Archive for the ‘Metro’

New 2013 Minnesota State Fair Food

Every year for the last 4 years I have written about the new food being released at the Minnesota State Fair. If you’re really dying to read them you can find them all here: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

I have to admit I’ve really never been a huge fair food fan, but over the years I have become increasingly less tolerant of the garbage that these vendors put out every year for ungodly prices and call it new. This year “a record 47 new foods will debut,” according to the StarTribune and while Twitter was buzzing yesterday about these new items, the list is a record 47 awful items.

Here are some lowlights:

    1. Bacon Wrapped Shrimp on a Stick

      This is just ridiculous, done 100000000x different times in 1000000000x different ways. They should have been banned from the new food list for being boring.

    2. Cajun Pork Rinds

      Famous Dave’s does it again by using the most useless pieces of meat they can find and still charge more than $5 for a small portion of it. No thanks, I’ll pass.

    3. Craft Beer Onion Rings

      Because we want to capitalize on the high cost of craft beer, people’s stupidity at the Fair, and the fact that we can charge a TON of money by saying it’s new, we’re going to use craft beer to make onion rings and screw everyone out of their hard earned cash because they’re sheep! This is just pain wrong.

    4. Mancini’s Classic Char-Grilled Garlic Toast

      What better way to make a KILLING financially than grilling a bunch of bread with butter and garlic and sell it for $5+ while grinning that the public is actually buying it because it’s “new”.

    5. Fried Pickles and Chocolate

      Fried pickles were a new thing at the fair a new years ago and while they weren’t done well at all there, why not make them disgusting by having people dip them in chocolate?! If you can’t compete with decent food, you can’t really make it cheap and trick people into eating it (Mancini’s) then you do the next best thing–make it gross but partially edible.

You know, this is just awful. There wasn’t a single item on there that I said to myself, “that’s actually new or interesting and worth my time.” In fact, on Twitter and Facebook I wondered if we could just do away with almost all of the traditional Minnesota State Fair vendors and replace them with food truck vendors from around the country. Want to talk about new and interesting? Tasting good and really being worth your admission price + the cost of food? That would be it.

What do you think about the new Minnesota State Fair food in 2013? Are any of these at all interesting to you and why? What about the food truck idea? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Apple Valley Convinced BRT to Aid Growth

According to this article in the StarTribune, Apple Valley continues to pin its hopes on Bus Rapid Transit aiding growth within the city’s limits, especially the near decade-long vacancies in the Central Village “downtown” area. While Apple Valley’s leaders hope this will help everything from residential growth to new business, questions remain to be answered on how effective this new transit line will be and whether it can help business growth when most of the metro’s transit system is developed to funnel people into the city from the suburbs and not the other way around.

From the article:

An office building — one with a large employer as an anchor tenant — is high on the city’s priority list for filling some of the empty space. Nordquist said the city would like to see up to 100,000 square feet of office space, a total that likely would require an anchor tenant taking about 50,000 square feet.


“New construction is expensive, and there’s no shortage of existing space that would be cheaper for an office user,” Karkula said. Large chunks of vacant office space include the former offices of Delta Air Lines and Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Eagan and the former Brown College campus in Mendota Heights.

With so much other open development opportunities available elsewhere, Apple Valley appears to be jumping the gun on trying to build out and anticipate development needs around a transit line which hasn’t even opened yet and will remain in its infancy for years. The current transit system is oriented towards one-way travel: suburb -> city in the morning and city -> suburb in the evening. While BRT has the potential to fix this, somewhat, the City of Apple Valley is hoping that people from other areas are going to be willing to spend over an hour on transit systems with several transfers to get to Apple Valley. This will continue to be a non-starter for years to come.

What Apple Valley is currently doing here is very similar to what they did with the start of Central Village nearly 15 years ago. They are hedging bets on broken thought processes and a clear lack of understanding of how they fit into the metro area. They need to wait for BRT to mature (which it likely never will) and instead of using nearly $1 million in tax dollars to retrofit buildings now for companies which have already turned away from Apple Valley (hey guys, where was the huge press event where you admitted you lost the company you touted as the future of Apple Valley’s business sector?), the waiting game should continue for a while so you aren’t left with more unused and outdated development for business which will likely never come.

