The Hasty Tasty in Lyn-Lake, Minneapolis

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The intersection of Lyndale Avenue and Lake Street is in a state of flux. The past few years have seen the addition of a brewery (LynLake Brewing), a gaming bar (Up-Down), and the upgrade of an old standby, the VFW. In other ways, though, the area has remained the same, making it decidedly more stable than neighboring Uptown. It’s Greek to Me (which changed hands a year ago) and Bryant Lake Bowl provide anchors by which to judge the passing of decades.

So when Falafel King became vacant (along with Milio’s across the street), all eyes were on the raucous corner. With high rent and lack of interest from potential tenants, the building owner, Michael Veazey, decided to open a place of his own, The Hasty Tasty. Departing from the steadily rising trend of chef-owned restaurants, Veazey, who has no cooking background, draws inspiration from the boisterous family meals of his childhood and leaves the kitchen skills to Chef Chris Gerster, formerly of Red Stag Supperclub in Northeast Minneapolis and The Commodore in St. Paul.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The fresh coat of mint-ice-cream-colored paint on the exterior brick cues us into what to expect inside — graphic wallpaper and eye-catching finishes, with a comfortably traditional layout. The bar acts as a stage, while a tucked-away dining room provides a comfortable nook for conversation.

The menu is by no means thematic, though Veazey has caught onto the latest revival of the wood-fired trend. It’s easy to identify Southern elements, such as grits, but overall, the dishes have a more generalized Americana vibe. Plates are meant for sharing, and many come in two sizes, but several stand alone with equal finesse.

Take the Smoked Oysters ($11), which rather than being served solo are found atop a composition of Texas toast, celery-leaf salad, and a bright vinaigrette. The sandwich, which is cut into triangles, could be an open-faced lunch to some, or a starter to others. In any case, it’s an excellent and memorable dish. For additional substance, pair the oysters with the Fingerling Potatoes ($9 half/$15 whole). Covered in a well-balanced garlic cream sauce, they’re an ideal counterpoint to seafood, and crispy fried shallots bolster the texture. Horseradish is listed in the description but not found anywhere on the plate. Who’s to say if you’ll miss it.

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

On the other hand, you can lighten up a dinner spread with the Assorted Pickles ($6). The generous portion showcases the usual suspects plus bitter melon. Each vegetable is pickled differently, from slightly sweet to spicy. It’s not often that a pickle assortment turns heads, and the attention to detail was not lost on us.

The bar program is managed by Bittercube, hence the frequent use of their bitters across the board. Naturally, there are some elements in common with other Bittercube partners such as Lawless Distillery and Eat Street Social. There is no in-house bar manager, but we found the bar staff knowledgeable. An impressive variety of drink formats makes for some difficult decisions. These include semi-frozen offerings and batched options appropriate for groups.

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

Not all cocktail batching is simple math; mixing up a pitcher ahead of time doesn’t always effectively duplicate the flavors of an individual serving. In the case of the Of the Northern Fashioned, however, the pitcher is perfection ($30 for 3 servings). The woodsy twist on the classic is served in an oversized glass flask reminiscent of a maple syrup jar. It’s a mix of a special whiskey blend, spruce syrup, Bittercube Trinity bitters, and cedar smoke. The three glasses are garnished with charred lemon peel and scorched rosemary, which contributes to the herbaceous and woody aroma. Despite the intense flavors, this is a crowd-pleaser. The hints of pine and anise temper its spirit-forward nature while maintaining bitterness and bite.

For similar complexity with a more subtle profile, opt for the Pick Your Pickle Gibson ($11). Served martini style, the pale-green cocktail features a London Dry blend, Gamle Ode Celebration aquavit, dry vermouth, and Bittercube Orange bitters. It is served with the drinker’s choice of assorted pickled vegetables and a skewer, which creates a refined Bloody Mary DIY feel. Without the addition of the pickles, the combination is delicate and subtle with no overwhelming juniper. Nuanced aromatics develop further when the briny vegetables are added. Try the pickled beets and the piri-piri-stuffed olive.

Less successful was the John Daly ($10), an aptly named, alcoholic twist on an Arnie Palmer. It features elements of the virgin version — Cherry Frost black tea and lemon, with black-tea-infused vodka and Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters. Perhaps the summer months would have bolstered our enthusiasm for this one, but we found it on the sweet side and one-note: fruit, with a strange Red Vines licorice aroma. The balance would benefit from more tea-derived tannin, either by infusing the vodka more strongly or restraining the sugar.

