Literary City Guide | Minneapolis, MN
Tour Guide: Amy Rea
Amy is the author of two guidebooks to Minnesota as well as a blogger at Wander Minnesota. She loves her home state and getting to spend time exploring its exemplary indie bookstores. (All photos by Amy Rea.)
Relationship to Minneapolis: I moved to Minneapolis to attend the U of M at age 18, and have lived in and around it for over 30 years.
Writer you'd like to invite to dinner: Margaret Atwood. I just saw her give a talk locally, and I think she’d be a hoot as a dinner guest. I particularly enjoyed her tales of writing a home economics opera in high school.
Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Pen or Pencil: Pen
Coffee or Tea: Coffee. Black. Strong. Half-decaf, though. Lots, please.
Paperback or Hardback: Either
Magers & Quinn. This is Minneapolis’ largest indie bookstore, selling both new and used, with a fun location in Uptown near the Chain of Lakes. They have a formidable calendar of author events.
Birchbark Books. Owned by National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich, this is the quintessential neighborhood bookstore, tucked away just a few blocks from Lake of the Isles. Small but well curated, the store also has extensive Native American works. Not to mention a former confessional.
Uncle Hugo’s/Uncle Edgar’s. You want mystery and/or sci fi? These next-door-neighbor bookstores are where to go. Besides extensive collections, both stores boast highly knowledgeable staff.
Once Upon a Crime. Go down the stairs to find this little bookstore, which seems very cozy and sweet—but it’s all crime and mysteries, all the time.
Wild Rumpus. Located in the charming Linden Hills neighborhood, this children’s bookstore (named, of course, after Where the Wild Things Are) is everything a young reader could want: it’s overflowing with great books, has a staff that well-versed in the youth book world, there are birds, a chicken, and a tailless cat.
Minneapolis Central. Designed by Cesar Pelli, the Minneapolis Central Library is a stunning piece of architecture as well as the third largest per capita public library collection of any major city in the U.S., and is home to well over 2 million items.
Linden Hills Community Library. Linden Hills stands in contrast to Minneapolis Central; instead of contemporary, this classic library building was built in 1931 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
READINGS & CONFERENCES
Pen Pals. Friends of the Hennepin County Library sponsors this annual reading tour which currently takes place in Hopkins, a suburb west of Minneapolis. It brings in five high-ranking authors for talks and readings each year. This season: George Saunders, A.S. Byatt, Luis Alberto Urrea, Art Spiegalman, and Tracy K. Smith.
Talk of the Stacks. This series occurs at Minneapolis Central Library and offers a diverse line-up each season. The current season includes rapper/poet Dessa, author Amy Tan, and poet Nikki Giovanni.
Open Book. Open Book is the heart of Minneapolis’ literary community. The three-story renovated building is home to the Loft, the country’s largest writing and literature organization, which offers classes for all ages, conferences, camps, and studios; the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, a studio for experienced and would-be bookmakers who want to learn the fine art of creating an actual book; and Milkweed Editions, the esteemed indie press.
Graywolf Press and Coffeehouse Press. Two more exemplary small presses, both of which have received heaps of accolades and count Nobel-winning poets and National Book Award nominees in their rosters of authors.
Wilde Roast. The Wilde Roast Cafe is a neighborhood restaurant with an updated Victorian feel
Dogwood Coffee. Artisan-like attention to coffee drinks, and conveniently located right across the street from Magers & Quinn Booksellers.
Peace Coffee. Starting life as a coffee roaster and wholesaler, Peace Coffee finally opened a coffee shop to great acclaim. The friendly atmosphere paired with the carefully brewed coffees are a perfect pairing.
A PROPER MEAL
Eat Street. A section of Minneapolis on Nicollet Ave. from 14th to 28th, Eat Street has a wildly diverse set of dining options for lunch or dinner. From the nicer bar/restaurant scenes of Eat Street Social and Icehouse, to the coffee house on steroids that is Bad Waitress, to the variety of ethnic (Chinese at Rainbow or Evergreen, Vietnamese at Quang, German at Black Forest Inn, Malaysian at Peninsula, Greek at Christos, or Mexican at Salsa a la Salsa, you can find something delicious for every palate.
Northeast. Right across the river from downtown Minneapolis, there are several eateries worth a trek across the bridge. Burgers rule at Bulldog NE; Eastern European specialties abound at Kramarczuk’s; one of the few truly excellent lunch buffets can be found at Nepali restaurant Gorkha Palace; Anchor Fish & Chips nearly always has a line, and for good reason; Masu Sushi & Robata brings Japanese food (and ramen!) to a new level; Brasa Rotisserie knows exactly how to handle all kinds of meat; and Restaurant Alma is a special-occasion treat with emphasis on local ingredients. And there’s always Psycho Suzi’s.
At the Midtown Global Market, the Salty Tart is run by Michelle Geyer, who has received multiple James Beard award nominations for her phenomenal work with pastries. The bakery is well known for its addictive coconut macarons, but keep an eye out for the fruit pastry of the day—always seasonal, always delicious.
Glam Doll Donuts. This sassy donut shop with its retro décor treats making donuts very inventively. There are some basic donut flavors, but skip those and go for the Chart Topper (peanut butter donut with Sriracha drizzle) or the Pinup Girl (apple bourbon fritter with bacon) or the Misfit (orange, ginger and cinnamon-infused glaze). Bonus: open until 1 a.m. on weekends.
Solomon’s Bake Shop. Fruit horns. Decadent croissants. And delicious breads, everything baked fresh daily.
Amy's 5 Favorites
Favorite view: It’s hard to beat the view off the Endless Bridge at the Guthrie Theater, overlooking the Mississippi River, the Stone Arch Bridge, and the former mill sites. History and natural beauty, all in one spot.
Favorite place to write: Open Book. How can you not feel inspired in such a literary-focused location?
Favorite museum: Just one? The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, which has a diverse collection, great gift shop, and offers ever-changing programs and traveling exhibits.
Favorite coffee shop: Dogwood Coffee at Calhoun Square.
Favorite thing about Minneapolis: The vibrant arts scene. Lots of literary spots to enjoy reading and/or writing, great theater scene, museums small and large—and great places to eat.