The best birthday freebies in the Twin Cities

Most of these freebies were verified as of July 2020 and some businesses were updated due to COVID-19 restrictions.

If you know of others deals not listed, please let me know. Connect with me with the form at the bottom of this page.

From a bottle of wine worth your age to free car washes, I rounded up the best freebies you can snag on your birthday. Check out my segment on KSTP-TV’s Twin Cities Live.


The 5 best deals

1. Free bottle of wine worth your age at Tria Restaurant

  • Located in North Oaks
  • Required to purchase two entrees
  • Must go during your birthday week (3 days before until 3 days after)
  • UPDATED, July 2020: You can select one of three wines (red, white, or sparkling), which will be personalized or you can also choose a wine worth your age from their birthday list
  • Make sure to fill out this voucher in advance
  • In addition to wine, you also receive a complimentary chomeur pudding dessert

2. $25 towards dinner at Lindey’s Prime Steak House

3. Free concert tickets (most performances canceled due to COVID-19)

  • Even if a show is sold out, you and a friend will get in to a show at the First Avenue Mainroom or 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis for free on your birthday
  • Not only do you get in for free, you will get a bottle of bubbly or a drink ticket
  • This deal also applies to First Avenue’s other venues, the Fine Line in Minneapolis and Turf Club in Saint Paul
  • Don’t forget your ID

4. Free comedy show tickets

  • At ACME Comedy Company in Minneapolis
  • UPDATED, July 2020: You and three guests can select to attend one 8:00 pm show on Wednesday or Thursday or a 10:30 pm show on Friday or Saturday for free the month of your birthday
  • You must submit your request online no later than 3 p.m. the day prior you would like to attend

5. $10 to IKEA

IKEA Family

  • Minnesota location in Bloomington
  • You must be a member of the IKEA Family program
  • The IKEA website says you receive a “surprise on your birthday” that is valid during your birthday month; I can confirm that it’s $10 to IKEA (with no minimum purchase required) along with a free meatball dinner at their restaurant (it used to be $15, but as of March 2020, I’m told it’s $10)
  • Note: I have a July birthday and did not receive this gift in 2020

IKEA Family certificate
Click here to learn more about this amazing freebie


Casinos

Up to $1,000 in slot play at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel (working to verify deal)

  • Located in Prior Lake
  • Must register to be a Club M member and visit guest services the month of your birthday
  • You’ll spin a virtual wheel to win prizes, including free bingo, blackjack play, or up to $1,000 in slot play

Up to $1,000 in slot play and a free buffet at Treasure Island Resort and Casino

  • Located in Welch (near Red Wing)
  • Must register to be a Island Passport Club member and visit a kiosk the month of your birthday
  • You can win up to $1,000 in free slot play
  • You will also receive a dining credit and $20 off bingo with the purchase of a special pack
  • Thanks to Aaron Moy for the tip!

Up to $50 in Grand Play at Grand Casino

  • Note: their freebie has changed since the video above originally aired
  • On any day during the month of your birthday, head to Grand Casino Mille Lacs or Grand Casino Hinckley
  • Swipe your card for a chance at $5 to 50 in Grand Play or a sweet treat

Entertainment

Free mini golf at Can Can Wonderland (temporarily closed due to COVID-19, working to verify deal)

  • Can Can Wonderland is right off Pierce Butler Route in Saint Paul
  • On a Thursday during your birthday month, bring at least 3 friends to play mini golf and you will play for free
  • You will also receive a birthday drink of your choice
  • If you would rather play in the arcade, the birthday person can choose to receive 2 hours of unlimited arcade play along with a birthday drink instead
  • Note that only the birthday person receives the freebie, all others must pay

Cash rewards (you pick the meal)

$25 to The Local Minneapolis, The Local West End, Kieran’s Irish Pub, or The Liffey (temporarily closed due to COVID-19, working to verify deal)

  • You must sign up for Cara Irish Pubs’ Pub Club at one of the above locations. They say you can reverse register online but I got an error when I tried to do so
  • You will have to register your card once you have it
  • You receive a free appetizer upon activating your card
  • Accounts with no activity for 24 months are automatically deactivated
  • Thanks to Jessica Jensen for the tip!

Free entree at Houlihan’s

  • Participating locations in Chanhassen, Eagan and Richfield
  • You must be a member of the Houlihan’s email program
  • You also get a $10 credit when signing up

Free entree or dessert from La Casita

  • Locations in Columbia Heights, Coon Rapids, Roseville and Waite Park
  • At the Columbia Heights location, you get a free entree if another food item of equal or lesser value is purchased
  • However, the deal may vary by location. Joe Collova tipped me off that at the Roseville location, you only get a free dessert
  • It must be redeemed on your actual entree and an ID is required
  • Thanks to Kimberly McKay for the tip!

A free meal at HopCat (temporarily closed due to COVID-19)

  • Minnesota location in Minneapolis
  • You must be a member of their HopCat Rewards program (phone app)
  • You are emailed a free birthday meal on your birthday
  • That certificate is good for 30 days
  • Once you join the program, you also receive a free appetizer. That is good for 14 days after signing up
  • If you know someone who has a membership, have them refer you. They will receive points which can be redeemed for free food

FullSizeRender (4)

Also on Give Me the Mike:
A review of HopCat, the Nicollet Mall bar with 80 beers on tap

Free entree from Acapulco Restaurante Mexicano

  • Locations in Andover, Blaine, Ham Lake, Maplewood, New Brighton, Ramsey, Stillwater and Woodbury
  • You must sign up for their VIP Email Club
  • Heads up: the electronic coupon only good for 10 days from the day they send the email. My birthday is July 1st and coupon was sent and marked June 27th, meaning I only had until July 7th to redeem it.
  • You also get a free order of queso when signing up (coupon is only good for a week)

Free entree at Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill & Bar

  • Minnesota locations in Plymouth, Waite Park, Baxter, Mankato, Willmar
  • You must sign up for their E-Club at least 10 days before your birthday
  • You also must be 21 to be a part of the E-Club
  • You also receive a free appetizer for joining for the Club

A free Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s

A free Magnificent Seven breakfast at Perkins


Burgers & steak

A free burger at Red Cow (working to verify deal)

  • Three locations in Minneapolis and one in Saint Paul
  • You must be a member of Red Cow’s eClub and you will receive an e-coupon for their Ultimate Burger for your birthday
  • If you don’t want the Ultimate Burger, the coupon can be used for a discount of equal or lesser value
  • The coupon expires 3 weeks from the date it was sent. Mine was sent 4 days before my actual birthday
  • You also get a free order of cheese curds when signing up (coupon is good for three weeks from sign up date)

A free burger at Red Robin

  • Locations in Shoreview, Bloomington, Plymouth and Apple Valley
  • You must be a member of the Red Robin Royalty program
  • Credit is loaded onto your account the first day of the month of your birthday

A free Juicy Lucy at Crooked Pint Ale House (working to verify deal)

  • Minnesota locations in Apple Valley, Chaska, Duluth, Fairbault, Maplewood, Minneapolis, Rochester, and Waite Park
  • You must be a member of their Crooked Rewards program
  • You receive a free Juicy Lucy of your choice for your birthday

Free filet mignon dinner at Cherokee Tavern (temporarily closed due to COVID-19, working to verify deal)

  • Located in West Saint Paul
  • Head there on Thursday night during the week of your birthday
  • You must show proof of your birthday with a valid ID at the hostess stand
  • Someone at your table must order an entree of $15 or more
  • Thanks to Emily DeCorsey for the tip!

Sandwiches

A free half hoagie and beverage at Hogan Brothers

A free sandwich and beverage at Jersey Mike’s

  • You must be a member of their Email Club
  • On your birthday, you will receive a coupon for a regular sub sandwich
  • The coupon is good for one year
  • You must confirm your subscription to the Email Club at least 24 hours before the birthdate you provide, otherwise you won’t receive a coupon

A free sandwich at Which Wich

  • Minnesota location in Saint Louis Park
  • You must be a Vibe Club Rewards member
  • You need to sign up for the Vibe Club at least 30 days before your birthday
  • You will also receive a free drink for joining
  • You may not receive a certificate if you haven’t purchased anything using your Rewards account in the last year

A free sandwich at Firehouse Subs

  • You must sign up for the Firehouse Rewards program before or on your birthday
  • You will receive a coupon for a free medium sub, which expires 6 days after your birthday
  • Parents are able to sign their kids up to receive a free sub as well
  • Thanks to Richard Harris & Danielle Rabe for the tip!

Pizza

Free deep dish pizza from Green Mill

  • 16 Minnesota locations
  • You must be a member of the Green Mill Rewards Club
  • You receive a certificate for a small one-topping deep dish pizza

Free pizza from Park Tavern

  • Located in Saint Louis Park
  • You must be a member of their EClub
  • You will receive an e-coupon good for a 12″ pizza with up to 3 ingredients. That coupon expires two weeks after it was sent. Mine was sent and marked June 27th, although my birthday is July 1st
  • You also receive $5 off your next meal when you sign up. That certificate expires 1 month after registering

A pizza worth up to $17 from Old Chicago

  • Locations in Roseville, Eden Prairie, Apple Valley, Saint Cloud and Duluth
  • You must sign up for their OC Rewards program at a restaurant or online
  • You must visit an Old Chicago once in the 12 months prior to your birthday in order for the credit to upload to your account
  • The credit is added to your account 7 days prior to your birthday and stays on up to 10 days after your birthday. For my July 1st birthday, my certificate arrived June 24th and expired on July 9th
  • Any unused credit does not apply towards future purchases

Beer and wine

Four hours of free beer at Skinner’s Pub

Three hours of free drinks at Wild Bill’s Sports Saloon (confirmed: deal temporarily suspended due to COVID-19)

  • Minnesota locations in Apple Valley, Blaine, Rochester and Woodbury
  • On the Friday of your birthday week, grab three friends
  • You get free drinks from 9 p.m. – 1 a.m.
  • You also get a free mason jar, birthday shot, and birthday toast at midnight

A free glass of wine at Red Rabbit

  • Locations in Minneapolis and Saint Paul
  • You must be a member of the Red Rabbit eClub
  • You will receive an e-coupon good for a glass of wine, not to exceed $15
  • The coupon expires 3 weeks from the date it was sent. Mine was sent 4 days before my actual birthday
  • You also get a free New World Margherita Pizza when signing up (coupon is good for three weeks from sign up date)

Desserts and snacks

A free cannoli at Mario’s Italian Kitchen

  • Located in Watertown
  • You can also get a free drink instead, but why do that when you can get a cannoli

Free dessert at 6SMITH

  • Located in Wayzata
  • Free piece of chocolate cake with your meal
  • Bonus: let them know in advance you’re celebrating a birthday and they will decorate the table and give you a birthday card that contains $15 off your next visit!

