Many many moons ago, on one of her numerous cross country drives, my friend Vicky mentioned that The Twin Cities were cool. As this was well before I had properly explored this country it was met with a resounding, “Yeah, right.”
Well, as it turns out, she was right.
Kyle’s cousin Josh and his wife Kiera have been living in Saint Paul for just over a year now and were eager to show it off. They live in a loft building in downtown with a brewery, a pizza place, a diner, a thai restaurant and a gay bar on the first floor. This fact alone gave the Twin Cities a ton of points. It’s frigid outside but you don’t even need to leave your building to socialize? WIN.
We arrived on the 1st of August which was National Night Out, an event neither Kyle nor I had ever heard of. Apparently it’s to encourage people to meet their neighbors, have block parties, and engage with local police. It’s supposed to be nationwide, but from what we could glean it is an exclusively fly-over state phenomenon. The good thing about this thing happening on our first night in town is that we got to meet all of the people in Josh and Keira’s building at once and assure them that it was us in the RV in their parking lot and not some random creepers.
On our second night in town we were taken to a place called The Gopher for what everyone referred to as “Racist Hotdogs” because the Gopher is decorated with many more confederate flags than you would expect to see in the Great White North. Apparently they also had confederate flag uniforms at one point, but those have since been abandoned.
We were escorted to The Gopher by Josh and Kiera’s next door neighbor, an off-duty police chief who insisted on bringing her gun. She was absolutely not the only one. The clientele was eclectic. There was a gentleman there who couldn’t have been less than 6’5” wearing a bright purple shirt with WYOMING splashed across the front in large white letters and either a gun or a tactical knife in his back pocket. There were a large number of bikers. There were three ancient ladies who were all dolled up and incredibly intoxicated.
Their menu features a cartoon gopher pulling sausages out from under his shirt. It also features an adorable story about how getting hired as a waitress means you’ll end up marrying one of the owners. At no point do they draw attention to their decor which features numerous instances of the word “FUCK”, a Peeping Tom in the ladies room and all those Confederate Flags.
When it came time to order our dogs, Kiera was on the fence about what to get as she’s usually a pescatarian. Our escort barked, “You don’t go to a whorehouse for a hug!” and the matter was settled – Kiera was getting a hotdog.
The dogs were amazing, the beers were cheap, the walls were racist – it was definitely an experience.*
After Coney Dogs we hit up 12welve Eyes Brewery which was started by three guys in glasses. Get it? Twelve Eyes? They had only just opened – the place still smelled like varnish – but the beers were good and the staff was nice and their tap handles were cute.
From there it was off to Tin Whiskers brewery where I learned what Tin Whiskers are: Tin whiskers are electrically conductive, crystalline structures of tin that sometimes grow from surfaces where tin (especially electroplated tin) is used as a final finish. Tin whiskers have been observed to grow to lengths of several millimeters (mm) and in rare instances to lengths in excess of 10 mm.
The next day Josh took us out to Revival for some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. It was a little bit spicy and a whole lot crunchy and it filled my hungover body with the greasy nutrients it craved.
We explored the sculpture garden at The Walker Art Center and saw Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen which is apparently ~a thing~ but I’d never heard of it. We saw the ruins of a flour mill and rode bikes across a bridge.
On our final day in town Josh and Kiera took us to a place called the Hi-Lo Diner where the Bloody Marys come with little squat bottles of High Life on the side and donuts can be covered in duck confit. It’s intense.
The bar menu features boozy slushies and milkshakes, cocktails topped with candy and four varieties of popcorn. There is a massive vintage arcade featuring over twenty pin-ball machines. The mini-golf itself has (what was formerly) the longest mini-golf hole in the world and it’s Prince themed. Just that hole though. The others are all themed differently from Gramma’s Living Room to Natural Disaster(s). Yes I’m serious. You can read a list of all the holes here.
A definite runner up was Ax-Man Surplus. A Store with surplus EVERYTHING. Art supplies, circuits, weird goggles, any fuse you could possibly imagine, boxes and bags, ovals of joy. You name it, they got it.
The owners definitely have a sense of humor because the place is decorated insanely and covered in little handwritten signs. One I didn’t photograph was for spider keychains that read, “eight legged NOPES.”
Oh! I forgot! We also went to Matt’s and tried the Original Juicy Lucy – a burger stuffed with absolutely boiling delicious cheese. We basically only ate and drank for the entirety of our stay. It was wonderful.
So Twin Cities has a lot of things in the plus column: it’s cheap. There’s nightlife. There’s a serious cocktail and beer culture. There is some really good food.We know people there. You can get away with not having a car. Sure, it’s freezing for six months out of the year but does it really matter when there’s a brewery downstairs?
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*An experience which after the events of this past weekend seems suddenly much less light hearted and a lot more disturbing.