A few days ago, Minneapolis hosted the 52nd SUPER BOWL.

And I am PLEASED…PROUD…(VERY PROUD) not to mention SHOCKED AND AWED (as well as SURPRISED and ASTOUNDED) at the number of celebrities in town for the event – and by how SO MANY OF THEM seemed to adopt MANNY’S STEAKHOUSE as their “go-to” dinner hangout.

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, on radio and TV as well as in the newspaper, said….”I went to the famous Manny’s Steakhouse last night and had a steak that was bigger than me. Then I went to bed and slept for 12 hours.”

My Dad always told me that “SELF-PRAISE STINKS”…

… but I can’t help myself. I am IN AWE of our MANNY’S STAFF and the care, quality and efficiency they displayed during the biggest week in our 30-year history.

I’m reminded of what the management guru, Tom Peters, said about how “your customers will never be happier than your staff.” Well, at Manny’s last week, there were smiles all over the place – not just from our guests, but also from servers, cooks, managers, supervisors, bartenders, hosts, dishwashers, cocktailers and wait assistants. Manny’s was one NON-STOP “buzzy” and happy place.

In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, we got a call from our friend and colleague from Indianapolis, Craig Huse, owner of ST. ELMO’S STEAKHOUSE (listed with Manny’s as one of the Top 10 Steakhouses in America). His city hosted the Super Bowl a few years ago, and he told us, “It will be the most electric and rewarding week you’ll ever have in the restaurant business – one you’ll remember for the rest of your life.” HOW TRUE!


Just check out the images below (especially those “KICK-ASS” SERVERS). I’m sure you’ll see some of the heart and soul of MANNY’S and why it’s managed to become a celebrity magnet.

Which prompts me to mention a couple of principles at the heart of MANNY’S.


We’re in this for the long run. That’s why we did not take advantage of the situation and raise prices during Super Bowl Week.


That’s why we turned down the Philadelphia Eagles when they requested A TOTAL BUY-OUT of the restaurant. Instead we “busted our butts” to do our best to make room for the local folks that support Manny’s day in and day out.


That’s why we don’t call the paparazzi or plant stories about sports figures, film stars, entertainers and socialites who dine with us. Manny’s needs to be their “safe place” in Minneapolis (and also where they can get a BIG HUNK OF COW!). That’s not to say we’re not proud that they’ve chosen our restaurant. In fact, we’ll often ask them if we can take their photo and put it on our wall. But if they say no, we respect that.

I’ll be honest: I’M A SUCKER FOR CELEBS. Maybe because I grew up in an isolated farm town in fly-over country, I’m tickled and grateful for their patronage.

But here’s one other secret to Manny’s success: We don’t treat celebrities any differently from our other guests. Yeah, we’ll help them enter and exit discreetly if that’s what they want, but their dining experience is the same as everyone else’s. They don’t get fawned over (or cordoned off); they just get taken care of. Because all of us – even celebrities – need a “night off” once in a while. And there’s no better place to kick back, enjoy life (and eat your weight in steak) than MANNY’S.

And speaking of gratitude: I’m REALLY GRATEFUL TO EVERYONE who made SUPER BOWL 52 such a SUCCESS for our city.

Thank you, Minnesota!




Bavaria, in the mountains of southern Germany, isn’t just beautiful, it scales the heights of German cuisine.

When Joanne and I used to fly Northwest Airlines to visit our daughter in Switzerland, the best option was to fly Minneapolis to Frankfurt and take a rental car south to Switzerland. Driving through the uninspiring central part of Germany, we would invariably stop at the same roadside restaurant and inn – can’t remember the name – but after an overnight flight, it was always a welcome stop at day’s end. The sausages were many and enormous; the mound of mashed potatoes, buttery and plentiful. And the beer came in giant frosty mugs. Comforting, yes. Filling, OMG yes. But that was about it.

In his piece, “Belly Bombs Away,” Calvin Trillin writes, “German food has determined the outcome of more wars than all other cuisines combined.” As he tells it, “For centuries, those nasty Prussians have vanquished foe after foe, battle after battle…UNTIL LUNCH…after which they were too stuffed to remount.”

Indeed. German food is BIG FOOD. The Germans favor hearty meals that include PORK, BEEF and POULTRY – in that order.

Many people find it too rich and too heavy. Some complain that’s not refined, even a little crude, and certainly not artful.

I happen to love it.

Lucky for me that we live in Minnesota, where we’re blessed with good choices.

One is GASTHOF BAVARIAN HUNTER, up near Stillwater, where we introduced our young grandkids to German food. Sausage, sauerkraut and Shirley Temples reigned at our table, while a giant sampling platter of pork, and more pork, chicken, dumplings and spaetzle delighted a family of four a couple of tables away.

Our daughter loves THE BLACK FOREST INN, especially during summer in the beer garden. The veal shank with spaetzle and the Jaeger schnitzel both delight on a cold February night. Do not miss the APPLE STRUDEL here.

And by the way, I loved their ad campaign poking good-natured fun at the stoic, humorless reputation of Germans.

So not only is German food big, it can be weird…and it can be delightful.

