StormKing Barbecue in Minneapolis

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Unpack the car and cancel your trip to Austin, Tex. You don’t need to leave town, drive 20 hours down I-35, or stand in line with a bunch of other bleary-eyed tourists at 7 a.m. in the hope of spending 30 minutes eating great barbecue. StormKing Barbecue (16½ W 26th St, Minneapolis) has brought Central Texas barbecue to your hometown, and it is fantastic.

StormKing is the brainchild of Jordan Smith (Black Sheep Pizza) and was based on his love of Central Texas barbecue. Faithful to the style, they use a dry rub, smoke the meat low and slow using local Minnesota-grown oak, and serve everything sauceless. The results are stunningly good.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Nearly everything we ate was intensely smoky (except the pulled pork — more on that later). Even the spicy sausage ($7), coarsely ground and flecked throughout with herbs and spices, had a smoke ring under the thin but substantially snappy skin. It had a pronounced but pleasant kick and a tremendous amount of flavor. The ribs ($14/half), likewise smoky, were cooked perfectly. They were tender and pulled easily off the bone in rich and chewy bites. The spice mixture had a numbing quality on the lips, like Sichuan pepper, but without the pain.

We thought we tasted the same numbing spices on the chicken ($11/half), which was the only item that provoked any dissent from the otherwise universal approval of our tasters. Like the brisket, sausage, and ribs, the chicken was campfire smoky, but against the blank slate of the white meat, one taster found the smoke overwhelming. Interestingly, the skin took on a snappy bite, like a sausage casing.

James Norton / Heavy Table

StormKing’s brisket ($11.50/half pound) is their pièce de résistance. It is all those words that the barbecue thesaurus can’t improve on: juicy, tender, smoky, and spicy. The bark is thick, dry, and pure, concentrated flavor. The connective tissue that causes many a tough brisket is totally gelatinized. On our two visits to eat in, we were offered our choice of lean or fatty (flat or point, for those of you smoking at home) but when we ordered takeout, we weren’t offered a choice. We were served a piece of brisket cut from both parts still conjoined, and while it was wonderful (and tender) served all three ways, we liked having both cuts best. Brisket is the linchpin of Central Texas barbecue and StormKing nails it.

The pork was good but didn’t ascend to the same level as the brisket, ribs, and sausage. It was (like everything else at StormKing) tender and flavorful, but it wasn’t quite as smoky, and it cut a different, more subdued flavor profile. They spike the pulled meat with apple cider vinegar that gives it a unique tang and subsequently makes it a soul mate for their Asian coleslaw, which is tossed with vinegar dressing and flavored with ginger and sesame.

Speaking of coleslaw, the regular coleslaw was up to par with everything else at StormKing. Long-cut cabbage, tangy and crunchy, with a creamy mayonnaise dressing, is the perfect thing to eat with smoked, fatty meat.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

The interior of StormKing is decidedly no-frills, yet it manages to be abundantly welcoming and warm. All of the meats and sides are available a la carte (as priced above), or you can order a meal for one person ($19 for two meats, one side), two people ($36 for four meats, two sides) or four to five people ($80 for nearly all the meat). You order at the counter and they dish up your food on a piece of paper on a metal tray. Sides are served in a paper cup. You get a soft, sweet roll, a few slices each of onion and pickle, and few pickled jalapeños that pack a mean punch. Nothing is served with sauce, but the bottle is on the table if you’re so inclined, along with a bottle of hot sauce. We wouldn’t bother putting sauce on brisket or ribs that are this good, but to their credit, the house-made barbecue sauce is quite good, with a little sweet and a little heat.

StormKing enthusiastically encourages to-go orders, even offering to bring your food out to your car parked in the lot next door or at one of the 15-minute street spots at the front door. We had the food both ways — on site and to go — and can happily report that it suffered no loss in quality during the 20 minutes from their front door to our dinner table. StormKing is a living-wage and gratuity-free establishment, and without opening up that whole can of worms, it makes their prices seem more reasonable, and it is worth noting that everyone we interacted with was as friendly and outwardly happy as can be.

