Street Connections

How important are connections between inside and out?

The new space in Paninoes. The far wall is an exterior wall that has tables and umbrellas on the other side.

The new space in Panino’s. The entire far wall is an exterior wall that has outdoor tables and umbrellas on the other side. It’s a nice day out but you wouldn’t know it. The small room against the right half of the exterior wall is the temporary bar and is planned to be a server’s station after the new bar opens — nice way to use an exterior wall that could have some nice doors or windows.

Panino’s, a place my wife and I enjoy eating at fairly often, recently expanded into the space next door. The original space was kind of a quirky collection of areas but it worked and felt comfortable. Unfortunately the new space is a giant windowless sterile echo chamber with quite awful lighting. A few days after it opened, I was sitting at a table near the new section when a couple came out and commented to each other that it felt like a dungeon. Sadly, an apt description.

The Salt Cellar is being reborn as Fitzgeralds.

The Salt Cellar is being reborn as Fitzgerald’s. Still not much for windows or doors (and not an especially appealing exterior). One nice bit though is the large window to the left (looks like two windows but is actually one) that is a window to the kitchen.

The Salt Cellar in Cathedral Hill closed in August. Not quite surviving for a second birthday. Its demise has largely been attributed to being too expensive for the quality of food and service. For many of us there was another bit though: we didn’t like being in there. What was interesting is that we kind of liked the ambiance. But we didn’t want to go back. We felt isolated from the street and the world beyond. Yes, another dungeon.

The Lexington. If I remember correctly you can't actually see out of those windows.

The Lexington. Zero connection to the street or the world and people around it. Diners were sentenced to time in the dungeon.

The Lexington on Grand Avenue was similar, except that the food and cost seemed more aligned. It had OK decor, but no connection to the street and world around us. We liked the food, but not the isolation, so never ate there.

Windows and Doors and Connections oh my

Go into Axel’s or Dixie’s when they’re not full, and you’ll see nearly everyone sitting near the windows. The most coveted offices are those with windows — the more the better. Who wants to be in an office with no windows? Why would you want to be in a restaurant with no windows? Even sitting in the back of Emmett’s Pub (next to Dixie’s) works because of its large windows.

Axel's Bonfire.

Axel’s Bonfire on Grand Avenue. They added these giant doors a couple of years ago. Good move. Even during winter it makes the place much more comfortable and enjoyable.

This isn’t just about sunlight or fresh air. We’re social beings. We like to be connected to the world and the people around us. We don’t like to be or feel isolated. Even just seeing other people and knowing that they’re there is comforting. Hearing the world because a door or window is open is that much better.

Windows provide sunlight, moonlight and more importantly, this critical social connection. Even better, windows or doors that open provide fresh air, allow us to hear the rest of the world, and reduce the unappealing hollow echo of some rooms, making them feel more natural and comfortable.

This also benefits servers who have customers outside and improves service, as it makes it easier to see outside and if there are doors, makes it easier to get there.

Some places with great connections:

Wild Onion

Wild Onion on Grand Avenue. Nearly the entire front facade opens up to the street. We’ve walked by and seen friends sitting inside and talked to them through the windows.


Brasa (yes, another on Grand Avenue). They have these two great roll-up windowed doors and two more on the left side. When they’re all open the inside feels like a wonderful covered patio. They have really great southern food y’all.

Billys on Grand.

Billy’s on Grand. I think they were the original of the Grand Avenue places to get it.

Punch Pizza on Grand Ave. The windows don't open but still provide a critical connection between inside and out.

Punch Pizza on Grand Ave. The windows don’t open but still provide a critical connection between inside and out.

Bonus. A coffee café. This doesn't provide a connection to the street so it doesn't fill the social aspects but it does provide some much appreciated sunlight for people in the back of the place.

Bonus. A coffee café. This doesn’t provide a connection to the street so it doesn’t fill the social aspects, but it does provide some much appreciated sunlight for people sitting in the back. There are openable windows in the front.

There are tons of other places with great connections like La Grolla, Burger Moe’s, Meritage, and many many more. Windows and doors need not be huge if the interior space isn’t.


The Falkland Arms has limited exterior windows, but...

The Falkland Arms (Cotswolds UK) has limited exterior windows, but…

... the inside space is limited as well so it works. Every table is quite near a window. It’s a cozy and comfortable place.

… the inside space is limited as well so it works. Every table is quite near a window. It’s a cozy and comfortable and wonderful place.

Two Way Street

This goes two ways. A connection to the street is not only a benefit to those inside, but also makes the sidewalk and street much more welcoming as we saw above. As you walk along the sidewalk, you see people in the places next to you and often hear them. This is comforting as well.

Lack of windows has the opposite affect.

Har Mar Mall. There are people on the other side of that wall but you'd not know it. It's a lonely desolate place.

HarMar Mall. There are people on the other side of that wall but you’d not know it. It’s a lonely desolate place, even with cars driving by.


