Weather: 93Â°F (34Â°C) and humid, under hazy Summer skies.
Road Conditions: Broken up by gratuitous road destruction.
Manning’s Cafe and Bar has been a Minneapolis institution since 1932.
Hennepin County, Minnesota seems to be trying very hard to kill off it’s living history, in favor of modern development. I have witnessed this on three separate occasions now, and it really is taking on the dark countenance of conspiracy.
Ramble Plan Mike was supposed to have been routed through a small town called Carver, west of where I work. It was going to be a long ride down county roads, through hobby farm country, to a small town where most of the buildings are on the National Historic Register, and an old Mobil gas station was preserved in all of it’s 1950’s glory. A beautiful photo-op for my new Vespa, and some welcome exposure for a town with an uncertain future.
Unfortunately, ALL main roads into town were closed for dubious construction projects, undoubtably connected to the insidious march of Condo-topia, as envisioned by the monied bureaucrats and developers in their penthouse offices in downtown Minneapolis. By the time Rose and I found our way to Main Street, we had lost the light, and most of our enthusiasm in the bargain.
So I decided to route Ramble Plan Mike through the heart of the Twin Cities, down some of the roads we charted on Ramble Plan Bravo, but continuing on down Como Avenue all the way to Marion in Saint Paul. Our dinner stop was a place that just celebrated it’s 75th anniversary; Manning’s Cafe and Bar at the corner of Como and SE 22nd Avenue, in one of Minneapolis’ old millworker’s neighborhoods.
This is the second year in a row they have choked off Como Avenue.
Today, Manning’s has that classic family clientele and happy-loud ambience that only a long-time neighborhood fixture can achieve. The bar portion is small and toned-down in favor of the cafe, which serves up local favorites and takes special pride in their burgers. These are made with prime ground beef, and they are not afraid to serve it rare, if you so desire. That was exactly what I was looking for, tonight.
I perused the menu, ticking off the usual hamburger, cheeseburger, California, Mushroom and Swiss. All the staples were there, no surprise. But when I came to the Patty Melt, the next entry threw me. Manning’s Patty Melt is your usual large beef patty smothered in fried onions and melted cheeses, served on pumpernickel bread. I like pumpernickel better than regular rye, so that was a point in their favor. But the next entry was Mexican Patty Melt!
This is their normal P-M, smothered in homemade chili, served with a side of tortilla chips and salsa, rather than the usual potato chips. This sounded like something that could be absolutely sublime, if they could pull it off, or completely horrible if they couldn’t. Naturally, that’s what I ordered.
No disappointments. My server Renae brought it out to me, almost before I was even ready. When I separated the halves, the beef showed bright pink and juicy underneath all those delicious embellishments.
Manning’s Mexican Patty Melt, you have to taste it to believe it…
The photo hardly does it justice. I ate this delicacy with knife and fork, although the way it is served might invite the knuckle-dragger amongst us to wrap a fist around it and plunge right in.
I skipped the tortilla chips, and the canned salsa, just as I would have the potato chips on any other selection. The half-pound of Mexican Patty Melt was enough to last me until at least lunchtime tomorrow, all by itself. Well worth the $7.95 they asked for it.
After dinner, I spoke briefly with Helen, one of the managers and the senior waitress (You wouldn’t ever call Helen a “server”…) present. She has been at Manning’s for over 20 years, and everybody in the place seems to treat her like Mom.
Even though the city and county keep closing down their street, Helen tells me that business at Manning’s is not suffering. They welcome motorcyclists, bikers, scooterists… whatever your particular two-wheeled persuasion. The parking lot is visible from one of the dining rooms, so you can keep an eye on your ride while you eat. This is a Big Plus, I told her, for people like us.
The remainder of Ramble Plan Mike was more of the same old city traffic, but on roads less travelled. Vespa Rose and I had a relatively easy time of it, all the way to Kellogg Boulevard, and across the river at Robert Street. Those “No Thru Traffic” signs actually benefit us, because we don’t have to deal with random car traffic. So the construction zones keep the casual SUV/GPS-weenies out of our way.
Hey, when it comes to getting around city traffic, I’ll take whatever I can get…