, although it’s usually overpowering for me. Meat lovers, though, should be quite satisfied, and they had many other sides to choose from.
My wanderings continued up Hennepin and then down Central, slowly making my way back across the river to the Mill District. Along the way, I passed Crispin Cider’s headquarters (not open to the public),
more displays of Minnesotans’ love for giant rocks as art pieces,
and eventually reached the Central Avenue Bridge. The view of downtown from it is that panorama at the top of the blog. The bridge itself also had a few interesting sights.
The rest of that day was spent at the amazing Guthrie Theater watching the equally amazing Amen Corner on the Wurtele Thrust Stage. You can catch my blog dedicated to that experience here. But we are moving on to Day #3 and lunch at Masa (1070 Nicollet Avenue), about two blocks from our hotel.
This was probably my favorite meal of the vacation. I love an upscale Mexican joint that realizes how delicious Mexican food can be if fresh ingredients and thoughtful preparations are used. Most importantly, though, I loved their coffee.
That is the Café d’Olla, brewed with orange zest, spices, and brown sugar. Refills are free for it, just like a regular coffee. Two glasses of this delicious brew is bliss. Of course, the food was darn good, too.
That ceviche was wonderful, full of vibrant lime and biting onion. Our friend who ordered it thought the onion too strong, but I enjoyed how it counteracted the creamy avocado and shrimp and scallop flavors. The enchiladas were more to our friend’s liking.
Our other companion went for the guacamole plate, served with heaps of veggies for dipping.
The guacamole was great, but that would never be enough to satisfy my need for variety. Thus, the combination plates were perfect. Masa is just as pricey as most downtown Minneapolis spots for dinner, but for lunch, they have a surprisingly affordable combination offer at $10 for three items. Ben chose a half torta with a taco, frijoles negro, and guacamole.
I preferred the tortilla soup, half a pollo torta, and the jicama and mango salad.
Absolutely delicious, folks. The salad was my favorite. I had never had jicama and mango together before, and they are a great combination. The soup almost had a mole sauce for the broth. It was thick and popping with boldness. The torta was great, if less memorable than the other two. And fresh potato chips, too? Heaven.
Full of calories to spend, I headed out to Loring Park, a lovely green space across the way from the Sculpture Garden, my ultimate target. Loring Park is worth checking out on its own, and it’s at the end of the short Loring Greenway that starts right by the Sheraton. It contains what may be my favorite fountain anywhere.
I love how it looks like a dandelion in the wind, all its silky threads being blown away. It was beautiful. Nearly as beautiful are the ponds in the park.
I became rather obsessed with those red-winged blackbirds, though I could never capture the wings well. Lord knows I tried.
But I did get a few other birds worth awing over.
Loring Park is a great in-city spot for birders to spend an afternoon. But I am not one of those, and I had a destination in mind. I passed a few more interesting sights as I continued through it.
But the time to dawdle was done. Onward to the Friendship Bridge between Loring Park and the Sculpture Garden!
We’ll pick up there next time. If you want more pictures in the meantime, click here.