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

If tropical fruit is on the short list but sweet is not, opt for the Kumquat Caipirinha ($10), which is a successful twist on an internationally beloved cocktail native to Brazil. It showcases the traditional cachaça and benefits from the bitter, pithy kumquat. Skip the Winter Sangria ($9), which was overwhelmingly sweet, especially when paired with well-seasoned dishes.

There were several successes among the more substantial main courses. One unexpected composition, the Coconut Risotto ($12/$18) was pleasantly light-handed on the coconut, never venturing into island territory but instead focusing on nutty flavors: The texture of the rice was spotted with peanuts and what looked to be wild rice. The broccoli maintained its texture and was cut small, causing it to blend into the overall mix.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Equally enjoyable were the earthy Smoked Grits ($12/$18) topped with a variety of seasonal mushrooms. The texture of the grits was impeccable — while they maintained a creamy and lofty presence, the individual bits were still, well, gritty. Perhaps the stroke of genius of the entire night was the pop of sherry vinegar on top, which cut straight through the cream on the palate.

Filed under “very good” was the Lamb Meatloaf with braised greens and spiced gravy ($15/$24). Mint was incorporated into the greens, a welcome addition, and the gravy was actually more of a demi glace. The generous portion of meatloaf, made with half pork and half lamb, was a bit heavy and begged for some form of levity.

For those not big on sharing (you know who you are), the Burger ($14) is wonderful. It had everything a classic burger should deliver: the seasoning and cook were on point, the cheese was melted but not messy, and the bun was substantial without being decadent. It was served with a choice of salad or steak fries. Finally, for a moment of nostalgia, don’t overlook the King Falafel Salad ($9/$15), an obvious nod to the prior tenant. As you can imagine, traditional falafel and cucumber dressing top this one, but an unexpected addition of beets and kale keep it current.

The working title for Veazey’s restaurant was Great Northern Smokehouse, but over time his concept became less meat-forward, and the smokehouse designation became a misnomer. Our group, which included a meat-free diner and an individual with celiac disease, appreciated the lack of focus on animal protein and wheat. No one felt restricted.

Dessert? We highly recommend the Coffee & Donuts ($9). Yes, it’s a cocktail, made with Old Overholt rye, Jim Beam Bonded bourbon, spiced cinnamon syrup, cold press coffee, and a blend of bitters. Sure there’s pie and ice cream on the dinner menu, but this is dessert. It’s served in slushie format with a mini powdered doughnut garnish, and the trompe-l’oeil of the coffee mug as well as the warm flavors in frozen form are very fun. Despite the spice profile, it’s not holidaylike, or even winter exclusive. Each sip delivers a complex interplay of coffee and bourbon.

The Hasty Tasty
Restaurant and bar in Uptown Minneapolis
Rating: ★★★☆ (Excellent)

701 W Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55408
612.545.5899
OWNER / CHEF: Michael Veazey / Chris Gerster
HOURS:
Tue-Thu 4 p.m.-midnight
Fri Sat 4 p.m.-2 a.m.
Sun 4 p.m.-midnight
BAR: Beer, wine, and cocktails
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: Yes / Yes for Weekends or groups of 5+
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN / GLUTEN-FREE: Yes / Limited / Yes
ENTREE RANGE:
 $12-$18
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
PARKING: Street parking and nearby pay lots

Heavy Table Hot Five: Nov. 3-9

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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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Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot fiveBeef Ribs at Black Market Stp
It’s hard not to smile when eating Black Market’s gargantuan, smoky, tender Beef Ribs (aka Flintstone meatsicles) with a side of rich, ever-so-sweet beans and pork shoulder. Though they look intimidating, the beef ribs are irresistible: Rendered fat melds with rich layers of meat under a candied, crackly outer shell. The combination of textures and flavors makes this not just one of the tastiest treats in town, but also one of the most interesting.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by Joshua Page]

