Snobbyapolis

News flash:  Minneapolis is a snobby city.  This from Travel and Leisure:

In the annual America’s Favorite Cities survey, we asked readers to rank 35 major metropolitan areas for features such as trendy food trucks or good-looking locals.

To determine which city has the biggest nose in the air, we factored in some traditional staples of snobbery: a reputation for aloof and smarty-pants residents, along with high-end shopping and highbrow cultural offerings like classical music and theater.

But we also considered 21st-century definitions of elitism: tech-savviness, artisanal coffeehouses, and a conspicuous eco-consciousness (say, the kind of city where you get a dirty look for throwing your coffee cup in the wrong bin).

Minneapolis ranked 4th, trailing San Francisco, New York City and Boston, but edging out Seattle, Santa Fe and Chicago.  The Travelers’ and Leisurers’ take on us:

Perhaps readers felt intimidated by these bookish, indie-music-loving, craft-beer-drinking hipsters, who also ranked highly for being exceptionally tidy. If these Minnesotans feel self-satisfied, is it any wonder? They also scored well for being fit and outdoorsy; you can join them at the Chain of Lakes, where, depending on the season, folks are hiking, paddling, or even ice-surfing.

Snobby?  Really?  Isn’t having interesting stuff in your community a desirable thing?

Of course it is.  Having the option of experiencing something new and different that isn’t available just anywhere is a huge advantage of living in a great city like Minneapolis.

But T and L got it right.  Minneapolis is a snobby city, because having new and different things is not enough for many Minneapolitans.  They feel obliged to look down  from their lofts and rooftop cafes judging people who don’t worship at the altar of all that is new and different.

Minneapolis_hipster

For instance, God help you if you express dislike for Surly Furious beer inside the Minneapolis city limits.  It’s perfectly reasonable that some people would enjoy the bitter taste of the hop-heavy brew, and some would not.  Preferences are preferences.  But to hipster Minneapolitans, a distaste for the hops in IPAs is a clear sign that one is not sufficiently evolved.

The same thing applies to food and wine.  If my God-given tastebuds just can’t distinguish between a ten buck meal and a fifty buck meal, does that really mean that I’m a closed-minded rube?  Maybe it just means that I’d rather hold onto the extra forty bucks to buy four extra ten buck meals.  Saffron and truffle oil?  Can’t taste it dude.  Hints of oak barrel?  Even if I could taste it, why would I necessarily desire it?

I also plead guilty to wearing khakis and not possessing a single pair of skinny jeans.  Why?  One, BECAUSE I’M NOT SKINNY.  (Neither, by the way, are many of you.)  Two, because I still have khakis in my closet from the 90s that have some more miles on them.

And then there are bicyclists.  Minneapolis is thick with them these days, and I’m all for them.  I support more bike lanes, bike racks, and people out of cars, if that’s what works well for them.   But just because I prefer not to arrive at meetings drenched in sweat and expect bicyclists to obey traffic laws doesn’t make me a Neanderthal bike hater who doesn’t understand the profound awesomeness of Amsterdam.

The fact that many Minneapolitan hipsters equate rejection of a trend with inferiority is what makes them snobby. Trends are fine.  Enforcement of trends is snobby.

It’s a little more difficult for me to understand when snobbery happens in a city of folks who are largely transplants from small towns, suburbs and rural areas.  Even most of the free spirits in Uptown and downtown lofts did not grow up in Soho or Greenwich Village.  They are only a few short years removed from enjoying Folgers, Mogen David, Buckhorn and IHOP.  If those folks find that  Peets, Pétrus, Surly, and Café Lurcat brings them more joy, enjoy already.  But really, there is no need to evangelize and snigger.   We hayseeds are perfectly comfortable, in all our glorious frumpyness.

– Loveland

70 thoughts on “Snobbyapolis

  1. PM says:

    Yeah, i agree with you, Joe–but with a few exceptions. Because i love Surly Furious, and Piccolo. Petrus is fine, but Cheval Blanc is better.

