People often ask me if they could accompany me on my late-night walkabouts. I ask them how far they’re able to walk. Their answer is often, “Why, how far would I have to walk?”
The answer to this non-answer is 5-8 miles, over a span of many hours. They lose interest quickly, and that’s okay. I don’t know if I’d want a companion anyhow. It’s like Henry David Thoreau once said: “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready.”
A few weeks back, I walked alone from a brewery in Minneapolis’ North Loop to an eatery Downtown. That was a half-mile. From there, I walked alone to a pizza shop less than a block away; and from there, I walked nearly two-and-a-half miles alone for dessert, then a mile and a half back Downtown in hopes of nerfing the taxi charge for the ride home.
Two breweries, a cheeseburger, a cocktail, a slice of pizza, some Black Eyed Peas, a triple chocolate chunk cookie, and the usual “Lyft home I don’t quite remember” later, this is the story I came back with.
Here’s what happened that night in Minneapolis.
CHAPTER 1: Inbound Hibiscus Saison
The Inbound Brewco taproom is a mere one block north of Target Field, where the Minnesota Twins occasionally play baseball. As of this article’s publication, the Minnesota Twins’ 2017 season record is 35-33. My beloved Los Angeles Angels’ record is 37-37. How has one team played seven more games in than the other? Because one of them plays in Minnesota, with no roof over its ballpark, that’s why. Did I mention a northwest suburb recently had to shovel themselves out from under a hailstorm earlier this month?
Let’s not put a retractable roof on that stadium, though. Everything will be fine.
I approached Inbound, under one of the brighter dusks I’d seen lately. The frame of its building is the blackest black. In a photograph, it looks drawn in with a Sharpie. The taproom glowed gold, and through the windows I scoped out my seat. I walked in and dropped myself off at the very far end of the bar.
I don’t know what’s up with the branding at Inbound. My wife says it looks like World War II propaganda. I think it would look at home on an MMA T-shirt. It’s distinct, though. You couldn’t count the number of companies with their name written cleanly in a perfectly round circle, but you could count the number of them with their name written in a grenade! Visually, you don’t confuse Inbound for anyone. Maybe I do know what’s up with the branding.
Look around the taproom too long and it starts to seem prison-like. The windows look barred. The cafeteria-style seats beyond the bar counter look like wooden blocks. A balcony, barely visible in the back, overlooks the whole thing. A gun-wielding Terminator wouldn’t look too out of place up there. Even that impressive white board overlooking the bar appears to be shouting orders.
I was never found out.
What I had was Inbound’s Hibiscus Saison. It’s a popular one; they had window posted printed up for this one. They sell it in bottles, too. It’s made with hibiscus petals and wears an outrageous flowery hue.
It walks a lot of lines well. It’s tart, but not excruciatingly so. Notes of cranberry are present, but not so much that it sails off into Kool-Aid Land. It’s an easy beer to drink, and there isn’t an excess of alcohol hiding in there. It’s a beer you can admire, hold it up to a light, sniff, smile, take a sip of and say to yourself “This is nice!” I know because I did this a few times.
After nearly an hour, I set the empty glass down and took off toward Downtown. My legs were fresh, my senses were keen, and nothing was going to slow me down!
I stopped at the very next taproom.
CHAPTER 2: Fulton Pils
The herd had thinned at Fulton Brewing‘s taproom by the time I strolled in, all knowing everybody and shit, a lonely spot at the end of the bar with my name practically engraved into the counter. Down there, I can call the bartenders by name and act like some kind of big shot; on the other end, where the registers are, I’d have to mingle with (shudders) people. I found my corner and leaned my torso just over the counter, looking very urgent in doing so.
Fulton recently unleashed a pilsner into the market, following the success of its Standard Lager and its 300 IPA and its pretty much everything else. Fulton’s Pils is not a complex beer, and that’s a good thing. Its simplicity and cleanliness allow you to focus on other things, which I couldn’t do because my phone battery was about to go flat. Because I’m me, though – and it’s very important that a man like myself be available to see and ignore those who contact me – the guys behind the bar hooked me up to a charger and poured me another pint while I waited. Over that pint, I forced my conversation upon them while they tried to close up the shop.
