Poinsettias in the Margiorie McNeely Conservatory – St. Paul, MN

Poinsettias in the Margiorie McNeely Conservatory – St. Paul, MN

Courtesy of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory

View the hundreds of poinsettias in the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park through Jan. 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park is famous for its flower shows. But none is as popular as the Holiday Flower Show, which fills the Sunken Garden with hundreds of poinsettias. You can see it free daily through Jan. 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Sunday, Dec. 15, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., you can take your holiday photos inside the Conservatory before it opens to the public; $5 per person.


From Refugee Camp to Runway: Q&A with Halima Aden – St. Cloud, MN

From Refugee Camp to Runway: Q&A with Halima Aden – St. Cloud, MN

Sports Illustrated did something unprecedented last spring, although it was Halima Aden who really made history: At 21, the Somali American fashion model appeared in the magazine’s swimsuit issue dressed wrists-to-ankles in a burkini—beaming, lounging on a beach in Kenya, the country where she spent much of her childhood in a refugee camp before moving to St. Cloud, Minnesota, in the early aughts. Among Aden’s other firsts: first woman to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, first to sport one on the covers of AllureBritish Vogue, and Teen Vogue, among other women’s magazines. In 2018, the proud Minnesotan took on her most cherished role yet, as an ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). We sat down with Aden to catch up.

What was your childhood at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya like?

I remember the happy moments. I had a normal childhood, I had a happy childhood. Despite it being a refugee camp, and despite the environment, I still was thriving. I think when a child doesn’t know any better, you don’t know that you’re missing out on anything. So, for me, I remember the strong sense of community, people coming together and helping each other out. I remember so many nights where all the neighbors, all the refugees, would come together to dance and sing. I had so many friends. We all spoke different languages, but Swahili was our common ground. I just felt like every day was something new, and the opportunities were endless, in a way.

At the refugee camp, what can you remember about your first UNICEF interactions?

It was a UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] camp, and I remember people coming back to the camp and playing with us, a lot of visitors. It was definitely a UNICEF-sponsored camp, but UNHCR also did a lot on the ground. Early on, I remember seeing the UNICEF shirts, the staff wearing the shirts, the school that they built in the camp, all the programs that they tried to do for the kids.

In your work as a UNICEF ambassador, what do you hope to achieve?

I’ve always said my family won the million-dollar lottery by escaping the camp and coming to America, and I’ve had the chance to go to school and get an education, and now, with modeling, I have this new platform that I can use to share the stories of refugees and bring attention to the work that UNICEF is doing on the ground. My advocacy is 100% necessary in that space. I know what it’s like to be a child refugee. So many of the challenges the kids are going through I can personally relate to, and I think my story gives them so much hope and inspiration for the future.

UNICEF ambassador Halima Aden on a field visit in Italy in August
UNICEF ambassador Halima Aden on a field visit in Italy in August


Last year, you returned to the refugee camp where you grew up. What are your memories from the trip?

That trip was eye-opening, because it was the first time that I got to go back home. With that was a whirlwind of emotion. On the one hand, I’m going home to the place where I grew up and spent the first seven years of my life. On the other hand, I was doing the first-ever TED Talk that was taking place in a refugee camp, and that was exciting and nerve-wracking. Overall, I would say that experience of returning home as an adult was one of the most moving, impactful trips I’ve ever taken. For me, what made it even more exciting was the fact that my mom was so proud that modeling essentially brought me back to the place where she raised me, back home.

You recently visited with refugee kids in Italy, at the UNICEF center based there. What did you take away from your trip?

We stopped by Palermo, and I got to see the center where migrant adolescents were housed after they entered Italy. Then I got to meet the girls. That was really fun, because those girls could have been in Minnesota. They’re girls, they’re young, and giggling, and kind of nervous at times. Towards the end, the girls were dancing, they were singing. One girl sang me a song, and she really wanted Rihanna to one day hear it. It was really nice that, despite her journey, she’s still a girl listening to Rihanna, and she just wants to sing. It reminded me so much of when I was a kid. The first song I ever memorized was “Dilemma,” by Nelly and Kelly Rowland. In a way, it was this normalcy despite the circumstances.

