Winter at the Barrio Tequila Bar

I adore this part of winter; the Beginning. The contrast of green to white with the first snow, temps cold but not yet bone-shatteringly so, storefronts festooned in swags, wreaths, globes and garland, luring you with their candy coated promises. In this moment even the mundane of my closet becomes appealing. Last year’s winter clothes a novelty now hang from my still-summer body in good-humored accommodation. This very early winter time begs that I leave the confines of my home to find my friends and follow enticement. “Eat, Drink & be Merry” has never had more meaning than in December. Find a place for me to sit beside an expansive window and watch the world from inside.

Recently I spent an evening at Barrio Tequila Bar whose street side facade vaunts a wall of glass overlooking Mears Park in lowertown St Paul. Such decadence taken for granted, to be surrounded by this energy-infused warmth with nothing more than a simple pane of glass shielding me from the algidity. It’s here friends and I sip bar concoctions with meaningless names; “The Trinity”, “Macho Camacho” and “Enter The Dragon”, each softening the edges of our day with their velvety smoothness. My attention vacillates between the alcohol steeped chatter at my table and the winter life outdoors. Pulsing gusts of snow race across the street heedless of cars, men and women walk past, strides confident in their Sorrel-clad feet. Food arrives at our table, mini-Mexican works of art; Mahi Mahi Taco, Red Snapper Ceveche, Amish Chicken Quesadilla and a Trio of Salsas. Nestled at the center of the Trio lies the Habanero salsa, co-dependent lover of my tequila, task master to my taste buds; nothing brings me to present like my incendiary compadre, daring me, swearing no harm while bringing tears to my eyes.

And so the evening proceeds, friends wrapped together in the raucousness of the Barrio, a crazy confluence of tequila and capsaicin sharpening the contrast of what awaits outdoors. I know the freshness of December will pass, eventually my clothes will conspire to strangulate me and I will curse each and every snowflake that falls from the sky. But for now I will sit toasty warm indoors and enjoy the newness of my winter relationship.


September 15 – St Paul Spot picks

Reception and Panel Discussion : Perspectives in Fine Art Series,  Local artists join for a panel about how 9-1-1 affected their work at the College of Visual Arts (on the corner of Selby and Dale Streets)  If the 10 year anniversary of 9-1-1 stirred up powerful emotions, here’s another chance to explore. 


This event has been on our radar for months, and looks like some great music.

Wishes and More Beer and Wine Tasting –  Best of both worlds – Benefit and tasting. This event is at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub on the east end of West 7th Street W (figure that one out) . Benefiting “Wishes and More“ 

Iron Maidens Live at St. Catherine’s.  A preview talk to a show at the Katherine C. Murphy Gallery.  Who are the Iron Maidens ?  A group of 16 American, Welsh and English women artists who work with iron. Visit the gallery and attend talks about their work, with intriguing titles such as “How I became an Iron Maiden” (September 17)  and “Women Artists of Europe 900 to 1900 or Men Don’t Wear Skirts” (Sepember 20)   You can find details on events on our web site. 

SAINT PAUL ALMANAC celebrates the release of the 2012 edition at this downtown party, where else but the Black Dog Cafe, where the editors have convened for reviewing stories since when? 

2012 Saint Paul Almanac Release Party

Thursday, Sept. 15, 7 p.m. at Black Dog Cafe, Clouds in Water Zen Center, and AZ Gallery, 308 Prince Street, Lowertown. Free.
Readers: Poet Laureate Carol Connolly, Kofi Bobby Hickman, Patrick Coleman with Molly Culligan, Michael Teffera, Saymoukda Vongsa, Sharon M. Day, and Louis Alemayehu.

A picture – in honor of September 15, a day when estimated taxes need to be postmarked (if that’s the way you conduct your business with the IRS)  I found this almost rusty relic on the corner of Hamline and Randolph and deposited an envelope which felt like an act of incredible faith.  I’m pre-nostalgic.  It really was a beautiful piece of blue sculpture. 


9 ways of looking at a building. 9 different days. St Paul, Minnesota. Summer 2011.  

Perfect night for the Selby Avenue Jazz Festival.  Perfect night for just about anything. 

