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.
“Big Game” Hand Pies from Rustica Bakery
If you decide to go the high-class route for your Super Bowl party — and Lord knows, not everybody does or even should — the ovens of Rustica are offering a pre-orderable catering option that’s high on both deliciousness and convenience. Sweet and savory hand pies (a blueberry mascarpone hand pie and a goat cheese and sun-dried tomato galette) are perfect if you want to have a platter of locally made, highly noshable baked goods on hand. The blueberry pie is not overly sweet or too tart and austere, and the galette is a well-balanced mix of earthy, tart tomato and creamy goat cheese in an incredibly buttery crust.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]
The Legend at Passionflower
We profiled the owner of the Highland Park functional beverage shop Passionflower and tried an array of the shop’s drinks; among the standouts was The Legend (above left), a smoothielike blend of ginger, blueberries, pepita, goji berries, banana, vanilla whey, chia seeds, almond butter, and hemp milk that comprises a bright, distinctly not-sugary meal’s worth of nutrition in a drinkable format.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a profile by Joshua Page]
Chilaquiles at Restaurante El Hauchi in Mercado Central
The Chilaquiles at Restaurante El Hauchi are loaded far beyond the typical restaurant chips+eggs+salsa version of the dish. These come with cubed bits of fried potatoes, a ton of aggressively stringy, tasty cheese, and a couple of little, flat-pounded pieces of steak for good measure. At various points, you’re eating steak-and-potatoes, steak-and-eggs, spicy nachos, steak nachos, and more. It’s like a kaleidoscope of savory flavors.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an Instagram post by James Norton in advance of the next edition of the East Lake Checklist]
Ho Muk at On’s Kitchen
The beauty of the food at On’s Thai is that it’s hot, it’s funky, it’s complicated, and it’s real. Perhaps nothing is more emblematic of that than the fish and coconut stew known as Ho Muk. It’s about 10 pounds of flavor in a ¼-pound ramekin. You find a lot of food like this — challenging, colorful, delicious, and surprisingly affordable — scattered throughout our new dining guide aimed at out-of-town visitors but good for just about everyone who’s serious about finding great chow wherever it lives.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from our Deliciously Polyglot Dining Guide by James Norton]
The Morning Bun at Honey and Rye
When you cross a cinnamon roll with croissant or Danish dough, you get a morning bun, and the Honey and Rye version of this baked good is one of our favorites. It has the flaky sophistication of a croissant or Danish plus the gooey sweetness of a cinnamon roll, creating a “best of both breakfast worlds” situation. Good Danish dough has a chewy, flaky, buttery character that is well-complemented by an aggressive sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar, and this great morning bun is at once sophisticated and childishly delightful.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by James Norton]
Spend a few minutes with Danny Litin, and it’s clear that Passionflower is aptly named. The 27-year-old bubbles with enthusiasm when discussing the purported benefits of the herbs, fungi, bee pollen, hemp, nuts, and berries he uses to create delicious smoothie drinks and bowls, kombucha-based elixirs, and tea-based concoctions that range from $3.50 to $9.50. He’s passionate, too, about his partnerships with Alchemy, a local fitness juggernaut, and artisanal food and beverage companies including Feral Beverage Co., Big Watt, Peace Coffee, K’ul Chocolate, and Gray Duck Chai.
Litin owns Passionflower along with Dunn Brothers co-founder Chris Eilers, and he runs the cafe with his brother Max Litin and friend Zane Hill. We sat down with the energetic entrepreneur to get the story behind Passionflower, taste a few items, and learn why functional beverages are giving smoothies a run for their money.
HEAVY TABLE: How did this whole thing start?
DANNY LITIN: I was living in Colorado for a few years, immersed in a culture of arts, music — a culture that was very progressive. I would frequent these spots that had extensive beverage programs that weren’t alcohol-focused, and I loved that I could go to a place on a Friday night that was dark, kinda dingy, and just brought a really cool crowd together. And we could drink these beverages that would make you feel something, but not intoxicated. They could make you feel uplifted or whatever. So that was just kind of the basis for falling in love with the concept.
HEAVY TABLE: Were they billed as non-alcoholic bars?
LITIN: Kind of — like, “Elixir Bars.” They were gathering hubs of like-minded individuals. But one thing that I didn’t like was that they were culturally exclusive, in the sense that they were, I’d call them, “hippie culture.” Dreadlocks, and everyone smelled like incense and, you know, psychedelic art on the wall! Which was cool, but if that’s not your thing, you’d feel kind of outcast being there. So that was just kind of my first clue into, “There’s something there.” I loved being a part of this, but there were still some barriers to entry. Everything was super expensive, too, because these ingredients are exclusive, so every drink you get is $10. It tastes great, and I feel great, but there’s still something difficult about that.
