Come Together: Eight Lunches, The Best Steak and the Richest Street

At the Best Steak House

I’m not a big steak eater.  I’m not vegetarian either, but, the steakhouse is not exactly a highly accessible restaurant for a college student like myself.  However, visiting the Best Steakhouse for our final installment on Lunch on the Avenue felt like a homecoming to an old relatives’ house.  The distinction isn’t lost on me that after seven weeks of lunching across food originating from four different continents, our last stop was a purely American outfit.  And, being received by the warm welcome of Greek owner Mike Hatzis solidified everything University Avenue is about.  Even one of the more “American” fares has a touch of international flavor.  The final Lunch of the Avenue series and my attendance of the Unify University parade raised questions to carry down University Avenue, as the construction edges its way to its final phases.

But first, the steak.  For Mike and the Best Steakhouse, that process has been steeped in over twenty-five years of experience, and it’s expressed both in how the orders are asked for quickly, cafeteria-style, and, the swift ignition of fire and meat on the grill that comes soon after.  I ordered the steak and shrimp, and along with a large cut of steak fillet and five breaded shrimp, any steak order comes with a baked potato, two pieces of texas toast, and a side salad.  The steak was rich, tender, and just simply totally worth stuffing myself silly.  I don’t have much experience with steak, especially with steak specialty restaurants, but if you don’t need the cloth napkins, and you don’t mind a little sass with your service, the Best Steakhouse more than meets any steak needs.  In fact, Mike and his wife are simply part of the attraction, knowing the faces behind one of the longest running businesses on the avenue.

As I drove our group back to Macalester’s campus, I began to reflect on what we had attempted to accomplish with the program.  There were goals, with the most significant being introducing the Macalester community to these businesses and their importance in the community.  I still have my concerns that not all of the needs of the businesses will be met, as I perceive a slight disconnect between all of the new that is coming onto University Avenue and what has already been there.

Perhaps I’m just a nostalgic person.  But, my thoughts were confirmed by my visit to the Unify University Parade.  I was able to witness the parade, comprised of businesses, church and community groups, families and supporters triumphantly march across University Avenue.  It was a small crowd who were there to simply spectate, but, the group was strong.  This was especially evident when, at the Open Mic gathering at the vacant Old Home factory site, Chili Lor, a community organizer with Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, spontaneously breakdanced during a drumline performance.  It was the true voice of the avenue, different communities coming together, which is what happens every day. I just hope that people continue to notice.

The writer,a guest blogger for St. Paul SPOT is Harry Kent , currently a senior at Macalester College, and a student employee at Macalester’s Civic Engagement Center.  Prior to that time, he was a community outreach coordinator and eventually, serving  a brief stint as Office Manager of the University Avenue Business Association.

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Dining Out For Life – access St. Paul on your mobile phone

On  Thursday, April 28, dozens of St Paul  restaurants  are participating in the Dine Out for Life event.  On that day, a portion of the proceeds of your lunch or dinner bill is donated to The Aliveness Project, a local nonprofit organization that provides on-site meals, food shelf & other supportive services for individuals living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

We’re listing the restaurants here so our St Paul Spot app users can have an easy link to them on their smart phones next Thursday when they are out and about, and want to do a little something extra to make their meal special.

St. Paul / All Cuisines / Any Meal

B = Breakfast – L = Lunch – D = Dinner – All = B,L,D

128 CAFE (Platinum Level – 35%)
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Tel: 651-645-4128 D
Donation: 35%
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CHRISTOS UNION DEPOT PLACE (Platinum Level – 35%)
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Tel: 651-224-6000 D
Donation: 35%
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HIGHLAND CAFE & BAKERY (Platinum Level – 35%)
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Tel: 651-698-3400 D
Donation: 35%
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KHYBER PASS CAFE (Platinum Level – 35%)
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Tel: 651-690-0505 L,D
Donation: 35%
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NGON VIETNAMESE BISTRO (Platinum Level – 35%)
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Tel: 651-222-3301 D
Donation: 35%
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PIZZA LUCE – ST. PAUL Dine-In Only (Platinum Level – 35%)
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Tel: 651-288-0186 L,D
Donation: 35%
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SAWATDEE ST. PAUL (Platinum Level – 35%)
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Tel: 651-528-7106 D
Donation: 35%
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SEÑOR WONG (Platinum Level – 35%)
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Tel: 651-224-2019
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D
Donation: 35%
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SUPATRA’S THAI CUISINE (Platinum Level – 35%)
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Tel: 651-222-5859 D
Donation: 35%
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Carmelo’s Ristorante (Gold Level – 30%)
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Tel: 651-699-2448 L,D
Donation: 30%
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Everest on Grand (Gold Level – 25%)
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Tel: 651-696-1666 L
Donation: 25%
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Great Waters Brewing Company (Gold Level – 25%)
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Tel: 651-224-2739 L,D
Donation: 25%
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St. Clair Broiler (Gold Level – 25%)
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Tel: 651-698-7055 L,D
Donation: 25%
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Boca Chica Restaurant (Silver Level – 20%)
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Tel: 651-222-8499
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L,D
Donation: 20%
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FACES Mears Park (Silver Level – 20%)
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Tel: 651-209-7776
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L,D
Donation: 20%
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Glockenspiel (Silver Level – 20%)
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Tel: 651-292-9421 L,D
Donation: 20%
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Trattoria da Vinci (Silver Level – 20%)
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Tel: 651-222-4050
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D
Donation: 20%
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Black Dog Cafe (Bronze Level – 15%)
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Tel: 651-228-9274 B,L,D
Donation: 15%
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Bulldog Lowertown (Bronze Level – 15%)
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Tel: 651-221-0750 D
Donation: 15%
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Chris & Rob’s Chicago Taste Authority (Bronze Level – 15%)
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Tel: 651-228-9347 D
Donation: 15%
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Muffuletta Cafe (Bronze Level 15%)
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Tel: 651-644-9116
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L,D
Donation: 15%
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Tanpopo Noodle Shop (Bronze Level – 17%)
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Tel: 651-209-6527 D
Donation: 17%
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W.A. Frost (Bronze Level – 15%)
View Details
Tel: 651-224-5715
Reserve Online Now
L
Donation: 15%
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Kickstarter – projects looking for a little help in St. Paul

