As tonight’s snow started to fall, so did our interest in food shopping or otherwise procuring our own dinner. But then we thought: Wait, is it OK to send a delivery driver out in this mess to obtain food on our behalf? Are we monsters?
We reached out to Bite Squad‘s vice president of marketing, Craig Key, to get his company’s official take on bad weather-food ordering, and here it is:
“Should customers feel guilty about using Bite Squad in bad weather?
No! I don’t think customers should feel guilty – it’s our goal to serve our customers and bring them just what they want! We do hope they can have a little extra patience on bad weather days, as these can be really complicated from a logistics standpoint.
Is bad weather a good thing for delivery?
In many ways, yes! Especially bad weather that keeps people from going out, but isn’t so bad that it makes conditions unsafe. A little rain or snow is great, a blizzard or a hurricane is more difficult. We see a clear correlation that the worse weather gets, the more demand there is for delivery. In fact, one of the reasons restaurants love us is that we naturally even out the peaks and valleys. When whether is good, most restaurants don’t have a hard time filling their tables. When whether is bad, they still have a full cook-staff on duty, but not a full house. Bite Squad (and other restaurant delivery services) is the perfect balance to solve that problem.
- Do you charge more during bad weather? – No, although some RDS’s may have “surge” pricing or similar, our prices stay the same as long as we can operate. If you’re feeling extra generous, you can always give your driver an extra strong tip (in the app or in person).
- How long should I expect to wait? – On some busy nights we may have wait times over 90 minutes, on bad weather days if it gets any longer than that we may temporarily stop accepting orders until we can get caught up and get our wait times under control.
- Do you close in bad weather? – We try hard not to, but safety is always going to be our top priority so if drivers can’t be out on the road safely, we will have to close.
- Are all options available in bad weather? – Sometimes we will need to shrink the zone slightly to keep our drivers operating in a smaller radius. This avoids sending drivers on long routes w/ more risk of accident or getting stuck away from help.
- Why is my order stuck in “sending to restaurant” mode? – When we are experiencing delays, we will wait to send your order to a restaurant until we know we can get a driver there when it’s hot and fresh. We don’t want your order to sit for 20 minutes before we get there, so we may wait to send it in until we’ve got someone lined up to get it. This may be frustrating as a customer, but ultimately it helps make sure your food is as hot/fresh as possible. “
This story is part of our Unsolicited Advice feature. Unsolicited Advice columns are brief, focused pieces of constructive criticism from a diner’s or customer’s perspective.
If twice-daily fresh dim sum out of the old Mai Village space sounds too good to be true, rest assured that sadly it is — at least for now. The recently opened Tapestry Restaurant at Western and University in St. Paul promises to bring a reliable dim sum experience to a metro with little real dim sum to speak of, but there are a couple of major kinks that need to be worked out first.
SUGGESTION #1: Put the Dim Sum on carts.
We visited Tapestry at 12:30 p.m. on a Friday. The dining room was about 60-70 percent full. We waited about 25 minutes to order from our menus and weren’t done with lunch until nearly 2 p.m. In the interim, our beverages (which is to say, three glasses of water and a hot tea) arrived after a long delay, a bottle of hot chili oil was requested and never arrived, and a single, straggling dim sum order arrived 10 minutes after everything else, and only after we inquired. We weren’t the only ones affected; diners at the table across from us complained twice about the wait, and the diners at the table behind us left before even receiving their food.
At a white tablecloth spot, 90 minutes would be a long but understandable duration for a meal. But dim sum sets a different expectation, which is that as soon as you sit down, you will be flooded by food. You will have to fight physically and emotionally to stem the tide. The food will be salty, greasy, fully flavored and filling, and if you’re not careful, you’ll explode.
A dim sum brunch or lunch can be over in 20 minutes if you have to jet, or stretch out to an hour or longer if you have time to luxuriate in dumplings. Tapestry’s pacing was glacial, the service disorganized, and the whole thing, seriously, would have been much faster and smoother if they quite literally reinvented the wheel and put everything on the sensible traditional rolling carts.
SUGGESTION #2: Seasoning, please.
We tried seven dishes at Tapestry, and they ranged from mild to almost completely flavorless. The main culprit was a seemingly unseasoned chopped pork filling (which we had in the Hmong Rice Rolls and the Fried Pork Dumplings). With plenty of soy sauce, it was palatable, but there wasn’t much to hold onto.
