Minneapolandia: 42 ways the Twin Cities is like 'Portlandia'

Minneapolis-St. Paul has plenty in common with the hit IFC show's yupster vision of Portland.


Updated 3/13/2014

The IFC series “Portlandia” has made Portland, Ore., synonymous with the joys and excesses of today’s local/sustainable/organic urban culture. Then why does the humor seem so familiar to us Minnesotans? It could be that the Twin Cities (and Minneapolis in particular) are even more “Portlandia” than Portland. Real life often imitates satire, so Vita.mn offers this list of 42 things that are keeping Minneapolis weird — and worthwhile. Hey, like the TV show, we kid because we love.

 

1. Our most famous street artist is a knitter. Graffiti used to be a menace to civil society, but HOTTEA tags with yarn instead of spray paint. It’s the new, sensitive, sustainable street art.

 

2. The feminist bookstore: Boneshaker Books in Seward, a volunteer-run radical shop, is your go-to spot for deconstructing the patriarchal capitalistic structures that enslave us. Stop in to browse the progressive literature or place your order and have it bicycle-delivered.

 

3. “Put a Bird on It”: Northeast boutique I Like You trades in state pride and preciousness, exclusively. And puts birds on it.

 

4. Our facial hair is so “Dream of the 1890s.” Frigid temperatures mean Minnesota men have been rocking the fur-faced look for centuries. With charity events like the Minnesota Beard-Off and the Mustache Run, whisker-burn kisses are here to stay.

 

5. Portland and Minneapolis are in a never-ending blood feud for the title of “No. 1 Bike City,” which Bicycling magazine recently returned to the City of Lakes — because, you know, we ride in winter. But their fixies have nothing on our fat bikes.

 

6. “Is It Local?”: Carrie and Fred track their chicken dinner back to the farm — countless Twin Cities menus let you do the same. (Meanwhile, btw, Vita.mn has a best new band contest called “Are You Local?”)

 

7. Grain Belt’s bottlecap logo is synonymous with the Minneapolis skyline. The iconic sign not only looms over the Mighty Mississippi, but adorns the forearms and calves of hometown-proud hipsters in permanent red ink.

 

8. A Season 4 skit features “A Prairie Home Companion” tailgaters, with gray-haired, Subaru-driving NPR fanatics chanting for Garrison. Hey, we’ve been doing that since 1974.

 

9. Separated at birth? R.T. Rybak & Kyle Mac­lachlan. The outgoing Minneapolis “hipster mayor” told Vita.mn in December, “There were a lot of people, including my own children, who thought I was the role model for the mayor on ‘Portlandia.’ It’s funny.”

 

10. Emo hip-hop. If a rapper doesn’t have socially conscious, soul-bearing lyrics … they might be from out of town.

 

11. Picnic Operetta attracts hipsters and hippies to community gardens for opera performances and local/sustainable gourmet food.

 

12. The dream of the ’90s — and the 1970s — is alive at the annual MayDay Parade and Festival, where anarchist puppeteers, stilters, tall bikes and punk marching bands take over Powderhorn Park. It returns May 4.

 

13. One of our proudest cultural exports, the Internet Cat Video Festival, drew 10,000 people to the Walker Art Center in 2012 and 11,000 to the State Fair in 2013.

 

14. If someone tells you they’re a dancer, you can safely assume they mean burlesque.

 

15. Former Fox 9 news anchor Robyne Robinson: “She’s Making Jewelry Now.”


16. The bartender uniform. If you don’t own suspenders, a chambray button-down and Red Wing boots, it might be tough to get a gig pouring craft cocktails. Even the ladies behind the stick lean toward androgynous attire, sporting leather tool belts filled with bar spoons, ice picks and oil droppers.

 

17. Even back-yard chickens are passé, with the impassioned Minneapolis Alliance for Goats leading the urban “cloven-core” movement. City Council advocate Alondra Cano may want to take a tip from the “Portlandia” mayor, who goes on the lam to grow a beard and run a goat farm.

 

18. Ever said to yourself, “I need a one-stop shop for 100 percent organic/vegan/raw food, natural home and body goods, plus an infrared sauna, oxygen bar and eco-art gallery”? Ecopolitan in Uptown has you covered.

 

19. At Kingfield’s acclaimed Piccolo, the main courses are thimble-sized, whether it’s a four-nibble gourmet grilled cheese or tiny duck gizzards. The restaurant calls it “fractional dining.”