What do you think about this one? If you were located in another part of the metro would you be willing to take the LRT to BRT to work in Apple Valley? Do you think the city should be using nearly $1 million in tax dollars to build out commercial space for companies which are likely to never come? Do you think BRT will ever become the transit line the county and cities hope? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Smoke in the Pit BBQ: Minneapolis, MN

Last week the family headed up to Smoke in the Pit in the Powderhorn neighborhood in Minneapolis for dinner. The plan was to brave the overcast skies and sprinkling rain, get some ribs and chicken, and enjoy an evening at Powderhorn Park with the kiddos.

Smoke in the Pit is a tiny takeout place. They have a single ordering window, a restroom, a door to the kitchen, and a few feet of space where customers wait their turns to order or receive their food. While there are quite a few kinks in the system this early in the game, the staff was extremely friendly between bouts of yelling back and forth to quiet down so they could take orders or unlock the kitchen door so they could get back inside.

The menu, currently two pieces of paper stuck, somewhat cockeyed, to the wall above the ordering window, is full of the typical BBQ items: ribs, chicken wings, brisket, etc. They have beans, coleslaw, and mac and cheese as well as random extras for sides. Everything is made in-house even the peach cobbler they had as a special taped to a small piece of torn notebook paper taped to the inside of the ordering window on the day we were there.

We ordered almost everything off the menu including ribs, chicken wings (smoked, not the fried option which was also available), brisket, catfish (nuggets), mac and cheese, beans, coleslaw, and peach cobbler. Our bill came to $36 and we were told to wait about 15 minutes which eventually turned into 25.

We were provided several plastic grocery bags full of food and made our way the three blocks to Powderhorn park for our BBQ picnic. We chose a picnic table by the water and enjoyed watching the geese waddle around with their goslings. We opened up the styrofoam containers and dug in. I was surprised at the size of the portions, especially the ribs as well as the careful consideration of adding both plenty of BBQ sauce and a side of hot sauce.

The sides were pretty boring. The beans were nothing special and could use some work so they don’t closely resemble refried beans out of a can and the coleslaw was yellow, something I’d never encountered, but tasted good enough for me to eat it all–something I generally cannot do with other people’s coleslaw (it’s apple cider vinegar, mayo, sugar, celery salt, and pepper…why do people insist on screwing it up?!). The mac and cheese, however, gets its own lengthy description because, well, it was the strangest mac and cheese we’d ever eaten. It wasn’t cheesy, it had mushrooms in it, and it had absolutely no flavor, not even salt. After eating what amounted to be noodles and cream of mushroom soup several times over the evening we decided this was noodle soup and decided to never order it again. Hey Smoke in the Pit, you forgot the cheese and added mushrooms–gross.

The chicken wings were quite good. Fall of the bone tender, great smoke flavor, and a crispy skin. They were quite good enough on their own without the hot sauce (which was your standard cayenne pepper sauce and could have used some butter but whatever) or BBQ sauce. While I couldn’t drag myself back there to eat them again after waiting 25 minutes, they were almost worth the drive.

The brisket was disappointing. While it was tender, that was about all that could be said for it. Fatty, drained of color, and overall not very good, this is something which really should be one of the stars of the show. Really a sad thing, it didn’t even look appetizing at all.

The ribs, though, were absolutely amazing. BIG, meaty, tender, and smokey, these fell right off the bone. In fact, it was almost possible that you could pick up the bone, give it a shake or two, and have a pile of rib meat on your plate. While the BBQ sauce accompanying them was decent, like the chicken wings, these required no sauce. I have had ribs all over the place and while these aren’t the best by any stretch of the imagination, they were my favorite so far in Minnesota. I just wish there was some rub or stellar BBQ sauce on the side…

Overall I thought Smoke in the Pit was good enough to do again with a lakeside picnic. While I’d stick to the meats and bring my own sides and BBQ sauce, this would be a place I’d recommend you get the wings and ribs, they were pretty great.

Have you been to Smoke in the Pit? What did you order and what did you think? What other great BBQ places have you been to recently that you think we should try for another BBQ picnic in the future? Whatever you have to say about Smoke in the Pit BBQ in Minneapolis go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Smoke in the Pit
3733 Chicago Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55407


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Funding Youth Athletics or the Vikings?

Ed Kohler of The Deets posted an interesting quote from a commenter on an MPR article which says:

Minnesota has a second class education system that charges students to play sports. But we have world class sports stadiums so they can sit on the couch and watch their “home” team. And we wonder why we have obesity problems.

While there was some argument that plenty of states have schools were extracurriculars require additional outside funding from the participants, this is an interesting discussion and one worthy of further exploration. With the state government looking to tax cigarettes further, something which has been proven to aid public health, why would the State not help to fund extracurriculars to help with the health of students in school?

Whatever you think about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.