    At the same time, I also love White Castle and Popeyes and Matt’s (and next time we are going to the 5-8 Club and I am buying because the onion straws there are the bomb!)

    Snobbery happens everywhere. People are always status conscious, and are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves from the less educated or less well off among them. The Twin Cities is spared the excesses of conspicuous consumption due to our Scandinavian reticence and Minnesota nice, but we tend to compensate by trying to emphasize that we know more than others or are hipper than others, etc. We won’t show one another up by a larger house or flashier watch or more expensive car. but we’ll brag about which trendy restaurant or farmers market or CSA or coop we patronize. We won’t hesitate to emphasize how much better we are based on recycling or bicycling or what we eat or how small our carbon footprint is. It is just that our one-upsmanship takes a slightly different form–but we are just as petty and any other city (but in a more educated and better way, of course).

    BTW, did you see the WSJ article on Minneapolis? Apparently we are the nicest city is the country! (one more way for us to feel superior to the rest of the country).

  2. Joe Loveland says:

    I certainly won’t criticize you for your love of Surly and Cheval Blanc. But the kind of snobbery I’m talking about is when you castigate others who don’t love those things enough to pay the price. I doubt you do much of that.

    However, you’re right that we’re all snobby about something. I not only enjoy decent coffee, I look down my nose at people who drink convenience store coffee or Folgers. I try not to, but I do have a very strong “what is wrong with you???” reaction, which is every bit as snobby as the people who think that everyone MUST spend on truffle oil and indie bands.

    Your analysis of MN snobbery is very good. Our snobbery does seem to be a bit more based in cultural goods than material goods. Accidentally throwing a beer bottle in the garbage, rather than the recycling, will earn you a righteous lecture at many Minnesota gatherings. And whenever I read a good Harlequin Romance, I always have to do it with a Malcolm Gladwell book jacket masking it.

  3. Joe Loveland says:

    Q. How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A. Meh, it’s a really obscure number that you’ve probably never heard of.

    (Heard, of course, on public radio.)

    1. PM says:

      Yeah, that is one aspect I forgot–we in MN tend to be snobbish about politics and MPR and smoking!

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        Yes, MPR is the epicenter of Minneapolis snobbyness. Where would I be without Kerri Miller directing me to acceptable books and Lynn Rossetto Casper telling me which type of sea salt is required for Fish Congee???

  4. Erik Petersen says:

    It’s more complex than TL has the wherewithal to explain.

    In all those cities mentioned, ‘snobbery’ is this material and intellectual social order that’s constructed in gold collar and creative class enclaves to distinguish themselves as ‘better’ than suburbanites and small towners with similar education, accomplishments, and income. Its about being bourgeois, rather than prole, in terms of self perception.

    So, good call Joe.

        1. Jim Leinfelder says:

          Reverse snobbery, turning necessity into a virtuous choice. Pick your poison, I suppose. There are agreed upon aesthetic, qualitative standards that don’t necessarily equal snobbery. The stuff Joe’s citing seems to mainly be a function of callow youth’s early attempts at sophistication and competition.

          Though, I understand it’s now all the rage to be a high-minded introvert.

          1. Erik Petersen says:

            This hurling thing you have going on is obviously some kind of snobbery gambit Jim. What’s wrong with baseball? Too pedestrian? It’s a far superior to football, that’s for sure.

            1. Jim Leinfelder says:

              Nothing. Played it. Can’t go through life chained to a post, lad. Try something new once in awhile. All are welcome on the pitch. Thought we might see Kennedy out this season. But, alas…

          2. Erik Petersen says:

            How about reverse reverse snobbery. Which I assert is the kind of thing that makes you shop at Trader Joes, and pat yourself on the back for buying Two Buck Chuck. Because its cheap and adequately tasty!

            1. Erik Petersen says:

              To be more precise, reverse reverse snobbery is sort of when discount or low brow has an acculturated stamp of approval.

              Under reverse reverse snobbery, IKEA and Target are viewed favorably. Walmart is not.

