Jul. 29—You can't get to Gateway Trailside by car, but this this shaded, lovely, tasty food stop on the Gateway Trail near Stillwater is worth a bike, hike, run, stroll or skate in. You can even arrive on horseback.
(OK. That's the official line, but Trailside owner Tamra Hartman offers up a little secret. You can drive there and park if you're just coming for lunch. You can't park and leave your vehicle there to get on the trail. Google Gateway Trailside for a driving map.)
Sandwiches, snacks, salads and amazing lemonade concoctions or the Trailside's signature Strawberry Basil Bliss ($6) are served from a food trailer just off the paved, wooded Gateway state trail, which runs from St. Paul to Pine Point Park near Stillwater. The food stop is on the edge of a working farm, so you just might see a horse getting taken out for a ride or a stroll. Most of the customers are bicyclists, and there's plenty of convenient bike rack parking on site.
Trailside offers salads, Nathan's hotdogs, sandwiches and coffee drinks. But I'll likely never know what they taste like. It's the Trailside Twist BLT ($12 with fries) forever for me. The tomatoes are fresh in season and the homemade basil mayo does something droolingly delicious to the sandwich. My cousin and Trailside biking companion Danielle Bailey calls the breakfast sandwich ($8, served with a side of berries) the best she's ever had. Which is good, because then I'll never have to share my BLT with her.
Hartman, who is in her seventh season running Trailside, says the bruschetta ($9) is a customer favorite and the mango chutney grilled cheese is also popular. (But again, I'll never know, since I'm strictly BLT at Trailside.)
The sandwiches are made to order, so there is a short wait, but the half-dozen or so tables in the shade, with lovely flowers all around and friendly bicyclists almost always happy to chat about their rides, make for a fine place to rest.
If you're starting in Stillwater, Gateway Trailside is about 7.5 miles up Brown's Creek Trail and to the right on the Gateway. If you park and start at Pine Point (which has all-important nice bathrooms and water-bottle refills) it's about 3 miles to Trailside.
The daily lemonade feature adds cold-pressed juice to fresh-squeezed lemonade. On our most recent stop, lemonade choices were plum, cantaloupe and pina colada. Hartman says the cold-pressed juice is also available in a quick juice shot ($3). And if you don't feel like sticking around to wait for a sandwich or the tables are full, there's a grab-and-go lunch special of half an egg salad or chicken salad sandwich and bottled water, small lemonade or soda with your choice of mixed berries, veggies or chips for $11. The grab-and-go menu also has PB&J, Asian noodle salads, egg salad sandwiches, power parfait (chai pudding, fresh fruit, greek yogurt and spinach mango smoothie) and veggie wraps. There are vegetarian and gluten-free options.
And if you started in Stillwater and you're so inclined, pull off Brown's Creek Trail on your way back into town at Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter for a cold beer and a warm pretzel. There's free, live music from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays this summer. (Be advised, when they warn you about the hot mustard, they're not kidding.)
Gateway Trailside: Between Lansing Avenue and Hwy. 96 off of the Gateway Trail at mile marker 15 in Stillwater/Grant area; open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays through Tuesdays (hours will change after Labor Day), for updates, check the Gateway Trailside Facebook page or go to gatewaytrailside.com.