Archive | Minnesota RSS feed for this section

Fitger’s Brewhouse (Duluth, MN)

As we spent a few extra days around Duluth, one of my goals was revisiting an old favorite: Fitger’s Brewhouse. In this era of “craft beer” and seemingly even small towns sprouting microbreweries, Fitger’s is getting to be one of the venerable Old School places. Originally a 100,000 barrel a beer major regional brewery that opened in 1857, the original Fitger’s Brewing closed in 1972. In 1984, the old brewery complex get reopened as a combined hotel (where we stayed this visit) and shopping center crafted from the old building. In 1995, new owners of the complex, inspired by new craft breweries opening out West, decided to add the Fitger’s Brewhouse and Grille. At the time, the microbrewery thing was still in its infancy, and on various trips to Duluth I’d often enjoying stopping by Fitger’s for a pint of their Big Boat Oatmeal Stout (back in those days, the only other oatmeal stouts I regularly encountered were Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, and Oil Change Stout from Flat Branch in Columbia, MO.

Continue Reading ...

OMC Smokehouse (Duluth, MN)

After we returned from Isle Royale, our group picked up our vehicles and luggage and returned to Duluth, MN to shower up and head out for a celebratory dinner. While one of the features of our backpacking trip had actually been good food (especially by backpacking standards), most of us were ready for a proper celebratory dinner at a restaurant: good food, proper table service, and, almost as importantly, some good beer, wine, and cocktails. With that in mind, we headed to downtown Duluth (which, mid-2021, is a mess of construction detours) to west Superior Ave, to OMC Smokehouse.

Continue Reading ...

Angry Trout Cafe (Grand Marais, MN)

After leaving Minnesota, we headed up to Duluth to meet up with fellow hikers from Fitpacking, the guides for our trip to Isle Royale. After meeting our fellow hikers and doing a gear shakedown, we packed up and drove up to Grand Marais, MN to spend a night at the Outpost Motel before heading out early in the morning to catch the boat to Isle Royale. It was a nice drive; it’s been 20 years since I’ve been further up Minnesota’s North Shore than Duluth, so it was nice to see a lot of the parks I used to explore when hiking and scuba diving. To get to know everyone in our hiking group, we headed into nearby downtown Grand Marais for dinner. Summertime Grand Marais is quire the tourist town, and actually has a pretty good selection of restaurants, but several of us all had one place in mind, the Angry Trout Cafe.

Continue Reading ...

Health Check: Longfellow Grill (Minneapolis, MN)

Here at Offbeat Eats, we occasionally like to do a “Health Check” review on favorite restaurants, to make sure everything is still going well. In this case, our visit to Minneapolis en route to Duluth gave me an opportunity to revisit an old favorite: the Longfellow Grill. I’ve had several visits to the Twin Cities since my 2009 Review, and while I’ve visited a few of the sister restaurants (particularly Groveland Tap), I’d not made it to Longfellow Grill. So we gathered up some local friends and my old bosses the University of Minneapolis (my PhD adviser, and my sysadmin boss during those same years) for a breakfast as we headed out of town.

Continue Reading ...

Surly Brewing Company (Minneapolis, MN)

When I lived in Minneapolis, one of my major activities was playing Ultimate (aka “Ultimate Frisbee”) in the Twin Cities Ultimate League, and I met a lot of interesting people playing in that league (including a future mayor of Minneapolis). One of the people I’d regularly encounter in league play was a pretty talented player named Omar, who really liked beer and brewing. He’d occasionally brought some rather good homebrew, and even commented, somewhat jokingly it seemed, that one day he was going to open a brewery. Fast forward a few years to a visit of mine in 2006, we were visiting Gluek’s (a former brewery that still runs a nice tap room and restaurant), and the bartender urged me to try this new, extra-hoppy (this was 2006, before the great IPA explosion) beer from an upstart brewery called Surly, run by a local guy called Omar Ansari. Yup. He did start. First in Brooklyn Center, growing like crazy, and then in late 2014 opened a $20M flagship brewery in Minneapolis’ Prospect Park, in a former industrial area that, in the 1990s, I would have never in a million years thought would become a “beer destination”.

Continue Reading ...

