From the category archives:

Top 10 Series

Here are the best Restaurants to dine at in the Twin Cities

  • Kincaid’s – known as the special-occasion headquarters, Kincaid’s is continually nominated as one of the best in town. Serving the traditional meat, fish, and potato menu, the restaurant is located at 380 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul (651-602-9000).
  • The Oceanaire Seafood Room – the town’s definite top spot for seafood, steak lovers will not walk away disappointed either. Make sure to try the key lime pie as well! The Oceanaire is located at 1300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis (612-333-2277)
  • La Belle Vie – has a fantastic kitchen which serves up some of the best Mediterranean around. Eat a’la carte or from a tasting menu. La Bell Vie is a little pricey, but you will find it is worth every penny! Located at 510 Groveland Ave, Minneapolis (612-874-6440)
  • Lake Elmo Inn – Located in the northeast metro, is a great place to brunch. Go there for Sunday and they might have to roll you out the door! The Inn can be found at 3442 Lake Elmo Ave N, Lake Elmo (651-777-8495)
  • St Paul Grill – known for its American food and voted “the best bar for grown ups”, the Grill is located in the Historic Saint Paul Hotel and is sure to please. 350 Market St, Saint Paul (651-224-7455)
  • Murray’s – Minneapolis’ most honored steak house, has fantastic steaks, burgers, and more. Find Murray’s at 26 S. 6th St, Minneapolis (612-339-0909)
  • Manny’s Steak House – offers a great wine list, the best veal chop in town, and a mouth-watering ribeye. Manny’s is located at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 1300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis (612-339-9900)
  • Vincent A RestaurantVincent Francoul’s cuisine is best described as French with an American twist. You will be surprised at the exceptional flavor of the dishes and also at the affordable price. 1100 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis (612-630-1189)
  • Palomino – the menu is best categorized as European-inspired American cuisine and features a warm atmosphere for dining. Find Palomino at the LaSalle Plaza, 825 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis (612-339-3800)
  • Jax CafeJax has been around for a while and is currently being run by the family’s third generation. They feature a seasonal “net your own fish” stream in the outside garden, and are best known for the atmosphere and the outstanding steak and potatoes menu. 1928 University Ave NE, Minneapolis (612-789-7297)

(top 10 courtesy of MplsStPaul magazine readers poll)


It could be if you purchase a historic home without doing your homework first.

Remember Tom Hanks in the “Money Pit”? It was funny, right? Well, it is, until it happens to you. Here’s some advice on what to look for should you be thinking of buying an older home. Oh, and this advice comes from first hand knowledge of my own money pit historic home from a couple years back.

I am using this Saint Paul Historic Home as an example, so if you own this home, please forgive me. It is easy to see from the photo that the home needs work, but not every home upon first appearance will tell you as much.

I have a photo of this home also at the end of summer. As you can
also see, it is usually covered in vegetation and doesn’t appear to be kept up very well. If it were for sale and I was a potential buyer, red flags would immediately go up. The perception being, if the yard is a mess, than the inside can’t be much better.

So a couple things to look for on the Exterior should be:

