The restaurant community is always there for us. They’re ready to serve you a drink when you’re out celebrating, they feed us when we don’t feel like doing dishes, and they work at times when we would rather be out with friends and family.
Profit margins are slim for restaurants. They face high rents, increasing hourly wages, providing sick leave and medical insurance. And they have to keep menu prices reasonable.
So when a pandemic such as COVID-19 shuts down many restaurants completely, you have to wonder how it will impact the scene when this passes.
We cannot lose the quality restaurants we have in the Twin Cities. Many are offering curbside pickup. Others, even those who are currently closed, are offering deals on gift cards. The extra cash flow helps these restaurants come out of this a little stronger. And when we are all through this, you’ll have gift cards to spend for a fun night out on the town!
At Rock Elm Tavern in Maple Grove and Plymouth, you can become a member of the Tavern Backer Burger Club. For $150, you will receive a punch card that will get you a free burger every month for a year. They’re also offering 10% off gift cards when you use promo code SMALLBIZ.
Saint Paul, Minnesota may be the smaller twin of the Twin Cities, but it has a whole lot of charm and plenty to do. Here’s some advice for planning a trip to Minnesota’s Capitol city.
Getting there and getting around.
From Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport, downtown Saint Paul is about a 10 minute Lyft or Uber ride away. You can take Metro Transit’s light rail (blue line to green line), but it would take you a really long time — like over an hour. It’s not worth it.
Once you’re in Saint Paul, Metro Transit’s green line can be really helpful. It runs from Union Depot in Lowertown all the way through Saint Paul into Minneapolis (it ends at Target Field on the west side of downtown Minneapolis). A non rush hour ride is only $2.
Metro Transit does operate a bus system, but you’re probably better off renting a car, especially if you want to explore the rest of the Twin Cities.
When to go.
Minnesota is cold about 9 months of the year.
So Saint Paul embraces it.
At the end of January, Saint Paul hosts a Winter Carnival. Every year, you can count on a big parade, ice sculptures and a snow park. The Winter Carnival has royalty and during some years, has built larger-than-life ice castles.
For multiple years, Saint Paul has also hosted Red Bull’s Crashed Ice, an extravagant course where professional dare devils go downhill skiing but on ice skates. It’s a spectacle.
I’m not a big fan of the cold and snow, but don’t automatically rule out a winter trip to Minnesota.
Now, there aren’t many places better than Minnesota in the summer. The sun stays up late and people know they need to embrace these summer nights. Downtown Saint Paul, in particular the area around Mears Park, has some great patios for dinner or a nightcap. Check out an evening baseball game at CHS Field since you’re in the neighborhood.
I recently stayed at the Covington Inn, a floating bed and breakfast on the Mississippi River. The tug boat was converted into four rooms and is a perfect spot for a romantic getaway. It’s docked on Harriet Island, which is across the river from downtown Saint Paul. If you stay at the Covington in the winter, you definitely will want a car as it’s a considerable walk from downtown. The Covington Inn is for sale, but it’s still open. Learn more.
If you’re looking for something more conventional, hotels around Kellogg and West 7th Street will get you close to many bars and restaurants.
What to do.
Outside of downtown, here are some neighborhoods worth checking out:
Grand Avenue is full of restaurants and shops. On the first Sunday of June, they host Grand Old Day, a one-day street festival that draws upwards of 250,000 people. When you’re on Grand Avenue, check out accessory company J.W. Hulme.
Some may consider it downtown, but the West 7th neighborhood is definitely worth visiting. Starting at the edge of downtown Saint Paul, West 7th is full of bars, restaurants and coffee shops. It’s also home to Keg and Case West 7th Market, a collaboration of over two dozen Minnesota-based companies in an indoor market. It’s also home to In Bloom, an upscale restaurant without a conventional oven. Instead, they use wood fire to cook everything on their menu.