James Norton / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveHarvest Pumpkin Soup at Meritage
We feasted on roast leg of beef, a terrific ham-and-apple salad, and legions of glorious starchy sides at Meritage’s 10-year celebration this week, and one of the standouts of the meal was a perennial favorite of the restaurant and its customers: the Harvest Pumpkin Soup. Typically served in a bowl, this dish came adorned with candied pecans and spiced crème fraîche, and it arrived in a pumpkin, befitting the special occasion.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Ruthie Young / Heavy Table
Ruthie Young / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot five$1 Burger at the Fremont
Normally $7.95, on Mondays the Fremont Burger is just $1 (with, it must be noted, a drink purchase). A ⅓-pound beef, turkey, or veggie patty served with lettuce, onion, tomato, Fremont sauce, and your choice of cheese: This is our idea of a worthy deal. Plus, each burger is served with a healthy portion of Kettle chips, and you can add another ⅓-pound patty to your burger for just $1. This may not be the juiciest burger you’ve ever consumed, but it certainly gives its dollar-menu competitors a run for their money.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Ruthie Young]

Isabel Subtil / Heavy table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy table

4-new four hot fivePork and Beans at Black Market Stp
Black Market Stp takes the concept of “pork and beans” to new heights, and then some. Chef Robert Lorch-Benysek’s flavors great northern and pinto beans with molasses and the drippings from slowly-cooked brisket (he places pans of the beans under the beef to catch the juices). And for good measure, he mixes an entire pork shoulder into each pan. Paired with ribs, brisket, or additional pork shoulder, it’s the perfect dish for the cold months ahead.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Joshua Page as a supplement to his review.]

M.C. Cronin / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveFried Catfish at A & J Fish and Chicken
File this one under “we didn’t see it coming.” One of our best bites from our most recent crawl down East Lake Street hails from the utterly unassuming A & J Fish and Chicken, which, as it turns out, does some of the best fried fish we’ve tried in the city. The catfish at A & J has the perfect level of crispy cornmeal crunch to the exterior, a moist and tender fish on the interior, and a classic presentation. “Catfish served with two slices of white bread in styrofoam the way nature intended,” as M.C. Cronin wrote in a recent Instagram post. Look for this in our next installment of the East Lake Checklist on Thursday.
[Last week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted by James Norton, with an Instagram post by M.C. Cronin]

The Animal Burger at Gray Duck Tavern in St. Paul

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

It hails from a section of the menu called “Handhelds” — come on, they’re sandwiches! — and it costs $13. Even with that context, the Animal Burger at St. Paul’s Gray Duck Tavern still deserves acknowledgement for being one of the latest and greatest ACL* burgers to hit the metro scene.

Like any good ACL, this isn’t a story about meat. Don’t get me wrong — the twin quarter-pound beef patties are rich and delicious, and they’re important players in this burger’s ensemble. But the Animal Burger (whose name evokes the grilled-onion Animal Style burger of In-N-Out fame) really revolves around the caramelized onions, whose earthy-but-bright flavor explodes in every bite.

The American cheese, the onions, the mustard, the Thousand Island dressing (aka “special sauce”), and the meat are all players. This isn’t an egotistical hunk of beef shouting down its teammates; it’s a civil boardroom meeting of flavor.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

And the Animal Burger is big, big enough that two average adults could chop it in half and lunch like kings at a far more reasonable $6.50 a head. There seems to be an unwritten law that new, ambitious, business-friendly eateries like Gray Duck Tavern need to have a burger like the Animal on their menus and we, frankly, wouldn’t mind seeing that law written out and made permanent.

Oh, and order the fries ($5). They’re extra, but they’re crispy and perfect, and they come with a house-made mayo that can be combined with ketchup to create world-class fry sauce. If you’re into that sort of thing, which we most assuredly are.

*“Au Cheval-like” burgers; there are lots of them now

The Gray Duck Tavern, 345 Wabasha St N, St. Paul; 651.340.9022

Heavy Table Hot Five: March 31-April 6

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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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James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - oneThe Lowry Hill Meats Burger
The burger at Lowry Hill Meats is nothing fancy. It’s a hyper-juicy quarter pound of delicious beef bedecked with caramelized onions and a salty, sticky, full-flavored house-made American cheese(!) But despite (or because of) its simplicity, it’s now become one of our favorite lunches, and the start of what we can only hope is a new Wednesday-afternoon tradition.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

