Private Trash Collecting Counter-Points

David E. Kaplan penned at article on April 1st about St. Paul’s strange use of individual trash collecting contracting at the household level for the Daily Planet. In that piece, he profiled a woman, Mary Hamel, in St. Anthony Park who got organized and managed to get everyone on her block to consolidate their trash hauling needs with the company that already had 70% market share on her block. In exchange, she and all of her neighbors will have less traffic, longer lasting streets, breath less pollution, have less days of the week with trash bins at their boulevards, and have less chance of running into a trash truck

Oh, and the company they’ve consolidated with has agreed to give the block a discounted rate. Why? My guess is because the company saves time and money when they can hit every house on a block rather than plodding around for their widely distributed customers. It sounds like the neighborhood and the business both win in this scenario.

Of course, not every block has someone as motivated and organized as Mary Hamel. At the same time, not every block should need a Mary Hamel. For example, if Mary Hamel moved from St. Anthony Park to Minneapolis’ Prospect Park, she could apply her community organizing skills elsewhere because the trash collection consolidation problem has been solved.

Kaplan’s article goes on to provide some perspective from the solid waste industry.

It’s important to have individuals make their own decision on who hauls their waste,” said Doug Carnival with the National Solid Waste Management Association.

Really? Important to whom?

“This has been a tradition in Saint Paul for many years and it’s been a system that has operated very successfully in the vast majority of communities throughout the state of Minnesota.”

Tradition doesn’t make it right. “Successfully” for whom?

In fact, according to the NSWMA website, “in the last 10 years, 21 Minnesota cities and counties have studied government managed collection. In all cases, consumer choice has been preserved and the open competitive market built on innovation and quality service continues to provide the best value to citizens.”

Reading this, it sounds like the solid waste industry is more organized than their customers. If the best value comes from individual consumer choices, why can Mary Hamel get both cheaper and better service by consolidating with one vendor? It sounds like choice, in this case, is good for the vendor, but not for the consumers who have to deal with the externalities choice creates.

“If you were to decide that one hauler had the entire city, you would prevent small halers from bidding on an entire city contract. And if one hauler got that contract, you’d end up with many small haulers who would lose their customers through no fault of their own,” said Carnival.

That is a rather absurd point. It assumes that the ONLY way to consolidate block by block service is to have one trash collection contract and hauler for the entire city of St. Paul. It ignores every other conceivable option, such as providing bidding for city neighborhoods, zips, quadrants, communities, etc. All would allow a combination of small and large, new and old, companies to bid for business. And it would allow vendors to compete on both price and quality of service. If a company does a good job at a fair price, they’d be well positioned to win more business when contracts come up for renewal.

It’s Booyah Season – Where to Go?

It feels like fall outside today, which can only mean one things: it’s booyah season.

Some of you are probably thinking, “WTF is booyah?” Long time St. Paul residents are probably most familiar with it locally. Generally, it’s a stew cooked prepared at community events as a fundraiser for churches, rec. centers and other affinity clubs. For an example of the scale of booyah recipies, take a look at this run-down from the Holy Cross Parish booyah in Green Bay, WI:

450 lbs of potatoes. 200 lbs of carrots. 840 lbs of chicken. 250 lbs of onions. 180 bunches of celery. 150 lbs of cabbage. Six cases of corn and peas.

And here is a 25 gallon recipe from UWGB.

My dad, Ed, happens to be a bit of a booyah connoisseur. To aid the uninitiated, he has compiled ratings of seven booyahs he attended over the past booyah season. The results below are sorted by last year’s (2008-2009) booyah dates:

***** St. Jerome’s, Maplewood. 9-21. Outstanding. Seems consistent with
recipe I remember from the 1940¹s and 50¹s. 500 gallons.
$3 a scoop.

**** B-Dale Club, Roseville. 9-28. Very good. Flavor identical to above.
Meat a bit stringy. Some roots, e.g. potatoes, not cut to bite-size.
$3.50 a scoop.

*** American Legion Club, Roseville. 3-1-09. Good, meat evident. Needs
snap of more seasoning. 55 gallons. It is possible that this entry got an
extra (*) because it is such a surprise and a pleasure to find booya in late
winter or is it early spring?
$3.50 a scoop.

** Roseville Fire Dept., Roseville. 10-5. Good. A bit watery compared to 1 and 2. Leaves an unpleasant, hot after taste. Too much pepper or hot sauce?
$4 a scoop.

** St. Agnes Parish, St. Paul. 10-19. Good. Thin. Meat in short supply.
$4.50 a scoop. Loses a star (*) because of price.

