Need I say more? Oh yeah. The place is Bin Wine Bar at 400 Sibley in St Paul.
Good wine. Good "girl food" and plenty of choices. Good music in the background. Cozy booths with pillows. Patio seating. And brownies in a flowerpot. Proceeds from the Pot Brownies fund Friends of Mears Park across the street.Downtown St. Paul.
Need I say more? Oh yeah. The place is Bin Wine Bar at 400 Sibley in St Paul.
Here I am on Sunday morning ready to go spin the latest yarns with one of my besties. Too early to sally up to the bar and I just just wasn't in the mood for a coffee shop. I remember a friend of mine that had posted a picture of herself on a popular social networking site at the soda fountain in St. Paul and voilà. Our Sunday morning was on. This is the real stuff. I read the classic Harriet the Spy as a young girl and I remember the descriptions of Manhattan. Particularly the diner where the protagonist orders her favorite egg cream.
It sounded strange and delicious all at the same time. So I tried one at Lynden's and they were everything I had hoped for. So were the phosphates. I ordered the Green River. It is a simple light lemon-lime flavored drink.Other delectable flavors include Chocolate, cherry and lime.
It looks like it would be cloying sweet but it isn't. Lynden's also has ice cream, coffee, and a wide selection of candies from yesteryear. Remember candy cigarettes and cracker jacks? Warning, this place gets packed on a weekend morning.
The Bleutini at Prohibition
The Strip Club
I love Chicago. Man, do I love Chicago. For me, it was the ideal place to escape the brutal Phoenix summer heat. Yes, I will take the muggy midwest heat over the oven that is the desert southwest from March to October. Hands down. It is NOT cooler in the shade there. Nor is it cooler when the sun goes down, either. It is, however, cooler by the lake. Way cooler. In the Windy city, places like The Pump Room and the now-closed Hudson's and Green Dolphin Street made me think of the 1920's and 1930's would have been. You know, the days of Al Capone. I may not be historically correct, but I can imagine walking at twilight in the city during that era with the warm breeze off the lake. The time of Speakeasys and hearing jazz music as you walk by a club. When people dressed to the nines up to go out. Again, it's good to be me. I found two places in the Twin Cities that give me that roaring 20's feel. Prohibition in Minneapolis and The Strip Club in St. Paul.
Prohibition itself makes up the entire 27th floor (as far as I can tell) of the Foshay Tower. The mahogany-paneled rooms were for the private use of Wilbur Foshay, a bit of a rouge businessman himself. It's the place where you can imagine Michael Corleone behind his desk looking out tall windows over the city debating just how he would be settling all family business. When a colleague from the Bay Area was in town, I knew we had to take her somewhere unique. We got there after happy hour and were rewarded with the most comfortable and fashionable leather sofa and chairs for a girls chat. Thunderstorms were in the forecast that evening and that's when I found out that Northern California rarely gets the dramatic summer weather we do. Our guest was perfectly willing to let us locals get the seats with view after the water cooler talk that day of tornadoes and "600-mile-an-hour winds". (We have a jokester or two in our office.) Showing up after the crowd, we were able to talk without having to yell or be subjected to anything vaguely resembling a pick-up joint that can often permeate some of the hip places. All in all a good time was had. One of the Prohibition's draws for the hip crowds is the creative cocktails. I had a Bleutini which made me think that not all martinis taste like rubbing alcohol with olive juice. Another concoction they serve is named Behind the Green Door. I'm not entirely certain of the contents, I think, Grey Goose, Midori, and a lump of dry ice. It makes me laugh every time I see one. They really are over-the-top. Prohibition wins my "Best Place to Bring an Out-Of-Towner". Preferably on a Saturday afternoon of after 7:30 in the evening.
The Strip Club in St. Paul has a similar vibe. That, however, is where you go when you are also hungry. True story, the first time I went to the Strip Club (and I should probably explain that's strip as in steak) we drove right past it as it is in mostly residential area. The building looks like one of those that was a once store downstairs, and the proprietor lived in the upstairs quarters. Inside, the decor is red, black, and cream. Like Prohibition, it has a masculine feel to it. Gentlemen out there, may I recommend this as a perfect first date place. Incidentally this is true even if you are entertaining a vegetarian. Even if they didn't have a diverse menu (food other than meat), the restaurant sits atop Dayton's Bluff and the view of downtown St. Paul at night, well anyone who is not crazy about steak or seafood would be wowed by it. And if you are lucky enough to climbs the spiral staircase and be seated upstairs, you might just be surprised by one of the wait staff popping out from the behind the bookcase that doubles as a book case. As far as the menu, I recommend anything that was once mooing. Check out the menu on their website domeats.com. I know, right?