Free dessert and $15 gift card at Baldamar

  • Located in Roseville
  • If you make an advance reservation and let staff know you’re celebrating a birthday, they will decorate the table and treat the birthday person with a complimentary dessert and a $15 gift card to use on a future visit
  • Thanks to Donovan for the tip!

Free dessert at Buca di Beppo

  • Locations in Burnsville, Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, Minneapolis and Saint Paul
  • Sign up for their E-Club and you will receive an email for a free Colossal Brownie dessert on your birthday. The Colossal Brownie voucher is only valid if you dine-in (no to-go orders)
  • Email comes to your inbox a few days before your birthday and expires at the end of your birthday month
  • You will also get $20 off a purchase of $40 or more. Discount can be used on online orders

Free chocolate at GODIVA

  • You must be a member of the GODIVA Rewards Club
  • According to their website, birthday offers vary from month to month

A free bundtlet at Nothing Bundt Cakes

  • Minnesota locations in Blaine, Eagan, Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, Minnetonka, Rochester, St. Paul and Woodbury
  • You must be a member of their EClub

A free cupcake at Lunds & Byerlys (working to verify deal)

  • 27 Minnesota locations
  • Sign up for their Extras program
  • You will receive an email for a free cupcake that is to be redeemed within two weeks of your birthday
  • Thanks Michelle Koerth for the tip!

Free (s’mores dessert pizza) at Red’s Savoy Pizza (working to verify deal)

  • 18 Minnesota locations
  • You must be a member of their Thank You Rewards program
  • A credit (for what I’m being told is a s’mores dessert pizza) will be added to your card a week prior to your birthday
  • The deal expires 14 days after it is added to your card
  • Thanks Richard Harris for the tip!

A free cupcake at Nadia Cakes

  • Minnesota locations in Maple Grove and Woodbury
  • You must sign up for their mailing list

A free pastry, croissant, muffin, scone, sweet roll or cookie at Panera Bread (working to verify deal)

A free pretzel at Auntie Anne’s

  • You must sign up for their My Pretzel Perks program
  • You will have 14 days to redeem your reward once it’s loaded on your account

A free bagel with cream cheese at Bruegger’s Bagels

  • 33 Minnesota locations
  • You must be a member of their Inner Circle program
  • You will have 14 days to redeem your reward once it’s loaded on your account
  • You also receive a free bagel with cream cheese for signing up

Coffee and other non-alcoholic drinks

A free beverage (of any size) at Caribou Coffee

  • You must be a Caribou Perks member
  • The perk can be used on any beverage
  • You have 7 days from your birthday to redeem

A free beverage or food item at Starbucks

  • You must a Starbucks Rewards member
  • You need to sign up for Starbucks Rewards at least 7 days before your birthday
  • The credit can be used for a handcrafted beverage, a food item or a ready-to-drink bottled beverage
  • You need to make one other transaction using your Rewards account prior to your birthday each year to receive the credit
  • The credit usually appears on your account 1 to 3 days before your birthday

$5 at Dunn Brothers Coffee

Free smoothie at Jamba Juice

  • Minnesota locations in Bloomington, Detroit Lakes, Edina, Mankato, Maple Grove, Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Woodbury
  • You must be a member of the My Jamba Rewards program AND have spent $15 on your account

Discounts on meals

$10 off your dinner at Sunshine Factory Bar & Grill

Free appetizer or side of ribs at Texas Roadhouse (deal not currently offered due to COVID-19)

  • Locations in Coon Rapids and Saint Cloud
  • You must sign up for their email or text list
  • You also get a free appetizer (cactus blossom, fried pickles, tater skins, cheese fries or rattlesnake bites) when signing up
  • UPDATED, July 2020: For my birthday this year, they sent me an email with no free food. The email states:

“Happy Birthday! We look forward to celebrating with you in person. While some of our dining rooms are temporarily closed, you can still enjoy Texas Roadhouse TO-GO with Curbside pickup! And once the majority of our dining rooms are open, we’ll be sure to send you a birthday gift.”

Free dessert with the purchase of an entree at TGI Fridays

  • Locations in Saint Louis Park, Bloomington, Maplewood, Maple Grove, Burnsville and Coon Rapids
  • You must be a member of the Friday Rewards program
  • You also get a free appetizer or dessert when signing up

$15 or $20 at Wildfire

  • Minnesota location in Eden Prairie
  • You must become a member of their Frequent Diner Rewards program
  • According to their website, you must have point accrural in the past 12 months
  • The credit is added the first day of the month of your birthday
  • Blue and silver level members get $15 off their meal; gold level members get $20 off their meal
  • To be a silver level member, you must spend at least $1,000 a year; gold members must spend $2,500
  • Birthday rewards expire 90 days from the first day of your birthday month

$30 at Benihana

  • Locations in Bloomington, Maple Grove and Golden Valley
  • You must join The Chef’s Table email list
  • You receive a $30 credit when an adult teppanyaki entree is purchased. Honestly, it’s a bit tricky. I would read their elaborate FAQ before you use it
  • The credit can only be used for dine-in dinner Mondays – Thursdays
  • The credit is valid 29 days from the date it was issued
  • You MUST print the certificate — it cannot be shown on a phone

$10 off your meal at Timberlodge Steakhouse

  • The chain restaurant collapsed: the only Minnesota location left is in Owatonna
  • Be weary here: I asked the location to verify this deal; they did not respond to my request

Shopping birthday deals

Free car washes at Paradise Car Wash (working to verify deal)

  • Locations in Apple Valley, Eagan, Bloomington, Savage, Woodbury and Maple Grove
  • Go on your birthday and be ready to show an ID

$15 at Finish Line

$5 to Arc’s Value Village

  • Available only at locations in Richfield, New Hope and Bloomington
  • You must be a member of their Village Rewards program

Discount on Botox at Uptown Dermatology & SkinSpa

  • Located in Minneapolis
  • They take $1 off of every year of your age on Botox
  • Get $50 off if you’re 50, $65 off if you’re 65, $75 off if you’re 75

Want to celebrate your half birthday?

HALF birthday deal at Stanley’s Northeast, The Howe, The Block, Al’s Place, Pub 819, and The Bar Draft House

  • You must sign up for the Craft & Crew Hospitality Loyalty program
  • You will receive an email for $13 off an entree, valid dine in only
  • Certificate expires 5 days following your half birthday

Know a birthday freebie not listed? Tell me!

Twin Cities Restaurant Room Rental Guide

Sponsored content
Some restaurants listed below advertised with Give Me the Mike to be highlighted in this guide. 

It’s a question I get frequently: ‘Please recommend a restaurant where you can rent a private room. I’m planning a birthday party for a friend.’

I get it. It sure beats out inviting randoms into your house — and then having to clean up after them.

After a while, I thought, ‘Heck, there must be an extensive guide out there listing all these restaurants.’  Well, there are a couple. One, from 2016, is extremely out of date. Many of the restaurants listed have closed. Another one I found is good, but it’s limited.

Wedding planners have their own rental guides, but you don’t need to rent out a 300-person reception hall for your cousin Janet’s 50th birthday. So, I did my research and created this guide.

Happy planning! And if you know of a restaurant not listed, let me know! Reach out to me by filling out this form.

Minneapolis

4 Bells

Seafood Platter (1).jpg
4 Bells, just on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, has incredibly fresh seafood.

1610 Harmon Place, Minneapolis 55403
(612) 904-1163, events@4bells.com
More information

Overlooking Loring Park; the sister restaurant to Butcher & the Boar
Menus can be specialized with logo and special messages
Final bill can be split amongst guests
Valet parking is available ($11, hosted for $13)
Surface pay lot available next door

Venue: Quarters

Quarters Park
There is lots of natural light in the Quarters Dining Room at 4 Bells in Minneapolis.

Private
Capacity (seated): 24
Capacity (cocktail): Not available
Includes access to smart TV
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $1,000

Venue: Roof Top Atrium

4 Bells Roof top.jpg
Roof Top Atrium at 4 Bells.

Private or semi-private
Capacity (seated): 100
Capacity (cocktail): 130
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, access to smart TV, private bar, private restrooms, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies depending on night and time of year (ranges from $1,500-9,500)
Additional experiences: includes indoor and outdoor spaces for guests

Venue: Parkside Room, Lounge Room & Hickory Room

4 Bells Hickory Room
Hickory Room at 4 Bells.

Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 40 (Parkside), 30 (Lounge), 14 (Hickory)
Capacity (cocktail): 30 (Lounge)
Handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $750-2,500

508 Bar + Restaurant

508 lower level 2
508 Bar + Restaurant is just one block north of Target Center.

508 North First Avenue, Minneapolis 55403
(612) 339-0036, events@the508mpls.com

Close to Target Center and Target Field
Final bill can be split amongst guests

Venue: Lower Level

508 lower level
The Lower Level at 508 Bar + Restaurant has no rental fee and no food and beverage minimum.

Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 150
Capacity (cocktail): 347
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in music, access to projector, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $0

Venue: Pool Room

508 pool room
The Pool Room is located downstairs at 508 Bar + Restaurant.

Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 40
Capacity (cocktail): 60
Includes access to projector, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $0

Butcher & the Boar

Butcher & the Boar.jpg
The Beer Garden at Butcher & the Boar in Minneapolis.

1121 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis 55403
(612) 338-8888, events@butcherandtheboar.com
More information

Just a couple blocks from Minneapolis’ Theater District
Menus can be specialized with logo and special messages
Final bill can be split amongst guests
Valet parking is available ($11, hosted for $13)

Venue: Boar Room

Boar Room table & bar.jpg
The Boar Room in the basement of Butcher & the Boar in Minneapolis.

Private
Capacity (seated): 32
Capacity (cocktail): 40
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, access to smart TV, private restrooms, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $1,500

Venue: Butcher Room
Private
Capacity (seated): 18
Capacity (cocktail): not applicable
Includes access to microphone, access to smart TV, private restrooms, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $1,000

Venue: Beer Garden
Private and semi-private options available
Capacity (seated): 80
Capacity (cocktail): 100
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, access to smart TV, private bar, private restrooms, private entrance, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies depending on night and time of year (ranges from $2,500-9,500)

Cafe and Bar Lurcat

Cafe and Bar Lurcat, overlooking Loring Park in Minneapolis.