The second day was with the boys. I would say the big difference between the girls and the boys was that the girls clearly had to overcome so much. One girl had to walk five days through the desert, and I don’t want to go too much into her case, but the things that she has overcome… she’s absolutely resilient. They are things that no young woman should have to face. You would never be able to tell that that girl had gone through so much at such a young age to get to where she is today. To see that they were all so driven, that they were focused not just on their stay in Italy but on life outside Italy—one girl wanted to be a lawyer, one girl wanted to be a teacher. The boys, from what we understood—their journey was different. They were brought to Italy for financial opportunity, to grow and find a job, while the girls—some of them were trafficked.

I think sometimes the world forgets that even though Italy is a developed country, the refugee crisis is still relevant in Italy, because that’s a place where a lot of refugees migrate to. It’s not the final destination, but it’s a place that still needs a UNICEF center to protect the kids.

What do you wish people would understand about the refugee experience?

Refugees, no matter where they are in the world—they’re no different than anybody else. At the end of the day, it comes down to simple humanity. We all want the same things: obviously, the chance to have children be educated, the opportunity for safe living, access to food and clean drinking water. Those are basic human necessities, and I think refugees should be treated with dignity and respect just like any other human. At the end of the day, we all want the same things that anybody else in this world wants, and that’s to see our families happy, the children thriving, and making sure that they have access to the things they need to grow and succeed.

What are the proudest moments of your career as a model?

Being named a UNICEF ambassador will probably always be my No. 1 career highlight. There is no greater title for me to ever have in my life, with my background and where I came from. That is the most meaningful. I’m so honored and so grateful to be a part of such an amazing organization.

Halima Aden
Halima Aden


How has your family responded to your success?

My mom is so proud. It’s funny, because she doesn’t understand fashion, she doesn’t get “editorial,” or anything that I do for work, but she does understand my role as a UNICEF ambassador. Whenever I tell her, “I’m taking a UNICEF trip,” she’s like, “Oh, good, stay there longer!” It’s so nice to see how excited she is, because that is our common ground. My mom, fashion is not the world she comes from, but UNICEF, that work she understands. She remembers what they did for our family on the ground.

How much of your life is spent in Minnesota now? What do you like to do when you’re here?

Every article that I ever do, every interview, every shoot, whether I’m in an Uber headed to the airport or a business meeting—Minnesota, and how amazing the people and the state are, always comes up. No matter what. I know my Minnesota facts. People are always like, “Are you being paid by the tourism department?”

I love that we have all four seasons, and we have beautiful white Christmases where the snow glistens and makes me feel like I just want to sleep all day—it’s a mood. And I love that summer is very relaxing, and, no matter what, I can go have a good time by the lake and walk around. I love the fact that the community is so, so strong. It reminds me so much of the community from Kakuma.

Minnesota—we have the largest Somali diaspora community, we have the largest Ethiopian diaspora community, we have the largest Hmong community. No matter where you go, it’s nice to know there’s always access to good food from around the world. I love that our universities and our education system rank better than a lot of states, and we have access to Africa nights, Korea nights, so many cultural nights. Whether it’s done by the University of Minnesota or St. Cloud State, there’s something to do, always.

You built your hijab into your modeling contract. Why is it important for you to continue wearing it?

Don’t change yourself, change the game. I think it’s important that you remain authentic to yourself, and that everybody feels like they don’t have to conform in order to fit in, that it’s OK to be who you are and wear it proudly, do you know what I mean? For me, my hijab is a big part of my identity, and it’s important that I never lose that.

Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar is also increasing representation for Muslim women. How did it feel to see her get elected?

Every little girl should see somebody that she can relate to, somebody that she can look up to. That was not just a big win for us as the Somali community in Minnesota, to see Ilhan go on to become a congresswoman. I think it was a big win for Minnesota, because it just shows that we’re a state that allows people—no matter what culture or background they come from—the access to grow and to represent our state. For me it was a proud Minnesota moment. Not just a Somali moment, but a proud Minnesota moment. She became the first-ever Muslim, hijab-wearing woman in Congress, and that’s a huge deal. I think the fact that she’s a woman—our state holds great pride in that. Now, if Ilhan was from Iowa, that’d be a different case. [laughs]

What do you want to use your platform to say?