2-new - twoFlyover Country by Fair State Brewing Cooperative and Oakhold
The first thing that grabs you about Fair State and Oakhold’s barrel-aged sour Flyover Country is the aroma. It’s rich and complex, funky stone fruit and acid. We kept going back for more before even sampling the first drop; there’s a compelling story wafting upward from each glass. The beer itself is a powerful wave of flavor that breaks immediately as it hits your palate, a blast of complex acidity — riffing on coriander and orange peel — that crests quickly and exits cleanly, leaving you refreshed with each sip.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

3-new - threeHoney Walnut Shrimp at Hong Kong Noodle
I’m a shrimp lover, which means you embrace disappointment. I imagine about 33 percent of shrimp must come from the terrible part of the ocean, but that’s not the case with the good people at Hong Kong Noodle. These big shrimps are always crispy, and they are covered in a heavenly sauce full of sweetness that is balanced by the crunch of the also-sweet candied walnuts. It’s not often that any type of meat pops in your mouth, but this absolutely does.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a Desert Island Top 10 post by Sean McPherson]

Chelsea Korth / Heavy Table
Chelsea Korth / Heavy Table

4-new fourGoat Rice Bowl from Union Kitchen
We ordered one of everything at Yia Vang’s Union Kitchen pop-up this Monday at Grand Cafe, and we’re glad we did. Everything was good-to-excellent with a lot of funk, depth of flavor, and balance throughout. The Stout Beer Braised Goat Rice Bowl may have been our favorite single taste. The goat was stewed to tender, fully flavored perfection, and the accompanying soft-boiled egg, pickled carrots, and jicama and bok choy were lovely complements to the big soothing flavor of the meat.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

5-new -five Hot Tuna Hoagie at Hogan Bros.
Absolutely nothing — not an atom — of this sandwich has changed since Hogan Bros. and I arrived in Northfield at almost exactly the same time, 26 years ago. It starts with soft, crustless bread, flecked with whole wheat in a pre-whole-grains-heyday kind of way. “Everything” is a perfectly calibrated balance of shredded lettuce, onions, tomato, banana peppers, mayo, and a special sauce that seems to be mostly Italian dressing. “Hot” means a quick trip to the microwave. And the whole thing drips just enough to make you feel alive and young and carefree again. And now you don’t have to worry about quarters for laundry.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Tricia Cornell]

Bottle Rocket in St. Paul

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

In our experience, the trouble (if any) with Blue Plate Restaurant Company establishments has generally come down to the food. Service is warm and enthusiastic, decor is comfortable without being sloppy, menus are approachable without being boring, and then it happens: the $14 entree that tastes as though it were decanted from a vacuum-sealed plastic bag rather than being cooked in a kitchen by a person. (Or worse: Soon after opening, Freehouse served us a lobster mac and cheese that was so bad it was downright magnificent.) If all you’re looking for is a comfortable place to hang out, that’s not a deal breaker, but it’s kept us from revisiting a number of Blue Plate spots.

However: Good and unexpected things are happening at Bottle Rocket, which went into the former Scusi location on St. Clair Avenue in St. Paul. There’s nothing particularly ambitious about Bottle Rocket’s menu, which revolves around familiar sandwiches, burgers, salads, and appetizers, but everything is given a welcome twist.

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

We weren’t asking much of our Gorgonzola Chicken Salad ($12.60), featuring ham and roasted chicken, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, cheese, and a simple vinaigrette. And yet this was one of those salads you can’t stop eating, because the ratio of greens to proteins to properly made dressing is so happily aligned. Well-composed bites are what you get every time you stab your fork, and that’s a rare pleasure.

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Our Freehouse Brew Burger ($11.60) was built from a couple of properly cooked (medium rare, as ordered) patties slathered in Velveeta, provolone, “brewer’s mayo” (something akin to special sauce), piquant and lovely slices of house pickles, and served on a rich but delicate toasted egg bun. Much like the salad, a good sense of balance (acid versus fats, bun versus meat) makes this a compelling burger even in a market that’s increasingly glutted with them. The fries that came on the side tasted distinctly of potatoes, and were crisp without being brittle. In all, a burger (and fries) to return for.

