Not all hazy IPAs are alike. There has been a glut of them on the market lately, and a lot of that can be chalked up to their novelty: What was once viewed as a brewer’s error has been embraced as a stylistic choice that fills the drinker’s mouth with a sometimes funky blast of juicy flavor.
The latest local hazy IPA release (in a can, at least) is by Fair State, and it’s called Mirror Universe. It’s a bit wet-and-juicy, but it’s not a tidal wave, and while some hazy IPAs luxuriate in mango or pineapple richness, this one is comparatively restrained. There’s some bite and some astringency, but overall it’s a fairly minimalist example of its style with a lingering but mellow bite that follows each sip. It’s reasonably strong at 7 percent ABV, but like most hazy IPAs, you’re not likely to pound this beer. It’s a sipper.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.
Sicilian Olive Soup at Tutto Bene in Bemidji
When I asked the server at Bemidji’s Tutto Bene to tell me about the Sicilian Olive Soup, he simply said: “People who like green olives love it. People who don’t like green olives don’t.” Being a green-olive fan, I ordered a cup and soon wished I’d ordered a bowl. The earthy fullness of green olives is blended with plenty of garlic and sprinkled with chives to break up the richness. It’s almost like a green olive tapenade, but pureed and smooth. It comes with a crispy cracker, perfect for dunking, and at the bottom of the bowl were plump pieces of Cerignola olives. This green-olive lover did indeed love it.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]
Cherry Pie From Pie and Mighty at Brake Bread
For Pie Day, which was Wednesday, we sought out a really good slice, and we found it at Brake Bread in St. Paul. It was made for them by Pie and Mighty, a pop-up bakery. The sour cherries were still whole and had that ideal sweet-tart balance, and the crust was robust enough to keep the gloppy deliciousness together.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an Instagram Post by James Norton]
The Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich at Biergarten Germania in St. Paul
This sandwich was described by a fellow diner as “the best sandwich I’ve had in a long time.” And while that might sound like hyperbole, it’s a fair assessment. The seven-seed bread was soft yet sturdy; the schnitzel was tender and juicy, and lightly fried without a hint of grease. Add mustard, mayo, and a thick slice of tomato that might have traveled back in time from the coming peak tomato season, and you’ve got a perfectly composed sandwich.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by Ted Held]
The Fat Joe Burger at Lolo in Hudson, Wis.
The Fat Joe Burger is an audacious version that goes for the gusto. A sizable burger is topped with Swiss cheese, generous quantities of both bacon and pork belly, and a zippy coleslaw comprised of cabbage and red onion. Definitely do upgrade to the smoked-salt fries, which are flavorful on their own but even better when dipped into the accompanying basil aioli.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]
Baklava at Pita King
Based on a reader tip, we picked up the baklava at Pita King on Franklin. It joins our trinity of favorites along with Filfillah and Gyropolis. Super crispy layers, wonderful walnut-y body, just the right intensity of sweetness.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted from an Instagram post by James Norton]
This Checklist outing was an exploration of extremes. We bounced between a tiny, darkened cafe and a huge, bustling buffet. We went from a simple market to an ornate dining room. Oh, and we hit a gas station food counter. If there’s a lesson here, it’s that there’s just no telling what people might like when it comes to their dining experience. In some cases (such as all-you-can-eat buffets), it boggles the mind. That said, we can usually find something to appreciate in every experience. Even if it’s not the food. — M.C. Cronin
This week’s checklist crew: WACSO, M.C. Cronin, James Norton
OTHER EAST LAKE STREET CHECKLIST INSTALLMENTS: Lake Plaza, Gorditas el Gordo to Pineda Tacos, Taqueria Victor Hugo to Safari Restaurant, El Sabor Chuchi to The Rabbit Hole, Midtown Global Market, Miramar to San Miguel Bakery, Mercado Central, Ingebretsen’s to Pasteleria Gama
ABOUT THIS PROJECT
The East Lake Checklist is the third Heavy Table illustrated travelogue to explore a major gastronomic thoroughfare in Minneapolis and/or St. Paul. The East Lake Checklist is the Heavy Table’s follow-up to our 55-restaurant survey of independent eateries on Central Avenue and our 72-restaurant series about restaurants on the Green Line. We’ll publish five-restaurant installments biweekly until we’ve documented every nonchain spot on East Lake Street between 35W and the Mississippi River. (We’re estimating 75 spots, but we’ll see how it shakes out.)