I had two pints of Pils. I could have had another six or seven. It’s not a big, bad, “fill you up” beer. It’s a beer you can sip on aggressively after a hard day at work, and set it forcefully onto its coaster. You can smile over it, too, and set it down delicately. I smiled over two, got my phone back, and attempted photography. This beer is no poser.
With an 80-percent charge and Run the Jewels in my head, I reset my sights on downtown.
CHAPTER 3: The Entrance of an Ostensibly Whack Nightclub
It was nearing midnight, and the “hot” nightclubs were separating themselves from the “whack” ones. I wandered for nearly a half-hour, cargo shorts and Summit beer T-shirt, perusing the lines snaking out of the “hot” ones. Some went for blocks: women in tight-fitting dresses, men in loose-fitting ball caps, pedal cabbies swerving around hunting fares. Outside of some clubs, you’d swear the XBox One X was being released.
I stopped in front of one club. I forget the name. I’m not sure it was even advertised. There was no line. I would surmise this nightclub was “whack.”
Four or five people stood on the sides of the door, not so much like bouncers but sentries. The men were big – not huge, just big – wore black suits and stood perfectly still. There were two women, and they both reminded me of assassins from TV shows. One had hair back tight in a ponytail. They both had long, manicured nails.
One of the women took a step forward, and was suddenly right in front of me. Her name was Hilary. We shook hands.
“Is this club cool?” I asked, knowing the answer already. She waffled, then lied.
“Is there a cover?”
“It’s $10 tonight.” My facial features fought over what expression to make. I can’t imagine my face hid this too well.
“Hell, I could buy a burger up at 112 for that,” I said.
“You could,” said Hilary, but then her voice tailed off into nothing.
“Sold!” I said triumphantly. “I’m going for the burger!”
I don’t think they really wanted me in that club.
Chapter 4: The 112 Eatery Cheeseburger
The 112 Eatery has the best entrance. First off, the sign over the door looks like the avatar of somebody’s Etsy page. It’s so simple, with such simple coloring, and its name in such a simple font, you just want to browse its hand-made goods and leave a nice comment someplace. You walk inside, though; and, even though you can see the restaurant on the other side of the window, you somehow have to walk down a hallway when you go in the front door. The walls of this hallway are filled with unspeakable images.
I say “unspeakable” because I’ve never actually looked at them.
You enter the restaurant and you see just how little space they’re working with in the dining room. It’s much bigger than its space, if that makes any sense. Maybe it’s the mirrors dominating the side wall, or the windows dominating the front wall, or the fact you enter the dining room and you’re already a quarter of the way back to the kitchen. If you allow yourself to be confused by all this, you may could be. I’d recommend just pulling up a seat at the bar.
The man sitting next to me at the bar was a cook. I wish I remembered his name. He recommended an Old Fashioned, said the bartender made one of the best of its kind in the area. I wish I remembered the bartender’s name. She was having a blast back there, that much I do know. They both told me their stories. I wish I remembered them, too. I ordered a cheeseburger, and took him up on his Old Fashioned recommendation.
The cheeseburger presents unexpected twists on the fundamentals. It’s a bun, but it’s an English muffin bun. It’s cheese, but it’s brie cheese. It’s a little bowl of pickles, but you just grab them all up and stuff them into your mouth like a toddler picking up a Lego for the first time. The beef, oh my God, the beef. It was juicy, and bit like a cloud. The cheese oozed, but just a little. It made no mess whatsoever. I don’t think I used a napkin at all. Finest burger I’ve had in some time.
I don’t articulate cocktails too well, but this Old Fashioned was an absolute pleasure. It was exactly the drink you’d expect from a bartender who was having fun, and who gave a hefty crap whether you’d enjoy it or not. I did, quite so.
I hung around there for a bit, learning more about the company I was keeping (I’d need this information to forget later on). I briefly debated a second burger, but decided I was no longer hungry and left.
Chapter 5: Dulono’s Pizza
“There was a Dulono’s downtown?!” I was kind of hungry, so to find this on the corner of 4th St. and Second Ave. was commodious, indeed.
It’s much more spiffed-up than the original Dulono’s Pizza in Uptown. This Dulono’s has a flashy sign with red neon letters, an interior that seems to glow red, and a man at the door who needs to photograph you before you can enter the restaurant. I made a cross-eyed face into his camera, and he took the photo. I proceeded inside and ordered a slice of pepperoni. The restaurant was otherwise empty. My slice of pizza came quickly.
