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The 22 Most-Read Racket Stories of 2022

These articles attracted the most eyeballs in our first full year.

Never equate pageviews with effort.

When stories pass through the mysterious vortexes of Google algorithms and social shares, the amount of work put into ’em goes out the window. Below, that’s most obvious when one considers that my listicle about an architecturally novel Taco Bell—a story that required a bleary-eyed drive to Brooklyn Park, complete acceptance of the assignment’s stupidity, and little else—did 10,000 more views than my months-long investigation into the rotten organizational culture at Minnesota Public Radio.

Our most-read stories of 2022, Racket’s first full calendar year in biz, span all sorts of spectrums—fun, helpful, serious, silly, bloggy, longform, and everything in between. It’s a nice sample platter of what we think makes this website special. (Keep in mind: We’ve published 972 total posts so far in ’22.) We’re grateful for the reader support that made these articles possible, and excited to grow and expand our coverage in 2023.

Credit: Racket staff

22. The Best, Worst, and Most Middling New Foods of the 2022 Minnesota State Fair

Man, it felt good to get the ol’ City Pages review crew back together. Imagine the posse re-assembly montage from MacGruber minus… all the impending deaths. Back at CP, we took great pride is offering the most discerning (some would save negative) State Fair food takes, but hey: This stuff is expensive and you’ve only got so much gut real estate. Long live our proprietary, peerless, and pitiless Scarf!, Shrug, Skip system!

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21. The 12 Most Underrated Bars in the Twin Cities

Here’s the thing: Most bars in town are properly rated. Cuzzy’s, 19 Bar, Palmer’s, 331? Everybody knows they rule. Wild Greg’s (RIP, Gov. Walz is surely dancing on its grave), Pourhouse, Blarney’s, Thr3 Jack? Trust your gut. The underrated bars we highlighted fit a sneaky under-the-radar definition—regulars are in on the secret, but that barroom magic is mostly localized. Typically, these spots, new and old, occupy the enviable niche of “neighborhood bar.” It’s a loving but limiting term. Why shouldn’t these places, with all their comfort and charm and reasonable prices, be worth a journey across town? We hope readers made the boozy pilgrimages.

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20. Here’s What Makes Eden Prairie’s New, Massive Asia Mall Worth the Trip

The most recent entry, courtesy of freelancer Natalia Mendez. Nat acted as an engaging tour guide, taking folks from from displays of “toddler-sized jackfruits” to rows of “glistening ducks” and, eventually, to the “catbot” servers that serve up hot pot. “Even if Eden Prairie is a little out of the way, Asia Mall is well worth the drive to experience some of the best Asian flavors the Twin Cities metro has to offer under one roof,” Mendez concludes.

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19. Wanna Buy Mike Zimmer’s Massive Inver Grove Heights Home?

A theme on this list (and, really, throughout my career) is competing outlets seizing on real estate scoops like this one days or even weeks after I break ’em. Sometimes you’ll get the ol’ courtesy H/T, more often you won’t. But am I bitter about it? Impossible to tell. (Wanna Buy stories are over-represented on the top 22 of ’22 due to, well, reader demand.) Anyway, Zim skipped town after being fired from the Vikes. Subsequent headlines have involved the locker room’s apparent distaste for him and, tragically, the death of his son. Reports recently emerged that Zimmer is coming aboard new head coach Deion Sanders’s staff at Colorado, though they’ve been disputed. Indisputable: His massive old house is tasteful yet boring, and it sold (slightly below asking price) for $1.8 million.

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18. Wanna Buy Ex-Vikings GM Rick Spielman’s House?

If there’s a theme to this blurb and the previous one? “Ousted sports dudes unloading their Minnesota abodes.” The former Vikes GM sold the most modest example, a 5,622-square-foot Eden Prairie home he sold for $5,000 above asking price: $980,000.

