the roadtrip season opener. 2

Saturday morning, we had brunch at Blackbird. I had the huevos rancheros. Matt had a pork sandwich made with french toast. That right there should tell you how awesome the place is. And walking distance from our house!

We hopped in the car and headed southward, to Red Wing. We’d wanted to check out Treasure Island Casino for a while, so we decided to make a day of it. Red Wing is super-cute, too.

Our first stop was at Pottery Place. SHUT UP. It’s kind of nostalgic for me (my mom used to go there all the time), plus the thing we’ve learned about antique shops is that they have amazing barware. Also, $4.99 cougars:

We ended up with an oldschool Schmidt Beer pitcher and glasses (“The Beer that Grew with the Great Northwest!”), a Champale bar light (I need to get a photo of it, because it’s amazing), and a Surdyk’s shotglass from the days of 5-digit telephone numbers. I also got a Hawaii quarter, to complete my 50 states set. (Quiet.)

We headed into the little downtown so Matt could check out the Red Wing Shoes store, with their giant sale. After trying on several pairs and finally deciding on some very awesome boots, we walked out and realized what was right across the street: Norton’s and the Lucky Cat Lounge.

Several years ago, we’d taken our friend Bryan to Greg Norton’s restaurant in Wisconsin, a few miles across the river in Wisconsin. The food was great, but mostly we went so he could meet Mr. Norton, of Hüsker Dü fame. I’m pretty sure Bryan’s handlebar moustache was at least partly Greg Norton’s influence.

Anyway, I’d heard that his restaurant in Wisconsin closed recently, and was kind of sad about it, until we realized that the place in Red Wing had to be his, too. Also, the Lucky Cat Lounge had a maneki neko. It was a sign that we had to visit.

The place was fantastic. We had cocktails and the cheese platter. We will definitely return.

We decided to go wander around town and take some pictures, after first stopping into 5 de Mayo, the Mexican market around the corner. We got about a block, and stopped dead at the sight of this:

I just liked the ‘drinking house’ sign. Matt was the one who noticed the sign about the oldest bar in Minnesota. We stared at each other in amazement for approximately 2 seconds before barging through the door.

There were a few old guys at the bar (and one other woman, to my relief), and the Red Sox game was on TV. The bartender took our order, and charged us $5 for a whiskey-diet and whiskey-7. We asked him about the oldest bar thing, and he said it was, in fact, true; they built it in 1886 across the street from the riverside grain mill, and next door to the shoe factory. Where the men’s room is now, they used to have a booth where the workers could cash their paychecks.  That right there is good business.

One of the old guys put Conway Twitty and Tammy Wynette on the jukebox. We watched baseball, talked to the bartender some more (I think he worked there when it opened), and contemplated the immensely disturbing painting of fat guys playing strip poker. We were kind of sad we weren’t staying in town overnight. Before we left, we both stopped into the restrooms, and found oldschool pinup girls on the wall. So awesome.

We completed our circle tour of downtown, then walked down to the river. Red Wing is picturesque, as my many, many photos will attest.


the mighty mississippi.

Round about eveningtime, we headed northwards to Treasure Island. It’s better than Mystic Lake for one critical reason: you’re allowed to drink there. If Las Vegas got wind of that alcohol-free gambling thing, they’d probably blow Mystic Lake up.

We found spots at a $5 blackjack table and got to work. Matt did pretty well right away. I did not, due to the fact that I kept drawing a two or three after doubling down on eleven. Also, I tend to forget basic strategy unless I review it right before playing. I would’ve stayed in the game, though, had a creepy guy not sat down to me and angrily muttered “I could’ve used that ace” when I took a hit. Screw that, dude. I picked up my chips and left the table.

I went to play penny slots while Matt finished, and won some money pretty quickly. I realized I’d been gone a while, so I went to find him wandering around the casino floor, looking for me. We decided to go check out the band in the lounge, because they were just getting ready to play. Also, the lounge had many gigantic TVs broadcasting every sport on earth.

The band was Steve Millar and the Diamondheads. How could you not want to watch Steve Millar? Especially when they started their set with Miami Sound Machine.

We hung out for a while, being amused by the band and watching the NHL playoffs, NBA playoffs, and the Twins game. If there is a heaven for Matt, I suspect it may involve multiple sporting events, cocktails, and a cheesy cover band. When they played “Jump, Jive, and Wail”, we had to go swing-dance. Badly, at least on my part. I need to brush up!

We decided we should probably eat something, but were nowhere near hungry enough for the gigantic buffet. We circled the casino and finally decided on the casual sit-down restaurant that specialized in breakfast. They didn’t have a single vegetarian item on the menu except for a side salad, so I prepared to make do. I asked the server if maybe they could make me a grilled cheese, and she said yes. It was a surprisingly awesome grilled cheese, too.

After dinner, we wandered around the casino again, looking for a spot at the blackjack table. They were all full, so we hopped around various penny slot machines, and both won consistently. I doubled my money, and was done. We decided to go see what Steve Millar was up to again, and check on the wide world of sports.

Steve Millar was busy being awesome. I’d told Matt much earlier that I was positive they’d play Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” at some point, and they did. Then they played “Don’t Stop Believin'”, which automatically made it the greatest show ever. And while all that was going on, the scene on the dance floor kept getting better and better.

There were a few people dancing on and off, but there were just two regulars: an autistic girl who moved somewhat robotically and knew all the words, and the superfan. I wish I could describe the superfan sufficiently, but it’s impossible. He was extremely drunk, and alternated between some kind of overdramatic interpretive dance, singing along while pretending to hold a microphone, and lounging on the steps to the stage, trying to look sexy. It was mindblowing. (More videos at the bottom here.)

The superfan kept creeping closer to Steve Millar, so security came over to have words with him. At one point (during “Desperado”, a song Steve Millar told us was an accurate reflection of himself), they had to start over, because the interpretive dancing was cracking Steve up. He finally invited the superfan onto the stage at the end of the song, after which security had many more words with him. I would love to know how that guy’s night ended up. Possibly with his legs broken in the basement.

It was getting late, so we went to the blackjack tables once more before heading out. I didn’t want to play, but Matt did well. We also saw a girl split nines twice, get really good hits, and then lose all three hands when the dealer hit 21. Oh, blackjack. You’re still my favorite.

We headed out around 11, and were back home shortly after midnight. Matt drove, and I freaked out the whole way about the possibility of encountering bears, giant squid, or murderers on the side of the road. What? It could happen.

2 thoughts on “the roadtrip season opener.

  1. Reply AmyNo Gravatar May 15, 2009 2:46 pm

    I was just in Red Wing on Wednesday with my mom, and she told me to buy those cougars. Ha!

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