By Coco Mault
On the east side of the Mississippi River, just across from the skyscrapers of downtown Minneapolis, lies an older part of the city. Between the Hennepin Avenue Bridge and the picturesque Stone Arch Bridge, there is a cobblestone street lined with aged storefronts that hearken back to a time long ago. This is no coincidence, no faux-aged designs here — this street is the oldest in Minneapolis.
And one restaurant in particular, Pracna on Main, has the bragging rights of being the oldest restaurant in Minneapolis. According to St. Anthony Main’s webpage, the restaurant was built in 1890.
It’s tempting to describe the interior of Pracna to that of a little tug boat; the quarters are close and a balcony-type structure over the bar may have visitors ducking. Don’t worry, there’s actually plenty of clearance. For those who have visited New Orleans’ famous French Quarter, the interior of Pracna just might remind you of what it means to miss New Orleans. There is something very similar between Pracna and a few of the Vieux Carre’s historic old bars, smallish facades, and balconies. Additionally, besides having the good old Mississippi River right outside, the place is quite charming in its old age.
Try something off their lunch menu from 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Half-sandwiches come with a cup of soup — French onion, tomato cognac, or soup of the day — or a side Caesar Salad (with a couple of the largest croutons you’ll ever see). The Grilled Cheese Sandwich ($7.75) made with Swiss, cheddar, and provolone cheese on seven grain bread is not overly fancy, simply arriving perfectly toasted, melted, and best of all, quite flavorful. It’s a large serving for a half-sandwich, too. Pracna’s classic salads are included on their lunch menu, too, and are served with a cup of soup.
Pracna’s main menu has hearty, savory main dishes that are surely large enough to share, though diners may find themselves getting territorial about their plates. Sure to catch a hungry eye is the Spicy Italian Pasta with Marsala red wine sauce and spicy Italian sausage with peppers, muchrooms and onions ($18.65). Sirloin steak with fresh sauteed mushrooms ($23.95) is on the menu as well, and lighter fair includes a strawberry chicken salad ($14.95).
Baby corn dogs on a stick top the menu in Pracna’s appetizers section, listed as an “exclusive homemade treat with Oscar Mayer minis and state fair mustard” at $10.95. Having walleye on any menu is a sort of beacon for Minnesotans, and Pracna prepares delicious fried walleye strips ($14.95). They aren’t stingy with their jalepeno tarter sauce, either. But for those who prefer fresh-squeezed lemon, prepare to be delighted: Pracna provides an entire lemon for your squeezing pleasure.
This is a good time to mention that they aren’t stingy with their lemons, limes, or pickles in their cocktails, either. They include full size servings with their Loads of Lemon vodka tonic, Jumbo Deluxe gin and tonic, and Big Pickle Bloody Mary, respectively.
So it goes without saying that their cocktails are hard to resist. Not interested in a fruit grove competing for space in your cocktail? There are plenty of other options. Be sure to look over their Riverside Refreshments drink menu. The Mississippi Iced Mocha is good enough to savor as a dessert, made with iced coffee, Bailey’s Irish cream, Godiva chocolate liqueur and topped with whipped cream. It’s even served in a tall ice cream sundae-like glass. (Let’s hope they can heat this drink up during the colder months!)
There is also a nice selection of red and white wines. Beer drinkers will be happy with a large selection of beers, 20 of which are on draft. Pracna offers patio seating in the summer months; in the cooler months, try to sit near a window to people (and dog) watch.