The Hot Peppers Stuffed with Shrimp were a bit more lively. They at least had some fiery fight from the jalapeño, but they still lacked much dimension or richness.
Across the board, Tapestry’s food seemed to lack seasoning, funk, spice, fight, and fatty richness, which left us somewhat hungry and not entirely satisfied.
Minnesotans have a reputation for prizing grayish-white slabs of nothingness, but over the past 10-15 years, that baseline sense of taste has changed radically and for the good. Spots like Young Joni and Hai Hai are crushing it with bold, hot, bright, deeply layered Asian-inspired flavors, and there’s no reason an ambitious new dim sum place couldn’t step on the gas in a similar fashion.
IN SUMMARY: A reliably tasty, fast, twice-daily dim sum experience at University and Western is a great idea, and it’s not an impossible task to reorganize service and kick up the flavors to get there. University Avenue itself is a bazaar of bold and intriguing dishes that should serve as inspiration for a menu revamp, and again, please put the dim sum on carts already.
Tapestry Restaurant, 394 University Ave W, St Paul; (no phone number)
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.
Tacos at La Alborada
We tried three tacos at La Alborada on East Lake Street – cabeza (beef head), longaniza (spicy sausage), and asada (steak). The asada was exemplary, 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 cinnamon-like 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.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an Instagram post previewing a future East Lake Checklist by James Norton]
Noodle Salad with Egg Rolls at iPho by Saigon
Complex-yet-balanced flavor profiles are the hallmark of much Southeast Asian cuisine, and the bun (noodle salad) with egg rolls and pork at iPho by Saigon is no exception: It’s a mix of salty, crunchy, chewy, earthy, bright, and — as you burrow through the layers of pork bits and noodles and hit the lettuce that supports the strata above — remarkably refreshing. iPho’s our go-to for lunch, and every time we branch out (as we did with this dish), we’re rewarded with a new twist on a beloved formula.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]
Falafel at Fig and Farro
The falafel at the new Fig and Farro is delightful. The texture is an ideal combination of creamy and crunchy, and it’s substantial but not heavy. It makes a filling snack or side and is served with hummus. We enjoyed the combination of fresh herbs and savory spice.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]
Xalwo at Halwo Kismayo
The xalwo (East African halva) of Halwo Kismayo was a cluster of rich, assertively rubbery blobs of sweetness, somewhere between a lightly spiced clove-and-cardamom jam and a mildly fruited gummy bear. Spread on the dry butter cookies that came on our plate, the stuff was downright addictive, and we had to check ourselves lest we get completely full on the first plate of the night.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #4 | Submitted from the East Lake Checklist by James Norton]
Naked Poke Crunch Style at Aloha Poke
Aloha Poke, now open in the Minneapolis skyway, offers a simple but fresh menu — seafood or tofu with a few bases and toppings. It’s the Chipotle of Hawaiian-style seafood. A medium size makes a hearty lunch. We tried the poke naked (not marinated), “crunch” style (crisp vegetables and edamame), and with a brown rice base. It’s a revelation in skyway seafood and is clearly distinct from sushi or salad.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]
Minnesota’s winter can break a person down, particularly on the ragged cusp of spring, when warm temperatures drift into the region for a week or two before being replaced by a cruel, cutting scythe of Arctic air.
One of the challenges is a lack of local edible greenery — the state’s vibrant farm system understandably tends to shut down between November and April. Revol Greens, a greenhouse farm located in Medford, Minn., is doing its bit to push back against the dearth of fresh produce. Founded by a team that includes three former partners in Bushel Boy, Revol looks poised to give wintertime greens a distinctly local spin.
The farm, which debuted its products on shelves in February, grows its greens year-round in an energy-efficient 2.5-acre glass greenhouse supplemented with LED lighting and irrigated with a gutter system that captures snow melt and rain from the roof and stores it in a water-retention pond. Revol’s product travels to markets that are four hours away (or closer), in contrast to the typical four to six days it takes for California produce to reach the Upper Midwest.
We tried samples of four varieties of the greens and found them universally crisp and vibrant, a step above most of the California-grown bagged salad mixes. The greens come in 4.5-ounce plastic tubs, in five varieties: Baby Spinach, Spring Mix, Mighty Spring Mix, Romaine Crunch, and Romaine Twins. They are typically priced around $4.