My message for young women specifically would always be “Don’t change yourself, change the game.” Know that it’s OK to be confident, it’s OK not to conform. We’re beautiful the way we are, and we don’t have to change. I also want to continue to use my voice and my platform to speak about the work that UNICEF is doing. And to always champion Minnesota, too.


Science-driven Minnesota wines pioneer the unforgiving North

Science-driven Minnesota wines pioneer the unforgiving North

It’s a braid of tendrils with shriveled pink berries and saw-toothed leaves that crumble in his hand. The arctic blasts of early November have left it weary. Clark’s vineyard is brimming with 10,000 unique grape varieties, and culling this one will make room for another, potentially stronger cousin. Still, he’s reluctant to mark the plant for death because it survived last winter’s polar vortexes.

Clark heads the University of Minnesota’s grape breeding program, and his goal is to develop fruit hardy enough to withstand the misery of Minnesota’s winters. The essential idea was to mate Vitis riparia, an acid-punch of a grass-flavored grape growing wild in Minnesota, with old-world European varieties that are tasty but of frail constitution.

He does to grapes what the Austrian monk Gregor Mendel did to peas 300 years ago—cross-pollinating by hand and cloning new seedlings from cuttings—but in the year 2019 he enlists the help of mass spectrometry and DNA sequencing, technologies borrowed from modern mapping of the human genome.

It takes the U about as much take to develop a commercial wine grape as it takes to raise a child. It could be five years before a vine bears fruit. If the fruit shows potential, it’ll be cloned. Another five years pass before those clones produce enough clusters for winemaking. The most promising samples are deployed to farmers throughout the upper Midwest to perform under conditions of increasingly unpredictable adversity.

The challenges of crafting a wine region in a place where none could exist without scientific intervention are enormous.

Yet since the U began grape breeding in 1908, it’s released a handful of grapes now grown plentifully from Washington to New York. They have names like Frontenac, La Crescent, Marquette, and Itasca, evoking river towns and the icy headwaters of the Mississippi. Each iteration improves upon the last in cold hardiness, flavor, girth, and disease resistance.

The wines made from these grapes are infants in the long scheme of humanity’s winemaking tradition, which dates back to the Neolithic Revolution. Consumer tastes have already been established. The industry’s gatekeepers are Europe’s oldest winemakers, masters of a craft perfected hundreds of years before Minnesotans dared to entertain the possibility of growing wine grapes on North America’s unsparing plains. Critics’ minds are made up as to what constitutes “good” wine, a definition that almost always rejects northern varietals.

Nevertheless, Minnesota competes.

II. “Where the grapes can suffer”

Nan Bailly of Alexis Bailly Vineyard is awaiting a ruling on the legality of Minnesota’s farm winery license.

Nan Bailly of Alexis Bailly Vineyard is awaiting a ruling on the legality of Minnesota’s farm winery license.

Minnesotans have been trying to make wine in the brutal north since 1880. Yet homesteaders who tried to transplant the grapes they’d grown on the East Coast found that none could survive its peerless winters.

A German immigrant came up with a grape called Beta, which was a second-generation cross between the Concord juice grape of New York and Minnesota’s Vitis riparia. Too sour for fresh eating or winemaking, it was consigned to jelly.

The University of Minnesota began to study grapes in 1908 with humble ambitions of improving on Beta. But grape specialists were proles compared to the apple department’s heavyweights (who are responsible for the Honeycrisp) and didn’t release anything new until 1944.

Almost no one noticed. World powers were preoccupied.

The Minnesota hybrids did make an impression on a Wisconsin dairy farmer, Elmer Swenson, who’d traverse the St. Croix to attend the U’s open houses. He took some prototypes home and made crosses from them, toiling in obscurity for 25 years. When he returned to the U in the 1960s, the fruit of his life’s labor surpassed what the scientists had come up with.

Many grapes in Swenson’s repertoire, such as the Summersweet and Prairie Star, still carry the taste of the wild.