This series is made possible by underwriting from Visit Lake Street. Heavy Table retains editorial control of the series — as with Central Avenue and the Green Line, this tour will be warts-and-all.
“From the river to the lakes, visitors and residents can shop local and be social on Lake Street. More information at VisitLakeStreet.com.”
1855 E Lake St, Minneapolis
Some places have a warmth that’s hard to explain. La Alborada is one of those places. On the surface, it has a lot in common with other mercados we’ve visited, but something about La Alborada feels less frenetic, more welcoming.
At the heart of the market is a single room with high ceilings and low shelves that allow you to stand on one end and see across the entire place. Colorful star piñatas hang above produce shelves stocked with fresh coconuts and plantains. There are hand-painted murals behind the meat counter. There’s a separate area for baked goods and a room for pharmacy items. It’s well cared for. While we were there, a guy with a tie and a clipboard was diligently counting and turning frontward the drinks in one of the coolers.
The restaurant is set apart from the remainder of the market. There’s a small seating area near the front counter and another room with tables running along the outside windows of the building. With its orange walls, earth-toned tile floors and brick counter, it feels just as warm and welcoming as the rest of the market. All in all, a pleasant place to sit down for a few minutes and devour some tasty antojitos. — M.C.
*** FOOD NOTES ***
We’ve reviewed and loved La Alborada in the past, and it’s one of our favorite places to stop for a couple of tamales for lunch. It was therefore no surprise that everything we tried was good to excellent.
Our soft drinks were exemplary. The horchata wasn’t overly sweet, and it had a wonderful, understated ricey texture. The Jamaica was kissed with a nice dose of hibiscus astringency, but was neither cloyingly sweet nor overly severe. Both were among the best we’ve tried on East Lake Street.
We tried three Tacos ($1.90 each) — cabeza (beef head), longaniza (spicy sausage), and asada (steak). The asada was excellent, packing an incredible amount of umami-rich, steaky punch into each tender little cube of meat. The cabeza was mellower than the asada, and richer, with a streak of fatty intensity to it. We’d expected the longaniza to be a one-for-one with chorizo, but it was more complicated than that. There was a cinnamonlike, spicy depth to it that was both surprising and enjoyable. All the accoutrements (hot sauces, lime slices, grilled onions) were right, and the tacos rank among the most enjoyable we’ve tried. And we’ve tried … a lot of tacos.
Martina in Linden Hills has drawn a lot of of buzz since opening late last year. The attention comes in part due to the neighborhood and also to the quick turnover of its predecessor, Upton 43. Chef Daniel del Prado is another cause for renown. The Argentine chef has made a name for himself in Minnesota at several dining destinations including Bar La Grassa and Solera, but his South American roots are most evident in his latest creation.
Also notable is the beverage staff, many of whom worked as part of the first-rate team at Bittercube. Beverage director Marco Zappia (formerly of Lawless Distilling and Grand Cafe) leads a team that includes Dustin Nguyen (formerly of Can Can Wonderland and Eat Street Social), and Adam Witherspoon from Alma.
Blending spirits in house, while not entirely novel, is a concept that Martina plans to raise to a new level. The bar staff has developed custom blends of cornerstone spirits like vodka, gin, and rum as well as specialty liqueurs like fernet. Nguyen explains that one individual spirit is used as the base, while others of the same type are added to contribute specific characteristics. The majority of these blends use three or four ingredients. Eventually, the team plans to showcase these house blends straight up. As a result, the cocktail menu is notably devoid of brand names, and Martina avoids the common “pay to play” practice wherein distilleries offer their cocktail recipes and are in turn promoted on menus.
For now, the spirit blends are found in an array of cocktails that range from straightforward to avant-garde. The thoughtfulness evident in the cocktail list is also found in the management of glassware, the level of service, and the restrained level of novelty. Many of the offerings feature degrees of salinity, appropriate for the seafood-forward cuisine, while a few offer balanced sweetness and floral notes to temper grilled and charred meats. Ice is also used thoughtfully and skillfully.
