Minnesota Nice may not permit us to discuss it, but there is a small, trivial wedge between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minneapolitans love whining about how far away St. Paul is (it isn’t), while St. Paulites would just as soon play in their own sandbox and keep their neighborhood treasures for themselves (hard to blame ’em).
It only took four years and $957 million, but a new steel-forged bond between our Twin Cities will be unveiled Saturday. The new Green Line light-rail route will connect Minnie and Paul along University Avenue, hopefully making intercity travel more convenient and maybe — just maybe — easing the trifling sibling rivalry.
With 18 new stations along the 11-mile stretch from downtown to downtown, it’s a good time to rediscover the attractions along what was once billed as the Central Corridor. Here’s our stop-by-stop guide to what to do on the Green Line. [Photo: Jim Gehrz]
This diverse neighborhood near the University of Minnesota has a rich music and bar scene with venues such as punk-rock paradise the Triple Rock Social Club, longtime hippy hangout the Cabooze and world-music-and-more hub the Cedar Cultural Center. Craft beer havens abound, from Acadia Cafe to Republic’s endless array of taps and brewpub bastion Town Hall Brewery. Microbrews not your thing? Catch a World Cup match or play shuffleboard at the Nomad World Pub, or stop by Palmer’s — recently named one of the best bars in America by Esquire — for a startlingly stiff drink. [Photo: File]
Not just a station for U of M students heading to class. Hop off the light rail for a culture shot at Weisman Art Museum or the recently renovated Northrup. [Photo: Jerry Holt]
Let your friends pay the game-day parking rates, and ride the Green Line to any Gophers sporting event at TCF Bank Stadium, Williams Arena or Mariucci Arena. If you’re not meeting any tailgating warriors, Stub and Herb’s and the Hole Sports Lounge are prudent pre-game bars. [Photo: Jim Gehrz]
It might look like an industrial wasteland now, but if all goes well Surly’s $30 million destination brewery will open to the public by year’s end (they plan to start brewing there in late fall). Surly Nation’s new palace will likely be the premier destination during Green Line taproom tours— which could totally become a thing. Until then, head to Tower Hill Park for a peek at the landmark Witch’s Hat Water Tower. [Photo: Marlin Levison]
If there is any mild crosstown beef, surely it will drown in a sea of sprinkles at this Minneapolis-St. Paul border station. Get your frosted pastry fix at “Cupcake Wars”-winning bakery Cupcake before perusing the antique home furniture, lighting and stained glass at Art & Architecture. If a full meal is in order, grab brunch at the larger St. Paul Egg and I, open daily until 2 p.m. [Photo: Tom Sweeney]
Sneakily one of the best stops between the downtowns, Raymond Station is surrounded by attractions. Pick up an espresso or bag of coffee beans from Round Table Coffee Works’ new storefront and sift through the three vintage shops – MidModMen, Succotash and Shag Studio — within steps of one another. Go vinyl hunting at Agharta Records and Barely Brothers Records, or check out Raymond Avenue Gallery’s selection of “prints and pots.” All that shopping can work up an appetite, so eat in at Foxy Falafel’s standalone restaurant or get takeout and hike to Bang Brewing’s silo of a taproom or the almost-open Urban Growler. [Photo: Courtney Perry]
While the iconic Porky’s drive-in packed it in a few years ago, Fairview isn’t a pass-over stop. These days the Russian Tea House’s hours are super limited (11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday), but if you pass on during your Friday lunch break, be sure to fill up on piroshki and stroganoff at the Midway staple. Beer and burger fans will love that Burning Brothers Brewing serves its gluten-free suds at its nearby taproom, and that the Blucy-peddling Blue Door Pub is only a mini hike across I-94. [Photo: Brendan Sullivan]
Having the endeared rock ’n’ roll haven the Turf Club close for summer renovations, just in time for the Green Line to open, is a massive tease. For now get your fill of PBR, sonic scuzz and gross urinals at Big V’s on the other side of Snelling. On’s Kitchen is still a Thai-lover’s favorite for pre-show feasting, while Fasika whips up classic Ethiopian dishes. Midway Used & Rare Books has been turning pages for a nearly half a century. Wear sensible shoes to hit the boutique district down at Selby and Snelling Avs. — including Karma, Lula Vintage Wear, Up Six, Flirt and Everyday People. [Photo: David Joles]
