The Tap: Restaurant Openings and Closings for March 2017

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This week in the Tap: A look ahead at upcoming restaurants, 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 editor@heavytable.com.

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Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

  • Bottle Rocket, 1806 St. Clair Ave, St. Paul  | A reboot by the Blue Plate Restaurant Company of the former Scusi space with craft cocktails. Our review here.
  • The Lexington, 1096 Grand Ave, St. Paul | After a years-long odyssey, the newest incarnation of the Lexington has arrived.
  • Geno’s, 12 4th St SE, Minneapolis | Italian sandwich shop from the owners of Lyndale Tap House.
  • Ziat & Za’atar, 1626 Selby Ave, St. Paul
  • Mercado by Earl Giles, 2904 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | Jester Concepts taqueria, coffee shop, and cocktail spot.
  • Utepils Brewing, 225 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis | Large-scale (about 60 percent of Surly’s capacity) new brewery.
  • Byte, 319 1st Ave N, Minneapolis | With a Geek Bar, of course, plus a casual menu and baked goods from Patisserie 46.
  • Bad Waitress (second location), 700 Central Ave NE
Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

  • Can Can Wonderland, 755 Prior Ave N, St. Paul | Artist-designed mini-golf with beer, noshes, and Bittercube cocktails.
  • Jun, 730 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis | Szechuan gone upscale in the North Loop.
  • Pad Ga Pow, 811 LaSalle Ave, Suite 207, Minneapolis | Skyway Thai from the daughter and son-in-law of the owner of the lovely On’s Thai on University Avenue in St. Paul.


Station Pizzeria in Minnetonka

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Get too far out of the metro’s Minneapolis-St. Paul heart and you’re tempted to grade on a curve — “it’s good for White Bear Lake,” or “it’s pretty solid for Richfield.” More and more, however, A-games are diffusing throughout the region, and you’re seeing stuff like the excitement of Lyn65 (and its upcoming Popol Vuh and Central offshoots), the whole Travail / Rookery / Pig Ate My Pizza mishegoss, and the ongoing shock wave of militarily managed hype (and probable excellence) that is Bellecour in Wayzata.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Less splashy but also deserving of mention is the newly opened Station Pizzeria in Minnetonka. Located in a converted gas station, the restaurant is putting out some good pizzas and great accompaniments in a casual but tastefully decorated (hello, giant photo portrait of Prince) space.

The team behind this spot, owner Ryan Burnet (Barrio, Burch, Bar La Grassa, and more) and chef David Ellis (Bar La Grassa, 112 Eatery, Piccolo) are heavy hitters, and it shows. The menu is tight and focused, the decor is sophisticated and fun without being overbearing, and the food is, by and large, right.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Our Barrio Pizza ($17.50) was the closest we came to going off the rails. This combination of grilled chicken, pleasantly smoky bacon, red onion, tomato sauce, and mozzarella was so overloaded with fiery jalapeño slices that it begged for some relief; a barbecue-style sauce would have been an obvious fix. When we reheated our leftovers at home, we topped them with chunks of pineapple, and the result was a great slice of pizza. This was a concept one ingredient short of being a balanced pie. Heat notwithstanding, the pizza had other good qualities, chiefly a crust that was a deftly balanced blend of crispy and chewy. We’d give the reigning champs, Hello Pizza, the edge for a legit New-York-style experience, but Station pulls even with other credible local establishments such as Andrea Pizza.



Heavy Table Hot Five: March 17-23

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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 editor@heavytable.com.

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

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Amy Rea / Heavy Table

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

1-new - onePaczki at Sarah Jane’s Bakery
It’s paczki season again, and we have just a few more weeks until Sarah Jane’s in Northeast Minneapolis stops producing these for the year. These compact little pastries come filled with your choice of raspberry or peach filling — both good — or, as shown here, with a dreamy custard. Perfect treat to get through the dregs of winter.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

2-new - twoSea Snails with a Nettle Emulsion at Tullibee
Snails, like mussels, are really just a show-offy excuse to eat more butter. Add nettles, and you can almost pretend you’ve ordered a salad. One bite and you know better: This is a creamy pool of risotto that’s more butter than rice, with a generous layer of electric green nettle puree (more butter) and tiny, briny forkfuls of snail throughout. Tullibee’s menu changes daily, inspired by what the butcher likes the look of. If you see the snails, you know what to do.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Tricia Cornell]

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - threeRicotta with Maple at Station Pizzeria
A fresh ricotta dish is arguably high-concept for a pizzeria, but the version at Station Pizzeria in Minnetonka works. It’s all due to the quality of the ingredients: a light, mellow ricotta, a hint of maple syrup sweetness, and a mild white balsamic, all in balance, served wit perfectly toasted and exquisitely thin pieces of bread.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a upcoming review by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

4-new fourPollo Verde Bowl at Catrina’s
Catrina’s, the locally owned version of Chipotle, puts the latter to shame with its choices. Why just say pork or chicken when you can say pollo verde and get a bowl full of moderately spicy, tender chicken, and then cover it with a zippy citrus-jalapeño salsa (or any of the nine salsa offered) and pickled jalapeños? It’ll wake you up. Get some of the house-made chips on the side.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -five 2017 Irish Coffee Stout from Lift Bridge Brewing
There aren’t really any sharp edges on this celebratory beer. It’s aged in whiskey barrels and made with cold-pressed coffee from Five Watt, giving it a mellow, nearly acid-free complexity that plays well with (or as) a dessert course. Coffee beers can present a biting astringency or (far worse) a chemical bite, but neither of those traits rears its head in this brew.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by James Norton]



Wooden Soul Cherry Dust by Indeed Brewing Company

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

Not so long ago, we raved about the Fair State-Fulton-Oakhold collaboration beer Frontenac, hailing it as an example of how the Upper Midwest is in the process of developing a native, richly complex beer culture parallel to (and perfectly competitive with) wine culture in other parts of the world.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Here’s another link to add to that complex chain: the new Cherry Dust installment of Indeed’s remarkable Wooden Soul collection of barrel-aged sour beers.