*** Polish American Club, St. Paul. 10-25. Good $4.00 a scoop

*** St. Mary’s, St./ Paul. 10-26. Very good. Nice hunks of beef. Price:
$3.00 a scoop.

Pro-tip for new booyah attendees: experienced booyah diners often bring Tupperware with them so they can take home their favorite booyahs, freeze them, and enjoy them year-round.

Do you have a favorite local booyah? Know of any not mentioned above worth checking out? Drop a comment.

2009’s British Invasion of MSP

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment has landed. They’re in town from the UK to participate in the St Paul Chamber Orchestra’s International Chamber Orchestra Festival.

The OAE’s project manager, Ceri Jones, is blogging about her experiences traveling to St Paul (how ya like the weather, Ceri?), and has had some fun nuggets to share, such as enjoying Northwest Airlines, getting from the airport to her hotel without ever going outside, the full workout facilities at her hotel, and free cookies:

Journey to the twin cities

Anyway, it was now early afternoon, (early evening in London) and time for a nap maybe? Only I was a bit too awake for that so went for a swim in the hotel pool and had a bit of a wander and got a bit excited about the free chocolate cookies in the hotel foyer (in Europe it’s usually fruit on offer. Need I say more…..)

Ceri, if you’re craving some healthy fruit to go with your cookies, take a bus up to the Mississippi Market. Or, for a truly American experience, go to Cub Foods instead, and hit Wal-Mart while you’re in the neighborhood.

Here’s a promo for the OAE’s Night Shift performances in the UK – a series of late night concerts targeting a younger crowd:

Saturday Was Fry-Day

My friend Kyle was off fries for all of 2008, so come 2009 he decided he needed to do something significant to celebrate that milestone. (It should be noted that Kyle did lick a fry at Matt’s one night, and still ate tots.)

This led to Fry-Day, which was originally scheduled for a Friday but later moved to a Saturday, causing somewhat intentional confusion when people would say, “Fry-Day is on Saturday.”

What was Fry-Day? A bike tour to some of the Twin Cities’ finest French Fries. Participants were Kyle, Brian Shekleton, and myself. Others participated in parts of the tour, although only the three of us biked and hit all the stops. (Click here for Brian’s report.)

Where we went:

Stop 1: Longfellow Grill for Sweet Potato Fries:

Sweet Potato Fries

I also got some regular fries with my turkey burger (delicious as usual).

Turkey Burger with Fries

Then we hit the bikes:

Biking on Hamline

And headed to The Nook in St Paul for hand-cut fries with Jucy Lucy’s.

Paul Molitor with Onions + Fries

I had the Paul Molitor, which is the Lucy with pepper jack:

Inside Paul Molitor

From there, we went to the Bulldog in Lowertown where I sampled their Hoppy Flight:

Hoppy Flight

Followed by Cajun Fries paired with tots:

Bulldog Fries & Tots

The sun set as we were leaving the Bulldog, and our bike seats were glazed over from freezing rain. Here are Brian and Kyle waiting for a light at Como & Dale:

Brian & Kyle

We ended up at Maxwell’s for their delicious waffle fries. While crossing the Mississippi, snapped this self-portrait:

Ed Iced Up

That was when my camera battery died from the cold.

Picking a winner at among the four stops and five styles of fries is not easy since the styles vary widely, hunger waxed and waned, and beer pairings may have altered my sensitive palate. With that in mind, I’m going with Maxwell’s waffle fries as my favorite simply because they tasted great at a time where I wouldn’t have expected any fries to be appetizing.

This appears to be the start of a new tradition.’s Twincy Recommendations

One of the biggest problems I see with nationally run restaurant recommendations websites is, while they have a ton of listings, their recommendations tend to suck when you actually try to get local. I don’t care how many listings or traffic you have. All I’m looking for are good restaurant recommendations that will lead to an enjoyable meal.

Which is why I’m impressed with The results for the Twin Cities (or, Twincy as the kids these days refer to the area) are very good. Here’s a sample from their top-100 in locally, filtered for “Best Of” restaurants so only the best restaurant by category is shown:

WhereTheLocalsEat Minneapolis-St Paul

The site isn’t perfect. For example, it lists some restaurants that have gone under, such as Babalu.

But it’s good enough to use as a starting point for new places to try. And since it is a national site, it may be worth trying when traveling so you don’t end up at TGI Friday’s.

