Unfinished Business

Weather: Sunny, warm, and humid.

Sportsman's Pub, Como Ave., SE Minneapolis
Now, how can I resist a challenge like that?

Tonight I rode Ramble Plan One again. It will be the last time for at least two weeks. Why? Because the Minnesota State Fair is upon us, and the traffic around the halfway point of RP1 is going to become unbearable, starting tomorrow.

The Minnesota State Fair is one of the biggest in the country. At least, that’s what the local media keep telling us. For all I know, they may be right.

I stopped going years ago, because of the immense crowds and total lack of free parking. I have never liked going anywhere that I have to pay for parking, only to brush up against countless other humans to get where I am going, and see what I want to see.

Who’s definition of fun is that?

So tonight, I set out to savor this Ramble Plan One, and attend to some Unfinished Business. First stop, just like last time, was The Sportsman’s. Tonight, as promised, I ordered their vaunted “Not for Sissies Chili”.

Lovely Lindsay delivered a bowl to my table that looked like this:

The Sportsman's Chili... Not for Sissies!
How about that presentation?

If you put your face right up against your computer screen, you might just be able to smell it.

Click on the photo to enlarge it, and you may just want to lick that screen. Mmmmmmm… Go ahead, I won’t tell.

By the time I was finished with this bowl, my forehead was beaded in sweat, and my nose was running. You know you’re eating real chili when you end up chewing on hot pepper seeds all night long.

I know there are some of you Texans out there, searching that image for a trace of bean. Well, let me save you the trouble…

Yeah, Tex, there are a few kidney beans in there. Not my favorite, I’ll admit. But the Sportsman manages to minimize the presence of the hated bean by the other flavors in this incendiary concoction. The meat is simply spiced ground beef too. Not the brisket or steak that you prefer, you oil-rich bastard.

You see, most Minnesotans demand beans in their chili. I’m not sure why. The classic, competition definition of chili, with just lean meat and pepper sauce, doesn’t play well here in the snow belt.

Minnesotans tend to make something called “Hot Dish” out of any food staple they don’t understand. The historic need for jerky with pepper sauce just wasn’t here. So they added stuff to make it more nutritional, and boost the calorie count against the cold of winter. It’s a Scandiwegian thang, I think, and you just wouldn’t understand.

Awww… Just turn around, Tex, and mosey on home. This ain’t for you.

Timeless dive decor...
How authentic is that? The decorator must have cost them a fortune!

Anyway, here’s another thing that I liked about The Sportsman: The bar itself is ancient wood, with long-forgotten declarations of love and lunacy carved in it’s surface. They have done nothing to cover anything up, which only adds to the charm.

The decor hasn’t changed for decades, except by accident of accumulation and advertising. Old animal heads adorn some of the walls, to give credence to The Sportsman’s name. The locals who gather here, and prefer to remain anonymous, are people of vivid character. Not a single SUV-driving, cred-seeking yuppie amongst them.

The road construction is certainly hurting business, but it looks to me like the local trade will sustain them. I hope so. My hoary old maxim: “Nothing Cool Ever Lasts” cannot prevail here. It just can’t.

I’ll be back, when The Fair is over. I promise.

25 Responses to “Unfinished Business”

  1. Bill Sommers Says:

    I like to say “Once cool, always cool”. It looks to me like the Sportsman has always been cool.
    I’ve been waiting for the chili review, and it looks great. I plan on cooking up a batch that’ll end friendships. So now I have the photo as a reference for my presentation.
    Whats next on the menu?
    Have fun. Bill

  2. Eric Says:

    Thanks a lot Gary. Now I’m hungry!

  3. Bob Says:

    Thanks for the story Gary. That Chili looks delicious. I like beans in my chile, especially the small black ones – yummmmmm.
    I am liking your food reviews quite a bit. Scooting and food, what a great combination. Have you ever been to Betty’s Bikes & Buns? I would like to know what you think of it. I have to go there.

    Keep up the great work Gary,


  4. Steve Williams Says:

    The chili sounds great, even before breakfast. I am partial to venison chili with black beans. There is a place around here that makes it but unfortunately it is only on the menu “now and then”.

    Have fun at the fair. I am going to ours tomorrow to judge the photography competition. Can’t imagine what that’s going to be like. Was going to ride the scooter but have this picture in my head of it laying on its side in the grass surrounded by a zillon vehicles….. So the Ranger may swing into action.


