Mall of America, Third Floor, Boom, Pizza Studio


I don’t hate the Mall of America like I used to.

Don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t just up and go for no reason, but the primal antagonism has calmed into more of a cautious truce. I’ll go if Barry Bostwick is there, or if cool socks are to be had, and I’ll make sure it’s mid-week during slow seasons. I’ll photograph the parking lot section and the door I came in through. I’ll try reading the floor maps.

You’ve got to admit, the people-watching is world class and the Mall of America does wonders for your step count.

Then there’s the pizza.

Imagine: You walk into a shop, and you’re out with your merchandise in less than five minutes. It’s top-notch, and you get everything you desire with no crazy up-charge.

You can find such a shop on the third floor of the “mega mall.” Just look for the Pizza Studio sign.

The Basics: They’ve locations all over the U.S., but the MOA spot is Minnesota’s only. It’s between between Noodles and Bruegger’s on Level Three. Their website.


It’s in a small but well-laid-out space. You walk up to the entrance, boom, there’s the menu on the window. Look at it, walk in, boom, start ordering right there. Walk straight back while they make your pizza, boom, cash register. Step right back, boom, chairs. Two minutes later, boom, get your pizza, sit your ass down and start eating.

How was service that night? Well, the man taking my order was also the man preparing it. It was 8 p.m., and he hadn’t hung himself yet. That’s the kind of perseverance you could never properly rate on a survey.

Oh, I forgot to mention: You can make your own pizza, for a flat $9, and toppings are unlimited. Anything you want. Go ahead.

I dialed up the firecracker crust and topped it with sweet chicken sausage, grilled chicken, bacon, feta and mozz cheeses, red peppers, tomatoes, buffalo sauce, and banana peppers. I had it lightly salted before it was cooked.

The crust was more fiery than cracker-like, teaming up with the sauce to produce a formidable kick. The toppings didn’t look soggy or sad. Next time I do this, I’ll pass on the salt; otherwise, this heat-and-meat combo could have bailed me out of any shopping trip. Luckily, I was just here for socks.

Four slices was the magical amount, which of course precipitated the question: Do I eat the last two or schlep them all the way out to “Georgia”?

Well,” I decided, “This is really only three or four bites.” This logic is probably why I’ll be dead before 50.

My last bite was too big for my mouth. I chewed with my lips slightly apart while a man stood outside the restaurant, burped his baby, and watched me.

Did I mention the people-watching?


STILL GOT TIME? Pieology Pizza does something like this, and here’s a 22-inch pizza you can get in Excelsior.

St. Paul Saints Opening Weekend: A Look Back


Do you know who the Gary Southshore Railcats are?

No? Pretend you do.

Now, are you a fan of the Gary Southshore Railcats?

Don’t pretend you are. Fans of the Gary Southshore Railcats did not enjoy this past weekend of baseball.

The Railcats traveled all the way to St. Paul this last weekend; and, while I’m sure they got some great pizza and the hotel rooms were probably clean, the St. Paul Saints made their four nights at CHS Field feel like varying circles of Hell.

On Thursday, the Saints welcomed them with an 8-3 beating.

On Friday, the Railcats outhit the Saints 11-5 and almost wiped away a four-run deficit in the ninth inning … but a base-running error cost Gary the tying run at the plate to end the game.

On Saturday night, the Railcats scored a nifty eight runs … which would have been fantastic had the Saints not rang up 18.

The Saints gave them one more loss to put in their luggage on Sunday.

I don’t know if this edition of the St. Paul Saints can match the historical season we enjoyed last summer. This much, however, I do know: the Saints can be expected to once again deliver exciting baseball, and the sideshow is lively as ever.

Here are some shots from Opening Night.

This was outside the stadium before the game. Remember when Leinie’s Honey Weiss was craft beer? Ah, the naive days of our youth. Nice chairs, though.
While we’re talking about beer, IT’S THIRSTY THURSDAY!! HOO-BOY! Let’s get in the beer line …
… and stay in the beer line for two or three innings. The Beer Dabbler craft beer corner has great options, and your humble author always prefers drinking local, but the lines were agonizing there, too. If you can’t wait, the Goose Island carvery has good beer options at $8.50/24 ounces.
Are you hungry for mini-donuts? Better yet, are you in the market for a BIKE?! This young lady slid me a card with my donuts of the company who makes them.
Just showing off the view.
Twice. On a side note, the trumpeteer nailed the National Anthem that night.
Mudonna with the night’s featured rescue dog. Had this kept up, I’d have taken that pup home …
… or Mudonna.
Here are some hats that would get me kicked out of the bedroom when I got home.
Even with press access, I watched the last two innings from the BERM. It’s the grassy patch out past left field. The view from there is not to be missed.
The end

STILL GOT TIME? Here’s a more in-depth look at CHS Field.

