“The Fratzke family has lived in Winona county for six generations. Our roots run deep and there’s a lot of Mississippi River water running through our veins. Though I’ve lived in Minneapolis for about half of my life now, Winona is always home. When my wife, Lisa and our daughter, Nina and I come down to stay, usually just for a day or two, there’s usually a list a mile long of all the friends and family we want to see and all of the places that make us feel best.”
Early Afternoon: After we get settled in at my parent’s house, we usually take a walk around the east end, a few blocks down 9th to Hamilton and past the house where my grandparents lived. My cousins, brother, sister and myself spend almost as much time there as we did at our own homes.
2 pm – 4 pm: We usually head north on Hamilton from there to Seventh and a familiar green and white sign that acts like a bat-signal. A round or two with my parents at the Hei’n’Low cements the fact that we’re home and in the old neighborhood. Laughs, hugs and handshakes, too many to count, and my dad refilling Nina’s glass with orange soda pop, just like his uncle did for him when he was a kid.
4 pm – 6 pm: If we’re not grilling out and the weather’s right, we’ll swing over to Lakeview for burgers, french fries and root beer in those frosted mugs.
6 pm onwards: Mom and Dad usually encourage Lisa and I to head out for a date night while they hang out with Nina. We usually make a bee line to Ed’s No Name bar for cocktails, art and good music.
8 am – 10 am: Bloedow’s. Best doughnuts on the planet. Bar none. Made by a guy who grew up on the other side of our block, Hugh Polus. Long johns, chocolate covered, powdered, a sweet roll, and a couple of Bavarians should fuel us for a day spent outside.
10 am – 12 pm: I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to a few different countries in my life, truly majestic places, but I will always compare natural beauty to Winona County in the thick of summer. Warm, beautiful, lush, friendly, and green. The river and everyone on it nestled in the embrace of those bluffs and their millions of trees. Sometimes we choose to head to Holzinger Lodge and hike the trails. Maybe it’s an hour or two in Woodlawn Cemetery, visiting our ancestors and admiring the craftsmanship of the masonry and all of Winona’s history. Other times it’s straight to the top and Garvin Heights lookout, the vista of the valley.
12 pm – 2 pm: The Blue Heron Cafe is our favorite joint. Sustainably raised, farm-to-table soups, salads and sandwiches. Great coffee, better hospitality. Peaceful. Joyous. Delicious.
2 pm – 4 pm: If fishing isn’t on the agenda, we sometimes head downtown to one of the places that made me who I am: The Winona County Public Library. The fantastic architecture, the labyrinth of glass floors, iron shelves and staircases could always transport me somewhere else. The art is fantastic and the volumes upon volumes of knowledge within those walls filled my imagination, heart and soul to the brim during my childhood. Good libraries are temples of possibility and Winona has one of the best. For many of the same reasons, we often stop at the Winona County Historical Society, one of Nina’s favorite spots.
4 pm – 6 pm: Stop for a pint of whatever is newest on tap at Island City Brewing Company.
A native of Winona, JD Fratzke moved to Minneapolis in 1992 and after a brief attempt at academia, fell in love with the ear-splitting chaos of restaurant kitchens and the passion with which he found food could be prepared. JD is now chef and managing partner of many eateries in the Twin Cities, including Spring Cafe in St. Paul, Bar Brigade, Delicata, and Red River Kitchen.