Heavy Table Hot Five: Nov. 10-16

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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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Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot fiveCarne Asada Burrito at Taqueria Victor Hugo
The Carne Asada Fajita Burrito at Taqueria Victor Hugo may be the best burrito I’ve ever eaten. “Best ever” is not something to be tossed around lightly, if at all, but this burrito was the first thing that we tasted on this leg of the crawl, and I could feel myself wrecking my whole evening by going back for exploratory taste after exploratory taste. This is a meat-and-cheese driven burrito, not stuffed with rice or other filler ingredients, although a lettuce and tomato core helped cut the heaviness of the meat and provide a real counterpoint to the salt and fat of the dish. If this (massive) burrito had been any heavier, or any greasier, or any saltier, it would have been too much. But as it was, it was perfect — substantial, comforting, filling, savory, and compelling.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an East Lake Checklist by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveMiso Pot de Creme at The Rabbit Hole
I made a face that stopped conversation when I took my first bite of this maple syrup- and custard-based dessert because the sweetness was so rich, so full, and so beautifully arresting that it provoked an emotional reaction. The candied orange and salty tuile crackers that accompany the custard are terrific accents, but the miso custard and perfectly butterscotchy maple glaze are so good on their own that they need no assistance. This is a dessert worth a detour.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by from a future East Lake Checklist James Norton]

Briana Stachowski / Heavy Table

Briana Stachowski / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveThe Davenport Double Standard at Al’s Place
The Davenport Double Standard, made with Redemption rye, Old Tom gin, lime, and raspberry, was a favorite in our sizable group. In fact, it was the biggest hit of the night. The berry is most noticeable in the drink’s pale pink color; its flavor is subtle. The combination of rye and gin is seldom seen, and at first it sounded like they could clash. To our surprise, the spice of the rye united with the botanical profile of the gin.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by Paige Latham Didora]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveLentil Sambusas at Adama
Adama has a menu full of authentic Ethiopian dishes (available for lunch and dinner). The first dish we tried was the Lentil Sambusa ($6 for 4 pieces). These were delicious, fried without being overly greasy, and generously filled with lentils and onions. The accompanying green sauce, redolent of cilantro and jalapeño, reminded us of a similar sauce at Som Taste; that’s not surprising, given that Somalia shares a sizable portion of Ethiopia’s southern and eastern borders.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by Amy Rea]

James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveBarbacoa Fatty Taco Cocktail at The Rabbit Hole
This is a terribly misleading name for a wonderfully delicious cocktail. Sure, the fat “washing” of the blanco tequila in this margarita-evocative cocktail does impart a really enjoyable smoky note to the middle of each mouthful, but the overall profile is bright, refreshing, and lime-driven. Must be tried to be believed. Will likely be tried two or three times to be savored.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an upcoming East Lake Checklist by James Norton]



East Lake Checklist: Taqueria Victor Hugo to Safari Restaurant

WACSO / Heavy Table

There’s no out. No option. No standing at the front door, peering inside, and sheepishly deciding “maybe we can skip this place.” No judging by the facade that we know exactly what to expect, so why go inside? For us, that can’t happen. We have to go in.

Every. Single. Place.

And while it can sometimes feel like homework, that’s the assignment. What might you discover when you’re compelled to try a place you might normally pass by? What will happen when you’re forced to go through that front door against your better judgment? Spoiler alert: Sometimes it’s magic. — M.C. Cronin

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

This week’s checklist crew: WACSO, M.C. Cronin, Becca Dilley, James Norton, Mecca Bos.

PREVIOUS EAST LAKE STREET INSTALLMENTS: Lake Plaza, Gorditas el Gordo to Pineda Tacos

WACSO / Heavy Table

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.”

WACSO / Heavy Table

Taqueria Victor Hugo
405 E Lake St, Minneapolis

Cartoon Victor Hugo has a big handlebar mustache and smiling eyes looking out from under his sombrero. He stands behind a giant taco and next to a saguaro cactus — the classic variety you see in almost every Road Runner cartoon — with one hand tucked behind his back and the other waved out, palm open, as if he’s personally inviting us to join him at his restaurant. And we’re happy to oblige.

WACSO / Heavy Table

Taqueria Victor Hugo’s logo on the wall is the dominant feature in the space. Aside from the obligatory TVs playing telenovelas, there’s little else in the way of decor. But between its two-toned orange/terra cotta walls, brick accents, and stamped-metal ceiling, the place manages to have a distinct charm and warmth.



Al’s Place in Northeast Minneapolis

Briana Stachowski / Heavy Table

Briana Stachowski / Heavy Table

Above Stanley’s Northeast Bar Room quietly sits an authentic speakeasy named for one of the 20th century’s most notorious gangsters, Al Capone. True to this theme, Al’s goes beyond the modern Prohibition-style bar to transport visitors to another time and place, a full-on secret that we are hesitant to let out of the bag.

Access Al’s Place via what was the entrance to Stanley’s event space: a nondescript door with a green light. Visitors may also enter the photo booth inside the main-floor bar to be escorted inside. The doorman is friendly and wears something very near to a zoot suit. He goes over the house rules. Period-specific attire is encouraged but is by no means required. Immediately, this experience is unlike other speakeasies — in contrast to the secret door and bouncer at Volstead’s Emporium in LynLake, or Marvel Bar in the North Loop during peak hours, the greeting at Al’s adds charm and personality rather than exclusivity.

