“Man v. Food” isn’t just taking a bite out of Minnesota; it’s going whole hog. Three upcoming episodes of the Travel Channel series will focus on culinary challenges in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. The Minneapolis outing, in which host Casey Webb tackles a four-pound bahn mi at Lu’s Sandwich, a new twist on the Jucy Lucy at Blue Door Pub and brunch at Betty Danger’s Country Club, premieres Monday.
Webb, who took over hosting duties in 2017, reflected on his winter of content in the state during a phone interview last week from his home in New York City.
Q: When did you tape the episodes?
A: It was one of the craziest weeks of filming yet. We were in the Twin Cities during the Super Bowl, which was invigorating. The energy around the Cities was intense with everyone gearing up for the game. That helped build momentum when folks came to cheer us on. When we were in Duluth in April, it was snowing, which gave us the chance to go dog-sledding. I’m a little kid when it comes to that stuff. I love a snow day, even though I’m a grown man.
Q: I’m not sure people would consider you a “grown man” based on what you do for a living.
A: Right! The show should be called “Boy v. Food” or maybe “Husky Casey v. Food.”
Q: How do you go about picking the restaurants you’ll visit? A: You look for places that haven’t been featured before or maybe one that has, like the Blue Door Pub, but are just crushing it. I first had a Jucy Lucy a couple years ago at Matt’s Bar and it was great to see Blue Door’s 2.0 version of it. I like places that have a different twist on things. Betty Danger’s is so uniquely Minneapolis. To sit by that Ferris wheel and look at the city skyline was a dream.
Q: Now that you have a season of hosting under the belt, is it a different experience when you walk into a restaurant?
A: Prior to “Man v. Food,” I was in a commercial that had a national airing and people would come up to me and say, “Hey, aren’t you the guy in that ad?” Now they know my full name. I treat everyone the same, like we know each other. That may slow production down, but I don’t care. In Duluth, one of the owners arranged to have a local softball team show up to cheer us on. They were so excited to have us there.
Q: Did you find that level of excitement across the state? Do Minnesotans consider themselves to be in the same class as other regions with more reputable reputations for good food?
A: I think you guys are doing great. What I love most about the show is having conversations with chefs and the people eating their food about how passionate they are. At Lou’s, the chef was teaching me his mother’s recipes in the kitchen as I helped him make this giant sandwich. There was something exciting about building my own fate.
Q: It’s one thing to spotlight Minneapolis, but I’m guessing your presence means even more when you’re visiting a place like Duluth. How much better is the food getting in cities that size?
A: The world has changed dramatically since the show started. Those types of towns have a lot more to offer and they deserve to be heard. Maybe we were in the dark too long as production companies or thought there wasn’t going to be enough to feature. But the world is getting smaller.
Q: What cities are underrated for their food?
A: Pittsburgh really stood out. The scene is really rooted in the industrial background and that’s exciting. I was also impressed by Grand Rapids, Mich.
One of the cool things we do is expose people to places and cities people normally wouldn’t go to. People plan their trips around places featured on our show. I’ve heard we can increase business by 40 percent. That’s enough to keep a mom-and-pop place open another year. It’s a silly show, but it’s nice having some kind of impact.