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!
Voted “Best Boutique in the St.Croix Valley,” Enchante in Stillwater is next on the #mnbucketlist. bringing modern fashion to Stillwater, Enchante is an upscale specialty-shop that features a thoughtfully curated collection of the unique and trendy. Denim, jewelry, dresses, adorable sweaters, you name it – you can find something to fit your style here.
Founded by Sarah Stratte Quickel, they also hold fashion shows throughout the year, showcasing ever-changing feminine fashion hand-picked by Sarah in New York or Los Angeles. She also offers personal styling in store or even your personal wardrobe at home! All you have to do is ask. I mean, who doesn’t want an in-house closet consultation? As if that weren’t enough; Enchante even has private shopping experiences so you can shop with friends for a styling party. If you host, you even get 25% off an item! How can you not love this place!
Located on the corner of Main Street and Nelson in downtown Stillwater is Nacho Mama’s, a popular Mexican restaurant that’ll make you feel like you’ve escaped to Cabo San Lucas for a few hours. Hardwood floors, popping colors, walls covered with baubles and with a mantra like, “Love, Peace and Taco Grease,” you already know it’s totally worth it. Winner of the “best margaritas in the St.Croix Valley” title numerous times, you can try the different tequilas they have on display, many you’ve never seen, very reminiscent of Cabo Wabo. It’s tight quarters, just what you’d expect with a place this good, come with portions sizes fit for a King. Count me in as a fan of their Mexico City Corn on the Cob and Taco Salad with tortilla chips, lettuce, Pico de Gallo, cheese, guacamole, sour cream and southwest-ranch. A little bite but so, so good! They also have amazing Street Tacos and Pulled Pork Burritos. Come for a Dos Equis or Corona and hang out! If you wait till summer, you can experience their big outdoor patio. Fun fact; they also cater.
Stillwater’s historic Grand Garage was built in 1882 and later renovated in 1924. The beautiful, historic building ushers you into downtown Stillwater. Diagonally from the Stillwater Trolley Co. and Tin Bins, and a few feet from Stillwater’s Historic Staircase. It was originally The Chicago House, then occupied by Stillwater Motor Company and converted to its current use in 1970. A vintage gas pump greets you are the at the main entrance, inside you will find two stories filled with a variety of antiques and architectural pieces from all over the Midwest. Lion’s Main, a restaurant and lounge along with Cook’s of Crocus Hill, and a number of different shops, restaurants, and even a salon, call the Grand Garage home.
If you have ever walked Main Street in downtown Stillwater, especially at night, you know Whitey’s. Great beer selection and cocktails in a casual atmosphere, absolutely. A total dive bar if there ever was one, Whitey’s Bar comes with standard pub flair and friendly Bartenders but the real secret is that they have a bigger menu than what you’d expect from a typical watering hole. Stop in for the burgers and tots, sure, but everyone goes there to get the pulled pork and slow cooked roast beef sandwiches. Other favorites are walleye fingers, mac and cheese, and their meatloaf.