Chicago Avenue from McRae Park to the Crosstown

McRae Park youth football 1979


McRae Park is one of the friendliest parks, much beloved by its surrounding neighborhoods. It stands as a green and welcoming gateway to the business hub of Chicago and 48th and the southern parts of south Minneapolis beyond. Current use information for parks and rec centers is available online or by phone. Some 30-plus of the 50 recreation centers have limited open times, but only for scheduled activities, for which you must pre-register. McRae Rec Center is hosting monthly Dinner and a Movie programs for kids ages 5 to 13. There is one Sept. 17, and one Oct. 15, and so on through the winter. The cost for Minneapolis residents is $8 per child. On Dec. 21, a Winter Solstice party for all ages is planned. McRae Park also has a playground, “wandering paths,” and a small prairie just outside the Rec Center.

Student, Center for Blade Arts

The Center for Blade Arts is a unique indoor sports venue less than a block south, at 4744 Chicago Ave. They teach Olympic fencing, historic European martial arts (HEMA), Kendo (a Japanese bamboo sword art), and Toyama Ryu Iaido, a training leading up to Tameshigiri, which is the ability to perform perfect cuts on a target with a razor-sharp samurai sword! Center for Blade Arts was shuttered for a while because of COVID, but is now open. However, unlike pre-COVID days, there are no drop-in classes or activities. Registration is required, although it is fairly easy to access for returning students or students with experience. Beginners may need to be on a waiting list. Consult their website or inquire at the front desk during open hours or call for more details.
If you’re looking for some treatment for body aches or just a nice relaxing massage, there are loads of practitioners at the Chicago and 48th hub and a few more to be found around the smaller hub at 52nd Street. But you might also try going all the way south to 5536 Chicago Ave. where you’ll find Southside Chiropractic PA. They have been in practice there since the mid-1980s, in particular Dr. Borell, who was a founder of the practice. She provides acupuncture treatments as well as chiropractic adjustment. In addition, the practice has two other chiropractors and two massage therapists.
They have a cool method of keeping in touch about appointments, at least I find it so, since I like doing things online and hate talking on the phone. (Although you do have to phone to actually make the appointment.) They send out a weekly Mailchimp newsletter with all the practitioners’ available appointment slots for the week, as well as other important news. Check out Southside Chiropractic on Facebook to see the latest newsletter, get the phone number, and see all their many 5-star reviews. They also have a 5-star rating on Yelp.
Getting back to the big business hub at 48th and Chicago, here are a few of our current favorite places. Bubbly Paws is a self-serve pet grooming facility. This is a great alternative to taking your pet to a groomer (especially if they have obedience or abandonment issues). You’re doing the pampering yourself, but without getting your entire apartment, or several rooms of your house, wet, or wet and smelly in the case of dogs. (I love dogs, but let’s face it, they smell funny when they’re wet.)
Minnehaha Animal Hospital consistently gets mentioned when people online ask for local vet recommendations. For a while, animal hospitals did not let clients accompany their pets inside while they were being treated or examined. Now the policy is relaxed slightly. They still ask you to wait in your car or outside until called. But now one person per animal, masked, is allowed to accompany the pet patients into the clinic. Also, Minnehaha Animal Hospital is not taking on new clients, according to their website. (Call to check, though, if you need a new vet, as sometimes businesses forget to update these things.)
The chic gift shop 14 Hill is open more or less as normal. But if the non-mandatory mask rules are too iffy for you, especially just for non-vital shopping, they set up an excellent online shop which has a ”curated selection” on it. You can call the owner if you don’t see what you want and access items that may not have made it onto the Shopify site. They offer free delivery within three miles of the store if your order is over $50, or the option of curbside pickup. Not surprisingly, they have a lovely Instagram site (14hillgiftshop) that’s updated pretty much daily.

Makerie customer models her own design.

