Hungry hunt in the skyways


I was wandering the skyways looking for lunch. Chances are, if you spend your noon hours Downtown, you’ve been there, too, taking unfamiliar turns, hoping whatever’s around the next corner will offer exactly what it is you don’t know you’re craving.

There were a blue million places that would sell me a Styrofoam plate of greasy Chinese or an overpriced sandwich, heavy on the cheap mayo. The lines at Chipotle, Pot Belly, and Cosi ran out the door. I lacked the smart suit and the expense account for a Downtown sit-down meal. I needed a back-to-basics working stiff’s lunch.

I was about to give up, make a mental note to pack leftovers tomorrow and hit the vending machine, when I rounded the corner in the far northern edge of the Skyway system.

There, in the Towle Building, home of Kieran’s Irish Pub and on my route to absolutely nowhere, I found it: a hot dog and a cuppa Joe. Classic.

Franks a Million, barely bigger than a couple of New York City pushcarts, serves lunch-seekers in the know the ultimate on-the-go, indulge-your-inner-kid, feed-your-inner-construction-worker lunch. Wingtips, heels and steel-toed boots alike line up for all-beef dogs (get a single for a $1.99 or a double for $2.79) and mild Polish sausages ($2.55). Top them with chili, baked beans, sauerkraut, or a classic combination they call the “Chicago”: mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, peppers and a pickle.

The dogs have that snap that all good hot dogs do. The poppy seed buns are soft and substantial. A fat garlicky pickle on the side and I was all set.

Except for one thing. Coffee. This working stiff, when not trying to appear cultured in front of coworkers and friends, likes her coffee with her meal. And I knew that nothing would go better with the fat and salt content in this particular meal than a big cup of dark roast. Black.

Serendipity: Right next door to Franks a Million you’ll find the best coffee in the Skyways, hands down. Sisters Sludge, an outpost of the Bloomington Avenue fixture, brings its South Minneapolis atmosphere and nicked wooden tables to the land of polished metal and industrial carpeting. The coffee is freshly roasted, freshly brewed, full of flavor that reminds you that all those dairy products are just filler. And goes great with a hot dog.

Thus, fortified, renewed and refreshed, I began the long walk back to more familiar territory, past all those poor saps still standing in line at Cosi.