My Perfect Saturday

Star Tribune columnists and critics reveal their favorite restaurants, parks and art events — plus other weekend hangouts.

The day starts with the newspaper and coffee on the back deck. Best is the sound, of the birds and then the little kids bursting into their back yards.

8 a.m. Time for cycling, and this won’t be a ride on Pee-Wee Herman’s big red bike. With my friends Jackie and Dave setting their usual fast pace, the challenge is keeping up.

A great St. Paul route takes us down the river on the St. Paul side, across the Mississippi and through Minnehaha Park and then into Mendota, down the Big Rivers Trail through Lilydale and then back over to St. Paul. From downtown we pick a route that goes through Swede Hollow. This takes you right through one of the Twin Cities’ least well-known architectural treasures, the 1884 Seventh Street Improvement Arches, and past the back side of the old Hamm’s Brewery. From there it’s down Johnson Parkway to the bridge over Warner Road and then back home along the river.

It’s a 30-mile-plus urban ride, much of it off street. Just try that in Florida.

11:30 a.m. Recover from bike ride, and then breakfast at Shish Café (1668 Grand Av., St. Paul). Make it a Greek omelet with a side of Advil for the (by now) aching legs.

1 p.m. Time for errands. First up will be the Frattallone’s Ace Hardware (1676 Grand Av., St. Paul). A great local hardware store for years, the involvement of the Frattallone group only made it better.

From there, walk up the street and through Macalester College to get a coffee at Dunn Bros. This is the original Dunn’s (1569 Grand Av.), and it’s never felt like part of a chain. It’s sort of a Dunn Bros gone rogue. The place is full all day every day, but part of the fun is overhearing snippets of nearby conversations, on politics or books or films. The park benches in front are great for people watching.

Right around the corner on Snelling is a wonderful bookstore, Common Good Books (38 S. Snelling Av.). We will go down the avenue, too, with a stop for sure at the Atelier 957 (957 Grand Av.). No sense flying to Europe at enormous expense when this great little fashion boutique is here in St. Paul.

3 p.m. A walk with Rosie the wonder dog. Her favorite is Mississippi River flats. We park at Cecil Street and East River Parkway by the Shriners Hospital, enjoying a spot this quiet in the heart of the metro area.

7 p.m. Dinner at Salut Bar Americain (917 Grand Av., St. Paul), a favorite of our kids. Best is to be seated outdoors. The service is great and the posters of faux French culinary heroes usually make me smile.

10 p.m. Music at the Turf Club (1601 University Av., St. Paul) We don’t go there often, it’s more that my wife, Tanya, and I like to think of ourselves as people who still could go there a lot, if only we could easily handle staying awake that late. The Turf Club is a rock ’n’ roll joint in the best sense of the term. We’ve been there when there’s been an Irish band, a cowboy band and a blues singer — all on the same night.

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  • Lee Schafer

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