Friday, July 19, 2013

A Twin Cities Weekend

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

-Walleye, Roast Beef's and Farm to Table Food

We spent a couple nights near Minneapolis and St. Paul last summer and I really enjoyed what was my first chance to explore the area. We were only in town for two nights since we were headed to Bayfield up on Lake Superior. We stayed in Hudson, Wisconsin which is about a 15 minute ride from the city. So we spent most of the morning and afternoon hours doing fun outdoor activities around there followed by food and drink in MSP. First things first I wanted some walleye while there.

Tavern on Grand in St. Paul

As readers know, when I'm on the road Im always on the prowl for the popular eats of the area I'm in. Walleye is one of the most popular things to eat in the state and a fish I love so I did some searching for the best preps of walleye around and was surprised to find alot of mentions of there not being many. Lots of people said you have to go further north to find the good stuff. However many mentions were also made for Tavern on Grand in St. Paul as being the real deal. Not only did they slang the official state fish but also the un-offical state dish. So of course I had to start with an order of "tator tot hot dish"

Tot's topped w/ ground beef & vegetables simmered in their homemade mushroom soup

I had randomly read about this dish just a day or two before we went when I saw someone tweet something about it. I was ready to give it a go when we got there. It's classic Midwest casserole comfort food and about what you'd expect as far as flavors go. I'll make this one winter day when I'm not feeling like doing much. Walleye comes in fingers, cakes, baskets and sandwiches which you can get lightly fried or blackened. My sandwich sure did itch my fix. The only thing that was better was my gf's who had her's with bacon.

Fried Walleye Sandwich

Next stop was totally off the radar and only happened because I needed to grab gas before heading back to Hudson. As we made our way thru the "rough" parts of St. Paul I pulled in for gas at a very "happening" gas station and spied this place below across the street.

Somewhere in St. Paul

Now when I say "rough" parts of St. Paul I do so in jest. I wouldn't be afraid around there, nevertheless its always good to be aware. Well anyway me being the Coney Shop freak that I am I just had to go in and try one. After all these are said to be "The Best fucking Coney Island in Town" so who I am to say no? I gotta try so I can know.

a peak inside

This was unlike most every other old school Coney shop that's still around. It tripled as a liquor store and Bar and instead of old men in their 80's wearing the same pants they bought in the 50's reading that days paper this place had some drunk regulars ranging from their 20's to 30's. The vibe inside as the stickers in the picture tell was Tea Party like. But they slang one of the better Coney dogs I've tried. The dog comes on a wonderful toasted bun similar to those used for a New England lobster roll. The sauce had a real nice spike kick to it. I ordered another after the first and to fit in I drank Grain Belt Beer while I ate.

Coney Dog from Gopher Bar & Liquors

On the second night I had planned to try a popular Cantonese Chinese place where they have walleye mixed into some of their house recipes but they were closed early due to some electric problems. So we stopped in at Mickey's Diner Car (Since 1939) which is always open instead. I had a very respectable diner style cheeseburger to end my night.

Where Gordon Bombay once ate...

Day Two there was some rain in the afternoon so we went into Minneapolis a little bit early and I took a route in that also brought us past Maverick's Real Roast Beef so that I could grab a sandwich to hold me over. I liked what I got which was a roast beef with a side of aus jus. They let you top your sandwich at the condiment bar and I added some onions, pepper rings, bbq sauce and horseradish too.

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Maverick's Real Roast Beef in the suburb of Roseville

Dinner that evening was at Bar La Grassa which she chose over the Bachelor Farmer. I was happy to go to either or since I heard mostly good things about each. This is the first of two places the James Beard Foundation's "best chef in midwest" winner Isaac Becker runs. Both have an Italian focus.

Bar La Grassa in Minneapolis

I read some not so great things from a trustworthy food friend about his other place and BLG seemed to fit what we were looking for better anyway so we chose it over 112 Eatery. I liked what we got. A simple but well executed charred red onion with goat cheese bruschetta was great as were each of the fresh made pasta dishes we tried. I was happy with the service and pricing at Bar La Grassa and would most likely go back the next time I was there but not before I try the Bachelor Farmer first. 

Gnocchi with Cauliflower and Orange

Spaghetti Carbonara

Located right behind the Bachelor Farmer which serves dishes honoring Minnesota’s Nordic heritage  is Marvel Bar. A popular cocktail spot owned by the son of the MN governor. We had a great night with some well executed drinks here. I wasn't buying their signature drink the "Olivetto" at first glance but it was really good as were others I tried. I look forward to a return trip very soon. The state fair (2nd largest in the country) was going on but we just didn't have room for it. I'd like to go experience that and some of the international flavors to be found next time around. I like visiting the Twin Cities, as long it's from April thru October. Too damn cold otherwise. See ya next time.

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Marvel Bar located behind the Bachelor Farmer

Tavern on Grand
656 Grand Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55105
(651) 228-9030

Gopher Bar
241 7th Street East
Saint Paul, MN 55101
(651) 291-9638

Mickey's Diner
36 West 7th Street
Saint Paul, MN 55102
(651) 222-5633

Maverick's Real Roast Beef
1746 Lexington Avenue North
Roseville, MN 55113
(651) 488-1788

Bar La Grassa
800 North Washington Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 333-3837

Marvel Bar
50 2nd Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 206-3929

1 comment:

mike said...

Next time you are in Minnesota, you need to stop in at the Spud Boy Lunch in Lanesboro, MN.
(open May thru Oct)

fantastic blog, found it looking for some info on the West Bay Diner in Grand Marais, Michigan. Also recognize that Tropics sign. really neat, passed it last summer.


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