When I showed up at Republic Seven Corners for Sunday's airing of #2ndBrunch, I pictured a couple of scenes where I'm rubbing my nose in the background or bare-handedly wiping my face clean -- you know, proper things. Instead, I had the camera in my face a lot.

I figured I'd better give them something besides on-air panicking and a facial off-day, so I built a Bloody Mary mushroom cloud using three other menu items. The end result was a 2ndBrunch that left the hostesses themselves hot and bothered.

The finished product doesn't hit YouTube 'till tomorrow, and I think we can sleep safely knowing I won't awaken to Internet stardom on Saturday, but I'll always have this. 

I promise I'm done after this one.

Republic on UrbanspoonThe Basics: If you want to drink after Republic, you won't have to wander far: Town Hall Brewery is across the street, and the Corner Bar and Bullwinkle's are within eyeshot. BEWARE! The parking ramp nearby is a trap: Three hours in that ramp had me $13 lighter, against $0 if you park on the street. Make an educated decision, people.


Republic has what you'd call "a boring exterior," but small Plexiglas panels make the renowned beer bar look nearly spiritual inside. Otherwise, a tame interior of brick walls and chalkboards keeps your attention at the bar. The sun doesn't push through too well, giving it a naturally dark and secretive ambiance.

I poked around the bar for an hour before the crew showed up, and got no fuss from the bartender for drinking water. I had a "practice Bloody Mary" in and one beer down when the crew got there.

The video comes out tomorrow, so you'll have to wait until then to see the skinanegans that ensured thereafter. Just know I got especially twitchy trying on a jacket eight sizes too small for me and was smothered by plush dead wrestlers. Also, I ordered half the brunch menu and piled it onto the top of a glass.

Let's outline this monstrosity piece-by-piece:

The bacon cheeseburger: It was marvelous, simply marvelous. I hadn't eaten a cheeseburger in over a month, and this felt like the first night in a brothel for a newly-released con man -- and I mean in the most perverted way possible. Smooth, juicy, cheddar, bacon: Doesn't that sound like a Perfect Burger, sans whistles? It tastes like it, too. It was a nirvanic little sub-meal, and it held my attention from start to finish. This never touched the Bloody Mary. It was uprooted after the photos and consumed in a euphoric fury (if that makes any sense).

The B.E.L.T.: I'm not so sure there was bacon on mine, but bacon was coming at me from every direction so there's no way to confirm or deny. The egg yolk made its way into everything and gave my structure a pleasing shine, but it was a well-buffed Le Car in the presence of that bacon cheese. Bad? Absolutely not. It paired well with the Mary, but nothing was topping that cheeseburger today.

The side of bacon: There was nothing fancy about it: No candy coating, no chicken-fried breading, no blanket of pepper. It was almost as if the cooks looked at the bacon and decided, "I bet this would taste good if we just cooked it like it is now." Well played, Republic. You don't understand how many restaurants have abandoned that concept.

The Bloody Mary itself: I had the bacon flavor both times, and you can absolutely taste bacon in that zippy concoction. Bacon chunks hid in the mixture, and would occasionally clog the straw. A triumphant suck would send the bacon bit up the pipe and into your throat with an eager burst of Mary behind it. I don't have a good comparison to this. Let me ask my wife if she's got one.


The Bloody bar at Republic is tame in presentation, with little cubes of meat and cheese with the usual greens. The Mary itself, though, is what makes it a must-do bargain at $5. You can stay under the top, or go over the top, and enjoy a Sunday afternoon here either way.

I, of course, would always recommend going over the top.


That's a neat photo, isn't it? Never mind the hair. It was a phase.

That was my wedding day: September 10, 2010. I was 30 years old, a little over four months from turning 31.

It was the first time I'd ever worn a suit.

I'll let that sink in before moving on. We good?

