Minneapolis vs. St. Paul: A Twin Cities duel

The City of Lakes and the Saintly City go head to head in 15 categories including arts, music, mayors, quality of life, and beer.

JAY GABLER and MICHAEL RIETMULDER , Vita.mn
Updated 3/18/2015

As united as the hyphen in “Minneapolis-St. Paul” suggests we are, there are Twin Cities divides that punctuation can’t bridge. Under parkas of Minnesota Nice lies a passive-aggressive tension.

We might fish the same lakes, vacation on the same North Shore and make the same Wisconsin jokes. Yet misconceptions between our state’s capital and largest city remain. Do all St. Paul­ites have a little brother-complex? No. Are all Minneapolitans elitists who would sooner spit on their grandmother than drive across the river? Of course not.

The answer can’t be found in Hold Steady lyrics or a book in the James J. Hill Reference Library. So we figured we would settle it once and for all with a Twin Cities throwdown.  

We asked writers Jay Gabler (a St. Paul native) and Michael Riet­mulder (a Minneapolis homer) to rep their towns in a war of words, arguing for supremacy in 15 categories spanning food, the arts, colleges and, most important, beer. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section! The inferior city will be expunged by an army of 10,000 jihadi loons — or at least experience mild disappointment.

 

Arts and theater

MINNEAPOLIS: Big dogs such as architecturally blingy Guthrie Theater and Walker Art Center — with its postcard-able “Spoonbridge and Cherry” — put Minnesota on the map. But our small, scrappy theaters (Ritz, Southern, Jungle), the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District (ranked the country’s best in USA Today) and colorful weirdos (Scott Seekins, House of Balls’ Allen Christian) give us character.

ST. PAUL: Let’s mention the magnificent Ordway Center for the Performing Arts — just as table ante. Then add the most important African-American theater company in the nation (Penumbra), the sizzling Lowertown arts scene, and an unparalleled literary legacy. Fold your hand, Minneapolis: St. Paul’s arts scene is where it’s at.

Vita.mn verdict: Draw.

 

Beer

M: Surly’s new mega-brewery is Minnesota’s craft-beer capital. The state’s most fawned-over brewery has become a flagship, building on what local godfathers such as Town Hall started. The Northeast taproom mecca, featuring Indeed, Dangerous Man and hot newcomers Fair State, has also garnered national shine.

SP: From the Land of Sky Blue Waters, Hamm’s defined Minnesota beer for a generation. The next generation saw the rise of Summit’s pioneering microbrewery, and today its heirs are popping up all over. With the Happy Gnome and the Muddy Pig, Selby-Dale is Minnesota’s beer-tap nirvana.

Vita.mn verdict: Minneapolis.

 

Colleges

M: St. Paul can keep its overpriced private institutions. Minneapolis is the primary campus of the University of Minnesota — Bob Dylan’s alma mater responsible for Honeycrisp apples (and probably more important stuff), a baller business school and preparing students for riot situations. Plus, don’t forget the Minneapolis College of Art and Design — where creative kids who like weed go to wear ironic sweaters and discover house shows.

SP: You’ve gotta call the University of Minnesota a tie between the Twin Cities. St. Paul also has Minnesota’s second nationally ranked university (St. Thomas), our most prestigious teaching college (Macalester), a historic women’s school (St. Kate’s), the state’s oldest college (Hamline), two entire law schools … need I go on?

Vita.mn verdict: St. Paul.

 

Dive bars

M: A city quadrant is practically devoted to ’em. From lobster roll beacon the 1029 Bar, to the beloved 331 Club and myriad karaoke joints (Legends, Vegas Lounge, Otter’s Saloon), Nordeast has pulltabbing, cheap-drinking tradition. But don’t forget Uptown’s Liquor Lyle’s, hipster dive CC Club or other scuffed gems like Palmer’s — one of Esquire’s best bars in America.

SP: Minneapolis has “dive bars” like Taylor Swift has “best friends.” If you want the real deal, belly up at the Nook, or Big V’s, or Half Time Rec. While Nordeast builds its Nyescraper, we’ll be sitting pretty in the Mancini’s lounge — where everybody knows your name, and your mom’s phone number.

Vita.mn verdict: Draw.

