Category Archives: LoTo weekend

Saint Paul stuff Dec. 3-6

My first visit inside the Minnesota Wild offices building off Rice Park (near the Herb Brooks statue) was to stuff all-you-can-eat finger food from various fine St. Paul restaurants into my beautiful mouth. Apologies, because the name escaped me, but the event gave me an excuse to try out my freshly-tailored Jack Victor, which was nicely slimmed by Tom’s Tailors on Grand (Bonus Fact: Tom actually has a second, less lucrative location in Woodbury “All my business (is) here” he says).

After dropping a napkin on the floor, made buddy Fred pick it up for me because of the nice fit to the pants. Perfect. Well done, Tom. Here’s a festive pic I took from a lobby chair, after eating several delicacies from the likes of Twisted Fork, Salut and Burrito Mercado among others:

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Thursday was hockey night. Snagging the Wild tickets required exposing myself to the elements. First, the car dig-out process after Wednesday’s heavy snow, then, the perilous drive to Highland Park to meet a Craigslist seller. It was 2 p.m., yet Snelling Avenue over 94 maintains a rush-hour worthy level of chaos. Game was fun. We beat the Blackhawks, and the tickets ($92 face, paid $90, oh well) were worth it.

As a wise friend (who is writing a book for his philosophy doctorate at Columbia) once said: "I'm here to watch (insert sport or live event), why would I want other people between me and (said sport)?"

As a wise friend (who is writing a book for his philosophy doctorate at Columbia) once said: “I’m here to watch (insert sport or live event), why would I want other people between me and (said sport)?”

Later on, Artists’ Quarter and Mickey’s for some repulsive (if you haven’t had several drinks) greasy spoon. Swinging into the Artists’ Quarter was quite a treat. If you haven’t heard, the venerable jazz club is set to close Jan. 1. I’ve been in there Wednesday nights where I was maybe one of four people in the audience. Thursday was a bit more busy, and the trio played a mix of Thelonious Monk and originals. What I love about the place: It’s underground. Visitors walk down a flight of stairs, which makes an immediate impression. The door guy has a huge Santa beard. It’s only $5 (most nights). It’s someplace to hunker down on cold nights and drink brown stuff. More than a few Thursday had such drink. I drank beer because of a 5 a.m. shift the next morning.

Hit a few more spots Friday. Ward 6 celebrated its one-year anniversary this week. Had something called Cicero stew, which is chickpeas, broccoli and potatoes in a tomato-based stew served on basmati rice. Another Bonus Fact: My pops grew up a neighborhood away from Cicero, which is a first-ring suburb of Chicago (At least it was a “suburb” when he was growing up). Ward 6 also has Surly Abrasive on tap at the moment. I usually splurge on the overpriced four-packs at least three or four times a winter, since the stuff is so exceptional. It’s like Furious, yet somehow more intensely bitter with an even more cerebral malt after-bite for balance (how do they do it?). Anyway, Ward 6 was moderately packed, with tables occupied, but not packed as in people standing around at the bar.

Louie at Cossetta was decidedly not packed, but there are people who go there Friday night and keep the bar open until around 11, it appears. A bright-eyed, eager-to-please head bartender type was making our cocktails like he invented the list (I think he did). They were good. One was called apple chider, or something close, and was very good and worth trying. I think the owner is trying to build a respectable craft cocktail list like Minneapolis spots such as Eat Street Social or Marvel Bar by putting one ace bartender in charge of them. Ward 6, actually, has its own new-school cocktail list, with Manhattans and other creative drinks for $6 to $8, like an East Side-priced version of those aforementioned MPLS bars.

Last stop was Hot Pants East (the other Hot Pants rendition is at Nomad on the West Bank) at Amsterdam. I love the music and theme, and I really want the Dam to do good, but it’s yet to catch on, like most shows and events I attend at the place. Around 11:30, there were maybe 10 to 15 brave (drunk? naive?) college-aged hipsters limply swaying to soul and funk tunes. The DJs play 45s all night, and they know their stuff and play choice cuts. I had to get out of there before 1. Here’s my formidable Christmas tree:

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LoTo Weeknd 3/17

Hola amigos, it’s been a while since I last hollered at you. I’m spelling “weekend” like that for now on because it’s cool. Search it if you want. On the verge of the year’s first thunderstorm here in Lowertown. The sky is lighting up as I strike these keys. Soon, the refuse of the Rossmor parking lot will be blowing through the streets (it’s windy too).