Okay. I had worn suit coats before, but they were straight off the discount rack at Men's Wearhouse and I'd never bought matching pants. I would just pair them with jeans or whatever it-works-colored Marshall's-bought slacks I had in the closet. It was on this date, 30 years and eight months in, that I wore a coat and pants together that were made to be worn together for the first time.

"WHY?! HOW?!" I had never been in a "suit situation" (I grew up from an unincorporated township outside of Duluth -- not exactly the Hamptons), and I haven't been since, but I'm about to be. In 10 days, I'm heading to a party that's advertised as being 1930s themed. It's being touted as a fancy party. I decided it's time.

Peruse. Research. Compare. None of those words accurately describe what I did. Instead, I scrambled into a parlour and quacked: "I have a thing coming upI'm trying to get a nice suit on the cheap."

This particular parlor was peddling suits for 33 cents on the dollar, so I wasn't chained up in the  bargain basement. I wanted pinstripes, and a dark shade of gray. They had one, and I took it. It was the second one pulled off the rack ... and people struggle with this? This took me 10 minutes!

Even at its discounted price, it's one of the 10 most expensive things I've ever purchased. This includes my college education. I'm not accustomed to pricy things -- in fact, as I write this, I'm wearing a $40 pair of shoes I glued the left heel back onto in favor of replacing.

Back to the store. The man, very nice man, asked: "What size are you?"  and the dumb became radiant on my face. I spread my arms out and pointed my eyes at my abdomen.

"This big." A chortle puffed out of his mouth. It was like a smoker's cough with a smile.

I confess, I confuse myself in a suit coat. I stood there before the triple mirror and stared queerly, as if this wasn't a mirror but a window to another dimension. What was so wrong with this? Then I heard the man behind me.

"It'll look better when you don't have the cap on." Oh. Right.

My hair underneath was a tornado-spun mess, but the man was quick to point out that at least I had hair (he didn't). I asked to try on the pants with it. Since that was the next step anyway, he allowed it.

The pants fit perfectly around the waist but felt looked like adult pants on a child as I gamboled on out, stepping on the ends of the legs as I went.

"What shoe are you?"
"Oh, well I'll be wearing black shoes, about --"
"What SIZE?!" Still radiant.

There were other questions like "Do I want permanent pleats" and "What level of break do you want at the shoes?" that I answered with "Whatever looks the most gangster (not an exaggeration)" and "Well, I won't argue with 90 percent of your customers." I am a man who has purchased two brand new cars in my lifetime; yet, there I was acting like a clothing transaction is above my intelligence quotient. Maybe it is.

My signature on the receipt sealed my status as being quite fancy. I now own a suit, consisting of two pieces made specifically for each other, that was tailored specifically to fit me. I will buy a nice tie and perhaps a fedora to match, at which point I will be breathtakingly, unfathomably fancy. The masses at this party will wither and melt in the presence of my fanciness when my outfit is complete. For now, though, I'd say I'm merely "quite fancy."

To celebrate my ascension among the fancy people, I drove home and drank wine out of a beer pint. First, I obliterated the cork. I then ate a frozen pizza, which I determined was lacking in cheese so I smeared on some cream cheese.

The end.

Don't you just pine for an afternoon at the mall: the smell of Axe and Abercrombie, the incessant wails of children, the saggy pants, the slow-moving hand-holders, the doughy feel of gum on the stair rails? You're right. Me neither. In fact, I've got two pairs of unstained office pants left and my underwear's got holes like a St. Paul street. I still won't shop.

That was before Digby's opened up in the Rosedale Shopping Center and brought hefty brews and All-American food stars to the table. I still don't want to shop ... but, if I can drink the hallway surveyors pretty before heading in, I might just stick around long enough to find some new slacks.

Digby's on UrbanspoonThe Basics: You can find Digby's near the movie theater in the Rosedale Shopping Center. On the web, you can find Digby's here. It's a pretty straightforward web site. It's the product of Plymouth's Eat Shop, and it popped open March 27.