The first Minnesotan to open a winery was the eccentric Minneapolis lawyer David Bailly, who, according to his daughter Nan, wanted to work with his hands after a lifetime of working with his mind.

In 1973 he bought land down in Hastings, and put all six kids to work growing finicky French hybrids that had to be taken off the trellis, laid down on the ground, and covered with straw in winter like heirloom roses. Their slogan was, “Alexis Bailly Vineyards, where the grapes can suffer.”

Cheekily, a beret-wearing Bailly told the Star Tribune in 1977 that the French master who owned the great Chateau Mouton-Rothschild once thumbed his nose at Napa Valley for being overburdened with sunshine.

“The baron maintained that great wine can only be made when the grapes suffer from drought, storms, snow, cold, etc.,” he said. “Well, there is no place where the grapes could possibly suffer more and survive than here in Minnesota.”

In 1984, the Legislature appropriated $125,000 to establish a serious breeding program at the U. Horticulturist Peter Hemstad was hired to develop cold-hardy cultivars and kickstart a wine region. He recalls that California headhunters offered to double his salary if he’d move to Sonoma County and grow its common varieties.

While the top commercial grapes of the world were being cultivated to monocultural proportions, Minnesota offered the chance to explore the fruit’s hidden genetic diversity. Grapes have more genes than humans, which means they come in all shapes and colors imaginable and can mimic the flavor of any other fruit on the planet.

Hemstad’s debut was a black grape with blood-red juice called Frontenac, a first-generation descendant of Vitis riparia, now one of the most widely grown grapes in Minnesota.

As he picked clusters of it one year, he crushed a grayish berry on his hand. It left a smear of clear juice—a mutation potentially so profitable that word spread and someone cut the shoot nearly down to the trunk that winter, making off with the only bud in existence. A police report was filed. No one was ever arrested. Luckily, scientists nurtured a growth from the residual limb, which they quickly propagated and patented as the white wine variant Frontenac Gris.

Hemstad is now co-owner of Saint Croix Vineyards in Stillwater, which makes a white wine from La Crescent, another grape he bred with the same aromatic compounds found in apricot, tangerine, lime, and pineapple. Easy to drink, like a stern Riesling, La Crescent was what U scientists served visiting deans and dignitaries.

“We’re all familiar with Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot. They’re great varieties, don’t get me wrong. But it can get a little boring if that’s all you drink all your life, and every restaurant you ever go to, you pick one and just cycle through.”

“Just like Bud’s a perfectly great beer, but there are other possibilities.”

III. Real. Minnesota. Wine.

Tom Plocher examines the thickness of a grape leaf with a caliper.

Tom Plocher examines the thickness of a grape leaf with a caliper.

On the western bank of the St. Croix River, where the midafternoon sun beat down over the bluffs, Northern Vineyards Winery was a mob scene on its final weekend in business after 41 years in the heart of Stillwater.

Northern Vineyards was the state’s second-oldest winery, founded by a consortium of farmers called the Minnesota Wine Growers Co-op, which needed an outlet for its grapes. They were “Real. Minnesota. Wine,” paying unapologetic homage to Elmer Swenson’s legacy with bone-dry varietals.

The co-op members chose to liquidate because they were getting too old to maintain their vineyards, says general manager Dennis Youngquist. They couldn’t convince their kids to inherit the hard labor of growing, pollinating, cultivating clusters, thinning leaves, and pruning vines in the midst of winter to collect a harvest that must sell or go to waste.

A late May frost could wipe out an entire season’s crop. Too much rain in August could dilute the berries’ sugar content, splits their skins, and expose them to egg-laying fruit flies. Grape growers can’t can their harvest like corn. Winemakers can’t brew year-round like beer, with shelf-stable hops and a recipe. Everyone has but one shot to make a palatable vintage.

Some years Northern Vineyards would have to source grapes from out of state, but never from the East or West Coasts, where everything under $30 was starting to taste the same—like gentrification, Youngquist says.

“When people go to a store, they don’t really understand how to read a label,” he says, pulling his last bottle of Edelweiss from a private shelf and showing off its Minnesota appellation. “When you see the word ‘American’ on there, it looks really patriotic, but it just means the juice is from anywhere.”