In case you haven’t heard, we are in the middle of a barbecue boom in Minnesota. Adding to old standards like Big Daddy’s in St. Paul and Q Fanatic in Champlin and Minneapolis, we have recent arrivals like Revival St. Paul, which is doing phenomenal work and the terrific OMC Smokehouse in Duluth. Dave Anderson of Famous Dave’s has a new chain, Old Southern, that modernizes and improves upon his old chain, Black Market is tearing up the streets (look for a story about them by Joshua Page next week) and there is more to come. If StormKing, with its allegiance to the Lone Star State, has anything to contribute to the conversation about an emerging “Minnesota style” of barbecue, it is that excellent, world-class barbecue has arrived. By way of Texas.

StormKing Barbecue
Central-Texas-style smoked meat and sides in Minneapolis
Rating: ★★★½ (Excellent)

16½ W 26th St
Minneapolis, MN 55404

OWNERS / CHEF: Nick Walsh, Colleen Dorran, Jordan Smith / Jordan Smith
Sun-Thu: 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
Fri-Sat: 4 p.m.-11 p.m.
BAR: Full
NOISE LEVEL: Smoky roadhouse
PARKING: Lot and street

The Tap: Beer and Sausages

Banner for the Tap: Food and Drink News

This week in the Tap: reflections on the primacy of beer and sausages in local cuisine, a look ahead at upcoming restaurants in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.

The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table


I grew up in Wisconsin, so my connection to beer, bratwurst, and bratwurst boiled in beer and then consumed with beer is pretty close to elemental. It turns out that the sausage connection in heavily German-descended Minnesota is just as strong, and one of the most enjoyable things about the fine-food revolution of the past 10-or-so years has been watching plainspoken German food boom alongside fusion dishes and exotica from all over the world.

A recent visit to the newly opened Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery put a fine point on the brewery boom, and also called to mind quality sausage operations like Gerhard’s and Red Table (to say nothing of dozens of lesser known but also excellent country butcher shops and the stalwart and always excellent Kramarczuk’s). Waldmann’s sausages were good enough to eat without a bun (although the house mustards were certainly appreciated), and while the bratwurst and currywurst were both undoctored classic renditions (no gummi bears, for example), they were done with an attention to detail and quality that were noteworthy. It’s exciting to see new ventures putting out food that is both traditional and humble. If you build a regional cuisine on heartfelt renditions of simple foods, you can eventually stack a tower up to the (Michelin) stars.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Equally great at Waldmann: the stellar, malty but not syrupy Oktoberfest beer on tap. And that’s my transition to the idea that late September through early October is an absolutely absurd time to try to write about beer around here. Between Märzens, big special releases (like Darkness), and all the fresh-hopped stuff coming out, it’s truly harvest season in the beer world. I’ve been beset with beers to taste and write about, and I’ve been mostly floundering, but here’s a quick pass at a few noteworthy sips.

James Norton / Heavy Table

Lift Bridge puts an emphasis on quick travel time between hop vine and brew kettle, and that comes through in the light, piney, almost perfumed and grassy notes of the clear and delicate Harvestör fresh hop pale ale (6 percent ABV, 50 IBU). Like a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau, the bottle stokes your enthusiasm in part because you know its contents are ephemeral. Pop it open, enjoy it with friends, and wait another year for it to come back again.

James Norton / Heavy Table

The glass of Surly Wet Hopped West-Coast IPA (6.1 percent ABV, 90 IBU) that we tried at Pizzeria Lola gave the evening’s special (a pizza topped with carnitas, corn, and Hatch peppers) a run for its money, and that’s not easy — the pizza was one of the best we’ve had all year. Wet is more dank and funky than Harvestör (or most of its fresh-hopped colleagues) with a bit of bite up front and more of a malt presence. It’s got an almost chewy richness, but there’s still a clear, stone-fruity/almondlike note at the back that’s irresistible. We liked the stuff at Lola more than the Wet we tried in cans. Both were good, but the draft stuff tasted even lighter and more ephemeral.