A visit to the bar starts with an of-the-moment vermouth blend (a signature practice of Zappia’s from Grand Cafe), which acts as an amuse bouche. The current offering has a marmalade and plum-skin aroma with a balanced flavor profile of hibiscus, black pepper, and bay leaf. The tannic nature lingers on the roof of the mouth.
For caipirinha fans, the Viceroy ($9) is a variation that offers a similar tropical bouquet but without much sugar. Classic Brazilian cachaça meets pineapple and lime, but the addition of togarashi, a spice blend often found in ramen, takes the final product in a different direction. Togarashi adds pepper, sesame, and seaweed notes that build a subtle burn in the back of the throat, but the cocktail never becomes spicy. It’s at once beachy and savory.
When you think about German restaurants, do you picture a meat-heavy, kitschy German caricature? A dingy rathskeller decorated with Gothic fonts and griffins? Biergarten Germania (275 E Fourth St, St. Paul) takes a refreshingly different approach: a small, balanced menu, a space with minimal decor (in the former Golden’s Deli space), and an emphasis on keeping both feet solidly planted in the Lowertown terroir.
The concise menu ranges from traditional German bratwurst and schnitzel to less traditionally German fare like falafel and bisque. The beer list is split between German and Minnesota brews. With sports on the television (your St. Paul headquarters for Bundesliga games) and long communal tables and benches, Biergarten Germania aims to be a real beer hall as opposed to a German-themed restaurant.
We started with the Potato Pancakes ($9). Thin and crispy, almost puffy in appearance, they were a pastrylike foil for the accompanying sour cream and cinnamon-smacked apple jelly. Diced green onion and bacon bits rounded out the flavor but didn’t interfere with an apple pie vibe. The Butternut Squash Bisque ($6) was equally flavorful — rich, creamy, and buttery. Toasted pumpkin seeds were an especially nice touch.
The wurst in the Hausegemachte (house-made) Brat Sandwich ($10) was amply spiced in its well-browned, snappy casing. This sausage could stand next to Kramarczuk’s version, maybe even winning in a foot race. It’s served for lunch on a soft, toasted bun, with brown mustard and plenty of house-made kraut on the side. The kraut is coarse-cut and mouth-puckeringly sour, with a good texture. The pickled cucumbers on the side were also delicious.
As for the terroir, we talked to head chef Serge Kogan, and he is visibly excited about plans to implement a “probiotic fermentation program” using the bounty of vegetables that will soon start appearing at the St. Paul Farmers Market across the street. He’s currently developing a culture in the limestone basement (“A perfect cave”) of the Northwestern Building to use for fermentation. The kraut and cucumbers are a promising indication of what’s to come.
The Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich ($10) was described by one taster as “the best sandwich I’ve had in a long time.” And while that might sound like hyperbole, it’s a fair assessment. The seven-seed bread was soft yet sturdy; the schnitzel was tender and juicy, and lightly fried without a hint of grease. Add mustard, mayo, and a thick slice of tomato that might have traveled back in time from the coming peak tomato season, and you’ve got a perfectly composed sandwich. The Cucumber Salad ($3) was a little heavy on the red onion for our taste but perfectly dressed in dill and vinegar, and very fresh tasting. The Spätzle ($3) were little buttery wisps of dough with a rich, brothy, umami flavor.
There are few notable German restaurants in the metro area, so Biergarten Germania — with its relatively light culinary touch, its emphasis on being of Lowertown, St. Paul (a drink named for Bill Murray is a nice touch), and its informal vibe — is a welcome twist on the formula.
German beer hall in Lowertown, St. Paul
275 E 4th St
St. Paul, MN 55101
Tue-Wed 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Thu 11 a.m.-midnight
Fri 11 a.m.-1 a.m.
Sat 8 a.m.-1 a.m.
Sun 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
OWNER / CHEF: Kari Richtsmeier / Serge Kogan
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Yes
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Ask
ENTREE RANGE: $9-$18
NOISE LEVEL: Beer hall
PARKING: Street, nearby pay lots