Farm wineries in Minnesota do a lot of business out of tasting rooms attached to their vineyards, where they get to pour and sell their own wines without a distributor. As a condition of licensure, the state requires them to source a minimum 51 percent of their grapes from within Minnesota.

Nan Bailly, who has run Alexis Bailly Vineyards since her father died in 1989, considers that “protectionism,” and an unconstitutional barrier to free trade.

In a 2017 lawsuit, Bailly and Tim Tulloch of Next Chapter Winery declared Minnesota grapes to be too acidic.

Significant crop loss in recent years has forced them to purchase grapes from other Minnesota growers, which are often twice as expensive as California grapes and of lesser quality, according to the suit. They say they need out-of-state juices to improve the flavor of their wine, and to make the warm-climate styles their customers still ask for despite all local wineries do to educate people about Minnesota grapes.

Every year that they import too much of their raw materials, Bailly and Tulloch have to file affidavits and apply for waivers from the Department of Public Safety. Such an exemption has never been denied, but they argue relying on the discretionary benevolence of the state is no way to run or expand a business.

“The state needs to give us a break. Consumers too, realizing how hard it is to make wines here,” Bailly says, surveying her vineyard the morning after the fall’s first frost. She predicted most of her primary buds are already tarnished, which means she won’t have a crop next year.

“What about breweries with their Cascade hops? They’re not grown here. But Surly makes some of the best beer in the country, and I trust them to source the hops they need to make it. I’m still proud of them as a Minnesota brewery.”

Last year the federal trial court dismissed the suit, ruling that Bailly and Tulloch lacked standing because they didn’t have to choose the “farm winery” license with its unique privileges and caveats. But this summer the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals revived the case, ordering the trial court to go ahead and make a call on the merits.

To survive, most Minnesota winemakers blend grapes of many regions. They have to update their vineyards as new varieties emerge from the University of Minnesota, or backyard breeders such as the retired Honeywell scientist Tom Plocher, whose Petite Pearl is one of the most commonly grown grapes in Wisconsin.

These aren’t casual transitions. Planting a newly invented grape is a long-term investment, and figuring out the best wine to make from them is an uncharted endeavor.

Parley Lake Winery’s Steve Zeller is about as close to a purist as it gets. Down in Waconia, he makes wines that are 95 percent cold-climate varietals, many of them Minnesotan.

But he didn’t start out that way. Parley Lake used to buy Syrah from Central Valley, California, and Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley. He didn’t think people knew about Minnesota grapes, and didn’t think he had time to teach everyone who came into the tasting room.

A libertarian part of him agrees with Nan Bailly. He resents red tape and government overreach in matters that have little to do with consumer health as much as the next small-business owner.

“But you know, people didn’t come to our vineyard and winery to buy stuff that was made from grapes in California.”

Zeller eventually cut his teeth on the U’s grapes, developed just three miles from Parley Lake, and came to believe that “pioneering” went to the heart of Minnesota’s identity as a wine region. Chardonnay belonged elsewhere.

“It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you get an industry created from nothing,” Zeller says. “Now all of a sudden there’s 70, and winemakers from California are coming here to work for them. It’s not quite mainstream. It’s underlying. It’s definitely more cult.”

IV. A new dialect

Sam Jennings of Cannon River Winery pours samples of wine made from Brianna, a Minnesota white grape developed by Elmer Swenson.

Sam Jennings of Cannon River Winery pours samples of wine made from Brianna, a Minnesota white grape developed by Elmer Swenson. Image: Susan Du

Despite the hardships, in 2016 Minnesota wine generated more than $80 million and supported more than 10,000 jobs, according to the latest University of Minnesota Extension industry report.

In southeastern Minnesota’s Sogn Valley, where the Cannon River flows into Lake Byllesby, a 40-acre vineyard sits atop a limestone hill, surrounded by ravines that funnel the cold down.

The winemaker here is Sam Jennings, a Washington state transplant who used to work for a fine wine broker that sold first-growth Bordeaux and back-vintage bottles. He now presides over the semi-sweet Feisty Bitch brand at Cannon River Winery, which he calls the “wild west of winemaking.”