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17. I Waited In Line for 75 Minutes to Try Minnesota’s First Korean Hot Dog Joint

This feels like 10,000 years ago. Like some sort of dumbass, I wore a parka, softshell jacket, and sweatshirt in the 63-degree April heat, though my protracted corn dog journey proved worth the wait. As local food coverage focuses on $500 semiprivate dinnersGavin Kaysen’s ode to the French Riviera inside the city’s only five-star hotel, and idly rich Minnesotans deciding to make wine in Napa Valley, I was happy to sing the praises of a tasty, fun, $5 lunch. Good news, should you decide to visit in December: Lines no longer snake around the Dinkytown block.

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16. Remembering One of the Last Punk Houses In South Minneapolis

I’ll flex our “value proposition” here for a second. Where else ya gonna get this sort of coverage, folks? This remembrance tracks 3504 Columbus Ave. from its 1902 to origins, through its years of sheltering housewives, and to its most recent identity as “The House of Lard”—a much-loved basement show venue that recently fell to gentrification. “It was one of the last houses in Minneapolis that had true punk squatter vibes,” former resident Jack Dzik told me. “With the scale of shows that we were having… there are just very, very little DIY spaces in the city of that caliber. But also it’s energizing to start that up somewhere new.”

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15. Twin Cities Dairy Queens, Ranked

This one sells itself. Hop into the comment section and renew the sweet debate that freelancer Dan Samorodnitsky sparked at the height of ice cream weather. (At press time, it’s 11 degrees.)

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14. The Lost Lakes of Minneapolis

Josh Biber, the founder of newish website The Minnesota Historian, has been a wonderful addition to the Racket Cinematic Universe. Here, he unearthed the bodies of water that once dominated current-day Pearl Park, the Minneapolis Farmers Market, and Columbia Golf Course. Thematically, Biber is mindful of the things we’ve lost while never glorifying the past. His storytelling extends to historical characters, like last week’s very popular piece on the Lake Minnetonka hermit brothers.

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13. Wanna Buy This Affordable Hobbit House Just 30 Minutes East of St. Paul?

The former owner sent me the following sweet note: “I just wanted to let you know I really enjoyed the article and the research and context you provided. We did get an overwhelming response for showings. Thanks for the feature!” Aww. His whimsical property sold almost instantly for $356,000, about $40K over asking.

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12. Hardee’s GM on Lindell FBI Raid: ‘I Know For a Fact It Didn’t Happen’

I’ve enjoyed playing the voicemail of Lindell—audibly enraged and chewing, barking insults at me—so very much. “Write your crap, nobody reads your garbage anyway,” the My Pillow guy told me over the phone. “It really happened, it was at the Mankato Hardee’s… You’re some kind of weird bot-troll—don’t call me again, you’re a disgusting human being.” We never attained closure on his (ultimately inconsequential) story, into which Hardee’s GM Adam Mahowald poked several holes. Interesting behind-the-scenes tidbit: As an exercise in absurdism, I initially planned to only question about the burger itself. But that’s before the burger’s origins came into question…

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11. Wanna Buy a Minneapolis Home Directly Next to a 92-Year-Old Grain Elevator?

“It’s mostly… ‘What is that?’” listing agent Victoria Edick told me with a chuckle while describing potential buyers encountering the towering grain silo. “I had one person say that it’d be nice to play racquetball against it. I said ‘For sure! From the kitchen, from the upstairs…’” This story was so fun to report, but the modest home was quickly pulled from the market. Come for the novelty property, stick around for the neat history on cylindrical, elevator-style grain silos.

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10. What the Hell Has Been Going On at MPR?

I’m very proud of this one, and thankful for all the workers who opened up to me. Its lesson—that preening nonprofits positioning themselves as public services are often run like heartless for-profits—is hardly isolated to Minnesota Public Radio.

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9. What’s the Most Expensive Twin Cities Supermarket Chain?

A reader question spurred your ever-frugal Racket staffers, who are feeling the ol’ inflation squeeze along with the rest of you, into action. In July, we set out with a list of more than 30 items a person might purchase on a “typical” grocery run: bread, canned goods, beverages, cheese, produce, coffee, eggs, snacks, pantry staples. We emerged with a side-by-side, as-scientific-as-possible price survey of Cub, Lunds & Byerlys, Kowalski’s, Target, and Hy-Vee. Our most popular grocery story since we taste tested the rotisserie chickens, a timeless piece of journalism that remains our website’s most-read story of all-time.

