Cassidy’s

Begin in 1964, add in your Grandma’s take on wild rice bread, Reuben soup and Swedish meatballs, a heaping fork-full of pickled herring, throw in a few Jello salads and that, ladies and gentlemen, is Cassidy’s in Hinckley. The kind of place you spend your whole life going to. Whether it be on the way back from Duluth, a weekend at the cabin, or because your grandparents are regulars and they rave about the bread pudding. They also have an all-you-can-eat salad, soup and bread buffet that is near impossible to forget. Located just off the highway and a stone’s throw from the Fire Museum and Grand Casino, in a building that has remained remarkably the same since its opening. Steeped in tradition and filled with old-fashioned favorites, Cassidy’s is an homage to everything that makes northern Minnesota what it is.

 

Lindey’s 

We need to talk about Lindey’s in Arden Hills. Have you been here?! A short distance from Bethel University, Lindey’s isn’t just a throwback to a northwoods, 1950’s supper club – it IS a northwoods, 1950’s supper club. The location, a product of those begotten years, with it’s mid-century cabin decor, knotted-cedar paneling, and stone fireplace hasn’t changed much in more than half a century.

So the story goes, Lewis Walter “Lindey” Lindemer spent years trying to find a Minnesota restaurateur, from Stillwater to Shakopee, who would serve his steaks in their establishments. He finally found favor it Heinei Borndale, owner and operator of the Coronodo Café and the Rathskeeler (in the basement), on the corner of University and Snelling in St. Paul. When the Wagon Wheel, a tucked away eatery on the side of a hill in Arden Hills came up for sale, he jumped at the chance to open his own restaurant. Paying $200 cash as a down payment, Lindey’s was opened in the spring of 1961. Today, Lindey’s is family owned and run by the second generation of Lindemer’s. Still serving up those steaks, prepared with the exact recipes created by Lindey himself almost 60 years later.

Their menu is unlike the rest – refreshingly simple. With a slogan and web address like “the place for steak,” it doesn’t come as much surprise that your choice is steak, steak, shrimp or steak. And I’m not exaggerating.  At dinner, you can get Lindey’s special sirloin, prime sirloin, broiled shrimp, or prime chopped sirloin. Each coming with salad and specially blended dressing, a greaseless hash-browned potato platter, toasted garlic bread, and sweet pickled watermelon rind. They have Muddy Paws cheesecake or one of their alcoholic “ice cream drinks” for dessert!

Many patrons have been going to Lindey’s at least once a year, for their whole life. I know, because as soon as I mention Lindey’s, the gushing begins about their birthday club. Sign up for their birthday club and list and every year you will receive a postcard in the mail for $25 off your meal, turning even first time visitors into regulars.

Nelson’s Ice Cream

Well hello, hot weather staple! Ice cream is my go-to in the sometimes unforgiving Minnesota heat. And there is no better place to kick it off than Nelson’s Ice Cream in Stillwater. Started in 1923 as the Seven Corners grocery store, owned by John Lustig, it was the place for top-heavy, cold ice cream. After John died in 1964, Art Nelson operated the grocery store until his death in 1964. His son Wade took over and changed the name to Nelson’s Dairy Store since the family already owned Brown’s Ice Cream in Minneapolis, where they served generous two-scoop ice cream cones for ten cents in the 60s. Later sold in 1992, and then again in 2006. In 2014, Nelson’s expanded and opened a second location in St. Paul.

The tiny building is quite the hot spot with lines out the door and cramped, full picnic tables – but don’t worry, the line is fast-moving and Nelson’s more than makes up for the wait with monumental portions. Who knew that someplace so small could house something so epic?! Back to the ice cream… Nelson’s has more than 40 flavors including Monster Cookie, Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl, Praline Pecan, Caramel Collision, Elephant Tracks, Moose Tracks, Mackinaw Island Fudge, Zanzibar, Pirate’s Booty, and even Superman! And for the caloric adventurer, try the Lumberjack. A challenge to eat five softball-sized scoops of any flavor with a choice of toppings. If you do actually finish, your photo will be displayed on Nelson’s “Wall of fame”. Nelson’s isn’t just a local hideaway, it carries a long list of accolades like “The Best of Minnesota Ice Cream” by WCCO, “One of the top five things to do in Stillwater” by Minnesota Public Radio and “Top 25 World’s Best Ice Cream Parlors” by The Daily Meal.