1624 Harmon Place, Minneapolis 55403
(612) 486-5500, lurcat@damico.com
More information

Menus can be specialized with logo and special messages
Valet parking is available ($13 if hosted, $11 cash)

Venue: Private Dining Room

The Private Dining Room at Lurcat.

Private
Capacity (seated): 55
Capacity (cocktail): 70
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, ability to rent private bar with additional charge, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $1,500 Sunday to Thursday evenings, $6,000 Friday and Saturday evenings — all exclude tax and service charges
Additional experiences: Bose Sound Tower/microphone available for rental; includes access to back patio from June 1st to October 1st for cocktail hour; offers large windows overlooking Loring Park

Venue: Lofted Bar Mezzanine

The semi-private Lofted Mezzanine at Lurcat provides a more intimate setting.

Semi-Private
Capacity (seated): 30
Capacity (cocktail): 30
Includes access to private restrooms
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $500 Sunday to Thursday, $1,000 Friday and Saturday — all exclude tax and service charges
Additional experiences: offers great views of the main bar floor; area for cocktail reception within the space

Venue: Bar Buyout

Planning a big party? Turn Lurcat’s bar into a dance floor!

Private
Capacity (seated): 150-180
Capacity (cocktail): 225
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, private bar, private restrooms, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $500 Monday to Thursday, $2,000 Friday and Saturday, $500 Sunday
Food and beverage minimum: $10,000 Monday, $12,000 Tuesday and Wednesday, $15,000 Thursday, $20,000 Friday and Saturday, $12,000 Sunday — all exclude tax and service charges
Additional experiences: part of the restaurant can turn into a dance floor with room for a band

Erte’ & the Peacock Lounge

323 13th Avenue NE, Minneapolis 55413
More information

Venue: Chef’s Table Private Dining Room
Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 20
Capacity (cocktail): not available
Handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $25 per person, minimum of 12 people

Venue: Erte’ Main Dining Room
Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 100
Capacity (cocktail): not available
Includes access to plug in own music, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies depending on night and time of year

Venue: The Peacock Lounge
Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 54
Capacity (cocktail): not applicable
Includes access to plug in own music, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies depending on night and time of year

FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar

PDR(1).jpg
FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar inside the Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown.

31 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis 55402
(612) 216-3473
More information

Located inside the Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown

Venue: Private Dining Room

PDR(2)
Private Dining Room at FireLake.

Private
Capacity (seated): 40
Capacity (cocktail): 60
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $600-2,000

Venue: Half Private Dining Room
Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 20
Capacity (cocktail): 25
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $300-1,000

Venue: Board Room

Boardroom
Board Room at FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar in the Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown.

Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 14
Capacity (cocktail): not available
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $200-700

The Freehouse

Freehouse Beer.jpg
Guests at the The Freehouse can go on their own on-site brewery tour.

701 North Washington Avenue, Minneapolis 55401
(612) 339-7011, michelle.dimuzio@blueplateco.com
More information

Part of the Blue Plate Restaurant Company
Menus can be specialized with logo and special messages
Final bill can be invoiced or split amongst guests
Adjacent pay ramp available (Nordic Parking Ramp)
Valet parking is available ($7)

Venue: Volstead Lounge

Volstead Lounge 3.jpg
Volstead Lounge at The Freehouse.

Private, curtains can be drawn closed
Capacity (seated): 50
Capacity (cocktail): 75
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, access to projector and screen, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies depending on night
Additional experiences: go on an on-site brewery tour or add a beer tasting or cocktail class for your group! The Volstead Lounge also offers beer and wine paired dinners.

Venue: Back Bar Area

Freehouse 3.jpg
The Freehouse in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 25
Capacity (cocktail): 40-50
Handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $250 per hour

Gluek’s Bar & Restaurant

_DSC3909.jpg
Gluek’s Bar and Restaurant is in the heart of downtown Minneapolis.

16 North Sixth Street, Minneapolis 55403
(612) 338-6621, party@glueks.com
More information

Menus can be specialized with logo and special messages
Final bill can be invoiced or split amongst guests

Venue: Banquet Room

_DSC3912.jpg
The Banquet Room at Gluek’s has no rental fee.

Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 60
Capacity (cocktail): 60+
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, access to smart TV, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies depending on night
Additional experiences: includes access to Beer Garden  

Hell’s Kitchen

hells kitchen.jpg
Hell’s Kitchen is centrally located downtown Minneapolis, within walking distance to downtown hotels, U.S. Bank Stadium, Target Center and the Convention Center.

80 South Ninth Street, Minneapolis 55402
(612) 238-1427, events@hellskitcheninc.com 
More information

Venue: Hell’s Kitchen Underground Room

Underground 2up_
The Underground Room at Hell’s Kitchen comes with a full stage, a 12-foot projector screen, and no rental fee.

Private or semi-private
Capacity (seated): 160
Capacity (cocktail): 325
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies
Additional experiences: full stage; 12 foot projector screen; professional sound system, unique Hell’s Kitchen photo booth offers guests fun keepsakes from their visit; attached parking ramp which goes into lobby; connected to Minneapolis skyway system

Venue: Hell’s Kitchen Minnesota Room

MNRoom 2up_
The Minnesota Room at Hell’s Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis.

Private or semi-private
Capacity (seated): 135
Capacity (cocktail): 200
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, access to smart TV, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies
Additional experiences: attached parking ramp which goes into lobby; connected to Minneapolis skyway system

Venue: Hell’s Kitchen Far Side Pub

Far Side Pub2up_
Hell’s Kitchen is connected to the Minneapolis skyway system and the restaurant has a parking ramp attached to its lobby.

Private or semi-private
Capacity (seated): 50
Capacity (cocktail): 60
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, access to smart TV, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies
Additional experiences: attached parking ramp which goes into lobby; connected to Minneapolis skyway system

Venue: Hell’s Kitchen Full Restaurant Buyout
Private
Capacity (seated): 345
Capacity (cocktail): 425
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies
Additional experiences: 2 full bars; private restrooms; 12 foot projector screen, professional sound system, unique Hell’s Kitchen photo booth offers guests fun keepsakes from their visit, attached parking ramp which goes into lobby, connected to Minneapolis skyway system

Masu Sushi & Robata

The Nomu Room Bar and Private Dining 2
Masu Sushi & Robata’s location in Northeast Minneapolis has a private room with no rental fee.

330 East Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis 55414
(612) 332-6278, info@masusushiandrobata.com

Located in the heart of Northeast Minneapolis
Menus can be specialized with logo and special messages (with two weeks notice)
Final bill can be split amongst guests

Venue: Nomu Room

The Nomu Room Private Dining.jpg
The Nomu Room at Masu Sushi & Robata in Northeast Minneapolis has its own bar and private restrooms.

Private
Capacity (seated): 40
Capacity (cocktail): 40
Includes access to plug in own music, access to smart TV, private restrooms, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $1,200

Saint Paul

DeGidio’s Restaurant & Bar

DeGidios 2.jpg
DeGidio’s is located along West 7th in Saint Paul, not far from downtown, but quite accessible for guests.

425 Seventh Street West, Saint Paul 55102
(651) 291-7105, info@degidios.com
More information

Final bill can be split amongst guests
Complimentary on-site parking available
Valet parking is available (for events and after 5:00 p.m. Friday & Saturday nights October – March)

Venue: DeGidio Event Venue

DeGidios 3
The Event Venue at DeGidio’s and seat up to 160 people and does not have a rental fee.

Private
Capacity (seated): 40 to 160
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, access to smart TV, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0 (deposit of $100 required for Sunday – Thursday nights and $500 for Friday – Saturday nights)
Food and beverage minimum: There is a $22 food minimum per adult in the DeGidio Event Venue. Beverages do no count toward the minimum. There is a $1,000 food minimum for events with less than 45 guests on Friday and Saturday evenings. There is a $750 food minimum Sunday – Thursday evenings for events with less than 35 guests. Children under 10 are half price.

Holman’s Table

Holmans Table 1
Holman’s Table is dinner and a show. Diners get a view of the tarmac of airplanes taking off at the Saint Paul Downtown Airport.

644 Bayfield Street, Saint Paul 55107
(612) 800-5298, contact@holmanstable.com
More information

View of the Holman Field tarmac
Menus can be specialized with logo and special messages
Final bill can be invoiced and split amongst guests (based on event)
Valet parking available for hire

Venue: Earhart Room
Private
Capacity (seated): 80
Capacity (cocktail): 100
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in music, access to smart TV, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $20 – 100 depending on day, time and capacity
Food and beverage minimum: $200 – 3200 depending on day, time and capacity

Venue: Airfield Room
Private
Capacity (seated): 50
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in music, access to smart TV, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $20 – 100 depending on day, time and capacity
Food and beverage minimum: $200 – 3200 depending on day, time and capacity

Venue: River Room
Private
Capacity (seated): 30
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in music, access to smart TV, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $20 – 100 depending on day, time and capacity
Food and beverage minimum: $200 – 3200 depending on day, time and capacity

Venue: Boardroom
Private
Capacity (seated): 12
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in music, access to smart TV, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $20 – 100 depending on day, time and capacity
Food and beverage minimum: $200 – 3200 depending on day, time and capacity

Bloomington

FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar

FireLake Private Dining Room 2.jpg
FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar inside Radisson Blu Mall of America.

2100 Killebrew Drive, Bloomington 55425
(952) 851-4040, reservationsmoa@firelakerestaurant.com

Inside the Radisson Blu Mall of America; connected to the Mall by skyway
Menus can be specialized with logo and special messages
Final bill can be split amongst guests up to 5 ways
On-site parking is available ($17)
Additional on-site parking is available in the Mall of America ramps
Valet parking is available ($12 event parking, $25 overnight parking)

Venue: Dining Room

FireLake Private Dining Room 1.jpeg
The Semi-Private Dining Room at FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar at the Radisson Blu Mall of America.

Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 60
Capacity (cocktail): 75
Includes access to smart TV (additional fee), private bar (additional fee), handicap accessible
Rental fee: $50
Food and beverage minimum: Varies

Venue: Lounge

FireLake Cocktail Bar Pool Tables.jpg
Guests in The Lounge at FireLake can enjoy a game of pool.

Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 46
Capacity (cocktail): 100
Includes access to smart TV (additional fee), private bar (additional fee), handicap accessible
Rental fee: $50
Food and beverage minimum: Varies
Additional experiences: includes 2 pool tables

Lela Restaurant

Lela PDR
The Private Dining Room at Lela Restaurant in Bloomington.