Imagine that big area of featureless blank wall filled with french doors. That would, in my opinion, be the best solution for Paninoes. Second best would be large openable windows, third large windows, fourth any windows. An awning wouldn’t be a bad option either.

Panino’s Exterior. Imagine that big area of featureless blank wall where the new space is, but filled with French doors. That would, in my opinion, be the best solution for Panino’s. Second best would be large openable windows across the entire thing. Third best, several large windows. Fourth and last, any windows. (An awning wouldn’t be a bad option either.)

Imagine if Panino’s put in some French doors across the entire new space (where the bar/server’s station and a couple of booths are). How much more wonderful would it be inside and out? What if Fitzgerald’s did the same? Or maybe just a bunch of windows like Wild Onion has? There are rumors of a rebirth of The Lexington thanks to Josh Thoma, Kevin Fitzgerald and Jack Riebel. What if they added some windows to that barren place?

Walker Angell

About Walker Angell

Walker Angell is a writer who focuses mostly on social and cultural comparisons of the U.S. and Europe. He occasionally blogs at, a blog focused on everyday bicycling and local infrastructure for people who don’t have a chamois in their shorts. And on twitter @LocalMileMN

12 thoughts on “Street Connections

  1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

    Here’s another. Last night at French Meadow. This would be a depressing room like Paninoes if that window wasn’t there. Even on a rainy night that window has a huge positive impact on this space. It also has a huge positive impact for the gal walking by on the sidewalk out front. It makes the sidewalk feel much more comfortable, safe, and interesting — especially at night.

    BTW, for a great discussion on sidewalks check out Dr. Lindeke’s recent TEDx:

  2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    Another example was Foreign Legion that briefly lived on the first floor of the Soo Line building in downtown Minneapolis after it’s renovation. No windows, quick failure. And now that space has at least some windows.

      1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

        Yes and no. It was on the other side of the building lobby. Brasserie Zentral always had an entrance from the street and windows on both 5th and Marquette

  3. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

    Something else about Salt Cellar / Fitzgerald’s, the sidewalks on either side of the front door but particularly the one along Western (that has only the two round windows) are dead and desolate. It’s uncomfortable and unsafe feeling to be on either side, especially at night.

  4. Diane Lindgren

    Are you assuming that the goal of the dining experience is always the same regardless of the restaurant. Without belaboring I’m thinking of Murray’s and even Frost’s to some extent, and maybe the Lexington, at least how I remember it. I think different restaurants/coffee shops/bars may be striving for a different experience, thus different design.

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      W A Frost actually has a fair bit of window on Selby and not too bad on Western. (BTW, that’s my buddy Patrick and I standing on the corner in front of Frost on Streetview. Our bit of Streetview imortilization. 🙂 They also have quite a bit on the back side facing the patio. We eat there often and don’t feel nearly as isolated from the world as at Fitzgerald’s.

      Agree with you about Murray’s and obviously Lexington. Morton’s was similar before they closed. Some people like the the old enclosed dark supper club feel and if places like that can make a go then that’s fine. The overwhelming majority of people I’ve talked to about this though don’t like that feel and prefer something with a better connection to the street.

      There’s also a question of what responsibility these places have to make the sidewalk and street inviting and safe feeling? The sidewalks around Fitzgerald’s and Lexington are not welcoming and don’t feel overly safe. There’s too much expanse of blank wall with no connection to other people. No ‘eye’s on the street’ as Jane Jacobs so well put it.

  5. Justin

    Affects the street feel as well. Both downtowns have buildings with no windows at sidewalk level and they’re far less pleasant to walk by than buildings that do have windows.

  6. Joann Klohn

    Hello! Thank you for your recent trip to Panino’s! Our construction is being done in 3 phases. Phase 2 just ended! Phase 3 will include putting windows and more lights in the new space you didn’t seem to like. We will also being adding decor to make it more “homey.” We have been in that space for almost 25 years! It really needed updating. We appreciate feedback both negative and positive because we want to be a place people like to come to!

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      Hi Joann, thanks for your comment. We have eaten in Paninoes quite often for many years and have enjoyed the food, staff, and atmosphere. We and others don’t want to see our neighborhood loose a good thing that many of us love. Its very heartening to hear that some windows (better yet, french doors or openable windows) are coming. I hope that whatever you do will create a great connection between inside and out.

      The issue with the lighting is not that you need more of it but that what you have is quite poor quality. One neighbor commented that it is cold and bland. Another said that the new room has all the soul and atmosphere of the women’s room at the airport. You need lighting that is full spectrum, warmer, and more directional rather than narrow spectrum, cool, and diffuse. Compare the photo of your new room to that of French Meadow who has less lighting but is more pleasant.

      We’re looking forward to seeing what you do with the space and outside.

  7. Mike

    I LOVE Panino’s! I didn’t know that they expanded. Congrats! I assume business is doing well. I’ll have to stop by soon and check out the new space.

    Also, great response Joann. It seems like Walker did lots of research, but forgot to go directly to the source. haha.

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