Dock Cafe in Stillwater: Fine food at reasonable prices

Categories: Road Trip

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​Take a drive right to the border on the edge of the St. Croix, and you'll find Dock Cafe, a beautiful Stillwater staple. Although it's too early in the year to appreciate the fine view of the river while dining on the patio or glancing through the large row of panoramic glass windows, you can enjoy tasty food in a contemporary setting year-round.
We ventured to Stillwater recently, and here's what we found.

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Val's Rapid Serve in St. Cloud: a burger joint with retro flair

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Yael Grauer
Val's Rapid Serve: Blink and you'll miss it!
Located off of Highway 10 in St. Cloud, Val's Rapid Serve is certainly not much to look at. Blink and you'll miss it, and don't plan to dine in. You'll be waiting for your order in a teeny tiny room that looks like any other hole-in-the-wall.

Val's Rapid Serve is fast-food takeout with an old-fashioned flair. Val Henning opened the restaurant in 1959 and sold it to his sons Bill and Dave Henning in 1979. The burger joint likely hasn't changed much since then.

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San Pedro Cafe offers Caribbean food in Hudson

Categories: Food, Road Trip

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Yael Grauer
A taste of the Caribbean: Yucatan pork stew with potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and peppers.
San Pedro Café is a Caribbean-themed restaurant in charming Hudson, Wisconsin--about a half-hour drive from Minneapolis. Named after the town of San Pedro, on an Island off of Belize's mainland, the restaurant's Caribbean flair extends to the bright and colorful décor. There's a 100-gallon aquarium with marine fish and reef and tables made from jobilla, a tropical hardwood from Belize. Each table has rainbow-colored salt shakers and Marie Sharps hot sauce, which is made in Belize. And there's a wood-fired brick oven, used to prepare foods ranging from mildly to fiercely spiced. San Pedro also offers a nice selection of drinks, including margarita mix made daily with freshly squeezed limes.

When the weather starts to chill, the food at this out-of-the-way cafe can bring a bit of tropical sunshine to Minnesotans. Here's what we found on a recent visit:

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The Nova Wine Bar: A romantic getaway in Hudson

Categories: Food, Road Trip

The Nova Wine Bar
Nova's impressive display of wine
Located in quaint downtown Hudson, Wisconsin, The Nova welcomes guests with a cozy and intimate atmosphere. A flickering fireplace and the collection of Tiffany lamps give the setting a warm glow. Tucked away on the hillside overlooking the St. Croix River, the Nova is a quick 30-minute drive east on I-94. When we arrived we found that, much to our delight, the menu was suited to the season and left us to make some tough decisions.

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Clearwater Beer Festival in Altoona, Wisconsin: An easy beer road trip

Categories: Beer, Road Trip

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Clearwater Beer Festival offers an alternative to sold-out local fests
Didn't get tickets to tomorrow's Surlyfest? Missed out on Summit's silver anniversary tickets too? Maybe you're just looking to get out of town. Well, beer fans, don't despair. Eau Claire, Wisconsin, has a beer festival opportunity just for you. The 12th annual Clearwater Beer Festival is happening this Saturday across the St. Croix in our neighbor to the east. It looks to be a more intimate event than either of the offerings at home. Go for the day or make a weekend of it. Northwestern Wisconsin is nice this time of year.

Here are the details.


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A to Z's farm-raised pizza lures urbanites to the country

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Who in their right mind would drive 90 miles for a pizza? The expense! The time! The carbon emissions! There's probably a pizza joint two blocks from your house! And yet, right-minded people seem willing to drive to Stockholm, Wisconsin, from all over the Midwest, just to have a pizza at A to Z Produce and Bakery. What is so all-fired special about this place?

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Schmeckfest: South Dakota's Mennonite "dinner theater"

Categories: Road Trip
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Photos by Nikki Miller
German kuchen
The scene is a community center basement in rural South Dakota. Your ticket in hand, you wait in line as one after another, satiated women and very pregnant-looking men, suspenders stretched over their stuffed bellies, exit the dining room, freeing up space for you and your party to sit at one of its many long white benches. You're finally seated next to families you've never met, brushing elbows with strangers as you're served nudel suppe, danpfleisch, kase mit knopfle, and kuchen. As you pass the geschmacke and sauerkraut, a man who grew up in a local Russian Mennonite colony compares his Low German dialect with the High German spoken by the man next to him, who likely learned his own dialect from parents emigrated to the farmlands of South Dakota from Germany. Pass the kaffe, bitte and danke.

To a food enthusiast traveling from the city, Schmeckfest is a Brave New (Old) World, to be sure.

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Airplane food that doesn't suck

Categories: Road Trip

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Kei Terauchi
On this flight, the glass is definitely half full
Chicken or beef?

The question alone is cringe-inducing. With its aluminum foil container, mystery meat covered in undistinguishable sauce, and that particular odor, airplane food has been the butt of the joke for decades.

Is this the fact even in business class?

You'd almost want to hear, yes, it's equally bad. But the unfair fact is, food in business or first class can be significantly more enjoyable than what's served in coach, especially if it's on a long international flight.

We had the opportunity to taste the menu in business class on a Delta flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo. Here's our impression.



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Alpaca: It's what's for dinner!?

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Photo by Kelly Dwyer
One Minnesota farm is touting alpaca burgers and steaks
Over the last decade, small herds of alpaca have sprung up across the country as the price of choice breeding stock skyrocketed. An award-winning animal would routinely fetch five- or even six-figure amounts on the market and, as a result, entrepreneurs nationwide invested in what seemed like a lucrative business.

Much like in its native Peru, alpaca fiber is prized in the U.S. for use in blankets and apparel. However, one Peruvian custom has not emigrated with the animals: alpaca as a food source.

One Minnesota couple is hoping to change all that.

 

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Minnesota Amish offer sustainable fare--at throwback prices

Categories: Road Trip

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Sustainably farmed, locavore eats--at 1970s prices!
Head south from the Twin Cities on Highway 52 and don't stop until you start seeing poop clods on the side of the road: That's how you know you're in Amish country.

The Harmony/Preston/Lanesboro area is ground zero for Minnesota Amish, a religious subgroup of the Mennonite churches with very traditional beliefs. And for foodies concerned about their carbon footprint, the Amish refusal to adopt modern conveniences means that Amish crops, though not necessarily organic, are planted, harvested, and transported without burning fossil fuels, as the Amish use only horse-drawn cultivators and buggies.

A roadside stop at a parking lot in downtown Canton (just southeast of Harmony) lucked into a bazaar staffed by several women clad in black cloaks and bonnets. They were selling all sorts of handcrafted wares and foodstuffs, including baked goods, rolled butter, and this jar of raspberry jam ($2.50!) and bag of whoopie pies (75 cents for two!) that the Hot Dish just couldn't pass up.

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