Hot off the minds of Midwest travel writers: A fresh look at where to eat, stay, play, or shop and learn around the region.

By Kelsey Yandura
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Eat & Drink

Cook on, Ann Kim

Minneapolis

“My journey has not been easy. It has not been linear. And it has not been traditional. … If my work has made a traditionally narrow path a little bit wider, a little bit more inclusive, then that will be my greatest achievement.” Ann Kim, acceptance speech at 2019 James Beard Awards
Courtesy of Ann Kim

Korean-born and suburban Minneapolis-raised, Ann Kim has earned a giant slice of fabulous reputation around the Twin Cities. In 2019 she won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest, the first woman in the Minneapolis area to claim the title—and accepted her award with an unfiltered speech that went Internet viral. Kim has added an unexpected flair to the local pizza scene with elevated ingredients and experimentation at Pizzeria Lola, Hello Pizza and Young Joni. The latter features flavors like house-made sausage with Korean chili and a tangy kimchi garnish. Kim describes all of it as “the food I want to eat.”

The next project from Kim and her husband, Conrad Leifur, takes a sharp turn. The Mexican-inspired Sooki and Mimi in Uptown Minneapolis will honor the craft of handmade tortillas and Kim’s ability to paint dishes with every shade of the flavor rainbow. Expect chili heat, a cooking fire and hints of her Korean roots. It’s slated to open this summer.

Next-level Indian Chicago

At Rooh Chicago, Indian food goes trendy and posh. A vibrant, sweeping mural welcomes you to the first-floor bar. Make a dinner reservation for a candlelit table in the upper level. International chef Sujan Sarkar opened the West Loop hot spot late last spring after stockpiling awards at Rooh San Francisco.

At the table, a flavor-wheel cocktail menu starts with pungent, astringent and salty categories, wrapping in mushroom, Rooh masala and other surprising drink ingredients. Small plates such as Avocado and Edamame Papdi Chat mix earthy, bright, fresh textures, while the Whole Sea Bass (Patrani Machi) comes smothered in Bengal mustard cream, cilantro and poppy seeds. You’ll want some naan and rice to sop up all the goodness.

Shop

Small town, big style Noblesville, Indiana

The middle of nowhere, or the middle of everywhere? Surrounded by what seems like endless Indiana plains (though just 45 minutes north of Indianapolis), Mercantile 37 is a repurposed 1940s travel stop that now serves as a home goods destination.

Father-and-son team J.R. and Nick Roudebush recently opened this high-end furniture-showroom that’s also a lunch cafe and coffee bar. And a fresh food market. And an artisan boutique. “Folks can come eat lunch and have coffee and shop and meet here,” says Nick, the younger half of the duo. “Everything is local or vintage.”

Inside, you’ll find custom lighting fixtures, metalwork, candles, pottery and truly just about everything else.

Indie books and pop-art magic Chicago

Semicolon lets you sit back and relax, but also asks you to sit up and take notice. For starters, DL Mullen became the only black female bookstore owner in the city when she opened the indie bookstore and gallery last summer.

Located in Chicago’s River West neighborhood, the eclectic street-art-inspired space is always good for a conversation starter. (Case in point: As part of a gallery residency program, a recent painting portrayed Pocahontas holding John Smith’s decapitated head.) The name itself, denoting a pause between two sentences, well describes Mullen’s vision for the store—a catch-all “third space” for visitors and community members to sit down, take a breath and engage with novel ideas. And the added perk? BYOB.

Stay

Mini-apple DNA Minneapolis

Emery, Minneapolis
Courtesy of Emery

Formerly dubbed The Hotel Minneapolis, this classic downtown getaway pulled a straight-up movie makeover move with its recent transformation. Now named Emery, the upscale 229-room boutique hotel is equipped with posh textures, sleek silhouettes and mini bars stocked with local snacks.

But the cosmetic changes didn’t alter the hotel’s DNA, still threaded with Twin Cities character. It features the first downtown location for beloved Minneapolis roaster Spyhouse Coffee, along with Giulia, a chic new Italian restaurant and bar serving tableside-pulled mozzarella, fresh-made pasta, oven-fired pizza and craft cocktails.

