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Going Whole Hog

All the hot new restaurants are singing the same tune, and it’s music to a meat lover’s ears



One Christmas season when I was in college, I worked at Dayton’s, in the coat department. Periodically, merchandisers would come through and place little signs reading “The Trend Is” on top of the circular racks: “The Trend Is: Pea Coats.” “The Trend Is: Fur Trim.” “The Trend Is: Parkas.”

Leaving aside the obvious question—what Minnesota winter does not include a trend for parkas?—I often wondered if these signs sold more coats or fewer. Wouldn’t shoppers want to be ahead of the trend? Or to see themselves as timeless and trend-resistant? I still can’t answer those questions, and Dayton’s is long gone, but I couldn’t help but think of those signs after sampling the latest run of Twin Cities restaurants. They so clearly had an invisible sign hanging over them in the air, reading, “The Trend Is: Gastropub, Informed by Nose-to-Tail Cuisine.”

What is nose-to-tail cuisine? It means you eat all the parts of the animal in question, the hangar steaks and sweetbreads and shanks, as well as the premium steaks. The trend originated largely in England, where it was put into words by chefs like Fergus Henderson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, but has been embraced worldwide. Partly, this is because it overlaps with other powerful trends, such as haute barnyard (elevating the status of farmers to something like co-chefs) and compassionate carnivorism (i.e., if you don’t eat nose-to-tail, you end up throwing most of an animal in the garbage, which isn’t terribly respectful to animals).

Plenty of Minnesota restaurants have been part of these trends, usually finer destination restaurants like St. Paul’s Heartland, Minneapolis’s Modern Café, Corner Table, Lucia’s, FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar, Red Stag, Grand Café Minneapolis, and Duluth’s New Scenic Café. But the ethos hadn’t trickled down to the corner bar—until now. Three of the most notable new restaurants of the season are essentially nose-to-tail corner bars, or, in the lingo of the trade, gastropubs (as in, gastronomy + pub). Here’s my take on the lot.
 

Northeast Social

Situated midway between the casual fine-dining restaurant Modern Café and the classic Nordeast juke-joint and roast-beef palace Mayslack’s, Northeast Social essentially splits the difference between the two. Like the Modern, it has straight-from-the-farm-inspired dishes that can be quite lovely, such as a salad of arugula, English peas, mint, and red onion, dressed with squares of smoky bacon and a light lemon vinaigrette. I also tried a local rainbow trout stuffed with red chard and wrapped in smoked ham, beautifully sautéed so that the ham was crisp as a potato chip, and served with plain but perfectly sweet fingerling potatoes and a watercress salad that I’d recommend to anyone. The panna cotta, infused with rosemary and served with honey, is a delight, both comforting and sophisticated at once.

Still, like Mayslack’s, Northeast Social essentially feels like a bar that serves food. For one thing, it’s so loud older patrons will want to pack their ear horns and younger ones may find it easier to text instead of talk. Additionally, many of the restaurant’s dishes feel like foods made for a bar, not a restaurant: fried chicken wings; a so-so burger topped with deep-fried rings of pickled chili peppers; and pretty good (but not pretty great) barbecued pork ribs. The gummy, stick-to-your-teeth gnocchi are nothing you’d expect in a self-respecting contemporary restaurant.

Yet, the main reason Northeast Social feels like a bar is that it works spectacularly well as a bar. The wine list favors highly fragrant and well-made but low-cost wines. The beer list is global and interesting. The room, with its ornate, almost rococo tin ceiling and contemporary but Victorian-feeling wooden bar, looks exactly the way a bar should. The bartenders are friendly, the customers are too. On warm nights, walls of windows open to let the outside in, café tables fill the sidewalk, and sometimes an accordion player makes this particular corner of northeast feel awfully European.
 

