Shawn Richardson and his hunting buddies were on a fishing trip, exchanging stories and admiring the natural beauty of Lake Superior when one of the fellas struck on a crazy idea. Fun as it was to traipse around the coniferous wilderness—he explained as his friends’ rapt expressions held steady through intermittent bites of newly caught walleye—it seemed a shame that lake-fresh fish and wild game had to be wrested from the cruelly indifferent hands of nature. What if a person need only reach out a fork to enjoy nature’s spoils?
Long after the trip had ended, that notion reverberated down the mental corridors of Shawn, himself a seasoned chef. Every time he joylessly cut a piece from a flavorless slab of frozen fish, or played an idle game of Oregon Trail it would return anew, like an unscratched itch. Finally, one morning—with resolve etched into his steely face—he said goodbye to his mounted yeti head, threw sand over the bonfire flickering on top of his living room coffee table, and strutted out the door to open up a neighborhood joint of his own, where he could serve fresh and local wild game.
Today, Woodsmans Gril’s kitchens sizzle with 13 types of unique game, including elk, bison, walleye, and quail. Shawn smokes his the meats himself onsite, while conducting a kitchen staff as they prepare an innovative menu that has enticed the palates of ABC Newspapers. Servers carry the weighty plates out into the dining room, where Shawn's taxidermy mounts gaze down from brick walls, and color photographs of wild deer, flapping fish, and rugged escaped bank tellers adorn the tables.
When Shannon and her daughter Kate sought out a mother-daughter activity, they dodged the typical scrapbooking and quilting and instead opened Coffee Caboose. Their creation is a charming café specializing in espresso drinks, hot dogs loaded with toppings, and housemade baked goods. Often seen manning the counter or flapping limbs to create angels in coffee-grounds piles, they ensure the quality of their product by involving themselves in all aspects of their business. Each morning, Shannon and Kate showcase this dedication by serving up fresh-baked cinnamon rolls and steaming cups of coffee to commuters en route to the Northstar Train.
Opened by a pair of leaf-loving friends in 1999, The Mad Hatter Tea Room fills the 1916-built Anoka Post Office building with traditional English teas and trays bearing freshly baked scones and dainty sandwiches. At reserved seatings, guests sip and nibble from a cornucopia of tea services named after outlandish characters from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland books and mathematical theorems. Tea sets the scene for leisurely afternoons, surrounded by spiraling chandeliers and pastel walls. On the way out, a boutique stocked with books and tea accessories lets guests tote the elegance to their own homes and backyard dirt bike rallies.
From humble beginnings as a single donut shop in Lakewood, California, in 1953, Denny's has grown into a nationwide destination for classic American diner food served around the clock. Today, just shy of 1,800 locations thrive across the nation, serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner at any time that guests feel a hunger for good food. Family owned and operated, Denny's of Otsego's friendly and attentive staff serves up a menu of more than 100 options, including build-your-own breakfasts and burgers and fried fish for an all-you-can-eat meal on Fridays.
Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milk Shake, and Best Drive-Thru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through their program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
Bean Buddy's bright-eyed coffee-bean mascot, Bean Buddy, welcomes guests into the WiFi-equipped cafe, where coffee pots percolate and beans are ground fresh. With a five-drink punch card, customers can bring along a jazz quartet and still ensure that everyone enjoys their own cup (up to $4.89 each) of Buddy's hazelnut divinity, a swirling vortex of hazelnut and almond roca. Augment flavor absorption by partnering warm sips of german-chocolate-cake coffee—infused with chocolate and coconut—with The Mean Bean, an extra shot of espresso, chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut. Baked fresh by a local pastry chef, cupcakes ($2.45 each) of red velvet and chocolate add extra morsels of saccharine goodness to an already-rich culinary affair, and a Bean Buddy cartoon coffee mug ($9.95) acts as a sentimental souvenir of your visit or lightens up the moods of dark cupboards.
Guests seated at Osaka Sushi and Hibachi’s teppanyaki tables watch as chefs slice and grill pieces of filet mignon, chicken, scallops, and other fine meats. With skillful spatula flicks or regulation slingshots, the chefs then fling the meaty pieces onto plates along with piles of white rice and colorful veggies. Nearby, sushi chefs also impress diners with their culinary precision. After rolling rice around shrimp tempura and spicy tuna, they can transform the bundle into a Christmas roll by adding red, black, and bright-green tobiko. Miniature piles of tobiko victoriously sit atop lobster salad in the Sumo roll, whereas sliced avocado contrasts the light-pink salmon in the Coon Rapids roll.