Here are Lavender’s Fab 50: the people, places, businesses, organizations, and events that make the Twin Cities metro fabulous for the GLBT community. This year, a record 5,900-plus readers cast votes for favorites in each category.
1. Local Fund-raiser
Dining Out for Life
Fabulous dinner, delectable dessert, and a night out never left you so satisfied. One evening a year, restaurants across the city agree to donate a portion of income from your bill to The Aliveness Project, a local nonprofit organization providing onsite meals, food shelf, and supportive services to individuals living with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones. In 2007, Dining Out for Life raised $104,000, filling bellies, and lifting spirits with plate after plate of love.
Runner-up: Red Ribbon Ride
2. Local Politician
Minneapolis City Council Member Gary Schiff has been responsible for a lot of good: authoring the city’s Sustainability Plan, starting up the Wireless Minneapolis system, taking smoke out of city bars and restaurants, and helping create new gang-prevention programs. He currently is welcoming immigrants, fighting foreclosures, ending homelessness, and making Minneapolis fabulous in general. Talk about the perfect guy to bring home to Mom! Sorry boys, he’s taken.
Runner-up: Senator Scott Dibble
3. Place to work
Following up on its recent 100 percent score on the 2010 Corporate Equality Index (administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation), Ameriprise Financial has nabbed the top spot as Lavender’s Fab Place To Work again this year. The award can be seen as just that—recognition by the GLBT community of its outstanding support. Beating out other known GLBT-friendly companies such as Target and Wells Fargo doesn’t come easy, so Ameriprise can take pride in its accomplishment.
Runner-up: Wells Fargo
4. Local Business
Heltzer & Burg
Rebecca Heltzer and Jerry Burg are not your typical attorneys. These partners in their firm, along with Melissa Houghtaling, specialize in meeting the legal needs of GLBT clients in areas ranging from family law to real estate and criminal law. For several years, the firm also has made time, money, and resource commitments to progressive organizations, including Chrysalis, District 202, Minnesota AIDS Project, and OutFront Minnesota, all furthering the goals of social justice for the GLBT community.
Runner-up: Malinda Launert
5. Local organization
Its mission is stated simply: “To ensure that same-sex couples and their families have equal rights and considerations under Minnesota law.” Unfortunately, a significant gap exists in the fairness GLBT Minnesotans desire. Currently, our state denies same-sex couples full equality in 515 ways. The organization’s shocking report, Unequal Under the Law: 515 Ways Minnesota Laws Discriminate Against Couples and Families, has exposed this alarming number of injustices, and inspired people to stand up for change.
Runner-up: OutFront Minnesota
How Uptown got to be south of Downtown is anybody’s guess, but its throbbing heart is Calhoun Square (or the Uptown Theatre, depending on whom you ask). The area is famous for many things, but it’s most renowned as a center for art whose arguable pinnacle is the Uptown Art Fair every August. Commerce has made a resurgence in recent years, making Uptown a cool place to shop, sleep, and eat for hippies and hipsters alike.
Runner-up: Northeast Minneapolis
7. Place to People- watch
While at first it may seem like an unlikely choice to take home Lavender’s award for Fab Place to People-Watch, the Wedge Co-op, on the fringes of Uptown Minneapolis, makes perfect sense for the category. Not only does the Wedge specialize in local, homegrown, and organic goodies, but also it sells a tremendous variety of hearty foods. Both things combined surely will make all your senses tingle. The throngs of shoppers will, too.
Runner-up: Powderhorn Art Fair
Museum of Russian Art
Known for its intimate, lushly presented exhibits and its status as the only Russian art museum in North America, the Museum of Russian Art resides in the former Mayflower Church, renovated in the Spanish revival style. It boasts an ever-rotating collection and expansive educational programs that preserve Russia’s artistic legacy. The current exhibition, Photographer to the Tsar: Revealing the Silk Road, visually depicts the ebb and flow of culture and commerce across two continents.
Runner-up: Science Museum
Ordway Center for Performing Arts
Standing out among the voluminous pack of Twin Cities theater venues, Ordway Center for Performing Arts is home to symphonies and musical theater, operas and dance. The acoustics and architecture of the 1,900-seat Main Hall and the more intimate McKnight Theatre ensure that every audience member, from front row to last, enjoys the same magnificent show. The Ordway has remained a fixture in Downtown St. Paul for almost 25 years.