5601 West 78th Street, Bloomington 55439
(952) 656-5980, events@lelarestaurant.com
More information

Attached to the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel
Menus can be specialized with logo and special messages
Final bill can be invoiced or split amongst guests

Complimentary on-site parking available

Venue: Lela Private Dining Room
Private
Capacity (seated): 36
Capacity (cocktail): 20-40
Includes access to smart TV,  handicap accessible
Rental fee: varies
Food and beverage minimum: varies

Venue: Lela Lounge

Lela Lounge
The Lela Lounge gives you access to happy hour prices.

Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 58
Capacity (cocktail): not available
Includes access to microphone, access to smart TV, handicap accessible
Rental fee: varies
Food and beverage minimum: varies
Additional experiences: happy hour menu available in this space

Venue: Lela Wine Room

Lela Wine Room
The Wine Room at Lela Restaurant in Bloomington.

Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 10
Capacity (cocktail): not available
Includes access to smart TV, handicap accessible
Rental fee: varies
Food and beverage minimum: varies

Venue: Restaurant Buyout

lela buyout

Capacity (seated): 175
Capacity (cocktail): 225
Includes access to microphone, access to smart TV, private restrooms, handicap accessible
Rental fee: varies
Food and beverage minimum: varies

Chanhassen

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

Chanhassen Fireside.jpeg
Whether your group has 4 people or 300, the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres has a venue to accommodate you.

501 West 78th Street, Chanhassen 55317
(952) 934-1524, randerson@chanhassendt.com
More information

The Chanhassen Dinner Theatres isn’t just for date nights and wedding receptions!
Final bill can be invoiced or split amongst guests
Complimentary on-site parking available
Discounts or packages for groups of 12 or more may be available for performances in the Main Dinner Theatre, Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret, and the Fireside Theatre Concert Series. Call (952) 934-1547 for details.

Venue: The Club

Club1.jpg
The Club at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.

Private
Capacity (seated): 175
Capacity (cocktail): 225
Includes access to microphone, access to smart TV (additional fee), private bar, handicap accessible, private entrance
Rental fee: varies
Food and beverage minimum: varies

Venue: Garden, Jonathan and Carver Rooms

Ballroom1.jpg
From 50 to 300 people, the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres can accommodate groups of all sizes!

Private
Capacity (seated): 250 — the rooms can be divided and closed off for smaller parties (as few as 50)
Capacity (cocktail): 300
Includes access to microphone, access to smart TV (additional fee), private bar, handicap accessible (note: dancing area is not handicap accessible)
Rental fee: varies
Food and beverage minimum: varies

Venue: Director’s Suites — available for Main Stage shows at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

Private
Capacity (seated): 4 or 33 (two Suites available)
Capacity (cocktail): 33
Includes access to smart TV (additional fee), private bar (additional fee)
Rental fee: guests must purchase dinner and show tickets
Food and beverage minimum: a minimum of 20 people for larger space

Edina

Tavern on France

TavernOnFrance_FrontDoor.jpg
Tavern on France in Edina.

6740 France Avenue S, Edina, MN 55435
(952) 358-6100
More information

Menus can be specialized with logo and special messages
Final bill can be invoiced or split amongst guests
Complimentary on-site parking available

Venue at Tavern on France

Edina_Interior_PrivateDining_3.jpg
The semi-private space at Tavern on France in Edina has no rental fee and only a $500 minimum Mondays thru Thursdays.

Semi-private
Capacity (seated): 55
Capacity (cocktail): 55
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, access to smart TV (no sound), handicap accessible
Complimentary black or white linens, gift/check-in table available
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $500 Monday – Thursday, $1200 Friday – Saturday

Maple Grove

Lookout Bar and Grill

Banquet room
The Lookout Bar and Grill in Maple Grove.

8672 Pineview Lane, Maple Grove 55369
(763) 424-4365
More information

Menus can be specialized with logo and special messages
Final bill can be invoiced or split amongst guests
Complimentary on-site parking available

Venue: Patioview and Fireside Rooms

patioview 3
The Fireside Room at the Lookout Bar and Grill.

Private
Capacity (seated): 60 (if booked together)
Capacity (cocktail): 70 (if booked together)
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies
Additional experiences: Patioview comes with a private patio space

Minnetonka

Spasso

SpassoExterior.jpg
Spasso in Minnetonka.

17523 Minnetonka Boulevard, Minnetonka 55345
(952) 224-9555, customerservice@spassomn.com
More information

Menus can be specialized with logo and special messages
Final bill can be invoiced or split amongst guests
Complimentary on-site parking available

Venue: Spasso Private Dining Room

SpassoPDR4
Food and beverage minimums at Spasso in Minnetonka start at $250.

Private
Capacity (seated): 56
Capacity (cocktail): 85
Includes access to plug in own music, includes access to smart TV,  handicap accessible, dimmable lighting
Rental fee: a 5% event fee is added on to the final bill in lieu of a rental fee
Food and beverage minimum: lunch event: $250; Sunday-Monday evenings $250, Tuesday-Wednesday evenings $450, Thursday evening $650, Friday-Saturday evenings $850

Saint Louis Park

Park Tavern

Park Tavern.jpg
Throw a bowling party at the Park Tavern in Saint Louis Park.

3401 Louisiana Avenue South, Saint Louis Park 55426
(952) 929-6810, reservations@parktavern.net
More information

Final bill can be invoiced or split amongst guests
Complimentary on-site parking available

Venue: Atrium

Park Tavern Atrium
The Atrium inside Park Tavern.

Private
Capacity (seated): 36
Capacity (cocktail): not applicable
Includes access to smart TV, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $0

Venue: Party Room

Park Tavern Party Room
There is no food and beverage minimum for the Party Room at the Park Tavern.

Private
Capacity (seated): 40
Capacity (cocktail): not applicable
Includes access to plug in own music, access to smart TV, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: $0

Venue: Bowling Lanes

Semi-private or private
Capacity (seated): 200
Capacity (cocktail): not applicable
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, private bar, handicap accessible, private entrance
Rental fee: No flat fee — determined by when event is held
Food and beverage minimum: No flat fee — determined by when event is held
Additional experiences: 20 bowling lanes; 3 buffet areas; children’s arcade; smoking patio

Venue: 11th Frame

Park Tavern 11th Frame
Rent out the entire 11th Frame, which can turn into a private bar for your group.

Semi-private or private
Capacity (seated): 100
Capacity (cocktail): not applicable
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, access to smart TV, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: No flat fee — determined by when event is held
Food and beverage minimum: No flat fee — determined by when event is held
Additional experiences: space includes 13 TVs, 4 pool tables, 5 dart boards, Big Buck Hunter video game, Golden Tee video game, Skee Ball machine, TouchTunes juke box, seasonal outdoor patio with additional 120 seats available

Wayzata

6Smith

294 Grove Lane North, Wayzata 55391
(952) 698-7900, party@6smith.com
More information

Menus can be specialized with logo and special messages
Final bill can be invoiced or split amongst guests
Complimentary on-site parking available
Valet parking is available ($8)

Venue: Revel Room

Revel+Room.jpg
The Revel Room at 6Smith includes panoramic views of Lake Minnetonka and a private patio.

Private or semi-private
Capacity (seated): up to 50
Capacity (cocktail): 50
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, access to smart TV, private bar upon request, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies depending on time, day of week and time of year (ranges from $1,250-3,000)
Additional experiences: includes panoramic views of Lake Minnetonka, private patio space

Venue: Knotty Room

Knotty+Room.JPG
The Knotty Room at 6Smith in Wayzata.

Semi-private
Capacity (seated): up to 14
Capacity (cocktail): 25
Includes access to microphone, access to smart TV, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies depending on time, day of week and time of year (ranges from $500-1,250)

Venue: Revel & Knotty Rooms 

6Smith+Revel+Knotty.JPG
Combine the Revel & Knotty Rooms at 6Smith for additional space.

Private or semi-private
Capacity (seated): up to 86
Capacity (cocktail): 100
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, access to smart TV, private bar upon request, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies depending on time, day of week and time of year (ranges from $2,000-4,200)
Additional experiences: includes panoramic views of Lake Minnetonka, private patio space

Venue: The Tavern

Semi-private
Capacity (seated): up to 64
Capacity (cocktail): 50
Includes access to smart TV, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0
Food and beverage minimum: varies depending on time, day of week and time of year (ranges from $1,000-5,000)
Additional experiences: includes panoramic views of Lake Minnetonka

Woodbury

Angelina’s Kitchen

Angelinas 1.jpg
Angelina’s Kitchen in Woodbury.

2170 Eagle Creek Lane, Suite H, Woodbury 55129
(651) 998-0474, angela@angelinaskitchen.com
More information

Final bill can be split amongst guests
Complimentary on-site parking available
Menus can be specialized with logo and special messages

Venue: Tuscany Room

Angelinas 2
The Tuscany Room at Angelina’s Kitchen has no rental fee.

Semi-private or private
Capacity (seated): 70
Capacity (cocktail): 100
Includes access to microphone, access to plug in own music, access to smart Apple TV, access to private restrooms, private bar, handicap accessible
Rental fee: $0, a service fee of $30 per hour per staff member will be charged; staff count will be determined by guest count, menu and service style
Food and beverage minimum: private events: $1,500 Monday – Thursday, $2,000 Friday – Saturday; $0 for semi-private

With the crowdsourced list of restaurants below, it’s recommended you visit their websites to ensure they offer the private dining options you need. 

Minneapolis

Saint Paul

Arden Hills

Apple Valley

Blaine

Bloomington

Brooklyn Center

Brooklyn Park

Burnsville

Champlin

Chanhassen

Coon Rapids

Eagan

Eden Prairie

Edina

Excelsior

Golden Valley

Hastings

Hopkins

Long Lake

Maple Grove

Maplewood

Mendota

Minnetonka

New Hope

Plymouth

Richfield

Rogers

Rosemount

Roseville

Saint Louis Park

Savage

Shakopee

Spring Park

South Saint Paul

Stillwater

Vadnais Heights

Wayzata

Woodbury

2019 Minnesota Holiday Lights Display Guide

Scroll below for more than 50 MN holiday light shows and displays. All of these holiday light displays are verified for 2019 by the organizers or homeowners.

Read More

The Minnesota State Fair Food Parade returns in October

The Minnesota State Fair announced that its extremely-popular Food Parade will return to the State Fairgrounds October 1 – 4 and 8 – 11, 2020.