Briana Stachowski / Heavy Table

Briana Stachowski / Heavy Table

A smoke machine makes the stairway feel like part of a misguided high school play, however, when we reach the second floor, its purpose becomes clear; it fills the the 75-seat dining room and bar with an odorless haze reminiscent of tobacco, setting an irreplicable tone.

Stick with the bar for the full experience, especially for a first visit. The banter and guidance of the bartenders, with nicknames like Sunshine and Mad Dog, enhances the mood. The staff does an excellent job, offering personalized service and remaining comfortably in character, all while poking fun at themselves, the luxurious “indoor plumbing,” and ice “straight off the lake.”

Bar manager Jon “Sunshine” Robinson formerly worked downstairs at Stanley’s as well as at a few other notable Twin Cities bars. He is the clear ringleader of the bar team, and he’s happy to report that Al’s has already fostered a few regulars. Cocktails are named after furniture to allow guests to avoid using incriminating words and to blend in with the teetotaling tendencies of the time. Capone’s first front was a furniture business.

Briana Stachowski / Heavy Table

Briana Stachowski / Heavy Table

For a sweeter sip, opt for the Sofa Strawberry Sour ($11), which is a layered combination of shaken egg white, Copper & Kings brandy, lemon, and maraschino floating atop a viscous strawberry syrup. Resist the urge to stir the duo and you’ll get a tiny portion of the syrup with each sip. The strong berry flavor, which is intensified by the aroma of the fresh strawberry on the rim, is like strawberry candy. It conceals the potency of the brandy and creates a simple profile. An addition of complexity would be much appreciated in this one, perhaps to draw out the nuttiness or tannins of the maraschino.



Tiny Footprint Coffee’s Ethiopia Sidamo Suke Quto Dark Roast

Courtesy of Tiny Footprint Coffee

This story is a product of Heavy Table’s first Listening Session, underwritten and hosted by the Lakewinds Food Co-op. On May 23, we interviewed 15 local food artisans over the course of eight hours, with a goal of taking a snapshot of the vibrant Minnesota food scene.

One of the most interesting cups of coffee in the state comes from Africa by way of a small roaster located in Brooklyn Center. Tiny Footprint Coffee’s Sidamo Suke Quto is a rarity: a dark-roasted Ethiopian coffee that’s abundant in flavors many tasters would consider “brighter” while retaining a full body.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

“Dark-roast Ethiopian coffee is one of the most unique things we do as a roaster,” says Thomas Hertzog of Tiny Footprint. “It’s a weird cup of coffee for people who drink it, and they’re often surprised by how much they enjoy it. Almost across the board, people light-roast Ethiopians because there’s a lot of fruit, and a lot of floral notes. But when you dark roast, and you do it well, you can have those dark red cherry, strawberry, raspberry flavors linger, but you can also get a full-bodied cup, which is the base of our clientele. It’s a fun way to introduce people used to a full-bodied cup of coffee to some of those brighter flavors.”

Tiny Footprint coffee was founded by brothers Alan and Brian Krohnke in 2010 with an eye to offsetting the carbon produced by the company’s importation and roasting processes. “Brian runs a foundation in Ecuador, the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation, which is headquartered in Mindo,” says Hertzog. “He had a Belgian university come in and certify his reforestation program and figure out how much carbon dioxide his trees were going to sequester over the life of those trees, and then [he] took those numbers and matched them with the numbers Alan had come up with for the roasting facility, down to the pound of coffee, and offset it down to the pound marker.” Four pounds of carbon dioxide is produced for each pound of Tiny Footprint coffee, but the sale of that coffee allows the foundation to plant trees that will sequester more than 50 pounds of the gas.



Adama Ethiopian in Columbia Heights

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Out with the American-Chinese restaurant Dragon House in Columbia Heights, and in with Adama Restaurant. The location changed ownership earlier this fall, and there’s nothing particularly American about the new menu (other than the kid’s menu, which is full-on American). While we were fine with the American Chinese incarnation, we were even more excited to check out a place reputed to serve authentic Ethiopian cuisine with a focus on the food of the Oromo people.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Adama has a menu full of authentic Ethiopian dishes (available for lunch and dinner). The first dish we tried was the Lentil Sambusa ($6 for 4 pieces). These were delicious, fried without being overly greasy, and generously filled with lentils and onions. The accompanying green sauce, redolent of cilantro and jalapeño, reminded us of a similar sauce at Som Taste; that’s not surprising, given that Somalia shares a sizable portion of Ethiopia’s southern and eastern borders.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

We’d heard the Doro Wot ($12), a classic Ethiopian stew of chicken and boiled egg with an intense, spicy sauce, was good here, and we decided to order that along with the Adama Combo #1 ($25), a platter with portions of Alecha Misor Wot, Tibs, and Keye Wot served with Spiced Cottage Cheese, all atop injera bread.

Here’s where things took a strange — but not unwelcome — turn. The menu described the above dishes this way:

Alecha Misor Wot: Split lentils cooked with fresh garlic, ginger, onions, and tomato sauce
Keye Wot: Tender beef cubes simmered in a spicy sauce of onion, tomato, garlic, berbere sauce or red pepper
Tibs: Chopped prime beef, onions, and tomatoes, cooked with butter