Early this summer, I knew that it was time to plan a trip. There is nothing better than a vacation with very few commitments. I have traveled with people who need to plan every minute; It sickens me to my core. I love to wander but remember, not all who wander are aimless. There is a purpose.
There were 3 criteria that I set for this vacation: there must be great food, there must be baseball, and it must be a location where there is a direct flight from Salt Lake City. Since I have been watching the MLB Network this summer, I have closely followed the Minnesota Twins. I also know a few people from the Twin Cities and they highly recommended a visit. I called my Dad and he was in without so much as a second thought. It was booked! Now all I had to do was wait, and research food establishments.
As one good friend put it, “St. Paul is a sleepy little town and Minneapolis is full of energy.” There is a rivalry between the two cities so much so that my friend mentioned growing up in St. Paul but having been to Canada more times than she crossed the river into Minneapolis. Regardless of where we went, it all sounded like an adventure.
Target Field has been the home of the Minnesota Twins since 2010. It’s a beautiful open-air stadium tucked into downtown Minneapolis. My Dad and I booked tickets for 2 games during our visit. We also reserved a hotel that was in walking distance to the stadium. In my research I also found out that it was in close proximity to many restaurants and that the stadium also had some great food choices.
We arrived late on a Wednesday evening and stayed at an airport hotel. Nothing fancy but a comfortable bed and a shower is all you need after a flight. It was a short hotel shuttle ride to the Mall of America which is where we went the next morning. The sheer size of this place was difficult to grasp; and they are expanding it further. There is an amusement park, water park, movie theaters, lego land and hundreds of stores. We were only in about a quarter of the mall. The best part: The Spicy Beef Noodle Soup at Ruby Thai Kitchen. Medium spice to them is a volcano’s fire to me.
90 minutes at a mall and it was time to go. The Twin Cities’ light rail has a station right at Mall of America. After a 25 minute ride, we were in beautiful downtown Minneapolis. It’s a clean downtown with a lot of skyscrapers, stores, restaurants and a Farmer’s Market. What, a Farmer’s Market on a Thursday? They do this every Thursday during the summer on Nicollet Mall-the main commerce hub in Minneapolis. There were potatoes, onions, tomatoes, chili peppers, salsas, honey, berries and many other things. It was beautiful and went on for blocks.
Seeing how it was lunch time, food was on our mind. I had read about Hell’s Kitchen from a Minnesota based Food Writer. You may first think of the show with Chef Ramsey but that was not it. This is a place where you enter the building, go down some stairs, and walk into what feels like a gothic auditorium. This is their self-proclaimed “underground lair.” You are sure if you are going to be shown to a table or to your seats for the show. Atmosphere: check; now how would the food be?
Nearly everything at Hell’s Kitchen is homemade, including ketchup, mustard, tomato juice and hot cocoa. I ordered the Walleye BLT: Toasted Sourdough Bread with homemade lemon-scallion tarter sauce, two slices of thick-cut applewood cured bacon, crisp lettuce, slabs of vine-ripened tomatoes and a Parmesan-crusted coldwater walleye filet. Walleye is a freshwater fish that is the pride of the upper midwest and Canada.
While we were waiting for our food, they brought us out some peanut butter. This is also homemade and highly raved about. It’s chunky, mixed with honey and could be a dessert. We gobbled that up with some of their bread.
Alas, the Walleye BLT arrived. It’s a ubiquitous white fish so not a lot of inherent flavor. That Parmesan crust however sure made it delicious when mixed with the bacon, sourdough bread and especially the lemon-scallion tarter sauce. That sauce was a mouth-watering delight.
Even though there were hundreds of restaurants in the area, the next morning, my dad said that if I didn’t have any objections, he would love to try the breakfast at Hell’s Kitchen. Oh yeah, I was in.
The Corned Beef Hash includes House-cured, hand-pulled corned beef brisket with sautéed banana fingerling potatoes, sweet onions and crisp celery. It’s served with two organic eggs and toast. Wow! If taste was a category in the SmithsonianMuseum, the corned beef brisket would be on display. It was perfectly moist, seasoned and incredibly addictive. I could not get enough. The potatoes were crisp and delicious. The only thing that I could go without in that meal was large pieces of celery. I think that celery is great for a flavor base (i.e. hiding it). They sure know food at Hell’s Kitchen. Hat’s off to Chefs Mitch Omer and Steve Meyer.
Even though Target Field was a 10 minute walk from our hotel, we got there early to look around and find some great food. Baseball Stadiums are beautiful edifices (except for O.co coliseum in Oakland). No matter how beautiful and amenity loaded, food is the best part of any game. We walked both decks scouting out the food. I am a Teetotaler but if you like beer, this place was a Mecca.
Ultimately my Dad & I both decided on Kramarczuk’s Sausage stand. They haven’t been there for all 4 years of the Stadium’s existence but I have heard great things. Wasyl and Anna Kramarczuk were originally from Ukraine, immigrating to the United States in the late 1940’s. They were a little bitter and rustic but delicious. I loved it with some grilled sweet onions. Their philosophy is: “Every sausage, every loaf of bread, every piroshky is still made by hand from scratch, with the finest and freshest ingredients.” They might not actually be made at Target Field, but they are made locally and have become a Minneapolis landmark.
Time with my Dad, delicious sausage, temperature in the low 70’s and a walk-off hit in the bottom of the 9th inning made for a special evening.
Next Up: Barrio, Wild Rice Soup and the Mighty Mississippi