15 minutes before first T-storm of the season

Some Lowertown updates: The pawn shop on Ninth and Robert Streets, American Pawn Shop, has shuttered its doors. Just walked by it an hour ago and noticed *everything* cleared out of there. It was empty. Must have moved out Sunday after St. Patrick’s Day. Never went in there. Don’t think they advertised or even had a website. Could only find an unclaimed Yelp page.

Speaking of St. Patrick’s Day, I told myself I wouldn’t do it, but curiosity got the best of me and I walked down to Eagle Street Grill to try and get a beer. Well I couldn’t get a beer, and what did I actually expect? Too late did I figure this out, but duh, the neighborhood crowds are in the neighborhoods. Every hockey hooligan from the five-state area was going to be downtown because why venture to Snelling Avenue or even just up the hill? The mob at Eagle Street was soul-less, scowling, intimidating and brimming with drunken violence – and the staff was equally surly and unfriendly because it had to be.

More fun was Black Sheep Pizza beforehand. My college roommate and his fiancee came down on the 3 bus from their Como apartment and we got some pizza. We snatched some bar seats shortly after the parade let out, and as we went through our pizza and beers  (try the Lift Bridge Irish Coffee Stout, to me a less intense Surly Bender), we became slowly surrounded by parade-goers looking for a pint. Soon, the manager was in the weeds (restaurant industry slang for being so busy you aren’t able to distinguish what is the most pressing task at hand). About 15 minutes later, the husband-wife owner team shows up. Colleen began tending bar and her husband (didn’t catch his name, is it Jordan?) was making pizzas on the cook line. That’s some locally owned dedication I can get behind. We weren’t charged for our four beers because “they came out too slow.” I tipped to make up for it.

My happy place

OK, around 8:15 on Monday night here. I need some rain to cool things off. Early spring allergies combined with a Rossmor HVAC that hasn’t yet switched to AC made me slightly miserable over this past weekend. Sitting here in my boxers, sweating it out. And it’s March. In Minnesota.

LoTo weekend 2/4/12

The firetrucks and cap guns made a racket Saturday night for the Winter Carnival’s Torchlight parade. My neighbor Denis and I observed participants lining up at the starting point near Black Dog Cafe. I was going to have a coffee with Denis, but couldn’t pass up a happy hour $3 Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, the best price I’ve seen for the beer anywhere in the Twin Cities. I think Black Dog’s happy hour is 4-7 every day of the week and includes Summit EPA and discounted wine as well.

Friday night was spent at Faces, Bin Wine Bar and eventually back home at Black Sheep Pizza (don’t even think about trying to oust me as Black Sheep Foursquare mayor). Something’s to be said about the Black Sheep salads. The spinach is always pillowy, the dressings sharp and tangy. Whatever salad I’ve ordered there always seem to complement the pizza nicely. Service is friendly enough where you can ask them what salads might go best with what pizzas. The management is also big into allowing beer drinkers to sample guest taps. Don’t be shy, you can try one or two before making a decision, as long as you buy a pint. No matter how fine the keg, all taps are $5 normally and $3 at happy hour. I was drinking $3 Surly Darkness last fall while beer geeks were dropping $37 for a 750ml bottle at Surdyk’s.

Let me ramble about Black Sheep a tad more. It’s the place to grab a pint right now in LoTo. Immediate service, friendly faces and a minimalist, non-judgmental ambiance gravitates me there over some other more-discovered by the suburbs establishments.

A note about Bin on Friday: Sounds like owner Rebecca Illingworth’s planned Chilango Cantina isn’t happening anytime soon. An employee said Illingworth’s around town these days (she also keeps a house in Chicago, I believe), but didn’t mention whether she’s still working to open the cantina. It was supposed to have cheap beer and cheap tacos. The alt-Barrio?

One more thing, what’s the St. Paul equivalent of ordering a half pint of cider in a Glaswegian bar? I immediately thought of asking for a Zima at Gopher Bar, an action that, as my friend Michael observed so astutely, would likely get a man killed.