Fair State’s IPA is now available in strikingly designed, brightly colored cans. They’re the ideal vessels for the beer within, which is also bold, but cunningly designed. This juicy, floral IPA is almost more aroma than beer. It practically floats out of the glass into your face, suffusing your senses with flowers. On your tongue and on the way down it offers a substantial but balanced stone-fruit bite that leaves a lingering, pleasant bitterness that is chased away with every subsequent sip. IPAs can be blunt instruments. This one is subtle and lovely without being underpowered or one-note.

James Norton / Heavy Table

And on another note entirely: Indeed’s Rum King (10.5 percent ABV, 55 IBU), which is an imperial stout aged in rum barrels. I’ve been taking care of a 4-year-old for the past four days, so when at the end of Saturday night I had a Rum King waiting for me, it was less “a beer” than “a cocktail passport to a 90-minute trip to a world of tropical adventure.” It’s a beer so thick and sweet and boozy and fruity that it could comfortable pass as a well-mixed cocktail at a tiki bar (although those tend toward the light rums accented by tropical and other citrus fruit, and this one is all molasses, raisins, and vanilla). Like Darkness (and others of its ilk), Rum King is an experience — you can kick your feet up, fire up Bojack Horseman, and check out from all your cares for a little while. It’s pretty much magic poured out of a can. It’s also pretty much the opposite of Harvestör, so prepare yourself for emotional whiplash if you taste them both in one evening. How are both of these liquids called “beer”?


  • NOLO’s Kitchen and Bar and The Basement Bar, 515 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis
  • Five Watt Northeast, 861 E Hennepin Ave | A second location for the popular Eat Street coffeehouse and roastery, including an expanded food menu. As featured in the Hot Five.
  • Rebel Donut Bar, 1226 2nd St NE, Minneapolis | More action within the “fancy doughnut” sphere, but in this case miniaturized.
  • The Market House Collaborative, 289 5th St E, St Paul | Now open: OctoFish Bar. As per the Shea designers: “The space will include a seafood market, a casual seafood restaurant, a boutique butcher shop, and a bakery, and we can’t wait to kick off.” Vendors are reported to include The Salty Tart bakery, a Peterson Meats full-service butcher shop, Almanac Fish Market, and the OctoFish Bar on the casual seafood restaurant side of things.

James Norton / Heavy Table

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

  • Bardo, 222 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | A new “modern American bistro” in the old Rachel’s spot in Northeast, with chef/owner Remy Pettus. Our review of the cocktail program.

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Courtesy of Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters

This post is sponsored by the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, you are on the correct website. Although this isn’t your typical review of the latest coffee shop or burger delicacy to come on the scene, this post may just give you a taste of what’s going on outside of our Twin Cities bubble, and a hunger that drives you to action.

So, just what is the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters?

We are one organization made up of many non-profits across the nation committed to keeping the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) safe from sulfide-ore copper mining. Our knowledge of the risks associated with the proposed mining operations has called us to work toward protecting the most visited wilderness in the United States. While our concern is certainly environmental, it is also economic, but we’ll get to that later. The majority of Minnesotans, including Governor Mark Dayton, are against this type of mining near the Boundary Waters, so we exist to fight for this “crown jewel” that so many of us love and deem worthy of protection.

Not quite hopping on the bandwagon yet? Here’s another reason why you should care.

Courtesy of Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters

According to the EPA, sulfide-ore copper mining is the most toxic industry in the United States. In fact, it’s so risky that Minnesota has never before allowed it to occur in the state. We already know that this type of mining has contaminated bodies of water and polluted local water supplies in other regions of the world, and we want to avoid repeating that history here. After all, there has yet to be an instance where sulfide-ore copper mining did not prove to be toxic. To put it simply, sulfide-ore copper mining produces acid, and both the sulfuric acid and heavy metals produced by this type of mining are dangerous pollutants capable of harming the water and the surrounding wilderness.

Some claim this is not a problem because the mining takes place outside the Boundary Waters. However, this assertion can be easily refuted with the knowledge that the mines will be placed along rivers and lakes that flow straight into the Boundary Waters. Thus, the threat of pollution is imminent, and we must consider the effect it will have on the wildlife both in and around the wilderness.