Digby’s website needs updating. I had a litany of insults lined up for the heinously-priced tall boys and lack of a happy hour, until I went inside and saw tall boys marked down from $5 to $4 – still overpriced, but not heinously so – and they do have a happy hour, and it’s a great happy hour. From 3-6 Mon-Fri, 12-5 Sat and Sun, and 9-close every night: $3 pints (no trash, either), $3 house wines, and a “buddy” is only $3. I didn’t ask.

Let's get one thing out of the way right now: Don't eff with my wife and I when it comes to Final Four brackets. We're like Batman and Catwoman. My wife filled one out, picking the funniest names to advance and putting no other thought into it, and won two pizzas from Old Chicago. I smoked the other officers in our company's charitable giving committee and they got to buy me lunch.

Digby's is technically in the Rosedale mall, but it isn't really in the mall. See, this mall has a weird extension on its eastern face that kind of connects it to the movie theater. Within this extension is a strip mall/food court on steroids. The spaces aren't connected inside, so no worries of whiffing the next place's grub.

Digby’s sticks out with its pure blue awning and Robo-Cop visor shading the door. Inside, an enthusiastic hostess (“There’s sunshine!”) guided us to a table by the front windows ("They pull open!").

Local artist Adam Turman has a habit of show-stealing, and Digby's chalk-and-red surfaces barely fight back against his latest mural. It's his least-raciest work, eschewing the pint-wielding vixens at Butcher and 612 for Bubba the Bull's Field of Dreams. In sum, if you want to see how far you can get from feeling "at the mall" when you are "at the mall," check out Digby's.

We ordered. The Chair and The Brain split a reuben and pretzel sticks. I looked at pizzas and GEE, I WONDER WHICH ONE I ORDERED. PLEASE, JUST CALL ONE "MEATS" SO I CAN DO THIS WITHOUT BRAINS! YES, I'LL TAKE THE MEATS, PLEASE.

The wait was proper, long enough for the two of them to discuss actual business while I stared off into space but not so long that anyone brought up cannibalism. We all had to brush salt off our pretzel sticks, but it's better to have too much than too little. The cheese sauce is a little garlicky -- not in a bad way, it just is. The Brain raved about the ranch, to the point of nearly drinking it straight out of the metal cup.

The Chair (who has reviewed with me before) had this to say about the reuben: "The short rib version was a good twist. The saltiness the short rib brought to the table equally complimented the sweetness of the Thousand Island sauce dripping from the Rye bread."

I'm still getting used to seeing pizza without red sauce, but it's growing on me. The crust exceeded the menu hype, and none of the MEATS were rubbery or tough to chew. Bonus points for using sliced sausages instead of those funky, ground-up chunks. I would infinitely recommend MEATS.

The highlight, almost more than the MEATS, was the peanut butter milkshake. It tasted like peanut butter smashed into ice cream -- yes, I understand that's what it was. The others tried it and loved it. I finished it and did not love returning to work.

The only negative I could muster of Digby's is its location. The first time will be the toughest. You're not exactly wedged between Icing and Foot Locker, but you are still dodging moviegoers on the way out and pulling your hair out over parking before you head in.

These frustrations are minor and the experience is well worth it. Would I go to the Rosedale mall just for DIgby's? Yeah. The happy hour shows they're willing to give Grumpy's a game for the area's after-work drinkers, and the food prices are within reason. If there was ever a reason to drag yourself out for new pants, let Digby's be it -- though, you might want to shop for pants after you've eaten. I can't make any promises for your waistline, especially if you're hungry for MEATS.

In the beginning third of Saw II, a largely unfortunate movie, a hoodlum named Obi gets himself locked in a furnace and the furnace ignites. Obi sees a drawing of a little devil on the door, next to a dial. If he reaches through the flames and works the dial, he lives. Instead, he cowered in the back corner and suffocated.

I'm not going down like that.