It’s hard to get stoked about nearby discount retailers SuperTarget and Wal-Mart. But we are cuckoo for the quiche at Groundswell, a hip coffee bar and restaurant four blocks north of the station. Stop in for brunch, dinner, a beer or just a cup of joe. After dark, head to the Town House Bar. This dive bar with a dance floor has been serving the Twin Cities’ LGBT scene for decades. [Photo: Tom Wallace]
When a banh xeo or fried catfish hankering comes on, jump off at Lex and head to Hoa Bien or Arnellia’s soul food restaurant and bar. Tap your inner crate-digger and hunt for hidden gems at the Midway’s Landfill Books & Music or get your pho on at the inconspicuous Destiny Cafe in the Sunrise Market. [Photo: David Joles]
Possibly one of the biggest culinary draws on this stretch of University Avenue, Ngon Vietnamese Bistro is a force on the local pho scene. A commitment to local beer, a cool patio and a couple barrel-aged cocktails don’t hurt, either. Try the acclaimed croissants and banh mi at Trung Nam French Bakery or duck into Homi Restaurant for from-scratch Mexican cooking. [Photo: Tom Wallace]
University Avenue is teeming with authentic Asian markets, and Shuang Hur Supermarket can help with those hard-to-find ingredients or fresh (i.e. still living) lobster, blue crab and crayfish. For more ready-to-eat comestibles, try the Andrew Zimmern-approved iPho by Saigon, SugaRush donut shop or dueling barbecue joints Big Daddy’s and the Hickory Hut. Beer geeks, head south on Dale till you hit the Muddy Pig — one of St. Paul’s finest suds spots. [Photo: File]
From an unassuming deli counter inside its little neighborhood grocery store, Ha Tien Asian Market slings another one of St. Paul’s most ballyhooed banh mi sandwiches (wash it down with a Vietnamese iced coffee). Down the street, Bangkok Thai Deli has settled into its new home in an old Burger King and although the market is no more, you should find something satiating on Bangkok’s whopper-of-a-menu. [Photo: Jerry Holt]
Capitol/ Rice Street & Robert Street
All’s quiet at the State Capitol during the summer (who wants to haggle over bonding proposals in June?). So now is probably the best time to enjoy the domed statehouse’s majesty or stroll through the Capitol Mall and outdoor World War II Memorial, which honors the 320,000 Minnesotans who served. [Photo: Ben Brewer]
Chances are you won’t ever catch Garrison Keillor chugging a local craft beer in a gay bar blasting Morbid Angel — as awesome as that would be. But each of those things can be enjoyed individually around the 10th Street station. Shop for metal records at Into the Void before pre-gaming for a Fitzgerald Theater performance of “A Prairie Home Companion” at Tin Whiskers’ taproom, which recently opened in the Rossmor building, also home to Black Sheep Pizza, Keys Cafe & Bakery and downtown St. Paul’s lone gay bar Camp. Before calling it a night, pound pancakes at iconic greasy spoon Mickey’s Diner, open 24 hours a day. [Photo: Ben Brewer]
Hockey fans, theatergoers and arena-rock lovers will quickly get acquainted with the Central station — the closest stop to the Xcel Energy Center, Roy Wilkins Auditorium and the Ordway Center for the Arts. On event days or otherwise, hit up St. Paul’s pioneering brewpub Great Waters Brewing Co. for a pint or sip some gin while catching a local band at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall, whose album you might find next door at Eclipse Records. Fellas, get swagged out or grab a straight-razor shave at men’s boutique Heimie’s Haberdashery and treat your gal to dinner at Meritage or Pazzaluna. A Scotch-y nightcap at the St. Paul Grill is never a bad move. [Photo: Jeff Wheeler]
While the Saints’ new ballpark is a year away, Lowertown’s already got a lot going on at the Green Line’s eastern terminus. Foodies can revel in the weekend St. Paul Farmers Market, bakery and brunch spot the Buttered Tin or locavore paradise Heartland. Sixth Street by Mears Park is a libational murderers’ row with first-rate beer pub the Bulldog, tequila den Barrio and vino parlor Bin Wine Bar. Quench your pre- or post-show thirst there or at Faces Mears Park before Thursday’s Music in Mears summer concert series. Art hounds will enjoy the reopened Bedlam Theatre or Lowertown’s myriad studios, including the AZ Gallery. And don’t forget to scarf a Coney dog at the Gopher Bar. [Photo: File]
Metro Green Line
What: The new Metro Transit light-rail line running from Target Field in downtown Minneapolis to Union Depot in downtown St. Paul.
When: Opens 10 a.m. Sat. Runs 24 hours daily.
Fares: Adults $1.75; or $2.25 at rush hour (6-9 a.m., 3-6:30 p.m. weekdays).