So, then I came back to Minneapolis, after my girlfriend had gotten pregnant with our son, and I started studying at the University of Minnesota. I ended up creating my own major through the multidisciplinary studies program with Dennis McKenna, who’s a world-renowned ethno-pharmacologist. His brother Terrence McKenna was a huge psychedelic advocate from the ’80s and ’90s. So he just had this huge cultural bubble around him! And every time I would meet him, he would tell me to come check out this conference in Madison or come down to Peru, or whatever it was. He became my mentor. My focus was ethno-pharmacology, anthropology, and art. It was basically the study of traditional plant medicines and the culture surrounding them.
When I graduated, I worked with Dennis at his life sciences company [Symbio] for a year. It was the three founders — and me. I learned “Oh, these guys are just dudes.” They’re just guys, but they’re very passionate about something, and they’ve got a very clear vision that they’re trying to achieve. And so that was kind of my inspiration. Then I went to an entrepreneurial event in Minneapolis and I ended up meeting Chris Eilers, and I told him [about Passionflower] — it could be “like a Starbucks, but for functional beverages.” He was like, “I could talk to you for the rest of the time, but there’s 30 other people I need to talk to, so here’s my e-mail address; let’s connect.”
Is there such a thing as gastronomic whiplash? If so, we’re pretty sure we experienced it this outing. Within a span of a few hours we went from fish tacos to goat meat to mu shu pork to asada quesadillas to pineapple pastries. You might think by the end, we’d be begging for mercy. And to some extent we were. Yet, as we’ve learned before, our body’s ability to consume food doesn’t adhere to a strict rule book. Which may be why, after a long night of stuffing food in our faces, we still found ourselves shoveling forkful after forkful of chocolate flan cake down our gullets. So much for moderation (and modesty). — M.C. Cronin
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.”
El Nuevo Miramar
501 E Lake St, Minneapolis
You have to hand it to El Nuevo Miramar. For a new restaurant and bar, they went big.
The space is big. It’s on a corner with two-story-high ceilings surrounded by windows. A staircase at the end of the room rises to a loft area. One wall is painted to look like a stage, complete with red velvet curtains. It appeared as though they could move a few tables and convert the place into a performance hall in a matter of minutes, though our server told us they use the space mostly for karaoke at the moment.
The lighting is big. There are large chandeliers. There’s LED accent lighting running length of the bar and along a row of high top booths. There are industrial-strength fluorescent fixtures. There’s a professional stage-lighting rig that wasn’t turned on the night we visited, thankfully. Even without the stage lights, the place was bright enough to see from space.
The food is big, too. A group of people near us shared some kind of seafood platter, featuring crab legs, that stretched out across the table. Two gentlemen next to us had giant glass goblets filled with a chilled shrimp cocktail concoction. As for the size of our tacos, well, they could’ve been carried to the table by forklift. — M.C.
*** FOOD NOTES ***
When visiting Minneapolis-St. Paul for the Super Bowl (or, you know, during some reasonably sane time of the year), it would be remarkably easy to eat only in spots owned and operated by white dudes.
You’d eat some great food, and you’d see the well-appointed interiors of some very popular restaurants, some of which would resemble the well-appointed interiors of popular restaurants in any other major city in America. But you’d also miss much of the Minnesota story, including some of the tastiest bits that are the most worth sharing.
Minnesota’s Nordic and Germanic heritage get constantly celebrated (the name and image of the Vikings really doubles down on that tendency), but there is absolutely marvelous food and drink offered by Minnesotans with different stories to tell. Richly flavored Vietnamese and Hmong food? Hyper-authentic Mexican food? East African food served with skill and aplomb? We’ve got it, in spades. People need to know about this.
What you see collected here are about 15 fantastic places to eat that are run by women and/or people of color. For all the talk of the New North, there’s been an awful lot of old money sloshing around the conversation about what to eat, and this not-even-vaguely-exhaustive list is our attempt to invite visitors to get out and taste the full range of flavors here in Minnesota, whether that’s Mexican hamburgers in St. Paul, kim chi fries on East Lake Street (top, from Rabbit Hole), or wine-glazed pork terrine in South Minneapolis.
Make no mistake: If you dine at these restaurants, you won’t be eating where everyone else is eating. But you’ll be eating as well (or better) than they are, and likely for the half the price. Welcome to the True North!
