By Molly Mogren
Updated March 20, 2014
© Molly Mogren

If your only experience with Minnesota relates to Fargo, you’re missing a lot. Sure, we love our church basement luncheons and pancake breakfasts and wood chippers, but our city is also home to amazing Vietnamese food, craft cocktails and masterful, delicious doughnuts. For a micro-sampling of the best of the Twin Cities, you can’t beat this pocket of awesomeness between 26th and 28th streets on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis.

Pho Tau Bay

Situated between a self-serve car wash and a Laundromat, Pho Tau Bay looks less like a restaurant and more like an office building for shady massages and cash-only dental services. It’s easy to overcome the setting once you try the killer green papaya salad. It’s shredded and topped with beef jerky, peanuts and some mix of soy/vinegar/sugar. Gorgeous and only $4.50! Also try the pork chop broken rice platter, with strangely delicious shredded pork rinds, and Vietnamese iced coffee, which is wonderfully akin to melted coffee ice cream.

Vertical Endeavors

Head three blocks south to one of the country’s largest indoor rock-climbing gyms. Housed in a historic icehouse building, it features nearly 28,000 square feet of climbing walls, some reaching 60 feet in height. That sounds just kind of high, but feels really high. Don’t panic, that’s why you’re belayed. First-timers can rent equipment and take a lesson.


You climbed, survived and definitely earned yourself a cocktail. Head next door to Icehouse, where the only thing better than the ploughman’s platter is the selection of cocktails. Order a Full.Grown.Man (bourbon, rum, house-made ginger beer and bitters) and mellow the eff out.

Greater Goods

Drunk shopping is the best sort of retail therapy and Greater Goods across the street is a delightful greeting card and gift shop. Postage and mailbox are available on-site, and a portion of all sales go back to the community. Boom.

Glam Doll Donuts

At this adorable shop a half-block away, try the Calendar Girl (a raised doughnut with salted caramel and chocolate), a Pinup Girl (an apple-bourbon fritter topped with bacon) or a Pucker Up (a lemon–cream cheese cruller). They also offer vegan options, which is quite possibly the best thing to happen to vegans since Tofurkey. Bonus: They’re open until 1 a.m.

Molly Mogren landed a gig as Andrew Zimmern’s right-hand lady in 2007; they’ve co-written three books together and co-host a weekly podcast called “Go Fork Yourself.” Her latest project, Hey Eleanor!, chronicles her year-long journey of tackling one thing that scares her every day. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her fiancé, dog (Patsy) and kitty, Bogart.