10.9.07

Sidewalk of the Week: 25th Street

As I wait for my lost camera to come back to me, somehow, I feels like time to offer up a Sidewalk of the Week clearinghouse, going through my vast reservoir of sidewalks past and present to find the chociest bits to share with you, gentle reader.

Oh Camera! Why have you forsaken me? Bring me back my rolls of digital sidewalk film! You are my memory, my one and only link with my pedestrian past! Do not leave me here lifeless... forgetful... forgotten... Why are you so small and hard to find? Damn you, digital technology! Damn you, Moore's Law!

Sorry.

This week's very exciting Sidewalk of the Week is 25th Street in South Minneapolis, right in front of the Birchwood Cafe. The Birchwood Cafe is one of those places that serves as the heart of a neighborhood, singlehandedly bringing people out of their homes and cars and into the warm busom of the public. Like the Riverview Theater, Jerebek's New Bohemian Bakery, or Nye's Polonaise Room, The Birchwood sort of defines its entire region (ergo the no doubt common phrase, "I live by the Birchwood"). Mostly, that's because its food is damn good, and its got enough laid-back atmosphere to strangle Jimmy Buffet, allowing it to become the meetinghouse for people all around the commercially underserved area between Seward and Longfellow. And that's enough to make the Birchwood a stunning example of good urbanism.

But as we all know, good urbanism alone does not garner the Sidewalk fo the Week laurel. No... for that we must turn to The Birchwood's sidewalk. We must lower our gaze, stoop to all fours, and go eye-to-toe with 25th Street's wonderful blend of cafe culture and residential bliss, for the Birchwood's sidewalk is a perfect example of how to seamlessly integrate a business into a neighborhood.

As you can see in the adjoining photo, unlike the demarcative hubris of a great many sidewalk cafes, The Birchwood does not encumber the pedestrian in the slightest with superfluous tables or chairs. Nary a hurdle will be placed in your way, should you unreasonably wish to walk cleanly past the Birchwood without stopping to buy a loaf of tasty bread, or cup of fine black coffee served in a porcelean mug. Instead, one's stroll is met with a subtle, gradual intensification of use, as grass becomes flowerbed becomes bike rack becomes table. These amenities serve at the same time as buffers between the car-laden street and the bustling cafe, though 25th Street is so quiet that it hardly seems necessary.

The 25th Street sidewalk, simultaneously serving the needs of a neighborhood cafe and little kids with chalk in their hands and hopscotch in their hearts, is the perfect blend of business and pleasure. It's a concrete example of multitasking. It sings the kind of sidewalk harmonies rarely found, and impossible to create. And for that, 25th Street between 33rd and 34th Avenues South, I salute you.

3 comments:

Radio Ann said...

Hey Bill -- I frequent the Birchwood quite often, and it is a lovely boulevard. It's also just a few minutes walk from West River Parkway, and a 15 minute jaunt from the Lake Street/Marshall Avenue bridge.

So am I to gather that this stretch of road is superior because it allows children to chalk up the sidewalk? In civilized countries, like Germany, children are kept out of eyesight as they should be.

Stephen Gross said...

Sounds cool. I haven't been down there (yet)... Is it the only business in an otherwise residential district?

--Steve

John said...

There's the Clicquot Club Cafe just down the street, which some claim serves coffee superior to the Birchwood's.