Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is an easy bike ride (there is a Nice Ride station at Lexington and University and another at the Como Lake Pavilion) from the light rail line. Grab some take out and bike up from the line for a picnic! (Monitor archive photo)
By JILL BOOGREN
Taking the train can be a great way to get to know a neighborhood, and the Green Line through the Midway, with its sizzling array of local shops and restaurants, has something for everyone. In the four-mile stretch from the “Creative Enterprise Zone” at Raymond Ave. to Little Mekong at Western Ave., you’ll find vintage clothing, vinyl records, used books, award-winning food, locally-crafted beer, mouth-watering barbecue, and so much more – all within an easy walk from the train stations.
Here is just a small sampling — pick a stop, get a day pass, and hop aboard!
RAYMOND AVENUE STATION
A hot spot for retro shops, food, music, and beer, you could easily spend the day here. Succotash, 781 Raymond Ave., is a one-stop shop for art, vintage clothing, and housewares, specializing in mid-century modern design. They helped prop the Minnesota Historical Society’s “Toys of the 50’s, 60’s, & 70’s” exhibit. Open Tues.-Sun., closed Mon. On Facebook.
The recently opened Barely Brothers Records, 783 Raymond Ave., carries new and used vinyl records. There’s occasional live music, and on Fridays is a Friday Night Spin, 6:30-8:30pm. Open daily. (www.barelybrothersrecords.com) At Shag Studio, 799 Raymond Ave., you can shop for vintage clothes and get your hair done in its two-chair retro salon (appointments a must). Open Tues.-Sat, closed Sun.-Mon.; 651-379-9890.
Hungry? Earning “Best Of” awards from City Pages for three years running, Foxy Falafel, 791 Raymond Ave., will dish you up a sandwich, platter, or salad with your choice of meat or falafel (regular, curry, or beet). Has gluten free and vegan choices. Sidewalk seating. Open Mon.-Sat., closed Sun. (www.foxyfalafel.com). For a fine dinner of homestyle Italian food, go to Caffe Biaggio. Open Mon.-Sat., closed Sun. (www.caffebiaggio.com)
Classic Retro @ Pete’s, 2145 University Ave. W., has African animals painted on the outside and glassware, housewares, paintings, home decor, and collectables on the inside. (Photo by Jill Boogren)
A few blocks east on University at Vandalia, The Dubliner Pub, 2162 University Ave. W., voted Best Irish Pub by City Pages in 2013, has food, drink, and Irish music most nights (except Mondays). (www.thedublinerpub.com) Rummaging? Across the street is Classic Retro @ Pete’s, 2145 University Ave. W., its sign and brick building painted with African animals very visible from the train. Pete’s has a colorful glass collection, housewares, paintings, home decor, and collectibles. Open Wed.-Sun., closed Mon.-Tues. On Facebook.
Right next to the shiny metal grain bin that is Bang Brewing (2320 Capp Rd.), is Urban Growler Brewing Company (2325 Endicott St.) which has as its flagship beers Graffiti Rye IPA and CowBell Cream Ale. (Photo by Jill Boogren)
If you’re up for a walk (or you brought a bike), go a block east of the station and follow Hampden Ave. north about ¾- mile (the road becomes Hersey St.) to the shiny metal grain bin that is Bang Brewing (2320 Capp Rd.). Their beer is tasty and all organic. Taproom open Fri.-Sat., closed Sun.-Thurs. (www.bangbrewing.com) Right next door is Urban Growler Brewing Company (2325 Endi-cott St.), whose flagship beers are Graffiti Rye IPA and CowBell Cream Ale (www.urbangrowlerbrewing.com)
FAIRVIEW AVENUE STATION
Second Debut2, 1825 University Ave. W., is easy to spot next to the streetcar mural on the Major Tire Co. building at Fairview Ave. An upscale resale boutique operated by Goodwill-Easter Seals, Second Debut2 carries like-new women’s clothing, with labels from Banana Republic to Prada, accessories, and shoes, and they offer styling advice. (www.seconddebut.org) The Goodwill Retail shop is one block behind them, 553 Fairview Ave. N., and can be seen directly north of the Fairview Ave. Station. (www.goodwilleasterseals.org) Both shops open daily; revenues support the mission of Goodwill to eliminate barriers to work and independence.
If you’re in the area during business hours, Lucy Coffee Café, 540 Fairview Ave. N., is a great spot for a quick coffee or panini. The bejeweled mannequin crafted by owner Julie Peck is not to be missed. With sign language almost always available, Lucy strongly caters to the deaf community. Patio seating. Open Mon.-Fri. On Facebook.
Need a beer? Go a long couple blocks north to Thomas Ave. and a block east to find Burning Brothers Brewing, 1750 Thomas Ave. W., at Wheeler, for a beer that is 100% gluten free. Taproom open Thurs.-Sat., closed Sun.-Wed. (www.burnbrosbrew.com)
SNELLING AVENUE STATION
If you are a tinkerer or an artist or just like scavenging for cool or weird stuff, you’ll be like a kid in a candy store at Ax-Man Surplus, 1639 University Ave. W., a block west of Snelling at Fry St. For over 40 years, Ax-Man has carried gadgets, widgets, and not a small number of plastic body parts. 99% of goods are new, save for the occasional vintage piece. At Ax-Man they don’t take themselves too seriously, and neither should you. Go. Just for the fun of it. Open daily. On Facebook.
