The next stop of my #MNGFO2017 adventure was Anton’s. A family-owned steakhouse in Waite Park that is a cross between a riverfront log cabin and a full service speakeasy. Which totally makes sense given that it is right off Sauk River and was an actual speakeasy during Prohibition.

Built in the 1920’s by Cy Brick, “Bricky’s” as it was then called, became famous for their patrons, the  “Minnesota 13” bootleggers. Let me just pause and say, if you don’t know the Stearns County area history, you may be unfamiliar with the infamous Minnesota 13, the corn liquor moonshine distilled on many central Minnesota Stearns County farms. Do yourself a favor, read about it. Absolutely worth looking into. While ownership changed, it wasn’t until 1973 when Anton (Tony) Gaetz and his wife Lorraine took over and it gained its current moniker. 

Known for their colossal popovers which are served with their honey-butter, they are also beloved for their seafood and award-winning barbeque ribs. Not to mention the huge Scotch selection. Kitschy, time-stamped decor, homey fireplaces, booths resembling covered wagons, rustic up-north views covered with grass, baby ducks and fluffy geese… The whole place is worth stopping in.

Pictured: Chicken Almond Stuffed Popover Salad and the Raspberry Salad

#MNGFO2017 #VisitSaintCloud  #OnlyinMN

Quarry Park and Nature Preserve 

One of the best parts about the Governor’s Fishing Opener is seeing the hidden gems of the host community. The first of many for the St. Cloud area is the Quarry Park and Nature Preserve in Waite Park. The granite quarries opened over 100 years ago, seeking out the Saint Cloud Red Granite, a stone you can still see in the architecture of the Landmark Center and the James J. Hill House in St. Paul. Quarrying operations in the park ceased in the mid-1950’s. The park for decades was known in St. Cloud as an unregulated party spot called Hundred Acres Quarry. In 1992, Stearns County purchased this site from Cold Spring Granite Company and became the largest in the Stearns County Parks system. The park opened on January 1, 1998. It is open year-round with so much to do and places to explore! Granite reflecting pools, two swimming quarries, scientific and natural areas, mountain bike paths over billion-year-old bedrock, trout fishing, picnic areas, hiking trails, geocaching, a really cool derrick exhibit, rock climbing, cliff jumping (crazy-popular), three designated quarries for scuba diving (In central Minnesota… right?!), scenic overlooks, cross country ski trails, snowshoeing – and thats not even all! I took the guided tour, seeing the crystal clear, cold water while I pored over my copy of ”Quarry Quest, the History of Stearns County Quarry Park and Nature Preserve” written by a quarry-obsessed, retired Stearns County Commissioner named Mark Sakry, soaking up the granite quarrying history, politics, plant and bird lists, old articles and personal stories. I highly recommend making your way to the park and learning a bit of its history. What a stunning place!

#MNGFO2017 #VisitSaintCloud  #OnlyinMN

La Casita 

I have to say, I really love La Casita Mexican Restaurant. With locations in Columbia Heights, Roseville, Coon Rapids and Waite Park – I’ve heard it called the best Mexican restaurant in the Twin Cities, so I’m not alone in my conclusion. Casual with no wait, open and airy, festive atmosphere, bold colors, fun waitstaff and incredible food – yep, right up my alley! La Casita has been part of a lot of people’s histories as they have been coming to this Cantina-style place since they were kids. I only recently found them and fell fast. I could say that it’s the happy-hour salsa bar, or the grande prickly pear margaritas that are about the size of me – both true – but it’s actually because I really, really love their food. Baja tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, chimichanga, carnitas,… and don’t even get me started on the deep fried ice cream! Huge portions and a free dinner on your birthday?! Sign me up!  Do you have a  favorite Mexican restaurant?

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?!