          3. Erik Petersen says:

            I’m not actually a reverse snob myself. I can’t parse the exquisiteness of craft beer, but I would pay $100 for a steak for instance. And I recall browbeating my wife for taking the side of sirloin in a sirloin .vs ribeye discussion some weeks ago.

            So let’s say that yes, the foodies generally have a qualitative rationale in favor of their snobbery.

            I’m reminded though of this BWW brouhaha by Macalester, and this is where snobbery is dumb and ugly. You basically have to be a misanthrope with something seriously wrong to not like BWW.

            1. Erik Petersen says:

              “We don’t like the idea of a sports bar.” That article just about has it all. Generic snobbery. Reverse reverse snobbery. NIMBY. Bourgeois expressing their disapproval for the prole consumption habits.

            2. Jim Leinfelder says:

              Ah, thanks, Joe. Is it snobby to dislike the destruction of any sense of place, or regionalism, in the wake of the kudzu-like proliferation of generic franchises the likes of “BWW”? If so, put me down as a full-throated snob. The suburbs are a lost cause. Let them spread like buckthorn in Anyplace, USA. But let’s try and maintain the character of the Grand Ave, corridor as much as we can. Of course, if we just didn’t bother going and ate the excellent wings at The Muddy Pig or The Happy Gnome or Dixie’s, etc., they’d just move on to Fridley. Happily, I think the location for the BWW is well tucked off Snelling in the old Cheapo site, yes?

            3. Joe Loveland says:

              It is not the job of municipal governments to decide what foods their citizens should have in their neighborhoods. Market demand should resolve that, and there is, thank goodness, clearly a lot of demand for the Muddy Pig type establishments in St. Paul. Governmental food policing does strike me as snobby. I don’t think a government should ban either the Muddy Pigs or the BWWs from the opportunity to do business in the city.

            4. Erik Petersen says:

              You forget or are missing the point, the zoning ostensibly met, they still object to its presence on Snelling.

              What I was saying about social order within creative class enclaves…. I could not have asked for a more emblematic response. But I think I’m more aghast at how the snobbery is misplaced in most cases. Talking qualitatively. For instance, what’s a place like the Muddy Pig got in its favor over BWW?

              The ambiance is going to be different, that’s a given. But they both get their wings from Sysco or a place like it. Does the Muddy Pig have a bespoke artisan method of cooking them? Does the Muddy Pig have an ability to employ more of its workers at adult wages? No, and no. There’s not a great deal to be snobby about.

            5. Jim Leinfelder says:

              Erik: I’ll just have to believe you when you claim an inability to discern the difference between a chain restaurant the likes of BWW and, say, a neighborhood pub the likes of The Muddy Pig. As to the lack of a qualitative difference between their wings: there is one. That, too, may elude your powers of discernment. But neither of these cases do anything to inform my preferences for one dining experience over the other. But I feel no need to change your mind about that.

            6. Erik Petersen says:

              I alluded specifically to being able to discern the difference between a chain and a neighborhood pub. I don’t think there is a qualitative peg to hang snobbery on. If you have a nice old building to have your restaurant, great.

              OK, what is it? What is the qualitative difference in the wings?

            7. Erik Petersen says:

              Wings are a commodity, supplied in bulk by agribusiness vendors who raise factory chicken. BWW gets them from Sysco or a vendor like them. Muddy Pig gets them from Sysco, or a vendor like them. Maybe from Sam’s Club, who gets them from Sysco. They both fry them in vegetable oil. There’s no qualitative difference in the product, or the preparation, no matter where you eat it.

              It’s fine that you like neighborhood pubs. But without a qualitative differentiation, it doesn’t make you better or smarter because you do. This is what I see here, on Snelling, and in Joes TL article. Snobbery as a means to elevate yourself in status from the others.

            8. Joe Loveland says:

              Erik, the food, drink and atmosphere are far from identical at BWW and TMP. For that reason. I disagree with your contention that the two options are nearly indistinguishable commodities, but I agree with you that enforcing one over the other is annoying.

            9. Erik Petersen says:

              I know that, tried to acknowledge that as perhaps the only distinction. I just don’t think it’s very weighty when the eternal truth should be, different strokes for different folks.