Heavy Table Hot Five: Feb. 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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Lucy Hawthorne / Heavy Table
Lucy Hawthorne / Heavy Table

1-new - oneMushroom Melt at the New Scenic Cafe
The mushroom melt served at the New Scenic Cafe is worth every minute of the 2.5-hour drive to the North Shore. Between two hearty slices of wholegrain bread, there is a delicious mix of shiitake, maitake, oyster, hon-shimeji and porcini mushrooms, all topped with melted Gruyere and pecorino Romano. Paired with a cup of French onion soup, this meal was the perfect, savory warmup before stepping out into the freezing temps to hike along Superior.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Lucy Hawthorne]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

2-new - twoRaw Scallops from Grand Cafe
We’d recommend pretty much every selection on Grand Cafe’s final menu, but the raw scallops were outstanding. These shellfish were firm, fresh, and sweet, with just the right amount of fresh dill and finishing salt. The accompanying pommes paillasson were like little French tater tots — warm (but not hot), and a crunchy complement to the slick texture of the scallops. I will miss the creativity that came out of the Grand Cafe and will miss Mary and Dan Hunter the most. They are such graceful, friendly hosts. But as the rumor goes, “there’s something brewing.”  Perhaps closing chef Jamie Malone is taking over?
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Brenda Johnson]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - threePorchetta Sandwich at Smoqehouse
Easily one of the best sandwiches we’ve had in months — tender, full-flavored barbecued pork belly slathered in a bright, garlic-forward salsa verde that perfectly cuts the richness and fat, all balanced on a delicate but structurally sound ciabatta bun that ties the package together. Is it worth the drive to Faribault? Maybe. Is it a must-eat if you’re passing through? For sure.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

4-new four Cry Baby Burger from Jimmy’s Billiards
The Cry Baby Burger from Jimmy’s Billiards is as feisty as its name sounds. Jalapeño peppers, pepper Jack cheese, and a small but mighty dose of hot sauce will clear those sinuses in no time. Spring for the sour cream for the fries as a heat-reducing dairy product.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

5-new -five Quiche from Dave the Pie Guy
We weren’t looking for quiche when we walked into Dave the Pie Guy’s new location on the 3500 block of Grand Avenue in Minneapolis. That said, the quiche looked appealing. It was, in fact, delicate and creamy. The bacon was generous and savory, and the cheddar cheese on the top was broiled to a crisp perfection. The crust was pretty good, too: flaky with flavor, and not soggy in the center.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Brenda Johnson]

Heavy Table Hot Five: Jan. 20-26

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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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Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

1-new - oneHummus Toast at Esker Grove
We recently tried the Hummus Toast at Esker Grove, the new cafe at the Walker Art Center. The hummus itself contrasted freshness — first apparent as a burst of lemon — with a rich earthiness that comes through in the tahini. The tart-earthy mix was echoed in the garnish of blanched Brussels sprout leaves in a bright vinaigrette on one hand, and unadorned red beets, avocado, and a sprinkling of garbanzos on the other. The base was a slab of lightly toasted Pan Brioche from Baker’s Field; it added another acidic element. The rest of the plate held a pile of thin, crisp, but also oversalted potato chips.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an upcoming review by Jane Rosemarin]

Joshua Page / Heavy Table
Joshua Page / Heavy Table

2-new - twoTsukunejiru at Kyatchi
We haven’t been shy about our affection for Kyatchi’s sushi, hot-dogs, and skewers (the limousine beef option is still one of the best deals in town). We’re now adding Tsukunejiru to our list of faves. A bowl of slightly spicy bonito broth, light chicken meatballs, rich shiitake mushrooms, and crisp green onion, it’s a soul-soothing, body-warming appetizer that’s just right for this time of year.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Joshua Page]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - threeCafe Frieda Coffee Liqueur by Du Nord
Locally made coffee liqueur that actually tastes like coffee: Cafe Frieda is 52 proof and made with Peace Coffee cold brew coffee and roasted chicory root. It is in possession of both depth and subtlety. Sweet, but not aggressively so.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an upcoming review by James Norton]

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

4-new four Crepes at Penny’s Coffee
We’re hesitant to let you in on this one. But the cat will be out of the bag soon enough. On the northernmost edge of the Downtown Minneapolis skyway system, in a modernist office building is Penny’s Coffee, with floor-to-ceiling windows, a sleek coffee bar, the air of a museum cafe in a Northern European city, and some top-notch crepes. This one is filled with prosciutto, chevre, and pesto. There are a half dozen other sweet and savory choices — and plenty of sunlight and seats to go around. For now.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Tricia Cornell]

