Category Archives: Dive Bar Date

Fair Weather Date Night

Last summer, Marcus and I started walking to the local Dairy Queen probably once a week for ice cream.

Walk 1

Since the shop itself is just a little over a mile away from our house, it’s really the perfect activity because the whole adventure lasts an hour from start to finish and we walk just enough that it is a no guilt ice cream treat!

It sort of reminds me of when I was a little pup, these after dinner treat-walks.  You see, the house we live in now is a mile or so from the house I lived in until the age of four.  And on the evenings when the weather was good, back in 1990 (AKA The Day), Dad used to take Billy and I on walks to the PDQ gas station next to the Dairy Queen to get free cookies.  I would get an M&M cookie and it was just so excellent.

Well, the PDQ gas station is now a BP and there are no cookies in sight, only cookie dough.

Walk 2

Even though we walked and ate gelato all throughout Italy, this was our first (American) ice cream walk of the season.  It might have been just a bit brusque with the wind and the sun setting behind the trees, but we couldn’t be contained any longer.


HF 1054

Yesterday, our state legislature passed HF 1054, to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

I listened to the live debate on the radio as I drove home from work.  Which meant that I finally learned what station MPR is.  It’s 91.1 FM if you must know. The sunroof was open.

As I made my way down 494, I thought about how very strange it is to live a day from dawn to dusk knowing that you will remember it for the rest of your life.

These are Intentional Days.

I pulled into the garage, the debate continued.  I learned how to live stream radio on my phone as I sat out on our deck, tanning with a Coconut La Croix in hand.  A pair of geese sat across the street from my encampment, nestled together.

It was a perfect day in Minnesota yesterday.  Sunny, warm, clear with just a light breeze.

There was something So Surreal about the fact that in the age of television and the internet, all I could do was listen.  And type.  And wait.  To listen some more.

They passed the bill and I sobbed.  I think for the most part we all sobbed.

In our kitchens.  In our cars.  At our desks.

Mom called.

We went to celebrate at the home of some friends who are family and will now legally have the right to marry in Minnesota .  We brought champagne.  I wore my favorite (best) dress.


We toasted.  We laughed.  We breathed a sigh of relief.  We breathed a sigh of exhaustion.

And after we were through there, Marcus and I headed out to a few other bars, on an impromptu-date night of sorts.  No need to end the celebration early.  You only get to do this once, after all.

Our itinerary: the Fulton Taproom, El Taco Riendo and Grumpy’s NE.  Hello, Dive Bar Date Night.


As people complimented me on my dress, I told them I was wearing it to celebrate marriage equality.  Because it is days like these that you save these things for.

These.  These are the garments of rejoicing.

I did not frock-up with the intention of becoming a conversation piece.  This is the dress I wore for Our Engagement Party.  Our Rehearsal Dinner.  My Birthday.  Best days.

But as I high-fived and was hugged by total strangers who had been at the Capitol that day, all I could do was smile.

Today?  Governor Dayton signed this bill into law.  On the steps of our Capitol, in record-setting heat.

Today, Love Wins.

All Dressed Up and Somewhere to Go

I ran 20 miles this morning.  Which was deadly-vindicating after last weekend’s debacle.  We’ll discuss more later.

So please bear with me as we go heavy on the pictures and easy on the words.

Once upon a time, we scheduled a Dive Bar Date Night with Tom and Sarah and last night we finally made it happen.  I kid you not when I say that prior to last night, it had probably been on the calendar for…two months?

Before we went out, I was compelled to experiment with the Arm Party concept.

It felt right, but it didn’t seem quite appropriate for the vibe we were going for.

So I went with something bordering on urban jungle instead.

I’m trying to put that birthday purse to good use, you know?

And because every good story has a cast of characters, The Daters.

Ready to roll, obviously.

First, we stopped off at Grumpy’s in Northeast.

For him: A Back in Black.  For her:  A North Coast Grand Cru.


Marcus pronounced his beer Average and mine Undrinkable.  I pronounced his beer Also Average and mine The Most Delicious Thing.

After a beer on a patio that was so smoky it may as well have been a chimney, we switched gears to get dinner in-order.

Somehow we ended up at Chimborazo again (don’t ask).  But to their credit, we were pleasantly surprised by the service.

I only managed one snap before I hit the old feed bag.  Plus (if you can’t tell from what’s below), they have what could be generously termed as “mood lighting.”  I would err on the side of calling it Conserving Electricity: Our Most Precious Resource.