Naturally, critics are suspicious. Jennings has sent samples ad nauseum, in cases stamped “Minnesota,” to all the major wine publications. Most are so indifferent, they won’t even bother responding with a rejection letter.

Ironically, the legendary wine judge Robert Parker, whose nose is insured for $1 million, was the only one willing to give Cannon River a try. He rated its reserve red blend 87 on the 100-point scale he invented.

Jennings says taste is subjective. It’s about branding, the opacity of the bottle, the texture of the label, the ambience of the restaurant. Wine is complicated and daunting. A lot of people think their preferences reflect their discrimination and refinement, and fear being judged for making the wrong choice.

The psychology of the high-end collector market leaves it vulnerable to rampant scams. The most expensive wines in the world come from aristocratic estates the French government certified in 1855, even though the same region contains many smaller wineries selling far more modest bottles. In a famous blind tasting study, the winemaker Frederic Brochet duped enology students into thinking a white wine dyed red tasted “jammy,” like “crushed red fruit.”

“We’re not wine snobs,” Jennings says, with a sort of mad chortle. “It takes real skill to make decent wine out of the stuff we grow out here.”

“Half the time, weather’s the biggest thing we’re fighting. We triage-pick grapes every year. It’s not like, ‘The grapes are almost ready, the acidity and the sugars are almost there.’ It’s ‘Oh my god, the frost is coming, we gotta get this shit off before it rots!’”

In November, the U’s in-house winemaker, Drew Horton, went to Kansas City to judge the Jefferson Cup Wine Competition, which appraised more than 700 entries. He attends these contests to remind his palate of the world of wine beyond Minnesota.

Yet rarely will warm-climate winemakers think it necessary to keep abreast of their competition in the north, Horton admits. He was one of the exceptions, a former Santa Barbara winemaker who grew bored of imitating wines the Burgundians had already figured out. He moved to Minnesota to be among the first generation to work with its new grapes.

Horton grew up in a place where citrus and avocados grew in plenty. But it wasn’t until he arrived in the Midwest, driving through an eternity of corn and soy, that the reality of the American farm economy dawned on him. It’s harder than ever to make a living as a small farmer. As extractive corporations consolidate land and devalue crop, it’s become nearly impossible to survive on 40 acres of land the way it used to be.

“These darn cold-climate crops, whether they’re grapes, apples, you name it, give this beating heart of agriculture, which is Minnesota, a way to diversify their enterprise and enhance the value of their land,” Horton says.

A mature vineyard could produce three tons of grapes an acre, and the minimum a winemaker will pay for Minnesota grapes is $1,500 a ton. That’s $4,500 an acre of fruit, or $45,000 worth of wine—far more than the price of beans. Every winery that opens a tasting room creates a dozen local jobs, state and federal tax revenue, and a reason for city slickers to visit the open country, stay in small-town hotels, and fill their gas at a local pump.

For now, no one thinks of wine as greater Minnesota’s raison d’etre. A lot of startup wineries host concerts and weddings, doing all they can to keep the business afloat as Minnesotan tastes develop.

Every winter, the Winery at Sovereign Estate drapes Christmas lights over all 50 acres of its vineyard, where Marquette, La Crescent, and Frontenac Gris grow on a south-facing slope on the north shore of Lake Waconia.

Winemaker Ben Banks’ hope is that a decade down the road, young adults will look back on the photos they took with their parents and think of Sovereign Estate as part of their Minnesota culture.

Just as Lake Waconia’s prized walleye is meant for pan-frying rather than sushi, Banks believes that Minnesota’s grapes are destined for something other than old-world flavors. The climate yields certain clues as to what that might be, he says. Minnesota grapes have inherently stronger, fruit-forward aromatics. They have higher acidity, so wines will be crisper on the palate. Lower tannins means they won’t be as chalky, astringent, or parching.

“That to me means the wines want to be bright. They don’t want to be too earthy. They would rather be fresh fruit, and don’t want to be overwhelmed by oak.”