Hear some music and check out the newly renovated digs at the legendary Turf Club, 1601 University Ave. W., reopening Aug. 28. (http://turfclub.net)
Appetizers at On’s Kitchen Thai Cuisine. On’s, 1613 University Ave. W., was named one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the Twin Cities by Mpls St. Paul magazine in 2014, (Photo by Jill Boogren)
On’s Kitchen Thai Cuisine, 1613 University Ave. W., named one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the Twin Cities by Mpls St. Paul magazine (2014), is well worth a stop. On’s is family-owned and operated, with chef/owner On Khumchaya preparing each dish from scratch. Try the stuffed crab cakes and the Pla-Lad-Prik, fish with curry paste. Come early if you’re planning dinner on a weekend night. Open Mon.-Sat. Closed Sun. (www.onskitchen.com)
Serving the Midway since 1965, Midway Used & Rare Books, 1579 University Ave. W., has three stories of books. Open daily. (www.midwaybook.com) For a taste of Ethiopia, the award-winning Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant (510 Snelling Ave. N.) is on the same block. Open daily. (www.fasika.com)
HAMLINE AVENUE STATION
North on Hamline Ave. (1340 Thomas Ave.), Groundswell is a coffee shop with an in-house bakery and locally-sourced food. Serving local craft beer, Dogwod Coffee, and Gray Duck Chai. Open Daily. (www.groundswellmn.com)
LEXINGTON PARKWAY STATION
Bike or take the 83 bus from the Lexington Pkwy Station north to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. It’s about 2.4 miles to the park (there’s a Nice Ride station at Lexington and University and another at the Como Lake Pavilion. www.niceridemn.org). Grab takeout from any eateries along the Green Line, and have a picnic. Check out the Gorilla Forest, see the lake by paddle boat, and enjoy music in the park (through Sept. 11). Open daily. (www.comozooconservatory.org) Hoa Bien (1105 University Ave. W.) makes a great stop for phởở soup or spring rolls. Open daily. (www.hoa-bien.com)
(Biking tip: From the train station, ride a much quieter side street north to Hubbard Ave., then get onto the bike bridge on the west side of Lexington Pkwy. This will get you over the tracks, and it’s an off-road trail from there to the park.)
VICTORIA AVENUE STATION
If you want to lounge a little and enjoy a meal with a cocktail or local beer, park yourself at Ngon Vietnamese Bistro, 799 University Ave. W. (east of the station at Avon), named one of the best 50 restaurants in the Twin Cities by Mpls St. Paul magazine, (2014). Ngon provides French-Vietnamese food that is locally, organically, and sustainably sourced. Try the phởở, with broth made from grass-fed oxtail, the New Zealand mussels in spicy curry phởở broth, or a crispy rabbit dumpling with curry sauce. Ngon has a lovely patio out back, adorned with herbs and greens. Occasional live music. Open daily. (www.ngonbistro.com)
DALE STREET STATION
Among the framed awards decking the wall inside iPho by Saigon, 704 University Ave. W. (a block and a bit west of Dale St.), is an article from Buon Gusto (2002) signed by Chef and TV Personality Anthony Bourdain: “I LOVE this place!” Sure, that was from their old location, but they’re still receiving accolades for their phởở (Charlie Award finalist in 2012) and Bánh mì sandwich. Try “The Regular” sandwich, with red roast pork, pork loaf, paté, mayo, cucumbers, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and jalapenos on bread baked fresh daily. Open Tues.-Sun., closed Mon. On Facebook.
Erik Pendleton and Rose King are ready to serve up some mouth-watering ribs at Big Daddys Barbecue, 625 University Ave. W. They were voted Best Barbecue by City Pages in 2012 and their “flintstone” beef ribs are some of the most watering around! (Photo by Jill Boogren)
About four years ago Big Daddy’s Barbecue, 625 University Ave. W., voted Best Barbecue by City Pages (2012), moved its smokin’ outdoor tail-gaiting party across the street and indoors. Their “flintstone” beef ribs are some of the most mouth-watering barbecue you may ever eat. Their space recently expanded and includes a patio. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see smoke pits outdoors once again. Open Wed.-Sun., closed Mon.-Tues. (www.bigdaddysbbq-stpaul.com)
WESTERN AVENUE STATION
The heart of the Little Mekong District (www.littlemekong.com) is at University and Western. Here you’ll find gifts, clothing, and restaurants featuring Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Cambodian, and Hmong cuisines. For a taste of food and merchandise, go to the Little Mekong Night Market (Saturdays, Aug. 16 & Sept. 6, 5-10pm) in the parking lot at Mai Village Restaurant, 394 University Ave. W.
And this is just where the fun starts! Within an easy few-block walking distance of the Green Line’s 19 stations, you will find more than 150 bars and restaurants alone!