Victory 44

Victory 44 is one of those restaurants that spells out its location right in its name: It’s located at 44th Avenue North just off north Minneapolis’s Gold Coast, the leafy Victory Memorial Parkway. If you are reading this and thinking you didn’t know north Minneapolis had a Gold Coast, know that north Minneapolis is a lot more complicated and richer than what is portrayed on the evening news. And now it has a gastropub that feels very down-home, just a simple spot with bar stools, wooden benches, and neon beer signs. But it meets diners on whatever level they care to engage, either with a good basic burger topped with refrigerator pickles or more ambitious nose-to-tail fare.

The cooking is the work of young chef Erick Harcey, most recently of the Nicollet Island Inn. I thought his burger was very respectable, and particularly admired his light touch with some of the salads, especially one made with Dragsmith Farms micro greens, apples, and cheese. Zesty yet light, it had a balance that’s too rare among salads.

The house special, the “Victory 44,” is essentially a pork tasting menu in a bowl: crisp pork belly, long-cooked country ribs, and sausage all join one another in a bacony broth made with lemongrass and cilantro. It’s one of those rarest of all dishes, something never before seen on earth, in this case a sort of cross between the cuisine of nose-to-tail evangelist Fergus Henderson (pork, pork, and more pork) and Vietnamese pho.

The creativity of that pork-fest aside, I actually thought the kitchen’s best effort to be the roast chicken: half a terrifically tender bird with crisp and delectable skin, accompanied by warm beets that tasted sweet and caramelized and deeply resonant, like beet-truffle candies.
 

The Butcher Block

The former Fugaise space on East Hennepin across from Surdyk’s is now home to the Butcher Block, a gastropub with an Italian accent: The French fries here are patate fritte. The accent arises because chef Darin Koch and butcher Filippo Caffari have been cooking Italian for years at Buon Giorno and Osteria I Nonni in Lilydale. Front-of-the-house manager Fabrizio Cicconne, a local restaurateur who has had a hand in La Bodega, Nochee, Arezzo, and Café Agri, has deep Italian roots, too.

The new team has done wonders with the formerly claustrophobic Fugaise space. Lower lights and warmer tones make the space feel pleasantly secretive instead of confining. As the name promises, the menu is mainly meat. They serve a lovely beef Carpaccio that’s as rosy as berries and pleasantly rich and glossy. An entrée of braised-beef short ribs cacciatore was nothing short of exquisite, the meat tender as jelly, the flavors as intense and finely honed as I’ve ever experienced. With no entrée on the menu priced over $17 and plenty of bottles—yes, whole bottles—of wine priced at $15, the Butcher Block should quickly leap to the top of any local budget gourmet’s list.

That said, I’d stick to the meatier side of the menu. I was served a tomato-and-melon salad that was well past its prime, and I tried a salad of couscous, apples, raisins, and carrots that was so sweet it should have been a dessert. The desserts themselves were plain and dull.

I can’t make heads or tails of the Butcher Block’s selection of chicken wings, 29 flavors that run the gamut from Asian (sambal chile, Szechuan hoisin, and many more) to European (Marsala) to American bar fare (red-hot Buffalo, country-fried, maple brown sugar, and so on). On the one hand, chicken wings are clearly part of the nose-to-tail trend; if you sell all the chicken breasts for sandwiches, you can’t just dump the wings off the nearest high bridge. And yet, chicken wings? Traditionally they mean sports bar or soul food. I tried the house wings, which were nice, salty, and meaty, but not much more than that. I think if I wanted chicken wings, I’d still head to a bar or a soul-food joint.

Of course, one of the nice things about an international trend is that it finds unique expression wherever it lands. In Argentina, for instance, a new generation is using nose-to-tail eating as a call to resuscitate all sorts of fascinating Argentine-cowboy cooking methods involving blazing fires and metal racks. Mexican and Latin American nose-to-tail cooks are rediscovering their grandparents’ recipes for tripe and tongue. Who knows, perhaps the true flowering of the nose-to-tail movement in Minnesota will be to reclaim chicken wings for serious meals. Or maybe it will just be to make all our corner bars into places where we can expect scratch cooking from chefs who have one eye on their customers and another on the international culinary stage.

