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
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?