NORTHEAST AND NORTH MINNEAPOLIS
There’s a reason that Young Joni has taken the state by storm. Ann Kim’s new restaurant is a pizza place, but it’s also incredibly civilized and serious dining. And yet it’s a loud, fun, buzzy, stylish place where it’s good to see and be seen. We’re suckers for the Basque pizza, which comes stacked with chorizo, goat cheese, piquillo peppers, red onion, olives, and preserved lemon. (Young Joni, 165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis)
Gorkha Palace does Nepali, Indian, and Tibetan food with love and respect, and it’s one of those places where the warmth of hospitality matches the depth of flavor in the food. You can find Gorkha Palace’s signature momos (dumplings) at the Mill City Farmers Market (indoors in the winter; outdoors, near the Guthrie Theater in the spring, summer, and fall). Gorkha Palace, 23 4th St, NE, Minneapolis)
Since its opening in 2015, Breaking Bread Cafe has created a name for itself as the home of some of the best soul food in the cities, dishing up serious renditions of dishes such as shrimp and grits and fried chicken to please any guest who crosses the threshold. And if you go, don’t miss the sweet potato pie. (Breaking Bread Cafe, 1210 W Broadway Ave, Minneapolis)
By founding a straight-up, fully committed vegan butcher shop, the brother-sister team heading up the Herbivorous Butcher has made a national splash. By keeping their eyes focused on the flavor of their wholly vegetable-derived faux meats, they built a loyal clientele. Even a meat-lover will appreciate the careful spicing and layers of flavors that go into something like the shop’s pastrami or pepperoni. (Herbivorous Butcher, 507 1st Ave NE, Minneapolis)
Like Young Joni, Hai Hai is fresh, on point, and just about bursting with lively warmth. The tasteful tropical decor interior will subdue the harshness of Minnesota’s winter, and the Thai street food menu will stomp the daylights out of your hunger for something creative and well-executed. The plates are small (two per person is a reasonable guide), but inexpensive and packed with layers of vivid flavor. Plus, you know, drinks. Delicious drinks! (Hai Hai, 2121 University Ave NE, Minneapolis)
Red Stag Supperclub unites the cooking of veteran chef Sarah Master and the ownership of local mogul Kim Bartmann — with delightful results. This supper-club-themed restaurant brings together modern fine dining with regional traditions, serving up the likes of braised beef cheek stroganoff and smelt fries in a big, brassy, LEED-certified dining space. (Red Stag Supperclub, 509 1st Ave NE, Minneapolis)
The inimitable Dong Yang offers the experience of eating superb Korean-grandma food served out of a window in the starkly decorated back room of an Asian grocery store. Anything presented in a piping hot stone bowl is a good choice for what will presumably be a frigid February, but you really can’t go wrong with the restaurant’s short and lovely menu, and you’re guaranteed to be served a massive flight of banchan whatever you do. (Dong Yang, 725 45th Ave NE, Hilltop)
For sheer caloric magnificence, you’re not going to outdo the eponymous entree at Hamburguesas el Gordo. Covered in bacon, cheese, onions, lettuce, secret sauce, and Lord-knows-what other delightful toppings, these burgers are huge enough to split between two hungry diners. The key is to enjoy it all while munching on the side condiment, a brassy, griddle-sauteed hot pepper that cuts through all the fat and carbs. And if a burger’s not your thing, the Mexican street hot dogs and tacos are delicious in their own right. (Hamburguesas el Gordo St. Paul, 990 Payne Ave St. Paul / Hamburguesas el Gordo Minneapolis, 4157 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis)
iPho by Saigon is one of those restaurants that has “it,” whatever it may be. In this case, it’s some combination of quick and attentive service, a lively dining room, and some of the tastiest pho and banh mi on a street full of good renditions of both. It’s difficult to top this spot, but a few other pho-stops of note right around the corner include Pho Ca Dao, Trieu Chau, and Tay Ho; hit them all if you’re up for a cold-weather hot soup bonanza. (iPho by Saigon, 704 University Ave, St Paul)
There’s usually a wait — sometimes an oppressive one — before you’re served at On’s Kitchen, a Thai Restaurant that’s a pillar of University Avenue dining. It’s not a fancy place, but it’s busy (and sometimes jammed) because nobody does food with the funky, fiery, deep flavors that you find at On’s. It’s Thai home cooking with no apology, and it’s worth the hassle every time. The ho muk (pictured) is so good that it outpaces the stellar version over at the also-worthy Cambodian spot Cheng Heng. (On’s Kitchen, 1613 University Ave W, St Paul)
Restaurants come and go, and wax and wane, and it can be tough to catch the right spot at the right time. But that spot of the moment certainly seems to be Grand Cafe, which is serving some of the most elegant and finely made fare in the state under the leadership of Jamie Malone. Read this profile for copious details and some juicy quotes, or just make a reservation and enjoy. (Grand Cafe, 3804 Grand Ave S, Minneapolis)
