Twin Cities: new ballpark, Red Stag dining

Fans of Target Field, which opened in April as home to the Minnesota Twins – seem to talk up three things more than anything else online:

Fresh air. The new baseball stadium’s open-air design replaces the stuffy Metrodome, the enclosed, musty and annoying echo chamber where the Twins played 28 years.

The view. The city skyline looks most impressive when sitting on the third-base side. The high-definition scoreboard – 57 feet high and 101 feet wide – is among the largest in professional baseball.

The layout. “Not a bad seat in the house,” one fan after another declares. (The closest of the 39,500 seats sits 48 feet from home plate. Add room for around 1,500 people to stand.)

Food generates positive reactions, but from fewer people because of ballpark prices. Noticeably more options involve local products and recipes. Think walleye on a stick, wild rice soup and Red River Chili (with cubed sirloin). For vegetarians, choices expand to include meatless burritos, kabobs and tacos.

Minnesotans also notice the ease of getting to Target Field because of a stadium stop for the light rail system (and no other Major League Baseball ballpark building contains a transit station). Cedar Lake Trail, for bicycles, veers over to 827 bike parking spaces that are within 200 yards of the ballpark.

OK, now we’re getting warmer. What makes this facility truly unusual is the infrastructure in place to save energy and lessen waste. It is the nation’s second professional baseball stadium (after Nationals Park in the District of Columbia) to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Energy from a nearby garbage-burning plant fuels the stadium and its radiant heating system. Storm water is routed into a cistern, then filtered and used to irrigate the field and clean stadium seats.

A majority of the stadium’s exterior was built with limestone from Mankato, just 90 miles away. Add more recycling, less energy usage, an emphasis on local products and minimized pollution and erosion. All together, this is what earns Target Field a silver LEED rating.

One-hour tours of the stadium happen on non-game days, Monday through Saturday. The cost is $15 (less for children, students and senior citizens). For more about Target Field, 1 Twins Way, Minneapolis (Fifth Street and Third Avenue North): http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/min/ballpark/tours.jsp, 800-33-TWINS.

News, to me: Energy and water account for 30 to 40 percent of the average restaurant’s operating budget. Nail back these expenses, and it’s good business as well as doin’ good for the planet.

Red Stag Supper Club, which opened in 2007 as the first LEED-certified restaurant in Minnesota, cuts energy bills in half and saves 70 percent on its water bill because of an eco-savvy design in a former industrial warehouse in the Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood.

Seating cushions are stuffed with ribbons of tape from many, many discarded cassettes. Dining tables are doors recycled from a condo project. The marble bar comes from a hotel.

A majority of the menu’s ingredients come from within 60 miles of the restaurant. Corn is a key ingredient in the carpeting.

“Supper club,” in this location, is more about “bringing people together for interaction and community” than big-as-your-plate steaks served after an hour’s wait for a table, says Lauren Schuppe, Red Stag manager (but she adds that owner Kim Bartmann, an Appleton native, has fond memories of northern Wisconsin supper club fare.)

At the Red Stag, chefs will make their own sausage, pickle 50 pounds of ramps and boil down bushels of homegrown heirloom tomatoes – so a rich and locally sourced pasta sauce is available in the dead of winter.

Corn beef hash arrives with parsnips and carrots. An herbal hollandaise sauce transforms poached eggs into a clever Green Eggs and (smoked) Ham. When ingredients deviate from what’s local, results are extraordinary: Consider the chunks of lobster and avocado in the house egg salad sandwich.

Cheap Date nights, on Tuesdays, mean a couple can order two entrees, dessert and bottle of wine for $32. A block party, 3-10 p.m. Aug. 21, draws together the music of local bands, roller skaters and hula hoop contestants.

Also in the neighborhood: a flourishing arts district whose anchor is 100-plus people in the Casket Arts coalition. Open studio and gallery tours occur monthly, from 5-9 p.m. on the first Thursday; much of the studio space fills a former casket factory. For more: casketarts.com.

For more about the Red Stag, 509 First Ave. NE, Minneapolis: www.redstagsupperclub.com, 612-767-7766.

Other ways to enjoy a Twin Cities vacation:

– Crowd into Mickey’s Diner, 36 W. Seventh St., St. Paul, for breakfast at any hour. High-rise buildings surround the art deco, family-owned dining car, in business nonstop for 70-plus years. www.mickeysdiningcar.com, 651-698-0259.

– Book a room at the Saint Paul Hotel, which celebrates its centennial this year and has hosted gangsters to royalty. The elegant structure at one time was shuttered, contents sold and almost met the wrecking ball. www.saintpaulhotel.com, 800-292-9292.

– One block from the hotel is Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, which hosts free outdoor events (summer dances on Thursdays, movies on Fridays) to touring Broadway shows (such as “Evita,” throughout October). www.ordway.org, 651-224-4222.

– Marquee architects have left their mark on the area, including Cesar Pelli, who designed the Minneapolis Central Public Library, 300 Nicollet Mall. So check your e-mail for free, then wander. Plans are to open a fifth floor planetarium in 2012. mplanetarium.org, 952-847-8212; www.hclib.org, 612-630-6000.

– Eleven blocks of Nicollet Mall are a pedestrian thoroughfare, an area rich with bars, boutiques and bistros.

– Amazing contemporary art rules at the Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., whose embossed aluminum exterior is hard to miss. Also on campus: the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, whose 40-some creations include the city’s best-known icon, a 5,800-pound spoon holding a 1,200-pound cherry. www.walkerart.org, 612-375-7600.

For more about planning a Twin Cities vacation: www.minneapolis.org, 612-767-8000; visitsaintpaul.com, 800-627-6101.

“Roads Traveled” is the result of anonymous travel, independent travel, press trips and travel journalism conferences. What we choose to cover is not contingent on subsidized or complimentary travel.