Natives will tell you that it’s all about going local in Northfield, Minn., a quaint hamlet north of Rochester, home to both St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges. Hit the eateries, shops and streets and you might not find much of anything — be it a bite to eat, a glass to drink or an item to buy — that wasn’t crafted or made within the region. Well, that might be stretching it a bit, but not far.
Our trio’s only mistake was arriving too late one serene February Sunday to eat at the Ole Store Restaurant, 1011 St Olaf Ave., known by locals as the premier place to dine in Northfield. Its menu is chef-driven and, yes, locally-sourced. The restaurant is situated in an old house near the St. Olaf campus. Since the Ole Store closes at 1 p.m. on Sundays and we were hoping to enjoy a late lunch, we regrouped and headed to a completely different aesthetic at Fielder’s Choice Tap & Table, 2300 Gleason Ct.— a sports bar and brew pub on the edge of town complete with tons of beers on tap and a satisfying menu. We devoured the tantalizing steak crostini app then dove into our ribs, avocado BLT, and burger, respectively.
If time isn’t on your side, the hoagies at Hogan Brothers on Division Street hit the spot, and you can even register support for the college of your choice thanks to competing tip jars. St. Olaf-attending students who are toiling get their jar’s tips, and Carleton kids get theirs.
When it’s time for caffeine, there’s nowhere to go but the Goodbye Blue Monday Coffeehouse, also on Division Street. Heck, just park your ride and walk this street. It’s a smaller version of Madison’s State Street — everything happens here. The eclectic decor matches the name at Blue Monday, where students study, locals gab, and patrons divide their time between scrolling through their phones and debating the news of the day.
The wares at swag are as cool as the name. I bought ornaments here, a cabin-themed puzzle for my parents, who reside in a cabin, and more. If impulse buying is what you are after, swag is the place for you. Everything will shout “buy me!” so run a tally of what you’re spending as you stroll through the shop, and don’t be surprised if the clerk/owner strikes up a rowdy conversation as you do. You’re in Northfield, so go with it.
Cooks and wannabe cooks must hit The Measuring Cup: A Kitchen Collective for everything kitchen-related, and down the way just off Division Street is Northfield Olive Oils & Vinegars selling, yep, scores of just that.
The Sketchy Artist, Antiques of Northfield and Aquatic Pets Plus are must go-tos along Division, too, and don’t forego a chance to hit Ragstock too. You never know what you’re going to find at these stores, which makes it all the more fun to wander the aisles asking yourself — do I really need a vintage gumball machine or another adult coloring book? Who cares, get it!
If you’re wondering what to “do” in Northfield, first stops are the two college campuses. With their supreme architecture and impressive landscaping, these are draws for anyone visiting Northfield. Then traipse over to Stanton Airfield, 1235 Hwy 19 Blvd, Dennison, where volunteers will show you around the small but intriguing airfield. You can even take a glider ride!
If you’re visiting on a warm, spring day, visit the Just Food Co-Op on Water Street and grab an array of delectables for a picnic. Then head over to Carleton nearby and find a bench, well, anywhere to enjoy your spread.
Other musts when in Northfield are Red Barn Farm, open seasonally and selling wood-fired za, and then Keepsake Cidery just across the border in Dundas for their seasonal shindigs. The cidery will be open every Saturday starting in April, and if you’re interested in attending a seasonal shindig just get on their email list or like them on Facebook to score an invite to mix and mingle among the crunchy granola Northfield peeps.