From food truck to Franklin-Avenue mainstay to Bay City, Wis. outpost, the Chef Shack brand has been expanding and changing for years, but the heart of the story has always been this: smoked beef brisket, pulled pork, hearty brunch, beautifully chai-spiced mini doughnuts, and other foods that are simple, accessible, but steeped in flavor and touched by global influences. (Chef Shack Ranch, 3025 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis / Chef Shack Bay City, 6379 Main St, Bay City, WI)
Both World Street Kitchen and Milkjam Creamery seem to make the cut for a lot of “best of” lists around here, and the secret is that they’re somehow at once totally accessible, totally cool, and totally good. World Street Kitchen brings together killer burritos, sublime rice bowls, and Middle Eastern influences; Milkjam is one of the best ice cream spots in the country, with (among other things) a vegan flavor called Black that will redefine your relationship with chocolate. (World Street Kitchen and Milkjam Creamery, 2743 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis)
EAST LAKE STREET
There are three noteworthy food courts on Lake Street that demand your attention: the remarkable gathering of first-generation Mexican restaurants called Lake Plaza (rebranding as Plaza Mexico), the incredibly diverse Midtown Global Market (see below), and Mercado Central. At Mercado Central, you can get one of the best carne asada bolillo sandwiches outside of Mexico (at Maria’s), a hot atole (an incredibly creamy, corn-based drink) to sip with a spicy tamale at La Loma, or the finest order of chilaquiles you’re likely to find anywhere, at El Huachi. Or just blunder around and order whatever. It’s difficult to go wrong. (Mercado Central, 1515 E Lake St, Minneapolis)
A warm, witty, gorgeous and well-executed menu makes the food of The Rabbit Hole pop out and demand attention — even amid the glorious culinary racket produced by all the interesting shops and restaurants housed within Midtown Global Market. The Rabbit Hole does Asian fusion with a Korean emphasis and a solid cocktail menu, but if that’s not your thing, strike out and explore the market a little — spots like Holy Land, Manny’s Tortas, and Moroccan Flavors have a great deal to offer, too. (The Rabbit Hole, 920 E Lake St Suite 101, Minneapolis)
Most restaurants have menus. Ibrahim Restaurant has a conversation: How many people should your platter feed? How many meats would you like on it, and would you like rice, or spaghetti, or both on the side? By the end of your meal, which will include a surprising number of components including soup, breads, and beverages, you’ll be startled by how delicious this spin on East African cuisine was, and how inexpensive the meal was for your group. And whatever you do, don’t miss the sambusa, which is one of the best in a state laden with them (and samosas, as well.) (Ibrahim Restaurant, 1202 E Lake St, Minneapolis)
SOME FURTHER READING
Smaller, and Smaller, and Smaller (Marlon James)
The Heavy Table Checklist Projects (Heavy Table staff)
Minnesota’s ambassador for Hmong culture and culinary traditions (Minnesota Public Radio)
Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef (Heavy Table)
Meet Kim Bartmann (Visit Twin Cities)
Breaking Bread Cafe Cooks Real Food for Real People (City Pages)
Jamie Malone and Alan Hlebaen of Grand Cafe (Heavy Table)
When you spend your whole childhood living in one city, you get to know the local carbs. In Madison, Wis. in the ’80s and ’90s, that meant Rocky Rococo pizza, Bagels Forever bagels, and the morning bun from the Ovens of Brittany. The last of these items is a local legend, and it still pops up (with varying degrees of fidelity and quality) around town, with good renditions at Barriques and Lazy Jane’s Cafe, and a relatively feeble version at La Brioche (the actual heir to the Ovens of Brittany business). And if you’re a glutton for punishment, you can even make them in your own kitchen.
The thing that makes the morning bun so addictive is this: You get the flaky sophistication of a croissant plus the gooey sweetness of a cinnamon roll, creating a “best of both breakfast worlds” situation. Good croissant dough has a chewy, flaky, buttery character that is well-complemented by the aggressive sprinkling of some cinnamon and sugar, and a great morning bun is at once sophisticated and childishly delightful.
Honey and Rye, the St. Louis Park bakeshop, has a morning bun on its menu for $3.50. Despite similarities in name and structure, there’s no direct Madison connection. Baker Anne Andrus says her first morning bun came from an Oakland, Calif. bakery called La Farine, and her version uses Danish dough (which typically includes milk, sugar, and eggs), rather than a simpler croissant dough, for added tenderness. And while it’s not a bite-for-bite clone of the Madison version, it’s quite strong in its own right. The Honey and Rye bun is about half the size of the big honkin’ buns found in Wisconsin, and it lacks the large, gooey core of its Madison counterpart. Instead, it has a delightfully consistent, chewy crispiness accented by a strong natural-cinnamon kick. In short, slightly different item, same result — a high-class yet slightly silly breakfast-time indulgence.
Honey and Rye Bakehouse, 4501 Excelsior Blvd, Minneapolis; 612.844.2555