I understand Minneapolis isn’t exactly a hotbed of diversity (according to Chris Rock, only two black people have lived in Minnesota: Prince and Kirby Puckett), but there are moments every so often that remind me this place isn’t always the vanilla, Minnesota-nice, oversized suburb for which it’s known. One of those moments was Friday night, when my lady friend and I ventured to Nordeast for the standard dinner-and-a-movie evening.
First stop: Saint Anthony Main theater. Located on the river and sandwiched between a few restaurants sits this cinema house, old-school through and through. There’s one ticket booth and one concession stand in the tiny, ’70s-carpeted lobby, each theater holds maybe 100 people and the movie’s volume is pleasantly quieter than the eardrum-shattering, seat-shaking multiplex mega-decibels. It’s quaint without feeling forced.
Second stop: Wilde Roast Cafe for a late dinner. The Wilde Roast is just up the road from Whitey’s/The Bulldog on Hennepin; it’s a dark, roomy cafe with plenty of parking ’round back. Patrons sit with their laptops or books for hours on end, no hassles. It’s a nice place — dark wood interior, upscale furniture, mostly candlelit — but wouldn’t exactly be my cup of tea if not for this incredible deal they offer: the Date Night Special, in which you receive two entries and two bottomless glasses of wine for $25. As in, $25 total. And, just because I feel the need to drive this point home, I’ll repeat: you can eat dinner and get completely sloshed on the all-you-can-drink vino for about thirty bucks, including tip. Beat that, Chicago.
Third stop: After tipping back a few glasses apiece, we decided to venture out to a few nearby bars that we’d never visited. We fancy ourselves Northeast experts, but while sauntering the streets we realized we’d never been to Arone’s. So we stopped in, and … will never, ever return. Arone’s is one long rectangular room, decently lit, with a few dartboards and tiny TVs surrounding the large square bar in the middle. At this bar sits a smattering of some highly questionable characters; the possibly homeless and decidedly ghetto converging to create an atmosphere both depressing and aggressive. The hypothetical thought bubbles appearing above each patron’s head as they suspiciously surveyed the bar seemed to read, “alright, who do I feel like fighting tonight?” (And those were the women.) Though I can’t say for certain, I’d bet top dollar that 2/3rds of the bar was flying high on substances harsher than booze. And while Danielle and I feel comfortable at the sketchiest of locales, here we guzzled our beers and got the hell out of there ASAP.
Last stop: Our thirst for first-time locales still unquenched, we moseyed across the street to Conga Latin Bistro. When the bouncer told us of the $10 cover, we quickly did a u-turn toward the exit. “Ah, never mind,” he said in a thick Spanish accent. “Go in. No charge.” We offered impassioned gracias’s and obliged. Sidling up to a bar that seemed to include pretty much 100% latinos, we watched the salsa action from afar. After one cerveza apiece and highly enjoyable people watching (lots of energized spanish-speaking people running around), we decided to call it a night.
So, there you have it. In the span of about nine blocks of Northeast Mpls real estate, we visited a vintage movie theater, an upscale cafe, a ghetto dive bar and a salsa bistro. Diverse experiences aren’t always easy to come by in this area, but every once in a while, you can stumble upon some culture.
Northeast Minneapolis: good for the soul.