Our appetizers: Fried plantains with some sort of queso fresco-arrangement, a pseudo cilantro-based pesto/chimichurri-type sauce from the Gods and ceviche.

But it was definitely worth another go.

Post-dinner, we headed over to Jimmy’s for one more drink.  I stuck with water because of this morning’s run, but y’all had better believe that I took major advantage of the beef sticks they had on-offer.

Someday I’ll be brave enough to try their shrimp cocktail, but somehow I have a feeling that’s not going to happen until I know there’s a weekend with literally no other plans.

What’s the most out-of-place food you’ve seen offered at a bar/restaurant?

What does it take for you to give a place a second chance?

When you go out, do you usually stick to one place or make multiple stops?

Seriously, I don’t know if I could handle only making one stop anymore.

Dive Bar Date!

Encouraged by last weekend’s adventures to the side streets of NE Minneapolis, I did another round of ferocious Yelp-ing and charted another dive-y route for us that involved craft brew-ing, and feasting on savories never tasted before.

This adventure brought us to St. Paul via 694, in a major-effort to avoid the city of Minneapolis on a night where a Twins game, the Aquatennial and NKOTBSB were taking place simultaneously.

In short, we were trying to avoid the Traffic Apocalypse.

Out-of-state readers, you have to understand that even though Minneapolis and St. Paul are a “metro” area, depending on which side of the river you live on, you rarely if ever, cross it.  So having the excuse to drive over to The Other Side was an absolute treat.

As a clarification, even though I’ve titled this new series “Dive Bar Date!” (yes, it appears that we have a series on our hands) it could just as easily be entitled “In Which Kat and Marcus Crawl About Their Hometown Looking To Eat, Drink and Be Merry On The Cheap Eating At Places They’ve Never Been To.”

But that’s not quite as snappy.  So we keep the “Dive Bar” title.

Our goal: To spend less than $45, which is what we shelled out on last week’s adventure.

Since going out with friends is always more fun, our cast of characters…

Ben + Tiffany

Tom + Katie

Us, obviously.

Stop 1: A Pre-Game Brew

Marcus had time to sneak out for a post-work HH, but my route lead me directly home to prepare for our adventure.

Since he was giving me some major crap about hoarding dark beers from the winter, I thought that it would be most appropriate to start the evening with one of those.

It’s not so much that I was craving a dark beer as the fact that I didn’t want to let him be right 😉

Pro: New Holland Brewery’s Dragon’s Milk is absolutely delicious.

Con: It’s 10% ABV.  By the time I had dragged it into the closet with me, I was already practically floating.

3. (I realize this isn’t a numerical list) Every girl should drink a beer in the closet while she’s getting ready.  It really helps move the process along.

Stop 2: Barley John’s Brewery

A well-hopped patio.

This didn’t get incorporated into The Plan until I realized that we needed to find a way to go AROUND the city instead of through it.  Since we live on the Northwest side, it only made sense to Go North.

And we’ve had a stack of buy-one-get-one pint coupons sitting on the mess that is our desk for ages.

I love craft brews, but what I really love?  Cheap craft brews.

Apparently they’re meant for using and not hoarding.  Obviously.

I had a Wild Brunette, which is a wonderful brown ale made with Wild Rice.  It wasn’t too heavy (I was trying to slow my roll and all that) and you could really taste the wild rice flavor.  As it turns out, wild rice in beer is a fantastic idea.

Stop 3: Manana Restaurant y Pupuseria

Iowa Girl Eats is a major Pupusa Fan.  I’d never given them much of a second thought after admiring her mini-Farmers’ Market Feast, so imagine my surprise when I found out that we have our very own Pupuseria in St. Paul!

I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that we built our entire itinerary around this one stop.

And what an inspired idea that was!  Someone had to remind me to snap a picture while Marcus and I were mid-inhale.

The pupusa were made fresh on-the-spot so it was everything I could to do to try and avoid burning my mouth and my fingers!  We all raved (RAVED) about the meat-cheese-beans filling that hid inside of each of those lovely little corn pancakes.

And the light tomato sauce and the spicy coleslaw that accompanied them were just TO DIE FOR!

That was a whole lotta capital letters going on right there.  Sorry I’m not sorry.

Obviously we weren’t complaining about the hearty helping of rice and beans, either.  Filler food?  Maybe.  But it also fell into the Inhale, Don’t Chew-category.

Stop 4: Los Ocampo

In keeping with the spirit of trying new restaurants and trying new things, the St. Paul location of Los Ocampo was on our list.

