This summer was hard fought. From "stay home to stay safe" to what felt like the longest, most bitter winter ever, the warm weather and full friendly faces are a balm to the Minnesotan soul.
Now it's our time to shine. Open up the throttle. Crank up the radio. Call all those friends you haven't seen for years. Throw open your arms and fully embrace summer 2022.
And since summer is all about having fun, tackle this installment of the Taste section's Iconic Eats series by playing a delicious game of bingo, which highlights fabulous warm-weather adventures that are quintessentially Minnesotan. Use these suggestions as your guide for not just getting back to real life, but for solving the age-old dilemma of wondering "what should we do today?" The answer: Squeeze every possible memory out of this year. Just tap or click the icons as you read the list and see your stamped bingo card at the end. Summer starts now.
Hit a pizza farm
Midwest summers are all about the open road. Fortunately, many of those roads will take us right to a farm that's making pizzas in a wood-fired oven. Pizza always tastes better by a cornfield, surrounded by friends and farm animals and topped with ingredients grown nearby. You may already have a favorite. If not, try Red Barn Farm in Northfield, Pleasant Grove in Waseca, Two Pony Gardens in Long Lake or A to Z Produce and Bakery in Stockholm, Wis.
Click or tap the pizza farm icon to start stamping. See if you got a bingo at the end of this article.
Dine waterside at these two fabulous concessions
Grab a bite while taking in the open water, either at Sea Salt, next to the rushing Minnehaha Falls, or the Sandcastle, where the waves of Lake Nokomis lap nearby. Sea Salt's menu is focused on seafood with patio views of the falls. And Sandcastle, open for its final year, serves nattily adorned hot dogs, acclaimed BLTs and more — perfect to fuel up for a kayak spin around the lake. Both offer a selection of local beers and a few wines.
Picnic at the Sculpture Garden
What could be better on a sunny summer afternoon than immersing yourself in art and the outdoors? Pack a snack or grab a sandwich and a beverage from nearby Lowry Hill Meats for an urban picnic by the Walker Art Center's iconic "Spoonbridge and Cherry."
1934 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., lowryhillmeats.com
Sip a nitro cold brew from Farmers Union
The only bummer about the Minnesota State Fair is that it marks the end of summer. Flip that feeling by getting a taste of the fair at the new(ish) Farmers Kitchen + Bar near the Guthrie Theater. An ice-cold nitro cold brew sweetened with maple syrup is the perfect way to kick off a stroll by the Mississippi or through the Mill City Farmers Market.
750 S. 2nd St., Mpls., farmerskitchenandbar.com
Savor the patio at W.A. Frost and Co.
It's the granddaddy of classic patios. Sheltered by giant trees and nestled into St. Paul's historic Cathedral Hill neighborhood, there is nothing like a perfect summer day on the patio at Frost's. Make a reservation — these seats are a hot commodity.
374 Selby Av., St. Paul, wafrost.com
Eat elotes at El Burrito Mercado
The aroma is impossible to miss — even from the parking lot outside of this family-owned grocery store. Fresh corn on the cob is roasted until the husks are charred and the golden kernels are ready to burst. The corn is coated in mayo, cotija cheese and Tajin and served by the stem wrapped in a paper napkin — the ultimate grab-and-go food.
175 Cesar Chavez St., St. Paul, elburritostp.com
Polish off a breakfast Polish sausage at the Minneapolis Farmers Market
There's something audacious about ordering a freshly grilled Polish sausage — with sauerkraut — before 9 a.m. But this kind of chaotic good aligns with a visit to the city's most bustling farmers market. A sea of shopping humanity on the weekends, these stalls are brimming with produce, free samples, small makers and more. It's best to go fortified, and this will do it.
