Final Four – Food, Drink, & Tomfoolery, around MPLS

Welcome to Minneapolis, the city of flour & sawdust, and passively-aggressive shy, but friendly, strangers – some of whom are neighbors and coworkers. We’re excited to have you visit (but less excited at the prospect that you won’t leave). This is your Unofficial Official Guide to having the best possible time at the 2019 Final Four, regardless of your team’s outcome. Many of the city’s outdoor attractions are still thawing but the indoor activities (eating & drinking) provide ample opportunities to get to know us. While you’re here, you should spend a good portion of your time sampling the local fare, it’s kind of a big deal. Additionally, we have lots of fun stuff to do, other than hockey (speaking of which, don’t poke at Wild fans, they’re a little salty right now… & generally speaking, hockey fans are a pretty tough bunch). The museums & theatres are world class, and if you want to get outside, the lakes are great for swimming, especially when you don’t have to cut holes in the ice. The following information has not been vetted by the local chamber of tourism, but trust me, I know better than them about what you’ll like, I’ve got ESP(N).

Pointers/Tips:

Before we get into the more important info, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. The weather forecast you’ve been watching… it’s made up. We knew no one from Texas, Alabama, or Virginia would show up if they knew we were expecting 15 inches of snow and sub-zero temps. After all, it’s the Final Four, not the Super Bowl. Now you know, pack wisely.
  • 2. The skyway that connects the Mall of America and the stadium will be operating as a One-Way for the duration of the weekend. The directional flow will change every 15 minutes so as to expedite the folks trying to make tip-off, or catch a sale at L.L. Bean. This means you cannot walk, you must run, sprint actually, full out, for the entire distance (it’s only about 7.6 miles, but with the moving floors, it’s more like 2 miles – you can do it!).
  • 3. The craft beer scene in the Twin Cities is better than the craft beer scene in any of your locales (including you, Sparty). What that means is you’ll probably drink more than you planned — because most of the beers are delicious — and you’re on vacation — in a place that is relatively cold — and you want to hang out in “cool” (not cold) places while talking about how your team will dominate (or how they lost, either way). Therefore, bring your journal along so you can remember which beers you need to tell your friends back home about. If you forget your journal, take pictures, that’s probably better for most folks, considering the writing ability of the typical college student/grad these days.
  • 4. Last but not least, as I told the visitors from Philly and Boston last year, Minnesota Nice is not exactly what you think. Minnesota Nice is all about buying beer for the people sharing the bar with you (all of them). So please be Minnesota Nice and buy a round for the bar and we’ll be sure and reciprocate when we visit the place where Dave Matthews was born – or whatever, or tour Charles Barkley’s dorm room, or roam the Detroit Steel at Cadillac Ranch (I know, that’s Amarillo, but what else is within 5 hours drive, and interesting?), or… not coming up with anything for East Lansing, is there anything of note in West Lansing? Is there a West Lansing? How about something nearby, maybe Zingerman’s Deli? Ann Arbor’s not that far, is it?

Victuals for Tigers, Raiders, Spartans, & Cavaliers

As for the food & drink portion of this guide, we recommend taking in as many local establishments as your stomach can handle. I know you’re here for the games (or at least some of you are) but as good as the basketball may be, the eats & local breweries are the main reason our city was selected to host the Final Four (the stadium is meh). We are the Hot “new” foodie destination and unless you have an aversion to flavor, you’re in for an amazing experience. I’ll break it down by Final Four School, but feel free to intermingle at these establishments, we’re all about being inclusive and not at all passive-aggressive, as far as you know, but I didn’t say that, seriously, don’t tell anyone I said that.

We’ll start with Auburn (we, as in me, myself, & I), not because I’m going in alpha order, but because they are traveling the farthest (by about 30 miles), and they’re a football school; this basketball stuff is just an excuse to travel and try new restaurants while listening to the thick accents of Yankee folk. Take a trip through the skyways and find Kadai Indian Kitchen, plan to sit for awhile after you finish, the portions are large and you won’t even consider leaving anything on the plate. Once you can move, make your way to Cardigan Donuts. These are the best donuts in the universe (we have 4 of the best donutteries, in the universe, in a 15 mile radius), and that’s not hyperbole. Every visitor to Minneapolis is encouraged to eat a few dozen while they’re here. There’s a reason we’re called the City of Flour & Sawdust (or used to be). For dinner, go to Manny’s if you want Steak, the Freehouse for craft beer & burgers, Cafe Alma for a swanky, but not pretentious, delicious meal, Italian Eatery for Italian, of course, and The Local, for fish & chips. Breweries best suited to Tigers are Surly, Lyn-Lake, Tin Whiskers (St. Paul) & Able. Why, you ask; because I studied tigers at one point in my life (probably 6th grade, a report on Indonesia) and therefore know what flavor profiles tigers’ prefer.

