'Miesville, MN - Pop. 135 ... and GROWING" reads the cook's T-shirt at King's Place, one of the better burger bars to be found anywhere. And why wouldn't this tidy little town in Dakota County's southeastern corner continue to thrive? With its own Field of Dreams ballpark, good eats at King's and the retro supper club across the street, plus 27 holes of golf and a bucolic county park, Miesville lives large.
WHAT TO DO
Miesville's community magnet is Jack Ruhr Field on the western edge of town, home to the Miesville Mudhens, always a strong contender in the Cannon Valley Classic League of amateur baseball. Minnesota's townball popularity is the envy of many states, and a Mudhens game on a warm summer night offers sublime reasons why. Hand-painted signboards promoting local merchants form the outfield fence, and just beyond them is an actual cornfield planted by the farmer who donated the ballfield's land.
Grab a hot dog and a beer, settle into your close-to-the-action seat, and dial back the years and your blood pressure. "Swing, batter, batter!" More info, game schedule: www.miesvillemudhens.com.
Two miles south of Miesville on County Road 91 lies Gopher Hills Golf Course, which offers 18 challenging holes in the European style of natural terrain and vegetation, plus a nine-hole "executive" course and a 25-station driving range. An attractive clubhouse houses a pro shop and pub. Info: www.gopherhills.com.
Southward from Gopher Hills, County 91 becomes a gravel road (wash your car after this trip) and comes to a T. Hang a left and look for the signs leading you to Miesville Ravine Park Reserve, whose two parking areas serve separate trail loops of wonderfully quiet and scenic terrain. A 2009 tornado tore down thousands of walnut trees, and their twisted remains offer a stark contrast to the beauty of the regenerating landscape. One trail loop skirts the Cannon River and its confluence with Trout Brook, while the other follows the ravine itself. Two lovely picnic shelters are rentable. Info: www.startribune.com/a1181.
WHERE TO EAT
Whether as a boardinghouse, general store, video shop or saloon/eatery, King's Place has been around since the 1870s, when it served as a horse and buggy stop for travelers heading to or from Hastings (10 miles to the north) and Red Wing (15 miles east). Today its claim to fame comes in the form of hand-shaped burgers, grilled to crusty perfection and served with a mind-boggling array of toppings and accompaniments. When I last visited, there were 61 varieties, including one with peanut butter and jelly and another with bacon, cheese, a fried egg and a hot dog atop the burger. Amazingly, none costs more than $6, unless you opt for the half-pound size, and fries are only $2. Service is friendly and swift, but expect crowds mid-day, especially when warm weather brings out motorcyclists, bicyclists and Sunday drivers. A patio handles some of the overflow. Info: 651-437-1418.
Standing proudly across the main drag (Hwy. 61) from King's is Wiederholt's Supper Club, a family-run affair since the 1920s, when it started life as a filling station. Wiederholt's has evolved since then, but happily most of its visual evolution halted in what I would carbon-date as the 1960s. It's a time warp that reminds me dearly of my native Wisconsin's supper clubs -- you get your relish tray, you get your daily specials, you get your perfect hash-browns and you get your brandy Manhattan made by someone who probably has poured thousands of them.
Although it's open only six hours a day (except Sunday, when lunch adds four hours), Wiederholt's serves more than 1,500 happy diners a week. Specialties include beef (in various forms), pork ribs, fried chicken and walleye. Snag the right seat at the bar and the window in front of you perfectly frames a metal grain silo across the street. Take that, Capital Grille! Info: www.wiederholts.com.
IF YOU GO
You can reach Miesville from the Twin Cities via Hwy. 61 through Hastings, but I prefer taking Hwy. 52 south from St. Paul and picking up eastbound Hwy. 50 at Hampton. The 10-mile stretch of two-lane from Hampton to Miesville is a roller-coasty delight that cleaves lovely, fertile farmland.