Runner-up: Jungle Theater
10. Local Radio Personality
It looks like Wanda Wisdom really does make her viewers’ jubblies bigger, and they’ve returned the favor by voting her Lavender’s Fab Local Radio Personality. Through show favorites such as Random Mini Disco Dance Party, as well as banter and commentary on everything from Lou Dobbs to healthy eating, she has attracted a national and worldwide audience eager to listen to her daily podcasts, live from the Lavender Studios. Don’t miss her BigGayNews.com.
Runner-up: Jason Matheson, FM 107
11. Local TV Personality
KARE 11 meteorologist Sven Sundgaard has taken the crown as Lavender’s Fab Local TV Personality for the fourth year in a row. He very well may have helped his cause by appearing on Lavender Magazine’s cover several times, plus taking on the responsibility of being the face of The Aliveness Project’s Dining Out for Life. He has shown he’s willing to support the GLBT community, and that support now has been reflected back his way again.
Runner-up: Keith Marler, FOX 9
12. GLBT Celebrity
Adam Lambert of American Idol
Even though he was runner-up on the eighth season of American Idol, Adam Lambert made our list as number one. This popular celeb, most commonly known for his eccentric makeup and chilling rendition of “Mad World,” has said that he’s proud of his sexuality and embraces it—as he should, because he’s the hottest, and first outwardly gay, contestant American Idol has seen. Expect his album out in November.
Runner-up: Esera Tuaolo
13. Local entertainer
Cabaret rock! That’s the two-word headliner Erin Schwab uses to greet her MySpace fans. While she can be seen performing solo at various theaters and music venues throughout the Twin Cities, she also has sung with The Girls, The Bellcats, the Wolverines, Metro Jam, and Hot Swing Combo. Somewhere Over the Rainbow is not only the title of Schwab’s latest album, but also where she finds herself, after being voted Lavender’s Fab Local Entertainer.
Runner-up: Lori Dokken
14. Local Impersonator
Nina DiAngelo, Gay 90’s La Femme Show Lounge
For the past 13 years, Nina DiAngelo has channeled the spirit of music giants and greats as an entertainer at Minneapolis’s own Gay 90’s. As the current Show Director, she not only handles things offstage, but also holds her own onstage. While her latest celebrity transformation has come in the form of the one and only Lady Gaga, DiAngelo has taken on many musical talents with a style of her own.
Runner-up: Jamie Monroe, Town House
15. Bar to meet Men
You can be sure to find a bevy of hot men at the Minneapolis Eagle/Bolt/Bolt Underground anytime. Underwear Night the first Saturday of every month really packs ’em in. A leather, rubber, or uniform code is enforced the second Saturday of the month. If you want to indulge in three-for-one drink specials on Fridays, along with playing pinball, video games, or darts every night, you’ll want to land at the Eagle.
16. Bar to meet Women
If not knowing enough quality womenfolk is an ailment, then Lure is the cure. Rumours/Innuendo’s signature ladies night on the last Friday of the month bills itself as “the hottest lesbian night in the Twin Cities,” abetted by grrrly DJs Sheik and AJent Orange, so it’s hard to disagree. This monthly event is renowned for wall-to-wall dykes (or is that the other way around?). At Lure, meeting women is neither rumor nor innuendo—it’s an inviolate truth.
Runner-up: Town House
17. Bar Event
Saloon’s Amateur Shower Contest
Amateur. Shower. Contest. Need we say more? It’s not only the bar attendees who are young and beautiful at the Saloon’s Amateur Shower Contest every Sunday night, but the boys in the shower as well. While most of the shower-takers leave enough “clothing” on to entice spectators to keep watching—and tipping—plenty of skin definitely makes an appearance, too. Let’s just hope what happens at the Saloon stays at the Saloon.
Runner-up: Bolt Underground’s Bear Night
Ivan, 19 Bar
Life couldn’t get much better for Lavender’s Fab bartender, the 19 Bar’s own Ivan. Not only did Lavender readers crown him as their drink-mixer of choice, but also he was bestowed the award while traveling around Europe and spending time in Paris on vacation. Now that he’s back, make sure to ask him about his European adventure, as well as congratulate him on a job well done at the 19.
Runner-up: Sabastian, Camp
19. Happy Hour
Happy Hour Bar at Gay 90’s
The award for this category goes to the aptly named Happy Hour Bar at the Gay 90’s, which wins mugs-down as the choice of our readers. This recently renovated oldest gay space in the 90’s is resplendent with a new look everywhere. It’s open the longest hours of any local GLBT bar, and happy hour really rocks. The mixed drinks are famously and dependably strong, ensuring liquid happiness that’ll last for hours.