Texas Tech is next, and probably the most difficult to plan for. Not to stereotype all of Red Raider Nation, but the number of good bbq joints in this neck of the woods isn’t going to be enough to hold all of you for every meal, so you’ll have to try some other foods, like pizza, at Broders Cucina, or Pizzeria Lola, or Pig Ate My Pizza (which is a bit of a haul, but the sled dogs move pretty fast when carrying the wheeled wagons). Butcher & The Boar is your place for meat, lots of meat. Try Bar La Grasa for some upscale & stupid-delicious Italian. Head across the river to St. Dinette and get a 1/2 dozen small plates and a couple, five big plates (share around the table). It’s not a tapas joint but the offerings are so stupendous (including their burger) that you’ll want to try everything. Make a run to A Baker’s Wife, for donuts (open at 6:30, bring cash). And for a real Minneapolis Foodie experience, head to Tilia; you’ll be wishing you lived here, after having a meal at this neighborhood joint. For craft beer joints, there’s 1 that fits West Texas folk to a T. Having more than a few dangerous men & women who’ve roamed the Panhandle and Hill Country, Dangerous Man Brewing is #1 on your list of taprooms to visit. Also, try Pryes, Boom Island, & Utepils, all of which are better than Lone Star, by a good measure (not that Lone Star is bad, mind you). And just for fun, in the skyway, find Taco John’s so you can stop wondering if it really exists.

Sparty is the least likely to be phased by the blizzard-like conditions and will therefore get no recommendations for skyway dining (you’re almost as tough as Minnesotans). Also, knowing that the DNA of Sparty is not far removed from Goldy, or Bucky, we’ll start with local beer. Indeed Brewery, Venn Brewing (make your own diagrams), Wild Mind Ales, & Modist are good bets for Michiganders who are accustomed to a wide variety of delicious craft brews. Try Matt’s Bar for Burgers (Jucy Lucy or double cheeseburger, either way), Spoon & Stable for a high-end, legit 4 star joint (probably bar seating, but they might have a few tables if you call right now). Young Joni has great pizza & whatever else you order, they kick ass… and if they’re on too long of a wait, Anchor Fish & Chips is up the street. Broders and Terzo are your places for pasta/Italian, and Town Hall (3 locations) has solid sandwiches/bar food and more craft beer, because you’re Sparty. And don’t forget some donuts; grab them from Angel Food Bakery (next to Hell’s Kitchen).

The Cavs, coming from the Mid-Atlantic Region, are well versed in seafood, but probably know nothing about walleye, now you can learn. Try the Tavern on Grand to learn about non-salt water fish (it’s different… ). If you’re looking for a meal you can talk to your friends about, five years from now, go to 112 Eatery. Birch Steakhouse for, well, you know, and they have great pizza as well. Want some fried chicken, go down Nicollet until you reach East 43rd Street; Revival makes a mean bird (regular, hot or FIRE). Bull’s Horn Bar in the Southeast corner of the city has serious burgers (and bologna sandwiches) and you’ll feel like you’re in “old Minneapolis”. If you prefer a burger in a space that feels more like NYC, Parlour Bar is your spot. Eli’s is a local staple that is small (think row home) and homey and feels like a special type of place to enjoy a meal (and it is). Get Donuts from Bogart’s. The taprooms you should visit are Fulton, Lakes & Legends (reminds me of Starr Hill, a bit), Insight, & for the Cider fans, Number Twelve. Don’t forget to bring an extra suitcase for all the beer you plan to bring back.

A Few Last Thoughts

This is just a sampling of the amazing joints we have to choose from. There are many, many more: from Eat Street (Quang, Icehouse, Glam Doll) to NorthEast (Hai Hai, Sample Room, Football Pizza, Fair State Brewery) to the Southside (Midtown Global Markets many eateries and Eastlake Brewery), our city/s (St. Paul, et al.) is/are blessed with an abundance of great eats and drinks. Beyond that, there isn’t much to do around here, unless you like the great outdoors, but you’re basketball fans, so I’ll assume you want to be inside and not waste your time with Lake Life talk.

Congratulations on this big achievement; your teams have been impressive and will do you proud. If your team fails to make it to Monday evening’s event, don’t feel bad, look at it as an opportunity to do more exploring around the North Star State. Travel North by North and see what you find. The Final Four is all fun & games, literally, that’s all it is. Don’t take it too seriously. Eat & drink to your heart’s content and worry about counting calories when you get back to warmer climes. Good Luck to All, & Skol!

Final Four Bound
Destination – Final Four