Dateline: Alexandria, Minnesota
Here I am in Lake Wobegon Country, in central Minnesota about 100 miles northwest of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the state capital. I left Grand Forks, North Dakota this morning and drove south across the flat, snowy, wind-swept landscape to Fargo before turning southeast and crossing the Red River of the North for the last time on my long journey homeward. The unbroken prairie quickly gave way to rolling hills and rich, black earth farmland and pastures and I lost count of the bison herds I passed. It is going to be hard to leave all this behind.
Before I do, however, it would be a crime not to search out a friendly fish-on-the-wall restaurant that serves a nice, succulent walleye fillet. I fished for them regularly when I was a young boy growing up here in the upper Midwest, but it has been several years - not since I visited a similar establishment in the Sand Hills of northern Nebraska a few year ago - that I have tasted a good piece of walleye. What better place than central Minnesota? The walleye is the state fish both here and in South Dakota, and more walleye are eaten in Minnesota than in any other state in the union..
I found just such an establishment in the small town of Alexandria, Minnesota where there seems to be more lakes than dry land. I knew I was in the right place as soon as I walked through the door and found several curling snapshots of smiling people holding very large fish, most of them walleye. And sure enough, there are several fish, including a record-setting walleye caught in nearby Lake Darling last Fourth of July, mounted on the wall. I figured I did not have to ask whether it is on the menu. And there it is . . . offered as one of the Lenten specials.
My server is a typical lass one would expect to find in this region - blonde, attractive, corn-fed and presumably strong if one is to believe Garrison Keillor - and after bringing me a locally-brewed beer in a wide-mouth Ball jar, we were soon sharing some fishing tales in which walleye figured rather prominently. I enjoyed my beer and it was not long before a sizzling walleye fillet topped off with lemon slices and fresh cilantro was placed in front of me! I am in some kind of heaven!
It is just a shame I do not have room for some of the local homemade bread pudding for dessert. It looks good but I really can't eat another bite. Besides, I still have several miles to drive today and I must keep my wits about me.