20. Restaurant for Fine Dining
Many Twin Citians think of W.A. Frost for special occasions—to observe that zero-ending anniversary, to celebrate that landmark birthday, to make that special occasion extra-special. Well before they’re seated, diners can nibble the ambience, encompassed by bare brickwork stretching to the high ceiling, peppered with gorgeous antiques, all smeared by its just-so lighting. Oh, sure, the food is great, too, but at W.A. Frost, it’s not just the dining that’s fine—it’s the entire experience.
21. Restaurant for Breakfast/Brunch
Grabbing breakfast in the Twin Cities is like buying a lottery ticket: It’s easy to find a clunker, but it’s exceptional to find a winner. Happily, Uptown Diner provides a dependable exception to that statistical rule-of-thumb, all day and all night…or from 6 AM Thursday to 6 PM Sunday, at least. Strong, free trade organic coffee has become a favorite of the clientele. Here, neighborhood fast-breakers salivate over heaping portions of traditional (and not-so-traditional) hearty fare.
Runner-up: Birchwood Café
22. Diner, or Drive-in Restaurant
Those looking to liberate their inner Fonz don’t have to ride to Milwaukee on their bikes…not when the Twin Cities has its own Fab Drive-In. Dari-ette, on St. Paul’s East Side, is just the way most remember the drive-ins of old. Cool eaters pull up to the speaker-accented menu, and place their orders, which are brought out by a spunky server. Patrons who prefer nostalgia have the option of enjoying the fare at booths inside the restaurant proper.
23. Restaurant for People Watching
Wilde Roast Café
“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” So claimed a certain literary figure from the Emerald Isle for whom this café is named. It’s a tiny hop from people-talking to people-watching…which is where Wilde Roast comes in. It attracts the full spectrum of prospective watchees, including students, artists, business folk, and Bohemians. Just don’t be surprised to look over your shoulder, and find that someone is watching you, too!
Runner-up: Sushi Tango
24. New Restaurant
Sea Change—under the auspices of award-winning chef Tim McKee—just this year replaced Cue as the Guthrie’s newest, official, in-house restaurant. One might expect a so-named place to offer wishful fish dishes, and so Sea Change does, from shellfish to swordfish. But a variety of salads, desserts, and nonpiscine entrées are available, as well. As Sea Change establishes itself in the coming years, the entire foodie scene will go through a sea change of its own.
25. Wine Bar
Toast Wine Bar
The lighting is perfectly low. The walls are hung with engaging and breathtaking art. The setting is wonderfully intimate, and yet completely comfortable. Toast is the epitome of a fine wine bar, with an impressive selection of flavorful wines to enjoy for any occasion, big or small. Enjoy a paper-crusted pizza, a perfectly selected cheese plate, or a sugary dessert with your glass of fragrant grapes. Relax as you tempt, taste, and toast.
Runner-up: Riverview Café
26. Coffee Shop
Wilde Roast Café
Of paramount importance is this coffee shop’s coffee, of course. Gay-owned-and-operated Wilde Roast takes pride that all its bean juice is fair-trade, organic, and ground locally…plus darn tasty, besides. But coffee connoisseurs do not live by caffeine alone, so the drinks are succored by what aptly is called “creative comfort food.” With its plush furnishings, Wilde Roast is a great place to hunker down with a book. May we recommend a certain playwright whose first name was Oscar?
Runner-up: Amore Coffee
Robert Gillem, Cuppa Java
For the past 10 years, Robert Gillem, owner of Cuppa Java, has devoted himself and his staff to having the best, fastest, and friendliest service in town. Judging by this year’s readers’ response, they seem to have been successful. This coffee lounge also has a deli menu. Gillem credits the honor to the shop’s steady source of regular customers. As he puts it, “Most of our customers—when we see their car pull up, we start their drinks.”
Runner-up: Erica, Wilde Roast Café
28. Wine Shop
An extensive selection is much-appreciated, but ridiculous sale prices are a lucky find. Sorella boasts row after row of finely bottled reds, whites, and everything in between. Its sales are not to be missed. With more than 3,000 wines in stock, the staff can help direct you to the perfect choice for a romantic dinner or a backyard barbecue. Don’t miss the free wine tastings Fridays and Saturdays. Bring your furry friend along—Sorella is dog-friendly.
29. Liquor Store
The massive selection at Surdyk’s puts your neighborhood booze store to shame. The aisles are ripe with fair-priced Chardonnays, Spanish Reds, and bottles from the Rhone. Every other patch of ground with favored grapes is represented. Stock up at the gigantic sales. Sip and savor delicious samples nearly every evening. Be sure to quiz the educated staff for suggestions. Surdyk’s also carries liquor, beer, and sake, as well as their best friends: cheese, deli delights, and cigars.