Two weeks ago, I began my downward glide into my blaze of glory -- not on a bloody battlefield, or in the depths of a deranged human's psyche, but a wing joint playfully named : D-Spot. They've got some hot-ass wings, you see. D-Spot insists their back page menu isn't meant as a challenge, and there's no princess being held in another castle, but their heat intensifies by level and each "level" has a "key" flavor you must stomp to unlock the next. Totally not a challenge.

My story begins with El Loco. At 1.4 million Scoville units, El Loco is Level 1.

"You're a brave man," said the server as he set the basket before me. The impact sent a burst of smoke into the air between my wife and I. Before I could give myself time to back out, I snatched up the only drum and ripped the meat off in one mighty bite.

It hit me like Mickey would've in Snatch. The sauce dug into my lips. Pepper seeds hit the back of my throat and set it ablaze. Liquids of all manner oozed from the spouts of my face. Hiccups forceful enough to jerk my whole body set in. My fingerprints felt like they were being burnt off MIB-style. I lifted the second one delicately, gripping the endmost molecules with the tippiest tips of my fingers. My teeth flailed at the meat the way a falling man tries to grab hold of a rope.

Two down. My wife, ever a spectacular vein of moral support, asked me to pose for a picture. I somewhat looked, somewhat pointed; she totally snapped, and totally Facebooked.

I grabbed number three, not in the fashion one typically picks up a device of self-torture, but with the urgency of a cartoon hero holding a bomb. I bit the meat off one side, swung it around, bit from the other side, pushed the middle meat out with my right index and guided it into my mouth. I dropped number three like a runner cashing a water cup and reached for number four.

Number four was the least intimate. Most of my touch points had scorched numb by now, and this was merely another layer of sauce and a few more seeds. I systematically nibbled the meat off, set it down, saw I missed a sliver, picked it back up, snipped it off, and set it back down.

That's how I conquered El Loco.

Of course water didn't work, so I giant-stepped over to the counter and virtually threw my credit card at the cashier. My heartbeat and lung capacity were beginning to normalize, but my mouth was the steel of my parent's fireplace.

"Do you guys have milk?" I asked. The tears had dried to my face and the hiccups had slowed. I may or may not have had a crusted-snot mustache. I'd rather not dwell on that. The cashier returned with a bottle of organic green tea, and The Man With His Face On the Wall:

Pepper Lord Darin Koch himself.

Darin might look like a man who'd slip off a chain belt and beat you with it, if not for the permanent smile and politeness in conversation. His eyes shine like his shaven head. His articulation is far beyond mine, even when I'm at my best. Tonight, I was far from that. Tonight, I sounded like a man who'd just been waterboarded.

We shook hands and he congratulated me, but wasted no breath before showing me the flavors I was in for next. That's the message he conveyed: Flavors. Darin cares about the flavors a great deal, to the point I would've been ashamed to admit I'd crazily blitzed El Loco without noticing them. Fortunately, I'd had enough other flavors previously to pick up what he was laying down.

He gave me another green tea, compliments of the house. They help your metabolism, help you sweat out the heat faster, make it easier for you to enjoy the flavors. It's a talent I'll need to master, and pronto: I'm tackling every advertised super-hot wing,* all the up to the 4.5M-unit Seppuku and the game's final gate-keeper, Seizonsha.

Seizonsha, in Japanese, means "to survive." At 6M Scoville units, it's hotter than U.S.-grade pepper spray.

"If you eat Seizonsha, you can count on 3-4 days without solid food," said Koch. "Some people eat them and they're knocked out of work for three days." Fun!

I stayed up all night after El Loco with heartburn, and my first ... sitting on the ... in the morning at work ... very scorchy, indeed, if you know what I mean. It's going to take months but I shall hiccup, cry, snot, pant, quiver, sweat, and tea-guzzle my way to Seizonsha before 2014 expires. That's my mission.

To quote that Christopher Walken line I love so much, "It's too late to be scared. It's time to kill!" I've reached through the fire once already. I know exactly what I'm in for now.

See you on the other side.

