City South Best of 2018 Winners

You spoke. We listened!

Community is never more than a stone's throw away in the City South area. It lives in the shops, restaurants, clinics and fitness centers that speckle our streets. It can be found in a long chat with your neighbor or a delicious meal at your favorite restaurant. In spectacular snapshots of everyday life.

We asked you to choose your favorites—the places where you find refuge, fun, learning; the places that make this area "home." Here are your 2018 Best of City South winners!

Food & Restaurants


Jeanne Andersen from the St. Louis Park Historical Society helps us understand the long, unique history of Bunny’s Bar & Grill, a fixture in St. Louis Park for the best part of a century.

1933: Henry Aretz builds a bar on spec in St. Louis Park as Prohibition is ending. The family decides to open the business themselves as renters do not materialize. From the website: “The story goes that the place was intended to be named Aretz’s Place, and Aretz went to a sign maker to get a sign. The sign maker had a sign he had made, possibly for a diaper service, with ‘Bunny’s’ on it, and since he could get it cheap, Henry bought it.”

1957: Family adds a liquor store, Bunny’s Liquors.

1988: Father and son Sherman and Gary Rackner buy the bar from the Aretz family and add a kitchen. Bunny’s becomes a sports bar, with the bunny wearing a referee uniform.                                                           

1997: Gary Rackner and his new business partner Steve Koch, move the bar to 5916 Excelsior when the complex Excelsior and Grand is constructed. Bunny’s Bar & Grill remains at 5916 Excelsior today.

Many thanks to Jeanne and the St. Louis Park Historical Society for the information and photo used in this timeline.

Rojo Mexican Grill
Runners up: The Loop West End, Mill Valley Kitchen

Mill Valley Kitchen
Runners up: Wok in the Park, Yum! Kitchen and Baker

Park Tavern
Runners up: Bunny’s Bar & Grill, Steel Toe Brewing

Yum! Kitchen and Bakery
Runners up: Honey & Rye, Bunny’s Bar & Grill

Health & Wellness

F45 Southwest Minneapolis
Runners up: Life Time Athletic – St. Louis Park, Maxmead Fitness

Park Dental – St. Louis Park
Runners up: Metro Dentalcare South Minneapolis, ADT Dental

Advances in Orthodontics – Golden Valley
Runners up: Family Orthodontics, P.A., Mint Orthodontics

West End Chiropractic and Wellness
Runners up: Clear Health Chiropractic, Elevation Chiropractic & Wellness

Partners in Pediatrics – Calhoun Clinic
Runners up: Pediatric Services, Park Nicollet Clinic – St. Louis Park

Park Nicollet Clinic – St. Louis Park
Runners up: Whiting Clinic – St. Louis Park, Owl Optical

Park Nicollet Clinic – St. Louis Park
Runners up: Uptown Dermatology & Skin Spa, Market Street Dermatology

LifeSpa at Life Time Athletic – St. Louis Park
Runners up: Mesna Plastic Surgery, Skin Deep by Angie – St. Louis Park

Revolution Salon
Runners up: Salon Concepts – St. Louis Park, Phresh Spa Salon – St. Louis Park

Angie Swerdlick is an aesthetician with 12+ years of experience and an even longer history of kindness and heart. An independent, solo practitioner in St. Louis Park’s Salon Concepts, she went toe-to-toe with some big players in the MedSpa category and came out swinging. She is extremely passionate about educating her clients. She also says, “I want skincare to be obtainable and maintainable” and does so by not overcharging her services and products. Here she helps us out by explaining her most popular treatments.

Micro-needling Typically know by device name, e.g., SkinPen or DermaPen. The pen cartridge is usually made up of 12 tiny needles. A client’s face is numbed for the procedure; they feel, primarily, the vibration of the device. Swerdlick’s analogy: “It’s like aerating your lawn. The pen creates tiny holes your collagen and elastin come in to heal, resulting in improved lines/wrinkles, scarring, skin tone, sun-damage, large pores and more.” With zero to little downtown time, a much lower cost compared to alternatives and nearly zero pain, Swerdlick says, “This is by far my favorite treatment, and after five plus years of seeing results it still always surprises me!”

