Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A tropical escape from Minnesota March 2, 2023

This tropical mural graces the side of the former Cancun Grill Mexican Restaurant in downtown Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2023)

IF NOT FOR THE SNOW, I can envision this as some place warm and sunny. Some location other than here. Some place with real palm trees, not just those painted on the side of a building.

The closed restaurant is located downtown along a busy state highway that runs right through the heart of Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2023)

I can picture myself on the patio, relaxing and conversing at a table with friends, drinking margaritas while the hot sun bakes my skin. But wishful thinking doesn’t land me in Arizona or Texas or California or Florida or Mexico. I am in Minnesota, outside the shuttered Cancun Grill Mexican Restaurant, drawn here by an inviting tropical scene of ocean and palm trees.

Snow blankets an otherwise inviting outdoor dining and drinking space. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2023)

Just days after a major multi-day winter storm dumped some 14 inches of snow on Faribault, I find myself photographing the “for sale” restaurant. The contrast of snow layering tables, chairs and patio against the backdrop tropical-themed mural catches my creative eye, allowing for a visual and mental escape from all this winter.

I’ve never dined at this restaurant, although I wish I had based on the positive online reviews: Authentic wonderful Mexican cuisine. Best tacos here. Excellent burritos and margaritas. Large portions. Delicious. Great service.

Even the Cancun Grill business sign is tropically inviting. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2023)

Now it’s too late to experience this taste of Cancun in my southern Minnesota community. But I can dream. I can dream of palm trees I’ve never seen, except at Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul. I can dream of places I’ve never visited. I can dream of staying at an all-inclusive fancy resort, of warm beach sand filtering through my toes and sunshine on my face. I can dream of lazy days lounging by the sea with a good book rather than time spent shoveling snow.

In this moment I am not in Minnesota, enveloped in a wintry landscape. Rather, my imagination melts away the snow, replacing it with beach sand so white I need sunglasses. Ah, this is lovely, this Cancun of fleeting travel.

A fake tropical plant stands inside the gated patio next to the tropical mural. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2023)

This permanently closed restaurant along busy Fourth Street Northwest/Minnesota State Highway 60 in Faribault offers me a momentary escape. I feel the breeze as palm trees sway against the merging blue sky and water while I sip a strawberry margarita on the sun-drenched patio.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


18 Responses to “A tropical escape from Minnesota”

  1. You’re welcome to visit in the warmth of my backyard in Texas anytime you’d like, Audrey. 🙂

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    We are e route to Texas so I will send some sun and warm vibes your way to melt your snow. 😊

  3. Neil Says:

    I too can see the white beach sand in your photos. Some of it’s piled up on top of the patio furniture!

  4. Norma Says:

    Texas has questionable weather at times. One of my grandsons lives in Midland, and his wife says when she gets up in the A.M., she never knows how it will end in the evening.

  5. valerie Says:

    A fun tropical escape always sounds nice this time of year!

  6. Mexican food and a good margarita! Now that sounds like a great escape from the snowy Midwest.

  7. beth Says:

    what a good escape, even if only in your mind for a bit, that offers a bit of respite from the winter as well

  8. Isn’t imagining perfect for times like these? That looks like a very inviting place to eat, unfortunate that it closed.

  9. Next winter I think it’s time you make your dreams come true and head south, especially since you never have. Rick and I have done 2 trips to the south during the winter months, we choose winter only because I cant stand the heat and humidity of the south in the summer. I think you and Randy would love it!

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