The border battle is back. Last year we analyzed the best places to eat and drink in IGH and SSP prior to the annual SSP vs. Simley football game.
Tonight, South Saint Paul, the top-ranked 4A team in the state, travels to Inver Grove Heights to take on the Simley Spartans in the next chapter of Packers vs. Spartans football.
A lot has changed since last season. New players are now making an impact on both teams. The Packers are 2-0, while the Spartans are 1-1. Not much has changed for the Packers in terms of how they succeed. They run the ball, run the ball, and run some more. The Packers ran 67 time for 362 yards in a 29-26 win over Park last week. Five players had over 35 yards rushing, and four players had over 65 yards rushing. That’s some serious ground game production.
Quarterback Ryan Duffy is an outstanding athlete, and it’s his turn to lead the Packers offense this year. Duffy leads the team with 140 yards rushing and six touchdowns in two games. He ran for three touchdowns (2, 4, 1 yards) and passed for another in the Packers hard fought 29-26 win over Park last week. The Packers won that game on a 32-yard field goal by Samuel Rohrer as time expired to stay undefeated. Nick Gallegos is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and has rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, defensive lineman Ben LaBrosse was nominated for the Star Tribune Defensive Player of the Week with 3 sacks and a fumble recovery against Park. Teammates Zach Oberg, Mesfin Teklu, Levi Gustafson and Trevor Oberg have been also making an impact on the defensive side of the ball.
Simley opened the season with a 27-18 loss to the same Park Wolfpack team SSP beat last week. It was a classic case of “opening game jitters” for the Spartans. There were many new players in new positions, and they weren’t quite ready on opening night. It looked that way last week against Hastings too. The Spartans trailed 20-6 at halftime, before storming back to earn a 24-20 win. Blake Holzem got the Spartans on the board first against Hasting, returning a Raiders fumble 38 yards for a score. Quarterback Josh Halloran ran for a six yard touchdown and threw a 44 yard touchdown to Jake Binley in the win, and fullback Eric Ferry added a one yard score against the Raiders. Simley was unsuccessful on all four two-point conversion attempts in the game.
Simley hopes the momentum of that second half comeback sparks them tonight against the Packers, and both teams should be amped up for another classis border battle.
A lot has changed over the last year with the IGH and SSP food scene. Then again, a lot has also stayed the same. Inver Grove Heights now has a yearly food truck event. South Saint Paul has a monthly food truck event.
Inver Grove Heights has a mediocre $5 pizza restaurant in Little Caesars. South Saint Paul is adding a $5 Pizza restaurant (that is literally the name, $5 pizza). Early word is $5 pizza is worth the $5. Let’s not expect Old World Pizza or Angelo’s, but for cost-efficiency, can we really complain about a pizza chain making a $5 pizza when frozen pizzas cost $6-$12 these days?
Speaking of pizza. This may be sacrilegious, but what is going on with Old World Pizza? Specifically, the buffet? It just isn’t as good as it used to be. The pizzas are not cooked as long or well, and it seems like mass production is affecting the quality. We still love Old World, but we’re taking a break for a while. And when we do order again, it will be our very own pizza, not the buffet. You still can’t beat your made-to-order Old World Pizza. One reader claimed Carbone’s was better than Old World. And gulp, lately, in our opinion, it has been.
South Saint Paul has added a Kwik Trip on Concord that is simply amazing. In fact, we would rather shop at Kwik Trip over the IGH Cub Foods any day of the week. South Saint Paul still has Al’s Corral, the last true bar from the SSP meatpacking era. The Coop remains one of the best and most unique restaurants in the Twin Cities, and those steak sandwiches Illetschko Meats served during IGH Days were simply amazing. Can you get those same steaks at the store? Let us know!
T&T Galley and Stockmens are still your classic breakfast joints, and Cahill Diner continues to pack the house in Inver Grove Heights. Word was Cahill Diner was going to get a neighbor with the opening of 1.2.3 Pasta, but, are they still coming? Will it ever open?
Meanwhile, IGH still has four Holiday gas stations. But that sausage, bacon, cheddar jack sandwich on a pretzel bun? That is probably the best gas station breakfast sandwich out there.
Hometown Meats surprised us all with the development of the best sub sandwich in Inver Grove Heights. Then, soon after they made the best sub sandwiches in the city, they changed the bun from a hoagie roll to a hamburger bun. It’s still good, but, bring back the hoagie roll! Speaking of sub sandwiches, don’t forget about the sub sandwiches and pizza from Inverwood Deli. What? Give it a try.
People like to complain about the lack of popular restaurants in IGH. But with places like J’s Fish and Chicken and the Mediterranean Grill, a true secret of the IGH food scene, along with at least 10 unique restaurants, is the IGH food scene really that bad? Think about that tonight at the Bierstube, Pub, B52, Jersey’s, Celts or Drac’s while you’re at it. Speaking of Celts, the best dive bar in IGH underwent a remodel – sort of.
Win or lose, Packers fans will surely be at the Cro Hall tonight, talking about the game while enjoying a few cold ones. Meanwhile, Simley coaches will surely do the same at The Mississippi Pub after the game. And Simley alum will surely be at Jersey’s Bar and Grill watching Them Pesky Kids.
There’s other things we’ve learned in the past year. While last year Peking Cafe got the nod as the better of the Asian restaurants simply on it being a fan favorite, we are simply going to come out and say this: Peking Cafe is not the same, and nowhere near what it used to be. We would actually say it’s not good at all. Okay we did say it. A&L Chinese, Super Wok and Little Asia Bowl are all much better than Peking Cafe. By the way, what happened to the chow mein at Peking Cafe? Yuck. In fact, we felt A&L Chinese was the hidden secret of the IGH Asian food scene and were pleasantly surprised at how good it was. We had Little Asia Bowl too, last week, and it hit the spot (review coming next week).
Back in SSP, Angelo’s Pizza continues to be a staple. The Dairy Queen in SSP still has that hometown feel, while the DQ in IGH feels like your typical corporate/chain restaurant. We’ll head to the SSP DQ any day, although it is nice to sit on the patio at the IGH DQ.
Jersey’s Bar and Grill continues to be an IGH favorite, and the food is as good as anywhere in the city. B52 Burgers and Brew is a nice place to hang out and watch a game, but the food has been hit and miss the past six months. What’s going on there? And, speaking of B52, will anyone ever break the all-you-can eat wing record at B52?
Inver Grove Heights may have some momentum in the Argenta Hills region, as a fast casual restaurant has indicated they would like to possibly open in the city. And, owners of a Wingstop restaurant indicated they too, would consider opening a Wingstop in Inver Grove Heights. Meanwhile, businesses are also showing interest in buying or leasing the old Rainbow Foods location.
Two new Mexican restaurants have opened in IGH. El Azteca got off to a rough start, but has made a comeback and is one of the best Mexican restaurants in the area. Rincon Mexicano is small, and hidden (back behind Aldi and in the same building as Snap Fitness), and sometimes, the orders are not exactly what you order, but man, that Mexican food is about as good as it gets. Those carne asada tacos with the salsa verde sauce? Amazing. Be sure to check out Rincon Mexicano.
A lot has stayed the same in IGH and SSP over the past year. A lot has changed. That holds true for the SSP and Simley football teams as well. The two teams, and fans from both cities, will meet at Spartan stadium in Inver Grove Heights tonight in another addition of the Border Battle. It is sure to be another fun and exciting chapter in Packers vs. Spartans football.
See you at Spartan Stadium!