Our search?  Was for hurache, which kind of seemed to be the Mexican cousin of pupusa.

Enter: A corn pancake, topped with refried beans, cheese, meat (we went with Tinga de Pollo!), avocado and the odd drizzle of sour cream.

If there was a competition between how long it took us to eat the hurache vs. how long it took us to eat the pupusa, the pupusa would probably win.  But only by a hair.  They were not kidding around with their tinga!

And God Bless Tom’s girlfriend, Katie who valiantly tried to conquer her platter of Nachos and then offered them up to the group.  I couldn’t even help myself.

My entire values system has been vaporized.

Stop 5: Arcade Bar

Our final stop was only necessary in the sense that we needed a serious chance to start the digestion process.

For someone who is up for One More Beer 99% of the time, this was like some sort of Greek Tragedy.

Veni vidi vici.

We practically had to roll ourselves out of the place.

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I fell asleep in the car ride home.  How I managed to hold a semi-coherent conversation with Tiffany is still an absolute mystery to me.

Our grand total? $37 (!)

How much do you typically spend when you go out for a night on the town?

Dive Bar Date

This weekend we had a bit of a dilemma.  We knew we would be going on a double date with Chaz + Katie tonight, but we didn’t want to spend Friday night  sitting at home.  I had to wake up early this morning for my long run and we didn’t want to spend a ton of money since we would be going out tonight.

Our Final Plan?  Three words: Dive Bar Date.

And before you ask, yes we will absolutely be doing this again and hopefully sooner than later.

Stop 1: Grumpy’s 

I LOVE NE Minneapolis 11/10, but the hipsters make it hard to deal.  Not two blocks away from this bar, I saw a man wearing skinny white jeans, white shoes and a straw fedora.  It was a low moment where things went from being hip to being totally contrived.

Grumpy’s?  Is just not that kind of place.

Rather, we took our seats with a healthy handful of members from the Minneapolis biking community (think road, not cycle) and sipped our craft brews in peace.

I know.  I KNOW.  I slay myself.  Dive bars and craft brews don’t belong in the same sentence.

A Two Brothers Ebelweiss for him, a Surly Coffee Bender for her.

I was really enjoying the tiki-cans they had dangling above the bar. Completely new design concept to me.

Apparently on Thursday night they offer 2-for-1 glasses of wine and “spin vinyl” that fellow patrons bring in.  Since this was never on ANY list of life experiences that I was hoping to have, it has officially been moved to the top.

Stop 2: El Taco Riendo

Fact: I have been craving tacos, Mexican food and spicy things in the most profound way since we came back from Europe.  So I may or may not have spent a fair amount of time at work on Friday cruising Yelp to compile a list of such places in the Twin Cities.

All signs pointed to this for our first foray into the Taco Shop scene, so we did as we were told and hit it.

Minneapolis readers, run, don’t walk.

They have refried black beans.

And, in case you didn’t catch that one the first time…


I don’t know what kind of dark art you have to practice in order to offer those at your restaurant, but eating them?  Was basically a spiritual experience.

They had a ton of specials. So we didn't order any of them.

Clockwise from Left: Barbacoa and Tinga Tacos, Nachos with Carne Asada, and a Chimichanga (yes, seriously, that's what that smothered burrito is) with Pollo Verde. Our total bill including tip? $24.

The only chimichanga I’ve ever had was a footlong, inch thick monstrosity from Rock Bottom Brewery, so this chimichanga?  Was a revelation.  Cheesy, crunchy, creamy, and stuffed with all of the pollo verde you could ever hope for…and then some.

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I was thisclose to making Marcus go back there with me for lunch today.

Stop 3: Jimmy’s

Since the taco shop didn’t have a liquor license, we needed to source a post-dinner drink.  And a bit of post-dinner people watching.  You know, more is more and all of that.

I mean, there are dives…

…and then there are DIVES.

Welcome, Jimmy’s!

Picks and sticks.

When I saw a sign on the wall peddling Beer Sticks for $1.25, I knew I HAD to have one. What we passed up: The $3 shrimp cocktail, the $1 microwave popcorn and the $6 TV dinner. It was amazing.

Truth: I don’t even know what Old Style is, but the tap choices were that and Michelob, so I figured that it was worth a shot.  Our commentary?  That it was extremely…drinkable.

Our grand total for the night?  $45.  Not too bad, but I like to think that it’s a goal to beat for next time. 😉

Do you have a favorite dive bar/hole in the wall that you’re a “regular” at?

Where’s your favorite spot to go for delicious, cheap, authentic eats?