  5. DaveT Says:

    Wow, what a great place to hang out and eat chili. One of the great pleasures in life is to eat in good company, and I can’t think of a any better company than a group of bike/scooter nuts who have just finished half of a great ride. (Yes, been there and done that on more than one occasion!)

    As for the fair, our local fair has paid parking, but all the money goes to the Lions club, so I don’t feel too bad about it. And a bike, or scooter, Steve, can usually park in any unused corner near the gate. I’ve never had a problem parking my ride anywhere I wanted. Pretty easy to get through traffic too. :)

    Ride safe, eat well
    Dave T.

  6. phil Says:

    As I remember, for quite a few years there’s been free motorcycle parking just across Como Ave (by the large pedestrian bridge over Como.) That doesn’t make the fair itself any less crowded, but it does ruin one of your excuses.

  7. phil Says:


    motorcycle parking… at the bottom (South) by the big ‘G’

  8. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Bill S: A “batch that’ll end friendships”? That sounds HOT! When do we eat?
    Oh, and I’ve been hearing about a burrito over at La Cucaracha that is supposed to be quite spicy. So I think I will build Ramble Plan Two around that.

    Eric: You’re welcome.

    Bob: Ride to Eat, Eat to Ride? Something like that. Yes, I’ve been to Betty’s on several occasions. Good coffee and bakery stuff. I haven’t tried the sandwiches yet, but they get good reviews.

    Steve: I’ve made venison chili, but with no beans. I followed the recipe of someone who won a national chili cookoff. It was good, though the meat was a bit tougher than beef would have been.

    DaveT: Yeah, I really love the neighborhood joints like that. They have so much more character than the cut-from-corporate-cloth chains do.

    phil: I know where the motorcycle parking is on Como. I rode past it every time on RP1. They just put up a new sign this year…”Motorcycle Parking – $4.00″

    No, the main thing that keeps me away is the crowd. I am going to get my Fair Fix this year in Huron, South Dakota.

    I am heading out with Frogwing on an audit trip next week, and Thursday night will find me at the South Dakota State Fair. My friend’s bluegrass band is playing that night, should be fun. There should be some interesting food to sample there as well. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.

    Ride well,

  9. Lucky Says:


    Just came across your blog and I’ve got to admit: mixing motorcycling with food just might be the perfect combination! Keep up the great work.


  10. MatL Says:

    Chili sounds good on a rainy day like today. Especially at a classic like the Sportsman.

    If you ever wander South of the River — there are some older local places in Savage I would recommend. Windmill Cafe (only breakfast & lunch) and Buffalo Tap (lunch and dinner) come to mind. In between these 2 places is a small motorcycle shop called Toxic Cycle.

    If you need a motorcycle fix you can see lots of bikes and riders at Renegades and the Black Dawg in Burnsville…they even have concerts lately…. but the bikes are mostly of the overly loud, overly chromed variety.


  11. Dan F. Says:

    Gary, I did a very, very bad thing tonight – and as I read your blog this am – I unfortunately had to play it out in my mind all day today. See, between work and home, plumb smack in the middle, is the Great Sweat Together.

    EB Larpentuer was backed up at Cleveland. Heading for the usual quick detour, EB Roselawn was backed until about 1/2 way to Fairview – so after sitting in traffic, and the rain, frying my clutch for a good 15 min (where I promptly made it 0.5 mi (yes, do the math) – I made a choice that Frogwing – and you as her pilot – would certainly be proud of.

    After the Roselawn/Fairview intersection (where EB traffic was stopped already) I decided to ride the sidewalk for the entire mile all the way to Snelling. Now, I don’t condone this – I know it was illegal – I know it gives us a bad name – but since this is Rush Hour Rambling – nobody was rushing – so I figured it should be me…

    Long story short – 50 mph on the sidewalk – I made it to Snelling in a heartbeat – where all the silly cagers are probably still sitting – cussing at the freak on the dirt bike, wearing a orange safety vest – and riding in the rain.

    Hey, I am what I am…

  12. Buster Brown Says:

    When I went by the Sportsman the other night, the crowd was looking kind of collegiate. By crowd, I mean the two couples hanging by the front stoop for a smoke, giving at least the illusion that there was a crowd. At any rate, the place looks a lot busier these days than it did fifteen or twenty years ago, the last time I went in there, drawn by the same chili sign that pulled you in. It was long enough ago that I don’t remember the chili. Obviously it didn’t bring me back for a second bowl.

