BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Spring 2023 dawns on a reinvigorated Chicago Avenue at 48th Street and the southward stretch. There are a couple of new incoming businesses, there are some longtime stalwarts thriving once again, there is a lively sidewalk culture, and there’s even a new transit option from Metro Transit. And, the return of something we missed last summer.
The thing we missed, that went away for a season, was the Nokomis Farmers Market at 5167 Chicago Ave. During their 2022 hiatus, the parent organization, Neighborhood Roots, held pop-up markets and used other ways of raising money to bring back the smallest (but very popular) of its three south Minneapolis markets (the other two, which remained open, are Kingfield and Fulton). The market will be back in its same location and time slot, Wednesdays from 4 to 8 p.m., beginning on June 14, according to the Neighborhood Roots website.
Arguably, the anchor of the actual block that runs between 48th and 49th Streets on the west side of Chicago Avenue is the Parkway Theater. It’s been back in business, in person, for over a year now and is really hopping. Imaginative film series
alternate with exciting live entertainment, both local and imported. The food options on either side of the Parkway are both stellar and worth a visit on their own – Creekside Supper Club to the south, and Town Hall Tap and Sidecar at the Tap to the north.
The Saturday film series for April is Puppet Month, featuring “Muppets from Space,” “The Dark Crystal,” “Labyrinth” and “The Great Muppet Caper,” while the Thursday series is Murderers, Stalkers and Psychos. On April 10 there will be an author talk and new book signing with local superstar author Curtis Sittenfeld, moderated by Julie Schumacher, and Tuesday, April 11, there will be a concert by Lucy Wainwright Roche, that exquisite talent resulting from the marriage of two folk rock dynasties. You get the picture. Check out the Parkway’s event portal on their website for even more riches.
There are two businesses coming soon to the Chicago and 48th commercial hub, one food-related and one not. The non-food one will open any day now at the spot between Bauhaus Framing Studio and Town Hall Tap. It’s called Stirling Castle Vintage and Resale. This is the first physical storefront for a vintage clothing (and other items) business that has been only online and in pop-ups and markets until now. I saw the window display, all ready for the opening, and if it’s an indication, we’re looking at some really good quality stuff. I forgot to take a picture, so I’ll post a picture of the actual Stirling Castle, which I have been to, by the way.
The food-related one is Urban Wok. There has been a sign in the window for more than a year claiming the space vacated by Primp, a dress shop, as the future space for the next Urban Wok. Urban Wok was founded in Lowertown in St. Paul, and then began to expand, eventually merging with a franchising firm in Atlanta, Georgia. Current Urban Woks (subsequent ones being franchises) can also be found in Medina, St. Louis Park, Brookhaven, Georgia, and Columbia, South Carolina, as well as the original one in St. Paul. I think both of these new businesses will round out the retail mix very nicely.
Not that it is lacking now! How many other commercial hubs surrounded by attractive, stable, middle-class housing can boast a large urban park, a fencing school, too many beauty and wellness salons to count, a great coffee shop, pizza, sushi, a bakery, vegan fried chicken, a good liquor store, a brewpub, a theater, a veterinary clinic and a pet washeteria? And that’s not even all there is at 48th and Chicago.
Part of that lively sidewalk culture I mentioned is Pumphouse Creamery. The Twin Cities abound with good ice cream places, but Pumphouse, one of the smallest, punches above its weight. They make my favorite ice cream on the planet – Lemon-infused Olive Oil Sea Salt. I won’t even try to describe this; just go and taste it. Honorable mentions are due to their use of Askinosie Chocolate in their chocolate flavors, their Ruby Roasters Coffee flavor, and the Brother Justus Single Malt Whiskey flavor. Way to boost local brands.
McRae Park is the neighborhood’s prairie and parkland (it actually has a small prairie within the park). There is a lot of interesting programming for kids during spring break and all summer long, and for all ages throughout the year. On Thursday, April 20, if you are 55 or older and live in the vicinity, come to McRae park at 1 p.m. for coffee and a chat about what kinds of programming you would like to see and participate in. You’ll be talking with Helene Gauthier of Community Education at Roosevelt High and Rachel Hoben of McRae Park. For more information call 612-668-4828.
And the new transit option? That would be the D Line, which is still pretty new, but in operation now. The D Line is the latest route in the bus rapid transit (BRT) system, where prepaying before boarding and specially designed limited stops cut travel times greatly. Chicago and 48th is one of those limited stops on the D Line, which runs from Brooklyn Center to Bloomington, via downtown Minneapolis, Chicago Avenue and the Mall of America. Unlike the “limited” bus routes of old, which ran infrequently and/or only during commuting hours, the BRT runs all day and buses come about every 15 minutes. (The old #5 route is still operating but is running only one per hour at off-peak times.) Go to metrotransit.org or the Metro Transit app on your smartphone for more details.