View from Northeast: Where everybody knows your name

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April 11, 2011
By: Merle Minda
Merle Minda
Well, perhaps not everybody. But that’s how it feels living in Northeast. Changing house after years of living in Kenwood, a fabled Minneapolis neighborhood, I traded grand boulevards and mansions for neat streets, smaller well-kept houses and yards overflowing with flowers in season. Plus the surprises, because Northeast keeps surprising me in delightful ways.

First, the neighborhood feeling — people actually do know my name and recognize me as I make my way from Northeast stores for wine, cheese and groceries; from boutique to boutique; from the drugstore to the bank. Friendly hellos happen daily. Neighbors and neighborhood workers alike have time to stop and chat. When I was scheduled for a small surgery, I received inquiries after my health once I was out and about again.

I love the ethnic diversity of people and places, restaurants, music and shopping. Last fall, my husband and I attended four ethnic festivals in as many weeks — the Polish Festival, the Ukrainian Festival, the Bratwurst Festival and the Lebanese Festival. Within six blocks of our condo near the Bridge, we have more than a dozen restaurants and music venues to explore, like Ginger Hop, Ghorka Palace, Brasa and Whitey’s.

Venturing away from the near Bridge area, there are interesting mini-zones all over Northeast, such as the burgeoning restaurant and arts neighborhood surrounding 13th Street and University Avenue, where several good restaurants (the Northeast Social Club, Erté, The Modern) are anchored by the Ritz Theater’s eclectic year ‘round performance schedule. More ethnic restaurants line up along Northeast’s Central Avenue, beginning with Holy Land’s Middle East offerings, Marrakesh with Moroccan food, Sen Yai Sen Lek’s Thai rice and noodles, plus Ecuadorian, Columbian restaurants and more.

Northeast has its own very active Arts District too, with an annual Art-A-Whirl event opening up the studios of perhaps 400 artists who live and work in this area. Many buildings are studio homes for artists, including Grain Belt Studios, Northrup King, the Thorpe Building and the unfortunately named but historic Casket Arts Building. Much further up Central is the renovated Heights Theater, with vintage and new movies, plus concerts on the in-house Wurlitzer on weekend evenings.

Transitioning to condo living for the first time, I enjoy the way the condos and condo dwellers fit into neighborhood life here in terms of welcome acceptance. As a walker, I have happened upon hidden pockets within a 30 minutes walk of where I live. Discovering a secret passage onto Nicollet Island, strolling the river, Boom Island’s big open spaces or enjoying the private but open-to-everyone community garden off 7th Street and Marshall, talking with neighbors as they rake leaves, plant or shovel their boulevards — it all has an air of adventure.

Hennepin Avenue is the dividing point between neighborhoods here — from Downtown, cross the Mississippi on Hennepin, turn south toward Riverplace and St. Anthony Main and you are in Southeast Minneapolis; turning north off Hennepin, you are Northeast. It’s just that simple.

You also have the nearby advantages of Southeast Minneapolis’ ambience as well, with its historic Stone Arch Bridge, Father Hennepin Park, more restaurants and the 4-plex movie theater. You can easily cross the river on foot and access the Mill City District, the Mill City Museum and the Guthrie Theater. More walks, more music and concerts, and many more restaurants are here.

Gazing out our 11 foot high windows, the city is at my feet. I am close to the weather; overlook the river and the downtown Minneapolis skyline. A city bus stops at my corner. I am finding fewer and fewer reasons to leave Northeast. I can find almost everything I want here, often within walking distance. Explore Northeast with me in the coming weeks to enjoy this part of the city as much as I do.

Northeast resident Merle Minda is a Twin Cities freelance travel writer and consultant.

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