Courtesy Minnesota State Fair

Participants will be able to purchase an arrival time each hour between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. Like the original Food Parade, tickets are $20 per vehicle with an additional $5 in fees. Each vehicle can have up to five people inside (ages 4 and under are not counted).

How to get tickets

The October tickets are done via a ticket lottery, which is now open. Click here to sign up for your chance to go. The ticket lottery is open until Thursday, September 17 at noon. To learn more about how the ticket lottery process works, click here. Those who win through the lottery will be notified on September 21.

There is a way to purchase a ticket. You can become a Friend of the Fair, which benefits the Minnesota State Fair Foundation. Learn more here.

Who will be there

The second round of the Food Parade includes some new vendors, including Minneapple Pie, who serves deep-fried apple pies. You can also purchase deep-fried pickles. Overall, the entire menu will have flavors of fall.

Full list of vendors

  1. Turkey to Go Turkey Sandwiches
  2. Fresh French Fries
  3. Mouth Trap Cheese Curds
  4. Que Viet (Egg Rolls On-A-Stick, Cream Cheese Wontons)
  5. Sweets & Treats (Cotton Candy, Caramel Apples)
  6. Pronto Pups
  7. Tom Thumb Donuts
  8. West Indies Soul Food (Jamaican Patties, Jerk Chicken)
  9. Minneapple Pie (deep-fried apple, pumpkin and chocolate pie)
  10. Foot Long Hot Dogs and Corn Dogs
  11. Butcher Boys/Pitchfork Sausage (London Broil, Italian Sausage)
  12. Cheese On-A-Stick, Deep-fried Pickles and Lemonade
  13. Giggles’ Campfire Grill (Walleye Cakes, Duck Bacon Wontons)
  14. El Sol Mexican (Tacos, Burritos)
  15. The Hangar (Tater Twister, Fried Oreos, Funnel Cakes)
  16. Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar

How to prepare

Get my full review of the inaugural Minnesota State Fair Food Parade by clicking here.

Cannon Falls nonprofit repairing cars of Veterans

Veterans who need to get back on the road can do so with the help of a Cannon Falls nonprofit.

Nate’s Community Garage helps low-income individuals and any Veteran living in Dakota, Goodhue and Rice Counties with necessary car repairs. They launched in February 2020 and in less than six months, have already helped more than a dozen families.

According to Alisha Fitzpatrick from Nate’s Community Garage, the group handles repairs which only address safety concerns that will ensure safe transportation.

“There is a huge void in the area when it comes to helping with car repairs,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have done tons of research and come up with no much information to help those who need help. Car repairs are essential, and a means of giving someone independence and stability.”

Katie Gerlach from Faribault brought her 2011 Escape to Nate’s. “I found out about two weeks into owning it, that there were so many issues that needed to be repaired,” Gerlach said. “I was so exhausted and sick just thinking about how to make ends meet while affording these costly repairs.”

After applying, Gerlach received new brakes on her vehicle, thanks to the work of Nate’s. “The time there went so quick as all the employees made sure we were fine and if needed anything,” Gerlach added. “They kept us smiling and full of laughs. It was like we were right at home with a best friend.”

“We rely solely on donations and small grants,” Fitzpatrick said. “So 95% is donations from the community around us and our events. We do charge clients 25% of the total car repair (up to $1,000) plus applicable sales tax. We cover the other 75%.”

In addition to donations, Nate’s Community Garage accepts new car parts. They are also starting to host events to expand their outreach.

Those who are interested in receiving services from Nate’s Community Garage are encouraged to fill out an application on their website or Facebook page. They do follow household income guidelines, which are available on their website.


In my Serve Our Society series, I shine the spotlight on amazing Minnesota-based nonprofits.

If you would like to nominate an organization to be featured, please contact me at mike@givemethemike.com.

The country’s first LGBTQIA-specific program for addiction is in Minnesota

Originally published in Lavender Magazine, September 2020

September is National Recovery Month, a time to increase awareness of mental health and substance use disorders. It’s also a reason to celebrate the people who recover.

In Eden Prairie, Pride Institute is helping LGBTQIA individuals from around the country reset in a comfortable environment.

“We were the first LGBTQIA-specific program for substance use and addiction treatment in the country, and since have become leaders in the field for 34 years,” said Luke Miller, Pride Institute’s Director of Business Development.

Based in Eden Prairie, Pride Institute was the first LGBTQIA-specific program for substance use and addiction treatment in the country. Photo courtesy Pride Institute.

Pride Institute originally opened in 1986 as a direct response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. They provide residential, partial hospitalization, and outpatient treatment services for substance use disorder and addiction. They also have specialty programs that occur weekly, including Transwellness, Meth and Men, Sexual Health, a family program, and other gender-specific groups.

“Our model was created for the LGBTQIA+ community specifically,” Miller said. “A lot of programs have tracks, or specialty groups, but at Pride, being queer is the standard, not the exception.”

Residents of Pride typically stay 30 days, while outpatient services last approximately 20 weeks, or five months.

Jessica Green from Minneapolis heard about Pride Institute from a friend who attended their treatment program. Green was a resident for six weeks in 2019.

“My journey with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health issues began when I was about 12 years old,” Green told Lavender. “I used substances to numb emotions that I did not want to feel, and as a way to cope with the fact that I really did not want to be alive. Prior to deciding to attend Pride Institute, I was in such a dark place that I had decided that ending my life was the only way to deal with all of this. Due to some divine intervention, the idea came to me that maybe getting sober could help with some of these problems.”

Jessica Green was a resident of Pride Institute in 2019 and says it saved her life. Submitted photo.

Green, who identifies as pansexual, experienced problems with inpatient hospitalization because staff did not know where to room her since her attraction is not dictated by gender. “This really got in the way of addressing necessary issues at the time,” Green said.

“This sort of thing would never happen at Pride. Pride allows people to be comfortable in their true identity, removing what is often a serious barrier to receiving help. It also allows individuals to build a support network of folks in the sober LGBTQ+ community that is immensely helpful both at Pride and after discharge.”

“Since we are an LGBTQIA-specific treatment program, most of our patients correlate their substance use with past trauma and negative life experiences that came with being in the ‘other’ category society placed them in,” Miller said. “Pride is, and has been, providing safe spaces for people in the community so they can share their stories, and hear others like them, to gain the tools and education to beat addiction.”

“At Pride, an individual can be fully comfortable expressing their gender identity and sexuality without fear of being judged for these things,” Green added.

Residents at Pride Institute typically stay 30 days, while outpatient services last approximately 20 weeks. Photo courtesy Pride Institute.

The ‘Pride’ of America

Pride’s residential location, in Eden Prairie, includes 42 beds.

“During my time at Pride, I took part in group therapy sessions, individual therapy, art therapy, 12-step recovery meetings brought in by community organizations, meditation-based recovery, and even spending time outside going on walks or having bonfires as a part of my recovery,” Green recalled. “I saw a psychiatrist, who helped with medication for my mental health issues. I was monitored by excellent nursing staff who ensured my safety at all times. I had the opportunity to get to know so many amazing individuals, many of whom I am still in contact with today. On Saturdays, my family was allowed to come visit and they brought my dog to come see me, which really helped as I missed her so much while in treatment. I was even able to attend the Gopher State Round-Up with Pride, which is a yearly Alcoholics Anonymous convention that takes place in Minnesota with the chance to attend many meetings and meet groups from around the state.”

During COVID-19, staff at Pride are following CDC guidelines to provide patients the care they deserve. Pride Institute’s outpatient program has moved to a virtual platform.

Pride Institute is in-network with Minnesota Medicaid and accepts public funding through the state of Minnesota.

“If an LGBTQ+ individual feels that substance abuse is negatively affecting their life, Pride Institute is an amazing place to begin a journey of recovery,” Green said. “There is so much more to life than drugs and alcohol, and it is possible to get and stay sober with Pride. Pride Institute didn’t just change my life. It saved my life and allowed me to build a life worth living.”

To learn more, call Pride Institute’s admissions team at (952) 934-7554. You can also fill out a referral form on their website, www.pride-institute.com. An admissions coordinator will do an over-the-phone assessment to make sure your needs, goals and values will be best served by the program.

Enjoy a 6-course dinner featuring 6 Twin Cities chefs

If you’re looking for a unique dinner experience that will support six Twin Cities restaurants and businesses, you’ll want to participate in Cochon555.

On Thursday, September 10, six Twin Cities chefs will prepare a six course dinner that you can pick up and enjoy from home. That evening, you’ll be invited to a Zoom experience with the chefs who will share expert plating instructions and cooking techniques. They will also answer any questions you may have.

Carry Out with Cochon takes place in Minneapolis on Thursday, September 10. The annual Cochon 555 event features heritage pork.

Meals cost $115 per person and can be picked up on September 10 at St. Genevieve in Minneapolis. In addition to the six courses, you also receive a bottle of wine. You can order your Carry Out With Cochon dinner by clicking here.

Prix fixe menu

  1. Crispy Pork Belly Glazed in a Crab Caramel, Rice, Chilies, Lime and Cilantro
  2. Cambodian Pork Gyoza: Kaw Sach Chrouk, Egg, Black Pepper Soy Glaze, Herb Slaw
  3. Pozole: Hominy, Oregano, Braised Pork, Green Cabbage
  4. Pork Steak Adobado with Frijoles Charros
  5. Roasted Red and Chioggia Beets, Haralson Apple, Celery, Walnut, Arugula, Feta, Dill
  6. Almond Opera Cake: Smoked Lardo Brown Butter Buttercream, White Chocolate Ganache, Mission Fig, Burnt Pecan Meringue

Noteworthy chefs

Cochon 555. Credit: Galdones Photography/COCHON 555.

Cochon555 is a national event, stopping in Minneapolis every year. Cochon, which is the French word for pig, celebrates heritage pork dishes. Chefs are challenged to use pork in creative ways, and the results are spectacular. I’ve had the honor of attending Cochon555 multiple times, and it’s a fun event.

Typically, one chef from the Minneapolis event heads to a national Cochon555 competition. In 2018, Tomlinson won the Grand Cochon contest.

Learn more about Carry Out With Cochon, happening Thursday, September 10, by clicking here.


Also on Give Me The Mike…

The best pizzerias in Minnesota

Dress up your pet for your chance to win 2021 Minnesota State Fair tickets

If you have not attended the Llama Costume Contest at the Minnesota State Fair, you are missing a thing of beauty. Llamas are just fun looking animals, and they are patient as 4-H students decorate them in unique costumes and trot them around an arena for the one-night event.

With the cancelation of the 2020 Minnesota State Fair due to the Coronavirus, we have to wait until 2021 to attend the Costume Contest.