Northeast Social
359 13th Ave., Mpls.
612-877-8111
northeastsocial.com

Victory 44
2203 44th Ave. N., Mpls.
612-588-2228
victory-44.com

The Butcher Block

308 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
612-455-1080
thebutcherblockrestaurant.com

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is a senior editor at Minnesota Monthly.

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MN Events Calendar Sponsored by:

June 2015

Come to Big Sandy Lodge and Resort to get all the delicious pancakes you can eat for only $5.

Cost: $5

Where:
Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
20534 487th Street
McGregor, MN  55760
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Sponsor: Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
Telephone: 218-426-5040
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YogaFit's Mind Body Fitness Conference is where students work towards a Yoga Alliance registry, earn continuing education credits, or simply deepen one's yoga practice and transform...

Cost: $329- $975

Where:
Hilton Minneapolis
1001 Marquette Avenue South
Minneapolis , MN   55403
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Come join us at the Skyway Theatre as we take over the block for the Pride Parade!  Drinks and brunch starting at 9am and DJs at 12pm! Get the best seat for the best parade of the...

Cost: No Cover

Where:
Bar Fly & Maruso
715 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Telephone: 612-333-6100
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Pride Parade Viewing Party UNION Rooftop – Downtown Minneapolis Start time: 9am (presale tickets) / 10am (day-of tickets) Live DJs: DJ Lindsay ‘Shiek’ Earney and DJ Lenka...

Cost: $10 (includes a free mimosas, glass of champagne or Absolute cocktail)

Where:
UNION Rooftop
731 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis , MN  55403
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Pride Parade Rooftop Viewing Party CRAVE Rooftop – Downtown Minneapolis Live DJ: DJ FANCY RESTAURANT Start time: 9am $5 from each ticket donated to OutFront Minnesota ...

Cost: $10 (includes free Absolute or Jameson cocktail)

Where:
CRAVE Rooftop
825 Hennepin Ave MN
Minneapolis , MN  55402
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Show your Pride by taking part in the Twin Cities Pride Rainbow Run on Sunday, June 28th! Starting at Boom Island and ending near Loring Park, the route takes runners along Hennepin Avenue as...

Cost: $30

Where:
Boom Island Park
800 Sibley Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN  55413
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Sponsor: Twin Cities Pride
Telephone: (612) 255-3260
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Join YogaLean's author Beth Shaw in this new 1 day YogaLean Transformational Workshop during the Minneapolis Mind Body Fitness Conference.  Explore holistic modalities of weight loss,...

Cost: $129.00

Where:
Hilton Minneapolis
1001 Marquette Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Website »

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Join YogaLean's author Beth Shaw in this new 1 day YogaLean Transformational Workshop during the Minneapolis Mind Body Fitness Conference.  Explore holistic modalities of weight loss,...

Cost: $129.00

Where:
Hilton Minneapolis
1001 Marquette Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Website »

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The 2015 Twin Cities Pride Festival features over 400 exhibitors, 40 food and beverage booths, 20 sponsors, and 300,000+ visitors who participate in this free celebration of the GLBT...

Cost: Free

Where:
Loring Park
1382 Willow Street
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Sponsor: Twin Cities Pride
Telephone: (612) 255-3260
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The 2015 Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade will be held on Sunday, June 28, beginning at 11 a.m. along Hennepin Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis. The Parade route starts at 3rd and Hennepin and ends at...

Cost: Free or $40 Grandstand tickets

Where:
Hennepin Ave in Downtown Minneapolis
Hennepin & 3rd to Hennepin & Spruce
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Sponsor: Twin Cities Pride
Telephone: (612) 255-3260
Website »

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The Twin Cities Pride Entertainment Team is excited to bring you over 50 local acts during Pride Weekend. The schedule is below, but know that things are subject to change.  ...

Cost: Free. $10 General/$75 VIP for Pride in Concert 6/27 5pm at Loring Stage.

Where:
Loring Park
1382 Willow St
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Telephone: 612-255-3260
Contact Name: Twin Cities Pride
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The celebration will be held in true Lurcat style, featuring music, dancing, festive food, cocktails and more! Café & Bar Lurcat is central to the Pride festival in Loring Park and found...

