The Free Press’ Best of Mankato 2015 Poll: Projected Winners


Well, folks, we’ve finally arrived at that crucial time for compiling best-of-the-year lists: Spring.

The Mankato Free Press has released its Best of Mankato 2015 poll, and while the list of categories is certainly exhaustive, the nominations seem rather arbitrary.

For instance, NaKato is nominated for breakfast, yet, perplexingly, not lunch or “hamburger and french fries.” Also, there’s a “fast food” category, pitting the likes of Wendy’s and Burger King against local establishments.

Additionally, The Wine Cafe’s Wine Rack offshoot was somehow left off the liquor store list, and upstart pubs and eateries such as The Bicker Inn, Ummie’s, and the Garden of Eat’n go totally unmentioned, while Taco Bell gets a nod under “Mexican cuisine.”

Curious as to why this list is/was so haphazard, at least in its initial form? Well, scope this nifty little note at the bottom:

“Don’t see your pick? Nominate your favorite below, let us know which category and we’ll get it added!”

Ah! That’s the reason why the ballot has ballooned since the first draft of this post.

What could be more professional than letting your readers compile your cultural data for you? And after they’ve already placed all of their votes?

Certainly not predicting the victors in an overly-cynical blog post.


Here’s what we’re banking on the voters of Mankato choosing as their Best of 2015, in various categories:


Breakfast – Perkins

Look, we’re just banking on sheer numbers here. No establishment so wholeheartedly captures such diverse demographics: Blue-haired octogenarians that need to kill time between trips to Menards; the coveted 18-to-34 pisshammered-at-three-a.m. crowd that cares little about their unthawed, barely-cooked eggs Benedict; youth-group teens that are trying their damnedest to fill their free time with anything but what their bodies are telling them to do (namely, ingest drugs and have sex).

It’s almost unfair.

Coffee Shop – Caribou Coffee

Give Minnesotans some credit. Even the most milquetoast of sprawl-shoppers will gravitate to a homegrown chain. And, honestly, we’re the only ones that can stomach Caribou’s 800-calorie concoctions. It’s like Dairy Queen…for breakfast!

Hamburger and French Fries – Culver’s

However, we’re not above sampling fare offered by our exotic neighbors to the east, who are the only ones with the guile to put butter on a goddamned hamburger and serve it with freaking cheese curds.


(Presented without comment.)

Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt – Cold Stone Creamery

Because it’s not a treat unless it makes you feel like dying.

Fast Food – Chipotle Mexican Grill

Seriously, have you been to this place at any hour of the day? It’s hey-there’s-a-new-restaurant-in-Mankato panic mode ALL THE TIME. The shine never wore off.

Plus, it’s right next to Wal-Mart.

Pizza – Papa Murphy’s

I mean, why dine out and interact with other humans when you can cook someone else’s food?

Don’t forget to stop by the nearest Redbox on the way back to your cardboard mansion in Skyline. Night At The Museum 7 just dropped.

Steak – Applebee’s

Barring the inclusion of Benderzzzzzzzzzz’s TUESDAY STEAK NIGHT, Applebee’s saline-injected sirloin will reign not only by virtue of its sumptuousness, but its affordability. Again, the Perkins formula is at play: If you can nail down the high school / Social Security recipient ends of the spectrum, you’re gold.


If those faux grill marks don’t speak to your soul, your soul is probably a dick.

Sub / Sandwich Shop – Jersey Mike’s

This will win because, somehow, it was listed twice on the ballot. This could be because there are two locations (both located in strip malls adjacent to superior fast food outposts), but it’s most likely due to the fact that the Free Press’ editors are terrible.

Mexican Cuisine – Taco Bell

One of the best things about the southwestern Minnesota is the glut of quality Mexican restaurants, but since college students can only afford Baja Blast and ergonomically-designed burritos after they’ve spent their allowance at South Street Saloon, this should win out.

Plus, it’s right next to Wal-Mart.

Asian Cuisine – Leeann Chin

Sure, getting a Leeann Chin in the mall was a decade late and twelve bucks short, but we FINALLY GOT ONE. (“Just like Rochester!“)

Italian Cuisine – Olive Garden

Mankato’s Italian game is bleak, son. BLEAK.

The Neighbor’s might put up a bit of a fight, but it’s crazy expensive. Furthermore, it’s marooned in that weird part of west Mankato where the town just kinda ends.

Wings – Buffalo Wild Wings

Nothing tempers the indignity of smashing your face full of barbeque sauce like being served by a bunch of depressed millennials forced to wear the leftover football jerseys from gym class scrimmages.


This is what a B.A. in Business Management will get you in 2015, kids.

Bakery – Panera Bread

One time, I was tripping on acid at 7 a.m. in Nicollet Mall and couldn’t get into a Panera Bread bathroom because they had a keypad on the door that prevented homeless people from using it unless they entered a code from a valid receipt, so I bought a bagel and only finished half of it.

Also, if it’s good enough for Mark Kozelek’s dad, it’s probably good enough for Mankato.

Buffet – Pizza Ranch

Remember when you were a kid, and your parents hated taking you to the pizza buffet? It wasn’t because they were terrible parents. It was because it was loud, packed with screaming kids, and the food sucked.

But portions were unlimited, so they made concessions. However, you ultimately realized that the opportunity to play Pit Fighter on an arcade cabinet wasn’t worth the ensuing domestic dispute, and the dessert pizza really, really dried you out.

Date Night – Red Lobster

Look, we know you’re on a budget, and your date is probably going to want to throw down on a huge platter of crab and lobster, so you need to fill up on those free Cheddar Bay Biscuits if you have any hope of pulling off the “wining” part of the equation.

Happy Hour – Number 4

Behold! The best place to crush discounted drinks (that are actually the same price as regular drinks everywhere else in Mankato) amidst an ambiance of bizarre condescension and glitter.

Sports Bar – Rounders

Of all the places in Mankato that have lots of televisions and Bud Light with olives, this place has the most televisions and Bud Light with olives.

Patio Dining – Blue Bricks

“Dining” isn’t really something that one does at Blue Bricks, unless that’s the new euphemism for “smoking cigarettes with dangerously-drunk college students that haven’t yet mastered the art of social interaction.”

But the chicken sandwiches are pretty good.

Locally Owned Restaurant – HOW IS THIS A SEPARATE CATEGORY

Okay, this is exhausting. I’m tapping out before we even escape the dining bracket, and I’m sure you are, too.

Up next? The Mankato-area businesses that should take home the championship belts, with runners-up included.

See you soon, Mankato.