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From Lake Harriet Herons to the Letter Q, Racket Readers List Their Favorite Things From 2023

For our first ever Racket Readers' Poll, we asked you to share your 2023 top 5s. And you sure did.


La Doble hamburguesa at El Sazon; a Lake Harriet heron; Krampus at Fulton’s Gasthof’s Oktoberfest

In last Friday's open thread, I asked Racket readers to contribute their Top 5 lists of... well, anything they wanted to list. An experiment, I called it, and I have to say, the experiment was a success. You came through with everything from old standbys like lists of your favorite books or music to more idiosyncratic lists of your favorite walks or kids activities or consonants.

It was so wonderful to see the personalities we've come to know and love in our comments section showing through in these lists. Thanks for making this such a great year for us. (And don't worry—there'll be one final 2023 open thread tomorrow.)

Austin Gerth's top 5 albums of 2023

1. Heaven Is a Junkyard - Youth Lagoon

2. Cartwheel - Hotline TNT

3. Grog - Frog

4. Guts - Olivia Rodrigo

5. Year Away - Kacey Johansing

And a shout out to two things not from this year that I got into this year: Felt (the band, not the fabric) and The Sundays (the band, not the day).

BiteSizedBeet’s top 5 books that I read this year (so far out of 75)

1. We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

2. Bellies by Nicola Dinan

3. I'm Telling The Truth, But I'm Lying by Bassey Ikpi

4. Love and Resistance by Kara H.L. Chen

5. The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley

Cardinal Fan’s top 3 for 2023 in no particular order

1. Quit smoking - Every day feels like I quit yesterday. My doctor. told me he wouldn't do my surgery if I was smoking. I'm pleased I did it but I miss it SOOO MUCH!

2. Hip Replacement Surgery - Without going into too much detail this was a life-changing event for me and my family. I'm a new person in so many wonderful positive ways, I know what it means to be truly grateful.

3. Podcasts - I just discovered podcasts this year and they are awesome! Racket, you should start a podcast! I would listen to every episode twice.

duluth's famous kaylee's top 5 local beers of the year

5. George Hunter Stout - Castle Danger

4. A Kolsch that I can't remember the name of - Ursa Minor

3. Blueberry Honey Cream Ale - Earth Rider

2. Swear Jar Helles - Bent Paddle

1. Caribbean Tap Shack - Earth Rider

Elle Ess's top 5 places I took my kid in 2023

5. Bike walks at dog parks. My kid got a balance bike as a 2nd birthday present and just plain wasn’t interested in it til closer to turning three, which coincided nicely with summertime. We took MANY MANY bike walks this summer, but none of them compared to when we did them at relatively flat dog parks like Elm Creek where the dog could be off leash and the kid could pretty much not hurt himself but feel like he’s out in the woods exploring. This wouldn’t have been possible without everyone at the dog park those days having well trained dogs who steered clear of the kid. Thanks to all of you who work tirelessly on your dog’s recall command!

4. First Ave Prince Dance Party. This might have been more fun for me than him, but when some well-targeted social media advertising alerted me to a Prince-themed dance party at First Ave on a Saturday morning that was just for kids, I HAD TO GO. I got a Prince T-shirt for my kid for “royalty day” during spirit week at daycare so I even already had merch. We found some street parking and I went to get a picture of us by Prince’s star—thanks to another fam that took it for me—and inside was already packed. First Ave presented us with certificates we could fill in declaring the date of our child’s first show at the iconic venue, and when the band started my kid wanted to go straight to the front. He did tire of being up close pretty quick but found easy entertainment climbing the curved stairways. We both got our steps in that day. What I love about events like these is that it’s a real easy intro to my kid to getting to a ticketed event, handling lines and bathrooms, waiting patiently for something to start. A+.

3. Fulton’s Gasthof’s Oktoberfest. You might be thinking “what a weird place for a toddler” and maybe you’re right, but if there is one thing my kid is obsessed with, it’s Krampus, and if there’s two things, it’s Krampus and bratwurst. Somehow during the pandemic when my kid started to become interested in movies and shows, the one he became the most obsessed with is Monsters, Inc. Rather than absorbing any messages about the dangers of capitalism, my child absorbed one message: Monsters are our friends. We first took him to Oktoberfest in 2022, and armed with two non-Pixar monster toys in his stroller, we went to meet Krampus for the first time. What I did not expect was for him to fully launch himself from the stroller, grab his monster toys, and try to share them with Krampus. My only problem with this event is that Krampus comes after dark so all my pictures of my kid grinning with or roaring at Krampus look like they were taken on a Motorola Razr in 2006. But at this years Oktoberfest, before dark, there was even a kids area set up with coloring and bracelet making supplies! Coloring, brats, and Krampus??? Can’t get better than that.

