By Claire Colby
Editor’s note: This is the first in a new series of articles. We give a writer $30 to spend in a given city and… that’s it. The rest is up to them. For our inaugural piece, we sent Post-Bulletin newsroom intern Claire Colby into downtown Rochester, armed with three ten dollar bills and her instincts. Here is her account:
We started the evening with grand, exciting plans. We were going to grab food from the People’s Food Co-op, hike around Quarry Hill and have a picnic, then do dessert on Chester’s outdoor patio before finishing the night with some live music at Café Steam. Our plan would completely maximize our thirty dollar spending cap and allow for some pretty cool adventures.
But when I met Maya, my partner-in-crime for the evening, at about six, it quickly became clear that the weather would not be cooperating. The sky was thick with dark clouds that promised to completely soak us, throwing a major wrench in our outdoor-focused plans.
We had a prolonged powwow, discussing our options for the night. After much debate, we decided to just have dinner downtown. It wasn’t as exciting as our original plan, but we were hungry and determined to make the most out of the night.
We parked in the ramp across the street from the Half Barrel, and I prepared to spend the first couple bucks of the night on parking. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that parking was actually free on the weekends and after 5 p.m. It was $4 that could instead go to food, which wasn’t a bad thing in my book.
It was my first time at the Half Barrel and I’m honestly disappointed I hadn’t tried it out sooner. We walked in and I was immediately impressed by its downtown vibe. It was the type of place that would belong in city bigger than Rochester, and it was completely packed. The hostess led us to a table in the back corner and handed us some menus. Maya and I are arguably the least decisive people in the world, so we were both slightly overwhelmed by the amount of appealing offerings on the menu.
“Do you want to just split a pizza and a salad?” she asked, and I immediately agreed, happy to have my decision made for me. We (she) decided on the margarita flatbread ($12) and the market salad ($12). The pizza was definitely sharing size, and it was absolutely delicious. It had a cracker-thin crust, just the right amount of mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, basil, and a generous amount of garlic. The market salad featured spiraled cucumbers, grape tomatoes, and asparagus. It was the perfect amount of food, and we left feeling pretty good about our choices. Another $5 went towards a tip, leaving us with just $1 more to spend.
We weren’t quite ready to end the night just yet, so we decided to head to Café Steam for open mic night. I ordered an “Amanda Palmer”, a drink made from steeping mint leaves in lemonade and honey. I cheated and spent $3.50 on my drink, bringing our grand total to $32.50. We stayed for a while and admired the various local musical talents before heading home to binge-watch some old episodes of The Office.
In the end, we didn’t have the night we planned. Some things are totally out of my control, and the unpredictability of Minnesota’s summer weather is pretty much on the top of that list. Even though we had to adjust our plans, it was still a fun night.