 

20. Gourmet cheese curds. The State Fair staple gets haute treatment with housemade condiments like beet and beef ketchup (Mill Northeast) and quince jam (Freehouse). Respectable establishments source their curds only from Ellsworth, Wis., dairy farms.

 

21. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) groups deliver locally sourced, seasonal produce to members. Better yet, St. Paul’s Springboard for the Arts developed its own CSA group — Community Supported Art. Your $300 member share supports the easel-to-wall movement.

 

22. Just as Fred and Carrie are denied ordering a simple burger, you can’t just order a “plain” doughnut at Glam Doll Donuts on Eat Street. Instead, get adventurous with the exotic flavors (like peanut butter and sriracha) of this yummy MCAD hotspot.

 

23. Restaurant diners volunteer on the farm. Locavore restaurants hold special outings, letting you join them at a local farm for a fun day of labor.

 

24. Public radio members annually sell out tickets to an exclusive summer music festival (Rock the Garden) before the lineup is even announced.

 

25. The fictional band Cat Nap features a cat for a frontman. Minneapolis’ ironic kiddie indie rap duo Koo Koo Kanga Roo released a digital all-cat album, “Viral: Songs About Cats and Stuff,” last year.

 

26. Movies in the park: Carrie and Fred will surely be prepared with popcorn, lounge chairs and a white picket fence to our outdoor movies, especially at Loring Park and the Lake Harriet Bandshell.

 

27. The Portland Milk Advisory Board can’t seem to deliver a clear message. But the Minnesota Alliance for Raw Milk never wavers from its crusade to chug mammary liquids the way God intended.

 

28. In real-life Portland, you can get a mattress delivered by bicycle. In Minneapolis, Peace Coffee delivers fair-trade, organic beans by bike. You can also get raw and local honey delivered by bike from the Beez Kneez.

 

29. Alas, Minnesota’s craft-beer scene doesn’t stand up to Oregon’s (yet), but we’re a growing force, with 14 new breweries joining the fray in 2013.

 

30. The Art Shanty Projects: The interactive conceptual-art ice houses popped up again this winter, this time on White Bear Lake. “Portlandia” has a Dance Tent, but have you been to the Dance Shanty?

 

31. “Get the Gear!” Midwest Mountaineering has us all looking like we’re crawling around Portland’s Rose Quarter, in orange puffy jackets and olive-green vests.

 

32. When a blog buys out a Portland newspaper, the blog guy (Fred) tells the old newspaper guy, “Think of yourself as less of a journalist and more of a linkalist.” Did some media in town get this speech, too?

 

33. The Americana and “heritage” fashion trend has infiltrated city life, with surging levels of raw denim at the BlackBlue boutique in St. Paul and the Northern Grade men’s market.

 

34. The overnight Northern Spark Festival (coming June 14) transforms the entire Twin Cities into one giant art gallery.

 

35. “Portlandia” has its Battle of the Gentle Bands, but we’ve got the Battle of the Jug Bands, a contest devoted to the world’s least threatening, old-timey instrument.

 

36. Galactic Pizza’s planet-saving delivery guys wear superhero costumes and drive electric mini-cars.

 

37. Everyone knows the real mayor of Minneapolandia is Kim Bartmann, whose restaurant empire (Bryant-Lake Bowl, Pat’s Tap, Red Stag, etc.) serves locally grown and sustainable food and craft beer, with or without skee ball.

 

38. Minnesota named a major piece of legislation after a craft-beer darling. The 2011 Surly Bill legalized on-site pint sales at local breweries, changing neighborhood landscapes (but really mostly Northeast) forever.

 

39. More guys who knit: Fashion designer Kevin Kramp’s high-concept knitwear for men has graced the runways of Milan and the pages of Italian Vogue.

 

40. “Did you read ... ?” Minneapolis and St. Paul both rank as top 10 most-literate cities. Yeah, we read it.

 

41. There are almost more crust punks with dogs in Dinkytown than there are students.

 

42. Doomtree rapper Dessa launched her own brand of lipstick, a classic matte red from local vegan line the Elixery. Support local music — even on your face!

 

CONTRIBUTORS: Jay Boller, Simon Peter Groebner, Sarah Harper, Alexis McKinnis & Sheila Regan

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