Sing with the Twin Cities Beer Choir. The concept is simple and quite fun. The group gathers as a brewery, bar or restaurant and hand out “hymnals” to attendees. The music are melodies you are familiar with, but the words are switched out to involve drinking beer. Many Twin Cities Beer Choir participants are alumni from those really good Minnesota Lutheran college choirs, so as a group, they sound quite good. It’s a very lighthearted time. Their July meetup takes place at Spring Cafe, located at the Como Lakeside Pavilion in Saint Paul. (July 3)
The PGA Tour stops in Minnesota with the brand new 3M Open. The field has yet to be announced when this list was published, but Phil Mickelson has already announced he will play. Tournament play takes place July 4-7, but festivities go all week at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. (July 1-7)
Head down to the Mississippi River in Northeast Minneapolis to watch a Twin Cities River Rats show. Every Thursday night, this ski team puts on a free show filled with stunts, jumps and pyramids all on the water. They do have a show on the 4th of July, which is followed by fireworks. They also have a bonus performance on Friday, July 5th. They’re super family-friendly. Bring a blanket! (July 4, 11, 18 and 25)
Little Mekong is the Asian business and cultural district in Saint Paul. It runs along University Avenue between Mackubin and Galtier Streets. At the tail end of the 4th of July weekend, businesses in the area hold the Little Mekong Night Market, which is a huge street festival with really good food, unique shopping and lots of entertainment. It’s inspired by the night markets you would find in southeast Asia. It runs from 5-10 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. (July 6-7)
The Minnesota Orchestra starts their annual Sommerfest concert series by performing the soundtrack to the Disney Pixar movie, “Coco.” Sommerfest 2019 has a Latin American theme, with concerts throughout the month of July. It should also mark the expected debut of the new Peavey Plaza, the public park space next to Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis. (July 6-7)
If you can’t wait for the Minnesota State Fair to start, check out the Ramsey County Fair in Maplewood. Admission is free. (July 10-14)
There’s no need to head west to catch a classic rodeo! The town of Hamel is just west of Plymouth and since 1981, has hosted a rodeo with barrel racing, steer wrestling and more. More impressive: the Hamel Rodeo is operated by 5 non-profit groups; the large event doesn’t have a single paid staff member. (July 11 – 14)
Kacey Musgraves, Semisonic, Jason Mraz and Hanson headline the Basilica Block Party in Minneapolis. The two-night outdoor concert first started in 1995 to raise money for the Basilica of St. Mary. (July 12-13)
The Minneapolis Movies in the Park series continues all month with free films shown at parks across the city. Stop by the Nicollet Island Pavilion on Monday, July 15 for “Free Solo,” a National Geographic documentary following Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb El Capitan at Yosemite National Park without any ropes. I recently saw it and it’s riveting.
Once a month, The Spring Street Tavern in Northeast Minneapolis hosts Pundamonium, a pun slam competition. Those who think they are punny are welcome to show off their skills. Participants are selected first come, first serve. The five judges are pre-selected members of the audience. (July 17)
Italian restaurant, Pazzaluna hosts its annual Wheels of Italy street party in downtown Saint Paul on Thursday, July 18. Stop by to see some of the finest street cars along with live music. The car show is free to attend.
People from around the Twin Cities will make their way to the Rondo neighborhood of Saint Paul for the Rondo Days Festival and Parade on Saturday, July 20. The parade begins at 10 am with the festival running from 12-7 pm.
Minnesota Monthly hosts its Fine Spirits Classic inside Orchestra Hall. Sample cocktails from the best mixologists in the state. (July 24)
Competitive eater Joey Chestnut will be at The Great Midwest Rib Fest at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake. His mission: to eat more than 13.76 pounds of pork meat in 12 minutes. The three day festival is free to attend and also includes performances by Gretchen Wilson and Sugar Ray. (July 25-27)
The iconic Porky’s drive-in diner in Saint Paul has a new home in Hastings. It’s a part of the Little Log House Pioneer Village, a collection of historic buildings which are restored to make it feel like you are stepping back in time. The village is open to the public one weekend a year. Stop by the last full weekend of July for the Little Log House Antique Power Show, which allows you to walk through the Village. This year, they welcome artifacts from the Cottage View Drive-In in Cottage Grove. (July 26-28)
The British choral group, Libera, is astonishing. Boys range in age from seven to 16 and members are from schools throughout London. They tour internationally and are visiting Saint Paul once again. I had the privilege of hearing them the last time they were in Minnesota and I just wanted to melt in my seat. The venue is ideal, too: the gorgeous Cathedral of Saint Paul. (July 26)
Fitness studio Alchemy 365 is taking over the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and will offer a free class as part of the Minneapolis Aquatennial festivities. All fitness levels all welcome, just bring your own yoga mat. Check in begins at 5 pm with the class starting at 6:00. (July 26)
Watch (or walk in) a parade of dogs in northeast Minneapolis. The gathering point is right on the shores of the Mississippi at St. Anthony Main. (July 26)
Say ‘ooh, ahh’ at one of the largest fireworks displays in the country. The Minneapolis Aquatennial fireworks display start promptly at 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. The best viewpoint is near the Guthrie Theater.
Avoid downtown Minneapolis traffic by taking a water taxi! That’s right, the Minneapolis Water Taxi is a solar powered boat and is currently privately operated, meaning that you can book it for your group of friends for an intimate ride down the Mississippi River. The Water Taxi can fit two to six people and does private events for up to one hour. It goes from 10 am to 10 pm.
Rent a Lime or Spin scooter for a ride. They’re very simple to use and their max speeds only get to 15 MPH, so it’s hard to lose control. Pro tip: find someone who has already rented the scooters to refer you before you download the app. That way, you both get a free credit!
Be in control of how much beer you want to sample. Stop by the new First Draft Taproom & Kitchen near Target Field in Minneapolis. They have over 50 beers, wines, ciders and kombucha on tap. You get to control how much you would like. If you’re curious, the average pour is about 5 ounces.