Tin Bins

IMG_0914Eating by the St. Croix River during a balmy summer or fall day in Stillwater, Minnesota makes any meal a tranquil experience. Savoring breakfasts, sandwiches, or salads as delicious as the fare offered by Tin Bins is an added bonus. Fresh bakery goods, coffees and espressos tempt from the moment you approach the counter to place your order. Regulars and first-time visitors line up for just a pastry and a cup of joe, or for a tasty breakfast, fresh lunch, or light dinner. If you’ve come for a meal and not just drinks and treats, there’s plenty of interesting options to choose from.

The basket pictured here housed a toasted ciabatta bun with Rondelé garlic cheese spread and honey toasted pecans, with sliced apples and provolone as well. My sandwich had ham added, a suggestion from our server. I had commented on the sandwich being vegetarian, and she’d said, “Oh, you can add some ham, and then get a side salad of greens and strawberries.” It sounded great, so I agreed. Then when my meal was delivered, there were huge chopped ham chunks plopped on top of the salad. Apparently I gave a colossal eye-roll at the error, which cracked up my cousin Vonnie as I marched back into the kitchen to ask for slices on my sandwich…instead of cubes smothering the greens. Once the situation was amended, I thoroughly enjoyed the salad that was loaded with tender greens, fresh berries, and drizzled with a zesty vinaigrette. The toasted bread warmed the herbed cheese and honey pecans, making for a wonderfully light and tasty sandwich. My other relatives enjoyed their meals as well—the fresh ingredients were perfect parings with the herbs and seasonings.

Tin Bins doesn’t just offer interesting food—the history of the place is intriguing as well. The grain elevator structure tells you of it’s humble beginnings. Then the place had a stint as a climbing gym and outdoor clothing store called Otterfitters. Next Mike McGuire, one of the owners of the neighboring Dock Cafe bought the building to provide a venue a little different than the Dock, a place with a European coffee shop vibe. To further the Euro flare, the Tin Bins offers poetry readings on Thursday nights, and bands or acoustic guitar on Friday and Saturday evenings. Even with all that evening entertainment available, they say breakfast is their most popular meal. Whether you go for breakfast, lunch or dinner, patrons settle in at the outdoor patio or trendy tables indoors, and are in no hurry to leave their serene surroundings.

Tin Bins

413 Nelson Street East, Stillwater, MN 55082
(651) 342-0799
Parking available next to building.

Current Hours

Monday–Wednesday: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday schedule varies due to poetry readings: usually 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., bands or acoustic guitar
Sunday: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Visit tinbinscafe.com for current entertainment schedule and menu.

Nelson’s Ice Cream

FullSizeRender-2I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! If ice cream makes you holler, then head to one of Nelson’s Ice Cream shops in Stillwater or St. Paul, Minnesota. My husband and I joined the throngs of folks waiting in line one balmy Friday night for the most generously scooped ice cream cones I’ve ever seen. With 40-plus tantalizing flavors of Brown’s ice cream to choose from, you need the wait in line to give you time to make up your mind. If you’re still torn between your multitude of options when your server yells “Next!”, don’t panic. They’ll let you have two flavors per cone or cup.

FullSizeRender-1As you can see from the picture of my Toasted Almond Fudge cone (being scooped by smiling server Dan), even the “child-size” cone is beyond belief. We used to joke when our kids were little that they weren’t supposed to eat anything bigger than their heads. At Nelson’s, you’d be hard-pressed to find a child’s head smaller than the ice cream cone on which they are blissfully licking away. I don’t know how anyone could possibly finish the Lumberjack—five mammoth scoops of any flavor served in a bowl with your choice of toppings. Judging from the Wall of Fame reserved for those who’ve downed the monstrous mound, it’s a task best accomplished by growing teenage boys.

FullSizeRenderWithin the forty or so flavors, there are a few sherbet and frozen yogurt options sprinkled in. And don’t forget about Nelson’s infamous Superman ice cream—a trio of tie-dyed neon yellow vanilla, blue raspberry, and pink cherry that’s especially popular with the younger crowd. I’m fond of their waffle cones, and the reward for making it through the first scoop or two, is getting a bite of the crispy cookie-like crunch along with the delectable ice cream. It’s worth the dollar up-charge— $4.50 instead of $3.50—to get a waffle cone over a cup or cone. Your only issue with Nelson’s Ice Cream shop might be finding it. The St. Paul shop is obvious enough on Snelling Avenue, but the Stillwater store isn’t part of the bustling downtown. It’s off the beaten path at the intersections of Greeley and Olive, up the hill from the main business district. But if you really love ice cream, you’ll find it. And you’ll be so glad you did.