Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Trying not to be Worthless at Tavern on Grand

Tavern on Grand
656 Grand Avenue
St. Paul, MN

“There is nothing more worthless than one beer.”

That’s the motto of Tavern on Grand in St. Paul, Minnesota, proudly proclaimed on their T-shirts.

You’ve got to love Midwesterners. These folks know how to drink!

On a Monday night deep in the heart of a Minnesota winter, Tavern on Grand was packed with fun loving folks laughing, yelling and slapping each other on the backs.

Suit757 was the most sober guy in the room. By far.

And let me tell you, that’s pretty disconcerting.

A highly scientific taxpayer funded study just revealed that Wisconsin is the number one “binge drinking” state in America. The motley assortment of fun-loving drinkers here at the Tavern will be happy to know that Minnesota is not far behind at number seven.

Drinking is like anything else enjoyable in life. If it’s fun -- and if you don’t have anything else better to do -- why not?

But what makes folks up here in the Upper Mid-West so friendly and so much fun is that they don’t look at downing one or two -- or ten -- beers as a societal flaw. Drinking here is a way of life for people who know everything we endure, including brutal winters, is lot more fun with a beer in hand.

Unlike the Pentecostals of Southwest Virginia, the Mormons of Salt Lake City and the leftist busybodies of California (where you can’t even board an airplane without coming face to face with a state issued warning that the alcohol served in the First Class cabin might cause birth defects and untold other calamities) nobody here looks down their noses at drinkers.

Nobody here would ever consider a guy holding a beer to be of flawed character, like the guy in the city park clutching the brown bag -- or a recovering Obama voter.

In the frozen heartland, everyone gets into the act. Young, old. Liberal, conservative. White collar, blue collar.

If you have any doubts, just check out Bourbon Street on a weekend when the Green Bay Packers or Minnesota Vikings are in town to play the Saints. (Now that’s a sight I won’t soon forget!)

Clearly a local neighborhood hangout, I was the only one sitting at the crowed Tavern on Grand bar that didn’t know everyone else in the room.

While a local favorite, the Tavern has a statewide reputation for good beer and walleye – the freshwater fish ubiquitous in all of Minnesota’s ten thousand lakes.

The northern fishing lodge décor is dressed up with framed pictures of Soviet Commie Mikhail Gorbachev chowing down on Walleye sandwiches. Apparently, in June of 1990, Gorby stopped by the Tavern for a pint and some Walleye.

Hey, if it is good enough for a Commie, it’s good enough for Suit757.

Living two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, I eat plenty of quality seafood. But maybe that’s why I appreciate the full flavor and soft texture of perch in Cleveland, catfish in Alabama and trout in Indiana. Eating something different is one of the few joys of modern travel.

Minnesota walleye never disappoints.

My fried walleye sandwich featured a crispy filet on a top-notch flour dusted ciabatta roll. The delicate flaky fish just melted in my mouth. Topped with lettuce, tomato and some homemade tarter sauce, this is fish sandwich perfection.

On the side, I opted for Tavern’s famous chicken wild rice soup, a hearty, creamy stew loaded with big chucks of tender chicken. Perfect to warm you up from the inside out on a cold Minnesota night.

As you might expect, the Tavern on Grand boasts a pretty good beer selection.

I started with a Summit Extra Pale Ale, a local beer brewed right down the street here in St. Paul. A fairly standard microbrew, neither the hops nor the malt dominated the other. Not a bad choice is you are drinking decent beer all night long.

But I wanted something more interesting for my second choice.

Surly Furious, another local brew, gave it to me. A dark, powerful IPA, this beer packs a hoppy wallop. Awesome!

I noticed one of the loudest, most fun-loving – and inebriated – bar patrons was wearing a Surly tee shirt.

I was jealous. Jealous of the shirt?

No! Jealous that he was doing so much more than me to keep his state near the top of the national rankings.

That’s a man who takes pride in his state – and in his favorite waterhole’s proclamation.

There is nothing more worthless than one beer. Indeed.

Rating: Serious Thought About Buying Shirt.

Tavern on Grand on Urbanspoon

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