            10. Jim Leinfelder says:

              Erik: Doesn’t make me better. Just saying, if you want to attract my $ to your area, generic mono-cuisine the likes of BWW, and food franchises in general, won’t do the trick. Doubt we’ll be running into each other.

              But, as I’ve often quoted him, H.L. Mencken gets proven right every day that nobody ever lost any money underestimating the American taste. I travel a lot for work in the small places of the midwest, and I can tell you that regionalism is long dead, and corporate food has killed it.

              I mourn it. You, one imagines, do not.

            11. Erik Petersen says:

              I don’t mourn it insofar as I am not sentimental about it. Time is money. No one can afford to have a fry cook endeavoring to make bespoke artisan chicken wings. There’s only so much people will pay and the kid’s time has to be utilized properly while you are paying him. Corporate food merely represents the efficiencies of supply chain and repeatable process brought to the dining industry. It’s like anything else. It’s modernity.

              In addition to your observation being completely nostalgic, I don’t think its right or generalizable though. I think of Hudson because I do most of my shopping there. Main street corridor thrives without chains. The rent is too high or they are zoned out, thus they are all up the hill. But they both thrive. Stillwater, Prescott, and Hastings are similar. I’m not sure I see chains at all (besides the occasional Subway) in towns smaller than 5,000 or even 10,000.

              In most places I’m not sure there’s enough dining capacity of any kind to serve the demand that exists. Chain or small biz.

            12. I don’t know if I can say that Minneapolis is any more snobby than any other place, only that I know it better than any other. But the celebration of homogeneity always fascinates me. There is an astonishing number of people who gravitate to and cluster around established, marketed brands, and regard things obscure and unique with apprehension. Food may not be the best example of this, since weary travelers happily stop in at mom and pop restaurants, although given the choice the majority of them will opt for a franchise on the nearest Anywhere USA strip out of an abundance of caution. Arts consumption is generally a better lens through which to examine this phenomenon. Given the ease with which anyone can consume either formulaic TV, film, music or theater — as opposed to something provocative and world-enlarging — gets a bit closer to a fear of rattling one’s own tightly-held perceptions of life. And I say this as a guy on a first-name basis with the manager at my local Costco.

            13. Jim Leinfelder says:

              Again, I don’t think it’s snobbery to want to preserve the character of a particularly quaint part of any town/city by keeping generic corporate franchises out, or, at least getting them to tone down their gaudy branding and make an effort to be architecturally consistent with their surroundings.

              In some cases, the very popularity of the area that made it attractive to a franchise to locate there is at stake. The beltways and freeway fringes, well, they’re a long lost cause that mainly serve transient through traffic.

              Anyway, I’ll put up with a little snobbery from discerning fellow citizens who help push us out of our provincial comfort zones, whether it’s cuisine, micro brews, theatre, film, architecture, media, visual arts, galleries, etc. The homely and familiar and the metastasized chain offerings of corporate America will find their way into our midst by dint of nothing more than our passivity.

            14. PM says:

              Jim:L

              if they are snobs are they then discerning?

              I mean, if they automatically reject any product from a chain in favor of a product from an independent, i don’t think that they are necessarily discerning–rather, they are prejudiced.

              As you pointed out earlier in reference to small towns, in addition to the quaintness, there are often narrow points of view. Well, the same is just as true in Linden Hills (narrow points of view), in the rejection of anything good from chains or in suburbs or in high rise buildings.

              Chains are good at standardization and low prices–they tend to deliver above average quality. (been to plenty of really bad independent burger places, as well as lots of really bad independent wing places)

              Even top restaurants struggle with consistency–what is the place like on the chefs night off?

              It is the assumptions that there is no value in chains that bothers me.

              That said, i do agree with your point–if there were nothing but chains, we would lose a lot of value, charm and quality.

              But I find the political correctness of Linden Hills just as numbing as the uniformity of Medina. And probably just as uniform.

