Subway tiles and a tin ceiling line the cozy confines of Maeve’s Cafe, where friendly servers zip sandwiches and salads to tables populated by neighborhood regulars. The checkerboard floor and vintage decor elements evoke nostalgic memories of childhood trips to train stations, malt shops, and Bobby Fischer’s castle. The staffers aim to cultivate a similar feeling of wonder with made-to-order comfort fare, which ranges from small, shareable plates of prosciutto and olives to breakfast bagels and hearty paninis oozing with cheddar, brie, or gruyere. Hot espresso and cold-press coffee compete for the honor of raising sleepy eyelids, and sweet italian sodas refresh palates with effervescent fizz.
Born in Vietnam and raised in the United States by Chinese parents, chef Nina Wong has always infused her dishes with a variety of Asian tastes. After marrying Thomas Gnanapragasam—a third-generation Malaysian of Indian descent—Wong discovered more unique flavors to integrate into her signature sauces and syrups. Originally opened in 2005, Chin Dian Café channels the pair's unique backgrounds through Asian soups, salads, and noodle and rice dishes, even offering some gluten-free options. Popular dishes, such as chow mai fun and chicken-and-chive dumplings, keep patrons rolling in and have earned the restaurant media acclaim from the Star Tribune, Minnesota Monthly, and the dictionary.
Generally speaking, there's not a bubble to be found in bubble tea. Instead, the "bubbles" that the cold Taiwanese drink takes its name from are chewy tapioca pearls or jellies resting at the bottom of the glass, waiting for a straw to suck them up. The tea is there, however—but it's not alone. Mixed with it is the flavor of mango, matcha, or peppermint. In fact, at Steepery Tea Bar—owned by the same aficionados as the Tea Garden—more than 30 flavors combine with 10 bubble varieties to exercise creative muscles and comfort anyone who's afraid of repeating themselves.
Bubble tea is just one of the drinks at Steepery Tea Bar. And it's not even the only drink that can contain bubbles. Shakes and coolers can also hold the chewy treasures in their depths, as well as the cafe's signature drinks such as the royal tea latte. Of course, being a tea bar, Steepery brews up hot drinks too. More than 50 kinds of green, black, white, and herbal loose-leaf tea—most of which are fair-trade, organic, and inclined to give only positive fortunes to tellers—fill cups and pots.
SiP Coffeebar is an independently owned and operated java joint, serving up tasty bean-juice beverages made from organic and locally roasted coffee, as well as freshly made bakery bites, sandwiches, salads, and soups. For a no-frills caffeine fix, throw back a couple shots of classic espresso ($1.75/medium), or tempt your tasters with a specialty drink such as a raspberry almond latte, caramel latte, or Nutella mocha ($3.45/medium). Impeccably pair liquid power with the sweetness of homemade scones ($1.80) and gooey chocolate-chip cookies ($1.50 for three), or couple coffee with a protein-packed bagel sandwich ($3–$3.75) that will give your step the extra pep it needs to avoid back-breaking sidewalk cracks. All sandwiches, such as the veggie sandwich ($5), are made fresh and served on your choice of a baguette, croissant, multigrain, focaccia, or ciabatta bread, or wrapped up like a strongman wrestling an anaconda. Soup and sandwich combos can be customized for $7.75.
Fru-Lala celebrates the healthier side of dessert by arranging marriages between a selection of four frozen yogurts and a plethora of flavor-enhancing toppings. A small cup of the classic California tart flavor ($2.99) should be enough to convince your paranoid palate to lower its jawbridge and let in an invasion of French vanilla, espresso, and pomegranate flavors. From there, advance to more-adventurous flavor concoctions by nose-diving into a large cup of pomegranate yogurt ($5.49) garnished with a pleasant sprinkling of toppings ($0.35 each) such as kiwi, lychee, and grapefruit. Or go a little crazy by adorning a coneful of French vanilla with gummi bears, blueberries, and mochi and then smearing it over a tinfoil hat while making bird noises. Crumbling bits of graham cracker over an espresso scoop, on the other hoof, will bring back nostalgic memories of cooking coffee s'mores over your computer's heat vent during long cubicle campouts.