Minnesotans know how to take advantage of summer. Heck, I’m writing this article from the rooftop of my apartment complex in downtown Minneapolis.
The results were a bit surprising. The top spots don’t include the iconic locations nestled on Lake Minnetonka. Instead, it’s places where you don’t have to wait 45 minutes to get a table.
For folks in the Twin Cities, some of these are a bit of a drive. But I can attest that they are worth the trip.
Here’s my segment on KSTP-TV’s Twin Cities Live.
10600 County Highway 8, Marty (Kimball) 55353
With a population of 20 people, Marty is located about an hour northwest of the Twin Cities. The town boasts a church, a school, a town ball field and Pearl Lake Lodge.
Pearl Lake Lodge originally opened in the 1920s. The back patio was finished in 2018.
Owner Tom “Rudy” Ruether’s personality is definitely visible on the patio, which has an array of items. To get to the patio, you will go through the “wow door,” because as Rudy tells me, once you walk through it, all you’ll want to say is “wow”.
You can take a photo on a bronzed motorcycle. There’s also an Elvis statue and a British telephone booth.
There’s a story behind why the stoplight is upside down (I won’t ruin it for you, go ahead and ask when you’re there).
Rudy says that all of his great ideas are stolen from other places.
The patio seats 180 people (there’s also a patio out front which seats about 50).
The patio has a music stage, with tunes every Sunday, along with Wednesdays and most Saturdays.
Pearl Lake Lodge, an Irish pub, is home to one heck of a St. Patrick’s celebration and parade. The festivities draw 8,000 people. Rudy calls the parade “the parade so nice you’ll see it twice” because it circles around the town. It has 110 floats, nearly 1000 participants and takes 2.5 hours to complete.
Every Wednesday, Pearl Lake Lodge has ‘Bologna Day’, where you can get a bologna lunch. They’re also known for Taco Tuesday and their chicken wings.
I fell in love with their “buy a friend a drink” board, where you can pay it forward to others who stop by.￼
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371 Selby Avenue, Saint Paul 55102
Moscow On The Hill has one of the most hidden restaurant patios in Minnesota.
The now-Russian restaurant originally started as a French restaurant and was opened by an orthodontist and neurologist in 1994. They had no restaurant experience. They switched to Russian food a couple years later.
The patio at Moscow On The Hill cannot be seen from the street, meaning you have to know its there.
The patio seats 120 people and the restaurant’s full menu is served outside.
The founder’s son, Eugene, tells me that if you want to avoid a wait for a table on the patio, stop by for lunch. They serve lunch 7 days a week.
Moscow On The Hill has more than 300 vodkas available, including 19 that are infused in-house. Of the house-infused vodkas, horseradish vodka is the most popular (put it in a bloody Mary!). You can get a flight with 6 house-infused vodkas for $20. Moscow On The Hill partners with 45th Parallel Distillery to sell their infused vodkas at liquor stores.
As for food, Eugene says to get the hand-made dumplings, in particular the Siberian Pelmeni, which are filled with beef and pork.
For the adventurous eater, the Yazik (beef tongue) is highly recommended.
Eugene says that their colorful salads rival any salad made in the Twin Cities. Try the Russian Garden Salad.
I was impressed with the vast number of gluten-free options they serve, which are clearly marked on the menu.
520 Malcolm Avenue SE, Minneapolis 55414
Surly Brewing Company got its start in Brooklyn Center in 2006 and added a much larger facility in Minneapolis in 2014 (the Brooklyn Center location is still producing beer).
Their Minneapolis beer garden/patio fits 900 people!
There are about 100 seats available under the awning which are full-service. Otherwise, Surly added a ‘food island’, a tent where you can order a vast majority of their food outside. You will receive a text when it’s ready!
Surly’s food menu goes far beyond an average food truck. Get the Brussels sprouts. Get the Key Lime Pie. Get the smoked meats tray. There’s a burger inspired by the McRib. Get it. Their French fries are killer. Eat them.
Surly’s second floor is home to a pizza pub. You are able to get the pizzas ‘to-go’ and take them to the beer garden.
Surly’s patio is dog-friendly (it is NOT dog-friendly inside).
Insider: the least busy times are from 11:00-11:30 and around 2:00 any day of the week.
On Monday nights during the summer, Surly’s beer garden is home to free outdoor movies. Look for “Clueless,” “Top Gun” and other classics.
Surly teams with heavy-hitter First Avenue for outdoor concerts in what they call “Festival Field.”
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30124 MN 264, Round Lake 56167
Round Lake Vineyards is 3 hours south of the Twin Cities and less than 45 minutes from popular vacation spot, Okoboji, Iowa. There are plenty of bed and breakfasts in the area if you’re looking for a weekend getaway.
Round Lake started planting grapes in 2007 and started making wines in 2012.
On a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, their patio (which is far from other civilization) will have 150-200 people.
The patio has live music on Sundays.
The patio has a waterfall, and when you look up, you get a view of Round Lake since the winery is located right on the shores of the lake.
In addition to the wine, Round Lake has a chef on the property. Chef Brendan worked for Hilton Hotels and wanted a change of pace so he decided to join the team at Round Lake.
If the name Round Lake sounds familiar, the wine is sold at over 300 locations around the Midwest, including Haskell’s. Round Lake Vineyards currently makes 5 red and 8 white wines.
Their most popular red wine is the Gander, a blend of Marquette, Merlot and Cabernet.
Of their white wines, the most popular is the Brianna.
Round Lake hosts events throughout the year and is a popular wedding venue. They also plan special dinners within their 30 acres of grapes.
Round Lake Vineyards open 7 days a week in the summer and are closed Mondays and Tuesdays in the winter.
42703 Grandview Avenue, Belview 56214
Belview is 2.5 hours west of Minneapolis between Montevideo and Redwood Falls.
Grandview Valley Winery opened in 2012.
The winery is on what once was a soybean field and now boasts more than 4200 vines.
Their patio seats about 100 people.
The winery features live music about once a month.
When the harvest allows, their 9 wines are made from 100% Minnesota grown grapes, with the exception of the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Their most popular wines are their 2 Roses.
Grandview Valley Winery wines are sold at some liquor stores, but at this time, most are located in west central Minnesota.
The spring of 2019 was tough due to the weather, with nearly every vine dying at the ground.
In addition to wine, they are known for their pizza, which is made from scratch to order. They have gluten-free crust as well.
Grandview Valley Winery is open Thursdays thru Sundays year-round.
They do not take credit cards; cash or check only.
Check out my other roundups of what’s ‘Worth the Trip’
- 5 best places to play bingo in Minnesota
- The 5 best meat raffles in Minnesota
- The 5 best restaurants for fried fish in Minnesota
- Hidden gems at the 5 best museums in Minnesota
- 20 Mexican restaurants in Minnesota worth the trip
- The best ice cream shops in Minnesota
- The 17 best restaurants for breakfast in Minnesota
- The 5 best bakeries in Minnesota
- The 5 best holiday light displays in Minnesota
- The 5 best coffee shops in Minnesota
- The best pizzerias in Minnesota
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