BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
When is a park not a park? The other day I noticed, not for the first time, a little one-square-block park at 42nd and Bloomington called Bancroft Meadows. But when I looked it up on the Park Board site, it wasn’t listed. This puzzled me and got me searching. The answer was found in the blog of one Max Hailperin, who is attempting to walk every block of every Minneapolis neighborhood. Max says, “Bancroft Meadows is not owned by the parks department, but rather by the city’s public works, and its primary function is storm-water detention, having been built for that purpose in 1989.” Well, alrighty then.
You know what Bloomington Avenue has a lot of? Interesting churches. At 1515 E. 23rd St. is the All Nations Indian Church. Almost exactly a year ago, this lively congregation lost its decades-long beloved pastor, the Rev. Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo. The Circle newspaper commemorated her in an Aug. 5, 2022, article, “ An emotional farewell for the Rev. Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo,” which is available online and worth a read to appreciate all the amazing accomplishments of this strong, brilliant Native woman.
Just a short way down the road, at 2742 15th Ave. S., is St. Paul’s Lutheran Church/Iglesia Luterana San Pablo, a 135-year-old church in a beautiful old building. This church, too, had until recently a strong and charismatic pastor in Patrick Cabello Hansel, who, along with his wife Luisa, had led the church since 2005. Pastor Hansel recently retired, and fortunately is still very active in the community, including publishing poetry and writing for The Alley newspaper. The current pastor, the Rev. Hierald Edgardo Osorto, seems to be equally effective and the church is thriving. As you may guess from the church’s name, it is a bilingual Spanish and English church.
The St. Paul’s/San Pablo congregation is very invested in the Phillips community, hosting the Phillips Community Clinic, a Spanish language AA program, and Semilla Center for Healing and the Arts, as well as running a summer camp program and year-round youth programs, and partnering with scores of other arts and community organizations, such as the Family Partnership and In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre.
At 4501 Bloomington Ave. you’ll find Living Spirit United Methodist Church, another church with an interesting history of changes. The following is an excerpt from the website of Beacon Interfaith Housing:
“In 2009, the former Oakland Ave. United Methodist Church (44th and Oakland) and Asbury UMC (45th and Bloomington) merged, choosing Living Spirit as their new name. The members of both congregations were historically Caucasian. When the neighborhood became more diverse, Oakland UMC acquired many African American members as well as immigrants from African countries and so became focused on racial justice and other community concerns, but declined in membership over the years. The Minnesota UMC Conference helped Oakland to join with Asbury, also declining, but primarily Caucasian.”
Turning to the more secular side of things, this neighborhood still shows similar themes of connection, history, healing, creativity, arts and cultural diversity. Even though retail establishments are not numerous in this mostly residential area, there are a few of interest. At 3220 Bloomington is La Cuencanita Grocery, a thoroughly Mexican food-centered business. They carry Mexican brands in all their food categories and produce that Anglos may not be familiar with but are considered staples by our Latina neighbors. And they even have online shopping, which is rare for small stores.
At 3400 Bloomington Ave. is City Blocks Quilt Shop. They changed to this new name last year, but they are still a consumer-owned co-op, and like food co-ops, you don’t have to be a member-owner to shop there. They also have classes ranging from beginner to advanced in all the arts of quilting. You can also shop online, but if you drop by in person, you will find an impressive range of expert knowledge and advice being dispensed for free.
A new type of store, of which we will probably see a lot more of, has popped up at 4211 Bloomington. This is Uffda Cannabis Dispensary, one of two locations in south Minneapolis. They too have online shopping (go to uffda.cc/s/shop). I don’t know about you, but this is all so new to me, I’m going to have to go in person and poke around and see what it all is. I’ll let you know.
There are lots of fun places to eat along Bloomington Avenue. If you want to taste some great, authentic Mexican food, try Taqueria y Birrieria las Cuatro Milpas at 1526 E. Lake St. Chef-owner Hector Hernandez, who owns two other sites, one in Bloomington and one in suburban Atlanta, says he is the first to bring birria tacos to the Twin Cities. Birria is a rich stew of beef, lamb, or chicken.
At Hot Plate, 5204 Bloomington Ave., “new” (since 2017) owner Carmen Santana introduced a few Mexican favorites but kept the super-popular Minnesota-themed breakfast items for an eclectic menu mix that works on many levels. For more depth on Hot Plate, see our first mention back in August 2019 or the review in The Dish of March 2023. Mama Sheila’s at 38th and Bloomington is another haven of authenticity, in this case authentic African American soul food. I grew up in East Point, Georgia, (home of Outkast if that sounds familiar) and I can tell you, it’s authentic. It’s also one of those increasingly rare things, an all-you-can-eat buffet.
We’ll end our tour of Bloomington Avenue with the little interconnected hub that includes Modus Locus, a unique art gallery that also hosts yoga classes, events, and real estate seminars; Reverie Cafe and Bar, a vegan restaurant with shared DNA in the arts world and especially In the Heart of the Beast and MayDay; and the May Day Cafe, whose connection with the two just mentioned should be obvious. Modus Locus and Reverie share an outdoor space that Modus Locus calls the Graffiti Garden, while to Reverie it’s just their patio seating. This year it was also the site of the May Day Anyway Parade’s afterparty.
For Modus Locus, you must check out their website because I’ve run out of space, and they just have so much great stuff happening. For the May Day Cafe, their Facebook page usually has a rundown of the menu specials for the following day. For Reverie – just go and try it. Reverie is one of my favorite spots for vegan gourmet treats and local artisan drinks.