Witness the “gut-busting” sausage platter below – but also the hedgehog-like creature called a HACKEPETER: raw minced pork and raw onion meant to be spread on toast. No thank you.

German LIMBURGER CHEESE has the dubious distinction of smelling like dirty, sweaty feet…with a fungal infection. Next to the hedgehog, check out the small wheels of HARZER KASE, a cheese well-suited for olfactory warfare. It’s great for dieters, I’m told; bad for your social life. This cheese will stink-up your refrigerator even if it’s wrapped. Eat it in a public place and people will move away from you.

However, the crispy pork schnitzels are divine. As is the seasonal white asparagus with Hollandaise and sliced steamed potatoes. That and a bottle of Riesling? YUM.

There is no rival in the world to the iconic APPLE STRUDEL (Remember how it was featured in Inglorious Bastards? If you don’t, the movie’s worth renting just for that scene.)

And what about GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE with its coconut-pecan frosting? I’m told that the recipe begins with “First, invade the kitchen.”

My first exposure to authentic German food was when I was in college and went to Chicago for a weekend. My uncle Ben took me to THE BERGHOFF in the heart of the Loop on West Adams Street. I was instantly transported to Germany via the kitschy décor (which I did not know was kitschy) and foods that I had never, ever seen or tasted before, with the possible exception of my Aunt Rose’s WARM GERMAN POTATO SALAD.

Dinner began with a sort of relish tray, except this one had liverwurst, pickled herring and stinky cheese. Next I ordered something called Sauerbraten (pot roast) with that ginger-snappy gravy…first time ever…and I got a minor tutorial on SCHNITZELS, including a simple breaded pork cutlet with a squeeze of lemon and its fancy brother, SCHNITZEL ala HOLSTEIN, topped with two fried eggs. (No beer for me at that age, because my uncle might tell my dad.) As I wolfed down my STRUDEL, the OOM-PAH BAND took the stage…

My memory of the world famous (and long ago closed) LUCHOW’S, the Grande Dame of German restaurants in New York, was being there with one of my New York clients. It was big – two or three floors – and heavily decorated with all of the Bavarian clichés. I was told that Paul Newman was a regular and that Lauren Bacall celebrated her 60th birthday there. But most of all I remember the big industrial scale in the entry, where the custom was for patrons to weigh-in before dinner and then weigh-in again afterward. My weight gain flirted with 2 pounds.

A closing that saddened me most was the shuttering of KARL RATZCH’S, a Milwaukee institution since 1904. KARL RATZCH’S was a Hollywood set – perfectly put together in every over-the-top design detail. It served two-fisted German cuisine accompanied by a danceable “whumppa” from the oom-pah band on stage. During our BUCA Milwaukee opening, Joanne and I went there probably a dozen times, the most memorable of which were during the festive holiday season when the place sparkled and glittered like a Christmas tree. So warm…so cozy…so safe.

The menu had the kind of stuff that most all German restaurants serve – schnitzels, sauerbraten, duck, goose, etc. – and an offering that was fantastic and absolutely new to me: a CRACKLING PORK SHANK (more about that later).

These emblematic German-American restaurants set the stage for me and my first encounter with Munich.

Like every American and Japanese tourist, we started with THE HOFBRAUHAUS, a few blocks from City Hall. It dubs itself the world’s most famous tavern, and who am I to disagree. It’s certainly the most distinctive, and probably the oldest – founded in 1589, with a capacity of probably 600 seats. The place has an energy that’s on steroids. It’s open 365 days a year and – a surprise to me – it’s owned by the Bavarian State Government. It’s a well-run, well-oiled machine.

You do not go to the HOFBRAUHAUS to dine, you go there to DRINK – and to eat giant pretzels with mustard. Most of all, you go there for a good time. The Hofbrauhaus is a beer hall that happens to serve food.

It’s probably best to go on the early side as things tend to get out of hand as the night progresses. Joanne and I were there with my 82-year-old mother and her 81-year-old sister, and by the time we left a 100-person CONGA line was singing and snaking through the crowded dining room, doing something that resembled the BUNNY HOP – only to the beat of the German oom-pah band. About the same time, a group of drunk Japanese businessmen were standing atop a table singing Lord knows what, loudly. Top that all off with more than a few guys passed out or sound asleep in their chairs.

With all that drinking, my guess is that the HOFBRAUHAUS must employ more than a couple of “VOMITEERS.”

Okay, okay, if you are tightly wound, DON’T GO. But if you can roll with it and not fight it,” I guarantee you a GOOD TIME.

Our Munich experience ended on a high culinary note. We came across the restaurant HOXNBAUER, a place that specializes in PORK SHANKS and VEAL SHANKS with crackling skin from the rotisserie. Steamed potatoes, potato dumplings and red cabbage round out the menu, and that’s about all they serve – whole shanks, half shanks, sliced shanks. But let me tell you: HOXNBAUER DOES SHANKS WELL! They sell ‘em by 100 gram units….or 4.50 euros per unit…..about thirty to forty bucks for a shank. We went twice.