Hydrofacial/ Hydradermabrasion
Most often known as the Hydrafacial. It gently exfoliates the skin, removing dead skin cells, toxins and blackheads while also working to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles and plump the skin. Serums are customized and infused into the skin for each individual’s needs. “My Skin Deep Facial is a must have!” says Swerdlick, calling it “the fusion of medi-spa and spa services” at an affordable price.

Chris and Julie Hansen are a married couple and owners of Owl Optical in Linden Hills. Their eyeglass shop—eye exams are also available—is warm and homey. Frames are set about like treats on a kitchen table and artsy mirrors abound. While clearly invested in fashion (Julie majored in Fashion Merchandising at the University of Minnesota), a good fit is also on their must-do list: Factors like nose-bridge width, cheekbone structure and distance between eyes are all accounted for when you buy glasses here.

The Hansens take pride in being the first shop in the midwest to sell celebrity-favorite Moscot frames, which can be quite reasonably priced. Garrett Leight and Claire and Oliver Goldsmith are also family-owned eyewear design companies whose frames you can find at Owl Optical. What they gravitate toward, says Julie, is iconic eyewear: fashionable but standing the test of time.

Home & Garden

Jackie Thein (Anchor Builders)
Runners up: Lenox House Design, Bruce Kading Interior Design

Bachman’s – Lyndale Ave.
Runners up: Tangletown Gardens, Wagner’s Greenhouses – Penn Ave.

Landscape Love
Runners up: Bachman’s – Lyndale Ave., CN’R Lawn N’ Landscape, Inc.

Mount Olivet Home
Runners up: Parkshore Senior Community, TowerLight Senior Living

Mama’s Happy – St. Louis Park
Runners up: Traditions Classic Home Furnishings – St. Louis Park, Patina

Anchor Builders
Runners up: Gonyea Homes, Bizal Built

Anchor Builders
Runners up: Platinum Remodeling, Lake Country Builders

Going to the Well
New shared workspace empowers women.

ModernWell founder Julie Burton has 20 years of working experience as a fitness instructor, freelance writer, author, self-care expert and teacher. She is also raising four children with her husband of 25 years. Hers is a perfect resume for not only entrepreneurship and personal/ professional actualization, but work-life balance, too. All of which is how ModernWell, a women-centered co-working space—with plenty of unique twists—came to occupy a beautiful space just south of 394 in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Open since January 2, 2018, ModernWell has over 100 members, says Burton, including bankers, lawyers, published authors, photographers and stay-at-home mothers. Membership ranges from private office space to designated desks to a new option called “community flex space,” which is access to ModernWell four times a month. All members may use the podcast room, meeting rooms and participate in daily yoga classes as well as workshops on mental health and wellness, financial planning, entrepreneurship, creative writing workshops, among many other networking and educational opportunities.

The space is a paean to light, order, clean lines and the peace and room for a woman to hear herself—and other, like-minded women—think. There’s good food from Truce and Three Bear Oats (two local, women-owned companies). There’s coffee and tea and common space in which conversation is encouraged. There is also a large area to one side of the reception desk restricted to quiet pursuits. “ModernWell is all about empowering women and meeting them where they are,” says Burton.

Editor's Pick: How We Roll
Bike through City South’s coverage area.

Want to try to cover the territory of City South on a bike? Set aside a beautiful morning or afternoon, inflate your bike tires (after biking on underinflated tires you will never doubt the reduce energy efficiency), pack water and maybe even a picnic lunch. Now get yourself to our starting point at a northern corner of our Minneapolis distribution area: Kenwood Parkway, near the Walker and the Parade Ice Garden. There’s public parking nearby.

