As you unravel yourself from Minneapolis’s epicenter, you’ll see a large, shimmering, neon block sign that says “Sexworld” — a fetish toy emporium. It may be the first pleasure you spot in the city’s North Loop, but it won’t be the last.
A nod to the trolley service that rolled through this warehouse district, the North Loop, which once spread out just beyond the downtown high-rises, was a busy industrial and railroad depot until it fell into disrepair in the 1960s. In the ’80s it became a cornerstone of the Twin Cities’ alternative arts scene (Prince’s club Glam Slam was also rooted in the area). Today, it’s home to some of the most coveted addresses in town — both in food and in retail — while still managing to keep a certain unpolished quality to its gentrification.
WHAT TO DO
A restaurant, café, and speakeasy-style bar tucked underneath, this is the brainchild of the Dayton brothers (the sons of Minnesota’s governor) who are on a crusade to reposition Minnesota as America’s North, and not its Midwest. The Daytons make a compelling case with their dinnertime restaurant — a bastion of good taste (figuratively and literally) that leans into the Scandinavian penchant for local foraging. The bright-tiled café next door is a great daytime hangout, and Marvel, downstairs, is the perfect place to stop in between for its ace brandy program. TheBachelorFarmer.com
Edwards Dessert Kitchen
No matter where you have dinner, get yourself here afterward. The all-dessert concept spot — which threw in one or two small savory options to nab a liquor license — is an outgrowth of Schwan’s, a Minnesota-based frozen-foods delivery operator that’s carving out a newly refined (and highly Instagrammable) reputation in the sweets space. Tapping Christina Kaelberer, the former pastry chef at New York’s Rainbow Room, to run the test kitchen, Edwards is at its best when it dabbles in the untraditional, like the must-try curried scotcheroos, a layered chocolate bar built atop Rice Krispies. EdwardsDessertKitchen.com
A nod to the prosperous 1890s, when “gay” had a totally different meaning, this expansive nightclub with six different interior bars checks all the boxes: drag queens, fluorescent cocktails, topless barbacks, and a giant novelty penis named — you guessed it — Dick. Gay90s.com
As if it were curated by a gay Don Draper, this retailer of department-store aspirations has a knack for selling every gotta-have-it totem of refined living, from pocket squares and snifters to limited-edition fragrances and retro table books. Small rooms lead into one another like the chambers of a Clue game board, amounting to 17,000 square feet of covetable showroom space. We challenge you to walk all the way through without pulling out your credit card. MartinPatrick3.com
Also owned by the Dayton brothers, Askov aspires to be the new name you associate with cold-weather conditions, selling proprietary versions of souped-up outerwear inspired by a polar expedition. The storefront has a healthy e-retail presence, too, and some profits are siphoned off to help fight climate change, ensuring they’ll still be able to dress shoppers for years to come. AskovFinlayson.com
Jeromeo in the Loop
Leveraging a long-lease rental on a half-derelict warehouse, this emporium of all things Asian — from oriental curios to homeopathic massage oils — doubles as an alternative wellness center, and it’s a vestigial reminder that the North Loop is still very much a transitional neighborhood. Recently, plans were afoot to create a pop-up coffee-and-dumpling shop within. Jeromeo.com
WHERE TO STAY
Three design pillars of the Twin Cities’ hottest digs — wool blankets, plaid, and taxidermy — comprise a living shrine to the Minnesota aesthetic, which borrows notes from its northern counterparts in Scandinavia.
The hulking red-brick factory, with rows of rounded windows chipped into the facade, has been flipped into 124 distinct rooms that keep the building’s industrial footprint ever-present. The most compelling reason to visit is Tullibee, the on-site restaurant, which gives the area’s stand-alone eating establishments a run for their money.
A dedicated in-house butcher sources the regularly rotating selection of fine meat cuts, and the tartare, a menu staple, is a must-try. Cap the night off with drinks on the roof overlooking the buzzing neon signs of the strip clubs nearby. HewingHotel.com