  1. Age of the Roof – if the shingles are peeling, then plan on spending upwards of $10,000+ for a new roof. Victorians are notorious for steep pitches and multi-gables, which bring the price up on roof repair. Not to mention they are quite dangerous for a roofer not use to the height.
  2. Wood Rot – some may not notice this as a problem in Minnesota, but if bare wood exposed to water is allowed to continue, your little problem could spread and before you know it you are not only replacing a window sill, but the entire widow casing and support beams.
  3. Overgrowth & Drainage – trees that rub against the home can cause extensive damage to the roof and siding, and also cause runoff into the home itself. Check to make sure there isn’t any water pooling in the yard from faulty gutters as it could end up in your basement during a downpour.
  4. Weather Stripping – are the windows original to the home? If so, make sure they are properly sealed, and by sealed I mean “neatly” sealed, not just some caulk slapped up for good measure. Old homes can be drafty and cost you a bundle in heating and cooling if windows and doors are not sealed against the elements.
  5. Foundation or Porch Sag – if the porch is warped and sagging, not only will you have to replace the porch foundation, but most likely the porch roof as well. The strain put on the roof supports could cause too much stress and make the porch not very safe, and also cause drainage problems. Remember #2, wood rot? Also, look at cracks in the exterior brick or stucco. This could be telling you the home has foundation problems which will require extensive retrofitting and sometimes go as far as jacking the home up for repairs.
  6. Chimneys – one hundred year old chimneys are usually the last item on any repair list, but if not looked after, they could come crashing down into your home during high winds. Have a professional chimney repair company check the mortar around the bricks. If he can lift a brick off the top or stick an knife in the mortar like butter, than the chimneys will have to be retucked. You might even want to seal them from the elements using a 10 year product that keeps moisture out of the mortar.
  7. Exterior Brick – too many times I see exterior brick homes that need to be completely retucked with new mortar. This can be an expensive repair depending on the size of the home, but it has to be done to keep the structure around for another hundred years. And no, painting the brick is not a good solution. It will cause more problems than it will solve.
  8. Exterior Paint – check and make sure the paint is not peeling around trim. Some times home owners take the easy way out and keep painting over 50 years worth of paint. Instead, all old paint should be stripped off, then the trim should be treated, repaired, and painted with new exterior paint. Remember lead based oil paint was used prior to 1978 and will not take water based paint very well over it. It always bubbles up or peels within a couple of years.

This post just covers the exterior parts of a historic home that you should pay attention to if planning on purchasing in the future. It is also a good basis for home owners who currently live in an older home. Use it as a check list for repairs that you might not previously have thought about completing.

Look for my future post in the next week where I discuss items to look for in the interior of a Historic Home whether it is in Minneapolis, St Paul, or somewhere else in the States.


Minneapolis Landscapes and Gardens

Spring is on its way and most of us in Minnesota are waiting, patiently, for the garden centers to get their first shipment of plants in so we can bring some color to our yards. If you are looking to do the same, or need to reconfigure or develop a whole new landscape theme, I have included some great places you might want to check out to get started.

  • Gertens -garden center on site and also offer consultation services, Inver Grove Heights,
  • Temenos – offers design consultation and works with your contractor for installation,
  • Linders Landscaping – help you through entire design/installation and will even let you take the design home to install yourself, St. Paul,
  • Bloomsbury Market – garden design center, with unusual selection of plants, Minneapolis,
  • Outdoor Environments – brings full service to clients ranging from design to maintenance, Savage,
  • Gray Gardens – can pretty much design a dream garden that also fits the style of your home, Excelsior,
  • Mom’s Landscaping & Design – a custom design company that does what the client wants, they build it all, Chanhassen,
  • Coen + Partners – produce landscapes for residential and commercial properties, Minneapolis,
  • Natural Landscape & Design – not only does the owner offer garden design, but they also integrate stone features and irrigation systems,
  • Dean Bjorkstrand – provides unique outdoor living spaces and guides clients through process, Richfield,
  • I hope you are able to find some great designers from this list. Please send me photos of any beautiful gardens you have and I will feature them on this blog!


      Easiest Ways to Save Money

      Living in Minneapolis is not cheap. While the cost of living is not as high as California, there are other states cheaper than Minnesota. Here are some quick tips on how to save your hard earned money.