IMG_6974
Llamas are amazing.

However, State Fair officials are running a costume contest — and you don’t need a llama to enter.

By Friday, August 28, email fairinfo@mnstatefair.org with a picture of you and your pet in complimentary costumes. LEGO my EGGO! Sonny and Cher! A bottle of ketchup and a hot dog!

llama costume
LEGO my EGGO! Photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair

One lucky winner will receive a pair of tickets to the 2021 Minnesota State Fair, which runs August 26 through September 6, 2021. Make sure you go on the day of the Llama Costume Contest or the Llama Agility Contest, both enjoyable events during the Great Minnesota Get Together.

Also on Give Me The Mike…

MN_StateFair_2000

Image courtesy Adam Turman

All the ways to celebrate the Minnesota State Fair in 2020

MAP: Don’t have State Fair Food Parade tickets? Go on this food crawl

In 2019, the Minnesota State Fair brought two million people together for 12 days of fun. So it was an obvious, yet disappointing, choice to cancel the 2020 State Fair due to the Coronavirus.

To give some Minnesotans a taste of the Great Minnesota Get Together, State Fair officials planned the first-ever State Fair Food Parade. Tickets sold out in the matter of two hours.

If you have tickets to the Food Parade, or want to see how it went, I went on day one and documented the whole experience. Click here for a full guide.

There are plenty of other ways to get a taste of State Fair foods leading up to Labor Day.  Check out this list of restaurants and businesses where you can find official Fair foods.

I will keep adding to this guide as I hear of more options. Thanks to Becky Olssen for this suggestion!

State Fair Food Crawl

Inside Midtown Global Market, Minneapolis

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The Instagram-worthy Pina Colada served in a Pineapple is still on the menu at Manny’s Tortas. Photo courtesy Midtown Global Market
  • Manny’s Tortas — typically in the Food Building; famous for Piña Coladas served in a pineapple.
  • Andy’s Garage —  the sister restaurant to Andy’s Grill, the State Fair spot where staff perform “Grease Lightning” at the top of every hour.
  • Hot Indian Foods — typically in the International Bazaar; get the Kentikka Fried Chicken.
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The Produce Exchange serves some of the best peaches you’ll ever have. You can get them grilled. I prefer one with cream. Photo courtesy Midtown Global Market
  • Produce Exchange — known for their huge peaches.
  • In total, 12 restaurants in Midtown Global Market are participating in the Great Global Get Together, which runs Thursday, August 27 through Sunday, September 6. Learn more here.

Inside POTLUCK, Roseville

Courtesy MSF
Nordic Waffles took the State Fair by storm in 2018 and 2019. Photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair
  • Nordic Waffles — typically in the West End Market; you are able to purchase the Strawberr-EO Surprise, an iconic strawberry picnic dessert with a double-stuffed cookie surprise in a waffle for $7.99. You can also try The Sassy Waffletarian, a plant-based sausage, topped with sautéed peppers and onions, finished with a slight kick of chef’s secret salsa for $8.99.
  • All seven restaurants inside POTLUCK at Rosedale Center will serve up State Fair themed food as part of their Minnesota Fare celebration, which runs Thursday, August 27 through Monday, September 7. Learn more here.

Stillwater

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During the State Fair, Sara’s Tipsy Pies, which is usually found in the Food Building, will be found in the bakery section at Cub. Photo courtesy Stephany Wieland  EyeSpy Photography
  • Sara’s Tipsy Pies — typically in the Food Building; her shop in Stillwater sells sweet and savory hand pies mixed with alcohol, including 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, Finnegans beer, and Chateau St. Croix wine. Pies are also available in the freezer section at many grocery stores. Starting August 23, freshly-baked pies will be available in the bakery section at Cub Foods.
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Mini Donut Beer, made by Lift Bridge Brewing Company, will be on tap in Stillwater.
  • Lift Bridge Brewing Company — served at the Ball Park Cafe and Cafe Caribe; they will serve up their famous Mini Donut Beer along with their Key Lime Pie Beer on tap between August 27 and September 7.

Edina, Maple Grove, Saint Paul or Minneapolis (you pick)

  • Blue Barn — typically in the West End Market; the menu from Blue Barn will be served at its sister restaurant. You can order Meatloaf On-A-Stick, Nashville Hot Chicken On-A-Stick, Chicken in a Waffle Cone, Pop Rocks French Toast, Blue Cheese and Corn Fritz and Blueberry Basil Lemonade. The menu items are available for dine-in or carry out at the following restaurants:

Maplewood

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Deep-fried pie from Minneapple Pie.
  • Minneapple Pie — typically in front of the Dairy Building; you will find their deep-fried apple pies outside of the Cub Foods in Maplewood (2390 White Bear Avenue) August 28, 29 and 30. It’s one of my favorite Fair foods!
  • Minnesnowii Ice — typically in the West End Market; Minnesnowii is not your average shaved ice — their Mangonada is delicious combination of flavors that will have you feeling like you’re on vacation. On August 29 – 30, they will be in the  Maplewood Mall parking lot with two other official State Fair foods, the Flowering Onions and Scotch Eggs. Minnesnowii will be back at Maplewood Mall September 12 – 13 and September 26 – 27. Check them out 11:00 am – 7:00 pm Saturday and 11:00 am – 6:00 pm Sunday. (Note: Pronto Pups will join them for the September weekends).

Burnsville

  • Minnesnowii Ice — typically in the West End Market; Minnesnowii is not your average shaved ice — their Mangonada is delicious combination of flavors that will have you feeling like you’re on vacation. From August 27 – 30 and September 3 – 6, they will be outside the Schuler Shoes at Burnsville Center. Hours: 12:00 – 7:00 pm Thursday through Saturday, 12:00 – 6:00 pm Sunday.

Rochester

  • Minnesnowii Ice — typically in the West End Market; Minnesnowii is not your average shaved ice — their Mangonada is delicious combination of flavors that will have you feeling like you’re on vacation. From August 27 – 30, they will be at the Olmstead County Fairgrounds in Rochester. Visit them Thursday from 3:00 – 8:00 pm, Friday and Saturday from 11:00 – 8:00 pm, and Sunday from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm.

Know of another official State Fair food worthy of going on this crawl? Let me know!

Also on Give Me The Mike…

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Image courtesy Adam Turman

All the ways you can celebrate the Minnesota State Fair in 2020

A Guide to the Minnesota State Fair Food Parade

Updated 9/15/20: The Minnesota State Fair announced the Food Parade will return in October. Click here to learn more.

Tickets to the first-ever Minnesota State Fair Food Parade sold out in two hours at the end of July. It was one way Fair officials responded to the Great Minnesota Get Together being canceled in 2020 due to the Coronavirus. Overall, 19,000 tickets were sold.

The Food Parade features 16 food vendors (listed below), giving Minnesotans the chance to get a taste of the Fair. Fair officials are asking attendees for non-perishable food donations.

You may find tickets to the Food Parade on Craigslist, but it’s highly recommended you do not buy them, as you cannot verify they are not invalid copies of tickets. Fair officials limited ticket sales to not overwhelm vendors and create overwhelming lines of cars.

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The Minnesota State Fair Food Parade route. Image courtesy Minnesota State Fair

I attended the Food Parade on the first day of its 13 day run. Whether you’re attending closer to Labor Day or are just curious about how it was set up, here’s my experience of the Food Parade, along with answers to the questions you asked on my Facebook and Twitter pages.

“How many people can you have in your vehicle? Can I invite more friends?”

There is a limit of five people ages 4+ per Food Parade ticket. If you want more people in your car, you can buy an EXTRAS ticket when you arrive to the event (you can also buy it online). You need a regular Food Parade ticket in order to buy an EXTRAS ticket.

“Where do I enter the Fairgrounds?”

You will want to enter the State Fairgrounds on Snelling Avenue at Hoyt Avenue, near the State Fair water tower. That’s just south of Larpenteur Avenue. Note that there is construction on Como Avenue, the road on the south side of the Fairgrounds.

“How was traffic on Snelling? Assume it’s easier to enter driving southbound on Snelling? How much time did you spend in traffic on Snelling before you got to show someone your ticket and get into your times entry queue?

We zipped right in. There was absolutely zero traffic on Snelling. We left the corner of  Snelling and Hoyt at 1:40 and scanned our ticket at 1:48. The scanning station is quite a distance away from the entrance.

It is slightly easier to approach the Fairgrounds driving southbound, just because you don’t have to wait for the left arrow, but you can approach from the north or south. Note that this is the only entrance.

“How long does it take?”

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This was the most common question I received. We had tickets for 2:00 pm on Thursday, August 20. Here’s how it went:

  • 1:40 pm — Arrived on the Fairgrounds. Once you arrive, you are able to become a Friend of the Fair for $25. In return, you receive a car flag.
  • 1:48 pm — Scanned ticket at gate, received goodie bag (see below), chance to use restroom and ATM, corralled to spot in Midway.
  • 2:02 pm — Our row of cars started to move.
  • 2:12 pm — Great photo opportunity! Safely take a photo of your passengers in front of the Minnesota State Fair logo on the building connecting the Coliseum to the Cattle Barn.
  • 2:22 pm — Received food from the first stop, Turkey to Go.
  • 2:23 pm — Received food from the second stop, Tom Thumb Mini Donuts.
  • 2:32 pm — Received food from the third stop, Fresh French Fries.
  • 2:35 pm — Received food from the fourth stop, Mouth Trap Cheese Curds.
  • 2:40 pm — Received food from the fifth stop, Que Viet.
  • 2:40 pm — Passed the sixth stop, Sweets & Treats.
  • 2:44 pm — Received food from the seventh stop, Pronto Pups.
  • 2:49 pm — Received food from the eighth stop, Dairy Goodness Bar.
  • 2:57 pm — Received food from the ninth stop Butcher Boys.
  • 2:57 pm — Passed the 10th stop, West Indies Soul Food.
  • 2:57 pm — Passed the 11th stop, Foot Long Hot Dogs.
  • 2:57 pm — Bathroom break (this is the only “official” bathroom break once you start receiving food).
  • 3:01 pm — Passed the 12th stop, Cheese-On-A-Stick.
  • 3:02 pm — Passed the 13th stop, Giggles’ Campfire Grill.
  • 3:03 pm — Passed the 14th stop, El Sol Mexican Grill.
  • 3:06 pm — Passed the 15th stop, The Hangar.
  • 3:11 pm — Received food from the final stop, Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar.
  • 3:13 pm — Found spot in empty parking lot to enjoy cookies.