Species such as the Canada lynx and gray wolf are already threatened, and if their habitat becomes unlivable due to negative impacts caused by mining, it’s possible these species may move past the point of endangerment to extinction. Beyond this, the fish, loons, deer, moose, and other animals currently residing in the Boundary Waters that are not yet endangered may find their populations dwindling if sulfide-ore copper mining is allowed. If that’s not enough, the vegetation of the Boundary Waters is also at risk. The potential contamination of the Boundary Waters would have unprecedented and devastating effects on the Arrowhead region’s ecosystem.

Courtesy of Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters

Maybe you’re not big on the environment — then let me sway you with another argument. Sulfide-ore copper mining in the Boundary Waters would be a blow not only to the environment but to the economy as well.

The Arrowhead region is known for generating a hefty amount of revenue from its booming tourism industry. As it stands now, 17,000 jobs in the area are categorized as being in the tourism industry. Furthermore, tourism has brought in over $913 million to the region. The numbers speak for themselves; the economy of the Arrowhead is growing. Pollution from mining would end the economic growth spurred by the Boundary Waters.

The unfortunate reality is that the proposed mining threatens the current quality of life residents of the Arrowhead region have enjoyed throughout the years. If the quality of life were to decrease it would lead to a decrease in population, as opposed to the present growth the region is experiencing. Along with this, a downtrend would be expected in employment and income. If employment begins to suffer, then small businesses in particular would be unfavorably affected and would find it far more challenging to bring in the revenue they have come to expect. Further consequences include uncertainty in regard to retirement plans and investments made by residents of the region. Finally, the question remains, will 155,000 people still want to visit every year if the waters and wilderness the Boundary Waters is famous for grow toxic?

Becca Dilley Photography

Hopefully, if you’ve delved this deep into this post it’s because you’re genuinely curious about the campaign, and if that’s the case then you need to know where the issue stands now.

A federal environmental review is currently underway, and will most likely continue for at least the next year (I’ll get to that). A comment period, which was announced in January of 2017 concluded on Aug. 17, 2017. During the comment period more than 125,000 people submitted comments in support of protecting the Boundary Waters. It is our hope that once the environmental review is complete a ban on sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters will be issued for the next 20 years. Ultimately, the campaign would love to see the Boundary Waters receive the same protection as other national treasures like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

However, on September 6, 2017 Reps. Rick Nolan and Tom Emmer added an amendment to the federal funding bill put forward by the House of Representatives that, if the final bill passes in December and includes the amendment, will eliminate federal funding for the environmental review. Furthermore, Emmer has introduced a separate bill that would end the environmental review and grant mining leases to Twin Metals Minnesota in perpetuity. These actions are a clear threat to the future of the Boundary Waters, and we need your help to stop them.

So, how’s that hunger for action coming along? Here’s how you can act to help save the Boundary Waters.

Thanks for taking the time to learn about the campaign, and a special shout out to the Heavy Table for letting us take over your magazine today! You guys rock.

Heavy Table Hot Five: Oct. 13-19


Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.