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

5-new -five

Fish and Chips at Red Stag
Fish and chips need malt vinegar, right? Always. But what about the way fat drops of vinegar make the breading soggy in odd little spots? Red Stag solves this problem with a cunning little mister of vinegar that spreads tart goodness evenly across the plump fillets of cod. In fact, it’s so cute you almost don’t notice that something amazing is up with the chips. The potatoes are cut in wide, seemingly endless sheets by an industrial-size apple peeler, turning them into lavashlike potato crackers.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Tricia Cornell]

Greenline Checklist: Mesa Pizza to Stub and Herb’s

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

The University of Minnesota’s influence is readily apparent on this stretch. You’ve got a couple of places to party: Bar Luchador and Stub and Herbs. You’ve got a couple of places to grab late-night eats after the party: Hong Kong Noodles (open until midnight or 2 a.m. in the spring) and Mesa Pizza (open until 3 a.m.). And you’ve got a place to discuss Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle with your study group the next morning while pretending not to be hung over from the party: Sencha Tea.

And the circle of college life continues. — M.C. Cronin

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

ALL 15 GREEN LINE INSTALLMENTS: 88 Oriental Foods to Thai Cafe, Ha Tien Deli to Hook Fish and Chicken, Family Lao Thai to Cheng Heng, iPho by Saigon to Los Ocampo, SugaRush to PaJai, Pinoy Fusion to The Best Steakhouse, Johnny Baby’s to Ngon Bistro, Flamingo to Trend Bar, Midway Pro Bowl to Big V’s, On’s Kitchen to Tracks Bar and Grill, Caspian Bistro to Playoffs Sports Lounge, Mesa Pizza to Stub and Herb’s, The Dubliner to Ippindo Ramen, Silhouette to Little Szechuan, and T-Rex to Campus Club (the end of the line).

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

ABOUT THIS PROJECT

The Green Line Checklist is the Heavy Table’s follow-up to our 55-restaurant survey of independent eateries on Central Avenue. We’ll publish five-restaurant installments biweekly until we’ve documented every nonchain spot between the University Avenue and Rice Street intersection in St. Paul and the Green Line terminus on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis. (We’re estimating 75 spots, but we’ll see how it shakes out.)

central-corridor-funders-logoThis series is made possible by underwriting from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. Heavy Table retains editorial control of the series — as with Central Avenue, this tour will be warts-and-all.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

Mesa Pizza
1323 4th St SE, Minneapolis
Stadium Village Station

It’s not much more than a big open space designed for ordering slices and chowing them down on site. But that’s OK. There’s no pretense here. Mesa knows their primary reason for existence, and they’re delivering on it.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

You get in line, wind your way to the counter, order, pay, sit, fold your slice, tilt your head, take a bite, and instantly scorch off the first layer of skin on the roof of your mouth. It’s Darwin’s First Law of Pizza.

There’s what looks like a huge, illuminated spiraling flame design on the ceiling. We’re not exactly sure of the artist’s intention, but we like to imagine it’s an homage to that roof of the mouth burn. After all, when you’re a mecca for drunken college students who want little more than to stuff their faces and stumble home with sauce smeared on their cheeks, you kind of have to have a sense of humor.

WACSO / Heavy Table / Hungover? Mac & cheese pizza!
WACSO / Heavy Table / Hungover? Mac & cheese pizza!

And all credit to Mesa. They know how to have fun. From the tip jar soliciting donations to “help fund alcohol research” to the irreverent pizza stylings like the Mac-and-Cheese Pizza and the Cheesy Potato Pizza, Mesa knows a slice joint shouldn’t take itself too seriously. — M.C.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

*** FOOD NOTES ***

Everything about this place — the decor, the location, the pricing — leads you to underestimate the experience. This isn’t to claim that Mesa is making great pizza in an underwhelming space, but it’s definitely good pizza in an underwhelming space, and that’s something worth celebrating.

The specialty slices we bought were $4 each. The Macaroni and Cheese slice (a quirky take on pizza that Mesa is locally known for) was remarkably tasty, considering it was carbs on carbs. The rich, creamy nature of the mac and cheese’s sauce complemented the crispy, foldable crust and delicate (but not overcooked) noodles. Breading the macaroni or baking it to the point of crisping or burning would have been bad moves — Mesa makes neither of these mistakes.

