Where Grit Gets a Sheen (The New York Times 3/31/13)
There was a time when Kallio, a working-class district north of central Helsinki and somewhat akin to the old, grittier iteration of the Bowery in Manhattan, was considered off-limits to visitors. But today, those who venture across the Siltasaarensalmi strait, which divides Kallio from the rest of the Finnish capital will find a sizzling sector percolating with exotic cafes, sleek restaurants and clubs serving fine cuisine, and inviting walk-in studio-boutiques – all nestled in the shadow of Lars Sonck’s landmark 100-year-old church. Of course, there is still a chance of stumbling into one of the grotto-like dives for which the area is renowned, but that is part and parcel of the Kallio experience.
One sure sign that the area’s time has come was the recent opening of this spinoff of a noted Helsinki comfort food bistro. Dine on the justly renowned Tori meatballs with brandy sauce and mashed potatoes while watching the laid-back Kallio scene waft by. Kirstinkatu 15; (358) 50-4126619; ravintolatori.fi/alppila
The jewelry designer Tanja Kurittu has created a die-hard following for her Notice Me found-object design line. Her studio-gallery also features creations by the local fashion designer Tiina Palm. Viipurinkatu 8; (358) 45-313-3020; tanjakurittu.com
This hard to find cavernous bar-tavern-club was carved out of a former movie theater interior. The deluxe Sunday brunch is served with clips from old American movies and a soundtrack provided by local D.J.’s. Helsinginkatu 15; pacific.fi
The owner, Katja Kannisto, wanted to create a “piece of heaven” when she opened this café in 2008 at one of Kallio’s grittier intersections. Enjoy a slice of Ellen Svinhufvud cake, named after the wife of a 1930s-era Finnish president, in a quirkily decorated space. Kaarlenkatu 13; (358) 45-881-3233; villipuutarha.fi