We debuted Ask Racket late last year as a subscriber-exclusive perk and then, as idiots like to say, life got in the way. But now, after months of silent outcry from readers, we’re bringing the, uh, beloved series back with another batch of real Qs we fielded last night from real Racket readers.
The goal is to have readers inundate us with trivial questions, providing riffy fodder to bullshit about. You didn’t fail. (And, just as with Vol. 1, we also received fantastic, reporting-dependent suggestions for future coverage—keep ‘em coming.) The volume of responses was actually super endearing, so we’ll be sure to deploy Ask Racket with proper regularity in the future.
Ideally, the questions below will serve as conversational prompts for y’all to sound off in the comments. Sounding off in the comments, after all, is one of the foundational rights afforded to all paying Racket subscribers. Think of it like local Reddit threads except, mercifully, not entirely populated by neck-bearded men.
How many of your staff are fans of Conny’s Creamy Cone in North End, St. Paul? Alternatively, what cool little neighborhood shacks are y’all fans of?—Andrew
Jay: Never heard of it! Most of St. Paul is a mystery to me, honestly. Born and raised in south Minneapolis, baby, a fact I never shut up about. In terms of cool little neighborhood shacks, the trendy choice would be to cite Dave’s Popcorn which now, of course, has been chef’d up and reimagined as Milkjam Ice Cream & Hot Dogs. But if I’m being honest, the closest thing to an answer in my life is the DQ at 60th & Portland, where I worked as a youth and still grab Blizzards at to this day. Fun fact: I once made NFL legend Larry Fitzgerald a banana split there and he didn’t tip.
Em: I love Conny’s!!! There was a period after the untimely death of City Pages and before the triumphant debut of Racket where I did some blogging for Sidewalk Dog, the Twin Cities’ preeminent canine publication, and in updating old stories I came across one about dog-friendly ice cream shops. That’s how I discovered Conny’s, which absolutely rules. If we’re talkin’ favorite neighborhood scoop shops though, I gotta give it up for Minnehaha Scoop and the 38th Street DQ, which—apologies to Jay—is the superior DQ.
What’s the REVERSE Mount Rushmore of neighborhoods in the Twin Cities?—Cody
Jay: It’s gotta be North Loop (Uptown for those making six figures); Gateway District (architectural treasure destroyed by urban renewal); Northrop (simply to shoehorn a rivalry with my beloved Field); and Como Park (needs work up the nerve to annex Falcon Heights, thus un-suburbanizing the State Fair).
Keith: What Jay meant to say was, Racket loves all the neighborhoods equally. (To paraphrase Michael Jordan, North Loop residents buy website subscriptions too.) There are some suburbs I’d talk shit about though.
What are the odds that Minnesota would ever be annexed by Canada? We’re Canada Lite already, and plenty of people want this.—Lindsey
Jay: I would say slim, given the power imbalance that tips heavily toward our monstrous empire. That said, I’d love to renounce my citizenship without the hassle of moving. Healthcare, poutine, not spending 3.5% of GDP on bombs—sign me up! For more on Minnesotans and Canada, be sure to check out Ian Ringgenberg’s recent travelog on Winnipeg.
Keith: Canada’s got enough problems of its own—why would it want ours? Honestly, annexing/seceding talk has bummed me out since the whole 2004 “Jesusland” map thing. Whenever we talk about “good Americans” escaping from the “bad Americans,” even as a joke, we’re ignoring everyone who’d get left behind in the “bad” parts of the country. I can’t think of anything I’ve done personally that entitles me to a seat on the lifeboat. Anyway, we’re not as special up here as we think we are—in 2020, more people voted for Trump in Minnesota than they did in Alabama, and about 3.5 million more Texans than Minnesotans voted for Biden.
Can you tell us about the worst date each Racket staffer has gone on in the Twin Cities?—Jason
Em: When I was still new to the Twin Cities, I met, like, every single person from Tinder who seemed “fine” at the CC Club. I don’t know! It was close to my apartment and it was the bar from that Motion City Soundtrack song. Unsurprisingly, none of these dozen-odd drunken interactions led to a more meaningful long-term connection, but on the plus side I got to repeatedly endure the humiliating Twin Cities rite of passage that is running into people you’ve briefly dated while on a date with someone else.
Keith: Lol, what’s a date? Seriously, though, I once went on a first date to see Bela Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies, a slow, somber two-and-a-half hour Hungarian movie that, if I remember right, somehow includes a four-hour scene of someone just walking, alone. But while that was a little awkward, it wasn’t exactly disastrous—we went out a time or two after that I think, and we’re still on friendly terms. My dating life has been characterized more often by small, cumulatively demoralizing disappointments rather than sudden disasters—like life itself, when you think about it.