Now here’s and interesting tidbit: The Wall Street Journal recently reviewed a book by Laura Shapiro, What She Ate, about Hitler’s mistress (and, in the final days, his wife), Eva Braun. “While prisoners starved in concentration camps, Braun joined the diners at Hitler’s well ladened table.” And she went on….”At the end, the inhabitants of Hitler’s bunker began blocking out reality with magnum after magnum.”

But here’s the thing: On their final day in the bunker – the day Hitler shot himself – he and Eva did not indulge in the fatherland’s cuisine. Shapiro writes, “Hitler is said to have eaten his final lunch of spaghetti and tomato sauce.”

Apparently more of a purist than the Fuhrer, Eva eschewed the Italian fare and went straight for the cyanide.




Philly has its Cheesesteak. Louisville, the Hot Brown. And Chicago has given us not just the Italian beef sandwich, but deepdish pizza and hotdogs “dragged through the garden.”

But who gave us the pork chop? Who can we thank for bacon? The gift of ham? Or the apotheosis of pigdom: the tenderloin? Glad you asked, because I’m from Kewanee, Illinois: THE HOG CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, where kids grow up Pork Proud.

As a typical, red-blooded young man, I was pretty social (some would say dorky, but f*** them), and I had my share of flirtations with the opposite sex. During my junior year of high school, I entered into my first romance, a mainly one-sided relationship with a girl named Bonnie.

She was sweet. She was beautiful. And every night we went out, I made it a point to shed her by 10:30 PM, because that gave me half an hour to make it to the local A&W ROOT BEER STAND and DRIVE IN before it closed promptly at 11 PM.

In the farmland of central Illinois, food is always your first love. I thought I loved Bonnie, but I LUSTED after A&W’s DEEP-FRIED SIGNATURE PORK TENDERLOIN SANDWICH. The flesh was flattened to the diameter of a frying pan, breaded and served hot and crispy, dwarfing the burger bun. And as luscious as Bonnie might have been, it was like comparing a horse and mouse – the horse wins because as fair and charming as Bonnie could be (usually)…(on occasion)…(okay, once, under the bleachers), the pork tenderloin never disappointed…was always supportive and there for me…and never, ever hinted that I was a dork. I was IN LOVE with a SANDWICH!

Now, I have to tell you that, to this day, there are deep-seeded resentments and arguments as to who originated the DEEP-FRIED PORK TENDERLOIN SANDWICH. Success has many fathers.

Some claim that the sandwich was birthed at THE HIGH LIFE LOUNGE in Des Moines, Iowa.

Yet legions of Hoosiers violently disagree. They insist that the blessed event took place at NICK’S KITCHEN in downtown Huntington, Indiana. The Indianapolis crowd say it was the INDIANA STATE FAIR.

But let’s get real: Iowa? Indiana? I think not.

A more viable candidate might be Peoria, Illinois, which calls itself “THE PORK TENDERLOIN CAPITAL OF THE WORLD.” It could have been invented at CASS’S PLACE by the Bradley Campus. Or maybe THE IGLOO.

One thing we can be certain of – and only one thing – is that the sandwich has its roots deep in the Midwest. And my money is on Illinois.

Evidently our hometown senator, Frank P. Johnson, thought the same way, because in 1947 he sponsored a bill that the Illinois State Legislature passed unanimously, paying tribute to “HIS ROYAL MAJESTY.. KING HOG.” The same bill singled out my hometown, KEWANEE, ILLINOIS, as “THE HOG CAPITAL OF THE WORLD!!!” (exclamation points might be mine).

Kewanee wasted no time in capitalizing on the official bestowment and hosted its first annual HOG DAY on Labor Day weekend of that year. The downtown streets were closed and renamed after iconic breeds of pig – DUROC AVENUE…HAMPSHIRE STREET…YORKSHIRE PLACE. The Hog Day parade was led down 2nd Avenue by a herd of Yorkshires and followed by batteries of high school bands and the renowned KEWANEE DRUM & BUGLE CORPS.

In the years that followed, Hog Day featured carnival rides and other attractions. A commemorative Hog Day decanter of Jim Beam Whiskey was commissioned. LITTLE MISS HOG DAY’s were crowned.

You can understand how, having grown up in a “hog culture,” I know more than a little about the original pork tenderloin sandwich (certainly more than those imposters who claim to have invented it). You can also understand why poor Bonnie got the boot at 10:30 so I could make it to the A&W.

Most important, you can trust me when I tell you that the PORK TENDERLOIN SANDWICH not only lives on, but has reached PERFECTION right here in Minneapolis, where I’ve introduced my beloved hometown “piggy treat” at LIBERTINE in Uptown.

Flattened to the size of a Manny’s Steak Platter, breaded with Panko bread crumbs, and dressed with tomato, pickles red onion and mayo, It’s dubbed THE OINKSTER.

Oh, and by the way, I never could get Bonnie to see things my way. Maybe if I’d loved her more than a sandwich – things might have turned out differently. We’ll never know.



P.S. – To celebrate the new OINKSTER, LIBERTINE will be offering the sandwich (including fries) for FIVE DOLLARS Sunday through Thursday nights during the month of September from 7 PM to close!

Yes, folks… you heard that right: $ 5.00 !!!!