Route One:
Take Kenwood Parkway to the Cedar Lake Trail and cross into St. Louis Park. Pass the iconic Nordic Ware smokestack and then, continuing west, reach the lovely Lilac Park. Stop here to read the story of the hand-built stone “beehive” fireplaces. Continue on Cedar Lake Trail’s Hutchinson’s Spur Trail to take you to the Hopkins Depot—a great spot for coffee or a snack. Explore the area or hop back on the Cedar Lake Trail and head back to your car.

Route Two:
Head back to your starting point at Kenwood Parkway, and this time, turn on to the Greenway going east. Exit the Greenway and head south on Calhoun Parkway. Heed signs for one-way bike traffic around Bde Maka Ska (formally Lake Calhoun). About 1.5 miles around Bde Maka Ska, turn on to William Berry Parkway toward Lake Harriet and head east. Shortly into the loop around Lake Harriet you’ll come across the Lake Harriet Rose Garden. Venture deeper into the park for a bird sanctuary and perennial and peace gardens. Back on the trail, and especially if you have children, look for the Lake Harriet elf, whose home is in the base of an ash tree on the south shore of the lake.

Continuing around  Lake Harriet, complete the loop by stopping for that picnic lunch and/or an ice cream cone from Bread & Pickle near the bandshell. Head North and hop back on the Greenway, or find the loop around beautiful Lake of the Isles first, and then re-enter the Greenway. In either case take the Greenway west until it merges with the Cedar Lake Trail, and bike a bit longer to your car.

Doug Shidell’s Twin Cities Bike Map is the best I’ve come across. For the most up-to-date copy, go to

Shops & Retail

Evereve – St. Louis Park
Runners up: Primp – St. Louis Park, Belle Weather

Runners up: Bibelot Shops – Linden Hills, Mama’s Happy – St. Louis Park

Arts & Flowers
Runners up: Bachman’s – Lyndale Ave., Linsk Flowers

Kitchen Window
Runners up: Linden Hills Co-op, Nordic Ware Factory Store


Arts & Flowers owner Steven Ward was kind enough to bring us up to date on flower arrangement trends for 2018:

Wedding table arrangement: softer colors; some exotics, like orchids; blush-colored anemones with navy centers (especially popular last year).

Restaurant table birthday celebration arrangement: generous use of exotics, brighter colors and more compact design.

Orchids: great for showcasing the newest trend in flower color: violet, the Pantone color of the year.

Succulents are easy to care for and make good patio plants.

Easiest to care for of all: artificial olive tree branches, complete with ripening olives.

Editor's Pick: We Love to Read
Minneapolis Uptown Rotary and Jefferson Community School team up for literacy.

Although new members are always welcome, don’t join the Minneapolis Uptown Rotary if you’re a business person interested primarily in networking, says club president Guy Johnson. “Our organization’s motto is ‘Service above self.’ We’re people who want to make the world a better place, and we like to have fun doing it.” The fact that members are business people, he says, simply gives them the resources to do good.

One of the ways they’ve done good is in a recent collaboration with Jefferson Community School, a K–eight Minneapolis Public School located at 26th and Hennepin. “February is ‘I Love to Read Month,’” explains Jefferson principal Holly Kleppe. “We planned a variety of literacy events throughout the month.” Through a Rotarian grant, children in third and eighth grade classes at Jefferson were given a dictionary and thesaurus, bus passes to travel to Magers & Quinn bookstore on a group field trip and the resources to purchase a book. The project, called “I Love to Read” by the Rotarians, culminated in an event in which each student presented a project celebrating the book they chose and read. The whole project, says Kleppe, was phenomenal.

Rotarians have also helped beautify Jefferson’s central courtyard, did other plantings on the school property, provide hats and mittens when cold weather approaches, and have an ongoing project in which they raise money for food—which they discretely pack into kids’ backpacks every Friday—for students who are likely to have food scarcity in their homes over the weekend, says Johnson.

