My husband and I sit in the quaint Band Box Diner in the Elliot Park neighborhood of Minneapolis. We’re enjoying delicious burgers and fries while reminiscing about our summer in Boston, when we lived in the heart of Beantown, visiting every beach town on the map. Elliot Park is our time capsule, opening up memories of our time at home on the east coast.
The Band Box Diner is the last of its kind, sitting on a split corner in Minneapolis. What used to be a chain of fourteen diners across the city has become a place for neighbors and outsiders alike to get some of the best diner food in Minneapolis. It was hard for me to get my foot in the door at first because I couldn’t stop admiring the small restaurant’s character. The sun setting was the perfect backdrop for me to snap photos of the red and white lunch-box eatery. I was only torn away by the smell of burgers and fries on the grill.
Like Boston, we say, living in downtown Minneapolis can feels so large and overwhelming, meant for the corporate bodies and big-city sports fanatics. But it only feels that way for a little while, and then you find spots that feel like home, like you’ve been here before. In Boston, we walked the streets surrounded by old, granite-style architecture and green, lush parks. While those sights have slipped from my everyday vision in Minneapolis, Elliot Park is my escape back into our home – it’s our spot.
Unlike Boston, though, Elliot Park is quiet, not booming with cars honking and people in suits, walking swiftly from skyscraper to skyscraper. I was a little surprised after walking through the heart of the city, only making it past the last skyscraper to discover the neighborhood we were in. As soon as we arrived, it’s as if we’d entered a bubble. The city bustle disappeared and the noise from highways 94 and 35 were just a hum.
On our way to the diner, we passed small businesses and came across blocks upon blocks of similar homes like we saw in New England. The revival-style architecture and vines spanning the old brick buildings gave us serious nostalgia. Old mansions turned into small businesses fascinate us with plaques telling stories of their past; one of our favorites belonged to a wealthy flour producer who hired the same architect of the Minnesota Governor’s Mansion. I remember walking through the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston – lined with these same kinds of homes and cobblestone streets – and hoping I would find its character elsewhere. Now we have.
Once we made it to the central park — also called Elliot Park — I had to stop and look around. The similarities to the Boston Common and Public Garden are beautiful: a giant green space surrounded by the city. I find it fascinating that I can turn my head and see nothing but open fields and children’s havens – a basketball court, pool, swing sets and soccer fields – but when turning my head in the opposite way, I’m back in the city, looking at the skyline and glimpses of familiar landmarks, like US Bank Stadium and HCMC.
We’ve called Minneapolis home for almost two years. But sometimes, home has a way of following you. Boston was our great adventure, our new home for the scary few months after college. Elliot Park takes me back there, reminding me of the first place I called home after living in the Midwest my whole life. It was my first apartment with my husband, my first real job and my first time experiencing the magic of a new home. As we pay for our food and walk out of the diner, it’s clear that Elliot Park will be a memorable place for us – a home away from home.
And with Band Box’s burgers and fries… yeah, I could get used to this neighborhood.
Originally published on Near North Co.