Minnesotans’ Policies & Helpful Hints for Super Bowl Guests:

Greetings Outsiders – and Welcome to L’Étoile du Nord (Star of the North for the non-French-Canadian folk). We are really excited to have you visit (please don’t stay past the 5th, that’s the day after the Super Bowl). We take a great deal of pride in our part of the larger Continental U.S. (which is bigger than Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, combined [New York not included, because Yankees fans], just pointing that out) and would like to share some, not all, of our treasures (hands off the Jalapeño Spam). But before I get into the list of items that you are encouraged to try, buy, and tell your friends back East about, we need to address a few policies/rules that make this place what it is, which is pretty gosh darn good. As an aside, there might be one or two things in this post that prove to be less than 100% accurate, this should in no way dampen your enthusiasm nor make you nervous as you seek out the iconic places and delicious eats. Enjoy your stay!

First and foremost, everything you’ve heard about “Minnesota Nice” is, more than likely, wrong. Which is not to say we’re not nice—on the contrary, we’re extremely nice, we just have a different way of showing it. When we visit far away lands, like Wisconsin, or North Dakota, we make sure to buy a round of drinks for everyone, in whichever bar we happen to be sitting in, that’s how we show our Minnesota Nice (that’s really all there is to it, if you buy drinks for the whole bar, everyone will be really nice to you, it’s kind of a reactional type of niceness). When guests visit us here, we expect the same from them; and seeing as how you’re our guests this week, we expect to get a lot of free rounds… if you want the full experience of Minnesota Nice.

Second, we have a lot of bikers here (not Harleys) and they ride in all seasons (because we’re quite a bit tougher than the average American). If you choose to drive, keep your eyes peeled for them, and for the other cars that don’t see them until the last second and swerve into your lane. Your best bet is to hop on a Metro Transit bus or the light-rail, or hire a Sled (like Uber & Lyft & rickshaws but with sled dogs and a musher).

Third, the Vikings (not the ones that play football) are real and many of their descendants live in this area. As luck would have it, many of those descendants are fans of the football team. As DNA would have it, Vikings are rather large, on average, and menacing, sometimes, and don’t scare easy. This is a perfect opportunity for you to practice the art of Minnesota Nice.

And last, and maybe most importantly, we don’t have accents, you have accents. This is meant as a clarifying comment so you don’t accidentally make any snide remarks about the way we say “baaaygel“, or anything with an “ag” in it.

So, to review: 1) Minnesota Nice = buying drinks for your new friends in Minnesota. 2) Watch for bikers and/or download the Sled app (available on HP Palm only). 3) Vikings are large and strong and pretty nice, most of the time. 4) Accents are yours.

Super Bowl Weather in Minnesota

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk Minnesota Treasures. Unlike New England, we’re not known for just one thing (but I’ll admit, Legal Seafoods Clam Chowder is delicious); and unlike Philadelphia, there’s more to do than eat cheesesteaks while looking around Independence Hall. We’ve got a lot of unique places to visit (many include food) and products to sample. So get out your phone and take some notes.

Grain Belt: This company has been making belts, out of grain, for more than 150 years. Nearly all of the Minnesota regiments and batteries that fought in the Civil War used these belts for their uniforms (the exception being the artillery batteries, the belts kept catching fire). They have 3 belts in year round production (Weaved Wheat, Casual Corn, & Tri-Grain Mock Leather [rye, barley & buckwheat] for more formal occasions). They only have one storefront and it’s located across the Hennepin Avenue Bridge (you’ll see the huge neon sign) just keep heading up Hennepin a couple blocks and it’s right by Kramarczuk’s Sausage Company (which makes the best sausages this side of Warsaw).

1st Avenue: I’m sure you’ve all heard of the iconic First Ave and have read about its storied history, but did you know that its actually on 7th Street? Yep, no lie. Its always been on the corner of 7th, across from the Target Center where the 4 time Champion Minnesota Lynx play their home games (between the Lynx and the Univ. of MN Gophers Women’s Hockey [6 NCAA Championships], we do pretty well in the team-sports world). Anyway, First Ave is legendary as a place that has witnessed the likes of Prince, U2, BB King, Björk, The Replacements, Pearl Jam, The Violent Femmes, A Tribe Called Quest, Emmylou Harris, Fishbone, and many many more. Also, it’s only 7 blocks to Eli’s Food & Cocktails, a seriously good local eating establishment.

Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll: It’s nougat surrounded by caramel and rolled in peanuts (Virginia type they say). And, Kemps (another local icon) makes an ice cream that celebrates the goodness of this delectable treat. Buy a few boxes and treat your friends and family when you get home.

The State Capitol Building: St. Paul has a lot going on: Winter Carnival, non-drinking Festivities, The Science Museum; Saint Dinette (don’t ask, just go), Minnesota History Museum, and much much more. At the center of it all is the newly refurbished State Capitol. It’s a gorgeous building and the people working in the State Govt love having visitors pop-in and ask “what ya doin’?” And when you’re riding the light-rail between the Twin Cities, jump off and eat at HomiBolé or Afro Deli, you won’t be disappointed.

Metro Transit Light-rail.

Cardigan Donuts: As a donut connoisseur (actually, a connoisseur of all food and drink), and having traveled far and wide to taste all manner of cuisine, sweet and otherwise, I can attest to the fact that Cardigan Donuts is one of the premier donutteries in America. We are spoiled, here in the City of Flour & Sawdust, with a plethora of amazing bakeries/patisseries: A Baker’s Wife, Salty Tart, Bread & Chocolate, Granny’s Donuts, Patisserie 46 & Rose Street, Angel Food Bakery, and more than a dozen others of the highest quality.

Dangerous Man Brewing: Craft beers are another thing we have no shortage of around the State. Nor do we have any trouble keeping them in business. Trying to name “the best” would be like trying to pick the best cheesesteak in Philly, so many different styles and people like what they like. That said, Dangerous Man Brewing is certainly amongst the crème, particularly in the colder months (which would be most of them in this neck of the woods). A few others that I would be remiss not to share: Fair State, Indeed, Tin Whiskers, Fulton, Lakes & Legends, Boom Island, Steel Toe, Town Hall, Flat Earth, & BlackStack. If you get through those, it means you’ve probably stayed past the 5th and it’s unlikely you’re ever going to leave… Welcome to the North.

Nye’s Polonaise: Maybe the coolest place to listen to polka— in the universe. It closed more than a year ago, but according to those who know, reopened a few weeks ago. It’s a gem.

Matt’s Bar: If you love bar food and have never tried a Jucy-Lucy, get ready for Heaven. Pro-tip: it’s cash only; and if the line is long, don’t allow the door to be held open. And you can get a beer from the bar and get back in line, as long as you’re not standing outside. And play the jukebox.

Food Trucks: The Minneapolis/St Paul Food Truck scene is wild and wooly and filled with great food. If you are only going to try one, go to Mid-Nord Empanadas, they’ll be stationed at 10th & Nicollet-NorthEast corner. These empanadas are so authentic you’ll swear you’re in Quito and wonder why it’s so damn cold. If you’re trying more than one, enjoy, our food trucks rock.

A few other tips and insights: we’re passive aggressive, sometimes, not always, whatever, it doesn’t matter, just don’t do anything stupid; you might hear someone say “What the Heck!”, they’re not necessarily religious, or a prude, it’s just Minnesotan for What the Fuck; Uff-da is not the sound made when sneezing, it’s Viking for “holy shit”; If a complete stranger (a Minnesotan stranger) offers you a bite of something, they’re not trying to poison you, we’re just good at sharing and we want others to try this new found dynamite dish; lutefisk & lefse are scandinavian staples, skip the lutefisk unless you fancy yourself an Andrew Zimmern type (he’s Minnesotan, he’ll eat anything).

And a few more locales and eateries to check out, some of them are off the beaten path but well worth a taxi ride (don’t use Sled for these places, too far, dogs will get tired). The Walker Art Center; Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA, not M.I.A.); Mill City Museum; & The Testify Exhibit at the Minneapolis Central Library.

Tilia; 112 Eatery; Pat’s Tap; Alma; George & The Dragon; Parlour Bar; Troubadour Wine Bar; Gyst; Quang; Gandhi Mahal; Gorkha Palace; Manny’s; Bar la Grassa; Hola Arepa; Dominguez Restaurant; Bull Horn Burger Bar; Town Hall Tap; Pizzeria Lola; Wise Acre; The Pig Ate My Pizza; Spoon & Stable; Freehouse; Kadai (in the Skyway); Dogwood Coffee; Key’s Cafe; Italian Eatery; Sonny’s; Sebastian Joes; Revival; The Corner Table; Cecil’s Deli; Crescent Moon (pizza); Broders Cucina Italiana; Sen Yai Sen Lek; Holy Land; The Anchor; & The Sample Room.