Kids, Family & Pets

Adogo Pet Hotel – MSP Airport
Runners up: Pampered Pooch Playground, Now Boarding – Minneapolis

Oak Knoll Animal Hospital
Runners up: Lake Harriet Veterinary, All Paws Animal Hospital – St. Louis Park

Kid Zone Early Learning Center
Runners up: Kids Place – St. Louis Park, Mount Olivet Child Day Program

 Mathnasium – St. Louis Park

World Taekwondo Academy – St. Louis Park
Runners up: Kenwood Gymnastics Center, Wild Rumpus

Lake Harriet Veterinary Gives Us Some Wellness Tips for Pets

We all want our pets to live well and long. Megan Schommer, a veterinarian at Lake Harriet Veterinary in the East Harriet neighborhood, says her conversations with pet owners regarding pet wellness and longevity often revolve around three issues:

1. Weight management
Schommer cites a recent study showing that Labrador retrievers live on average two years longer when they maintain a healthy weight throughout their lives. Cats are at particular risk, says Schommer, of becoming diabetic if overweight. Talk to your vet, she says, about the amount of food recommended on cans or bags.
It may be too much for your pet.

2. Activity
Insufficient activity is often more an issue for cats than dogs, in part because more cats are being kept indoors. “Try to find ways to get cats outdoors safely,” says Schommer. Inside, try interactive feeding systems, including fake mice for holding/hiding food which are then placed around the house. Cats also tend to like vertical climbing spaces.

3. Dental health
Brushing pets’ teeth and arranging for regular dental care is Schommer’s third favorite talking point for pet wellness. It turns out the chronic inflammation associated with bad teeth can lead to inflammation in other organs. Dogs can be given items to chew, but only if they’re soft enough that “you can indent it with your thumbnail,” says Schommer. And wet food is actually better for cats than dry, says Schommer. “Cats don’t really chew, anyway,” she says, “and wet food has fewer carbohydrates to stick to the teeth.”

Editor's Pick: “A Place to Make Stuff”
Leonardo’s Basement is a creative kid’s (or adult’s) dream.

“Basically, this is a place to make stuff,” says Leonardo’s Basement director of programs and operations Tracy Nielsen as she leads me around the nonprofit organization’s massive, warehouse-style floor on a recent morning. “Leonardo’s Basement existed long before the current maker-spaces and homemade movement were even a thing,” she says, laughing. Celebrating its 20th year in 2018, the only question is why you haven’t heard of Leonardo’s Basement.

Of course, you may have. Nielsen says families sign up over 1,500 kids, ages 6 to 17, in summer workshops at their Windom neighborhood location, tucked behind Highway 62 on West 60th St. They also have school year workshop days, classes for adults and field trip days for school groups, among other fun. “We don’t have a big budget for advertising,” says Nielsen. “We have sort of an organic following. We always welcome new people; we’re happy to grow and change.”

What do people make at Leonardo’s Basement? “It could be related to art, design or engineering,” says Nielsen. “It could be furniture, a robot, an animated video.” Some kids just come to experiment with tools and materials, she says. It all depends on a participant’s age, experience and interests. Specific work bays on our tour include a Lego room, a robotics room, a computer room featuring computer assisted design (CAD), a 3-D printer and laser engraver, an electronics area and what Nielsen calls a “big project area,” in which some amazing (and big) projects reside: a giant, working pinball machine; a 10–12 foot-long metal frame and fabric dragon; a life-size, bright-blue Tardis-style police call box. There’s also a wood and metals shop. Outside space reveals a wooden Trojan horse that can hold nine kids, a skateboard ramp and a 20-foot diameter reproduction of the Millennium Falcon.
Rules are simple, says Nielsen: Be safe, be nice, have fun. Oh, and be sure to fail. In so many settings, says Nielsen, children are focused on product. Here, it’s the creative process that matters most. “Sometimes kids’ ideas are way out, like ‘I want to build a robot who can make my bed.’” In that case, a child might be encouraged to make a model, for example, or a smaller-scale robot. “We try to say, ‘What is possible?’” says Nielsen. “We try to say ‘Yes.’”

To register for summer workshops (which are added as summer goes along, so “No need to plan in February,” says Nielsen) go to

*Are you one of this year's winners? Find information on how to order a plaque and other materials HERE.