Editor’s Note: Lily’s Coffee Shop is now closed.
In a seemingly endless sea of Caribous and Starbucks, it can be difficult to find an independently owned gem of a coffee shop to get your caffeine fix. Harder yet is to find a place that invites guests in for a broader, community-minded experience. A favorite few places throughout the Twin Cities come to mind when seeking this kind of experience, and new to my list is Lily’s on 33rd and Central in Northeast Minneapolis.
In opening Lily’s, owner Brigitte (French pronunciation with a soft ‘g’ and perky upswing at the end) Biraud hoped to create a sense of community. “I love the feel of neighborhood places. I wanted something personal, not a place where people just come once a week and you don’t know them. Well, maybe not just once a week… but [I wanted] to have regulars and to know them by name — like an extension of home in some ways.”
Personal to its core, Lily’s was named after Biraud’s mother, inspired because it was her mother’s birthday the day she signed the lease. Although the space was formerly also a coffee shop (Columbia Grounds), Biraud’s made the space hers by redecorating, then opened the doors just over a year ago in January 2009.
The menu is small and features many homemade items. “I am limited because I do not have a full kitchen, just one small oven,” says Biraud. “I have to find ways to be creative with my cooking. It’s a challenge at times, but we make it.”
Getting creative means that desserts, salads, and soups are made in-house using locally sourced ingredients, like Holy Land hummus and New French Bakery bread, when possible. Other items, pastries specifically, are purchased elsewhere but baked onsite.
The daily breakfast menu consists of oatmeal, waffles, pastries, and a breakfast sandwich. Lunch offerings include salads, two daily soups, and a small selection of sandwiches. Additional homemade brunch items, a breakfast burrito and quiche, are offered on weekends (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). And new to the menu are crepes (varieties of sweet and savory), which are offered once per month on the second Sunday. Beverages range from organic sodas to organic, fair-trade coffee from local small-batch roaster Flamenco Organic Coffee Company.
But perhaps more than just for the food and drink, people are drawn to Lily’s for its comforting aesthetic. The two rooms that make up the small space are inviting, yet distinct in their function and purpose. Coming into the shop off Central, guests enter into a more traditional looking cafe space with small two and four-top tables and an L-shaped service area. Moving through the cafe, you enter the back room which is a more casual, lounging environment.
“I like knick-knacks so I did a lot of rummaging,” she says, describing the collection of antique tables, chairs, and couches pieced together to create the furnishings in the back room. The result is a warm space, with several seating areas that beg for a gab session with a good friend over a cup of coffee. Depending on the day, you may find a gathering of any number of community groups, a music event or even a yoga class (a new feature this month; classes held during low times) occupying this room. In the summer, the outdoor area is the place to be — visitors enjoy a garden complete with a pergola and fountain.
Extending the communal feel is the artwork displayed throughout the space. Biraud is always looking for local talent to feature; the current work features two Twin Cities photographers. In addition, Lily’s is a participant in Art-A-Whirl, the springtime art fair held throughout the artist community in Northeast Minneapolis.
Coffee shop in Northeast Minneapolis
3301 Central Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418
Winter: Tues and Thurs-Sun 7am-3pm, Wed 7am-8pm
Summer: Starting April, Tues-Sun 7am-8pm