    The Sportsman crowd in the Eighties had more of a working man’s/metal headbanger/trailer trash feel to it, a little out of character for the neighborhood, and not as middle class as Manning’s, across the street. The decor back then was the same stuff you see today, and was already a good thirty years past the “Best used by:” date. I seem to remember some Coneys on the menu, and a reflux that lasted all afternoon.

  13. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Lucky: Welcome aboard! I’ll have to go and check out your blog now. If you ride to work, I’ll add you to my blogroll.

    MatL: That was some storm yesterday, wasn’t it? Looking only at the radar, I decided it wouldn’t be that bad, and opted to ride Scarlet. Bad choice. We made it home alright, but it was a bit of a challenge. The sportbike-style tires that come with the Baron aren’t very good in the wet.

    Time to call up my friends at Kenda…

    Oh, and I will put those places on my list, for next time I head south for a Ramble. I’ve been to the `Dawg, and you’re right: RUB City.

    Dan F.: Brother Dan, the Sidewalk Ramblin’ Man… I can see it is time for me to counsel you. Yes, what you did was Bad. You know that. But was it Wrong? That is the question.

    Riding a mile on the sidewalk, at 50 mph no less, is a lot like running the ridges in a combat zone. Too much Exposure. This is the kind of thing Crackdowns are made of. Were there civilians present? Er, I mean pedestrians? Probably not too many, in heavy rain like that.

    Frogwing and I ride the sidewalks occasionally, but only when it is Right. It is still Bad, but as you note at the end there, Bad is what we are! We were born that way. Just ask my long sufferin’ Mother.

    What we don’t do is ride it for a mile past heavy traffic, in heavy rain, where you can’t see whether an unmarked squad car is hidden in the mess. You were muy loco, and muy lucky, Amigo. I’m proud of you.

    Buster: Welcome back! Haven’t heard from you in awhile. I was going to swing by that BMW rally down by Maiden Rock, but it was also my birthday, and family required my presence. Funny how that works.

    Yeah, there are some college kids who work there, and others who hang out. These aren’t the preppie type, but rather the tattooed and pierced variety. Liberal Arts majors, no doubt.

    I like the joint, and will stop there whenever Ramble Plan One is in effect.

    If you ever want to meet up there, let me know. It’s way better than Betty’s…

    Ride well,

  14. Dan F. Says:

    Sweet – I’ve been named by the Rambler!

    It was on the north end of the ag-land over on the Falcon Hts. campus. I figured if I’m going to do it, well, I might as well go full tilt… The sidewalk is rathing wide (at least 6-8′) and yes, no civies in the area.

    I just refused to sit (well actuall stand) in that traffic for easily 45-60 min – frying my bike, not to mention my sanity. Friday and three more days next week before my vacation to SD – so I don’t have too much more of that mess.

    It stinks – virtually every route possible from dwtn MPLS to my home over by Como Lake is blocked by the Sweat Together. Commuters, bus-riders, park and rides – all of them crowding pretty much every single E-W street between work and home.

    I’ve never been a hooligan on a bike – but situations like this dictate otherwise. So I made the command decision to ride the sidewalk. Muey loco – hmm, I can confirm these allegations at this time.

    Improvise, adapt, overcome (hey, how did Clint Eastwood come into this discussion?). But hey, I accomplished my mission (albeit a slight bit illegally…) and what else is there???

    Man, I’ve rambled again…

  15. The Wife Says:

    My Darling Husband…..your “long sufferin’” Mother? What about your long sufferin’ wife? I not only have to live with a 43-year-old hooligan, but a 6-year-old (who thinks she’s 16) red-headed diva as well. I must like living on the edge too. The edge of sanity, that is. Love ya!

  16. Lucky Says:

    The Minnesota State Fair IS one of the best fairs in the country. The Arizona State fair is just sad. Plus they’re missing the 2 things that make a fair great: roasted corn DIPPED in butter (none of this “lightly brushed” baloney) and Grain Belt Premium beer.

    @Other Lucky – Motorcycles and food ARE the perfect combo, apart from motorcycles and twisty roads. Check out my blog when you have a chance.

