Location: Minneapolis Uptown
Shortly after I got married, I lived in a densely populated area of south Minneapolis, but I often had to describe my location to others since my street address was somewhat obscure. Weirdly, on multiple occasions, someone would ask if it was near Leaning Tower of Pizza, which it was. And eventually I couldn't help but notice the volume of coupons arriving in my mail slot from LTP. I thought then (as I do now) that the name of the place was pretty stupid, but when viewed from a distance, I realized that I was being pulled from several directions into a vortex of inquiry that would not abate until I at least paid a courtesy visit to this landmark. As it turned out, that visit would have to wait about thirty years since my wife and I moved out of the neighborhood, turning my attention to more convenient locations.
Eventually, Swen and I paid that visit in 2015, prior to the Royals-Twins game on Jackie Robinson Day, in which legendary shortstop Alcides Escobar cranked out three base-hits to raise his average to .412. For a fleeting and electrifying moment, it felt as though we were witnesses to the front end of history but maintaining such a dazzling standard was simply too much to ask out of such an ordinary performer, and Escobar quickly regressed to his typical good-but-not great benchmark. And the pre-game meal should have tipped us off, because it too, could not sustain the burden of lofty expectations. Although the dining room had that "lived-in" feel that helped elevate the experience, it was ultimately too similar to Escobar—merely a solid performer unequipped to carry the mantle of greatness. I understand why its fans hold it in reverence, but overall I'd hardly describe it as historically notable. I'm glad to have finally dined there, and the Twin Cities is richer for having LTP as part of a broader pizza tapestry, but like certain food and wine combinations, Leaning Tower of Pizza and Alcides Escobar are a perfect pair. (8 of 10 stars)