This is not an easy beer, starting from the artful formality of its Frank Lloyd Wrightian label. This isn’t Coors Light or Premium; it’s about as complicated as a beer can get without being unfriendly. The two major flavor components of Cherry Dust are a lightly puckering astringency and a mellow but notable barnyard funk. Both of these elements support and play off of one another, and they’re both elevated by an intense carbonation that lifts, aerates, and moderates the beer’s challenging edges. The cherry aspect of Cherry Dust is tart, natural, and understated. There’s nothing aggressively sweet or cherry Popsicle about this beer.

At 5.4 percent ABV, this is a beer that you can sip effortlessly if its taste happens to be your thing; at a recent party we brought this to, we found a 3-to-3 split (along gender lines, oddly), with men digging it and women passing it up after a tentative sip or two.

This is a beer that would pair wonderfully with funkier, softer cheeses (Good Thunder or Bent River, perhaps?), and as part of a “Holy Smokes, Minnesota Beer These Days Is Amazeballs!” tasting, it would fit in just fine. Whether you’ve got room in your life for this level of complexity, however, is entirely up to you.



The Cocktail Room at Twin Spirits Distillery

Rick Didora / Heavy Table

Rick Didora / Heavy Table

Twin Spirits Distillery opened quietly, but to a large crowd, two weeks ago in Northeast Minneapolis. The minuscule distillery and its cocktail room have been in planning for about two years, and the debut makes Twin Spirits the first woman-owned and -operated distillery in the the state.

With a capacity of fewer than 50 people, the cocktail room feels like a small, neighborhood gathering place, but based on the level of activity, its draw is formidable. The newcomer is in good company, with Tattersall Distilling to the south and Norseman and Wander North distilleries to the southeast, meaning neighbors have a good opportunity to become familiar with local spirits.

Rick Didora / Heavy Table

Rick Didora / Heavy Table

While Twin Spirits describes its previously vacant building as farmlike, the interior feels industrial, and the exterior appears as a repurposed commercial space. The cocktail room bleeds into the production space, bringing visitors close to the stills and other equipment. Decor in the seating area skews vintage, but the area behind the bar has modern floating shelves and classic subway tile, so the space lacks any coherent image.

The owner, Michelle Winchester, can be found serving tables during cocktail hours. She currently bottles two different vodkas, one gin, and a moonshine made from distilling mead, each of which is available for tasting. Miki Mosman, known for her work at Cafe Maude, is the mind behind the substantial menu.

Visitors can choose cocktails ranging from the simple, such as straight spirits or a gin and tonic, to the more complex, including a favorite among our tasters, the Tricky Miki ($8), a balanced mix of Claro vodka, chocolate, orange, and pomegranate with a balsamic vinegar finish. Though the drink was a bit sharp on our first visit, the technique or the recipe had been modified for the better the following weekend. The initial flavor is powerfully orange and chocolate, like the foil-wrapped chocolate orange that must be smacked on a hard surface before enjoying, but the balsamic classes the whole thing up.

Rick Didora / Heavy Table

Rick Didora / Heavy Table

Winchester explains that the Claro vodka is distinct from the M vodka in that it has been passed through an activated charcoal filter, reducing the citrus and spice character and making it more appropriate for mixing. When enjoyed neat, the Claro has clear vanilla and baked bread notes. It lends itself to sweeter drinks.

Rick Didora / Heavy Table

Rick Didora / Heavy Table

The other success is the chartreuse-colored Venus Verde ($8), made with M gin, ginger juice, cardamom, basil, and tonic. This herbaceous combination made us long for spring, and the heady melange of aromas compensated for the too-subtle gin, which doesn’t declare itself as juniper- or botanical-based and is hard to distinguish in the drink overall. The cardamom is a perfect anchor for its bright partners, while the ginger isn’t noticeable.

Rick Didora / Heavy Table

Rick Didora / Heavy Table

Two other beverages, while lacking significant problems, were bland. The Lavender Honey Bee ($8) tasted only like gin, lemon juice, and honey, and held no lavender at all. Similarly, the Ruckus Rosemary ($8), with M vodka, lime, and rosemary simple syrup was lacking dramatically in intensity of flavor.

Overall, expect a much more approachable menu than that of Norseman, with familiar ingredients perhaps mixed in a creative way. There are fewer classic combinations than can be found at Du Nord Craft Spirits, for instance, but no single drink is a total knockout at this point.

Twin Spirits also owns a large, warehouselike space across the parking lot that they plan to use in the future for barreling. Winchester tells us that she is in the process of acquiring many types of barrels for aging, which will presumably happen in this building.

Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis 55418; 612.353.5274; Wed-Sat 3-10 p.m.