The Gyro slice we tried was even better. The tzatziki sauce was creamy and full-flavored, and while the shaved meat was a bit dry, the sauce made it work. Tomatoes brought some brightness and moisture to the party, and everything tasted in balance when combined with the restaurant’s pleasant, NYC street-slice-style pizza crust.

The value prospect is solid, too — $8 buys two slices, and two slices would be a good-sized meal for most averagely hungry people. — James Norton

The Vincent Burger Returns to Cooper Irish Pub

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

From a most welcome press release regarding the classic beef short ribs-stuffed burger served not-so-long ago at the now-shuttered Vincent, A Restaurant:

The Vincent Burger is back and will be a permanent addition to the menu at Cooper Irish Pub on Monday, March 14th. Starting tonight, Thursday, March 10th, the burger will be a offered as a special.

The burger is the same recipe as served at Vincent A Restaurant and also features the same fresh cut french fries.
With Chef Vincent Francoual now leading the culinary direction for Cara Irish Pubs, he is happy to bring his beloved burger back.  At the same time, Francoual is slowly working on adding his touch to the overall menu at Cooper and his full new menu will debut later this Spring.  Once the changes to the menu are set at Cooper, he will move onto the other Cara properties, and eventually, the Vincent Burger will be available at all locations.

 

Schmidt’s Meats of Nicollet and the Story of Cannibal Burger

Schmidt's Meats in Nicollet, Minnesota
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

In 1947, Gerhard Schmidt and his wife Esther, American-born offspring of German immigrants, decided they wanted to open a meat shop. Gerhard had learned the meat trade in Arlington, Minnesota, but wanted his own business. They looked all over southern Minnesota for just the right place before purchasing a tiny storefront on Pine Street in Nicollet. Was it intuition? Or a visionary view of the future, in which the little town of Nicollet would draw a healthy business from the larger communities of St. Peter, New Ulm, and Mankato, from which it is almost equidistant?

“No,” said Gerhard’s grandson Ryan, the third-generation owner of Schmidt’s Meats, laughing. “It was dumb luck. I think of all the towns and shops they looked at, this was the only one that had living quarters above it.”

Ryan Schmidt of Schmidt's Meats in Nicollet, MN
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Practical, yet still prophetic. The shop, which was minuscule when the young couple bought it 68 years ago, has more than tripled in size, and now has 50 part-time and full-time employees. Schmidt’s butchers meat for local farmers, who in turn sell it to their own customers. They are also a full-service retail shop, offering pretty much every cut of cow and pig you’d expect to find, along with numerous marinated or dry-rubbed, oven-ready versions. There’s also an large deli area, and even a line of private-label condiments.

Schmidt's Meats in Nicollet, MN
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

But there are two things in particular that Schmidt’s is known for. One is its huge variety of housemade sausages, especially summer sausages. The walls are lined with plaques and awards Schmidt’s has won for its sausages. Gerhard got things off to a solid start with a good basic summer sausage recipe that the shop still uses, but over time, new flavors evolved — everything from sweet to savory, mild to spicy. There’s a pungent Garlic summer sausage with more than just a dab of garlic to it, but if garlic is something you prefer in moderation, try the Swan Lake — it’s a cross between the mild original flavor and the kicked-up garlic version. The German Beer summer sausage is strongly peppery, but if you want something on the milder, sweeter side, check out the Minnesota Style sausage, with blueberries, honey, maple syrup, and wild rice. Schmidt’s also offers a lineup of products that reflect the store’s German heritage, including Gretzwurst and Landjaeggers.

All the sausages are processed in Schmidt’s gravity smokehouse, which is kept stoked with logs from the huge woodpile behind the shop. Retail manager Mark Gudmundson noted that the sausages spend 48 to 52 hours in the smokehouse, but the process is different from traditional smoking. “The sausages are more fermented than cooked,” he said. “We go by the Ph level more than temperature.” The resulting sausages have both a smoky flavor and a tanginess that makes them addictive.

Cannibal Burger from Schmidt's Meats in Nicollet, MN
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

The other big draw is something you don’t see at meat counters everywhere: Cannibal Burger. Known elsewhere as “tiger meat” or “wildcat,” Cannibal Burger is beef coarsely ground with onions and spices and meant to be served raw on crackers or rye toasts — kind of a bare-bones steak tartare. At Schmidt’s, the Cannibal Burger is not mystery meat or odds and ends, but top round, ground first thing in the morning, when the grinders are still fresh from the previous night’s scrubbing (have we mentioned how immaculate this shop is?). The name might not be appealing, but the meat is so tender it pretty much melts in your mouth and is surprisingly delicate in flavor. One bite, and it’s easy to forget about the raw part (not to mention the cannibal part), and just focus on putting more meat on more crackers. Gudmundson noted that at one time, raw egg yolks were used as a binder, but with the rise of egg-based salmonella, they stopped doing that.

