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.

Val’s Rapid Service 

For as long as I can remember, this historic, hole-in-the-wall, messy, legendary St. Cloud staple has been on my bucket list. Val’s is famous for their generous portions of greasy fries, sugary shakes and made to order burgers. Home in a 490-square-foot building that was originally a Pure Oil gas station, Val’s Rapid-Serv opened on Memorial Day 1959. Named after Val Henning, the trademark sign was repurposed from an old shoe company. Starting as a seasonal business and later moving to a year round venture, Val ran the restaurant until 1979, before selling to his sons. The place is tiny, but so, so worth the cramped quarters.

Jetting the Mississippi and the St. Cloud Dam 

The #MNGFO2017 took place in St. Cloud this year and because the town straddles the Mississippi River, it only makes sense to spend some time on the water. Boating, sailing or even rowing the mighty Mississippi can be incredibly difficult because of the large boulders, down trees and obstacles hidden below the undercurrent.  The colossal waterway calls for something less conventional – enter the Jet Boat. Since it doesn’t have out drives or props, you can cruise without the same constraints AND they are just plain fun to be on.

Of course, Jill from Shine On Photos and I had to try it out.  Going upstream, we made it to the St. Cloud Dam which is just walking distance from the Munsinger Gardens and the Clemens Gardens, just across from the St. Cloud State University Stadium. We got up close and personal with the 21.5 feet high dam and its three-foot flip-up gate on its top that raises the water level. The original dam at this location dated from 1887-8 was made of stone, oak and pine and was replaced by a concrete dam in 1970. In 1988, the current hydroelectric generation facility was built, creating 85-foot-long spillway bays that can discharge a total of 3,600 cubic feet of water per second. It is even used by the hydrology classes at SCSU. It produces 8.86 megawatts and generates more than 60 million kilowatt hours of electrical energy annually, which would be like burning 7,000 tons of coal. The dam is the largest city-owned hydroelectric facility in the state. How cool is that?!

#MNGFO2017 #VisitSaintCloud  #OnlyinMN

Dutch Maid Bakery

Whenever I plan to stay in a different town, I always make finding a bakery a priority. Coming into St. Cloud for the 2017 Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener, I immediately began my quest. Lucky for me, the Dutch Maid Bakery off St. Germaine Street on the east side of the city fit the bill. As a stand alone, Dutch Maid is both retail and wholesale serving all of central Minnesota. They are family owned and have been using the same recipes they opened the bakery with over 60 years ago. If you love cake, unfilled or filled donuts, Dutch has you covered. Pies and coffee cakes more your thing? No problem. Maybe you go for the muffins – they have those, too! How about cookies and bars, you ask? Yep! How about the sweet rolls and cookies?? Absolutely! What if I don’t go for sweets? They have bread, buns and rolls for you! I, myself, went for the easy-to-hold, melts-in-your-mouth, where-have-these-been-all-my-life cinnamon rolls. Totally worth checking out for the prices alone and with a marquee like that, how can you pass it up?!

#MNGFO2017 #VisitSaintCloud  #OnlyinMN

Sammy Perrella’s Pizza and Restaurant

Up next on the #mnbucketlist is Sammy Perrella’s Pizza and Restaurant, a decades-old regional pizza chain. Sammy’s is one of my favorite places for pizza, specifically the one in Brooklyn Park. Say what you will about chain restaurants – Sammy’s is the place for authentic Italian cooking. Started 61 years ago as a small café in Keewatin, on Minnesota’s Iron Range, Sammy’s moved to Hibbing in 1954 and has since grown significantly, with locations all over; Cloquet, Coon Rapids, Downtown Duluth, Eau Claire, Grand Rapids, Hermantown, Hibbing, Lakeside (Duluth), Minot, Superior, Waite Park / St. Cloud, West Duluth, Winona, Woodland (Duluth). As for the pizza, I suggest trying the house special thin crust, it does not disappoint – and with four generations of pizza making, it comes as no surprise. You can stop in for lunch for their pizza buffet or grab a frozen pizza to go.  Some say they have the best pizza in the Twin Cities metro area and northern Minnesota, in 2015 PMQ Pizza Magazine, the pizza industry’s No. 1 publication, inducted Sammy’s into its Pizza Hall of Fame — which pays tribute to popular pizzerias in business for 50 years or longer. Also, Sammy’s takes part in local charity events, from delivering Random Acts of Pizza to giving back to local Disabled American Veterans chapters and they even have something called Pizza with Purpose fundraising program. How great is that?!

Quarks American Bento (And Giveaway!)

Minnesota’s road trip season is upon us and with that comes the inevitable refueling, rests to stretch your legs, bathroom breaks and fast food pitstops. Whether you are headed up to the cabin, have a car filled with camping equipment, a boat attached fishing ready, or if you’re headed out of town just for an afternoon away, road trips can be equal parts fun and work.

Knowing this, and since St Cloud will be home of the 2017 Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener (#MNGFO2017), it only made sense to tell you about my new favorite, super quick and easy, fast food stop on my way up north. Quarks American Bento in St Cloud, celebrating it’s first year anniversary in June, is off 5th Street and is more than worth checking out. Feeling welcomed immediately as you walk in the door, Lisa, Adam and their staff are unparalleled in how passionate they are about eating the “good stuff” and while finding healthy options can feel like a second job when traveling, Quarks makes eating healthy not only possible but an easy treat. While I have a soft spot for any place that has exceptional marketing and design, that’s not the only reason they have me coming back.

Healthy, fresh and rainbow-colored, they’re almost too pretty to eat, ahem, but I still did. Crazy-good. Lisa even got me to try rice balls which, if you know me in real life and contrary to what you might think, I’m not adventurous with food. Their famed cold brewed teas that have been expertly paired with their different dishes and sauces, which you can buy bottles of, are loaded with nutrients. I loved their creamy cucumber tzatziki-like sauce and their super seed blend. They have tons of options, even gluten free, vegan and vegetarian.

Not gonna lie, if there were a Quarks next to my house, I would be a much happier, healthier person; because of that and because I fell completely head over heels with the place, I wanted to share that experience with you. So I am doing my very first giveaway. I have four gift certificates (valid until the end of the year) that you can win and all you have to do is like Quarks on Facebook and tell me (comment) your St. Cloud story; whether you live, work, study, visit St Cloud or want to. I will select the winners at random and Facebook message them on Monday.

#QuarksAB #StCloud #VisitStCloud #CentralMN