        1. Go Solar – The Feds are giving an energy tax credit this year where you can save 30% off a solar hot water system.
        2. Choose a lighter color – Dark colored roofs naturally attract more sunlight and heat up the home in summer. To conquer the battle of your air conditioner versus the sun, choose a lighter shade of shingles. You could save thousands.
        3. Look for the Energy Star – pick appliances that come Energy Star qualified. They can save you up to 40% in water consumption and 25% less energy.
        4. Watch movies at home – not only can you where your pajamas, but you could easily save $50 per movie by renting at home. Netflix is great as you can keep the movie as long as you want, and you won’t have to be quiet during the show.
        5. Fore go Starbucks – I know you love the “special” coffee, but by making your concoction at home and taking it with you in a thermos, you could save hundreds a year.
        6. Challenge the Tax man – some county property assessors have gone crazy with their appraisals due to the increase in home values the last few years. Ask him to reassess your home if you think it is too high and give him comparables. I did this on a home we owned when the new 2007 bill was $4000 more than 2006. The county assessor quickly realized his “mistake” and reduced the property tax back down to the 2006 amount.
        7. Count up your change – one of the biggest and quickest ways to get some cash is to count up those pennies and nickles laying around the home. You will be surprised how the little coins add up to big money.
        8. Raise your insurance deductible – Figure out how much you could pay should you wreck your car or have a major house repair. Raise the deductible and your monthly savings will change dramatically. The chances of a wreck are probably much lower than the benefit of saving money.
        9. Put your money somewhere – don’t just leave money sitting in a checking account. Put it in an high interest account or in a CD, or in a money market account.
        10. Get Green – do as much as possible to help the environment. Recycle through composting, go organic and grow your own veggies, use new energy saving light bulbs, recycle outdated computers, donate old clothes, just to name a few!


        I have to say I love wine. A decade ago I started out with the whites and then jumped into reds. Now it is almost impossible for me to drink a Chardonnay. My favorites are Red Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. Living in San Diego for a couple years afforded me the pleasure of traveling to different California wine districts. While Temecula is good for the quick getaway, traveing north to Napa Valley is really a must if you want to experience some great vintages. My husband and I (he’s a Merlot guy) also visit the San Louis Obispo area every couple of years. They have some fabulous small wineries with big taste. Stay in Cambria along the coast and then drive inland for a day trip. Check out Peachy Canyon if you get a chance.

        So if you like to savor a fine glass of wine with friends or have a romantic evening with a loved one then look no further…here are the top 5 Wine Bars in the Minneapolis / St Paul area and the Top 5 Spots with the Best Wine List for the Twin Cities connoisseur.

        Top 5 Wine Bars

        • Lucia’s – located at 1432 W. 31st St, Minneapolis (612-825-1572) or visit
        • Willie’s Wine Bar & Cuisine – located at 1100 Harmon Pl, Minneapolis (612-332-8811) or visit
        • Bev’s Wine Bar – 250 3rd Avenue N, Minneapolis (612-337-0102)
        • Marx Wine Bar & Grill – located at 241 S. Main St, Stillwater (651-439-8333)
        • Cesare’s Bistro and Wine Shop – 102 S. 2nd St, Stillwater (651-439-1352) or visit

        Top 5 Wine Lists


        Do you have any of these Luxuries in your Minneapolis home?

        1. A Media Room – Media rooms are quickly replacing Home Theaters as they can be incorporated into a home’s living space and used for multiple reasons. A homeowner can watch movies, read, entertain, etc.
        2. Media Center Edition computers – MCEs help manage a home’s various media sources like surround sound, radio, TV recording and more.
        3. High-Definition TV – the newest technology to hit the market, it is quickly becoming the must have in top viewing performance.
        4. Lighting with Automation – now that computers are everywhere, having your home lighting system also on a computer mainframe will give you instant control to lighting, heating and cooling, close window drapes, turning on the security system, etc.
        5. Security Systems – New systems can protect a home while the owner is away by taking a snapshot of light usage in the house over the past two weeks, then mimicking the series while the owner is out of town. Cameras and computer monitors located throughout the home will let you know where everyone is located, inside and outside
        6. iPod Docking Station – homes are now adding docking systems that allow more flexibility in using the device’s media libraries and provide quick access.
        7. Smart Sound Systems – Bose has a great example for a whole-house system that allows a homeowner to control how music is played and distributed through a home.
        8. Gaming Rooms – We have come along way from just a pool table in the room. Now it is common to have a large flat-panel screen, surround sound, and fancy recliner chairs to play high-tech video games.
        9. Smart Kitchens – Computers now make it possible to program run times for dishwashers at the touch of a button. Refrigerators come with a touch pad computer screen listing temperature control, inventory lists, and can even tell you when it is time to get more eggs or if the milk is bad.
        10. Tankless Water Heaters – now you can take a hot shower as long as you want thanks to the new heating systems available. Hot water is delivered to you instantly, without the wasted energy of a common water heater. They take up less space and cut down on the energy bill!