Schmidt's Meats in Nicollet, MN
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Note to visitors to the Nicollet area: this summer, State Highway 99 (the main thoroughfare) is undergoing construction and expansion. But if you have a hankering for quality summer sausage or Cannibal Burger, set your GPS for alternate routes and make a nice drive of it. Just remember to bring a cooler — raw meat is best not left in a hot car.

Schmidt’s Meats
319 Pine St, Nicollet, MN 56074
507.232.3438
Hours:
Mon-Fri 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Sat 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

The Burger at Parlour

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Overhyping burgers seems to have become a thing. When was the last time you ate a non-fast-food burger that didn’t have massive expectations attached to it?

As Nietzsche once said, “Keep your expectations low, then you won’t be so bummed out.”

Thus it was that we stumbled into Parlour on a recent Saturday night — a rare visit to the well-heeled heart of the warehouse district on a weekend — and ordered their burger ($13). We tend to cringe at menus featuring burgers priced in the teens, but there are exceptions to our usual rule of DRAB PRICE (Diminishing Returns As Burger Price Rises Into Crazy Excess), and the Parlour burger proves itself worthy of the additional funds – not with smoke and mirrors, but with sheer focus and simplicity in execution and flavor.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

This is the brevity burger. It is the punchy Papa Hemingway short story on a shelf sagging under the weight of bloated George R.R. Martin novels that exhaustively list the lineage of royal horses in each Westerosi ruling family. This burger is the sawed-off shotgun hiding in a pile of laser-sighted assault rifles. It’s the ascetic Desert Father fleeing the sinful bloat of the city to shed all forms of vanity and live a pure life before God. It’s … just really good, and really simple. Two patties. Two slices of American cheese. One well-grilled bun (on both sides!). Pickles on the side. We could go on, but like obsessively dissecting the new Star Wars trailer a full year before the movie comes out — what’s the point?

Heavy Table Hot Five: Nov. 21-27

hotfive-flames

Each Friday afternoon, 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.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Chicken Liver Tart at Heyday

The Chicken Liver Tart at Heyday is just incredible. Beautifully rich mousse inside a dainty little pie shell, topped with a forest of greenery, none of which I recognized by name, that delivers a prickly textural contrast as well as a fresh overtone that pierces the sweet meatiness of the mousse. I’ll have one of those and a glass of pinot noir for the classiest nightcap Lyn-Lake has to offer. [Debuting on the Hot Five]

Contributed by John Garland

Courtesy of Hola Arepa
Courtesy of Hola Arepa

Cubano at Hola Arepa

Who needs beans, plantains and all that other filler? Slow roasted pork, ham, mustard, refrigerator pickles and a spicy aioli make for a powerful, two-fisted meat talisman to protect against the wintry onslaught. [Last Week on the Hot Five: #2]

Contributed by Peter Sieve

Joshua Page / Heavy Table
Joshua Page / Heavy Table

3-newSurf and Turf Burger at George and the Dragon

“Awesome surf & turf burger w/fried oysters & caramelized onions. Get it!” [Debuting on the Hot Five]

Tweeted by Joshua Page

Jason Walker / Heavy Table
Jason Walker / Heavy Table

Pork Belly at Borough

Borough’s perfectly cooked pork belly atop a celery root pancake is an architectural plate worth not sharing. In a classic combination, apple butter complements the pork in a modern and contrasting manner with hazelnuts rounding out the flavor. Pair with a bottled cocktail – we suggest the Fernet Me Not with spicy sarsaparilla. [Debuting on the Hot Five]

Contributed by Paige Latham

Joshua Page / Heavy Table
Joshua Page / Heavy Table

5-newRam-Toria-Aaloo at The Himalayan

Want to convert the okra skeptics in your life? Order this dish of fried okra and potatoes seasoned with Nepalese spices. It’s smoky, crispy, and brilliantly spiced. [Last Week on the Hot Five: #1]

Contributed by Joshua Page