Twin Cities munchie manual

STORY BY SARAH HARPER • PHOTOS BY CARLOS GONZALEZ | Updated 4/10/2014

Our pre-4/20 guide to getting snacked out in the Twin Cities.


Earth Day, April 22, is fast approaching. So is April 15, when rapper Riff Raff is expected to crash into First Avenue for his much-anticipated Neon Icon tour.

Somewhere between those two incredibly significant dates is a special holiday, whose celebrators spend way more time writing pro-legalization Facebook statuses than what they really should be doing, which is keeping their heads down and studying for their next geometry test.

As these United States get closer to 50 hazy NORML daydreams, 4/20 is becoming a more exciting and slightly less juvenile holiday, one that even the coolest among us ought to observe by cracking open a horrible energy drink and letting our hair down. In comes Vita.mn — here’s our guide to getting the munchies in the Twin Cities. We’re talking Cheetos and tacos and getting hot wings from Ray J’s delivered right to our doors. It’s about to get smoky in here, and we’re not just talking about the beef jerky.

On the next pages, we present the first annual (and maybe last annual, depending on how this goes) Vita.mn Convenience Store Awards. We also explore the changing world of delivery in the Twin Cities. We review six of our favorite pot pairings and the entire freakin’ Taco Bell breakfast menu. And look for our map of Twin Cities pizza, taco and ice cream spots at www.vita.mn.

 

The 4/20 Convenience Store Awards

 

Best Morning Hot Dog

Holiday Stationstore No. 9

107 SE. 6th St., Mpls. • 612-378-7004

As a rule — and this is actually printed in the official Wake-’n’-Bake rule book — any place where the hot dogs are already on their rollers by 8:30 a.m. is a good place. Holiday has a charming pre-prepped food situation — in addition to the sizzling morning dogs, there’s a sizable collection of doughnuts and dry pastries. The real prize of this Holiday is its shelf of vintage-looking Holiday-brand lighters. A perfect morning: waking, baking, eating a fresh hot dog and treating yourself to a new lighter — because you’re worth it. We don’t want to give you too many ideas, but there’s a White Castle next door if you’re looking for lunch plans.

 

Lifetime Achievement Award For Having a Second Floor

Bobby & Steve’s Auto World

1221 Washington Av. S., Mpls. • 612-333-8900

A convenience store with a second floor should amaze and amuse anyone, but the patio at Bobby & Steve’s is even more amazing/amusing when you’re a little buttered. It doesn’t get nearly enough praise, but it’s the “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” of balconies — you can see everything from there. We nominate Robert and Stephen as king and king of stoner kingdom, for giving us, as a sign inside claims, “the best autoworld in the world.” The kitsch extends everywhere, and it’s righteous and fun. Take the stairs up to a 1950s diner-inspired wonderland, with life-size statues of Elvis and Marilyn, a big old car, red vinyl booths and actual clean bathrooms. It’s really a trip.

 

Finalist in the Miss Hennepin Pageant

CVS No. 6040

1110 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. • 612-338-5867

You know when you’re a little pie-in-the-sky and uncapping a Burt’s Bees lip balm makes your lips feels even colder and weirder than usual? CVS may not be perfect (see: their milelong receipts), but when it comes to convenience stores, this one will meet most of your trippy face-changing needs. We highlight this particular branch because its beauty section is a robust cornucopia of matte lip balms and sparkly eye shadows. Bonus points for being across the street from Domino’s.

 

Healthiest Vibes

Joe’s Market & Deli

1828 Como Av. SE., Mpls. • 612-331-1272

Believe it or not, we do kind of care about health, and Joe’s Market brings the semblance of it in spades. Our favorite thing to do when we’re faded is buy a nasty new flavor of Doritos (Fiery Habanero Dinamita, anyone?) and pair it with something pure and good like an orange and then take a shower and go for a walk. There are baskets of onions and potatoes here at Joe’s, bushels of apples, and well-stocked trays of good-looking avocados and bell peppers in a distinctly full produce section. Located in Minneapolis’ college-y Como neighborhood, this Lebanese-American deli/convenience store/laundromat is worth traveling to for the falafel and hot panini, too.


Prize For Excellence in Wacky Poetry and E-Cigs

Loon Grocery and Deli

2501 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls. • 612-871-2245

It’s not every day you find a convenience store that assures you its merchandise is for tobacco use only. That’s why we love the Loon, where you can get bowls, bongs, incense and digital pocket scales — this store is made for midday resupply. Add to that tiny knives and e-cigs, complete with a rack of e-juice bottles in flavors ranging from strawberry kiwi to apple cider, and you’ve got chill city. Good vibes abound here, and there’s a great hot-food counter and a welcoming poem painted above the door. “This crazy little store is the place to be,” it says in one part. “Single, mingle, let your Pop Tarts tingle.” Sign us up.

 

Best Outdoor Dining Experience

Santana Foods

601 University Av. SE., Mpls. • 612-379-8871

Say you’ve just broken Loon Grocery’s rule and used their products for something other than tobacco. You’re walking around outside, loving the breeze and the sun, but the problem is you’ve got hunger. If you’ve ever lived in Marcy-Holmes or been a fan of deep-fried cauliflower, you probably know the solution: Santana Foods. Past a certain hour on weekend nights, the wait for hot food is long, but the salty satisfaction is worth the time spent. The patio is a delight, surrounded by wrought iron painted in the store’s signature turquoise. Those in the mood for philosophical chats will note that certain members of the staff are always down for a long talk.


Least Convenient Yet Still Somehow Lovable

Walgreens No. 866

425 N. Wabasha St., St. Paul • 651-224-6030

We can’t quit you, Walgreens in downtown St. Paul, but you keep forcing us to quit you with your weird hours. We want to be in you all the time because you’ve got solid offerings, but why are you only available when we’re at work? You’re perfect for our lunch break, you’re perfect for our 15-minute smoke/Kit Kat breaks and you’re perfect for our 10-minute mid-weekday cruise through St. Paul. But if we’re trying to get snacked out at night, you make it hard. If only that could deter us.

 

Best Smells in the Whole World

West Bank Grocery

417 Cedar Av. S., Mpls. • 612-338-2720

Sometimes the munchies go a little beyond wanting 40 different varieties of snacks. Sometimes you need something a little heartier, a little more fragrant. When you walk into West Bank Grocery, the smell hits you first. You can get breakfast, lunch and dinner cooked for you — think hash browns, crêpes, pancakes, kay kay beef/chicken, falafel, chicken strips and gyro burgers — and the smell lingers. There’s good baklava, too, and it’s a great place to buy ingredients in bulk.

 

Best Loitering in a Leading Role

Bryant Avenue Market

3200 Bryant Av. S., Mpls. • 612-825-5234

Bryant Avenue Market shines for its outer beauty. A mural depicts winter biking in a trippy mirror mosaic, and it’s kitty-corner from Bryant Square Park. Stumble out of the market and out into loitering wonderland — the full-block park has a big little-kid playground, a basketball hoop (half-court), a swing set, a softball field, a skating rink and a wading pool.

 

Best Place To Come Down From It All

SuperAmerica

300 NE. Broadway, Mpls. • 612-379-2639

All right, nerds, it’s time to come down from that nasty high with some (relatively) cheap cigarettes and a wide array of SuperMom’s muffins and doughnuts. SuperAmericas all over the Twin Cities are the convenience-store equivalent of your dad opening the garage door when you’re lighting up. This one in Northeast is a particularly austere elbow in the ribs. The beer isn’t refrigerated — it’s just 12-packs stacked up in a corner — and the only fancy thing here is the soda machine, which has (approximately) 100 flavors.