Golden Valley Girl and the Bouncing Girls

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    photo credit – Joe Stradinger
    I, like many other Minnesotans, ventured out to the State Fair last week. Among the usual draws at the fair – Pronto Pups, Mini Doughnuts, Cheese Curds… and the like, I discovered something totally new and exciting.
    While I was making my way from the Midway to the Dairy Barns. I crossed paths with The Saint Paul Bouncing team.  They were the most vertical attraction of a parade that went through the main drag and I was immediately captivated by the high-flying act.
    Everyone knows that the best superpower  would be to fly, and that is exactly what the Saint Paul Bouncing team gets to do. They have been flipping, spinning, and twirling in mid air since 1886 and the tradition is still going strong.
    Watching them do their act at the fair was fun, but knowing that they hold open auditions every year made me even more excited. The requirements for people who wish to try out as a flyer are pretty simple – you have to be less than 120 pounds  (well, maybe not so simple after hanging out at the fair)   and you have to be flexible.
    If you make the team  there is one other competitive aspect to their season  – tryouts for the St. Paul Winter Carnival. At the carnival there is a competition to be The St. Paul Bouncing Girl. This title is prestigious and allows you to be queen of the Carnival, you can go from “One…Two…Up She Goes” to royalty with a simple flip or a spin.
    As an ex gymnast myself (my ex inner gymnast told me to forget that it had been a dozen years since flipping on balance beams) I loved the idea of picking up a new hobby that is fun, exciting and as far from the college bar hopping scene dominating my  campus, as possible.
    For more information on the club, when they will be making appearances, their history, and how you can get a hold of their very cool trading cards visit them here or look them up on Facebook.  Somehow they even manage to tweet in between flips.
    Personally, I can’t wait to see who has the best act at the Winter Carnival this year
    Thanks to our intern, Callan DeBruyn, aka Golden Valley Girl, for her help this summer with blog posts and social media tips.  She has returned to Boston for her Sophomore year at Northeastern but we suspect she will be back for try-outs in December.

Heatherlynn performing at Sample Night Live. 

In the green room before Sample Night Live – Art in a Trial Size.   Come to this highly entertaining, and mostly free event (for library card holders) the first Wednesday of the month.   There’s free parking across the street, a bar in the lobby, arts and other vendors,and  the always amazing back up band, The Normals. View previews of local bands, comedians, theater, and other unimaginable or unmentionable acts. 

Move in day for Macalester students. I volunteered to help the freshmen class (Class of 2015!) move their belongings into the dorm, and spent the afternoon conversing with engaged young people from around the country while lugging fans and bedding into environmentally sensitive not too air conditioned dormitories.  

I remember arriving on campus via airplane and taxi cab around 2:00 a.m. on a fall day in 1971. Some  freshman lurking in the shadows, probably smoking a joint, helped me lug  2 suitcases to my dorm room in the now defunct Dayton Hall.  I’ve been in St. Paul ever since.

This year’s freshmen class has the red carpet rolled out for them. They pull up to the curb with vehicles exploding with stuff – refrigerators, t.v.’s, athletic equipment, musical instruments. They head off to Target to return with another explosion of plastic case goods.  The parents are reluctant to drive two blocks away to park their cars. I recognize the ambiguity in their faces-having deposited two sons off to college  myself in the last decade. 

Though I exerted little effort all afternoon, being on the campus where I lived for 4 years, and around the energy of parents parting from a lifetime with their sons and daughters, I am spent. 

Rowing practice on the Mississippi River, seen from the High Bridge in St Paul

Bars (a lust for)

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-Guest Blogger – Colin McDonald

Yes, Bars Bakery, located in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood, sells cookies, scones, croissants, and, of course, bars. And yes, I’m sure, they’re great. But I’m going to concentrate on owners Sandi Younkin and Kara Younkin Viswanathan’s caramel rolls alone, in part, because I haven’t tried their Savory Tarts or Doughnut Muffins and, in part, because I can’t say that I ever will. By which I mean that I’m beginning to suspect it will take time before I’m able to drive down Selby and Dale, without all but tasting the real butter and brown sugar that somewhere in between each first and second bite, I swear, sends signals to your mouth that never make it to your brain. Like the memory of a failed relationship or missed connection, it’s everything I still don’t know, months now since my first encounter, including what about these rolls I fell for in the first place, that makes my drop-bys at Bars Bakery attendantly more aggravating and worth the trip.

“When can I see you again?” I think, pretending to need more time to decide over the assortment of homemade this and that’s prepared from scratch on any given day. While the rolls themselves seem to say, “Meet me in the front seat of your car in five, and bring a napkin…”

Probably, we can all agree it’s rare to find food items great enough to make you think irrationally and often of what “almost was.” But timing can, in fact, aid in planning or, by happenstance, stumbling upon your trip to Bars, en route to The Happy Gnome.

St. Paul, as I’ve said for years, is a wonderful city to eat like crap in. And with that reputation comes not a responsibility so much as a rotary of bakeries, sweet shops, and ice cream cafes to choose from and then lie about not having planned to stop in. The difference between Bars and them has everything to do with the quality of Bars’ ingredients (which is obvious, without fanning itself off in the altruistic manner of “farm to table” manifestos and frequently asked questions hanging from the toilets) and the ephemeral nature, assumedly of all their goods, but (not to get off-track) their caramel rolls.

And so, to get the most bang for your buck (and here I’m not about to tell you how to shove one into which side of your face or where the wax paper should lie in relation to your partner), eat your roll ASAP, even if you’re still in line. The staff at Bars is pretty friendly, and anyway it would be fun to see what happens if you “accidentally” drop it, while fumbling for your wallet. Also, try to get there in the morning or early afternoon, not because the rolls are bad by 5 o’clock, but they are usually gone. Of course, worst-case scenario, you can always sample something else, which should leave you just enough room and excuse for a return visit to find yourself living in St. Paul and eating in the past.

Bars Bakery

612 Selby Avenue
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102

Open Tuesday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Closed Mondays

For a full menu, visit


For a comprehensive listing of St. Paul events and restaurants, please visit our website and/or download our app on iPhone and Android at all the usual places.