I’ve certainly missed a few places that deserve to be mentioned but that’s ok, you’ll be back, and when you visit next time, hit me up for new suggestions.

Congrats on making it here and as they say in NOLA, this time of year – Laissez le Bon Temps Rouler… & Skol!

Super Bowl Week is upon us

 

The Restaurant Venture-A Few Tips:

Food and beverages, we don’t get very far without them; sustenance, in some form or another, is still a daily requirement for our continued existence. This is to say that life’s necessities can be translated into a money-making venture— and in this case, that would involve the industry. That said, if you are planning to open a restaurant and get rich, you’re probably going to fail. In terms of difficulty, starting a restaurant is possibly one of the most stressful and difficult propositions the average entrepreneur (even the above average) can hope to take on. Going a step further, opening a restaurant and making it a financially viable long-term operation, that’s rare. Most restauranteurs are happy if they can pay the bills and take a little vacation once a year (—usually the latter half of January)

In the U.S., three out of every five restaurants close before they hit their 2 year mark (and the myth about 90% of independent restaurants closing in the first year is likely not true but considering the variety of eateries that are called “restaurants”, it’s possible that the number is higher than 60% in 2 years). Anyway, the point is this, if you think owning a restaurant would be fun, and you have a few million to throw around (and don’t plan on being directly involved in the operations) then you’re probably right, it can be fun. But if you plan on being the person who spends 18 hours a day, seven days a week, making sure that every detail is checked twice and helping manage every facet, until you’re comfortable letting the staff take over the day-to-day, then “fun” is probably not the word I would use. But it can be exhilarating.

Aside from the long hours, interactions with contractors (prior to opening… hopefully) who are always behind, customers, staff (who are people— and therefore occasionally sick, tired, crabby — all of which are frowned upon in a service job), and lack of the more normal social outings (because when you have a chance to get away from work, eventually, you’re always looking at what other eateries are doing and how they’re doing it), it’s really great, if you’re into that kind of thing.

As a former industry professional, I was involved in the successful opening of nine unique establishments, and beyond that worked in a couple handfuls of great eateries. My experiences run the gamut from fine dining to bar & grill joints, independent and corporate-owned & operated. A few of the places whose inception I assisted: The Wine Market Bistro; The Red Star; Chomp; McCormick & Schmick's - Kansas City; & M&S Grill - Baltimore. Four others have since closed: New Pointe Grill (Kansas City, MO); Up The Creek (Lexington, KY); Bella (Cincinnati, OH); & The Blue Sea Grill (Baltimore, MD).
A glass of rosé in Minneapolis

Aside from learning as much as possible about this fickle field, and having the monetary side of it lined up, a couple of other things to think about: location, audience, location, target group, location, and… desired customer demographic. Does that make sense? Who are you catering to and where best will you situate yourself in order to satisfy that group? Because, while you want to draw from a diverse set of consumer groups, you need repeat business if you’re going to make it work (unless you are Talula’s Table, The French Laundry, Trois Mec, or some other place where reservations are impossible to score on short notice).

Once you know what kind of fare you want to focus on (and don’t try to emulate The Cheesecake Factory, 1,800 menu options is too many), you will be able to determine your target audience, more or less. Location, on the other hand, is more about what spaces are available and how much money you have to play with. As a rule of thumb, if you have to choose between starting small and growing a space (or opening a second) and starting big and hoping for the best—start small. If you are unsure about anything and you’re in a small space, you have room to err. Big spaces, with bigger costs, provide less room for failing; and if the restaurant business is built on anything, it’s failure. From failure to failure to failure we go until, Voilà, Success! Plus, when you look at the majority of places that are hip“,cool“, “hot“, “in“, and “it“, they are, by and large, not behemoth.

