Ronnally's pizza, Woodbury's must-have

Dear Woodbury,

It gives me great pride to say I've lived in your city longer than any other in my adult life. After hopping from home to home, surfing from couch to couch, you gave me the first address I bothered to register with the Postal Service. I went three years without wondering once when I'd be forced to pick up and go. You were chief in my transition from nomad to family man -- yet, sadly, that very transformation now forces me out.

As I write this, our belongings are boxed in the dining room. Our excess has been dropped off at Savers. The walls have been scrubbed down, our Internet provider advised, the rooms measured for carpet replacement. The shelves and cupboards are bare.

The next time I groan about Monday, I will do so from foreign soil: the winds of change have blown us to Plymouth.

I want to thank you before I leave, for three years of ill-timed red lights and deep-dish pizzas from Rocco's. You've got this cursed intersection, at 494 North and Lake St., whose light would go red as I approached it every morning, without failure. Rocco's had this coupon, for a free order of pizza fries with purchase of a large two-topping, that we never once gave the delivery guy. We had to have used it 100 times. We still have it.

There isn't much in life one can depend on, but you gave me a couple.

I want to thank you for three years of growth together. I lived out some of my darkest hours here, but I had many more of the best: The mornings running down Woodlane, the afternoons in Carver Lake Park, the nights at Ronnally's -- oh, man, the nights at Ronnally's -- the Sundays at Lakes, the Wednesdays at Jack's. We'd munch away meltdowns, one waffle fry at a time, at the Tavern Grill.

Meanwhile, I watched you become the fastest-growing suburb in Minnesota. I watched Cowboy Jack's and Punch Pizza move in. I watched Total Wine fall in, ass over teakettle. I watched the Best Burger Ever become Woodbury's first signature cheeseburger. I watched the Four Firkins set up shop just outside, and saw the signs for Patina. My wife loves Patina -- if you heard a loud scream from afar over the weekend, I can tell you exactly where that came from.

D-Spot wings

We could be anywhere in 15 minutes from our Lego-block townhome community, do just about anything. Little Oven two-for-ones, a walk on the Mississippi, beer and bacon Sundays at American Sky, and Pitchfork tours were all within reach. If we hauled enough ass, we could reach IKEA in 20 (you'd have to ask my wife why). The only place we couldn't reach, ironically, was the alien colony into which we've been shoved.

They've a gazillion guys and gals making brews over the river, but none do it like Lift Bridge. None do it like Big Wood. Day drinking at Washington Square. Nightcaps and mac at Smalley's. I'll be back this way for sure, but there was comfort in ease of access.

Now, I'll be forced to premeditate visits and head back at a reasonable hour -- practices I despise.

I'll miss the comedy. I'll miss the borderline-pervasive city name typeface (you'll never unsee it). I'll miss cruising by corny communities like Lake Inverness and The Seasons. I'll never forget the night a woman brought a crossbow arrow into a City Council meeting and made the chamber pass it around like a show-and-tell trinket. I'll still get my fill of soccer moms stomping their Audi brakes injudiciously, but you prepared me for this.

You gave me my first home as a husband. You gave me a nice park to grill and get drunk in, and a comfortable porch to smoke my cigars on. You raised me into my thirties, helped this yokel Duluthian become a man who can sort-of make it in the metro.

It might not home anymore, but it'll always be my pet burb and I'll always be grateful for my years in your borders. Almost everything I've become, I became here. I couldn't have chosen a better place. Woodbury, Minnesota.

Stay cool.

Sincerely,
Frank

 

Minutes before viewing our future home for the first time, a lather of contempt was building, thickening, in the front seats of my car.

Hunger.

There was no food in sight. Forget the D-Spots and Rocco's we'd spend lazy Sundays gorging ourselves on in Woodbury; we would've suffered a drive-thru at this point, but couldn't even see one of those. Inconceivable! How could we settle in such a dead zone? We might as well move into a desert.

I took a left turn in front of a Home Depot, and turned into a Schneiderman's.

"This ... is a furniture store," said my wife.
I scoffed and retorted, "A mattress sounds pretty good right now."

After a series of hot nose-breaths, I said screw it: Home Depot's got jerky, right? We coasted into the parking lot, and what I saw there stunned me:

A food truck, in the middle of the lot, with the best name on wheels.

Behold, My Crazy Wife's Food and Ice.

The Basics: The cart operates Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. They just renovated their website. LOOK AT IT. Those specials! On the right day, it's a better value than what McDonald's trots out, and without the wastebasket aftertaste! You can even order online, because this is America and sometimes the fact it's a food truck isn't convenient enough on its own.

Want to stick around and eat? They've got bar stools and ironing boards for that.

It's not a thumb ring. Sometimes, when it's cold outside, my wedding ring slides off my finger easily so I wear it on my thumb. Have I explained myself adequately? Oh, you were never wondering in the first place? Carry on then.

My Philly craving didn't come with an off switch, so my only decision was length.

"A six-inch is a meal by itself," said the man in the window. "A foot-long will last you all day." I went for six. My wife called up a depot dog, and get this: A depot dog in its most elemental form costs $1.50! There are carts who sell dogs for $4. Hell, the Hudson High School concession stand sells them for $2!

