Back in May, my wife and I went on a three-day anniversary trip to Minneapolis. The plan was to visit the best local food stops, coffee shops, and enjoy ourselves cycling around this great city. We’ve been to Minneapolis many times in the past 6 years, but have never done any cycling. So we planned our most-wanted stops ahead of time, hitched up the bikes, and went for it. She looked up the best local eateries according to reviews, blogs, etc. and I looked up the best coffee shops and some near-by (if not attached) bike shops to check out. We had a blast! We also thank God for returning us safely.
Our first stop after dropping our stuff at the hotel on Friday was Pizzeria Lola on Xerxes. What a place! They were featured on Guy Fieri’s Diner’s, Drive-ins, and Dives (Triple-D’s), so we knew it would be good. They have a wood-fired central oven, really cool atmosphere with great music, and just amazing pizza creations. We had a Korean BBQ pizza with unbelievable flavor! Plus awesome locally-bottled sparkling juices. Too late and dark for bikes, but there were a couple hitched to the bike rack at Lola. The place was packed and we took a walk around the neighborhood after we put our name in for a table. We so wanted to go back the next day but were glad we didn’t waste our taste buds and stomachs eating at the same place twice: every new place we ate was great!
Day 1: Lake Nokomis and Minnehaha Falls
This was our main day of cycling and would end up being our only cycling trip together due to weather and health misfortunes, but it was well worth it. We decided not to waste our cycling energy going from the hotel on the 494 to our area of interest, so instead packed the bikes along for breakfast at Sun Street Breads on Nicollet Ave. It was wonderful! We drove East to the Mississippi river near Minnehaha Falls to begin our bike tour for the day.
We started out near Minnehaha Falls and checked out the cool bridge on the Ford Parkway and then the Lock and Dam #1. It was really cool down there, and completely free to just go in and see the locks up close. Snapped a few cool pics of the bridge and locks:
After Minnehaha Falls, we decided to ride West towards Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha. We ended up not finding the trail along the creek so took to the quiet streets along the Minnehaha Parkway. We headed North to Lake Hiawatha, which was really scenic and beautiful. Met some really nice locals and told them we were from Winnipeg. The were really excited that we came and were enjoying ourselves. This was the way with everyone we met: folks in Minneapolis are super friendly and love to hear about why you’re visiting and where you’re from. Another reason Minneapolis rules! We met people at the dam, at the falls (who took our picture), at the restaurants, and everyone was nice!
After Hiawatha, we headed out around the Northwest corner of the lake and followed the quiet streets around the golf course. What a beautiful neighborhood! All over Minneapolis we saw cute homes with very nice yards.
Once we got around the golf course and back to Minnehaha Parkway, we caught up with the trail system around Lake Nokomis. Minneapolis has it made for bike trails, let me tell you! One side for walking/jogging, one side for cycling (completely separate, paved trails), and numerous information and map stops all around the trails. Although, we did get lost from one map stand: thought we were heading North but were actually heading West. I blame the map, it should have been pointing in the direction we were facing. Unfortunately, I stopped the Garmin to look at the map and never started it again, so there’s no proof of us getting lost, ha!
Anyway, we got caught in a huge torrential downpour and hid out under the trees for a few minutes. Once it let up, we found our way again and headed up to the Minnehaha creek (found the trail!) and back down to our start point. Just as we arrived at the car, the skies opened up and drenched us. I let her sit in the car while I tried to load the bikes on the rack, but gave up and sat in the car for a bit ’till it let up. Once I got out, I surveyed the damage: apparently leaving your bike leaning against the curb is a bad thing in a downpour. All the leaves, mud and crap had poured over my bike, pedals, chain, and everything was submerged during the 5-minutes of hard rain. Oh well, I shook it off and strapped the bikes to the car and we headed back to the hotel to dry off.
Our first stop from Minnehaha falls just after Lake Hiawatha was Angry Catfish Bicycle and Coffee Bar. What a cool joint! Bikes and amazing coffee all in one place; heaven for me! My wife, not so much, but she endured it. Now, if you have a few thousand dollars, you probably could afford some of these bikes (at least the ones on the racks were a little pricey, but I’m sure they’re great bikes). Not to say they didn’t have reasonable prices. I just haven’t seen a $5000 cyclocross bike before.
While we were in the area, we stopped in at A Baker’s Wife two doors down and grabbed some home made doughnuts. Not bad. They had a really cool cold-press coffee contraption, but having just had a latte at AC, I couldn’t justify it. Neat little shop.