312 East Lyndale Av. N., Mpls., mplsfarmersmarket.com
Gather a crew for a cookout in the park
Load up on giant bags of chips and a whole fleet of hot dogs or burgers, reach out to a multigenerational guest list and meet up at one of the metro area's many parks equipped with grills for an old-fashioned cookout. From Como to Theodore Wirth Park, back to Phalen and over to Wabun, picnic areas range in amenities from huge green spaces and splash pads to playgrounds and rentable shelters, all waiting for you.
Loll on a Lake Minnetonka deck
The Twin Cities area is blessed with ample waterside dining options. But nothing is quite as glitzy as Lake Minnetonka, where sprawling patios are fun and family-friendly by day, and a "scene" as night falls. Dock your finely appointed boat, if you're lucky enough to have one, at Lord Fletcher's Old Lake Lodge in Spring Park or Maynard's in Excelsior. Bring your pocket dog, order something fruity in a plastic cup and let the good times roll. If Maynard's is the hangout of choice, a short walk to Adele's Frozen Custard is a must.
Drink in the evening from a rooftop
There's a sauna and a pool at the Hewing Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, an abundance of good times and goodies at Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Robbinsdale, classic Uptown vibes and skyline vistas at Stella's Fish Cafe and downtown views at Graze Provisions + Libations food hall. Perfect summer nights are even better when you're literally on top of the world.
Take in a town festival that celebrates food
Raspberries, garlic, kolacky, potatoes, buttered corn and even sauerkraut all have town festivals devoted to them. Wander down charming streets, eat fried foods and maybe even take in a parade or get the celebrated item commemorated in face paint — all while building a lifetime worth of summer memories. Go where the wind takes you, or find ideas from Minnesota Explorer at bit.ly/3MczBuY.
Play in the streets
Open Streets Mpls works with the city to shut down busy thoroughfares so people can amble, ride a bike or scoot down Lyndale, Broadway, E. Lake Street and more. These popular stretches also happen to be home to plenty of restaurants ready to fuel your stops through the neighborhood. The summer's first event is June 5 on Lyndale Avenue.
Eat your way around Lake Pepin
This gorgeous day trip to the historic river roadway is one of the prettiest drives around. Near the lake are plenty of food stops to plan the day around: Harborview Cafe, Chef Shack Bay City, Nelson Stone Barn and Stockholm Pie and General Store, to name a few (be sure to check hours before you go). Grab your favorite people, pile in the car and find out where that road ends. No doubt it will be somewhere delicious.
314 1st St., Pepin, Wis., harborviewpepin.com; 6379 Main St., Bay City, Wis., chefshackbaycity.com; S685 County Road KK, Nelson, Wis., thenelsonstonebarn.com; N2030 Spring St., Stockholm, Wis., stockholmpie.com.
Do the twist at Conny's Creamy Cone
You know summer has unofficially started when lines are forming around this red-and-white stand on Dale Street in St. Paul. Unlike the offerings of that other dairy lady, Conny's serves up a whole slew of soft-serve flavors in myriad ways with toppings, twists, dunks and more. Conny's also has savory menu items for those who want to balance out dinner, but we could make a meal out of this dreamy soft-serve alone.
1197 N. Dale St., St. Paul, connyscreamycone.com
Slurp down a malt at a drive-in
The open, winding roads are calling. Take a page out of the glory days of Hwy. 61 and its nostalgic car culture with a leisurely cruise to Taylors Falls or to Minnetonka for a drive-in and a frosty mug of an old favorite treat. Bonus points if you pull up in a convertible — top down, of course.
Pick your own berries or apples
It's a well-known fact that berries taste sweeter when eaten straight out of the bucket. When the bounty arrives and you're wandering through fields of plants heavy with sweet fruit, a baker's mind is prone to conjuring jams, pies, sweet breads and syrups. But the actual challenge is getting enough back home — greedy fingers have a way of finding themselves back into those sun-warmed containers. The area's plethora of farms — strawberries, blueberries, raspberries — and orchards will keep you picking well into the fall.