Observations from Stanley’s Beer and Bacon Fest


Is it time?” asked my wife. I checked my phone. It was 1:57 p.m.

It was time.

We got up from our seats at Stanley’s Bar Room Northeast and back out into the lyin’ sun, the kind that impresses with brightness but doesn’t back it up with any discernible warmth. We stepped into a human lava flow out in the parking lot, pushing as one through the entrance and out into rows and rows of beer tents.

It was paradise, as long as you didn’t stand in the shade for too long. Here are some observations from the Fest: standout beers I hadn’t yet had, a bright future for Minnesota’s most giving beer company, food rescue, and an activity book?


THE GRAND PRIZE: The Bauhaus Brew Labs Activity Book
I’m not going to encourage you, as an adult, to start coloring. Instead, the activity book is a window to the soul of the Bauhaus Brew Labs familia. Some ride rainbows, others ride dinosaurs, and personalities from past Bauhaus promotions make appearances. This wacky lil’ book is everything you need to know about Bauhaus before you step into the taproom and start enjoying the beer.

Of course, if you want to color in Matt Schwandt playing a guitar on a tricycle, I won’t hold that against you.


FINE! Big Wood Brewery
It’s an IPA with mango and passion fruit. It moved through the taproom so quickly, the guys at Big Wood had to put it on shelves. They brought some to the beerfest, and they wisely left their tent in the car. I swear, there was a 30-degree difference between the sunlight and the  shade that day.

I noticed groovy, but not overpowering, fruit flavors. This beer dances from start to finish, just as the Big Wood representative advertised, and who better than Big Wood to give us a beer that dances all night?

It should be noted, the taproom in White Bear Lake is a trip well worth making. Start with a sandwich at nearby Washington Square, pad the stomach, lace up those dancing shoes, and walk on over to Big Wood.


THE REAL MVP: Angie Lee, Boss, Finnegans
Angie Lee is the volunteer coordinator at Finnegans. I’ve never seen her without a walkie-talkie. I’ve never run into her when she didn’t have somewhere she needed to be. She’s in charge here, everywhere.

The Finnegans Reverse Food Truck was at Stanley’s, taking donations and kicking beers. Their newest offering, Freckled Rooster, was not to be missed. A bière blanc, they call it: a crisp, fruity sun smasher you can feel good about drinking (100 percent of Finnegans’ profits goes to charity, after all).

After years of brewing alongside Summit in St. Paul, it was announced that Finnegans will be part of a ‘Brewtel‘ being planned in Minneapolis. It’s an exciting development: it means more beer for Finnegans fans, a unifying location, more profits, more donations, and more minions for Boss Angie Lee.

Barely a cloud in the sky, yet 40 degrees. Minnesota!


MY FOOD RESCUE PET, from Stanley’s on Wheels
Stanley’s wisely parked the food truck on drinking grounds for those who didn’t get their fill on free bacon.

Stanley’s did a great job adding pig to everything on the menu that day. They doubled up for me on a plate of bacon nachos that went unclaimed as I pondered my order.

Is nobody claiming that?” I said, pointing to it. “Throw some pork on it and I’ll buy it.” So, they did.

This superpig tortillagasm caught eyes from all around. Dudes and ladies alike were made agape at this thing. I’d venture a dozen people asked how they could get one. My mouth was always full.

Mmph,” I’d say, and point at Stanley’s on Wheels.

Even before they became a Constellation Brand, I have to admit: I wasn’t a big Ballast Point fan. Even Keel, which has been recommended to me by everyone else with a taste bud, didn’t stick. Nor did Sculpin. It wasn’t until drinking Peanut Butter Victory at Sea on my birthday did I re-open my eyes to Ballast Point. That beer is, as Fabolous would say, “A duhduh-duhduh, duhduhduhduh DAMN!”

At Stanley’s, I was rewarded again for my openness. Ballast Point’s Thai Chili Wahoo packed just the right heat. It’s an adventurous drink you can do without having a death wish. Lime flavor is advertised, but I couldn’t identify it. I’m not sure I’d have wanted to, though.

I wouldn’t have more than a couple at once, but your street cred will get a nice boost if you share this with the #squad.

Observations from St. Paul Summer Beerfest 2015
Observations from Beer Dabbler at Pride 2015
Stanley’s Northeast Bar Room Review