Saturday, April 5, 2008

Geek Tourism: Dreamhaven and Uncle Hugo's

I'd like to launch a sporadic feature for this blog called Geek Tourism, pointing out geeky destinations for those who find themselves in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. I would have written this entry earlier this week, but I'm getting over a nasty bout of gastroenteritis and wasn't really feeling like writing much in the past couple of days.

Today I'm going to feature two independent bookstores in Minneapolis, Dreamhaven and Uncle Hugo's.

Dreamhaven is a store in the Uptown neighborhood in Minneapolis, easily recognized by the garish shade of lavender that it's painted. They sell used and new science fiction, fantasy, horror, comics, videos, audiorecordings, action-figure-type toys, and a few oddball items that are difficult to categorize, like books about conspiracy theories, photographing rabbits, and the history of sideshow freaks (it's not a "Coast to Coast A.M." type of store, don't worry!) It's also a sort of shrine to local-ish author Neil Gaiman, who keeps his awards on display there. Dreamhaven also supports and sells local/independent comics and chapbooks, including a new volume of short stories they recently published by Peter S. Beagle. It's the sort of store in which it's easy to discover tons of things you never knew existed, but cannot possibly imagine not reading or viewing now that you know about them! Accessibility note: the front/street entrance has steps, but I think the back entrance (which is where the loading dock and parking lot are) has a ramp.

While you're in the neighborhood, I suggest paying a visit to two other local businesses, Falafel King (a restaurant serving Mediterranean and Middle Eastern goodies like souvlaki, gyros, and of course, falafel) and Bill's Imported Foods. I'm a foreign-junk-food aficionado, so it's a great place to replenish my supply of "I'm not sure what this is, but it has a picture of a strawberry on it" tea biscuits. Unlike more upscale/yuppie imported food stores like World Market (don't get me wrong, I love going there, too, it's just so @$%#ing expensive), Bill's has a "this is what we got, take it or leave it" feeling to it. The store is clean, and the merchandise is organized by category, but if you're not interested in deciphering labels or doing outside research, you probably won't know what a lot of the stuff is. Bills caters more to people from The Old Country looking for familiar things from home, and adventurous bargain hunters, than to people expecting the consistency and convenience of big box chain groceries. Bill's also sells stuff from countries that are less marketable here in the Midwest. Most grocery stores here that sell imported stuff focus on Western Europe, China, Japan, and Mexico. Bill's has stuff from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and more obscure Asian and South American countries. They also sell baked goodies from Falafel King. So, if you're looking for Serbian Jaffa Cakes, cardamom-flavored Sri Lankan tea, or 15 different brands (not exaggerating!) of Petit Beurre tea biscuits, Bill's is worth a stop.

Falafel King (since their website is inaccessible and rather inexplicably doesn't give the store location or phone number):
701 W Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55408-3085
Phone: (612) 824-7887

Last stop is nearby in the Midtown neighborhood, Uncle Hugo's , and its sister (brother?) store Uncle Edgar's. Uncle Hugo's focuses most on used science fiction, fantasy, and horror books, with shelves crammed nearly floor-to-ceiling and some books in cardboard totes on the floor (I don't advise trying to get a wheelchair through this store, it's bad enough with low vision and a cane). They do have sections of new books, genre magazines, and collectible card game booster packs up front. Suggested reading lists for various sub-genres are helpfully tacked up on the ends of the bookcases.


shiva said...

I always thought Neil Gaiman was British, and lived in London...

Sounds like a shop i could easily spend the whole day in, tho - it covers (aspects of) nearly all my perseverations...

fledchen said...

Neil Gaiman is British, but he lives here in Minnesota.