8 a.m. My mutt, Trouble, looks a lot like Bandit from the old Jonny Quest cartoons. He has a dark mask around his eyes and one of his ears stands up straight, while the other droops down, making him look in a state of constant curiosity. It’s a good look for a dog.
“Man, your dog looks like he should be in the movies,” is how one guy at Loring Park put it. That’s usually where we start any perfect day, with a quick jaunt around the park and the Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden. Trouble, don’t forget to bark at the statue of the man. Good boy.
9 a.m. Roust the wife. A good walk makes for a perfectly legitimate excuse to have a bagel, and there is no better place to get my bagel than Common Roots (2558 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls.). Chewy, sesame-dredged rolls with organic cream cheese slide down with a big mug of coffee on the back patio, where both dogs and wives are welcome.
10:30 a.m. Say it’s a nice day for a drive. Throw a blanket in the trunk, grab a couple of good books and hit the highway accompanied by the music of Austin, Texas, legends Jon Dee Graham and James McMurtry. “It’s a big, sweet life,” as Graham sings. The only things missing are a bottle of Wild Turkey and a box of shotgun shells.
We like to explore the small towns and hilly back country of western Wisconsin and along the St. Croix River. We find a nice spot at one of the parks, throw down a blanket, put the dog on a tether and read for a couple of hours.
1 p.m. Perhaps the greatest name for a restaurant ever was a place called the Beef N’ Booze, in West Sweden. In fact, I once suggested that they just rename the town Beef and Booze, Wis., but they didn’t bite. It’s a great stop, if only for a selfie. If all else fails, the San Pedro Café in Hudson or the trusty Bungalow Inn across the river in Lakeland, Minn., are good.
5:30 p.m. I love the appetizers at Saffron (123 N. 3rd St., Mpls.). I sit at the bar and let bartender Rob Jones do his magic while nibbling on fluffy pita bread, fried cauliflower and Sameh Wadi’s incredible slow-cooked green beans, while putting up with the jokes of his brother, Saed.
7:30 p.m. With luck, Nachito Herrera would be playing an early set at the Dakota (1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.). Just watching the Cuba native whale on the piano wears me out. Luckily, it’s a $5 cab ride to my bed.