Crafted comfort Detroit

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a fine leather goods store? Multiply that by 130, add Italian cotton sheets, and check in for the weekend. Welcome to the Shinola Hotel.

Steeped in all the classy vibes of its namesake (the sleek Detroit watch and lifestyle brand), the hotel takes the luxe-craft brand into a new arena. Rooms display mid-century furniture, turntables spin classic vinyl, and (of course) Shinola wares are on display and available for purchase.

On the ground floor, you won’t go hungry or thirsty. The space holds The Brakeman American beer hall, San Morello’s for urban Italian fare, Evening Bar’s cocktails and Penny Red’s farm-fresh Southern comfort food. Plus, New York-based burger and ice cream joint Mister Dips is slated to open this spring.

Play

Winter’s final hurrah Minneapolis

Sliding in only days before the spring equinox, the Coop FIS Cross Country World Cup gives Minneapolis one last chance to celebrate winter. (Because yay winter, right? Right!) Nearly 20 years have passed since this premier international skiing event took place in the United States.

As part of Fastenal Parallel 45 Winter Festival, the World Cup Sprint Finals will challenge global athletes to 1.7K and 1.4K freestyle races. For spectators, the races anchor four days of live music, craft beer gardens and other events, including fat-tire bike races and traditional Nordic skijoring races. (That’s actually cute dogs pulling humans on skis.) The festival is scheduled for March 14–17.

Flower to the people Chicago

Sure, Chicagoans are generally a friendly bunch. But you might notice an even more relaxed vibe as we continue into 2020. Thanks to Illinois’ newly legal recreational marijuana policy, licensed dispensaries of all styles, shapes and sizes are opening their doors to the general public around the city. Though brand-new dispensaries will take a little longer to open their doors—likely fall 2020—existing medical dispensaries are now allowed to serve anyone 21 and older. Local medical-use dispensary NuMed advises first-time users to “go low and slow” to start.

“Everyone has different physiology and varied reactions to cannabis,” says Jonah Rapino, one of NuMed’s experts. “We tell our customers to start with very small amounts and focus in on how it is affecting their mental and physical state. They can learn very quickly what the right dose is for them.”

Livin’ on the veg Across the Midwest

Veggie Fest Chicago
Courtesy of Veggie Fest Chicago

It’s just about time to re-jump-start those get-healthy New Year’s resolutions. Lucky for you (and the planet), plant-based festivals are gaining steam these days. Celebrations aimed at living green, vegan or healthy in general have been sprouting up around the region. And you don’t have to swear off cheese for life to do your part. But maybe leave the leather jacket at home before picking up tips and tools of the trade from experts and rare-item vendors at these events.

VegFest 2020 crops up in Detroit May 17 at TCF Center Grand Riverview Ballroom. The largest annual vegan event in Michigan will include free cooking demos, food samples, a kids area and cruelty-free shopping. Special speakers include Michael Greger, the author of How Not to Diet, and four-time NBA champion John Salley.

The Energy Fair returns to Custer, Wisconsin, June 26–28 this year. Focused on clean energy and sustainability, the event will feature nutritious eats, food trucks, insights on zero-waste living and solar-brewed beverages for its 31st year in the state.

Veggie Fest Chicago is scheduled for August 8–9 in Lisle, Illinois. Past gatherings have drawn more than 45,000 for live music, kids’ activities, a meditation tent and 30 food vendors.

Learn

Look closely Madison, Wisconsin

Throw a wild-minded, brilliant inventor into a craft supply room and see what happens. The result might look a lot like The Spaces in Between, an exhibit running through April 12 at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) showcasing the work of Ray Yoshida. Inspired by comics, folk art and offbeat materials, Yoshida has been described as an iconoclast. And this exhibit lives up to the hype. His oddball collage techniques explore the alternative realities and possibilities that exist within everyday objects, such as a vase of flowers that looks nothing like

a vase of flowers.

This 25-piece collection includes some of the artist’s most iconic pieces. You’ll find comic book cutouts, disassembled plants, an elaborate watercolor grid and fresh interpretations on familiar objects.