Do you know about Kickstarter?  It’s a creative micro-finance  program for all kinds of projects.

I came across  this yesterday while snooping around for fun things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico. With the  St. Paul Sidewalk Poetry contest coming to a conclusion on April 17, poetry has been on my mind, and this concept for a road side attraction twitched my imagination.  Can you see it at the top of Ramsey Hill? While revving in neutral at a 30 degree incline  while in line at the stop sign?

Kickstarter offers people a place to make a plea for financing their projects, and encourages very creative attempts at persuading funders.   Videos are recommended.  Premiums for donating are offered for  most pledges – the magnitude of reward in geometric proportions to the size of the pledge.   Here are some examples.

You get the drift. The website makes for an interesting hour or more of reading, and is a great editorial on the creative juices flowing in this country.

An interesting “kicker” is that if the project does not reach its full funding needs,  your pledge to the project is never realized. So you can give a project a moral boost, while waiting for it to reach  its goal. When it reaches the funding goal, the funds you have committed are withdrawn.

Here are the projects vying for funding in St. Paul this week.   After reading the descriptions and watching the videos, I will definitely be making a pledge to help out.  It provides a more immediate  pleasure to help out a struggling artist with a face and a personal message, or even an established artist making a creative plea,  than to be one of thousands of donors to a large institution.   $50 just seems to stretch a lot further with Kickstarter.


The Mobile app for city Sidewalks

I learned from reading the NOAA website, that February is typically a dry period in Minnesota.  The snowstorm from last weekend appears to be the largest snowfall ever recorded in February.   March,  on the other hand, is typically the snowiest  month.  So despite the fact that daylight savings time is only  a couple weeks away, don’t trade your snow shovels in for gardening tools just yet.

Last year, a friend of mine was running up the steps to the St. Paul Public library, and suddenly found herself lying on her back and forgetting where she was.  The concussion that followed her sidewalk spill also robbed her of her sense of smell. Another friend lost her footing when she was out walking her dog. Nine months later, the broken bones in her foot are finally healing.

Snow shoveling is a civic duty.  30 + years ago, as a struggling poet living in an upstairs duplex in the Lexington -Hamline neighborhood, I used to run a 3 mile circuit down Summit Avenue during all four seasons.  I remember my indignation at the Summit Avenue homeowners who refused to shovel their sidewalks, and finally firing off a letter to the St. Paul paper, which they published, admonishing these wealthy (relatively!) homeowners for shirking their responsibilities.

Walking, I should saying trudging, or slipping, through the snow, when not dangerous, just generally detracts from the quality of  urban life.   Being involved in the mobile app business,  I would  love to create an app that chronicles the state of city sidewalks.  It could be crowd sourced; just enter the state of the sidewalks on your street into a database.  It would help the city find and tag the shoveling shirkers and help walkers plan their daily routes.

This video, found on Twin Cities Streets for the People,  of a citizen who started a small brigade for clearing her neighborhood streets,   makes me believe that with   community (and a smart phone) anything is possible.


St Paul Musician Ben Weaver and the SXSW line up

From the City Pages music blog, Gimme Noise,  I found this list of Minnesota musicians who will be playing in the South By Southwest conference in Austin, Texas  – commonly referred to as SXSW –  taking place March 11-20.

Alpha Consumer
Banner Pilot
Ben Weaver
Birthday Suits
The Blind Shake
Cecil Otter
Dan Wilson
Daughters of the Sun
Dessa
Doomtree
Farewell Continental
Four Fists (P.O.S. and Astronautalis)
Gayngs
Haley Bonar
Har Mar Superstar
Kid Dakota
Lazerbeak & Paper Tiger
Leisure Birds
Low
Marcy Playground
Marijuana Deathsquads
Mystery Palace
Now Now
P.O.S.
Prof
Retribution Gospel Choir
Sick of Sarah
Sims
Slapping Purses
Solid Gold
Storyhill
Swimming With Dolphins
Tapes ‘n Tapes
Trampled by Turtles
Wolvhammer

Yeah, quite a list.  Even after 6 months of managing music calendars for the iPhone app, few of these names look familiar to me.  I decided to go down the list and see which of the musicians were from St. Paul,  do a little research and give you an opportunity to hear them with a SoundCloud  sampling.   I’m way at the top of the list, with Ben Weaver , whose last album  was Mirepoix and  Smoke.

If you want to hear this St. Paul musician play, you’ll need to catch a flight to England or the Netherlands. Like many great musicians, he seems  to be touring primarily out of the country.

Here’s some of his music – I’m working to get the SoundCloud stream on the page.

This is going to be a fun project.