Runner Up: Hennepin-Lake Liquors
30. Ice Cream Shop
Izzy’s is perfect for curbing any ice cream crave, from the sugary kid-kick of bubble gum and cotton candy to the more grown-up flavors like Dark Chocolate Zin or deliciously bitter Peace Coffee. With 31 delightfully tasty options, your friends, lovers, or kids will thank you for the treat. Every scoop gets a free “Izzy”—a miniscoop of another flavor on top. Check out the special holiday spoonfuls: Guinness for St. Patrick’s Day and Dinosaur Egg for Easter.
31. Grocery Store
When it comes to a reasonably priced yet high-quality grocery store, Lund’s takes the cake (and makes it, too, if you want to get technical). It operates 10 stores, and the 11th is on its way to Downtown Minneapolis. Family-owned, and the sister store to Byerly’s, Lund’s was founded by Russell T. Lund, who opened the original location at Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue in 1922. It always has been popular with the gay crowd.
32. Day Trip
Money’s tight, the economy sucks, and the European vacation you’d been dreaming of suddenly doesn’t seem like an option. No worries—the dip in the economy also has seen a rise in the “daycation” phenomenon. No better place to travel than Stillwater, according to Lavender readers. The city is less than 30 miles from the Twin Cities, and boasts a collection of waterways to take in the St. Croix River. It’s as relaxing a day trip as you’ll find.
Runner-up: Red Wing
33. Weekend Getaway
Only a couple of hours north, Duluth is an accessible city with activities ranging from museums to shopping to fun winter sports. The cool breeze of Lake Superior finds this town often a little bit chillier than the Twin Cities, so be sure to dress appropriately. The freshwater aquarium is a must-see. If you’re feeling like getting outside, Duluth is full of beautiful nature and breathtaking sites at every corner.
34. Summer Vacation Destination
If you don’t mind traveling nearly 5,000 miles to escape the boiling sun and pesky mosquitoes of Minnesota, Paris is a fabulous destination for a summer vacation. Hot spots in the lively city include the sparkling Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées. It’s a traveler’s haven for anyone who likes to take pictures, go shopping, or indulge in delectable food or coffee. If time permits, the Louvre is one of the top museums in all of Europe.
35. Winter Vacation Destination
Though Québec isn’t too far from home, it’s like it’s another world entirely. The second-best thing to hearing French spoken in France is to listen to it in Québec, the largest geographical province in Canada, settled four centuries ago. It has a lot to offer for tourists, and is truly a cultural experience. A trip up north during autumn is said to be enriching, as the myriad leaves make up a color wheel.
36. Place to Work out
Uptown, Downtown, and Midtown YWCA gyms have become the place to get physical. The YWCA offers high-quality services and fitness classes that give it an urban, hip vibe, making it a truly fab place to work out. Don’t let the “W” throw you, though. It is inclusive—welcoming everyone—often extending scholarships to those with challenging finances. Beyond simply promoting physical fitness, the YWCA promotes its core mission of empowering women and eliminating racism.
37. GLBT Sports
Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League
Proud to be celebrating its 31st year, the Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League has 34 teams of 500 GLBT athletes from around the area. The summer league just came to its season end, but the fall league is right around the corner. Games are played in Northeast Minneapolis. They’re free to watch for anyone who would like to participate in the fun. If you are interested in joining the league, visit www.tcgsl.org.
Runner-up: Mayhem Rugby
38. Pro Sports Team
Going on its 10th year as a team in the Women’s National Basketball League, the Minnesota Lynx are an excellent representation of the talented women we have here in this state. Star player Candace Wiggins is an HIV/AIDS advocate in memory of her father who lost his battle to that very disease. Demonstrating the importance of women’s sports, and being dedicated to issues beyond sports, the Minnesota Lynx make our list as the fab pro sports team.
Runner-up: Minnesota Twins
39. College Sports TEam
Gopher Men’s Swimming and Diving
The season has gotten under way for the University of Minnesota Swimming and Diving team. With the success of last season, the new one is sure to be interesting. Star swimmer Curt Carlson, who made nearly every list with top time in 2008-2009, will be participating again in this year. Head coach Dennis Dale, a graduate of the U, has won many Big Ten titles. It’s sure to be an invigorating season.
Runner-up: Augsburg Soccer
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Left-handed batter and right-handed thrower Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins has changed the meaning of the number “7” forever. Cal Ripken Jr. has bestowed upon Maurer the kudo of having the best swing in baseball, and the St. Paul native certainly has been living up to it. Watch for him to excel next year in the new Twins stadium. His Minnesota ties and outstanding performance for the Twins have made Mauer our 2009 fab athlete.
