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Eat out at Twin Cities restaurants to support the fight against AIDS on Thursday

More than 150 restaurants, bars and coffee shops around the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota are partnering to donate portions of their sales to the fight against AIDS on Thursday.

Dining Out for Life is a national fundraising event in more than 50 cities around the country. In Minnesota, the proceeds donated will go to The Aliveness Project, a local non-profit organization and community center providing on-site meals, food shelf options, integrative therapies and more for individuals living with AIDS or HIV.

EagleBoltBar, Finnish Bistro, Lush Food Bar, The Saloon, Twin Cities Leather and Latte and Bayport’s L’Etoile Du Nord Cafe (pictured above) are all donating 100 percent of their sales for the one-day drive. Stewart’s and Summit Beer Hall have pledged 50 percent. Other restaurants – a lineup that includes Brewer’s Table, Rainbow Chinese, Hola Arepa, Pizzeria Lola, Ngon Bistro, Hi-Lo Diner and many, many more – are giving anywhere from 20 to 35 percent.

Diners can find a full list of Minnesota's participating restaurants – as well as their pledged percentage of contributions – here.

Last year, the project raised more than $270,000 from 38,000 individual diners.

Over 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV infection, which over time progresses to AIDS and a life-threatening failure of the immune system. The Aliveness Project serves about 1,700 adults and children living with HIV and AIDS, about 75 percent of which live in poverty.

Son of State Fair's cheese curd originators fighting loss of family's stand

When the Minnesota State Fair opens in 122 days, it will be minus a groundbreaking food stand.

Yes, Original Deep Fried Cheese Curds – which introduced the battered, deep-fried cheese curd to the fairgrounds in 1975 – is history. (Get the backstory here).

Not so fast, says Tom Mueller, son of co-owners Dick and Donna Mueller.

“My parents planned to retire and have me carry on the tradition, but Fair staff notified us on April 5 that we wouldn't be invited back for 2017,” said Mueller. “We don't think this is right, and neither do thousands of our loyal customers. So we're fighting back to #SaveTheCurds.”

Mueller published this open letter — directed to the Minnesota State Fair — this morning. A few highlights:

"Can you imagine a Minnesota State Fair without cheese curds? Neither can I, but that’s how it was before my family fried up the very first batch there in 1975. Now fairgoers eat more than 2.6 million cheese curds every year! It’s a tradition we and our employees are proud of starting and one we’d love to keep up from our booth on Dan Patch.

"Unfortunately, you’ve decided that we can't do that. You wrote to me April 5 -- more than a year after I submitted my application to continue running our family’s stand— and said that closing our business and forcing us off the fairgrounds 'is in the best interest of the State Fair and fair guests.' Our sales represent roughly 20 percent of all cheese curds sold at the fair and our employees and customers alike return year after year, so I don’t know whose best interest you have in mind. I don’t think this is right and I want you to reconsider."

Pulling no punches, he invokes the ultimate in Minnesota persuasiveness:

"I disagree with your decision to close it — it's not fair, it's not nice and it's definitely not how the Great Minnesota Get-Together should treat a longtime fair family." [Italics added for emphasis]. 

Later, Mueller turns to fairgoers: 

"To all the lovers of cheese curds, state fair traditions and doing the right thing: If you feel like we do, please take a few seconds to let the fair and its managers know. Here are three ways you can help: 1. Let the @mnstatefair know on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook that you want to #SaveTheCurds! 2. Sign the petition and join more than 1,500 other people who want us to stay at the fair. 3. Email to let him know we have your support."

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