The Royal Bar

When I go home, especially when I bring friends, I make it a point to head into Park Rapids. I always have one, very specific place in mind, The Royal. It has been around for as long as I can remember. No trip up from college with my best friends was complete without a stop. It is home to the Royal burger – a perfect, hot, melty burger wrapped in red and white checkered gingham square paper, tucked into a bed of sizzling onion rings or crinkle-cut french fries. 


They are also the purveyors of the infamous Root Beer Float. Fun fact: this was my first drink, ever. I hit legal age and my parents sat me between them at the bar and ordered a round of the fermented saccharine. Let me tell you, I could, and still can only handle one of those. It’s a total dive but it’s a staple in my family’s history. It’s hard not to have a soft spot for the dark, laid-back, fluorescent lit, no-pretenses small town bar. When you come through Main Street, you can’t miss it. Just look for the sign that says, in true Minnesota-esque fashion, “POSSIBLY the best burgers and fries in Northern Minnesota.”

Rapid River Logging Camp 

When people ask what my grad work is in, it often comes as a surprise when I say Paul Bunyan. So when I found out about the Rapid River Logging Camp in Park Rapids, a nod to all things lumberjack, I jumped at the chance to check it out. Logging Camp was featured in a movie that was shown at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels and it was rated one of the top 40 restaurants in the U.S by RedBook magazine in 1964.

Walking in, I caught the strong smell of flapjacks in the air. For the love of all things nostalgia and breakfast, I knew I came to the right place. You enter into the gift shop where you purchase your meal tickets. As a note: they are cash or check only. While you wait for your party to be called into the mess hall, you can explore the camp grounds. Peruse the logging machinery and learn about north county’s first industry. See the blacksmith shop, a huge logging sled, and an old steam traction engine. You can also try lifting the 1-ton chain, visit the roaming chickens or stand at the end of the dock where the picturesque Potato River bends to feed the minnows.

When you do finally hear them holler, you will find out fast that it’s more of an event than just a meal. All You Can Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner served family-style on stainless steel platters. Colossal portions, mammoth rations, coffee by the gallon and even piping hot, fresh doughnuts and milk for dessert!

A legend from the very beginning, Logging Camp is a local favorite, keeping kitsch with the same signs still hanging on the walls as the did when they were first hung in 1955. I totally fell in love with the place and can’t wait to make it a summer tradition!

Summerhill Farm 

Up next on the #mnbucketlist is Summerhill Farm, about 7 miles outside Park Rapids on Highway 71. It’s a collection of little shops, village of country cottages, if you will, each with a different theme. Charming and quaint, the different specialty shops with railed walkways that connect each is part of a converted farm. Previously a working dairy farm, and later a turkey farm, Summerhill Farm was established in its present form in 1982 when Jeff and Nancy Stone purchased a farm from Ralph and Margaret Teske. They began to use the Barn, the very first building to become a shop of Summerhill Farm, which now sells greeting cards, wall art, books, furniture, candles, and home accessories. Two years later, in 1984, the Carriage House was opened to the public and is where you will now find toys and games for the adults. The Stable followed shortly after and now houses a shop that features unique country, lake life and ‘up north’ decor, also like candles, home accessories, throws, table linens, fairy gardens and rugs. In 1986, a small cabin was moved from the North Shore of Potato Lake, named the Cottage, it is now filled with chocolate, candies, local jellies and wild rice soups. They also have kitchen gadgets and accessories. Ever evolving and changing over the years, Summerhill continues to charm everyone who visits.  I came when it was raining and they had bright yellow umbrellas at every door.

My favorite, the Sun Porch Restaurant, was added in 1987 from the original farmhouse and expanded in 1991. I especially love the Sun Porch; fresh summer fruit, a fresh roll, and gouda cheese. I’m a fan of Cool Cuke; marble rye topped with a special cream cheese and cucumber slices, and the Potting Shed Sundae with Oreo brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and Oreo cookie crumbs. My mom fell for the all-American garden salad that comes complete with strawberries, blueberries, and yogurt dressing and the blueberry pie a la mode.

Fun fact: They also have a boutique, Summerhill on Main, located on the first block of Main in downtown Park Rapids. It is open year-round and has all kinds of fashion, jewelry, and accessories. It’s a great place to go if you are in the area.

The Minnesoda Fountain

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if there is good ice cream in the area, I’ll find it. It’s one of my most redeeming qualities! And that lactose-laden treat-seeking spider-sense is how I ended up at The Minnesoda Fountain right off Main Street in Park Rapids. A haven for all those seeking refuge from Minnesota’s summer heat, the place has diner nostalgia written all over it. Formerly Schmeider’s, this place is the perfect stop for more than just ice cream, malts and shakes – they have sandwiches and homemade soups, too! I will admit though, the second I took a seat at that counter, fries and an old fashioned sundae were the only things on my mind. Ever been?

The Royal Bar

The Royal Park RapidsIf you’ve ever been to Park Rapids especially down the Main street, the first thing you’ll notice (aside from the weird parking) all the old marquees and hand painted signs. The area is chalked full of history. One of my favorite places to go when I’m in town is the Royal Bar, home of the Royal burger and the infamous Root Beer Float– which was my first drink ever. I hit legal age and my parents sat me between them at the Royal and ordered me fermented saccharine. Let me tell you, I could, and still can only handle one of those. It’s a total dive bar and classic burger joint but it’s a staple in my family’s history. It’s hard not to have a soft spot for the place. You can’t miss it, just look for the sign that says (I’m not kidding), “POSSIBLY the best burgers and fries in Northern Minnesota.”

Itasca State Park

Itasca State Park I couldn’t pass up stopping at Itasca State Park on my last trip up to northern Minnesota. This is Minnesota’s oldest state park and the home of the Mississippi Headwaters, the official source of the Mississippi River [in case you’ve ever wondered]. It also has Aiton Heights Fire Tower, you know, if you feel like finding out how scared if heights you really are. It’s exquisite this time of year. I even stumbled upon a wedding, how does this keep happening to me? Ever been?

Aunt Belles Candies / Cuzzins Candy Store / Molly Poppins

Park Rapids CandieIf you are in the Park Rapids / Dorset / Nevis area this Labor Day Weekend, or any weekend for that matter, and you are a sweets lover, take a trip down Main Street in PR. Three of my favorite paces are here! Aunt Belles Candies is a handmade fudge and chocolate covered potato chip heaven. You can even watch the process. Cuzzins Candy Store, across the street from Aunt Belles is a paradise for olde time favorites, jelly beans and ice cream. And the new kid on the block – Molly Poppins is a place not to be missed. Who doesn’t love gourmet popcorn in crazy flavors?! Stop by, then tell me what you think!

Zorbaz

ZorbazIn the interest of taking a break, and finding food that doesn’t come from a cabin fridge, I give you Zorbaz on the bucket list. Zorbaz is a Minnesota lakeside staple. They are in Detroit Lakes, Little Pine Lake, Pelican Lake, Ottertail Lake, Cross Lake, Gull Lake, Pokegama Lake, Big Sandy, Green Lake, Alexandria and my favorite, Park Rapids. If you love a backwoods on the lake bar filled with live music, pizza and Mexican food, you’ll be right at home at Zhateau Zorbaz. They are great because they are open late when nowhere else in the area is. Side note: I have a soft spot for their sauerkraut and green olive pizza, judge me all you want.