Parade started: 2:02 pm
Parade ended: 3:13 pm
Total Parade time: 1 hour, 11 minutes

Total time on the Fairgrounds: 1 hour, 33 minutes

The Fair had more cars go through on the second day, so if you’re going, you might have to wait a bit longer.  I would plan to be on the Fairgrounds for two hours.

State Fair officials ask that do you not arrive no more than 30 minutes earlier than your ticketed time. There really is no need to.

“What did you bring with you?”

I packed a cooler with bottled water, because I knew we were going to consume a whole lot of salt.

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These plates with cupholders, which are given to attendees at the Minnesota State Fair’s Taste of the Fair fundraiser, worked really well for the Food Parade.

I also had really awesome plastic plates with built in cupholders. They are from the State Fair Foundation’s Taste of the Fair event, which is typically held the Thursday before the Fair starts. It’s a great way to taste classic and new Fair foods in an intimate setting. Learn more about Taste of the Fair here.

We also packed napkins, Shout Wipes, and hand sanitizer.

Make sure someone in your vehicle brings cash, as Pronto Pups is cash only. I should note that Turkey to Go is credit card only. The State Fair’s website lists what methods of payment each vendor accepts. Note: Sweet Martha’s does accepts credit cards, although the State Fair’s website says its cash only.

You will need your own pen to write down your orders. Menus are provided. I would also bring a clipboard. You can attach your menu to it. And you can also clip your credit card to it, making it easier to find when you need to pay.

Face coverings are strongly encouraged, especially for drivers or those placing orders with vendor staff. Masks are not provided. The State Fair is selling Fair themed face coverings online. Learn more here.

I would strongly recommend bringing some Tupperware, as we had an overwhelming amount of food because the parade moved so fast and we could only eat so quickly. With the exception of Sweet Martha’s, nothing is served with a lid, so I would recommend bringing some storage.

Here’s your packing list:

  • Bottled water/beverages (the vendors do sell beverages, but there’s really no need to buy them when you can bring your own)
  • Cooler
  • Tupperware with lids
  • Plates
  • Napkins (you’ll need more than what vendors give you)
  • Tide to Go/Shout Wipes
  • Bib
  • Garbage bag for your car
  • Clipboard
  • Pen (I’m not sure why they didn’t provide one in the goodie bag)
  • Face coverings
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Notepad (see why below)
  • Cash and credit card

“Do I have to print out my ticket?”

This information wasn’t in the confirmation email I received from the Fair, so I asked State Fair officials. You can either print out your ticket (which is what I did), or show it on your smartphone.

“What foods are there?”

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In total, there are 16 food vendors. The route is a one-way, so you’ll approach them in this order:

  1. Turkey to Go Turkey Sandwiches
  2. Tom Thumb Mini Donuts
  3. Fresh French Fries
  4. Mouth Trap Cheese Curds
  5. Que Viet (Egg Rolls On-A-Stick, Cream Cheese Wontons)
  6. Sweets & Treats (Cotton Candy, Caramel Apples)
  7. Pronto Pups
  8. Dairy Goodness Bar (malts)
  9. Butcher Boys/Pitchfork Sausage (London Broil, Italian Sausage)
  10. West Indies Soul Food (Jamaican Patties, Jerk Chicken)
  11. Foot Long Hot Dogs
  12. Cheese On-A-Stick and Lemonade
  13. Giggles’ Campfire Grill (Walleye Cakes, Duck Bacon Wontons)
  14. El Sol Mexican (Tacos, Burritos)
  15. The Hangar (Tater Twister, Fried Oreos)
  16. Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar

A complete menu, along with prices, are available on the State Fair’s website.

The back half of the Food Parade (after Butcher Boys) went extremely fast. By then, the people in my car were extremely full from the classic Fair foods at the beginning of the route. We weren’t alone, as many cars around us were not stopping at Giggles’ Campfire Grill, El Sol, or the other vendors at the north end of the Fairgrounds, with the exception of Sweet Martha’s.

“Was the food as good as it normally is at the Fair?”

Most of it was. Many of the vendors are positioned at or very close to their booths, so they are able to use their own equipment.

Something felt off with the Dairy Goodness Bar. My vanilla malt wasn’t quite the same.

I was also missing the pump ketchup, malt vinegar and extra salt that come with the Fresh French Fries. You can get a little packet of ketchup with a bucket of fries, but it’s not the same.

At the Pronto Pups booth, they don’t brush on your ketchup or mustard. Instead, you’ll receive it in a plastic cup.

“Can we get two menus so each couple can pay separately or do we all have to order off one?”

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You only need one paper menu.

When you arrive to a particular vendor, you will tell them how many you want.

While you wait for the parade to start, you will want to take orders for everyone in your car. Before the parade started, we stopped halfway through the list, which was smart. We ended up getting really full and ended up passing on food from many vendors on the back half of the parade route.

We found that it was best that the driver focuses on driving and doesn’t write down orders, grab food, track the credit card, etc. I sat in the back, behind the driver, and was able to handle credit card transactions and collect food. I should note there were a couple times that vendors would approach from the passenger side of our car.

“What’s inside the goodie bag you receive with your ticket?”

Honestly, it’s nothing to shake a stick at. There is a Minnesota State Fair branded lunch box, which you can use to store leftovers. You will receive a couple bags which may come in handy for storing leftovers. Other than that, and a random lightbulb, it’s nothing to get too excited about. As Michael Scott says on The Office, swag is “Stuff We All Get”.

“Is it possible to pay separately when at the booths?”

Yes, you can. However, remember that if you use four credit cards at every booth, you’ll slow the entire parade down.

Our group found it best to use one credit card for the entire route. After Sweet Martha’s, we pulled into the Fair’s parking lot (right before Snelling) to eat cookies and to figure out how much each of us owed. A notepad came in handy.

“Do you have to stop at each place or can one pass by a food you don’t want?”

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So there aren’t really “bypass” lanes. The only vendors you can bypass are Dairy Goodness Bar, Butcher Boys, West Indies Soul Food, and Foot Long Hot Dogs. However, you have to bypass all four of them together. You can’t bypass just one or two of those four.

However, the Parade went a lot faster than we thought, so waiting wasn’t an issue. If we didn’t want a food, we would just drive by the workers.

“Can I get out of my car?”

Not really. You can get out of your car at a couple points to use the restroom. Those points are right after you scan your tickets and right before you arrive to Giggles’ Campfire Grill (towards the end of the parade). It should be noted that those restrooms are Port-a-Potties and not permanent structures. Those buildings are closed, so don’t bother.

You are not allowed out of your vehicle for any other reason.

“How are families keeping kids occupied?”

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When you check in, you will receive State Fair Bingo cards that are kid-friendly. There is some entertainment, but to be honest, it was a bit anti-climatic. We saw the Fair mascots, but it’s more of a “wave as we drive by” situation than a “stop and we’ll take a bunch of photos” situation.

“How do they manage demand for things like Sweet Marthas?”

Martha is the queen of the Fair. She serves up millions of cookies each year. I am fairly confident that she’s able to handle this more structured event. The State Fair knows how many tickets are sold for the Food Parade, and there is a limit of how many buckets each car can buy.

“Other words of wisdom?”

Don’t go alone. Considering the parade’s fast pace, it would be way too difficult to drive and eat at the same time.

If you want condiments with a particular food, don’t be afraid to ask for them. They’re not always offered.

Our car really liked State Fair Radio, which played a wide array of hits, including sing-alongs. The station, run by iHeartRadio, can be found at 101.3-HD3.

There’s a limit of five people per car. We had four people in our SUV, and we were glad we didn’t have a fifth person. With the garbage bag, the cooler of water, the trays of food and everything else, another person in the middle seat would have been too much.

Overall, the whole Food Parade experience was quite positive. In just over an hour, we enjoyed some of the most popular State Fair foods. And we got to sit in an air conditioned car while doing it. When you think about a traditional State Fair experience, the Parade  beats taking a bus to the Fairgrounds, paying for admission, walking around to a vendor, waiting in line, walking to another vendor, you get the idea…. However, you miss the people watching and the grandeur that is the Great Minnesota Get Together.

The 2021 Minnesota State Fair takes place August 26 through September 6, 2021.

Also on Give Me The Mike…

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Photo credit Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar

Ways to celebrate the Minnesota State Fair in 2020

Have a question about the Food Parade? Send me a note!

Minnesota State Fair themed masks now available

When the 2019 Minnesota State Fair ended, who would have guessed the hot accessory for 2020 would be a face mask?

Minnesota State Fair officials added face coverings to their official online store which also features t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and mugs. Typically, you can shop for Fair-branded merchandise in a store located at Visitors Plaza on the Fairgrounds.

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If want to rep the State Fair in a more subtle way, this three pack of masks are available for $20, a “fair-ly” good deal. Photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair.

To be honest, official Fair merchandise available to public is not typically the most trendy looking stuff. However, designers did a good job creating face masks, along with a gaiter. You can get a face covering featuring Fairchild, one of the two mascots for the Fair, for $12. They’re also selling a three-pack of more simplistic masks for $20. Face coverings are available in adult and youth sizes.

You can buy the face coverings on the Minnesota State Fair’s Fair Wear online store.

Save the date now: The 2021 Minnesota State Fair runs August 26 through September 6, 2021.

Also on Give Me The Mike….

food parade

A Guide to the Minnesota State Fair Food Parade

A Minneapolis nonprofit is giving away $250,000 in grants to LGBT individuals

Originally published in Lavender Magazine, August 2020

In the 1980s, members of the LGBTQ community battled complete isolation. It inspired a Minneapolis-based nonprofit to form, and they are still working to ensure we can all live free from discrimination.

The PFund Foundation started in 1987, in response to the AIDS crisis. At the time, the ignorance of many in society was combated by Pfund, who decided the LGBTQ community could provide for itself and ensure no one fights the battle alone.

PFund continues their mission where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are celebrated and live free from discrimination, violence, invisibility, and isolation.

Today, the PFund Foundation is a premiere LGBTQ grant maker in the Upper Midwest, providing money to individuals, small businesses, and organizations from Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

PFund is helping the LGBTQIA community survive the COVID-19 pandemic by providing micro grants. “We’ve had requests for rental and utility assistance, food and other necessities,” said PFund Executive Director A. Charlene Leach. “From organizations and small businesses, we’ve had requests for trauma-related services and PPE equipment.”

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A. Charlene Leach is the Executive Director of PFund Foundation, a nonprofit providing scholarships to LGBTQIA organizations and individuals. Photo credit Anna Lin.

