Comings and Goings on East 38th Street

BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE

The business and cultural scene along East 38th Street, a personal favorite east-west connector and not just because I live near it, remains lively but in a healthy way. There have been some beloved mainstays that went under—notably Southside Farm Store. I will kind of miss it, despite its unkempt appearance and haphazard stocking practices. We take it for granted that South Minneapolis is a land of vegetable patches instead of front lawns, yard chickens, strong neighborhood organizations, hops growing, tall bikes, puppets, and beloved pets out the wazoo.

But none of that would be here now if not for the hippie zeitgeist of the elders that came before—of which Southside Farm Store was an example—so respect!

I am not an urban geography scholar, so I have no proof, but I suspect that a lot of this new stuff is partially driven by all the apartment developments springing up along the Hiawatha corridor.

On East 38th Street, construction is almost complete at the cleverly named 38*28 building (because it’s at the crossing of 28th Avenue, get it?) of 38th Street Station, brought to us by the Lander Group. People are moving into these apartments, hungry people, who occasionally want to pop out for a nitro cold press coffee and an artisan cookie. The coffee shop that was Keen Eye about a year ago, and I forget already what before that, is now Daily Coffee and Provisions.

The Provisions piece is because some of the internal seating was sacrificed to put in a grocery shelf with carefully curated snack foods and drinks. Energy bars, jerky, healthy chips, natural sodas, etc. are for sale there. In the coffee section, try the warmed bagels with a generous cream cheese spread. The coffee, including taps of nitro cold brew, is from Blackeye Roasting, just down 38th Street on Chicago. There are also lots of baked goodies and “pressed sandwiches” (which I call panini, but maybe that’s just me) and chai and regular tea and kombucha. Lots of choice packed into that small space.

To tell you the truth, our little stretch of 38th Street went from a fearsome coffee drought after Keen Eye closed and while we waited for Sisters’ Sludge to an embarrassment of riches.

Between Cedar and 28th Avenue, a mere 10 blocks, we have at least three really great coffeeshops and they are nothing like each other. Sisters’ has been open a while now, and is always hopping. They have two parts—the coffee part, and then a wine bar. Both parts have a fireplace, some comfy chairs, and some modern, minimalist decor with the tables and chairs. The wine bar side also has a bar with high stools if you relish that experience. It’s open the latest of the three, because of the wine bar. They also have panini sandwiches as well as other “small plates” in the wine bar side. My neighbor Julie and I dropped in for a glass of rose and a Grown- up Grilled Cheese and were very pleased. The third pearl in this necklace, just east of Cedar, is Botany. Botany is very minimalist. They don’t have a huge selection of food, but it’s high end nosh, such as pastries from Salty Tart, and their coffee is impeccable. They are obviously serious coffee connoisseurs, and sell coffee beans and coffee making equipment. Instead of featuring one beloved hometown roaster, Botany has an exploratory vibe, bringing in artisanal roasts from all over the world—Madcap Roasters in Michigan, La Cabra in Denmark, etc. They also have a seasonal line of very creative drinks, with tonics, and flavors, sometimes mixed with espresso, sometimes with milk, sometimes hot, or sometimes iced. Check out their Facebook page to see what they’re up to. I love the atmosphere in there. If I ever start my novel, I am going to probably write it there, it has that kind of feeling, all quiet and serious.

Along the same stretch of the sidewalk as Botany Coffee are a few other new businesses. One is actually an old business that moved here from its former location on Lake Street. This is Southpoint Community Acupuncture. Acupuncture treatments are truly a treat. The “community” part of the name means they are committed to making this mode of care affordable to all. The community acupuncture website says: Community Acupuncture offers care “in a setting where multiple patients receive treatments at the same time; by financially sustainable … means; and within a context of accessibility created by consistent hours, frequent treatments, affordable services, and lowering all the barriers to treatment that we possibly can, for as many people as possible, while continuing to be financially self-sustaining.” Fees range from $15 to $35, with some special discounts on top of that. The treatment room can have half a dozen or more clients relaxing in recliners, fully clothed, receiving treatment all at once. It’s very cozy and nurturing—give it a try. The other truly new and unique small business in the building is Grimm Be-Bop. Launched recently with the slogan “It’s Halloween all year round,” it’s sort of like if you took a modern-day take on a “head shop,” combined it with a small used vinyl and CD shop, and then added a layer of feminism, paganism and heavy metal. I think it would be a fun shop for kids and teenagers, but even crusty old adults like me can find something we want there, whether it’s a DVD of an old kitschy horror film or a piece of tarot-themed jewelry. The owners are Jason and Ginger Rogers Mills, and they also own a record store in La Crosse, Wis. They will buy your saleable old records or CDs, and you can order new media through the store.

Just around the corner on Cedar Avenue near 38th Street is Lucy’s Market and Carry-out. It’s actually a tiny restaurant as well as a carry-out, where you can order as a walk-in, by phone, or through Bite Squad. The food is classic Ethiopian food—featuring a range of meat, vegetarian and vegan dishes. A vegan can get a great meal here. There is seating for maybe a dozen people. Aster, the owner, is always there on her own, or maybe with her two very well-behaved small children playing in their play area in the front of the store, so if it gets busy, service can be understandably slow. But the prices are great, the food is some of the best Ethiopian food in town, and so it’s worth the wait.

Continuing westward along 38th Street, you may encounter a couple of places either just opened (neither were open at the time of writing) or just about to open. Both are broadly categorized as southern U.S. or soul food, but they’re very different from that point on. At the corner of Bloomington and 38th, the construction on the coming restaurant has been going on for about a year. This is an established (elsewhere) soul food kitchen that is moving from its previous location to here—Mama Sheila’s. As such, we can pretty much know what the menu will be, but if you want details, the full menu is posted on the front door of the place. The other place is on Chicago Avenue, on the southeast corner; it’s called Funky Grits and its graphical presentation is more of the modern “cheffy” style than the traditional downhome style of soul food. And it’s not advertising itself as soul food, but rather as “soul-inspired comfort food of the American South (and surrounding influences) [married] with forward thinking, chef driven, contemporary cuisine.” Both of these restaurants are intriguing to me, and having grown up in Atlanta, Ga., I know a little something about the cuisine in question. I will be eagerly awaiting their debuts, and since by fortunate circumstance, I happen to also be your restaurant reviewer (see The Dish in this publication) I will probably report on the results sooner or later.

PHOTO CAPTION: Minneapolis Community Acupuncture

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