An Illustrated Tour of the Original Coney Island Cafe and Bar

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

Some time in the mid 1990s, the Original Coney Island Cafe and Bar in St. Paul abruptly went dark. A sign posted in the window said that the restaurant was closed due to family illness. The sign stayed there for years, but the space remained untouched and looking like they could reopen at any minute. Since they closed, I’ve pressed my face against the window 1,000 times wishing/hoping it would reopen. Well, they finally did…for one day earlier this month during the St. Paul Winter Carnival. We got there early and stood in a line with the diehards that stretched down the block an hour before they opened…everyone waiting for a taste of that famous Coney dog and a peek at space that’s been frozen in time. Sometimes dreams really do come true.

(Top: The line stretched out the door and down the block. And see the original-sized illustrations on WACSO’s website, in gallery #31.)

There are 2 distinct sides to the Original Coney Island…the “cafe” side, and the “bar” side. Walk through a fenced doorway with a sign reminding you that children are NOT allowed in the bar area and the space goes from a very diner-like space with stools at a counter, to a very bar-like space with stools at a bar.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

The bar side.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

The cafe side.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

The old bar gets a workout.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

Enjoying the original.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

People couldn’t believe what they were seeing: an “open” sign.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

Left: Preparing the Coneys. Right: Mustard is key to a good Coney dog / the dogs / satisfied customers.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

I’m assuming she’s the daughter of the original owners…she kept saying how happy her mother would have been to see so many people lined up down the street for the dogs.

The Pizza Farm in Stockholm, WI

There’s this pizza joint that’s not really a joint at all. It’s a farm where they grow all the ingredients on the pizza, even the crust. They are only open one night a week, on Tuesdays. They have no table service (grab your pizza and find a spot on the grass). They don’t serve drinks, or have plates, or utensils, or even napkins — and the toilet is an outhouse. And they have no signage, so good luck getting there. Once you arrive, you’ll have to wait a long time for your order (my number was 185… they were just serving 71), but they manage to kick out one killer pizza per minute from those brick ovens, and the farm is beautiful, so it’s easy to kill a little time talking to goats and stuff. Pretty much unlike any restaurant experience out there and well worth the drive — if you can find it.

The Pizza Farm
N2956 Anker Ln, Stockholm, WI
715.448.4802 (Tuesday night only)

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Mac’s Fish & Chips

The Heavy Table is pleased to feature an upcoming biweekly series of food-focused illustrations by the artist known as WACSO (Walking Around Checking Stuff Out). “Five-Star Food, One-Star Dives” is intended to showcase gems in the rough — easily overlooked little restaurants that offer up wonderful gastronomy in a humble wrapper.

Mac’s Fish & Chips looks like two old Clark gas stations jammed together, but that doesn’t stop them from making a killer fish and chips. I’m no connoisseur but Mac’s comes the closest to what I had in England a few years back; light and flaky, not too greasy, and didn’t leave me feeling like death after I ate it… something that can’t be said about other fish and chips in town.

Mac’s Fish & Chips
1330 Larpenteur Ave W
St Paul, MN 55113
866.442.6290

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Tendermaid Hamburgers in Austin, MN

The Heavy Table is pleased to feature an upcoming biweekly series of food-focused illustrations by the artist known as WACSO (Walking Around Checking Stuff Out). “Five-Star Food, One-Star Dives” is intended to showcase gems in the rough — easily overlooked little restaurants that offer up wonderful gastronomy in a humble wrapper.

“Hamburger” really isn’t a good way to describe a Tendermaid, because its meat doesn’t come in the typical hamburger patty form. “Loose meat” is more accurate: Think sloppy joe with all of the sloppy and none of the joe (no sauce) —  just steamed ground beef on a bun. The recommended version comes with the following: ketchup, mustard,  chopped onions, pickles… and a spoon. You’ll need the spoon to scoop up the other half of the meat that didn’t stay on the bun. The malts are tasty and the “Tender-Dog” (Tendermaid meat on a hot dog) comes highly recommended. Side note: It’s hard to call this place a “dive.” It’s one of the cleanest restaurants I’ve ever been in; I would eat off the floor, and that’s no joke. Can all you fancy-pants bistros say that?

Tendermaid Hamburgers
217 4th Ave NE
Austin, MN 55912
507.437.7907

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