            15. Jim Leinfelder says:

              Chains do offer reassuring “sameness.” I ate at BWW in the terminal at JFK. I knew what I was in for before ordering. In that setting, I can see the draw. I had time to kill, and something better than airline fare seemed fine to me.

  5. bertram jr. says:

    Ah, liberals discovering the vagaries, yet certain existance, of ‘human nature”.

    The irony.

  6. Joe Loveland says:

    I’m not directing us all to become the “common man” who pays allegiance to the least common denominator of everything.

    Life is much more interesting with friends who enjoy unusual food, drink, culture, entertainment, etc. Sometimes I am those people, and sometimes I am not. My preferences are my preferences.

    Again, my point is just that I don’t want to be proselytized when I choose ordinary things, and folks in many Mpls neighborhoods are much more likely to do that than people in other Minnesota cities and towns. That’s why I think the snobby label fits.

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      From my travels in many smaller towns and communities, there isn’t a hell of a lot to be snobbily proselytizing about. Plenty of unreflective, baseless judgment, though.

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      Bring us all up to speed on the attractions out there in Medina, so I’ll have somewhere to take the California relatives next they visit. Have they added any new lanes to the bowling alley?

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      Well, we’re just glad we can provide you with someplace to work, go to dinner, see some theatre, watch professional sports, take your kid to a museum, etc. You’re welcome.

        1. Jim Leinfelder says:

          Well, that sounds, um, very specific.

          You also have the world’s largest ball of twine out in Darwin. Mighty nice folks at the gift shop there. They didn’t take a cash card, so the lovely lady behind the desk just told me to send a check for my postcards and t-shirt.

        1. PM says:

          I have heard good things about this place. Still, there is a general lack of great restaurants out west–particularly in Wayzata, where anything nicer than Sunsets seems destined to fail. (and BWW would be a huge improvement over Sunsets!)

            1. Jim Leinfelder says:

              I would disagree. But it’s all about context. How many Axel’s are there now? Local chain, I’d term it.

  7. bertram jr. says:

    Re: CNN “small town” poll:

    – Mentioned cold and snow in all three graphs.

    – CNN is a lefty network, they endorse vanilla flavored “collectives” with transit stations (aka Criminal Redistribution Systems).

    – A suburb of the 16th largest market = small town to pretty much anyone.

    By CNN standards, wonder how Montevideo would fare.

    Interesting to note that all three have oddly dysfunctional “downtowns”.

    1. PM says:

      OTOH, the Wall Street Journal (a fairly conservative outfit) wrote a positively glowing article about Minneapolis….

      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323309404578614041918038574.html

      They even headlined it ” The Nicest City in America”. They suggested that visitors to Mpls ride the light rail system (a “criminal redistribution system” if there ever was one!), they suggested walks around Lake Harriet in the evening, all sorts of dangerous pastimes…

      1. bertram jr. says:

        Even the mean streets of Linden Hills (Bertram’s old stomping grounds), gets a mention or two…

  8. Erik Petersen says:

    I have found iPhone snobbery mystifying

    Subaru and Volvo snobbery is fairly off putting, as is co-op snobbery.

    1. bertram jr. says:

      Well, the frosted blonde mannequins in the Range Rovers west of town are a whole ‘nother topic….

      1. bertram, old man, might I advise a hiatus from very high maintenance gold diggers? I understand that while in the act you imagine every woman to be Megyn Kelly, but really Range Rovers and Porsche Cayennes should be like a flare in the sky. Stay home and behind the fortifications, be content to stroke and oil your barrels.

  9. bertram jr. says:

    Jimmy, I hear the new CRS, um, I mean southwest rail is going right under Cedar Lake, or something? Won’t that disrupt the john-boating and hurling thereabouts?

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      The whole thing’s an Onion article waiting to be written. Perspicacious LRT engineers, noting that bicycle commuter trails tend to have grades nearly identical to those required for rail lines (what are the odds?!) have hit on the novel idea of converting them to light rail lines, calling the repurposing trend, “trails to rails.”

      Co-location is idiotic, and I fully expect it to win the day.

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