Oh! It’s helpful to know; they only take cash.

Main Street Farmer Eatery

I’d like to preface this by saying that Main Street Farmer Eatery in St. Michael is not only one of the best kept secrets in the west metro but also my mom’s favorite restaurant.
Top-notch and exquisite but hidden, Main Street still finds a way to stand out. You can find it nestled on County Road 19 in the old Thrifty White building.

Inside you will find, a beautifully exposed kitchen and long, dim-lit industrial bar; the warm lighting and high ceilings adjust beautifully to the large space. I loved the vintage wall lamps and the bold art work against the brick wall and fixed bench (pew) seating. Cozy, eclectic and modern. While the ambience is reminiscent of a gallery open, the creative and artistic presentation of the food is what really sets Main Street Farmer apart. The unique take on seasonal, regional dishes and the elaborate cocktail list… Suffice it to say, it’s a dining experience. A note; make reservations, it’s the only way to guarantee a table with a place as beloved as this.

Because she knows better than I, here are my Mom’s recommendations;

  • Farm fresh bread topped with garlic aioli and whipped butter
  • Polish Kielbasa Sausage with homemade sauerkraut and spicy mustard
  • Martini Polska (Polish Martini) that is a blend of polish zubrowka bison grass vodka, krupnik honey vodka, apple juice, cinnamon syrup and fresh lime. The warmth and weight reminded me of Christmas.
  • Pork chop with a cider mustard glaze, asparagus, a citrus vinaigrette and pan-seared apples.

The Copper Lantern 

Can we just talk about breakfast for a second? Early summer mornings need hot coffee, heavy portions and quick service. This is where Copper Lantern in St Cloud comes in. Originally opened as the 14th Country Kitchen in the Minnesota-Wisconsin franchise in 1966, the restaurant featured the $.80 Country Boy Burger with fries and cole slaw for $1.40 more.  You could get a club steak dinner for $3.25, fried chicken for $1.95 and strawberry pie was just $0.60!

The owners nixed the franchise in 1984 and changed to the name to Copper Lantern, filling the place with actual copper lanterns. It is still owned by the same family. The casual, very busy place has been a fixture right off Highway 10 in St. Cloud for some 30 years.

Think; homemade breakfast (served fresh all day long), lunch and dinner – family-style. Local favorites include; eggs Benedict, the Bronco burger, hot meatloaf sandwich, chicken fritter melt,  hash browns, omelets, cinnamon rolls, hot turkey sandwiches, and hamburger steak. But I need to tell you about one thing; sour cream and chive fries (pictured). These babies alone will make me come back.

Fun fact: During summer months, the local Hot Rod Hoodlums, a local car club, makes appearances at least once a month in the parking lot.

Central Perk

Do you love caffeine, ice cream and the 1990s / 2000’s television show, Friends? If that’s a resounding, YES! then Central Perk in St. Cloud was a must. Orange couch included, the coffee shop is off St. Germain Street in the Regency Building, across from the Paramount Theatre in the former home of the old Mi Famiglia Ristorante and Italian Market deli. They have it all, including pastries, donuts, cookies, bars, muffins, scones, cupcakes, pie, yeesh – they even have lava cakes! I can’t forget to mention the ice cream cones to which I can personally vouch for the butter brittle. Outside of the sugar, they also have sandwiches, wraps,  salads and soups. And since they really are a coffee house at heart, you’ll find the best cold press, frappes, espresso, teas and smoothies. They also offer 10% off with student ID, which is perfect for me! You can also buy t-shirts, mugs, honey, cards and a whole assortment of other things there! Worth the stop when you pass through. Do you have any favorite coffee houses, tell me all about them!

