Best Of :: People & Places
This is the fifth consecutive year (and sixth total) that the Butanes have nabbed the title of Best Blues Band, and it's easy to see why: Their blues renditions are as solid as the hardwood floors in front of the stage at the Eagles Club in Minneapolis, where you can catch them live every Wednesday night. As the hipsters and punk-rock kids stream into nearby haunts like the Hexagon Bar and Memory Lanes, blues enthusiasts seek out the Eagles Club to see the Butanes work through a couple of sets of dextrous, gritty blues with special guests like Willie Walker and Jim Greenwell. After touring as the backing band for New Orleans blues giant Earl King in the '80s, gigging regularly at the Cabooze and the 400 Bar throughout the '90s, and earning accolades over the years for their Hammond organ-heavy, workmanlike mastership of the blues genre, the Butanes are the longstanding forerunners of a scene that found its unlikely roots in the West Bank of a river in the upper Midwest and continues to find new followers.
Guest Best: Mayor Chris Coleman
There are many reasons to say that the 21-story St. Paul City Hall/Ramsey County Courthouse is the best. It is one of the greatest examples nationally of art deco architecture, designed in part by St. Paul's own Ellerbe Becket. Inside, the three-story Memorial Hall greets people with black marble laced with quartz, a gold mirror ceiling, and the 36-foot Vision of Peace, the largest carved-onyx statue in the world. More than 20 woods from 18 countries and 20 marbles and stones were used, as well as bronze for elevator doors, fixtures, railings, and door handles. But the real reason it ranks as the best is that it is a testament to the people and times when it was constructed—from 1929 to 1932. City Hall represents the civic pride, craftsmanship, and work ethic of more than 1,000 people employed during the Great Depression. The structure they built stands today as a reminder of the values that have defined St. Paul from the beginning.
Guest Best: Mayor R.T. Rybak
There is only one place in America where you can cross-country ski or mountain bike in deep woods, then turn a corner to find an urban skyline view: Theodore Wirth Park. In a city filled with great parks, this is the Big Kahuna: a quaking bog, wildflower gardens, golf course, children's vegetable garden, public swimming beach (plus a more "untamed," unofficial one), beach volleyball, and much more. Volunteers have built the region's best mountain bike trail, and the City of Lakes Ski Loppet starts here, coursing along beautifully maintained trails, with snowmaking in winter. Add a vintage chalet and a picnic shelter with a fireplace, and you have a gem among gems.
R.T. Rybak is the mayor of Minneapolis.
Guest Best: Zack Coulter
Tucked away in a back corner of Minneapolis's Warehouse District, Bev's is the kind of place worth seeking out. Classic and dimly lit with high ceilings and gracious hosts, Bev's offers a simple yet right-on list of wines and beers. The wines gently touch on a range of styles and regions and change seasonally. Their spring wines by the glass ranged from a Russian River pinot noir from Angeline for $8.95 to an Austrian Gruner Veltliner from Bauer Gmork at $7.50. The selection of bar snacks is short but perfect: Pizzas, olive tapenade, and baguettes (all made in-house or at Bev's sister restaurant down the street, Moose & Sadie's) run wild with simple salads and cheese and fruit. This place is timeless, and there ain't a more romantic jaunt in the city.
Zack Coulter is a member of the band Solid Gold, who are scheduled to headline at First Avenue on May 15 and perform at Rock the Garden at the Walker Art Center on June 20.
When choosing the right strip club in which to spend your hard-earned paycheck, there are a few obvious things to look for. Good-looking dancers, a comfortable environment, and a solid selection of booze to get you in the proper mindset for the show. The Seville has all of these and a lot more. In addition to the spacious layout, the club offers a great upstairs VIP section with bottle service so you can make it rain in style. Are you a baller (or ballerette) on a budget? No worries. "Bare Market" Sundays and Mondays offer $10 dances all night long. Still not convinced? The Seville also has gift certificates called "dance dollars" that you can buy with a credit card to pay for lap dances. This is perfect for those times when you absolutely must get another dance but you've run out of cash. Just tell your waitress you need some dance dollars and boom—you're back to getting your groove on. Amazing. Oh yeah, and the women are pretty hot, too.
A great weekend getaway should give you plenty of options. It should promise recreation as well as relaxation. It should be casual enough that you can pack lightly, but classy enough to inspire romance. And it should be distant enough to feel like an escape but near enough that you don't spend half a day just getting there. That's what makes the Creamery such an ideal getaway. Less than an hour and a half east, in the tiny hamlet of Downsville, Wisconsin, it's an unpretentious, single-story inn that hits the perfect sweet spot between rustic and refined. Its 12 rooms sit above the impossibly scenic Red Cedar State Trail, an unpaved biking and hiking path that joins more than 30 miles of trails along burbling rivers and through lush farmland. You can rent bikes at the hotel or canoes and tubes in nearby Menomonie—and don't forget pack a lunch of organic salads, panini sandwiches, or gourmet pizzas from the inn's Brickhouse Cafe. Evenings are set aside for romance and relaxation. The Creamery's elegant restaurant serves largely organic foods raised on nearby farms. Entrées (generally $12 to $24) might include Hoisin-barbecued duck confit or chardonnay-braised lamb shoulder, with plenty of vegetarian options. After dinner, retire to your comfortable rooms ($175 a night Friday and Saturday; $160 the rest of the week), which new owners Terry and Paula Vajgrt have redone in the last year with king-size beds and organic bedding. The double-size whirlpool baths will help restore your aching muscles from the bike ride. When it's finally time to head home, stop by Legacy Chocolates in Menomonie for one last indulgence.