Some of your friends have been/will be posting shots of their brightly-polished toes on a beach as they Spring Break coastally somewhere. If your Frequent Flyer points weren't up to snuff this year, or you just decided to put your pennies in other places, you can still get some worthy out-of-town pics to post, especially if you head south to the SPAM Museum. No matter how you feel about canned meat, it's an international point of interest that you should visit at least once. Jake the 14yo and I did!
Point your car south, and plan for it take you from 1-2 hours (depending where you start in the metro) to get to Austin, MN. When you get there, you can't miss it. Right in the middle of town, on Main Street, is the SPAM. And tours are FREE.
Amble in and they'll set you up with a little info pamphlet and some tips about where to start. It is SPAM wonderland for sure, bright and modern, chock-full of local and global history, complete with challenge games and a play area.
We learned the following things: SPAM was named thusly during a cocktail party, it fed millions of people during WWII wartime shortages, and the Japanese Spammy-kun mascot with its accompanying hip-hop video is comedy gold. Also, there's a whole little section devoted to shaming the guy who embezzled a bunch of money from the Hormel company in the 1900's, which is SO us.
Of course you'll wind up in the SPAM store, but besides SPAM wine glasses, SPAM mousepads, and SPAM t-shirts, you'll find something very important: International SPAM. Tins from all over the world that you'll never find in your grocery store are neatly stacked for purchase. Portuguese, Japanese, South American versions for all! And who says you can't have an international dinner tonight!?
Once you're done, you'll be hungry. Head over the The Tendermaid to sample an icon of eating from days past: the loose meat burger.
The tiny building around the corner has two doors, one for each side of the counter. Sidle in and find a stool, order your burger with lots of sauces and stuff (from ranch to bacon to cheese to salsa), or go classic and choose cheese and pickle. They'll scoop the browned meat from the center bin and wrap it all up nicely for you in a few seconds flat. Fast and steaming. It's like a sloppy joe without the sloppy, though it's the only burger I know that comes with a spoon. Jake was a little hesitant, but in the end he had two. After a round of shakes, we were off.
Heading north, we decided to detour in Faribault and pick up some cheese, as one does. You can't tour the cheese caves of Faribault anymore, but you can visit The Cheese Cave right downtown. This is more than just the Faribault Dairy's factory store, it's a wine bar and restaurant with sandwiches, salads, and some benchmarking grilled cheese sammies. Jake and I sat and played cards as we snacked on a meat and cheese platter, and while we were hanging out, the staff kept bringing around samples of other cheeses from the case. Not only cave-aged blues, but some really rich gouda that we ended up buying for home.
Next door we spied a very cute bake shop, Bluebird Cakery, and thought it prudent to pop in. We scored a Sugar Cookie Dough cupcake and a giant cinnamon roll, that we thought would make good car treats in an hour or so. We were right.
If it had been open, we would have popped by the F-Town Brewing Co. and grabbed a couple of cans. Their beer is tasty and that taproom is cool, not too far a walk from the river. P.S. This weekend is Faribault Flannel Formal which is a big street party with bonfires, lumberjack games, live music and hotdish, if you're so inclined to make the trip!
After that, we were pretty much full, so after a stroll around the town, we headed back to the metro with all our SoMN swag and a trunk-load of SPAM. Beach, shmeach, we got meat and cheese.