  17. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Ramblin’ Dan F.: Since we are quoting cheesy movies here, let me entertain you with the following alternate script from “Top Gun”…

    Ramblin’ Dan F – “Sir, the road was full of gridlocked cages, but the sidewalks were empty. The objective was ahead, I saw a clear route, so I took it.”

    Unnamed Authority – “YOU TOOK IT! And broke a major rule of engagement! … You NEVER, EVER leave the roadway!”

    For those who don’t know, Ramblin’ Dan F. is a Marine too. He is really a decent sort, definitely not a hooligan, which is why I am having so much fun with this episode.

    It just goes to show you how deeply that Marine Corps training penetrates. Put an obstacle in front of us, and we WILL go over, under, around, or through. Whether the objective is the high-ground overlooking the beach, or just home and a cold beverage, nothing can stand in our way for long.

    The Wife: Er, Hi Honey. How did you get in here? I was just sitting around, telling stories, you know… I’m sure we can get you your own blog, if you want! This is kind of embarrassing…

    Ride well,

  18. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Lucky: I’m heading over to your site right now.

    Funny you should put the dipped corn and Grain Belt Premium in the same sentence. I’ve always thought of GBP as “butter beer”, because of the slightly buttery aftertaste.

    Ride well,

  19. Biker Betty Says:

    They have got to come out with reality blogging!!! It’s just before my dinner time and I “could” smell that chili, lol. The Sportsman sound like a great place, but I’d have to wimp out on that chili. I don’t like anything tooo spicy.

    As I was read:

    Ramblin’ Dan F – “Sir, the road was full of gridlocked cages, but the sidewalks were empty. The objective was ahead, I saw a clear route, so I took it.”

    Unnamed Authority – “YOU TOOK IT! And broke a major rule of engagement! … You NEVER, EVER leave the roadway!”

    I could hear the tune of C.W. McCall’s “Convoy Song.”

  20. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Betty: So I take it you’ve never seen “Top Gun”? There was actually some pretty lame motorcycle content in there. Tom Cruise rides down the runway on an early model Ninja sans helmet.

    The song that should have come to mind would have been Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone”. Wow, does anybody else in here feel the draft of a time warp? That movie came out twenty years ago!

    Ride well,

  21. Lucky (the first one)! Says:

    OK, so there are two Lucky’s! Guess I didn’t pick a very original handle…

    I’m at luckyll.blogspot.com, my eponymous fellow blogger is at pizzacrusade.blogspot.com!

    Gary – I do ride to work, right up until mid-december last year. But then the icy roads and snow from our Canuck winters forced me to get down “on all fours” until spring came along to deliver me. This year I coordinated the “Ride to Work” day at the office; all in all we had 26 people show up on their bikes, trikes, sidecar hacks and scooters. We’d even set aside a portion of the parking for “Motorcycles Only”… If only it could be like that all year round (sigh).

    Although Top Gun was corny (to say the least), it does have one of my most memorable quotes: “Son, your ego’s writing cheques your body can’t cash!” Goes through my head every once in awhile when I’m riding; helps to keep me grounded ;-)

    Lucky (the other one)

  22. Gary Charpentier Says:


    So are you Lucky the First? – or Lucky the Other?

    I’m so confused!

    Ride well,

  23. Lucky (the first one)! Says:

    Let’s say I’m Lucky “from the Great White North”, while the other would be Lucky “in the land of year-round riding”.

    Don’t feel bad about the missus dropping into your blog; had my significant other (i.e. she-who-shall-be-obeyed) drop in on a few forums that I waste time in. You’re right, it can be quite embarassing!

    Rode down to the Barnyard BBQ joint today for lunch; had the Steamin’ Brisket Donair… Sound bizarre? Don’t worry, it was great. They even brew a fine selection of suds. See here: http://www.pumphousebrewery.ca/foodmenu.htm

    If you’re ever in Moncton, NB let me know and I’ll show you where to get some good grub.


  24. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Canada Lucky: That menu looks a lot like the one at Dempsey’s, where I will be immersing myself next Friday night. Dempsey’s is also a brewery and restaurant in one, with beer recommendations next to all the major menu items. I’m looking forward to sharing that here.

    I’ve always wanted to visit Canada, but something always happens to spoil the trip. It’s like a curse or something. Someday I’ll make it.

    Ride well,

  25. Mad Says:

    Mmmmm Chilli!

    To my mind chilli needs beans but I know it’s not autentic…