Revol Greens are (or will soon be) available at Lunds and Byerlys, Kowalski’s, Coborn’s and CobornsDelivers, Jerry’s Foods, some Cub Foods locations throughout the metro, and at local restaurants via Bix Produce.
When Royal Foundry Craft Spirits opens later this year, it will be the largest cocktail room in the Twin Cities by a wide margin. The British-inspired distillery wasn’t seeking to claim this distinction while shopping for locations, but the sheer volume of the still-empty space is hard to ignore. The 15,000 square feet will house the distillery and cooperage, a cocktail room with a prominent bar, a tasting room, and an event space.
Even before setting foot inside, we knew this newcomer to the west side of Minneapolis was different from other bars and cocktail rooms. An authentic cycle speedway — a 70-meter bicycle racetrack typical of the oval dirt tracks in the British Isles — invites bikers from the nearby Bassett Creek Trail. The speedway will flank the patio on the south side of the building.
Two businesses may not make a “district,” but Royal Foundry will be near Utepils Brewing Co., the German-forward taproom that has plans to add a riverside terrace this year. When Latino-inspired Doña Cervecería craft brewery opens next door to the distillery (no date announced), the Harrison neighborhood will certainly be on the spirits map.
Royal Foundry’s specialty is as surprising as it is clear: single malt whiskey (Royal Foundry has chosen to adopt the Scottish spelling, whisky). While production will be expanded to include other spirits of British origin or ties, single malt will always be the flagship. Single malt whiskey is distilled from pot stills, made exclusively with barley, and aged for at least three years in oak casks. Chief distiller and co-founder Andy McClain was inspired by his experience traveling abroad, predominately in England, as a teen. He recalls embracing pub culture and appreciating the recognition of imbibing as a part of everyday life. His father used to say, “don’t waste your time with the bad stuff,” and McLain has taken that to heart.
The majority of McLain’s distilling experience comes from his time training at multiple operations in Colorado and New York as well as the close attention he paid while touring the prolific distilleries of Islay, Scotland. He plans to adopt the distillery tour model he found in Scotland, where visitors get a behind-the-curtain treatment.
To that end, while casual visitors can enjoy the cocktail room, a distinct tasting room will be available as a more informative and intimate gathering space. There is a potential for tours and education, too, and McLain anticipates educating clientele about the history of his products, especially since there are no taprooms in the area specializing in whiskey.
The cocktail room will, of course, have other spirits, but the majority of ingredients will be tied to the crown in some way. For instance, Royal Foundry will serve at least one rum as a reference to the Royal Navy’s trade relationship with the West Indies and the historic rum rations for soldiers. When asked what visitors can expect from the rum, though, McLain firmly holds his cards.
What we do know is that the beverage director, Marlon Hanson, comes with significant cocktail experience including time at 6 Smith in Wayzata. Hanson will also act as assistant distiller, which will help to integrate the flavor profiles of the spirits themselves with the finished cocktails, as he will play a part in both areas. McClain designed the interior space, drawing again on inspiration from the architecture of several overseas locales including the London Undergound; the wall behind the bar will be concave and tiled, structured according to one of McClain’s favorite Underground stops.
True to its vision, Royal Foundry will employ a European approach to distilling, which varies from American methods in a few ways. First, European washes (the beerlike liquids that enter the still) have no grain in them when distilled. Second, the U.K. method involves wood washbacks for the fermenting process. Using a brewery analogy, washbacks (typically made of evergreen wood) are the fermentation tanks in which the yeast acts upon the barley-derived sugars and produces alcohol. Though most distillers agree that the wood doesn’t directly influence flavor in the way that the wood of the barrels does, it influences the microorganisms during fermentation in several ways, creating consistent fermentation characteristics from batch to batch.
Co-founders Kelly Everhart, the president, and Nikki McLain, the chief marketing officer, round out the management team of three. The two women have corporate experience that includes law and event planning. Royal Foundry Craft Spirits is ambitiously aiming for a “May-ish” opening, just in time for The World Cup, and an Indiegogo campaign is live now. On the other hand, Andy McLain is not in a rush to see his product arrive on liquor store shelves and instead will focus on quality control: grain quality, mash perfection, and overall consistency from batch to batch. Royal Foundry will offer rum in 375 milliliter bottles for off-sale purchase — the cocktail room to-go equivalent of a taproom’s growler, according to law.
Royal Foundry Craft Spirits, 241 Fremont Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55405