James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot fiveLox it Down! at the Hennepin Avenue Five Watt Coffee
The newly opened Hennepin Avenue location of Five Watt Coffee has a food menu that revolves around quality hot dogs, a couple of panini, and a lox-on-rye creation called the Lox it Down! We’ve eaten our share of smorrebrod (Scandinavian open-faced sandwiches), and this rye, lox, capers, arugula, and cream cheese sandwich definitely strikes a Nordic chord: It’s mild, mellow, and totally pleasing, with the dry rye toast counteracting any of the potentially unpleasant moisture of the lox, and capers bringing a touch of tartness to the party.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an Instagram post by James Norton]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveYou Can Rum But You Can’t Hide from Hola Arepa
If you like a boozy cocktail, this is the drink for you. It’s built from Cruzan light rum, Cruzan dark rum, cinnamon grenadine, falernum, orange liqueur, lime, and grapefruit. Falernum, a cordial made from an infusion of citrus, spices, nuts, and sugar is what makes this drink so amazingly zingy. Drink responsibly.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Brenda Johnson]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fivePear-Chocolate Tart from Solomon’s Bakery
The beautiful pear-chocolate tart from Solomon’s Bakery at the Mill City Farmers Market is lighter than it appears. The chocolate filling is rich but delicate, as is the crust. The pears are from another Mill City vendor, and before being baked, they’re carefully cored, so the consumer has only to gently pull on the stem for the center to be easily lifted out. Autumn on a plate.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveQuesadilla de Flor de Calabazas at Don Chilo at Lake Plaza
The single most astonishing thing we ate while touring Lake Plaza on East Lake Street was the Quesadilla de Flor de Calabazas (around $8; no prices on menu). The tortilla was made on site and then filled with a combination of two cheeses, squash blossoms, mushrooms, onions, and peppers. It was chewy, tender, gooey, earthy, full-flavored, and downright elegant.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from this week’s East Lake Checklist by James Norton]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveShrimp to Share at Tilia
I can’t think of one item on Tilia’s menu that we don’t like. Sitting at the kitchen counter is an epicurean overload … so enjoyable if you’re into that sort of thing. We watched as items were passed to the wait staff, trying to see something we have not had, and the shrimp caught our eye. Shrimp, peas, fermented black beans, spicy sauce, and grilled scallions are presented on an herby and decorative puree. Not a carb in sight to soak up the juice, but a spoon did the trick.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Brenda Johnson]

The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen: A Preview

University of Minnesota Press

This post is sponsored by the University of Minnesota Press. Join Sean Sherman and Beth Dooley for a book launch event on Oct. 18 at the Aster Cafe.

Award-winning recipes, stories, and wisdom from the celebrated indigenous chef and his team

Here is real food — our indigenous American fruits and vegetables, wild and foraged ingredients, game and fish. Locally sourced, seasonal, “clean” ingredients and nose-to-tail cooking are nothing new to Sean Sherman, the Oglala Lakota chef and founder of The Sioux Chef. In his breakout book, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, Sherman shares his approach to creating boldly seasoned foods that are vibrant, healthful, and at once elegant and easy.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Sherman dispels outdated notions about Native American fare — no fry bread or Indian tacos here — and no European staples such as wheat flour, dairy products, sugar, or domestic pork and beef. The Sioux Chef’s healthful plates embrace venison and rabbit, river and lake trout, duck and quail, wild turkey, blueberries, sage, sumac, timpsula (wild turnip), plums, purslane, and abundant wildflowers. Contemporary and authentic, his dishes feature cedar-braised bison, griddled wild rice cakes, amaranth crackers with smoked white bean paste, three sisters salad, deviled duck eggs, smoked turkey soup, dried meats, roasted corn sorbet, and hazelnut-maple bites.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen is a rich education and a delectable introduction to the modern indigenous cuisine of the Dakota and Minnesota territories, with a vision and approach to food that travels well beyond those borders.

“Sean Sherman is doing some of the most important culinary work in America. In The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, he takes a forward-thinking approach to indigenous cuisine, bringing his culture into the light to share with the rest of the world.” — Sean Brock, James Beard Award winner, author of Heritage, and executive chef at Husk in Charleston, S.C.

“I am impressed by Chef Sean Sherman’s dedication to a cuisine that has long been lost, his respect for his heritage, and his passion to bring the beauty of this tradition into the world. This is remarkable work and I look forward to learning from this talented chef!” — Maneet Chauhan, Food Network celebrity chef, founder and CEO, Indie Culinaire

“There are cookbooks from which one simply cooks the recipes, and cookbooks from which one learns how and why to cook. Chef Sherman’s book is in the latter [category]. It is a cookbook meant to be studied, one where the recipes are not its most important feature, but rather a part of an overall call to reclaim the history and culture of indigenous peoples. Chef Sherman observes that controlling food is a means of controlling power. With this cookbook, he is taking that power and giving it back to its rightful owners.” — Foreword Reviews, starred review

$34.95 hardcover | ISBN 978-0-8166-9979-7