Having thoroughly exhausted ourselves riding around Minneapolis, we locked the bikes to the car and headed downtown for the evening. We ended up going to this really cool area along the river near Nicollet island, just north of the university; I think it’s called Riverplace. Down under the 35W along SE Main St. There’s all kinds of places to eat, shops, bars, etc. and we ended up at Wilde Roast Cafe. They had great service and we ate an excellent meal there! It was a little sketchy leaving the bikes on the car:
Day 2: Wise Acre, Buster’s, The Tin Fish
We didn’t do any cycling on Sunday because the weather was poor, so we stopped in at our favorite cafe from our last trip: Wise Acre eatery.
As usual, great food and unbelievable lattes made with farm-fresh milk. We happened to sit at the bar next to some locals and got to chatting about our bike trip. Turns out the guy we talked to is crazy into cycling. He’s done 1200km Randonneuring in Paris and regularly goes out for 300km-plus rides! He showed me a picture of his Bianchi bike that looked just amazing. Apparently he’s down from 11 bikes to just 9, having sold two to his brother-in-law. Ironically, his wife did not like cycling and will only get out on their tandem bike (I bet he does most of the work, though). They were super nice and we had just the best visit with them. The waitress even asked if we were old friends!
They told us the best burgers in town were at Buster’s and that we had to go to Tin Fish on Lake Calhoun. So we did. Buster’s just happens to be sandwiched between Angry Catfish and A Baker’s Wife where we were the previous day, so it turned out to be a great spot. Indeed, they had the best burgers! Great service too! All three of these places are just off the corner of E 42 St. and S 28 Ave.
The skies were clearing up, and we had planned to check out The Tin Fish on Lake Calhoun and then do a little ride around the lake. The Tin Fish did have great food: My wife had two types of fish tacos and I had an amazing Mahi Mahi fish and chips.
Solo Evening Ride to Long Meadow Lake
After a while sitting in the hotel watching Triple-D’s and other food-related shows, I got a little stir-crazy, so I headed out on a quick jaunt towards the Mall.
I had no idea I’d find this cool valley area: Long Meadow Lake. I ended up down a trail that led to some kind of Bass pond. It was serene and a neat little trail. Even with my road commuter bike, I was able to take the dirt trail down below Highway 77 off Old Shakopee Road. I was rewarded with these views:
Day 3: Colossal Cafe, Kopplin’s, Izzy’s Ice Cream
We decided to take it easy for riding on Day 3 and just went around by car. Colossal Cafe was finally open on Monday (we tried with no luck on Sunday), so we went and checked it out. They were featured on Guy Fiery’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, so it was a must-stop for us. Just up 42nd st., not far from our other stops, Colossal Cafe is a tiny little shop that sells excellent breakfast and is known for their pancakes. My wife had the pancake, and I had an omellete. Very good, indeed. Plus, they make their own jam there that was great.
Next, we headed to Marshall Ave. in St. Paul for Kopplin’s Coffee and Izzy’s Ice Cream. Kopplin’s was pretty cool and had great atmosphere. They’re brewing method was excellent, so I decided to grill them on all the details on how to make a good cup. The barrista was knowledgeable and walked me through the process, then handed me a business card with all the directions already printed on it. Kopplin’s website is very informative and I had looked it up before our trip. We thought we recognized the barrista from before at Angry Catfish (she had crazy multicolored hair braids), and it turns out she likes biking as well as coffee and frequents AC a lot. The whole street was jam packed with hipster single-speed bikes locked up to the bike racks, but we showed up with bikes-on-car; it was kind of embarrassing, but oh well, what do you do?
Since the trip, the Kopplin’s business card is always in my coffee cupboard with my own tweaks to the recipe (I don’t like it as strong, or I don’t have good enough beans to stand up to the strength, although I now have a Hario ceramic conical hand grinder).
Izzy’s ice cream, a couple doors down from Kopplin’s, had many interesting-sounding ice cream flavors, but for us it was a tad disappointing. I think the ice cream was a little on the sweet side. They’re always coming up with new flavors and they make their ice cream from scratch, so I’m sure you’ll find something good there if you go back. We had an eight-hour drive home ahead of us, so we gassed up and headed out.
All-in-all Minneapolis was a great city for a cycling, food, and coffee tour and I know we’ll be doing the same sorts of things each time we come back. TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesdays, and all the other day-of-the-week franchise restaurants will be more-or-less forgotten for the great local eats that Minneapolis has to offer. We still had 3 or 4 places from our list that we didn’t go to and learned about 2 new ones that we hadn’t expected. The city keeps getting better every time we go! Thanks to all the cool folks we met along the way and thanks for the cool bike trails! Now you know why it took so long to post this update. Cheers!