Field trip | Minneapolis's ballpark and lakefront
Gourmet grub sates fans at the Twins' new ballpark, while active types hike and bike Minneapolis's miles of lakefront.
Just as carefully considered as the park’s contemporary design are the concessions: It’s worth the wait at either of the Kramarczuk’s stands, outposts of an Eastern European deli and grocer located just blocks from the field, for a grilled Polish—better than any I’ve tasted in Chicago. Other options, like Murray’s steak sandwich (tender sirloin, provolone and grilled onions on a fresh ciabatta roll) and the Vincent burger (an Angus beef patty stuffed with braised short rib and smoked Gouda), make it difficult to focus on the game. Oh, well—the Orioles rout the Twins 7 to 3.
After all that calorie-loading, it’s time to get some exercise. Minneapolis was recently named the nation’s most bike-friendly city by Bicycling Magazine (it’s even starting a bike-sharing program June 10), so we rent cycles from Uptown’s Calhoun Bike Rental ($17 for two hours or $65 for the weekend). This green city touts 43 miles of streets with dedicated bike lanes and 84 miles of paved off-street paths to attack. (Chicago reportedly has 200 miles of bikeways, but most are on the street.) The rental shop’s namesake, nearby Lake Calhoun, is an obvious kickoff. Locals sun themselves on three beaches that jut off the 3.2-mile trail or line up at the Tin Fish takeout window for beer and fried oysters.
In this serene “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” Calhoun is part of a smaller subset, Minneapolis’s Chain of Lakes—five such bodies connected by well-maintained biking and pedestrian paths. Just south of Calhoun, I hit Lake Harriet. Along the lakefront sits the hallmark band shell, which looks like a set piece from Eureeka’s Castle. Kayaks, paddleboats and canoes are available for $11–$22 per hour from Wheel Fun Rentals, but the dense brush of the Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary beckons. Hiking along the narrow, tree-lined path, I spot a couple of serious binocular-toting birdwatchers eyeing springtime warblers (I also smell at least one pot smoker—not a rare species here). After 20 minutes, I come out the other end… in Japan. Actually, it’s the Lyndale Park Peace Garden, a Zen-tastic place to meditate or picnic, with its Asian-styled garden loaded with colorful blooms, hulking stones and The Spirit of Peace, a bronze sculpture by local artist Caprice Glaser that gives instructions on folding an origami peace crane (an adjacent dispenser provides complimentary paper). Just as high on the tranquility scale, the abutting Lyndale Park Rose Garden shows off 100 rose varieties to stop and smell.
From Lake Harriet, it’s about a 17-mile slog to must-see Minnehaha Falls. I go by car, but those intent on biking should hit the essential Midtown Greenway to the Minnehaha Avenue path that starts off of 27th Avenue South. A 5.5-mile former railroad track, the Greenway cuts an east-west path adjacent to Lake Street from the Chain of Lakes all the way to the Mississippi River. There, it meets up with river trails that lead north to the historic Mill Ruins Park, featuring the remains of some abandoned flour mills, and neighboring St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam.
At Minnehaha Falls, white water majestically drops 53 feet before emptying into the mighty Mississip. I’ll be damned if the rushing sounds don’t give me a seafood jones. Conveniently, the casual Sea Salt Eatery is within earshot of the falls. The seasonal restaurant specializes in fish tacos and po’boys, best washed down with delicious, locally produced Surly brews. Nabbing a table can prove difficult right through its final week in October.
A spot with just as much local cachet minus the prices and lines is Matt’s Bar. The dimly lit Billy Goat–like dive is one of two bars in Minneapolis that lays claim to inventing the “Jucy Lucy,” a burger patty filled with gooey melted cheese that oozes into your mouth. (The 5-8 Club is the other, though it uses the spelling “Juicy Lucy.”) As I’m comfortably hunkered down in a brown vinyl booth with a cheap beer and a basket of hot fries, it becomes clear: Mother Nature can’t always compete with the great indoors—even if the walls are lined with fake wood panels.
WHERE TO FIND IT
Band Box Diner 729 10th St South (612-332-0850)
Calhoun Bike Rental 1622 W Lake St (612-827-8231, calhounbikerental.com)
Lyndale Park Rose Garden 4124 Roseway Rd (612-230-6400)
Matt’s Bar 3500 Cedar Ave South (612-722-7072, mattsbar.com)
Mill Ruins Park 103 Portland Ave South
Minnehaha Falls 4801 Minnehaha Ave (612-230-6400)
St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam 1 Portland Ave (612-333-5336)
Sea Salt Eatery 4825 Minnehaha Ave South (612-721-8990, seasalteatery.wordpress.com)
Target Field 351–413 5th Ave North (minnesotatwins.com)
Tin Fish 3000 Calhoun Pkwy (612-823-5840, thetinfish.net)
Wheel Fun Rentals 4135 Lake Harriet Pkwy East (612-823-0077, wheelfunrentals.com)