The 2006 It List

by Charles Runnette

Minneapolis, Minnesota

During the 1970s and 1980s, Minneapolis attempted to brand itself the "Mini–Apple"—all of the culture of New York City, none of the crime. It has taken a few decades, but people are beginning to believe that this proud midwestern city might just live up to its aspirations. Indeed, it's now second only to New York in theater seats per capita, and is aggressively pursuing the Bilbao model by hiring Pritzker Prize types to spruce up the cultural infrastructure. Last April, the Walker Art Center, long a champion of the avant garde, christened its new wing, an aluminum–clad box designed by Swiss wonder–duo Herzog and de Meuron. French architect Jean Nouvel is designing a new home for the Guthrie (pictured), a pioneering force in regional theater. Michael Graves has designed an addition to the Minneapolis Institute of Art; César Pelli has been brought in to redo the public library. But it's not just bricks and mortar upping the sophistication ante: A recent influx of immigrants is responsible for bringing an increasing verve to this once lily–white town. Public school students now speak more than 90 languages at home, including Hmong, Somali, Spanish, Albanian, Tamil, and Filipino. This has translated into an ethnic–food boom, particularly in neighborhoods like Central Avenue, where a cluster of family–run restaurants serves everything from Afghani meat–and–spinach pies to fajitas to spicy Vietnamese egg rolls. This summer, the first offshoot of Manhattan's chic Chambers Hotel opens in the theater district, complete with a restaurant helmed by star chef Jean–Georges Vongerichten. If the global warming trend would just help out with those Minneapolis winters, New Yorkers might just start moving here in droves.

Chambers Minneapolis

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