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DN’s Mankato Musts

Sample a taste of Mankato small businesses this weekend when you attend Vikings Training Camp.

Carbs and coffee at Friesen’s Family Bakery and Bistro.
Allison M. Lamon

With Tuesday's groundbreaking ceremony for the new Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center (aka the new Minnesota Vikings team headquarters and practice facility) the writing seems to be on the wall signalling the end of training camp in Mankato.

I wouldn’t fault the Vikings if they choose (as we suspect) to have training camp at the new facility instead of at Minnesota State University, Mankato when their contract with the school is up in 2018. The move would make a lot of sense from a logistics and security sense, but it will still be bittersweet for me to see the end of a more than 50-year tradition.

Been meaning to check out Vikings training camp in Mankato? Do not delay. Nothing against Eagan, but Mankato is a really cool college town with great places to eat and shop in the historic Old Town area, a great addition to any trip to Vikings Training Camp.

If you can, head to Mankato this weekend. On Friday the walk-through is 10:30-11:30am, afternoon practice from 2:45-5:10pm and on Saturday the walk-through is 10:30-11:30am with a night practice from 7:30-9:30pm. Sunday the players have the day off. This leaves you with plenty of time to check out Mankato.

Here are some favorite* local places in Mankato and events you may want to visit this weekend in between checking out the Vikings.

*For a lengthier list of dining recommendations from Daily Norseman readers, check out DN’s Absolutely Unofficial Training Camp Guide.

  • The Coffee Hag. This quirky coffee house is in a historic building in the quaint Old Town Mankato. In the Guide I said this place reminded me of the first coffee house I fell in love with as a college freshman. It’s sort of dark and cozy with that comfortable, lived-in vibe. Oh, and the coffee and food is really good too. Their website is currently being worked on, but it still has the basic location and hours information.
  • Dino’s Gourmet Pizzeria. This is a fun and noisy place to go with kids because they give you crayons to draw on the paper table coverings and they give kids pizza dough to shape. Grown ups will enjoy that Dino’s serves really good specialty pizzas, pastas, and antipasti. This place isn’t very big, kind of narrow and deep, so if you come at a busy time you should be prepared to wait.
  • Emma Krumbee’s Apple Orchard, Farm, and Restaurant. Okay, Emma Krumbee’s isn’t in Mankato, but it’s located right on the way to Mankato from the Twin Cities so I fudged it. For me, stopping at this place is as much of a tradition as stopping at Tobies Restaurant and Bakery in Hinkley is when I’m heading north. Inside, the restaurant looks like a throwback to the 1970s. There are classic burgers and malts, sandwiches, and entrees, and so many good pies... But the restaurant is just part of the experience because there are pies, muffins, bars, breads, and more. The General Store has a selection of baked goods, gifts, and a floral shop. You can also pick your own berries and apples (when in season) at the Orchard and Farm.
  • Friesen’s Family Bakery and Bistro. You don’t have to talk with owner Tony Friesen for long to get the feeling he absolutely loves what he does. That passion and commitment to quality, local ingredients, and community sets Friesen’s apart. They have a great variety of high quality baked goods like muffins, cakes, pastries, cookies (even Pokémon ones), and breads. They also make a great lunch and they cater. Just a little more than two years old, Friesen’s keeps getting better.
  • Mankato Brewery. Located in North Mankato, the Mankato Brewery is easy to find and has tap room and bar. While they don’t have a kitchen, on Tuesday’s they have food trucks and live music. My Mankato expert Thad C (@Skolviking75) vouches “Good beer.”
  • Mom and Pop’s Ice Cream. Somehow I missed going to this place on all my previous visits to Mankato so I was determined to make it there this time. So glad I did. Their “super-premium hard scoop” ice cream is incredibly dense and creamy and the portions are generous. I had the single and almost didn’t finish it—and that was my lunch. In addition to ice cream, they also make shakes and malts, frappes, cookies, and more.
  • Pagliai’s Pizza. According to Mankato local Thad C (@Skolviking75) there is no competition, Pagliai’s is the best pizza in Mankato. This place is a tradition and it’s also open late which is a nice option. I wasn’t going to include two pizza places on this list, but Pagliai’s is really different from Dino’s and you should check it out.
  • Tandem Bagels. A really good bagel is harder to find than you’d think. They need to be boiled before being baked in order to get that perfect dense, chewy texture. Tandem makes “kettle-boiled and hearth-baked” bagels from scratch on site and serves locally roasted coffee. I absolutely loved my sunflower seed bagel with sun-dried tomato cream cheese and their coffee had a great roast without too much acidity. There isn’t a lot of seating so it could be difficult to find a seat when it is busy, but the bagels are definitely worth it.
  • Tav on the Ave. This is the place Arif Hasan goes when he needs a Juicy Lucy fix in Mankato, Tav on the Ave is a great place for good pub food (1/2 lb. burgers, sandwiches, wings) and drinks. The beer list is changed seasonally and there’s even a patio in case you like dining alfresco.

Events

In addition to Vikings Training Camp, you might like these events going on this weekend.

  • Mankato’s 19th Annual Rib Fest. Ribs, music, and only $10 (or less) to get in. Click on the link for details and the list of musical artists.
  • Discover Local. On August 5-6 you can check out several businesses along North Riverfront Drive. Get your Discover Local passport stamped at six of the thirteen participating small businesses and you can enter a prize drawing. Check out the link for full details.