Are the ceilings at Saint Paul City Hall REALLY gold or is that a crock of shit?—T. Basgen
Jay: “23½ karat gold leaf,” according to Ramsey County brochure writers, who could be full of shit as far as I know.
Keith: Let’s just let St. Paul have this, OK?
What is the lamest/most boring top 10 list you can muster?—Taylor
Keith: If we tell you now, we won’t be able to run them later.
Jay: National PR outlets are constantly firehosing our inboxes with examples of your question. Just this morning the “language experts” at writing app ProWriting Aid supplied us with “12 Gen Z Slang Phrases You Need to Know.” Among them: skrrt (“An expression of excitement”); cheugy (“Unsuccessfully trying to be trendy”); and OK boomer (“To dismiss the opinion of the older generation”). How this pitch could ever translate to more downloads of ProWriting Aid… I have no idea. Certainly lame and boring though.
What is the best film ever made in Minnesota?—Caroline
Em: I gotta go with Drop Dead Gorgeous—not just the best film ever made in Minnesota, but one of the best films ever made. (Take that, The Godfather!)
Jay: If I’m being real with you, A Serious Man, which is maybe Top 5 Coen bros for me. If I’m plugging my website, Jingle All the Way, which I wrote a massive oral history on late last year.
Keith: Yeah, if we’re going Coens, I’d give A Serious Man the nod over Fargo, not just for quality but also because of the local color: Ron Meshbesher namedrop, Aqua City Motel backdrop, the pervasive St. Louis Park-iness of it all. Who else is ever gonna make a movie about the Jewish experience in Minnesota? But even though it’s not set or filmed entirely in Minnesota (and even if it doesn’t nail our stereotypes too well—Eddie Albert is too brusque, Cybil Shepherd’s not Nordic enough, though both are great) Elaine May’s The Heartbreak Kid (the original, from 1972) is just a monstrous gutting of the sociopathic go-getter, follow-your-heart ideal that American romcoms would nonetheless choose to double-down on afterward.
How did I miss Keith Harris, co-founder of Racket, gabbing about the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival on KBEM Jazz 88?! Podcast, schmodcast, there’s nothing like tuning into your local station.—Pinky
Em: I try not to be all “guy who doesn’t own a TV” about this, but I don’t listen to podcasts! I absolutely love radio, and I hope this isn’t blowing up anyone’s spot, but in certain south Minneapolis neighborhoods you can tune into a really great pirate station at 87.9. I highly recommend tuning in, I promise it’ll be a refreshing departure from whatever Spotify’s algorithms have been serving you.
Jay: I love Radio K (particularly the DJ banter) and podcasts (particularly Doughboys). Sue me!
Keith: I’m bad at self-promotion, sorry! Here’s a link to what you missed. The wonderful Reed Williams invites me to jabber on Jazz 88’s The Morning Show one Friday a month, though for scheduling purposes, this month my appearance fell on a Thursday. I’ll start giving folks a heads up about these spots.
We all hear about the buzz of Twin Cities restaurants, but what are your favorite restaurants in the T.C. suburbs?—Pejmon
Em: Does the Margaritaville at the Mall of America count? I also love Sandy’s in Richfield and, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Travail Kitchen + Amusements in Robbinsdale, which gives me an excuse to visit the wonderful Video Universe.
Jay: Most of my takeout comes from two places, both of them in south Minneapolis: Quang and Heather’s. But, while assembling this ranking of the best local pizza chains, we did venture outside city limits and discovered Pizza Karma, a nice Indian-style pizza joint with locations in Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, and Blaine. Your question is terrific, though, and as the suburbs become more diverse and less Applebeesy, Racket should absolutely start exploring the mom ‘n’ pop establishments that are popping up with great abundance.
Keith: This is a great question. My friend Andy and I have done some suburban roaming over the past couple years, and we’ve learned that almost every town has some unique joint worth checking out, restaurants that’ll give you a little insight into the burb’s identity that’s hard to pick up on when you’re just passing through. These spots get way too little coverage, I agree. If anyone’s gonna find themselves in an unfamiliar blurb, I totally recommend scouting around online before you head out there. One area where I’d really like to eat around some more is Brooklyn Center, which has a large pan-African community and, therefore, lots of good African food. Start with Jambo Africa, a “Kenyan-Liberian” restaurant, a fusion that could maybe only happen in the Minnesota suburbs.
How can I “Ask Racket,” you ask? Well, you just did! But there’s a more formal process too. First, you have to subscribe, which, really, why wouldn’t you anyway? Then, you’ll eagerly scan your inbox for a periodic email from Racket inviting your questions. Then maybe we’ll answer them. It’s that simple! (And yet it took us so many words to explain it.)