The Hewing Hotel
A chic Nordic lodge in the heart of Minneapolis channels Minnesota’s lumberjack past
Lori Ann Reinhall
The Norwegian American
As editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, my travels frequently take me around the country, and when on the road, I’m always on the lookout for anything with a Nordic flair. Thus, when I heard that Minnesota’s Scandinavian roots inspired one of Minneapolis’ newer boutique hotels, the Hewing, it was at top of my list for an overnight stay. Surely there would be a story to tell!
At first, I was curious about the hotel’s name. “Hewing” didn’t sound Scandinavian to me, but when I learned that it referred to the process of converting a log into lumber with an axe, everything started to make sense. The hotel channels Minnesota’s lumberjack tradition, and I learned that the building in the swank North Loop neighborhood was once a warehouse depot for the lumber trade.
And if I were asked to describe the interior of the hotel with one word, it certainly would be “woody.” Form the moment you enter the lobby, you are greeted by massive wooden pillars retained from the original 1897 warehouse structure and beautifully restored wooden floors. Throughout there is wood, wood, and more wood. It makes for a very warm and inviting atmosphere, much like entering a ski lodge on a cold winter day. But the Hewing is much more, with special services and amenities that you will not find everywhere.
As I would discover, there are many custom design details to enjoy. My eye was immediately drawn to the glimmering “raindrops” in the central atrium. I was intrigued. Although mainly silver, there are also a few purple ones. I was later told that they hang in tribute to Prince, the late beloved Minneapolis singer and musician, who pioneered the late 1970s Minneapolis sound, a funk rock sub genre and who died during the construction of the hotel.
One of the first things I do when I check into any hotel is to go directly to my room to scrutinize my new home for the night. Like the lobby, rooms also benefit from their warehouse origins of high ceilings and brick walls, which give them a very solid feel. The rooms facing the street have large windows, but if you are in the back as I was, you will hit a brick wall, no view in sight. Nonetheless, the space doesn’t feel claustrophobic, but rather quite cozy.
If you are looking for conventional elegance, the decor may come across as stark or even masculine with its neutral colors. As in the lobby, there are large wooden beams and visible ductwork. But this industrial feel is softened by long, sweeping drapes, a comfortable leather armchair, and plaid throw blankets. In addition, with its pattern of deer, loon, and boat oars, the custom wallpaper has a Scandinavian folk-art quality.
Most impressive was the bathroom, with its oversized shower and custom tile work with the “hewing” motif or mark found throughout much of the hotel. And then there is an axe hanging on the wall, at first a mystery, (Have you come to a slaughterhouse?) but then making perfect sense, once you figure out what the hotel is about.
In keeping with the theme of the Northern woods, there is a good deal of health and fitness to be enjoyed. In the hotel basement, there is a well-equipped fitness center and yoga room. Spa services are also available. But for me, the rooftop social club with its cedar wood sauna (how Nordic is that?) was the place to be. There is also a hot tub and pool, making it a destination for hotel guests, as well as local members, who pay a fee to use the facilities. With comfortable chairs and tables on the terrace, it is also the perfect place to enjoy both a drink and a bird’s eye view of the city skyline.
But for me, the highlight of my stay was the culinary scene, starting with morning coffee and breakfast. I have to admit that, much to my chagrin, there was no coffeemaker in my room (The first thing a Scandinavian Seattleite reaches for is a morning cup of coffee.), but somehow the complimentary coffee service in the lobby library made up for this. There was also a good deal of ambiance to be enjoyed there, with large fireplace and floor-to-ceiling wooden bookcases filled with artifacts from Minnesota’s past, many of them Scandihoovian, including items decorated with rosemaling. In a comfortable leather armchair, I felt very much at home.
Adjacent is the bar, offering a wide selection of spirits, both local and international. The wine list is very impressive, and for beer lovers, there are craft brews, including one with the intriguing name “Insight ‘Old One-Eye’ Norse-Style Ale.” I was drawn to a designer cocktail called “White Winter Hymnal,” a delectable concoction of aquavit, reposado, winter spices, orange, and blackstrap bitters—skål!
But then there is the food at the Tulibee restaurant—oh my! Starting with the artisan breads and Norwegian waffles served at breakfast, you will be confronted with one temptation after the other. Many of the offerings are Nordic-inspired; I enjoyed cured salmon toast. Lefse has been on the menu since the beginning, and lingonberries are an important condiment for many dishes.
As the hotel website emphasizes, the restaurant honors the “Nordic practices of foraging, butchery and fermentation techniques and heavily driven by seasonality,” and for this reason, everything is made in-house to ensure the purity and freshness of what is served. The hotel does its own baking; there is a special butcher program, and the chef has partnered with local farmers to obtain the freshest ingredients.
I happened to dine there during Minneapolis’ restaurant week and enjoyed a delicious entrée of sautéed salmon served with root vegetables in herb broth, an offering on the special menu. But it was the dessert that was to die for. I chose the house specialty, a gjetost ice cream sundae, served with lingonberry compote and white chocolate in a krumkake cookie. I went to Norski heaven, Minnesota-style.
Because I was at the Hewing for only one night and spent much of my day working, I quickly understood that there is much more to explore at the hotel and in the surrounding neighborhood. The North Loop is considered one of the best shopping districts in the Twin Cities with numerous boutiques and trendy restaurants, and the theater district is in close proximity. There are also nearby parks and bike trails, and if you like to exercise, the Hewing will loan you a bike to get out and explore. You may also like to take Fido out for a walk since you can bring him along to the Hewing, which is organized as a dog-friendly hotel.
The hotel is part of the Aparium group based in Chicago, which designs and operates a growing collection of independent hotels. While you are there, you won’t be able to collect points as with the bigger hotel chains, but you will savor a unique look back to the history and Nordic heritage of Minneapolis and Minnesota. The Hewing is a fun, comfortable, relaxing, and most delicious experience!
To learn more about the Hewing Hotel, visit www.hewinghotel.com
This article originally appeared in the November 15, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.