BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
More updates on the Kmart site
Yes, the old Kmart was supposed to be torn down by now. But then, following the George Floyd uprising, we had to tear down not one but two burned-out post offices instead, and the building was reconfigured to a double ZIP temporary post office. However, the former grocery store next door will be torn down some time this year, and the site tidied up a bit.
The city has big plans for this site, which involve new housing and street-facing storefronts for smaller scale retail, and, most importantly, reconnecting south Nicollet Avenue to Eat Street and downtown. But we’ll have to wait, thanks to some fools who burned down post offices in the uprising. (You’ll never convince me even an uneducated leftist would think to do that.) Current hopeful plans are to demolish the second building in late 2023 and begin construction sometime in 2024.
Coming this summer – Centro Kitchen + and Eat Street Crossing
Speaking of Eat Street, two interesting newcomers are coming to the iconic strip of Nicollet Avenue this summer. First, in the former Wedge Table site at 2412 Nicollet Ave. (I sure do miss that place) there will be a sort of mini food hall from the people who own Taquerio Centro and Vivir in Northeast Minneapolis. It will serve as the “central kitchen” supplying those two Northeast restaurants and another one coming to St. Paul, and then several freestanding “restaurant concepts” open to the public, plus a bar.
Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal explains: “At 7,000 square feet the restaurant space is ‘way too big for just the Centro brand,’ she [co-owner Jami Olson] said, so it will also incorporate sister restaurant Vivir and another concept that will be announced soon. When guests walk into the new Eat Street restaurant, they’ll see defined spaces for each concept, find a spot in their shared seating area and order items from any of their menus through the same proprietary app.”
The second newcomer is even more ambitious and exciting. Lina Goh and John Ng, co-owners of Zen Box Izakaya on South Washington Avenue, came up with the idea along with Ben Spangler and Gabby Grant-Spangler, co-owners of Bebe Zito in Uptown, and well-respected local cocktail expert Trish Gavin. They have acquired the rundown but still legendary Old Arizona Studio building (2819 Nicollet Ave.) and are remodeling it for a different kind of food hall, called Eat Street Crossing (ESC).
They have stated that a big part of their design plan is to avoid gentrifying the neighborhood. In conjunction with Christian Dean Architecture, “we’re trying to find the soul of that building — and the community,” said Goh in a Star Tribune June 6 article. Unlike many recent food halls, there will be no market section. Six food stands, all created by one of the two “power couple” founders, and an inclusive bar program designed by Gavin, will comprise the food hall part of the space, and a new mezzanine space will be an event venue.
The bar program, besides selling an array of modern cocktails, will include many non-alcoholic, low-sugar and grown-up “mocktails” as well. It will also include a “wine wall.” Zen Box Izakaya is one of my favorite nightspots, so I am really looking forward to visiting Eat Street Crossing.
Places to get your groceries, parts 1 through 4
Part 1 – Even though the Wedge Table is gone, the old supermarket is being demolished, and ESC won’t include a food market, there are loads of places to get groceries the length of Nicollet Avenue. For one thing, although it’s way south, there is a Cub Foods at 5937 Nicollet Ave. Although not open 24 hours, it may as well be, being open seven days a week from 5 a.m. to midnight.
Part 2 –Another option, though way more time-restricted, is shopping at farmers’ markets. One of these is the Nicollet Mall Market, an extension of the original Minneapolis Farmers Market in Near North. The Nicollet Mall Market operates on Thursdays through October, along a six-block stretch of Nicollet Mall, and its opening day is June 16. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Then there’s the Kingfield Market, one of the Neighborhood Roots markets, co-sponsored by the Kingfield Neighborhood Association. This takes place on Sundays, June through October (it’s already open) from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 4055 Nicollet Ave.
Part 3 – Eat Street itself has a number of small ethnic grocery stores as well as sit-down restaurants, fast food outlets and diners. Or for generic shopping at a savings try the Good Grocery, the ground floor business in a newish apartment complex at 2650 Nicollet Ave. It operates using largely volunteer labor, and volunteers get a significant discount throughout any month they work.
Part 4 – If you like your meat, try getting it from a specialist instead of a run-of-the-mill grocery store. One of the Twin Cities’
oldest and best is Finer Meats & Eats, at 3747 Nicollet Ave. They offer expertly cut meats of the highest quality, as well as a dizzying array of house-made sausages, with far more choice than you’d find in a supermarket. You can also save time and money by buying in bulk, in variety packs that include chicken, beef and pork products, or an all-beef package if you prefer.
