A weekend in Minneapolis

2012/09/21 14:32:21
Back in April I bought tickets to the September 15 White Sox-Twins game at Target Field in Minneapolis so last Friday we departed for the Twin Cities.
Friday, September 14
The first leg of our trip was I-90 to La Crosse.  There's a rest area between Bangor and Sparta and I thought this historical marker would be a good introduction, and it actually wound up establishing a theme for the weekend.

When we reached La Crosse we turned north on Wisconsin state highway 35, which is part of the Great River Road.  At just over 412 miles it's the longest highway in the state and as it also passes through some very historical territory there are quite a few markers along the way.  Impress your friends with knowledge of the Beef Slough War!


After passing through Pepin we reached our first destination: Stockholm.  I guess when you only have 66 people you don't really need a post office.

Of course, that wasn't where we were going.

The Stockholm Pie Company wasn't all that busy, but it was also only 11:15 or so.  Here's owner/baker Janet chatting with a couple who were apparently on a trip of their own.

The nice thing about the SPC is that they have other items besides pie, and that includes a lunch menu as well.  We decided to each get a chicken pot pie.

Whoa...I doubt Banquet or Swanson has ever served up anything like this and the best way I can describe it is to call it "chicken stew in a pie crust", as it was full of meat, peas, carrots, and lima beans.  No celery...hooray!!

We could've easily just split a single pie and been perfectly content, but after finishing mine I soldiered on and finished most of what Mrs. SC couldn't finish as well.  The filling was good and hearty and as you might expect the crust was superb.

From Stockholm we continued northward along Lake Pepin toward Maiden Rock.

Eventually we reached Minneapolis and our downtown hotel, just 3 blocks from Target Field.  Our initial plan was to see the game Saturday but since it was early in the afternoon we worked our way to the ballpark and decided to buy tickets for that night's game as well, which meant we'd need a light pregame meal.  The Radisson Plaza's restaurant is FireLake and we decided to hit the bar for some half-price happy hour walleye cakes and beer-battered rock shrimp, and both were quite delicious.  The cakes (lemon tarragon remoulade) had a good amount of fish and were firm without being hard or dry, and the shrimp (sherry scallion sauce) were sweet and flavorful.

Saturday, September 15
Food words only today, no images.  We started the day with breakfast at FireLake and it would be the last meal we ate here, but that was because we had other plans and not due to any kind of disappointment.  The eggs were fresh with nice bright yolks, the back bacon had a good salty porkiness, and the potatoes had a good mix of creamy, lightly-cooked bits and darker, crunchier pieces without any greasiness.
After breakfast we took the short Skyway walk over to Target Field.  This is its 3rd season and it's a very nice ballpark, and we were blessed with some excellent weather to make the experience even better.  We were even rewarded with a White Sox victory, although things got a little hairy in the bottom of the 9th!

The Twins have apparently taken a cue from the Milwaukee Brewers and midway through the game a race is run by Minnesota-themed mascots.  Unfortunately I couldn't get any closer but hopefully you can make out Babe the ox, Bullseye the dog, Louie the loon, Skeeta the mosquito, and Wanda the fish.  Frankly, Wanda could use a little plastic surgery to better resemble a walleye.

There are scads of restaurants in downtown Minneapolis and we decided to visit Gluek's for an early dinner.  It wasn't too crowded and our waitress (who bore a resemblance to a young Mariska Hargitay) suggested we start with walleye fingers and pretzel breadsticks before ordering any entrees, which turned out to be a wise move as the servings were larger than we expected.  We liked both appetizers very much and the dill-caper tartar sauce had a great flavor, but the beer cheese soup that came with the breadsticks was just a little too thick and dip-like for me.  By the time we were about halfway through we decided that the proper course of action would be to split a Berliner open face sandwich.  I don't think either of us had ever tasted anything like it before and we both enjoyed its unique flavor, which really benefits from the sour cream.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel and took it easy for the rest of the evening, as we were hoping to get an early start the next day.
post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2012/09/21 14:52:56
Filet Mignon
Re:A weekend in Minneapolis 2012/09/21 14:43:58
Nice report Brad!! I love the drive along The Great River Road and love LaCrosse. We have relatives who lived there many years and I loved spending a lazy afternoon on their houseboat. Good looking food too! That's pretty good looking bar food!
Fire Safety Admin
Re:A weekend in Minneapolis 2012/09/21 14:50:04
In two visits to the Stockholm Pie Company, I have yet to try their regular food.  That chicken pot pie looks fantastic.  Because I like you, I will just pretend you didn't go there and not get dessert. Otherwise, my brain would explode.
Looking forward to more..... 
Re:A weekend in Minneapolis 2012/09/24 10:42:34
Sunday, September 16
We didn't get as early a start as we had hoped so it was already 9:30 when we arrived at Bev's Cafe in Red Wing (recommended by Wanderingjew) via US highway 61.  The cafe was packed but fortunately a table opened up soon after we walked in just ahead of the midmorning rush.  Quarters were a bit cramped and with the 3 servers hustling to and fro I left the camera packed away, so I'll have to do my best to paint pictures in your collective mind.
I had checked the breakfast menu before we left home and had decided that I wanted to try the homemade gritwurst.  I had no idea what to expect and I didn't ask our server about it; it was full steam ahead, torpedoes be damned.  When our order arrived my plate featured a thin rectangle of what looked like ordinary breakfast sausage but it had a decidedly different, less meaty flavor and while I've never had goetta I imagine that it must be similar.  I learned that it was made from ham hocks and steel-cut oats that had been boiled together, finely chopped, formed into rectangular patties, and fried on a flattop grill.  The flavor was an interesting cross between meat and grain and while I liked it Mrs. SC did not, but the quality of her 2 eggs and bacon more than made up for it.  I also ordered eggs and they were fresh with bright yolks and good eggy flavor, like they should be, and the bacon (I borrowed a couple of pieces) was a nice mix of crisp and chewy.  I don't know if that was by design or because the kitchen was swamped, but it worked well for us.
After breakfast we continued down US-61 toward La Crosse.  As on the Wisconsin side Lake Pepin is recognized.