CLOSING NOTES: Not into hot wings? D-Spot also makes excellent cheeseburgers. The 50/50 is one of my wife's cardinal vices. And the asterisk? Every flavor they offer can be altered to a heat preference, so I'm limiting my tour to the 16 haunted/scorpion/death row flavors listed on the website. You can follow my journey wing by wing on my Skinanegans page.

This is what happens when I get sucked into #2ndBrunch.

You can't always assume a cup of coffee will just end with an empty cup. For me, it ended with a cartoonishly huge Bloody Mary. What's affectionately called the "Finn Stick" hung out of its lid, next to a maimed and impaled grilled cheese sandwich and the contents of a Christmas meat box.

http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/link/331389/biglink.gifDoes this even look like a real thing? It looks Photoshopped, the same way a shirtless Ryan Gosling or Kate Upton in Antarctica look Photoshopped. It is a real thing, though. I drank it ate it fit this into my visceral sector, one triumphant chomp at a time.

What happens on #2ndBrunch stays on the Internet. Since we're here, I'm going to whip out my Finn Stick and throw it on the table for you to look at.

The Basics: Finnish Bistro is mashed up with a Dunn Bros. on the corner of Como Ave. and Carter Ave. Google it; the road map around it looks like a toddler drew it up. I'm not sure if this was by design but the Bistro and Dunn Bros. do their exterior signage in the same font.

The similarities follow them inside. I'd guess 40 goers fit. The row of bottled spirits on the back shelf do little to separate Finnish Bistro from a commercial coffee house. Go to your nearest Dunn Bros. and look around. Picture a fake bouquet in the window and you've got Finnish Bistro.

Blah blah blah let's get to the Bloody Mary.

You can order Mary by herself in a mason jar, or you can add sticks. All three of us had the grilled cheese pikes, because it was Sunday (God probably did, too). Some were more grilled than others, though. Lindsay's (left) and Kelli's (right) kabobs were stacked up with well-toasted bread and melted cheese, but my bread was still soft and I could tell they use shredded cheese. This altered our viewpoints dramatically; while they raved about their cheese pikes, I found mine the most boring.

"The Hunter Stick" is aptly named, built around exotic meats you can only find in the wildest of wilds, such as ... okay, fine, salami and kielbasa sausage. Not exactly alpaca and rattlesnake. Swiss cheese and olives get poked on with it, unless you're me and hate olives. Only Lindsay and I dared hunt the salami and sausage.

On "The Finn Stick" was salmon lox, more Swiss, salami, kielbasa sausage, pickled herring, and olives. Cucumbers are advertised, but I don't recall seeing any on mine. I'm not sure it would've jibed anyway. The Finn Stick was by far my favorite, and not just because I'm a Finlander. The ladies missed out by not taking this one.

A little sprig of asparagus hid in my meat forest, and I chomped on that between shoves. Sometimes I lifted the kabob and tore into it an animal. Other times, I plucked off pieces and pushed them through the pie hole. Occasionally, I'd sip on my Mary. I emptied the glass in four or five triumphant sucks. I had to -- I kept forgetting there was liquid in here.

Going three-bat is no cheap trick: The Mary by itself is $7.95, grilled cheese raises it $3, with the hunter and Finn sticks hiking it $4 more apiece. A decent tip turned this into a $25 meal. I wouldn't indulge on this every Sunday necessarily, but you need this on your bucket list if it isn't already. How can you not?

The staff struggled to keep pace with their Sunday traffic, but rewarded our patience with a free pastry apiece. I pocketed mine, and my wife mouthed it shortly after.

Listen, getting to the Finnish Bistro isn't easy and it isn't cheap. There's nothing else for you in that neighborhood, unless you enjoy cruising on heinously-drawn-out streets or you want to fill up at the nearby Pump n' Munch, but a trip to the Finnish Bistro is worth your while. Your sweet tooth will be sated nicely, and the Bloody Mary is an easy "do once before you leave the Earth" candidate.

Here, let me show it to you again.


One last thing: Is it just me, or does the sight of their website make you hungry for chocolate ice cream?