Cost: Free to enter

Where:
Cafe & Bar Lurcat
1624 Harmon Pl
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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What do you get when you explore the magical, yet tangled, intersection between the genius of art and the self-destruction of addiction; set it to catchy music against a backdrop of vivid visual...

Cost: $25.00

Where:
Minnetonka Theatre
18285 Highway 7
Minnetonka, MN  55345
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Don’t miss one of Minnesota’s hippest and hoppiest events. This local craft beer tasting event includes live music and a ton of tasty appetizers paired with the best brews in the Twin...

Cost: $50

Where:
Nicollet Island Pavilion
40 Power St.
Minneapolis, MN  55401
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Sponsor: Canvas Health
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The Minnesota Boychoir, under the direction of Mark Johnson, will be concluding their 2015 East Coast Tour with a Welcome Home Concert this Sunday, June 28 at the Graebner Memorial Chapel on the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Graebner Memorial Chapel
Saint Paul, MN

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Open Window Theatre is making a children's event of fantastical proportions with their summer youth theater production of James and the Giant Peach.  Roald Dahl's imaginative adventure...

Cost: ADVANCE: $6/child (lap child free), $8/student, $12/adult

Where:
Open Window Theatre
Metropolis Minneapolis Building
1313 Chestnut Avenue
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Telephone: 612-615-1515
Contact Name: Jeremy Stanbary
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Cost: Free to attend

Where:
, MN


Sponsor: Silver Creek Paddle
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Join us for an afternoon of stories, music, and poetry that evoke and express a profound connection to place — places we’ve lived, struggled, thrived, seen changed or destroyed, or...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Ox Coffee Co
3740 Chicago Ave S
Minneapolis, MN  55407
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Sponsor: Kairos Earth
Telephone: 405-365-8796
Contact Name: Chelsea Scudder
Website »

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We know it's the height of summer, so we think it's the perfect time to get a SUP you'll love. Get your board now while there is still plenty of summer left. Some of our hottest selling...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
, MN


Sponsor: Silver Creek Paddle
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RN’s and LPN’s for Evenings, Nights & Weekends - $2,000 hiring bonus Trillium Woods, a brand new continuing care retirement community, is opening on July 6th and we are having an...

Cost: Free

Where:
Trillium Woods
14633 Country Road 4
Plymouth, MN  55446
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Invest a few life-changing hours in our Power Trading Workshop, where you'll learn: How to identify points where supply and demand are out of balance and price is about to move. The two...

Cost: free

Where:
Online Trading Academy
7900 International Drive Suite 170
Bloomington, MN  55425
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Telephone: 952-814-4410
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Bring your lunch and learn more about the opportunities to live, learn, and work with a community overseas through Peace Corps service. Peace Corps is a federal agency which provides U.S....

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Phalen Picnic Pavilion
1600 Phalen Drive
St. Paul, MN  55106
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Sponsor: Peace Corps
Telephone: 612.233.9605
Contact Name: Krista M. Mastel
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Bring your lunch and learn more about the opportunities to live, learn, and work with a community overseas through Peace Corps service.   Peace Corps is a federal agency which provides...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Phalen Picnic Pavilion
1600 Phalen Dr
St. Paul, MN  55106
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Sponsor: Peace Corps
Telephone: 651.233.9605
Contact Name: Krista M. Mastel
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Enhanced and engaged learning, creating and sharing ideas, and forming partnerships are just a few benefits of collaborative classroom learning. Now, with tools like Office 365, OneNote for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Microsoft Store - Mall of America
162 South Ave
Bloomington, MN  55425
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 Join us for a 4th of July barbecue, yard games, and outdoor movie hosted by Mary Mother's Young Adult Catholics Hanging Together group. All are welcome! Bring a dish to share. This...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mary Mother of the Church in Burnsville
3333 E. Cliff Road
Burnsville, MN  55337
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Sponsor: Young Adult Catholics Hanging Together
Telephone: 952-890-0045
Contact Name: Kosi Onyeneho
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OneNote is a free cross-platform app that helps students and teachers save time, stay organized, and collaborate more effectively in and out of the classroom. Students can build portfolios of...