2. Minnetonka Orchards Corn Pit. Oh man, I did not expect my child to dive into a pit of corn kernels with such enthusiasm, but dive he did. I don’t have a lot to say about this other than to say how fun it was to watch him do comedically timed pratfalls off the straw bales into the corn, and instinctively make corn angels until he was buried in corn. He was in there for like two hours! If you have a toddler in your life, make time for a corn pit next year.

1. The Minnesota State Fair. Maybe you saw this coming, maybe you didn’t, but my husband and I strategized carefully on how to make the State Fair a success. We are all-day fairgoers, arriving early and leaving after dark. Ahead of the fair we purchased a stroller wagon with a ton of storage pockets and a cooler. It was important to me that my kid could nap there, so I strategically brought his bedtime pillow with as well. We brought water bottles for all three of us and a couple of just-in-case toddler snacks, not that I was at all worried about this kid eating. He ate cheese curds and two pieces of lefse almost immediately, and followed that up with two different kinds of mini-donuts. We walked all over the fairgrounds and found tons of activities for him and food to share, and soon enough he asked us to put the sun shades down on the wagon and laid down and went to sleep. (It was while I was in line for the Pizza Pretzel, which, I want to say again, I WAS RIGHT that thing was so good!) He slept for like two hours in there even while we were pushing through really busy areas, and woke up just before we headed to the animal barns. By the time it got dark he was finally chilly and exhausted, but still demanded ice cream before we left, which he ate while shivering and wrapped up in the Adam Turman blanket we had purchased at the Grandstand.

Of course there are many honorable mentions, among which I would include: Costco, the lake, grandma and grandpa’s houses, the Shoreview commons park, the turtle races in Longville, and perhaps our favorite park due to proximity, the little train park.

Esquared’s top 5 MN things this year

- Beyoncé at whatever bank stadium

- Family cabin week (not ours, rented) in Perham MN

- Open water swims in Nokomis, especially earlier in the summer

- Running every block in greater Longfellow community (or my working definition of it)

- bBking in general!!

gecsmix’s top 5 of the year

5. Seeing a car with a "she neoning on my genesis until I evangelion" bumper sticker.

4. Open Doors Minneapolis - so cool. I loved our very sweet older tour guide for City Hall who was an absolute trove of knowledge and funny as hell. Liked sitting in the cool social club downtown I could never afford. It's fun to be a tourist in your own city sometimes!

3. Charly Bliss - got to see one of my favorite bands at Turf Club, one of my fav venues in all the cities.

2. Doing the llama walk at the Minnesota Zoo, where the teenage worker told us we were not allowed to feed the llamas, "no matter how convincing they are."

1. AL Wild Card games 1 and 2 - Skipped like three classes to go to both of these and boy, was that the right call. Crazy atmosphere, tense, full of big moments. Watching Duran get both of the final outs and the pandemonium after is something I'll genuinely never forget.

GreyGardens’ unspecified top 5

5. Forty Acres Deep by Michael Perry - most of my reading is nonfiction but I'm a fan so I listened to this novel. It was short but really hit for me

4. Queso at Dominguez Family Restaurant - hadn't been there for a minute but my son bought a house near there and ya, that queso still slaps.

3. Gold Century by The Ashtray Hearts - these guys have been around for years but I was only recently introduced to them. Great album.

2. Hours spent sitting in the sun on Artist's Point, listening to the waves and reading a book

1. Purchasing a little plot of land up near the most Superior of Lakes - let this American experiment hold it together long enough for me to build a little retirement hovel on it.

ItHasToBeDamp's 5 movies I saw for the first time in 2023 that didn't come out in 2023

1. 20th Century Women

2. Slow West

3. Badlands

4. King Creole

5. Wild Tales

JB14-HRBEK's top 5 Pearl Jam shows I've seen in my life, ranked

(Conveniently, I've been to exactly 5)

1. July 8, 1995, Milwaukee, WI - The first one I went to.

2. August 23, 2023, St. Paul - Holy shit, they are even better than 30 years ago! Plus front row behind the stage was a magical experience.

