Posts from the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Douglas Lodge for Breakfast (Park Rapids)

The mighty Mississippi River begins its journey in a calm lake tucked away in the woods, burbling over some well-placed rocks into a stream about, maybe, eight feet across.  It’s so different from what you see as it grows into a behemoth somewhere along the way.  Check this out: many vacationing parents let their kids use the source as a fucking wading pool, of course ruining any enjoyment you might get out of the moment.  Try to go when it’s not summer.

The lake is called Itasca, and it’s in Itasca State Park.  And in that park is an old-timey hotel and eatery called Douglas Lodge.  Small rooms, outfitted with antique beds and vanities from way back when, no TV, no wi-fi.  And at dinner, you can get some nicely fried fish, maybe a decent steak.  Try some of the Minnesota wines.  I’m not kidding.  They’re pretty tasty (but nothing serious.  Just drink it).

But what you really want to do is get your lazy back-to-nature ass up early and eat the pancakes.

The pancakes take up nearly the entire plate.  They’re just heavy enough, just thick enough, and they soak up the syrup like that’s the only thing it was ever designed to do.  It’s a beautifully textured syrup delivery system.

So good you’ll forget how weak the coffee is.

Douglas Lodge.  Breakfast.  Pancakes.  Your work is cut out for you.

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HyVee Chinese (all over)

If you’ve been to a HyVee grocery store, you’ve probably seen their Chinese buffet.  It’s pretty damned good.  And that’s what I mean–there’s something about the fact that HyVee makes Chinese food that pleases me almost as much as a really good “authentic” joint would.  And in addition to the old standards, they’re willing to experiment with a dish now and then.

It’s comfort food.  And there’s nothing wrong with comfort.  Go in, grab a box from damn near any location, take it home, and smile.

That’s what eating is about.  I never feel I’m settling when I eat HyVee Chinese.  I feel I’m doing exactly what I want to do.

Why?

It occurred to me that there are plenty of other food blogs/site that cover Minnesota.  One of my favorites is Heavy Table.  Very wide array of flavors on that site.  A must read.  But also Twin City Eats (although that’s in transition due to the author’s move to Florida.  Still, check the archives), and of course CityPages’ Hot Dish.  And others.

Plus, our local magazines do a good job of covering the restaurant scene.

And hasn’t Guy Fieri and Anthony Bourdain done their television shows here?  Yes.  Yes they have.

So what can I add to the cacophony?

I don’t know.  But I do know that I enjoy eating.  I enjoy writing about the restaurant industry.  And I enjoy sticking it to the people who fawn over crap by writing about the places people actually eat.

Also, not being Guy Fieri, I won’t turn local neighborhood bars and dives into places with a three-hour wait.

For example, I thought Barrio and Bar La Grassa were okay.  Simply okay.  Not awful, but not worth the praise they’ve been getting either.  And I really dislike being told how to eat by the snooty “small plates/back to the farm” crowd, working exhaustively over tiny bites that I’m then supposed to be happy to pay six dollars for.  Six dollars for three bites of food is not cheap.  Especially when it feels like a lecture instead of food.

Feed me.  Don’t piss me off.

On the other hand, I’ve had a good time in Punch Pizza every time I’ve gone, no matter the location.  Come to think of it, same with Blackwoods, Arby’s, and Subway.  I’ve found places in shopping centers that no one pays any attention to where there’s a bustling crowd and consistent goodness.  I like this Italian joint named Valentini’s in Duluth because they weren’t pricks to us like the other place we tried to go, where we were told we needed a reservation even though their website said we didn’t.  Oh, and the food was solid.

Here it is: atmosphere.  I won’t compete with the blogs that tell you where all the buzz is.  I’m telling you where it’s not, where it never should be, and where you should still go for a meal anyway.

Got it?

Kihndo (Uptown)

I like Kihndo so much, I used it as a setting for a scene in my first mystery novel.  Nice atmosphere in Uptown, kind of collegiate.  Simple interior.  Yellow wallpaper.  Long. Tunes.  And some impossibly good pho.

I love pho.  I’ll write more about other places I’ve had pho, too, but let’s start with this one because it’s such a cozy, inexpensive pleasure.  Rich broth, loaded with meat.  I prefer mine with either sirloin or brisket.  And then the fun part: make it incredibly hot.  Pour in the hot sauce.  Go big.  Make your eyes water.  It’s a cure for the common cold and tastes better than Ny Quil (but will put you to sleep all the same).

I go for the pho.  I stay for the simplicity.  The first time I walked in, it felt like my local joint.  I’m sure everyone who walks in feels that way.  Mine.  All mine.

What I do…

I don’t want to tell you my real name.  I don’t want to tell you what I do for a living.  I am trying to sell a series of mystery novels, but that’s not why I’m here.  I like to eat, and I think Minnesota is a fine place to eat a lot.

So I’ll tell you about what I eat, where I eat it, and if you should give it a shot. Or not.