Cost: Free

Where:
, MN

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Summer is the sweetest time to savor the river, so sign up now for River City Revue! It's a delectable blend of live music, cool history, and hands-on art adventures, all happening at the Saint...

Cost: $10 - $15

Where:
St. Paul Yacht Club
375 W Water St
St. Paul, MN  55107
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Sponsor: Mississippi River Fund, Works Progress & the National Park Service
Telephone: 651-291-8164
Contact Name: Katie Nyberg
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Enter the halls of Casket Arts to encounter the work of 20+ artists working in paint, sculpture, light, fibers, and sound. A one night only event with several site specific...

Cost: Free

Where:
Casket Arts Carriage House
1707 Jefferson St Ne
Minneapolis, MN  55413
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The flipped classroom is an innovative method of teaching that allows for multimedia lessons and in-class exercises. Now you can “flip” your own classroom using familiar tools like...

Cost: Free

Where:
Microsoft Store - Mall of America
162 South Ave
Bloomington, MN
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The foundation of Jillian's country-esque, classically trained songwriter-style musicianship was built on northern Minnesta's Iron Range. Under the talented eye of Helina Pakola, who has...

Cost: 5

Where:
Mankato Brewery
1119 Center Street
, MN  56003
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Sponsor: Mankato Brewery
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One of the most highly sought-after skills in the workforce today is coding. In this workshop, we’ll show you how to create an app from a template, add content, and upload an app to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Microsoft Store - Mall of America
Bloomington, MN

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Bryan Olds Band will be performing live at Big Sandy Lodge and Resort on Friday, July 3. The folk-rock blues band plays a variety of original songs, as well as covers, ranging from Pearl Jam to...

Cost: Check with venue for details.

Where:
Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
20534 487th Street
McGregor, MN  55760
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Sponsor: Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
Telephone: 218-426-5040
Website »

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The 90’s alternative rock band – The Mallrats – will take the Amphitheater stage at Grand Casino Hinckley on Friday, July 3 at 8:30 p.m. Following the show will be a spectacular...

Cost: $10 general admission

Where:
Grand Casino Hinckley Amphitheater
777 Lady Luck Dr
Hinckley, MN  55037
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Website »

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Bunker’s Music Bar & Grill Presents Award Winning Vocalist Patty Peterson & Friends with Special Guest Melanie Rosales Friday, July 3, 2015 - 9:30pm 761 Washington Avenue N,...

Cost: $10.00

Where:
Bunker's Music Bar and Grill
761 Washington Ave N
#325
Minneapolis, MN  55401
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Sponsor: Bunker's Music Bar and Grill
Telephone: 847-624-5087
Contact Name: Carrie Miller
Website »

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It’s almost that special time of year again, where you pull out your flag, grab your lawn chair, and put on that sunscreen…the 68th annual Saint Anthony Park 4th of July Parade and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Anthony Park/Langford Park
Saint Paul, MN  55108


Sponsor: 4th In The Park Committee & The Saint Anthony Park Community Foundation
Telephone: 651-343-7365
Contact Name: Josh Becerra, Jeanne Hansen, & Emma Seeley
Website »

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Mystic Lake’s Rock and Rockets Fourth of July Celebration returns this year with another spectacular fireworks display. The free, all-ages event will take place outside Mystic Lake beginning...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mystic Lake Casino Hotel
2400 Mystic Lake Blvd.
Prior Lake, MN  55372
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Telephone: 952-496-7388
Website »

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Celebrate this Independence Day by watching fireworks light up the night sky over Big Sandy Lake. The event will take place at dusk, between Davis and Goff’s Bay, on the Fourth of July.

Cost: Free

Where:
Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
20534 487th Street
McGregor, MN  55760
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Sponsor: Big Sandy Lodge and Resort
Telephone: 218-426-5040
Website »

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