 

Downtowns

M: Development in the city’s center is going through the Vikings stadium’s non-retractable roof. New projects in the metro’s jobs and entertainment hub — including Nicollet Mall and Block E renovations — are popping up like L.A. Nik in V.I.P. But already bars and culture span from the Theater District to Target Field and the restaurant-packed North Loop, wooing nightlifers — a race alien to the Sleepy City. That minor-league baseball field should be cute, though.

SP: One downtown ballpark has a fake bear, and the other has a real pig. Would you trade Rice Park for Peavey Plaza? Didn’t think so. Instead of overpriced and pretentious trend-hopping, downtown St. Paul has affordable and satisfying food and housing — with sweeping river-bluff views, and the State Capitol to boot.

Vita.mn verdict: Minneapolis.

 

Flags and logos

M: As flags go, we’ll wave a white one. But the progressive City of Lakes is in the process of bringing its logo into 2015. During public debate, City Council members hopefully described the sailboat-slimming design as “on fleek” (dunno, we weren’t there). Either way, it’s an upgrade from the ’80s-esque, dot-matrix-evoking status quo.

SP: Instead of “we have trees, water, and modern miscellany,” St. Paul’s logo says, “we have trees, water and classic architecture.” The colors of St. Paul’s flag are way more fun, and that bitchin’ wheel with wings is the hardest-rocking emblem on any Minnesota ensign.

Vita.mn verdict: St. Paul.

 

Food and drink

M: Instead of a St. Paul impostor, President Obama picked Matt’s Bar for his Jucy Lucy. For fine dining, he hit the Bachelor Farmer, where everyone eats like a POTUS. Acclaimed restaurants lurk in nearly every 612 neighborhood (Alma, Piccolo, Tilia), cocktail talent abounds (Eat Street Social, Marvel, Parlour) and hotshot chef Gavin Kaysen’s Spoon and Stable brought a national spotlight. Also, check the James Beard scoreboard: Minneapolis, 87 nominations. St. Paul, 11.

SP: Tipple a craft cocktail at Meritage, then … you want fresh? Step right over to the best farmers market in Minnesota. You want meaty? Hello, Strip Club. You want sustainable? Heartland has your back. Mexican? The West Side. Asian? Little Mekong. Dessert? Cafe Latte … and the original Izzy’s Ice Cream. Boom.

Vita.mn verdict: Minneapolis.

 

History

M: The Mill City’s past echoes through the Basilica of St. Mary and rumbles along the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line. Its soul stands as tall as the Foshay Tower and everlasting as the 132-year-old Stone Arch Bridge. In 1934, striking Teamsters fought police in what’s now the Warehouse District, and history is revisited whenever a drunk bro picks a bar fight (sort of).

SP: Look. Do we even need to discuss this? From the sacred Indian burial mounds to the State Capitol to the Cathedral of St. Paul, the east side of the river is where history happens in Minnesota. Unlike Minneapolis, St. Paul takes care of its landmarks and preserves its past. It’s no coincidence that St. Paul is home to the Minnesota History Center itself. Mic. Dropped.

Vita.mn verdict: St. Paul.

 

Hometown heroes

M: The western Twin spawned riot grrrl greats Babes in Toyland, cult indie-rockers the Replacements and super producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Not to mention local hip-hop door-openers Atmosphere. Hipster heartthrob and South High graduate Josh Hartnett may have been born in St. Paul, but kept a home near Lake of the Isles (until recently). Oh, and that guy who wrote “Purple Rain.”

SP: St. Paul had Minnesota’s original hometown hero, the hard-drinking, hard-loving, lustily bearded Pig’s Eye Parrant. At the more respectable end of the spectrum, there’s civil rights pioneer Roy Wilkins. Also in the posse, we have F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Schulz, Joe Mauer and miracle man Herb Brooks.

Vita.mn verdict: Draw.

 

Livability

M: Most of Minnesota’s Fortune 500 companies are based in the west metro, with a cluster in America’s No. 2 downtown, per Livability.com. Cuts-surviving Target zombies live the bro-life dream in downtown and Uptown “luxury” apartments, while hipster and blue-collar enclaves (Northeast, Seward) and Southwest ’hoods (Kingfield, Linden Hills) offer singles and families a quieter cool with urban amenities.