Those grants have supported people who may have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Ms. Leach said, “There are many gig workers in our community that remain out of work due to social distancing and our overall goal is to maintain a safety net to ensure the stability of the community.”

Due to the wide array of circumstances COVID brought forth, PFund has no requirements on how funds are used, however, an application is required. Anyone is welcome to apply on their website.

PFund is expected to dispense $250,000 in COVID-19 micro grants, with the hope to add more funds as social distancing mandates continue.

In addition to grants, PFund creates and develops leaders within the LGBTQ community. “The definition of leadership varies depending on the person,” Leach said. “It will look different for someone who is recently leaving university than it does for a mid-or-senior career professional.”

PFund offers scholarships to those looking to continue their education, but that doesn’t mean you need to be enrolled at a traditional college or university. The nonprofit grants leadership awards, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, to people invested in the LGBTQIA community, seeking to maintain work as a community activist or organizer or who may need financial support attending conferences and workshops.

According to Leach, “We define leadership as someone actively engaged in advancing LGBTQIA equity, whether though paid work, volunteering or investing.”

Applications for scholarships typically open in January each year. There’s no age limit on who is eligible.

The PFund Foundation is funded by individual donors, other foundations, corporate sponsors, and an endowment. “There are a number of foundations that are long time funders of PFund, but also fully invested in LGBTQIA equity,” Leach said. “Some of those funders have supported the work of PFund for many years.” PFund also receives state government funding.

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Based in Minneapolis, the PFund Foundation is a premiere grantmaker in the Upper Midwest. They currently are dispersing $250,000 in micro grants to LGBT individuals, small businesses and organizations. Photo courtesy PFund Foundation.

Ensuring everyone is heard

As PFund looks ahead, elevating voices of the Black community, along with Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color who identify as LGBTQIA remains top priority. “Aside from financial investment through our scholarships, we recently launched our Emergent Leaders Initiative, a program designed to assist with the development of young leaders by providing professional development, coaching and networking,” Leach tells Lavender. The initiative is in partnership with Quorum, the Twin Cities’ LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

Leach also pointed to the wide array of opportunities that can open up thanks to the help of a scholarship. “According to the CDC, Black women are three to four times more likely to die during childbirth. While there are many factors that contribute to that number, PFund Foundation was able to provide a scholarship to the second African American midwife in the state of Minnesota. While that doesn’t solve all the issues, it’s a step that I hope others will follow in recognizing that representation is also part of the problem.”

PFund is also working to diversify the voices within its organization. “I will also add that for the first time in PFund’s 32 year history, it has a Black woman at the helm,” Leach said. “I think it speaks to the commitment of the Board of Directors in our quest for equity.”

Like so many businesses, COVID-19 has taken a toll on how PFund can serve its neighbors. “Like most organizations, we have seen a decline in giving but we remain steadfast in our work for equity,” Leach said. The nonprofit accepts online donations for those looking to help support others in the LGBTQIA community.

And there are other ways to help besides opening up your wallet: “Anyone interested in getting involved can join the Board of Directors or serve on a Board committee, assist with grant review for our scholarships, or volunteer at an event, once social distancing has been lifted,” Leach said. “We are also accepting volunteers who would be interested in sending care packages to our scholars who are college students.”

PFund ignited during one crisis, and is steadfast during this one.

“As long as the rights of anyone in the LGBTQIA community are at risk, we will be there, fighting for their rights and fighting for equality,” Leach stated. “We have new programming and enhanced trainings, we’ve diversified our funding, and are growing exponentially. We invite the community to engage with us as we create the world we want to leave for those behind us.”

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To donate to PFund, or to apply for a COVID-19 micro grant, head to www.pfundfoundation.org.

Three must-visit LGBTQ-friendly vacation destinations

Originally published in Lavender Magazine, August 2020

No matter if your 2020 dream vacation was happening by plane, train, or automobile—chances are COVID-19 has altered or canceled those plans.

Despite COVID, LGBTQ-friendly destinations around the country are still open for business. If you’re comfortable traveling now, this fall is a perfect time to go, as tourism numbers are down and you won’t have to battle crowds. These destinations will happily welcome you whenever you’re ready to travel again.

I have had the pleasure of visiting some of the most LGBTQ-friendly destinations in the United States. Here are three spots I hope every queer person has the chance to visit in their lifetime.

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East Coast: Provincetown, MA

Located on the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown, Massachusetts, commonly known as Ptown, has served as an escape for those in the LGBTQ community for generations.

During Ptown’s most popular themed week, Carnival, the town of 3,000 residents swells up to 70,000 people. From women of color to bears, Ptown hosts a celebration for nearly everyone.

COVID-19 has taken its toll on Ptown. Tony Fuccillo, the Director of Tourism for the Town of Provincetown, told me that most events are canceled through the end of 2020. There’s a different feel because the nightlife isn’t what it once was. However, Fuccillo added that it hasn’t stopped people from visiting. Ptown offers plenty of outdoor activities, which many consider safer than indoor activities (while following proper social distancing guidelines) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

LGBTQ-owned Art’s Dune Tours has offered guided excursions of the Cape Cod National Seashore for nearly 75 years. This year, You will be in an SUV with a tour guide who points out the untouched beauty of the land, which was dedicated by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. The sunset dune tour includes a 60-minute car ride and your chance to watch sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. They can also serve you an oceanfront dinner for an additional cost. It was the most rewarding part of my May 2017 trip.

Ptown also offers kayak and paddle board rentals, along with whale watching tours.

Fall, in particular between Labor Day and Halloween, is a great time to visit, as hotel room prices drop considerably from the main tourist season. Plus, it’s still warm. Your priority for booking a Ptown vacation is finding a place to sleep. Ptown is not home to any chain hotels, or “formula businesses” as they’re legally referred to, and instead is populated with smaller bed and breakfasts.

Find my 10 tips on planning a perfect Ptown vacation here.

Recently, scouts from the television show American Horror Story were in Ptown to scout sites for an upcoming season. Fuccillo wasn’t able to confirm if the show will actually film in Provincetown on schedule next spring, but don’t be surprised if you see Ptown as the backdrop for the beloved drama.

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West Coast: Palm Springs, CA

Out west, Palm Springs is known as one of the best LGBTQ destinations in the world.

Located two hours east of Los Angeles and two hours northeast of San Diego, Palm Springs boasts 14 resorts exclusively for the gay community, including many clothing-optional options.

Palm Springs

My January 2017 trip to Palm Springs marked my first time staying at a clothing-optional resort, and I didn’t know what to expect. Or see. But to be completely honest, the clothing-optional part wasn’t a big deal. Guys are welcoming, no matter your body type.  What those resorts offer is a great opportunity for you to meet other travelers. When booking your stay, check with hotel owners to see if they will host an afternoon happy hour. Many serve up complimentary drinks. Similar to Provincetown, Palm Springs bans chain businesses in certain parts of the city. The result gives small businesses the opportunity to thrive.

Click here to check out reviews of Palm Springs gay resorts I visited during my trip.

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Non-chain, LGBTQ-owned Townie Bagels, is a spot I have recommended to many people who have made the trip to Palm Springs. Owner Andy Wysocki wanted to bake bread for fun. After completing coursework at the San Francisco Baking Institute, he would bring his creations to the Sunday morning coffee group he attended with his husband, Bill. That evolved to selling baked goods at farmer’s markets and then opening a restaurant at the southern end of Palm Springs in 2015. You’ll see Bill handling front-of-house duties while Andy bakes bagels, “less-gluten” crackers (made with almond flour), scones, and baguettes in the back.

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Do not pass up on the Palm Springs Air Museum. Located on the tarmac of the Palm Springs Airport, the Museum has an array of planes flown in World War II, including two featured in the movie, “Pearl Harbor”. The museum is staffed with veterans who volunteer their time to graciously share their stories and vast knowledge. For me, it was an incredible way to witness that era of American history. Many of the airplanes are outside, which makes it a good activity to take on during COVID. Tripadvisor ranks the Palm Springs Air Museum as the number one attraction in the city.

The main Palm Springs tourist season runs late-January through April. Be aware that the desert gets very hot during the summer months; July’s average high temperature is 108 degrees. Their visitor’s bureau, Visit Palm Springs, tells me that the summer months typically draw a wide array of European visitors who seek out the heat.

The annual Palm Springs’ White Party, which is considered by many to be the largest gay dance music festival in the nation, is rescheduled to take place October 30 to November 2, 2020.

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Closer to home: Door County, WI

Located about one hour northeast of Green Bay and a total of five hours from Minneapolis, Door County, Wisconsin is the authority in hospitality and a haven for those looking to escape. Due to its geography, you can watch the sunrise over Lake Michigan, and that evening after a quick car ride, you’ll see the sunset over Green Bay.

The city of Sturgeon Bay serves as the front door to Door County. To get from Sturgeon Bay to the county’s northern tip, you will drive for nearly an hour. You will definitely need a car, as ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft aren’t available and you won’t see people hailing taxis.

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LGBTQ-owned Chanticleer Guest House hosted me for an August 2018 visit. Owners Darrin and Byron pour their hearts into the bed and breakfast, cooking for guests and delivering food and beverages to rooms in the morning. They updated the main house, built in 1916, along with a barn, which both have suites.

During a typical travel season, Door County officials recommend you book a B&B for the summer season six to eight months in advance.

In Ellison Bay, make a reservation at Wickman House for dinner. They adapted to COVID guidelines by offering outdoor seating and a “summer of BBQ” themed menu with nightly specials. The restaurant is open “almost year-round”. Door County is famous for its cherries, and a visit to White Gull Inn in Fish Creek is a must for their cherry-stuffed French toast with a cream cheese filling. Thanks to this menu item, the restaurant won Good Morning America’s Best Breakfast Challenge in 2010.

If you’re looking to get beyond Door County, you can take the brand new Washington Island Ferry, which was christened in June 2020. She has the capacity to hold up to 28 vehicles and 150 passengers. Washington Island offers beautiful outdoor scenery and is worth visiting if your trip to the area is more than three or four days.

Considering the amount of driving around the county you will do once you’re there, you will want to spend at least three days in Door County. Head here for guides on what to do in Door County over a long weekend, and guides for those who are able to spend more time away from home.

Due to COVID-19, it’s highly recommended you check with businesses on hours and guidelines while planning your next trip.

For more information on Provincetown, visit www.ptowntourism.com. To plan a vacation to Palm Springs, head to www.visitpalmsprings.com. You can learn more about Door County at www.doorcounty.com.