Last week, I was in Minneapolis for work. I was attending meetings during the day, but in my off time, I was on the search for local food and drinks. It’s my favorite way to take in a new place and culture, through my tastebuds.
One of the first full days I was there, I ventured near the conference for lunch to an Irish pub I’d scouted on Yelp. When in Rome… so I got the fish and chips–typical pub food. The fish was gigantic, but it was really awesome. Often, the biggest downfall with fish and chips (which makes me a little gun-shy to order) it is that it’s too greasy, but this wasn’t at all. A Guiness would have made this absolutely perfect and classic Irish Pub food.
One of the consistent things I noticed about Minneapolis is how much folks there seem to enjoy summer. I think it’s probably because the winters are so brutal. The Local had plenty of empty tables outside on the sidewalk at 11:20, but by 11:45 it was packed. Nicolett Mall was the neatest place. It’s a mostly pedestrian street lined with bars, cafes and shops that stretches for several blocks right through downtown. It only has two lanes, one each way, but nice wide sidewalks with plenty of street-side cafe seating. Although I was staying a block off Nicolett, I liked walking along it to and from the conference. One day, there was a farmers market, and the street was lined with pop-up tents selling the most beautiful selection of fresh fruit and veggies and stunning bouquets of fresh flowers. For crazy cheap. Seriously, the bouquets rivaled something you’d see in a florist shop and they were $5.
NIcolett Mall at lunchtime.
I couldn’t help but think of my friend Samantha, who has an awesome blog about running and cities. Nicolett Mall is something she would love. A vibrant downtown area full of foot traffic for eating, shopping and drinking. It was such a magnet. I couldn’t help making it a part of my route as a moved around town.
The conference wrapped up in the early afternoon later in the week, so I had the rest of the afternoon free. I ventured over to see the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul. It’s currently being rennovated, so the outside was a bit of an eyesore with all the scaffolding and baracades, but inside there was plenty to see inside. I got pics of both chambers and the gorgeous atrium and skylight. After getting some pics I went to the nearby Tin Whiskers microbrewery to refresh with a flight of beer. It was only a couple blocks away. They had a pretty impressive offering of dark beers, which I love, but my favorite was the wheat beer. I thought it tasted like pineapple juice, but I later learned from a couple “off the clock” employees that it was actually made with chamomile tea. It is a great summertime beer. Nice and refreshing!
That evening, I wanted to take in a Twins game since they were in town and tickets were surprisingly affordable. I had scouted a dinner place on Yelp (of course) near the ball park. I actually read about it on Andrew Zimmern’s blog about restaurants not to be missed near the ballpark. It’s known for meat, obviously, but more specifically cured meats.
In the interest of being healthy, I started with a salad–a wedge salad. I didn’t realize that this wasn’t one wedge, but four, like a whole baby head of iceberg. With bacon that seemed like someone made it in the back, and maybe they did. With perfect blue cheese crumbles like the classic version, and red pepper strips and tomato glaze.
Next came the charcuterie platter, with a sample of four of the offerings from the menu: turkey pate, ox tail terrine, and head cheese. Yes, I tried head cheese for the first time and it was amazing. Perfect for a recommendation from Mr. Bizarre Foods himself. The turkey pate was my second favorite behind the head cheese. It was a little salty, but absolutely divine on a rustic cracker served with the platter. The terrine was my least favorite, as I found it a little bland, but not terrible.
Next, it was time for the game, so I walked a few short blocks with what felt like everyone else int the city, but not before stopping by the only self-serve beer station at the ballpark in the country. It was a neat novelty, but definitely not as convenient as getting it from the concession stand. The way it works is that you buy a pre-loaded card of either $15 or $30 after showing your I.D. at the cashier. The area is roped off so folks can’t just walk up to the machines. Your I.D. is verified again, and then you’re free to pick your poison. An attendant is available to help you pour your beer since there is a trick to getting it from a tap without all foam. You hold up your card to the sensor to detect the amount available, and then the tap is activated. The cost was 40 cents per ounce, which actually was about $15 for two beers. Not too bad!
The next day, I was flying out, but it was an afternoon flight, so I got to get lunch one last place before I left. Another restaurant I scoped out was Lotus, a Vietnamese place near by hotel. I’m not really familiar with Vietnamese food, but I love pho. This place had about six different kinds you could order. I started with a shrimp spring roll with peanut dipping sauce. Very classic.
The pho was pretty awesome, too. I got a large (way too much), and even though it’s a broth-based soup it’s pretty hearty. I got tofu and seafood. Pho seems pretty straightforward, but the flavors are so complex and layered. The play between the hot peppers and basil is awesome, and the bean sprouts add crunchy texture.
Finally, this post could only be ended with a shot of the statue on Nicolett Mall of Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat in the air just as she did at the end of the opening credits for her show, which took place in Minneapolis. I thought it would only be fitting.
* I am having difficulty getting links embedded. Below are the ones I wanted to include.
My friend Samantha’s blog about cities and running: http://www.irunthesetowns.blogspot.com
The Local Irish pub: http://www.the-local.com
The Butcher And the Boar: http://www.butcherandboar.com