Finer Meats also has a popular food truck with a menu of mouthwatering burgers, BBQ sandwiches and more. It’s at Venn Brewing on Monday evenings; check their Facebook page to find more locations (https://www.facebook.com/finermeatseats/).
Good cheap dining from Eat Street to Richfield
There are too many options to cover them all, but here is a sampling. I was on Eat Street the other day with my friend Julie. She was craving pho, so I accompanied her to lunch at a place that was new to us – Pho Tau Bay at 2837 Nicollet Ave. I had a tasty noodle salad called a “bun” (pronounced halfway between bun and boon). We both liked the place – it has a kitsch-y, old-school ambience, with low prices and excellent iced tea.
Another great place to get a reasonably priced meal is Butter Bakery Cafe at 3700 Nicollet Ave. This place is a B Corp, which is a for-profit business with special ethical practices and a generous sharing of profits with its community. Butter Bakery accomplishes this in several ways, including providing training and well-paying jobs to formerly homeless or at-risk youth. And their food and drinks, especially the in-house bakery products, are really delicious.
Farther south, try the Minneapolis branch of St. Paul Bagelry, at 5426 Nicollet Ave. As their website proclaims, they make more than 3,000 bagels every day, from scratch, with love. You can get bagels in a wide variety of flavors (nearly 20!), including sun-dried tomato, asiago cheese and cranberry, as well as classic favorites like poppy seed, pumpernickel and onion. Served plain, with peanut butter or jelly or more than a dozen flavors of cream cheese, their bagels are available to go, in bulk or to eat there. In addition, St. Paul Bagelry serves breakfast sandwiches, lunch/deli sandwiches and coffee drinks (they serve Dogwood Coffee, one of our best local roasters).
Good cheap retail, too – and more
There are plenty of retail options along Nicollet Avenue. It tends more to the quirky, the affordable and the recycled, rather than the fake boho of Uptown and other more gentrified areas, which is just how I like it when I shop in person. B-Squad Vintage, at 3500 Nicollet Ave., is a fun shop to browse for men’s and women’s vintage clothing, jewelry and accessories, plus home décor, vinyl LPs and 45s and 8-track tapes, and even record players, receivers and 8-track players. They buy vintage clothing and records on Wednesdays or by appointment, and even make house calls! It’s best to check their website or Facebook page for current hours or give them a call to set up an appointment.
The perfect place for someone with an addiction to comics (their own words, no judgment here) is Hot Comics and Collectibles in the Hub Shopping Center in Richfield, one of three in the area. Hot Comics sells new comics, vintage comics, and various collectibles like action figures with comic-related themes. If you really have it bad, you can save money with their discount card. For $15 per year, you can save 10% on all you buy there.
Finally, for your more serious purchases, there is Nicollet Ace Hardware, “the biggest little hardware store in Minneapolis.” We mentioned them last month for the 38th Street focus (they’re located near the corner of Nicollet Avenue and 38th Street). But
there is news – they have launched the Ace Handyman Service! In a recent Facebook post they said, “We have seen a need in the community for such services and wanted to offer the highest level of service possible as part of being the Helpful Hardware Folks!” Finding a good handyman/woman who’s not booked up for weeks ahead is difficult these days, so this is a great addition to Nicollet Ace Hardware’s already stellar service.
Nicollet Avenue’s legacy of caring
St. Stephen’s Human Services has merged with House of Charity to form a new organization called Agate Housing and Services. They have retained their shelter services, including free meals, showers and laundry, along with the Handbook of the Streets and their Street Outreach Teams, and now that they have joined forces, will be able to provide even more.
In the housing services side, Agate provides rapid re-housing, permanent supported housing, programs to prevent homelessness to those at risk, and two separate shelters serving over 400
unduplicated guests per year. They also do advocacy and welcome your involvement. To learn more about ways to help, visit their website at https://agatemn.org/get-involved/.
Another service organization making a huge difference is the Family Tree Clinic, in its new home at 1919 Nicollet Ave. FTC moved from St. Paul recently, and its new space is much larger, allowing for an expansion of services.
FTC is a community clinic, which means it provides low or no-cost services to vulnerable and/or underserved populations. They have traditionally focused on the underserved community of LGBTQ people and their families. They are funded by a combination of patient sliding-scale fees, state and county funding, foundation grants and individual donations.