Neal Justin

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Neal Justin - My Perfect Saturday - 2013 Best of MN

  • May 16, 2013 - 2:07 PM

To be honest, I spend most summer weekends hunkered down in my condo, going through my stacks of DVD screeners. But even shut-ins need to occasionally reacquaint themselves with the sun.

8:30 a.m.: My St. Paul neighborhood features several hoity-toity cafes that will proudly serve up a fancy wake-up call, like gooseliver omelets, but I prefer my breakfast to resemble an episode of “Law & Order”: Straight-up, predictable and filling. Hard to go wrong with the original Mickey’s Diner (36 W. 7th St., St. Paul), the 24-hour streetcar cafe that specializes in greasy staples like steak ‘n’ eggs and Potatoes O’Brien.

10 a.m.: Time for a round of golf — the miniature kind. Centennial Lakes Park (7499 France Av. S., Edina) an oasis in “mall country,” features a challenging but not club-breaking course, bumping up against a shimmering pond. If the group is big enough, I’ll be tempted to set up a croquet game on the expansive front lawn.

Noon: At least one weekend a year, I try to head out to the Wolf River in White Lake, Wis., and shoot some rather mild rapids, but since that’s an overnight getaway, I’ll gladly pack a sandwich from Surdyk’s Deli (303 E. Hennepin Av., Mpls.) and settle for a three-hour tour on the St. Croix River. Try Eric’s Canoe Rental (1289 S. Vincent St., St. Croix Falls, Wis.), just an hour’s drive from the Twin Cities, where you can book a boat built for two for $45. Shuttle included.

5 p.m.: Everyone needs a dive bar to call home. Mine is Billy’s Victorian Bar (859 Thomas Av., St. Paul), which would be an undistinguished Frogtown establishment if it weren’t for the good-natured spirit of the regulars, all of whom are always ready to tell you what’s wrong with the Vikings.

7 p.m.: One of the most underrated “eat streets” in the Twin Cities is the Selby Avenue strip near the Cathedral of St. Paul, with a variety of tantalizing choices. In the mood for Thai? Try Mango Thai Restaurant (610 Selby Av.), an intimate, comfortable hangout, especially if you can avoid sitting on the floor. Italian? You can’t go wrong with La Grolla (452 Selby Av.), which even my snooty East Coast friends swear is one of the country’s best pasta joints. If you’re feeling extra adventurous (and extra hungry), wander over to Moscow on the Hill (371 Selby Av.), where the pork medallions and vodka selection can’t be beat. If the weather is favorable, try to snag a table in the outdoor patio hidden in the back yard.

9:30 p.m.: Nightcaps are best served within stumbling distance of home, which is only one reason I’ll be closing the night at The Liffey (175 7th St. W., St. Paul), either up on the often raucous rooftop or at the main bar. Tomorrow, more TV watching. Tonight, one more glass of wine.

Neal Justin • 612-673-7431

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