So where's a girl from the Nordeast to go for a Friday dinner with her female friends? If the name of the game is people watching, there is Northeast Minneapolis staple Psycho Suzi's. But since the warmer weather has returned, Suzi's is packed to the gills with people wanting to sit out on the patio overlooking the Mississippi river with their Tiki cups in hand. Me? My days of a sugar-infused high-alcohol cocktail have all but disappeared. I blame the aging process. Besides, I'm a sucker for a place that's, well, charming. A cozy place with candles on the table and tall windows to watch the rain outside. Where you could go on a date or talk about your most recent dates with your bestie. And so that's where my college roommate and fellow foodie, Sarah, went last month. We had actually been there before and I wasn't particularly impressed with the food. Mainly, because I ordered the Charcuterie Plate and was still starving afterwards. The downside to girl food. A Charcuterie plate is essentially a sampling plate. You get to try things like cheese, pâté, confits, meats. etc. But we aren't talking your local grocery store meat and cheese plate. You can sample Boar Bologna. Lamb Crostata. Fire Roasted Artichoke Gratin. That is just my idea of girl-food heaven. Samples of wine? They also serve wine flights. Hence the name. You can also order more filling options such as appetizers and entrees. We were way too hungry to get a sample plate of anything, but we did want to attempt at least one exotic option. Sweetbreads were the special that stormy evening. I myself had to ask Sarah, just what exactly are sweetbreads? Sweetbreads are prepared meat usually made of the thymus gland and pancreas of a calf or lamb.(I guess that is why they have the wine flights for those on the fence about trying such a delicacy). Sarah had had them before and decided we should have them that night. I paired them with crab cakes which I often order as my entree even though they are usually on most menus as appetizers.(pictured above) I can say in absolute honesty, that as much as I love crab cakes, the sweetbread we had that night was amazing. It tasted as an exotic type of meat in a maddeningly delicious sauce should. The term sweetbread uses the word "Sweet" to indicate that the meat used is sweet and rich tasting as opposed to the more often consumed muscle flesh meats. They got that right. Unfortunately, the picture I took of the sweetbread was too dark. Believe me, though, they are worth overcoming any food phobias one might have.The chef there knows how to pull flavor out like no one's business. I highly recommend The Sample Room. On Marshall Ave in NE Minneapolis. As for me? I just have to issue this warning to Andrew Zimmern. Prepare to be dethroned. I've had sweetbread.
I loved living in Downtown St. Paul. I had a grocer across the street and enough restaurants within walking distance to often shirk my cooking duties. But, as is typical of me, I had to move after five years in one place. I mean, there's whole wide world out there, right? Anyway, I packed my bags and headed all the way to the Northeast side of Minneapolis. Where, ironically, I lived for 8 years of my youth. I wanted the neighborhood setting, but it came with a price. Crowded supermarkets. And somehow, during my tenure as a mom, I lost my gift for being organized and drifted down the procrastination path. And it didn't help that I have a supermarket within a stone's throw of the building I work in. Who needs to plan meals? As long as I'm inspired by my noon hour I can hop over and get what I need for dinner. But somehow, the everyday, generic grocery stores just fail to motivate me to cook something and frankly as 5 o'clock looms I just don't want to think. But I have a secret weapon. The neighborhood butcher. A long three blocks past my house is Ready Meats. Now, a butcher shop to me sounded a little worky to me at first. But I thought about it, and realized, I can throw the pork chops on the Foreman, we have some broccoli, that will suffice. Well, Ready Meats has not only every kind of meat and sausage you can imagine, they have delicious pre-packaged meals. Mostaccioli, Ravioli, Lasagna. Mini-Tacos. Pasties from a company in Michigan. Pierogies. And everything to go with it. A fantastic red sauce for the pasta.Twice-baked potatoes for the pork chop side. Regular potatoes if you are overly ambitious. And did I mention anything else you may have forgotten at the last minute? Milk, butter, cheese, sour cream. Bread. Rolls. Potato chips. A welcome haven for the tired, overworked individual. Yeah, they've got that.
3550 Johnson Street Northeast
Minneapolis, MN 55418
My friend Debbie is a marvelous person. She is the type that will always, always listen to my rants (there have been a few) and provide support. The second best thing about her is that I can drag her to any restaurant of my choosing, and, if there is something delectable on the menu, she can tell you how to make it. At which point I make up a reason to have a party and somehow wheedle her into making that particular dish for the occasion. Shrimp Fritters from the now-defunct Bodega in Cave Creek, AZ. Macaroni & Cheese with black forest ham from the Jug & Barrel in Phoenix. And did I mention she makes cakes? Wedding cakes, birthday cakes, Barbie Cakes, and my favorite, an amazing flourless chocolate cake I'd had at the Grand Wailea in Maui that she built without ever seeing, strictly from my description. In fact, I'm getting hungry writing this.There's no one I'd rather have cater an event for me. And by happy accident, my blog coincides with her birthday today. So Debbie, Happy Birthday. I am incredibly fortunate to have such a talented and fabulous friend.
Did you know the first Friday in June is National Doughnut Day? I didn't. Lucky me, what a great subject to start my blog off with. The sleepy river town of Winona where I spent my formative years is the home to Bloedow's Bake Shop. This year, it was named best doughnut shop in Minnesota. It's so good, it was even cool to skip class for a Bloedow's run in high school. Or maybe I just wasn't privy to the more deviant hijinks back then. But I suspect there are those who still sneak out from work, school, or responsibility for their "long johns" (a foot long donut with maple frosting), or the glazed donuts that were bigger than a preschooler's head. There is a bit of logic to that too to that covert operation. Saturday mornings and holiday eves find a line of patrons out the door. Although you might just find yourself in line with your math teacher. Or boss. Great minds think alike...
A Minnesota native returns after 13 years away discovering a whole new food landscape.