Runner-up: Candace Wiggins, Minnesota Lynx
41. Mall or shopping center
Mall of America
Whether you need a wooden birdhouse, a pair of tennis shoes, or an authentic cowboy hat, Mall of America is sure to have anything and everything your heart could desire, including an amusement park and Lego Land for kids (or those fascinated by giant, moving, Lego-people). Restaurants range from fast food to fine dining, and everything in between. This melting pot of cultures is an experience in itself, as people-watching is reminiscent of being in a foreign country.
42. Place to Buy Men’s Clothing
Macy’s, which has been around nationally since 1859, is the newest local incarnation of what once was Dayton’s and later Marshall Field’s. With exclusive lines that stray from the typical stores you find in the malls, it offers more variety and selection than any other fashion purveyor you will find. Where else in the Twin Cities are you going to find a pair of sexy Calvin’s next to a Pride flag? That’s what we thought as well.
Runner-up: Men’s Wearhouse
43. Place to Buy Women’s Clothing
Anthropologie, launched 17 years ago, gears itself toward the 30-plus crowd with cash to spend. It features clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry, and accessories, along with home decor. Check out the Mise en Scene by Ruffian, a special collection crafted exclusively for Anthropologie. This trend-setting store offers the best fashion for the woman who wants to look good, but also lets her take that style, and place it in the home.
Runner-up: JC Penny’s
44. Place to buy eyewear
Locally owned Specs Appeal in St. Paul combines very necessary optometric services with (what should be!) the excitement of picking out a new pair of trendy or classic frames. The selection includes styles from local designers, and the store specializes in thin lenses. Refugees from bigger strip mall stores appreciate the cozy, personable office and staff, as well as a full range of specialties to accommodate the bespectacled Twin Cities at large.
Runner-up: Look + See
45. Place to buy Jewelry
JB Hudson Jewelers
Not every occasion calls for the gift of bling. For those that do, a simple, stress-free solution can be found in JB Hudson Jewelers. The company has been building on its solid reputation since 1885. While this jewelry store has maintained its Nicollet Mall location from its inception, the relatively new Ridgedale Center location provides the same selection and quality. Updated styling has garnered the company recognition as one of America’s coolest stores by InStore Magazine.
Runner-up: T Lee
46. Place to buy Home Furnishings
Gabberts has won industry accolades and the satisfaction of customers in its 50 years in the home furnishing business. A team of designers makes it their business to keep current on trends and technology that make decorating as much a science as it is an art. Gabberts turns dreams into reality for any room and within any budget. Whether your style is contemporary, traditional, or classic, you can create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece in your own home.
47. Place to buy Adult gifts
Colleen Bertino has created a legacy of providing a comfortable place for people to shop for nearly 30 years. “We are welcoming and truly inclusive,” she says. With 10 locations around the Twin Cities metro area, a lot of us are finding that Fantasy Gifts is a great place to buy an adult gift. With more than sexy lingerie or toys, the stores have a little bit of something for everyone.
Runner-up: Smitten Kitten
48. Place to get aHaircut
Barbers on Bryant
If booming business in a bust economy is any indication of getting the formula right, it’s fair to say that Audie Howe and Brian Preston have mastered the old-fashioned skill of cutting hair in the new-fashioned environment that is Barbers on Bryant. When the two opened their own shop two years ago, their goal was simply to create a comfortable, inclusive place for their loyal clientele who today still are getting a great haircut for just $15.
Runner-up: Aveda Institute
49. Gift Store
Max’s in St. Louis Park, which is named after owner Ellen Hertz’s grandfather, sets itself apart from the horde of frivolous, kitschy gift shops that plague a last-minute shopper and, eventually, a frustrated recipient. The shop deals primarily in eclectic luxury jewelry for men and women, elegant home decor, and fine imported chocolates that can’t be found anywhere else in Minnesota. Example: a chocolate pocket—it gets better—filled with peanut butter and jelly.
Runner-up: Eye of Horus
50. Garden Center
With each new season comes a new reason to discover—or rediscover—Tangletown Gardens. This small-on-the-outside, big-on-the-inside gardener haven in South Minneapolis is open year-round—inspiring, educating, and captivating, while giving back to the local economy, with more than 3,500 plant varieties in stock. All plants are grown locally using the most sustainable practices available. Tangletown Grown, a source of seasonal produce and herbs, gives nongardeners an incentive to tag along or stop in on their own.