 

Olde Brick House 

One of my last stops during the #MNGFO2017 (Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener) was the Olde Brick House in St. Cloud. While I came for whiskey and chips, it was central Minnesota’s only traditional Irish Pub’s history that stole the show. At the corner of Sixth Avenue and First Street South, the building dates back to about 1890 when it was originally called the Hoyt Block, the upstairs a boarding house full of young men gambling and women of ill repute.  The building was later sold to the Cold Spring Brewing Company in 1903. Over the years, the building was home to Schneider and Bloomer Cafe, Corner Bar, Aspen Corner Bar and Dick Titus Watering Hole, Charlie’s Wild, Wild West  and just before gaining its current moniker, First Street Station and Rum Runners. Rum Runners closed in June of 2013. The building sat vacant since.

It has been renovated and reopened complete with Irish-inspired decor and multiple bars sprawled throughout the two-story space. On the first floor, the Old Head Bar dates back to the early 1900s. The upstairs includes a private dining area, a library, a poets corner, and a bar reclaimed from the old Persian Supper Club.

When the Olde Brick House was initially recommended to me, it came with the stipulation that I tried their famous reuben wonton rolls (pictured) – I’d also recommend the bread pudding or the Jameson chocolate chip pecan pie that is served a la mode with a side of warm whiskey caramel sauce. The whole menu is full of traditional Irish fare and adds a twist to the downtown St. Cloud dining options. And, as a quintessential Irish pub would have it, Olde Brick has an extensive Irish Whiskey selection, approximately 150, along with other cocktails, wine and beer. Helpful note; they don’t take reservations so plan on getting in early.

#MNGFO2017 #VisitSaintCloud  #OnlyinMN

Munsinger Gardens and the Clemens Gardens

Munsinger Gardens and Clemens Gardens are two distinct, adjacent gardens on the banks of the Mississippi River northwest of the intersection of University Drive and Kilian Blvd near SCSU. Both showcasing the most beautiful parts of a Minnesota summer,

Munsinger Gardens on the lower east bank of the Mississippi River was originally the H.J. Anderson sawmill during the 1880s.  The low river banks made this site ideal for the sawmill. In 1915, the City of St. Cloud acquired Riverside Park and what was to become Munsinger Gardens.  Joesph Munsinger, the first Park Superintendent for the City of St. Cloud, was the catalyst for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration involvement. His passion led to the Park Department’s first greenhouse. The city named the “flower part of Riverside Park” for Munsinger in 1938.

As for the garden on the top of the hill, it was created by a wealthy businessman by the name of Bill Clemens who lived across the street. Bill’s wife Virginia suffered from multiple sclerosis and drew comfort from the view of the gardens. Bill purchased what would become the Clemens Garden and donated it to the City of St. Cloud. He also donated the funding to create what is now the Virginia Clemens Rose Garden.  They donated millions to create a seven-acre European style park adjacent to the existing one, so Virginia would have an even better view from her window. Created in the tradition of the great gardens of Europe, the Formal Garden was the first of six. The others include the Rest Area Garden,  the White Garden, the Perennial Garden, the Treillage Garden and finally, the Virginia Clemens Rose Garden that was inspired by Mrs. Clemens great love of roses; her middle name was “Rose”.  A life-size statue of Virginia Clemens depicts her in her wheelchair with her husband behind her, his hand on her shoulder. The statue faces the nearby rose garden. Serving as an incredibly elaborate memorial, there are 1,100 roses including floribundas, tree roses, hybrid teas, shrub roses, and grandifloras. Notable mentions; the Renaissance Fountain (pictured) with Cranes, features a replica of a sculpture of Hebe, cupbearer to the gods.

The most colorful time to visit the gardens is usually the end of July, but they’re open from late May to late September.