The first bite boiled the inside of my mouth. It’s good pizza, though. If you’re familiar with Dulono’s, you already know that. Everything you want to say about a good pizza joint, you can say about Dulono’s with a straight face. I took one more trial bite, then blew on the nip of cheese on the end and successfully bit into that. I blew into the space between the cheese and crust where I’d just bitten, and tried eating that. It wasn’t too hot. I’d reached the mainland! That became just blowing on the top of the slice, and eventually taking adult-sized bites. By the time I was done, I had eaten the pizza.
By the time I left, any place I’d want to go Downtown was getting ready to close. There was another place, though, a cookie shop I’d heard about up in Dinkytown that stayed open until 3:00 in the morning. It was a 2.4 mile walk.
For a good chocolate chip cookie, that’s nothin’.
Chapter 6: Insomnia Cookies
Dinkytown. Dinky-dinky-dinkytown. The college neighborhood.
I knew I was there when I passed this one house. It looked like a party had just died in the front yard. I don’t mean ended, I mean died. A rickety plastic table stood shockingly upright, with red plastic cups arranged neatly on both ends. Various case boxes and cans were strewn about the yard, its alcoholic contents long gone. A young woman stood in the front doorway, probably intoxicated but looking alert. From inside the house, the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” roared out like dragonfire.
It was a random Facebook post that linked to a Reddit post or something, I don’t know, but somehow I became aware of Insomnia Cookies. To get there, I had to pass the Kitty Cat Klub, Annie’s Parlour, and the Loring Pasta Bar. I’m either gravely mistaken, or the Loring Pasta Bar has a hell of a nightlife. That pasta bar was a better nightclub than Hilary’s club.
The streets were a mishmash of taxis, locked-up bicycle frames with wheels and seats stolen off, and drunken 20-somethings only kind of acting a fool. At one point, a man in a superhero costume glided past me and charged into a big group of people. He stopped abruptly in the middle and began break-dancing. The mass-mingling would occasionally flood into the street, but recede back onto the sidewalks. You could drive down these streets at this hour, but I wouldn’t want to.
Huge packs of people of all outfits and colors crowded into Andrea Pizza, Erbert and Gerbert’s, and this Blarney Pub and Grill I’d never heard of. Outside of it, a woman helped a man home. Two friends asked to help another young man home, but he insisted he was okay. He was sitting on the sidewalk outside of the Blarney. He appeared to fall asleep immediately after his friends walked away.
I found Insomnia Cookies and couldn’t believe there was no line. I don’t know if there’s room enough for a line. I remember taking one step into the shop and nearly gut-punching myself on the front counter. The man at the front counter gave me a haymaker of a hello and left me a little bit dizzy.
“One second,” I said. “It’s my first time here,” I said, as if I’d never seen cookies before.
I settled on a triple chocolate chunk and it came out in seconds. It was a melty, gooey, chocolately mess. It might have been the best cookie I’ve ever eaten. Chocolate was everywhere. I had to eat it quickly before it crumbled apart, melted, evaporated, or any number of thing that could have happened to it had I waited. Maybe that superhero could have snuck a bite between dance moves. Maybe Mr. Zees on the sidewalk was a sleep eater. I don’t know. A cookie this delicious was an emergency: I didn’t want to share it, and I didn’t want to lose any part of it. I stood in the middle of the sidewalk and focused. A whole world was happening around me, and good lord it was weird, but I was singularly focused on this cookie.
That’s what Insomnia Cookies does, and did I mention they deliver?
Steam was still rising from it as I took the last bite. Wow. Yes. Do I go back for another? No. This was all I needed from Dinkytown.
I wanted a ride home, but knew surge pricing would still be active on Lyft. I enjoy walking, though, and that’s free. I walked back downtown, got 2.4 miles closer to home, and waited outside Day Block Brewing for my Lyft. I saved myself $7 by doing this.
RELATED: This was over 2,400 words long … BUT IF YOU REALLY WANT MORE, here’s the story of me attending a party, crashing another party, meeting a band, and creeping on tailgaters on night on Washington Avenue. If you STILL want more, here’s the brewery tour I hosted for my mother-in-law and her friends last year. For EVEN MORE, have that time we hit 15 breweries in one day.