Find a new food truck
It was a long hibernation for these rolling restaurants, and no doubt this season will be filled with a crop of new and inventive eats from hungry new makers. Seek them out lined up along Marquette Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, parked outside breweries, serving summer street fairs and chilling lakeside. It's a citywide "Where's Waldo" type of adventure. Follow your favorites on social media, and be sure to tell your friends.
Make a shore lunch
As vital to the summer experience as hearing a loon call, eating fresh walleye is more than a meal, it's a way of life. Fresh-caught walleye is gorgeous when prepared as simply as possible: a little breading, a quick fry and maybe a spritz of lemon. (Although a shore lunch of sunfish is no sloppy seconds.) Being landlocked makes these precious bites of fresh lake fish all the sweeter. And, if you don't possess fishing skills, there's always Tavern on Grand.
656 Grand Av., St. Paul, thetavernongrand.com
Dillydally with a Dilly Bar at a historic Dairy Queen
There's a buzz of neon and promise of a soft-serve cone with a tiny loop at the top right off Lexington Avenue in Roseville. You can't miss it. The iconic ice cream spot, with its giant windows that lean out toward the street, has been beckoning ice cream lovers since 1947. And since one classic deserves another, grab a Dilly Bar or six. The Minnesota-invented treat has been around since the mid-1950s.
1720 N. Lexington Av., Roseville, dairyqueen.com
Have a Cajun Finn picnic
If Duluth is the gateway to the North Shore, then Northern Waters Smokehaus is the gateway to any North Shore culinary experience. And the Canal Park shop's signature menu item, the Cajun Finn, is where to start. The combination of rosy chunks of Cajun smoked salmon layered with scallion cream cheese, pepperoncini, roasted peppers and mixed greens inside a crisp ciabatta is practically synonymous with a trip Up North. If you can avoid temptation, pack it up for a picnic at any of the state parks along the way. If you can't, picturesque Park Point Beach nearby will more than do. If your plans aren't taking you that way, a sandwich kit is available for mail-order, too.
394 Lake Av. S., Duluth, northernwaterssmokehaus.com
Cool off with a green papaya salad
Summer heat is often balanced with a cold treat. However, when we get to those scorching high-humidity days, it's time to call in the heavy artillery — a green papaya salad, the Thai or Hmong dish brimming with fish sauce, chiles, herbs and lime juice. The spice builds alongside a wallop of fresh, crunchy and cold flavors that have been pounded together by a giant mortar and pestle. There are plenty of places to get your fix, especially along University Avenue. But start with the Hmongtown Marketplace and savor it while wandering the stalls outside that offer fresh produce.
217 Como Av., St. Paul, hmongtownmarketplace.com
Raise a glass on a patio at the source
The Twin Cities has an eye-popping number of small craft breweries and wineries. And while every taproom and tasting room has unique offerings, nearly all of them embrace the outdoors with ample seating on decks, in parking lots, next to train tracks — you name it. As a starting point, choose whichever brew, wine, band or food truck appeals to you. Or dare to try them all. You have all summer.
Get a hot dog at a baseball game
Whether you're at Target Field, CHS Stadium or maybe somewhere imbued with if-you-build-it-they-will-come charm like the Mini-Met in Jordan, nothing goes better with baseball than a snappy old-fashioned hot dog loaded with all your favorite toppings. (Feel free to substitute your dog of choice; there's no shortage of brats and sausages on game day menus.) Ice-cold beer and helmet nachos are optional, but highly recommended.
Wind down with s'mores
Let's just call it the official taste of summer nights: squishy marshmallows with crackling, fire-kissed edges that make your favorite chocolate all melty when smooshed between graham crackers. Raise the stakes by using high-quality chocolate (or peanut butter cups) and artisan marshmallows (try the local brand North Mallow). Either way the memories will linger, much like the smell of last night's campfire. Don't let a lack of fire access deter you — a gas stove or microwave will do in a pinch.