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8. Who Is Brooke Fleetwood, the Airbnb/Beauty Mogul Who’s Often at War with Hudson, WI?

“The boob sweat is getting everyone 😂,” the mysterious regional personality DM’d me after publication. “I was wondering why the OF was blowing up.”

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7. Wanna Buy a Legit 1940s Castle on the St. Croix River?

“It was built for the MacMillan family, who were cousins of the Cargills,” owner John Norusis told me in 2019. “It’s a really unique, special place; it’s literally something out of a fairy tale.” Read the story for much, much more on Norusis’s non-fairy tale battles with city hall over the vacation-rental status of his riverside castle.

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6. What’s the Deal with Winnipeg?

Let’s hear from freelance writer Ian Ringgenberg, our travelogue ace:

“It’s been a blast to see how many people connected with this story and shared my curiosity about Winnipeg, and I’m still sort of in awe that this all came together as it did — from pithy posts to an amateur travel journalist career in two months. When we write eulogies for Twitter in 2023, I hope we don’t forget about the way it enables us ordinary salt-of-the-earth people a chance to bully both a tourism bureau and independent alternative journalism outlet into supporting our vanity travel projects.”

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5. 14 Things I Learned at the Grand Opening of the Taco Bell of the Future

Only one brave, Tevas-rockin’ reporter was willing to expose the truth: Everything is dumb.

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4. A Tiny MN Town Bought its Old School for $1 and Turned it Into an Airbnb

The northwestern Minnesota town of Middle River, population 304, happens to be our state’s goose capital. That’s why the newspaper is called The Honker, and it was the thrill of my lifetime to have this story reprinted in that very paper.

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3. 69 Things We Wish We Knew Before We Moved to the Twin Cities

Here’s something you may or may not know about Racket: Three of our four staffers were not born in Minnesota. We weren’t even raised here. We moved here as adults, and will never be 100% true authentic Minnesotans. (The exception: Jay is south Minneapolis born and raised, a fact he lords over us all relentlessly.) Like other transplants, Em and Jessica and Keith had to learn their way around, which means we’ve got our own perspectives on this place. One day, while sitting around the (nonexistent) Racket office, we started wondering what would have been helpful, or at least interesting, to know before we got here. So we did what all time-strapped 21st-century journalists do: We asked Twitter. And Twitter answered. A good 90% of the responses were about how hard it is to make friends with Minnesotans or to drive on the freeways. We incorporated some of that Twitter input, along with suggestions from other Racket pals, into a list that (hopefully!) entertained and enlightened.

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2. Wanna Buy a 440-Square-Foot, 99-Year-Old Tiny Home in South Minneapolis?

We’ve found that readers gravitate toward properties along all levels of the economic ladder. Tiny houses are a reliable hit. Bizarre geographic placement—like here and here—has been a proven winner. No. 4 on this very list, a story about a tiny Minnesota town banding together to save its abandoned schoolhouse through Airbnb, remains the fifth most-read in our website’s history. It’s heartening to know that an old building with a good story can rack up similar clicks to the cheap heat of a staggering price tag. “It’s pretty darn tiny, but it’s so cute–it’s like a dollhouse,” listing agent Niki Moeller told me of the cottage cutie at 4634 Bloomington Ave. Buyers apparently agreed—the place got snapped up for $180,000.

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1. ‘It Felt Like a Gut Punch’: Service Industry Workers Alarmed by Kim Bartmann’s James Beard Nom

This is the type of story Racket is always striving to tell, whether we’re talking about railroad workers, museum workers, or service industry workers. “I was surprised and disappointed [by the award nomination],” Mely, a former Bartmann Group employee who worked at several of the company’s restaurants from 2014 until the pandemic, told our Em Cassel. “The dust hasn’t even settled from the [$230,000 wage theft] case. Some employees still await payment. And she’s knowingly accepting a nomination that she’s publicly violated the ethics of.”

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