As for the $5 six-inch Phillies and $8 foot-longs, they're a good $2-3 below market price at most food trucks and quality isn't compromised. The truck operator told me that, not only is the crazy wife from Philadelphia, the buns are imported from there. I get mine with extra cheese whiz and onions. They don't serve them with green peppers. That's apparently sacrilege.

If that's true, a lot of people having been getting this wrong for a long time 'round these parts.

The Philly comes HOT. Give it a minute. After that, it's a madcap mess of cheese-gooped onion bits and steak strings. It's satisfying from beginning to end, but take napkins. The meat's a little tough, but not rubbery. The end of my bun hasn't been hard once.

In total, two beverages, my Philly, and my wife's dog ran the $9 I'd be paying at most TC trucks just for one entree. I hope they never come to their senses and begin charging double for their food, because they could 100-percent get away with it -- especially once they land a vehicle with the oomph to haul their cart into the big city.

Listen, I know it's a lot to ask to drive to a Home Depot in Plymouth just to grab food BUT you'll need to fix something someday, and a good sandwich is the most crucial tool money can buy. You won't need a lot of that at My Crazy Wife's, nor will you need much time -- it'll take five minutes, two if you order online beforehand.

This truck will be a mile from our new digs. This is going to be magical, and catastrophic. Between their inventory and my lap band, I don't know which way your prayers need to go. This is going to be bad. I am so excited for this.

I can't recall the last time I was so happy to leave a restaurant as I was the Lyndale Tap House Tuesday night.

This was supposed to be my overdue showdown with their Blistered Hipster burger. Instead, the hype got swallowed up in a Charybdis of uneven service and hard-to-chew fries. The bell rang on the match before we could even touch gloves.

The Basics: The Lyndale Tap House sits between Muddy Waters and the Jungle Theatre on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis. They've got a solid happy hour from 4-7 if you're thirsty. You can find more information on the web here. Their portfolio also contains Hammer and Sickle, but don't let this review deter you from them. Hammer and Sickle is great.

One of three remaining tables had been set aside for my reservation. I don't know if it was the floor or the legs of my chair, but something was dimensionally amiss -- I could never shake the sensation of my keester sliding toward the edge of my seat. As for adornments, if big dirty mirrors and scantily-clad women with farm animals don't turn you on, you're left being depressed by grayish and drab shades of red. Over the human noise and 80s classics, my wife and I could barely hear each other.

Our waitress first approached us, and I asked for an oatmeal stout. She seemed almost hostile to that request, insisting I try a pumpkin ale instead. NO, I want the oatmeal stout. My wife asked for a diet Coke.

The stout was a nip slow in arrival, something I didn't notice until the waitress gave a garbled apology. Our Coke and water had been emptied by now, and she didn't take them back to be topped. It took the man who brought us our burgers to finally notice and take them back.

What did we get? I got the burger with "WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY PAIN OR INJURY THIS BURGER MAY CAUSE. EAT AT YOUR OWN RISK." typed underneath its name on the menu. My wife tabbed a Lyn-Lake, advertised as coming with "dressed mixed greens." What, are they wearing doll trousers?

No, but have a look at the Lyn-Lake. It's dapper, indeed:

The Blistered Hipster (below) came with all the right menacing colors. Notice the singed hue of the pepperjack, and the ominous fluids oozing out from beneath. It was like standing toe-to-toe with a dragon. I'd better take some of these fries down first.

MISTAKE.

The frangibility of the fries varied from "the one effortlessly-bitable straw" to "cut-off section of coaxial cable" to "Speaking of which, do Milk Bones expire?" When the waitress returned to ask about our food, I answered about our food. Our drinks were empty again. She offered up a new order of spuds -- but not without leaving behind the empty glasses she'd just been bumping with her forearms.

She was obviously over-extended that night -- it looked as if she was covering half the restaurant herself -- but this cost her my sympathy.

The beef was cooked on the rare side of medium rare, exactly as I like it, and it certainly lived up to the billing as the Twin Cities' spiciest burger bomb. It was nothing elegant -- just a succession of hot, noisy bites -- but enough to ignite the senses.

I wish I could've enjoyed it more thoroughly; but, with my temper approaching red levels and my wife's having spun off into an uncharted circle of Hell, the Blistered Hipster became an obstacle more than a climax. Rather than slaying a dragon, the quest was now just escaping its lair. Basically, we wanted to leave.

Wait, though. We had more fries coming.

They were not worth waiting for. After six or seven proper straws, the new batch began to resemble the first. The waitress took our glasses, finally, rapid-firing apologies as she went, but apologies are like dollars: They're less valuable with every one made. She ought to be thankful for having gotten a tip at all.

Management isn't off the hook here, either. Uptown is too active an eater scene to ever try running a skeleton crew, especially when your Groupon is about to expire. As humans, we love walking close to the cliff. On your last three days of a Groupon, you'd better have a small city population backing your service up.

The burger packed the right heat and the happy hour is lights out, so I wouldn't rule out a second chance in the future. My wife is done with it, but the right friend could sucker me back on the right night.

I would proceed with caution when considering the Lyndale Tap House. Call ahead, get a reservation, ask if it's busy, sub out the fries, maybe sit at the bar. Bring big-voiced company. Avoid looking too long at the walls, or maybe just cover your eyes. Can you just take it to go? I don't know what to tell you.