3. July 9, 1995, Milwaukee, WI - As good as the first one.

4. October 20, 2000, Albuquerque, NM - Great show out on a cold night in the desert.

5. July 3, 1998, Kansas City - Hotter than hell, and the 2+ hour drive home after the show to Columbia, MO was a doozy.

Kenburger's top 5 sandwiches of 2023

1. La Doble hamburguesa at El Sazon

2. Reuben from Cecil’s (hadn’t been since pre pandemic so lemme tell you, it hit right)

3. Medianoche from Chimbarazo’s brunch menu

4. Spicy Chicken sandwich from Khue’s Kitchen at Bar Brava

5. Cubano torta from El Taco Loco in Columbia Heights

Matt Linzbach’s top 5 concerts of '23

5. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats, Surly Field—outdoor music, perfect weather, good friends and beer!

4. Wednesday at First Ave—perhaps my new favorite band.

3. Going to NYC with my eldest to see LCD Soundsystem—it was SO joyous.

2. Getting a shout out from Gary Louris and the Jayhawks in Stockholm, Sweden. Setlist is framed.

1. The whole family getting to enjoy The Killers at First Avenue. Guitar Hero memories all came back.

Maura’s top 5 establishments on Central Ave. 

(I'm ranking them in order, and it's a painful choice for 1 & 2.)

1. Dutch Bar

2. Chimborazo

3. Zero Proof

4. Maya Cuisine

5. Half Fancy, may it rest in peace. Best veggie burger in town.

Honorable mentions go to Twin Spirits, Frances, and Fair State (I don't drink beer, husband loves it).

MPLSNIghtMayor’s top 5 heavy albums of 2023

Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean - Obsession Destruction

Full of Hell & Nothing - When No Birds Sang

Panopticon - The Rime of Memory

Mizmor - Prosaic

Woe - Legacies of Frailty

N_jray’s top 5 consonants 2023

1. Q

2. B

3. J

4. K

5. V

No One You Know's 5 memorable things that are not all happy

1. Losing my pup of 14 years

2. The Cure concert

3. Buying a car for someone who really needed a break in life and how that impacted them

4. Spending time with an old friend who moved much closer to me and having a great weekend when she came to visit

5. Reading Empire of Pain and The Shadow Docket

Openweekdaystil8's top 3 pies I ate this year

1. Cranberry Lime Pie (NYT cooking) - if you like a key lime pie but more festive, make this. You’re welcome.

2. Chocolate Pecan Pie that my mother-in-law made

3. Zesty Pumpkin Pie from a crossover with Blue Moon Brewing

Paulette’s top 5 memorable events of 2023

5. Finally getting my house repairs completed from hail damage in May 2022.

4. Enjoying the end of the I-94 construction east of Woodbury (at least for now).

3. Seeing Dessa and the MN Orchestra with my kid – amazing show.

2. Visiting with family in NC – we were able to see the colors in the mountains and enjoy some warm fall days on the ocean.

1. Spending Thanksgiving with my college kids - which included witnessing the grad student read 10 Riordan books in 2 days.

Racket Jay (who is not a reader but still)'s top 5 albums

5. Tim (Let It Bleed Edition) by the Replacements (A reissue -- sue me!)

4. GUTS by Olivia Rodrigo

3. Lucky for You by Bully

2. The Window by Ratboys

1. Time Ain't Accidental by Jess Williamson (Parkway Theater in March!)

Shmayloresque’s top 5 things I have enjoyed eating/drinking since I've had to go on a crazy migraine-preventing elimination diet in 2023

5. Lots of fancy crackers (I can't eat fresh, yeasted breads)

4. Red cherry juice with club soda (I can't have soda or citrus juices)

3. Boursin cheese (I can only eat fresh cheese)

2. Trader Joe's Sunflower Seed Butter (I can't have nuts)

1. Endless amounts of vegetables in every possible iteration (most veggies are mostly fine)

studebaker09’s random assortment of top things in 2023 in no particular order

5. Discovering Sigrid Nunez

4. Determining Chill State (pineapple) is my favorite and the pils never disappoints

3. Asserting my undying appreciation for the Turf Club

2. Watching the herons in Lake Harriet

1. Stumbling upon Scream it off Screen which feels like a remnant of pre-covid times in the most beautiful way

Syz's top 5 walks of 2023

1. The one where my daughter really picked up biking on her own with pedals, July.

2. Hell yeah I am counting trick or treating, October.

3. The one where a neighbor a few blocks over let my daughter choose a flower to pick, August.

4. The one at Minnehaha Falls, September.

5. Art fair at Powderhorn, August.

Honorable Mentions:

Walking to vote, November.

