The next stop on the #mnbucketlist is a savory little place tucked away in a residential neighborhood in Stillwater. Off Churchill Street is the Chilkoot Café & Cyclery, an eatery and full-service bike shop. Yep, both. Come for the house roasted coffee and Biker Burrito (or Brioche Benedict, if you’re like me), after shopping for a new bike! The perfect place to study, grab coffee with friends, stop to rest your legs while your bike is serviced or even spend some time with your dog on the sidewalk patio. I, for one, went straight for the breakfast options, clearly. Located in a beautiful historical building that was once Kearney’s Korner [Grocery] Store, and has since been a pizza parlour, secondhand store, and salon. It still keeps its bygone charm with its warm wood floors, exposed brick and natural light. I do warn that they get awfully busy, but are worth the wait.
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.
Whenever I plan to be in Stillwater, I make sure to meet with with my friends, Emily and Mike. Em is the best Stillwaterian (no, not a real word, but it works) tour guide, knowing all the best places to try to get the full experience. On this particular trip, she suggested Lion’s Tavern, located in the historic Grand Garage building on Main Street near Teddy Bear Park. The patio opens to the “Lion’s Main” moniker, ushering you into the dim lit, relaxed lounge area of the Tavern. What started as Lion’s Main Bites & Libations in 2015, owned by the people that brought you Stillwater’s popular ice cream shop, Nelson’s. Described as ‘laid-back sophistication’, the Tavern is lively and upbeat with games of shuffleboard and live acoustic music. It has become a go-to gathering place. It’s a great place to come for classic cocktails and inventive concoctions. Or a Lift Bridge, Farmgirl, whatever. They also feature an extensive chef-driven menu so you can expect a great presentation. Sophistication aside, I say go for the garlic parsley fries, you won’t be sorry!