The Wienery (Minneapolis, MN)

Another former haunt of mine of Minneapolis that I wanted to visit was a little restaurant over on the West Bank in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood: The Wienery. Originally opened in the early 1980s in the location of the former “Edna’s Diner”, sitting in the shadow of the large Riverside Plaza apartment complex (those not from Minneapolis may recognize them from the opening of The Mary Tyler Moore Show), The Wienery continues to serve up a variety of hot dog. Started by a pair of transplanted Chicagoans who wanted to offer up Chicago-style hot dogs to the locals, The Wienery has had several changes of owners over the years (I know it changed hands at least twice while I lived in Minneapolis, and at least once since then), but even as the neighborhood has slowly changed from the 1960s hippie neighborhood adjoining the University of Minnesota’s West Bank, to the current mix of “Little Mogadishu” and slightly seedy bars, the Wienery is basically unchanged.

Continue Reading ...

Shuang Cheng (Minneapolis, MN)

Like my review of Al’s Breakfast, several of my dining choices in Minneapolis were picked to revisit old favorites and see how they are doing. While Al’s Breakfast is one of my most-frequented restaurants (having eaten there pretty much once a week for 6.5 years), around the corner in Dinkytown is a pretty close second place: Shuang Cheng. AS a long-time tradition when I was at the University of Minnesota, my IT coworkers, led by my boss Bob, would go out for a group lunch every Friday. Most Friday’s that would mean rounding up a posse and heading over to Shuang Cheng (the name means “Twin Cities”), grab a large table, and have a big lunch. Indeed, we went so often that my boss Bob had his own special, the “Bob Special” (Sesame chicken, an egg roll, and a large wonton soup), that those in the know could order off-menu even if they didn’t know “Bob”. Indeed, Bob wasn’t available on this particular Friday, but we managed to round up a number of my former coworkers and make a lunch posse.

Continue Reading ...

Health Check: Al’s Breakfast (Minneapolis, MN)

Every once in a while it’s nice for me to do a followup on old favorites, revisiting them and make sure that they are staying in form. In this case, my trip to Minneapolis gave me a good chance to stop by and check in on what remains as perhaps my favorite breakfast place ever, Al’s Breakfast. It’s best if you read over my older review, but it’s basically a small, 14-stool diner wedged in what’s literally a roofed over alleyway in Minneapolis’s “Dinkytown” neighborhood. “Narrow” is an understatement, since a limber person literally can touch both walls at points, and as you sit enjoying your breakfast (aside from special events, it is a breakfast-only joint), if it’s at all busy there’s someone hovering mere inches away waiting for your seat. And the food? The breakfasts at Al’s are fantastic, ranging from egg dishes and omelets to pancakes to house-made CBH, and it’s the ultimate in the short order experience: your order belted out by the staff, echoed back by the person running the grill (back in the days, it was almost always one of the two owners, Doug or Jim).

Continue Reading ...

Khyber Pass Cafe (St Paul, MN)

A recent trip for a conference in Minneapolis gave me plenty of opportunities to both check up on some of the new happenings in the Twin Cities dining scene, and revisit more than a few of my old favorites. In this case, I was heading out to dinner with Prof. Simon, my PhD adviser, and his wife Nancy, who were kind enough to take me to an old favorite that I hadn’t visited for many years: Khyber Pass Cafe. I rather liked Khyber Pass as a graduate student (scary how events when I was in Graduate School include things happening almost 25 years ago). At the time, Khyber Pass was an established small cafe on St Clair Ave a few blocks east of Macalester College, and was a notable exception to the generally “American” food offerings of most of the local places (Groveland Tap, the now-defunct St Clair Broiler, etc). But the owners, who had come to the Twin Cities and opened Khyber Pass in the early 80s after leaving Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. The Afghani offerings on their menu were a welcome addition to St Paul’s up and coming food scene, and Khyber Pass got a lot of good coverage in the food media.

Continue Reading ...

Surdyk’s Flights (Minneapolis/St Paul International Airport)

One of our vacations this year was a trip to Oahu, and, quite frankly, coming from New Hampshire, there’s no easy way to do the trip. Most every option either involves multiple hops, a very long layover, or a red-eye flight. Indeed, our trip this time was BOS-MSP-SEA-HNL, with moderate layovers at MSP and SEA. And that means airport dining. There are good and bad airports for layovers, and I’ll have to say Terminal 1 (the Lindbergh Terminal) at MSP is one of the better places to have a layover. The terminal is huge, and has more than a few good options for food and drink. Previously, I’ve enjoyed sandwiches and beer at Ike’s (including indulging in a rare pint of Surly Furious), and just about every coffee company in Minnesota (Starbucks, Dunn Bros, Caribou, …). There’s even a reasonably good burger place (TwinBurger) and a good sushi place (Shoyu). But a fairly recent addition has been an old Minneapolis favorite of mine: Surdyk’s.

Continue Reading ...