Another Chicago Avenue shop with a beautiful Instagram is Lakes Makerie, down near the other hub at 52nd Street (about which more later). Lakes Makerie originally opened as a sewing lounge and fabric arts studio, but COVID caused them to focus more on their fabric sales and online community. Although they are open now for in-store browsing, they still offer an excellent online shopping experience as well, with free shipping for orders of $100 or more.
There are lots of great dining and drinking options at the Chicago and 48th hub. Bagu Sushi and Thai is a big favorite. (If you follow my restaurant column, you know how partial I am to Japanese food, and Thai is a close second favorite.) Bagu is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. If you’re still nervous about dining out, they have delivery via Bite Squad. You can also order take-out in person, by phone, or online for pickup.
Another great option, with indoor seating, sidewalk seating, or takeout options, is Sovereign Grounds. They have, in addition to some high-end coffee shop basics, several Middle Eastern specialties, both sweet and savory, and also Turkish coffee, which not a lot of our local coffee shops do.
Also try the ice creams and sorbets at Pumphouse Creamery on the west side of Chicago just before 48th Street. I just can’t stop raving about Pumphouse Creamery’s delightful Lemon Olive Oil Sea Salt ice cream. It’s transcendently delicious. Other flavors, some of which I have actually torn myself away to try, include Ruby Roasters Coffee, Strawberry (using local berries), and for the vegan lovers of iced treats, two sorbets. One, grapefruit, is a perennial, and one is new and special – hibiscus-ginger-cinnamon.

Herbie Butcher’s owner Kale Walch

Herbie Butcher’s Fried Chicken, the fast-casual, takeout-only, VEGAN fried chicken place in the old Elbow Room space, has been busy since it opened in mid-summer. The concept comes from the two siblings who founded Herbivorous Butcher in Northeast Minneapolis. From the website:
“Our mission has always been to try to save the world by bridging the gap for omnivores that haven’t quite made the full jump to veganism yet. By making vegan meats and cheeses that are even better than what they were used to, we start to accomplish just that. Herbie Butcher’s Fried Chicken continues our brand’s mission by making a fried chicken that won’t leave anyone questioning if a plant-based lifestyle is possible without sacrificing the foods we love.”   ~Kale Walch, co-founder
Follow them on Facebook and/or Instagram for frequent status updates, like new menu items or delivery options.
The big news recently in the Chicago-48th space is that the Parkway Theater is now open for actual movie showings as well as concerts and other live events. Their COVID policy is to require either a COVID-19 vaccination card or a negative test result no more than 72 hours before the event. Check out for the films running now through November, or the Events tab for non-movie events.
There is another hub of business activity on this mainly residential avenue, starting at 52nd Street and Chicago. (As I write this there is road work going on there, with a detour for through traffic, so you may need to park and walk a bit.) First there is the Nokomis Farmers Market, which will wrap up at the end of this month. The 2021 Nokomis market runs Wednesdays through Sept. 29 from 4 to 7:30 p.m. They have dining canopies under which you can sit and snack or have a coffee and listen to the live local music.

Heather Asbury of Heather’s

Across the road is the excellent Heather’s Restaurant. I have not made it there to eat yet although I have had a couple of excellent meals delivered (they’re on Bite Squad). They have patio dining with reservations, and if you’re dining there, indoors or out, you can also take advantage of their wine list and rotating taps of local and artisan beers. Heather’s Restaurant offers a full menu (except for wine and beer) to-go for pick-up through the walk-up window or delivery for a flat fee of $5. Place an order online, over the phone, or right at the window.
And because there are not a lot of grocery stores on Chicago Avenue, we will just wrap up with Kowalski’s. If you haven’t checked them out, please do, because they’ve got a great little store there at 56th and Chicago. (Kowalski’s is the only place you can buy Inés Rosales Tortas from Seville, a snack pastry somewhat like buñuelos, but less sugary.) They have online ordering with three options for delivery as well as curbside pickup. I have only tried Shipt, which I recommend.

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