When Travis Dickey opened the first Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in 1941, the menu offered beef brisket, pit hams, barbecue beans, potato chips, drinks, and that’s all. By focusing on perfecting the flavors of a few dishes, Travis was able to increase quality, and, ultimately, customers. Patrons were so enamored of the food that the restaurant eventually expanded into a nationwide franchise, allowing Americans all over to wear badges made of barbecue sauce. Over the past 70 years, Dickey’s has been passed on to Travis’s sons, but not much else has changed—the quality meats are still seasoned and smoked on site, and except for the addition of spicy cheddar sausage in 2011, the menu remains the same. Regional meats ensure that the most succulent Texas-style chopped beef brisket, old-recipe polish sausage, and fall-off-the-bone pork ribs make it to tabletops. Sides such as mac 'n' cheese and green beans with bacon continue to enhance feasts with an extra punch of homestyle tastiness. Each meal comes complete with complimentary ice cream, soft rolls, and dill pickles.
All About Taste, Inc provides a gourmet catering experience including boxed lunches at affordable prices and a willingness to work with budgets. The brainchild of experienced caterer Jill Michel, the business has served a wide range of clientele all across the Midwest, including Fortune 500 companies, Meals on Wheels, and the University of Minnesota.
Starting from scratch each day, Marna’s Catering’s head chef Rolando Diaz imbues each of his dishes with the culinary prowess he inherited while working at the family restaurant in his native Costa Rica. Featured in local publications such as Metromix and Maple Grove Magazine, Chef Diaz whips up zesty Caribbean dishes in equal measure with American-style comfort foods, serving seafood ceviche and fried plantains alongside chicken wings and cobb salads. Along with authentic Costa Rican entrees such as chifrijo and jerk chicken gallo pinto, Chef Diaz's specialties include the "Front Burger"—a lean-beef patty cooked with smoky chipotle peppers and topped with adobo spices, provolone, crisp bacon, grilled onions, pineapple and a tangy secret sauce whose recipe is as classified as the president's iPod playlist.
Medina Entertainment Center fights boredom on several fronts with a host of recreational activities housed in one sprawling complex. The renowned concert stage attracts top-level talent from around the country, and its list of past performers?Johnny Cash, Alice Cooper, and Bret Michaels?reads like a brochure at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If your belly is rumbling so loudly that you can't hear the music, just head to Robert's Restaurant, where a menu of burgers, wraps, and grilled fish awaits. Medina is also home to a 12-lane bowling center where players can let off steam by naming each pin after a different middle-school bully.
The culinary team at Common Roots Cafe believes that the best way to create a welcoming restaurant is to fully embrace local flavor in every sense of the word. Even the interior speaks to this mission?reclaimed barn wood makes up the dining room's floorboards and tabletops, the counter is composed of recycled cardboard, and the air is one-hundred percent Minnesotan. The overall effect is one of casual warmth, an atmosphere that makes the cafe an ideal spot for guests to chew on eclectic, yet accessible, cuisine and relax with a choice of 10 local craft beers.
The menu itself also bursts with hometown pride, highlighting local organic and sustainable ingredients. As much as half of the restaurant's food comes from farms located within 250 miles of Minneapolis, while some produce is picked right outside the door at the cafe's urban garden. And since the selection of ingredients alters with the seasons, the chefs adapt their dishes each month to showcase their fresh flavors. Previous offerings have included redfish tacos with jicama slaw, mac 'n' cheese with local cheddar, and house-made tagliatelle pasta topped with a hearty bison bolognese sauce. Bites are complemented with sips from a drink list featuring wines?many made from organic grapes?and local beers. And, in the unlikely event that diners leave any food on their plates, the scraps are carefully composted to continue the cafe's green production cycle.
Who would build a castle in Minneapolis? In 1908, the Turnblads did just that on Park Avenue. The Swedish immigrant family constructed a mansion complete with detailed woodcarvings done by hand-selected artists and a barn/carriage house where the family housed some early automobiles and one horse that was starting to get really insecure about his job security. But the king and queen of this castle were benevolent. Just 21 years after the mansion's construction, the Turnblads gave over the house keys to the community for the organization that would become American Swedish Institute.
Today, the mansion and its grounds still stand as a tribute to Swedish and Nordic culture?both past and present. Guides lead tours into the historic home as well as through the more contemporary Nelson Cultural Center. Its 34,000 square feet includes a modern art gallery featuring rotating exhibits that showcase photographs, paintings, and other works of art from Sweden and her Nordic neighbors.
The American Swedish Institute also regularly hosts performing-arts presentations and educational programs, including Swedish language classes for all levels. But to truly get a taste of authentic Swedish culture, all one really needs to do is take a bite of the seasonal Nordic-inspired cuisine at Fika, the onsite cafe praised by such publications as the New York Times.
Other places to explore include a Museum shop with Nordic goods as well as a reading room filled with books from Swedish and Swedish American authors.