All kinds of watercraft can be found on Lake Pepin; they can be tough to see but in the last photo are a cabin cruiser, a sailboat, and a couple of outboard-powered fishing boats.
In La Crosse we left US-61 and continued southward on WI-35.  The markers on the stretch from La Crosse to Ferryville are distinctly more somber in tone as many of them reference the Black Hawk War.

The concrete markers were put up in the 1930's and the text was written by Dr. C.V. Porter years earlier.  I couldn't find much online information about him except that he was an M.D. and amateur historian, and a sample of his work can be found here.
Eventually we reached Prairie du Chien and our final stop of the weekend: Pete's Hamburgers.  Pete's has been around for 100 years and has been recognized many times in print and on film, yet still remains the small operation it always has been and when we arrived the staff was busy catching up from the lunch rush.  It took about 10 minutes to fill the first order but after that the burgers were assembled, bagged, and handed over in just a minute or 2, and the crowd waited patiently.

Because the benches along the street were full we opted for the time-honored tradition of dining ala trunk.

The burgers were bigger and thicker than I had expected and even though they were thoroughly cooked they were still quite moist.  We ordered ours without onions but the cooking process allows them to still have a light onion flavor that complements the beef well, while burgers built with onions come with healthy portions on top of the patties.
We'd had a good weekend but after lunch at Pete's we were definitely starting to feel some travel fatigue so we continued home without any more stops.  However, there's 1 final thing to address:

Who said we didn't get any dessert at Stockholm Pie Company?  This is a piece of blackberry-pear pie that my wife ordered to go after our Friday lunch, but somehow it wound up surviving until after we returned home late Sunday afternoon.  She'd been too full at lunch to eat it so we took it with us and kept it on ice in our hotel room (literally, as the room didn't have a refrigerator), but she neglected to grab a fork so every time she thought to eat it there wasn't one on hand, and when we were out and about we never remembered to get one somewhere!  So the pie actually traveled from Stockholm to Minneapolis and then to southern Wisconsin where it finally met its rightful end, and was pronounced delicious.  I'm sure the crust suffered some and would've been better had it been eaten minutes after being cut, but I sampled a small piece and it was still pretty good.
Perhaps next year will bring a trip to Kansas City or Cleveland...
post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2012/09/24 11:22:43
Re:A weekend in Minneapolis 2012/09/24 11:18:12
Screaming Brad
Glad to you made it to Bev's Cafe. I've never had breakfast there, but it sounds like it was  just as good as the lunch/dinner menu.
Re:A weekend in Minneapolis 2012/09/24 11:24:25
Thanks for suggesting it!  If I'm ever in the area again I'll certainly consider another visit.
Fire Safety Admin
Re:A weekend in Minneapolis 2012/09/24 11:27:45
Isn't it interesting that this is the third report of the upper Great River Road area in just the past month or so.  Considering how much beautiful views there are through here and so much good food, that shouldn't be a surprise. 
Thanks for this fine report SC!  You sure do get around!  And thanks for not letting me down pie-wise!
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/09/24 11:29:22
Re:A weekend in Minneapolis 2012/09/24 12:25:04
Beautiful pictures, great report. We wish we'd had the chicken pot pie at Stockholm too -- it looks fabulous!!!
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:A weekend in Minneapolis 2012/09/24 13:25:41
Man, that blackberry-pear pie looks great.
Fire Safety Admin
Re:A weekend in Minneapolis 2012/09/24 13:27:42
Was this your visit to Pete's Hamburgers?  Because, I thought I remember you talking about the place previously.
Re:A weekend in Minneapolis 2012/09/24 14:21:14
Thanks for all the nice comments.  Perhaps we should've coordinated our travel plans so that each group could've covered a different part of the Road!
BB, this was indeed my first visit.  I've mentioned it before in relation to my annual Iowa trip and as a possible future destination but this was the first time I specifically planned a stop.
Ralph, I didn't hear the entire conversation but it sounded like blackberry-pear might be a fairly new recipe and is apparently going over well.
mr chips
Filet Mignon
Re:A weekend in Minneapolis 2012/12/18 03:39:15
Love to drive along the Mississippi and loved your reports on the area. Hoping to get to Target Field someday.