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7. Wiseguys Pizza & Pub

Classification: Traditional

Location: Centerville, Minnesota

The challenges we encountered when visiting La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs in Santa Fe were so vast and relentless that the day turned in to something of a dark comedy for me and Wifey. Even though we were fully armed with GPS technology, it quickly succumbed to the barren maze of dirt roads, leaving us to rely on our street smarts and a feint recollection of seeing some Google Maps at the hotel earlier that morning. There were a couple of roadsigns to guide us, but after a far-too-long drive on a dirt road, and lacking any further direction, we assumed (incorrectly) that we'd overshot our destination, and turned back a few miles to an extraordinarily remote museum/learning center, where were instructed to keep going even further. To the point of discomfort, we veered off onto a county road, the only one we'd seen for miles. Wrong again. Back-tracking once more, we eventually rambled into the tiny parking lot and stared up at the facing of the imposing basalt cliffs. We had finally arrived at the correct destination: the middle of abso-freaking-lutely nowhere.

We scaled the mountain's peak fairly easily, but once there, you had to hawkishly hunt for the glyphs, so a seemingly quick ascent turned into an episode of Bear Grylls' Man vs. Wild. Hiking through tall grass and terror-inducing scrub brush, I pulled my YMCA-grade socks up a little higher than I'm normally comfortable doing, hopeful that they might partially deflect the venomous bite of the predators lurking all about. Within minutes, my socks were riddled with burrs, and it was about that time that I realized how little protection they offered, despite the comfortably reinforced insoles and moisture-wicking technology. As I began calculating our water inventory and snake-bite survival probabilities under the scorching summer sun of New Mexico, we forged on. Returning to the apex of the cliff overlooking the valleyed parking lot below, our day suddenly grew even weirder. Perched several hundred feet away, another traveler—literally a voice in the wilderness began shouting to me. Unfortunately, sound travels pretty effectively across the desert plains, leaving me awkwardly obliged to holler answers to his hee-haw tourist questions down below. Being the only car in the lot, he saw our license plates and let us know of his relatives from nearby. We did not know them. Gradually, the shouting ended and Wifey found an huge collection of beautiful petroglyphs. It was a longer journey than planned but in the end, our diligence paid dividends.

And so it was with Wiseguys Pizza & Pub. Coming on the heels of the annual golf outing with the Groundouts, and already fanning deep into the nether reaches of the northern Twin Cities exurbs, we hopped from one remotely-located pizzeria to the next, looking for immediate Friday night seating for a group of eight. After surveying several overflowing lobbies, a few Take-Out-Only brickwalls, and numerous wrong turns, we finally landed on the curb outside of a place none of us had ever even heard of. But this place really delivered in the clutch for us. We were seated immediately, and honestly, I think we'd have all been satisfied if they'd have tossed us some tomato sauce spread onto a slice of Wonder Bread. No, no, no... this place was full of surprises. Having a large group allowed for a deeper dive into the menu, and we left uniformly impressed with all the pizza elements, the fast and courteous service, the last-minute availability, and a nice "town-pub" type of feel to it, despite its strip mall trappings. A night of pizza that ended so surprisingly good made the commute and borderline road-rage all worthwhile. Even though it's pushing forty miles from my home, it's worth the drive, even if I need to rely on my GPS to help me find it again. (9 of 10 stars)

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