Hennepin & Lake - Uptown
See and Be Scene
Hennepin and Lake, more popularly known as simply “Uptown,” functions as a kind of life path rest stop. A steady rotation of young people have come and gone, arriving during or right after college and departing for home ownership when marriage and babies come around. The eating, shopping and nightlife mostly cater to this energetic age group, but there’s something for everyone, not the least of which being the Chain of Lakes, which is like Minneapolian catnip when the temperature is above freezing.
Lake Life Liveliness
Minnesotans celebrate the outdoors like few other cities. Sure, we like our winters, but the first time the temperature pokes its head about 45, the shorts come out (no kidding) and people flock to the lakes and parks. The Chain of Lakes is the city’s most popular of our many, many parks. (By design, no Minneapolis resident lives farther than six blocks from a park.) It’s also a key component of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, a 51-mile loop composed of parkways, trails, and the Mississippi River Boulevard. It’s the only scenic byway in the country located entirely within an urban area. The chain is composed of Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet (arguably the two most popular lakes in the city), Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake and Brownie Lake. They all have bike and pedestrian paths, boating docks, boating, kayaking, gardens and picnic areas. Also available at some lakes are facilities for archery, fishing, tennis, soccer, volleyball, grills, skiing paths, ice rinks and hot food.
Serving much-loved French bistro food from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. (2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays) is Barbette’s primary appeal to neighborhood diners who get cravings at odd hours. Even better, they get much of their ingredients from farmers and producers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Lake & Irving is relatively new to the neighborhood, but already legendary for their gastropub dishes, like the St Louis ribs, buttermilk chicken sandwich and truffle fries. Origami was one of the first sushi restaurants to open its doors to a skeptical Minneapolis public almost three decades ago. Thankfully, carefully prepared raw fish quickly won over the locals and Origami is still regarded as one of the best places for fresh sushi and traditional Japanese dishes. For something a little less traditional, Kiku Bistro serves creative (and very pretty) Japanese options, including sushi and teriyaki. Their happy hour is universally adored.
Libertine has an unusual, yet successful games/upscale restaurant thing going. Games include pin ball, skee ball, foosball, Nintendo 64, table tennis and more. Happy hour has $3 beers and $3 sliders. As for food, they serve a range of bar snacks all the way up to entrees of salmon, steak and a “bacon chop.” Stella’s Fish Café, housed in a massive, three-level space with a rooftop patio, is known for its giant menu of seafood items and colorful cocktails. Amore Uptown serves traditional Italian fare with a few modern twists, like the Italian egg rolls. They do a generous happy hour and have a rooftop patio. Local health food chain, Agra Culture Kitchen & Press, serves light vegetarian and gluten-free options, along with juices and smoothies.
Darbar India Grill has a giant menu of contemporary Indian dishes, including numerous lamb, seafood and vegetarian options.
La La Homemade Ice Cream sells traditional and creative ice cream flavors as well as ice cream cakes, take-home containers, and floats made with house-made sodas. They even keep a few vegan options on hand.
Uptown is awash in nightlife options, mostly catering to a crowd seeking busy, thumping bars. If you’re looking for a mellow weekend night out with prompt, attentive, relaxed service, you’ve come to the wrong neighborhood.
Chino Latino has been a fixture and consistently popular Uptown happy hour spot for nearly twenty years. They serve a Latin/Asian menu composed of “street food from hot zones.” Uptown Tavern is best known for its happy hour ($2 off all drinks and $5 apps) and rooftop seating. The Freemont has the rare Uptown DJ and dance floor and rotating happy hour deals that are arguably the best in Uptown.
There are a few cozy places in the neighborhood to have a quiet date night and Troubadour Wine Bar is one of them. It’s an intimate, upscale place with small plates, charcuterie platters, acoustic music and, of course, judiciously selected wine.
The landmark Uptown Theater, opened in 1913, has been lovingly remodeled to restore its art-modern, neo-baroque elements. They currently feature foreign, art and cult films, including “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which was shown every Saturday at midnight from 1978 through 1997. It’s still shown once a month. Just down the street, Lagoon Cinema screens new releases, but it’s better known for showing indie, foreign and avant-garde films that are otherwise absent from Minneapolis cinema.
Uptown has a number of popular chains for apparel, accessories and outdoor gear. A few noteworthy indie shops have also dug in and thrived. Kitchen Window features local, national and international kitchen appliances, accessories, glassware, grills, storage, food, ingredients and much more in their massive 20,000 square foot store. They also hold cooking classes. The tiny Magnetic Originals shop is the passion project of Jeffery Gauss, who has been designing magnet art for nearly 20 years, including pop culture and political-theme art. All his pieces are signed and numbered. My Sister is a socially conscious apparel shop for women and girls that benefits non-profit women's organizations that fight sex-trafficking. Their merchandise includes shirts, tanks, leggings, jewelry, lip products and gifts. Covered is a boutique shop that stocks upscale, trendy women’s clothing.
A neighborhood institution, Magers & Quinn Booksellers has been Uptown’s independent, new and used bookstore and literary events space for over 20 years and among the best bookstores in the state. They also sell cards, maps and other gifts.
Perennial Cycle has been the neighborhood bike and repair shop for two decades. If you get a sudden itch to tool around the lakes, they rent bikes too. If it’s aquatic transportation you’re looking for, Wheel Fun Rentals rents stand up paddle boards, pedal boats, kayaks, canoes and more.