You wouldn’t notice it if you were just zipping along Hwy. 169. All you’d see are fast food joints and gas stations. But just a few blocks off the highway, the quaint town of Jordan is nestled along the Minnesota River. While the residential streets have a suburban feel — this town of 6,000 is just a half-hour commute from Minneapolis — the downtown evokes a turn-of-the-century small town. So slow down, put on your blinker and ease off the highway: you’re likely to be surprised by what you find.
Side order of charm
The sign over the door promises “old fashioned charm,” and the Feed Mill Restaurant doesn’t disappoint. It’s the kind of place where the waitress asks, “What would you like, Sweetie?” and a dozen townfolk show up at 6 a.m. every day to drink coffee and “solve all the world’s problems.” The back page of the menu details the mill’s history (it was once an actual mill and overlooks the creek that powered it), but it does so modestly, noting that “nothing exciting ever happened here.” Comfort food is a specialty. Open for breakfast and lunch only. 200 Water St.; 952-492-3646; www.feedmillrestaurant.com
Fresh coffee, old stuff
Among a cluster of antique stores is the Carasim Coffee Shop. The best piece in the shop, however, isn’t for sale: a 40-foot-long art deco bar from which owners Kim and Linda Hanner sell espresso, ice cream and homemade pies. (Linda bakes three kinds a day.) The building it’s in also houses the town’s former opera house. Legend has it that polka king Whoopee John packed the place in ’48. Some of the fans finished the evening falling-down drunk, but “nobody fell down because the people were packed so tight that there wasn’t room,” Kim said. 231 Broadway St. S.; 952-492-5553; www.carasimcoffee.com
Zip-ity doo dah
The rolling hills that bracket the town are picturesque, but they don’t prepare you for what awaits at Sand Creek Adventures: A 100-foot-deep gorge crossed by three zip lines ($49 for a three-ride package; $69 for six). “A lot of people actually open their eyes the second time,” said supervisor Calvin Joustra. There are also high- and low-ropes courses. And a bonus challenge: a one-person-wide swinging bridge that’s best navigated if you don’t look down. Register one day in advance on the website. 3101 220th St.; 952-492-5333; www.sandcreekadventures.com
Go to Pekarna’s Meat Market for the samples, stay for the stories. In addition to being melt-in-your-mouth delicious, the samples are ample enough to serve as a light lunch. But that’s not why customers drive 50 miles to get there. Brothers Ken, Greg and John Pekarna still follow the recipes their great-grandfather used in 1893. “That means no additives, fillers or artificial colors,” Ken said. The wall opposite the meat counter is covered with historic pictures, and if the Pekarnas aren’t busy waiting on customers, they can spin a story about each one. 119 Water St.; 952-492-6101; www.perkarnameats.com
A real score
The Mini-Met — named after the old Met Stadium in Bloomington — is a baseball classic, built in 1930 with bleachers and a hand-operated scoreboard. Watching a game there is like stepping back in time. And there are plenty of games. Baseball-crazed Jordan has three town teams. 401 Rice St.
Isn’t that sweet?
The name is Jim’s Apple Farm, but everyone knows it by the sign heralding it as “Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store.” You can buy apples, even off season, but the bulk of the vast, hangar-like space is devoted to sugar in all its glorious forms — from bacon-flavored mints to 40 flavors of licorice to nearly 200 types of root beer. 20430 Johnson Memorial Drive (Hwy. 169); 952-492-6380.
Jordan is a magnet for festivals — civic, church and the granddaddy of them all, the Heimatfest, a September event that celebrates the town’s German heritage. This weekend is no exception. The Jaycees are hosting the annual Pork in the Park festival from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday in Lagoon Park.
The waterfall in Lagoon Park has been called Jordan’s answer to Minnehaha. Admire it from afar or follow the path down into the mist. Just across the street is the 16-acre Mill Pond, which includes a beach, playground, fishing pier, picnic shelters, as well as lots of green space where you can kick back and savor small-town summer. 300 Park Dr.
If you hang around for dinner, locals suggest Suzette Restaurant (20251 Johnson Memorial Dr.), the Empire Wok (301 Broadway St. S.) or Clancy’s Bar & Pizza (220 Triangle Lane N.).
Jeff Strickler 612-673-7392
For more day trips near the Twin Cities, go to startribune.com/daytrip