Walking to a lake, various.

Night walks, various.

All walks.

The next walk.

Taco Mike's top 5 theaters I saw a movie in

5. The Parkway. The crowds here tend to be fairly rowdy, which was cool when we took our niece to Ponyo (the kids were crazy into it!) but less fun when we were watching The Fog (it's... not a comedy? Like, let the atmosphere do its thing, people).

4. AMC Edina. I actually don't know how I ended up here so often this year, but for whatever reason they had plenty of IMAX seating for Barbenheimer, Stop Making Sense, and the new Mission Impossible. The screen was big and the snacks were decent and I almost always saw someone in costume! Love a David Byrne big suit out in the wild.

3. Alamo Drafthouse. Woodbury is a hell of a drive to make, but where else was I gonna see Wild at Heart on Valentines Day? Or an advance screening of the very mid Boogeyman movie? Plus this is the last known location of a City Pages stand advertising for the newest issue coming March 2020 (unless its gone now, haven't been since may).

2. Trylon. As always, incredible curation, blending arthouse with grindhouse. One screen, 70 seats, cash only for snacks. Really feels like they know exactly how to turn a tidy profit and their not gonna mess up a good thing by getting out over their skis. Love it. This year's Horrorthon was a blast.

1. Emagine Willow Creek. Their Cinema Macabre showcase is top notch month in and month out, but so is their genre brainmelt, their mystery movie of the month, their sneak peeks (John Cena showed up for the Suicide Squad showing??), their super huge recliners, their bar (lol they lost their liquor licence in September for being TOO cool). What puts em over the top though is the Pineda right across the parking lot which is the perfect place to get a tray full of Mexican food for like ten bucks and watch wrestling before the movie starts.

Taco Mike's BONUS top 5 bowling alleys I rolled in this year

Bowlero in Blaine (meh)

Mermaid Entertainment in Mounds View (cool mermaid!)

Elsie's in Northeast (love that shuttle to and from Twins games)

Town Hall Lanes in south Minneapolis (best bar in a bowling alley in town)

Sundance in Maple Grove (Tuesday night league)

And finally, Taco Mike's top 5 movies I saw for the first time in 2023 that didn't come out in 2023, in no particular order, inspired by ItHasToBeDamp's list above

The Jerk

Eastern Promises


The Misfits


WatchingNebula’s top 5 albums

5. Lankum - False Lankum

4. Frost Children - SPEED RUN

3. Fever Ray - Radical Romantics

2. underscores - Wallsocket

1. six impala - EARWAX

WatchingNebula’s favorite places and trails that I biked this year

5. Cedar Lake Trail to Hopkins Depot. There were still some sections that were closed when I hit it but overall a pretty solid experience. Very fun to see the progress on the Green Line Extension as you go until you remember that it's still four years from opening.

4. Fremont Avenue through Camden/Near North. Has everything I need from a good bike ride. Quiet residential area? Check. Separated lane with bollards to discourage cars from running into you? Check. Limited car and bike traffic? Check. Ideal route if you're headed where it's going.

3. Great Northern Greenway. I'm a sucker for bike routes that keep you connected with the surrounding neighborhood, and this one up in Northeast delivers. It almost feels like a big sidewalk that you're not supposed to be on, giving you more of a chance to slow down and soak in the neighborhood rather than worry about getting sideswiped by an SUV. Good stuff all around.

2. Victory Memorial Parkway. The vibes up there are completely unique—just a massive strip of grass and trees hemmed in on either side by residential areas as far as the eye can see. Bill Lindeke's column did it better justice than I ever could, but there's really no substitute for going up and experiencing it for yourself.

1. St. Paul Grand Round. My hot take is that it's better than its Minneapolis counterpart. For one thing, it actually forms a complete loop; additionally, almost the entire stretch exists as a separated trail or lane, with the Raymond Avenue segment being the only part where a strip of paint is all that stands between you and auto traffic. (And even then, at least it has a bike lane marked. Looking at you, Stinson Parkway). The whole thing is great, but the Wheelock and Johnson Parkway segment is a particular gem.

Zoot’s favorite live music this year

1. boygenius: Roadtripped to Chicago with my young adult daughters in June. They surpassed all the hype.

2. The Beths at First Avenue in March. Such a fun band!

3. Emmet Cohen at the Dakota. His trio was amazing.

4. George Harrison tribute concert at the Parkway. I was a bit obsessed with his music in my youth.

5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the Armory.

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