Bulldog Lowertown First Impressions

Bulldog Lowertown St Paul Beer Flights

I’ve had a chance to check out the Bulldog Lowertown St Paul three times so far. Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. It’s easy to get to. If you’re coming from Minneapolis, take I-94 East around downtown St Paul to the 7th Street exit. After exiting, you’ll be at 7th & Wall St. Go straight 1-block (you’ll be on Wall St) then right one block. You’re there.

2. Parking is easy and free. St Paul shuts down early. Some of the meters on 6th are free after 4:30pm.

3. It’s big. Like the other locations, it has a center bar. Unlike other locations, it has much more space and quite a few booths.

4. Need to work out some kinks. The service is a bit underwhelming right now. They don’t seem to know the beers they serve. Sure there are a lot, but if that’s your thing, act like it. Also, when the above flight of beer was delivered to our table, the waitress wasn’t sure which order they were in. She blamed that on the bartenders, who, according to the waitress, are pretty sloppy with their flight presentations. They need to show more pride in this.

5. Tots. So far, I’ve had their cajun, chipotle, and cheese tots. The cajuns are my favorite. The cheese tots had shredded cheese half-melted on top of them, which was pretty disappointing. The chipotle ones were really hot.

6. Jukebox. Having a jukebox can be cool, but the wisdom of the crowds isn’t always wise.

Bulldog Lowertown St Paul Beer Flights

Sheryl shared her experience in the comments of a previous Bulldog post:

Blew into Bulldog tonight for a Chicago dog. Tons of wait staff, to bad for us they did not wait on us. We had to beg for a cocktail, then a menu, then another cocktail…..I’d say DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME! And to top it off the hotdog was yuck.

That sounds pretty similar to my experiences (I can’t speak to the hotdog issue), leaving me to believe that this has the potential to be a great addition to Lowertown but it’s not quite there yet.

Buildup to the Launch of the Bulldog Lowertown

I didn’t make it to the opening night of the new Bulldog in the Lowertown neighborhood of St Paul but I’m sure it was sweet.

I’ve written about the pending launch a few times, so have received a fair amount of search traffic from people looking for more information about the launch. Here is a graph of how search referrals for Bulldog related search referrals to The Deets grew over the past month:

Bulldog Lowertown Traffic Growth

And here are the top-100 Bulldog related terms (not all, just the top-100) terms that drove that growth:

bulldog lowertown
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“the bulldog” lowertown
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the bulldog, st. paul, mn

People are fired up about this great addition to the Lowertown neighborhood of St Paul. What a perfect fit.

The Bulldog St Paul Lowertown’s Website

I’ve noticed a major uptick in traffic to The Deets from people looking for the latest information on the status of The Bulldog’s new St Paul location.

The one nugget I can throw out is the website for the St Paul location. They appear to have two reserved:

Both currently sport a coming soon message:

The Bulldog St Paul Lowertown

I’m super excited about this great addition to the Lowertown scene. If you have some nuggets you can share, drop em in the comments.

The RNC Welcoming Committee Receives a Preemptive Visit

Apparently, the RNC Welcoming Committee received an unwelcomed visit from the police tonight, who don’t seem to think the RNC Welcoming Committee’s plans for the upcoming RNC convention are well thought out.

Below is the publicly published first step of their strategy on how they plan to crash the upcoming RNC convention:

How we get there (the strategy):
1. Start Strong – Throw all of our energy into the first day. We’ll kick this off right and stretch the militarized police state out so far that it can no longer contain and suppress our voices and desires.

Yeah, well, I guess that’s not going to happen. According to the RNC Welcoming Committee’s publicly published calendar, they were going to be “busy” starting at 9pm tonight. At 9:27, it turned out they were, indeed, busy sitting around in handcuffs while the police sort out what the heck they’re up to:

The convergence space is currently being raided. Police burst in and are using force against people. Everyone inside has been handcuffed. Estimates of people inside currently vary between 20-70.

Someone responded asking what they could do to help. The response they received was, “Do something wild.”

Frankly, it doesn’t sound like this group is interested in a public debate. Rather than discussing issues that matter in this country, they’re more interested in preventing people they disagree with from expressing their opinion. To me, that is absurd. You may not agree with someone, but you should at least allow them to speak. It you’re right and can come up with a better argument people will listen to you without resorting to behavior such as what they publicly planned.

Here’s a map to where the action is:

View Larger Map

Bulldog Lowertown St Paul: For Realz

This just in from Olive in the comments of the previous Bulldog St Paul post:

Bulldog Lowertown is a sure thing! You can expect an opening sometime in the last week of Sept -first week of Oct. 40 tap beers, shuffel board, and of course vienna beef dogs and hamburgers, plus a few new menu items. Oh and lets not forget the tots!!!!