Last, and certainly not least, is the quality factor. Whether talking about the staff, the food, the feel (ambience & décor), or anything else, quality is essential. It is easy to think that having the most chic joint in the city will guarantee a steady business; but if you have a staff that hasn’t bought in and hasn’t been properly trained, food that comes out of cans and boxes, and dirty restrooms, you may as well purchase stock in a Siberian cat-milking conglomerate — the returns couldn’t be any worse and your reputation may withstand the deprecating remarks that will be lobbed at you for years to come. This goes for all manner of establishment: bar and grills, diners, dives, and fine dining at its finest. The price on a menu should never influence the caliber of the experience.

If you’re interested in starting a new food industry venture, and you don’t know where to begin, solidify your finances/backing first; then talk with a successful local restauranteur, read industry staples, figure out your niche, and make sure you aren’t opening up a burger joint across the street from a vegan commune, i.e. keep the drama to a minimum (you’ll have more than enough once you open).

And, if you’re looking for someone to help with the details, drop me a note, maybe I can help…I’m Down.

Cellars 33 – a fine winery based in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco; I highly recommend them.

26.3andbeyond@gmail.com

 

LOWER YOUR STRESS—STOP CARING

Stress. We all have it, to one degree or another, it’s part of life. But why? Why do we put up with it? Stress, medically speaking, and in manageable doses, is good for us, but who likes anything in manageable doses? Not us. Not Americans. We don’t do “manageable”. We go All Out, All In, All The Time. We like our heroes/heroines larger than life, our predicaments overwhelming, our dramas Real Housewives size, or bigger. We simply don’t like things that are manageable in any way, shape, or form.

This seems counterintuitive. Why would we want unmanageable stress? Why would we want to raise our blood pressure unnecessarily? Why would we want to spend money we don’t have seeing doctors we don’t believe and taking prescriptions we don’t think are working? (OK, I hear the murmurs, the crowd of folks saying “I don’t like stress, I don’t go looking for stress, stress finds me”, I don’t believe you). Whether or not you think you are intentionally engaging in stressful practices, you are.

Do you watch t.v.? Stressful. Do you argue with friends about politics? religion? the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots battle to be the most despised team in America? Stressful. Do you partake in team-building exercises at your office? Stressful. Do you dine at places that offer 18,637 menu choices? Stressful. Are you employed, unemployed, under-employed, overworked, underpaid? Stressful. Everything we do (aside from bubble baths, petting animals, & listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon), is stressful. The problem isn’t that we do these things – these stress inducing “pleasures”, the problem is we don’t know how to engage in these acts dispassionately, like a good judge is able to do (with the case before them), maybe not a “so-called” judge, but a good judge.

Managing stress is essential to living a healthy life. We need some stresses to make sure we don’t get “soft” but we don’t need to take all of those stresses to bed, or make them a part of our physical being. Management, real management of stress, is essential…especially in the age of Trump (doesn’t matter if you love him or wish the “Witch Doctor” from Beetlejuice would pay him a visit, the man induces stress with his incessant whining and crying and bullying and lying). So there are two viable options available for most of us (that would include everyone who can’t afford to “get away” for six months at their villa in Manarola, Liguria). Manage the stress, or…stop caring.

This makes for a tough choice, for some. If you are of certain means, and not generally on the receiving end of aspersion casting (think White, male, “good looking“, like David Beckham, Tom Hardy, or Chris Hemsworth), it’s easier to say “fuck it, who cares!“. But, if you’re like the rest of us, the Betties, Als, Geralds, Janias, Estephanies, Juan Pablos, Ntsums, Xangs, Khadiijas & Suleymanns, the choice is not so easy. Our lives are more complicated in all matters relating to “us”. Caring, about everything related to who we are, how we feel, how those close to us feel, and even the concerns of those who aren’t close but are part of our larger community/humanity. We can’t say “fuck it”, it’s not how we do.

Stress defines us— who we are, why we exist, our raison d’être, so to speak (not the beer). It offers others a glimpse into what drives us, what sustains us, and why some days are especially difficult. We need stress, we just don’t need it to control us. So, rather than running away from it, or from who you are, figure out how to manage it and then help others do the same.  What this looks like (management) will differ based on the individual. But remember, although we are individuals, we’re all in this together…well, most of us. And, as Prince reminds us,  when “the elevator tries to bring you down, Go Crazy“. Occasionally, that’s the best response to any situation.

Lake St. Southside Minneapolis #DiamondLkPhotography

Are you ready to lower your stress? Are you Ready For The World? I am.