SP: When Mayor Coleman describes his city in one word, that word is … you got it, “livable.” Because, obviously. You can shiver through your 20s in a leaky Uptown hot tub, but you can live your life in St. Paul — with affordable, historic, varied neighborhoods in endless variety. Lean back. Relax.

Vita.mn verdict: St. Paul.

 

Mayor

M: Know what was gangster? Mayor Betsy Hodges’ levelheaded response to a nationally panned KSTP story accusing her of flashing gang signs with a criminal, er, nonprofit volunteer. Rather than over-politicize “pointergate,” the karaoke-singing, “Die Hard”-live-tweeting civil servant flipped it into a relevant conversation about racial stereotyping. Like a boss.

SP: He skates the Crashed Ice course, he can shred on guitar or bagpipe, he’s given alliteratively named politicians a good name in this country. He’s Mayor Chris Coleman, St. Paul’s stalwart leader for a decade of growth and prosperity. The National League of Cities? Yeah, he ran it.

Vita.mn verdict: St. Paul.

 

Music venues

M: Every band that’s ever schlepped gear into Big V’s has dreamt about playing First Avenue — the legendary club endeared to major touring artists around the country. There’s also include punk bar Triple Rock, acoustically blissful theaters, the Dakota Jazz Club (which has thrived since moving from St. Paul), global roots bastion Cedar Cultural Center and the intimate Icehouse.

SP: If you want an awesome vibe and clean bathrooms, the only game in town is in the 651: the Turf Club, best remnant of the 1940s. St. Paul also has the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s acoustically impeccable new Ordway Concert Hall, the raucous Bedlam Lowertown, the enchanting O’Shaughnessy, and Minnesota’s busiest concert arena, the Xcel Energy Center. Rock on.

Vita.mn verdict: Draw.

 

Parks and green space

M: Forget Lake Fail-in. Summers officially start with the first Chain of Lakes cruise, Minnehaha Falls selfie or joint passed at Hidden Beach. Hit ’em all (except the joint, that’s still illegal!) by biking the Grand Rounds, which also connects to Theodore Wirth Park, the downtown riverfront and Lake Nokomis. Our park-embedded/lakeside eateries (Sea Salt, Sandcastle, et al.) offer killer munchies, which St. Paul wants to copy.

SP: Quick, go find a warm, totally free and publicly owned lush verdant paradise right … now! Oh, I see you’re in the Como Park Conservatory. Isn’t it nice? St. Paul also has a majestic Victorian boulevard (Summit Avenue), an insanely awesome play-equipment Xanadu (Treasure Island Community Playground) and hidden falls (Hidden Falls Regional Park).

Vita.mn verdict: Draw.

 

Shopping

M: Whether hunting for vinyl records (Treehouse, Electric Fetus) or vinyl pants at vintage stores (MidNorth Mercantile, Via’s Vintage), Minneapolis has it. Modern men and women might peruse high-end North Loop shops (Arrow, MartinPatrick3), but the occasional bargain can be found at Uptown’s Cliché. Step up your sneaker game at Studiiyo23 or browse worldly wares at Midtown Global Market.

SP: If you can stroll from Cooks of Crocus Hill to the Grand Hand Gallery without getting a single concerned call from your credit card company, you’re simply not trying. Then there’s the tony Highland Village, the books and bistros of St. Anthony Park and the delights of downtown. Ka-ching!

Vita.mn verdict: Minneapolis.

 

Sports

M: Kirby Puckett and the Twins won the World Series twice in Minneapolis. Adrian Peterson set the single-game rushing record and Kevin Garnett became a legend in Minneapolis. Like last year’s MLB All-Star Game, the 2018 Super Bowl and 2019 Final Four will be played in Minneapolis. Your friend once double-fisted beers the whole game and puked in a urinal in Minneapolis.

SP: Sure, St. Paul has the Wild, the Town & Country Club and the Minnesota Rollergirls, but Capital City residents know where to find the soul of the local sports scene: on the Groveland ice rink, on the Highland Little League diamonds, on the West Minnehaha Rec practice field. St. Paul’s all in.

Vita.mn verdict: Minneapolis.

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