Chefs and co-owners Mateo Mackbee and Erin Lucas of the restaurant Krewe and Flour and Flower bakery in St. Joseph, MN
Celebrate the Midwestern state’s rich African American culture while shopping small, hiking through gorgeous landscapes, sampling award-winning cuisine, exploring fascinating museums, and more.
There’s nothing like being in the great outdoors in the state of Minnesota for Duluth resident Dudley Edmondson, who has made a career out of nature—and getting his fellow African Americans out in it. In celebration of Black communities in Minnesota, we caught up with Dudley to get his hiking tips [link to hiking story] when he also shared one of the state’s Black-owned businesses that he loves, the restaurant and caterer, Doc. Witherspoon’s Soul Food Shack. “They make really good traditional home-style soul food, including cornbread donuts made of sweet cornbread,” he raves. The bone-in fried chicken is a personal favorite. “It’s crispy and tasty—the bone adds to the flavor. It’s my favorite fried chicken in the city.”
For travelers visiting restaurants like Doc’s and other communities of color, his advice to help make the outdoors more inclusive also applies. He suggests the Golden Rule and that little more than a simple hello or a friendly chat lets BIPOC know there are decent human beings in outdoor and other spaces. Read on to follow in his footsteps by supporting African American innovators like Edmondson—those who help make the state such an appealing and welcoming destination for outdoor, food, and culture enthusiasts alike.
If you plan on spending some time outdoors, a good place to start is Edmondson’s favorite Twin Cities’ spot, the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary inside Theodore Wirth Regional Park. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll through the sanctuary or nearby hiking and biking trails, kit up at any number of Black-owned gear shops in town. At Gear Bags Plus, you’ll find high-quality sports bags fit for any outing, from gear bags to hiking backpacks. Meanwhile, Muslim women turn to Asiya for sport hijabs and active-wear, so they don't have to compromise confidence for comfort while on the trails or elsewhere. Or just log onto the new online apparel brand Team Hound Campaign for your athletic and streetwear needs.
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Seeking artistic adventures that include a broader cultural perspective? The Twin Cities have no shortage of options to consider. Start off with an afternoon at the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery, a cultural institution whose aim is to preserve, record, and celebrate the history, art, and culture of Black people in Minnesota. Several exhibits this fall are enriching ways to learn more about history and culture, including “The Absence of Justice” and “Unbreakable: Celebrating the Resilience of African Americans in Minnesota.”
From there, explore theater and the arts at a variety of renowned local places, such as Penumbra Theatre, which was conceived by Artistic Director Lou Bellamy to create space for African American voices on stage. Likewise, the New Dawn Theatre in St. Paul puts a spotlight on voices from minorities, women, and LGBTQ playwrights.
Support the local arts scene in North Minneapolis at New Rules, a community workspace which also has an event space and marketplace where you can purchase local artists’ works. Or check out Black Table Arts, a community-minded arts cooperative that supports Black artists; their new location on Minnehaha Avenue includes a bookstore and performance spaces. Be sure to browse the contemporary literature by BIPOC authors online (or at pop-ups at various locations) at Black Garnet Books.
About two hours outside of the city in Winona, see the sumptuous colors and fluid shapes in “Northern Waters,” an exhibition of Edmondson’s photos and videos that explore Lake Superior’s North Shore, at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. The show runs through January 2, 2022. And you can also get a dose of culture in Rochester when you catch a performance by local soul singer Annie Mack. Check her show page for dates in the city and elsewhere in the state.
A mouthwatering culinary adventure awaits—you could spend an entire month eating your way through the diverse offerings of Black-owned Twin Cities restaurants and still find more to savor after. Here are a few places to kick off your culinary tour.
The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin is among the Black legends on the walls of the savory soul food eatery Mama Sheila’s, whose namesake (“Mama” Sheila Brathwaite) also has her portrait adorning the walls. Leave your inhibitions at the door and go for the all-you-can-eat buffet or try a heaping serving of jerk chicken and other soul food standards at Angelea’s Soul Food Kitchen, a family-run operation inspired by the family matriarch, Angelea Rogers, who passed away in 2017. For a whole new take on soul food, check out Soul Bowl in Graze Food Hall, where diners can customize their bowls with reinvented classic flavors. For adventurous palates, Trio Plant-Based in Minneapolis offers soulful plant-based offerings. Try the “BBQ jackfruit” wrap filled with southern coleslaw, pepper jack cheese, and cilantro aioli.
For some true Jamaican heat, head to Pimento Jamaican Kitchen for a jerk chicken sandwich on a milk bun. You’ll not only be savoring some of the best Jamaican food in town—founded on the principles of seasonal, local, and natural—you'll also be supporting a community-minded local business. As you dig into its authentic cuisine, consider making a donation to its nonprofit, Pimento Relief Service, a hub which they explain “is actively rebuilding and reimagining a world where a Black economy flourishes, reparations and healing are a community priority, and Black individuals are protected and represented in our political system.” We’ll drink (a cold Red Stripe) to that!
Venture further afield and keep the culinary tour going. At Krewe in downtown St. Joseph, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the Big Easy with the flavors that make up the melting pot of New Orleans, from Creole and Cajun to Italian, Irish and Vietnamese. They’re all proudly on display at this local favorite, where fresh, seasonal ingredients dictate the offerings. You can also pick up mouthwatering bread, pies, pastries, and other treats at the onsite bakery Flour and Flower, co-owned by the same husband-and-wife team behind the restaurant.
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For a taste of authentic East African cuisine, head to Willmar, where you’ll find two standout Somali restaurants, Somali Star and Faafan Restaurant, where “healthy, diversity, and tasty” deliciously come together. Rochester also has its share of East African spots, including Brava which is known for its sambusas, a samosa-like pocket containing ground beef or other fillings. Minnesota’s third-largest city is also home to Francisco’s, a standout Jamaican-owned, family-run restaurant serving Jamaican and Cuban food, and Jersey Jo’s, another family-run eatery serving cheesesteaks and other American classics. If you need a way to get to all of these authentic gastronomical experiences, let Whitehorn Reliable Shuttle Service give you a ride so you can enjoy your meals knowing that what makes your trip feel good and fills your belly well is also great for the communities you visit.
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