But if the Minnesota appellation means anything in specific, Banks doesn’t know—yet. Should the region ever develop a distinct wine dialect, it can’t be forced, he says, just as consumers’ minds won’t change overnight.

“You engage people as they’re ready. There are a lot of wine regions in the country that have bootstrapped the industry from nothing,” Banks says. “It takes about 25 years for that to happen, because almost a whole generation has to be born into it and say, ‘This is who we are, and we like it.’”


Susan Du  Food & Drink



Nordikk Butikk at European Christmas Market – St.Paul, MN

Nordikk Butikk at European Christmas Market – St.Paul, MN

Julemarket presents an exciting lineup of Scandinavian-Inspired vendors in a collective market stand at the Annual European Christmas Market at Union Depot! The European Christmas Market is the most authentic Christmas market you will find on this side of the Atlantic, presenting their first ever collective boutique: “Nordikk Butikk” this year.

December 6th-8th, 13th-15th, & 20th-22nd, 2019
Fridays 4:00-9:00pm | Saturdays 11:00am-9:00pm | Sundays 11:00am-6:00pm

Union Depot


Where to Eat at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

A person holding a burger with a bite out of it, cheese is oozing out of the center
Grab a cheese-stuffed burger famous around the Twin Cities
 Katie Cannon / Eater Twin Cities

Nobody wants to hang out at the airport, but long lines, crowded flights, and the possibility of weather delays are always made better with a cocktail and a snack. In addition to some well-loved chains, there are a plenty of restaurants that local chefs have added some Twin Cities flavor to give travelers a taste of Minneapolis and St. Paul. We’ve got everything from bowls of fresh ramen, lobster rolls, coal-fired pizza, cheese-stuffed burgers, buckets of local beer and more.


Terminal 1, Lindbergh Terminal

Best Bets

It’s also the prettiest stop inside the airport
 Joy Summers/Eater Twin Cities

Angel Food Bakery

A breakfast savior at the airport, opening at 4 a.m. daily and serving grab and go sweets and breakfast treats. You know what makes every flight better? Doughnuts. Plan accordingly. [Terminal 1, Concourse E]

Meatball and ricotta straight from the coal-fired oven
 Black Sheep/Facebook

Black Sheep

It wasn’t easy to get a coal-fired pizza oven put into a massive airport, but Black Sheep Pizza managed to make it happen. The charred, crispy crust is topped with bright tomato sauce and other classic flavor combinations that made this Twin Cities mini-chain a hit. Try the meatball and ricotta pizza. [Terminal 1, MSP Mall]

Hi-Lo Diner

An airport outpost built to mirror the classic diner car in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood. An excellent stop for decadent breakfast classics or a good ol’ burger. Even if the seats are all taken, there are a few places available to lean and order a pre-flight drink. [Terminal 1, Concourse F]

Great burgers and killer cocktails
 Lolo’s American Kitchen/Facebook

LoLo American Kitchen

Tacos, Korean fried chicken wings, and bacon wrapped hot dogs are just a few of the dishes that you can find – along with a full bar featuring plenty of fine brown booze and stellar cocktails. [Terminal 1, Concourse E]

A brightly colored stand with a pink cover of PinkU inside the airport
A brand new sushi and dumpling stop at the airport
 HMSHost [Official]


A popular Minneapolis spot for crispy dumplings and Japanese street food just opened at the airport. [Terminal 1, Mall Food Court]

The Cook & The Ox

A new full-service restaurant put together by Jack Riebel, a locally loved chef who knows how to put together a great piece of charred meat. Grab some walleye cake supported eggs benedict for a taste of Minnesota. [Terminal 1, MSP Mall]


Decent ramen, quick service, and streamlined ordering via tablets. Always popular and not always easy to grab a seat. Look for a spot and plug in quickly. [Concourse G]

A white fast food stand with the green lit burger logo of Shake Shack
Started by people known for fine dining, this burger chain has landed a new Minneapolis outpost
 HMSHost [Official]

Shake Shack

Likely the best fast food burger at the airport. The chain was started in New York City, but is quickly expanding across the country. [Terminal 1, Mall Food Court]

By Location:

*Indicates Eater recommendation

Airport Mall

Caribou Coffee – Coffee, pre-security check

Stone Arch, MSP Mall – Local beer, bar food

*Black Sheep, MSP Mall – Coal fire pizza, full service, bar

Farmers Market, Baggage Claim, grab and go

*Smack Shack, MSP Mall – Lobster rolls and other dishes made all the better by lobster, full-service, bar

Starbucks, MSP Mall

Dunkin’ Donuts, MSP Mall

Auntie Anne’s, MSP Mall – pretzels known by mall goers everywhere

Moe’s Southwest Grill, MSP Mall – Mexican chain

Firehouse Subs, MSP Mall – Sub sandwiches

Chili’s, MSP Mall

*PinKU, MSP Mall – Based on a popular Minneapolis restaurant with crispy dumplings and Japanese street food.

*Shake Shack, MSP Mall – Beloved national burger chain

Lake Wine Kitchen + Bar, MSP Mall, Level 2 – Bruschetta and the like, wine

*Shoyu MSP Mall, Level 2 – Ramen, sushi, dumplings, full service and full bar

Leeann Chin MSP Mall, Fast food, Chinese

The Cook & the Ox, MSP Mall – Full service. A new full-service restaurant from a notable Minneapolis chef. [Terminal 1, MSP Mall]

Concourse A

*Blue Door Pub, Gate A1 – Local burger chain specializing in cheese-stuffed burgers

Concourse B

City Point Bar – A slim bar stand at the end of the concourse.

Concourse C

Chick-fil-A, Gate C13 – fast food, chicken in a biscuit from a controversial company

Smashburger, Gate C12 – Fast food burgers

Starbucks, Gate C12 – coffee

Twins Grill, Gate C11 – full service, sports bar

Vino Volo, Gate C6 – full service, wine bar

Concourse D

McDonald’s, Gate D1 – Fast food

*Republic, Gate D6 – full service, beer-centric, bar food with live music. There’s a small grab and go section, too.

Concourse E

Holy Land Deli, Gate E5 – Stand serving local Middle Eastern snacks, known for tasty hummus

*Angel Food Bakery, Gate E5 – Grab and go sweet treats, known for great doughnuts

Qdoba, Gate E7 – Fast food, Mexican

*LoLo American Kitchen, Gate E11 – Full service, American fare, craft cocktails

Concourse F

Panda Express, Gate F5 – Fast food, Chinese

Wendy’s, Gate F5 – Fast food, square burgers, frosties

People’s Organic, Gate F7 – Grab and go

Chick-fil-A, Gate F7 – Fast food, fried chicken

*Hi-Lo Diner, Gate F11 – Locally based diner with decadent breakfast options. Even when crowded, there are a few spots for leaning and sipping cocktails.

Concorse G

*Vero, Gate G15 – Pizza from James Beard Award winning chef Ann Kim.

Mimosa, Gate G3, Level 2 – French brasserie-styled full service restaurant and bar

Volante, Gate G12 – Full service Italian restaurant with pasta and paninis

Mill City Tavern, Gate G21 – Supposedly Minnesota fare, Swedish pancakes inexplicably have pumpkin seeds on them, but there’s a full bar and $27 meatloaf.

Cibo Express, Gate G12, Gate G18, Gate G9, Gate G22

FlyBar, Gate G9, Level 2 – Bar for drinking before flying

Twinburger, Gate G18 – Full service, Get a Minnesota-invented juicy lucy burger with the cheese stuffed on the inside.

Tagliare, Gate G18 – Quick service, pizza slices

World Bean, Gate G18 – Coffee

Minnibar, Gate G22 – Global sandwiches and a full bar

Terminal 2

Where to eat when flying out of the smaller, Humphrey terminal

Caribou – coffee

Cocina Del Barrio – full service, upscale Mexican, tequila

Minnesota Wild Bar and Restaurant – full service, sports bar

MSP MKT – grab and go sandwiches

Subway – fast food, sandwiches

Starbucks – Coffee

Surdyk’s Flights – grab and go and full service, quality sandwiches, cheese selection, wine



Pin It on Pinterest