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]

“Bar Food” at Burch Steakhouse and Pizza Bar

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

As compensation for brutal winters, Minnesotans are blessed with endless enviable summer activities. Deciding which outdoor movie, block party, or food fest to attend can be daunting. Now we’re adding one more item to your summer activity “to do” list. Unlike many of the others, this one isn’t free. It’s not even cheap. But it’s sure worth it. So here’s the plan:

1. Go to Burch at 5pm on a sunny day. You may need to leave work early, but this step is critical. Arriving at opening ensures an hour or two of peaceful eating and chatting before dinner service ramps up.

2. Sit at the bar. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and professional. And the bar! It’s beautiful, long, and wide enough for amassing plates and glasses, and the high-backed chairs are super comfy. Most importantly, the sun shines through the floor-to-ceiling windows, basking the bar in a warm summer glow.

3. Order a drink and sample the “bar food.” Technically, Burch doesn’t do bar food, but its small plates are absolutely worth a leery look from your coworker when you breeze out early. Our current favorite combo:

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Lamb Tartare ($13): Featuring extremely fresh, lean lamb from Niman Ranch, this cool dish is a summer treat. Whole mustard seeds, roasted fresno peppers, flake salt, and mint combine for serious flavor, mellowed skillfully by sheep’s milk yogurt. Our only critique (and it’s a very small one) is that the lamb flavor gets a bit lost among the other, strong components.

The Anchor Fish & Chips in Northeast Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

You can’t generally tell a book by its cover, but it’s damned refreshing when you actually can. The Anchor Fish & Chips represents itself as a sturdy, reliable, honest, fish and chips-focused pub doing business in Northeast, and what you’re promised is precisely what you receive. The beer menu is suitable if limited, the food menu is brief, focused, and culturally monolithic, and the interior is dark, cozy, and convivial — in short, a non-ironic, un-fusion, completely uncuted-up take on an Irish pub.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

You don’t get tartar sauce with your Fish and Chips ($8.50), something that an American might reasonably find annoying. The fish (wild Alaskan cod) is a bit bland, even when dosed with malt vinegar and hit with salt, but it’s moist and clean-tasting, covered in a golden-brown, non-greasy, crispy batter coating. Would the fish be tastier, overall, given the addition of a trendy wasabi tartar sauce or a sriracha / lime mayo? Well, perhaps. Would the intrusion of an Asia-meets-everything-else restaurant aesthetic detract from the elegance and the atmosphere of the Anchor? Most definitely.

About 80 percent of the menu involves fries (“chips” according to the Anchor). Therefore, it’s fortunate that they’re hand cut, and done correctly, with a stout crispness to the exterior and a warm-but-distinctly-potatoey interior.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Curry fries ($4.50) suffer from the same forgivable fault as the fish and chips — they’re a bit too mild, the curry a gentle mughal mixture that’s pleasingly mellow and rich but feels as though it’s missing an element — charred meat, hot chilis, something that would kick the flavor up a notch beyond the softly spoken.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

But if neither the fish and chips nor the curry fries are a spectacular culinary event — and, really, they’re both pretty good, and honest as hell — the Shepherd’s Pie ($8.50) is. Similarly unadorned, you’re not getting much more than creamy mashed potatoes atop beef, carrots, and onions. There are little clumps of extra-dense potato present in the topping, the beef is tender and mouthwatering, and the herb / onion kick to the whole dish is brilliantly calibrated. Complicated, no. A slam dunk, yes.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

And if you’re really looking to stop the movement in your arteries, a particularly delicious method is the Helicopter Burger ($10), served with Irish cheddar, rashers (strips of pork that are damn near bacon but a bit less crunchy and more ham-like), and a tender fried egg. The smokey kick of the rashers is pronounced but not overwhelming, and the whole thing is deftly balanced. The grass-fed beef is moist and flavorful without being greasy, and even the bun represents an attention to detail and quality that is reflective of the establishment as a whole.

Although newly opened and not yet serving breakfast (it begins this coming weekend), the Anchor feels fully developed — it’s a clear concept with a competent, even passionate execution. Purists will appreciate its honesty and clarity, and everyone else will appreciate the fact that it puts large portions of damn good food on the plate for reasonable prices.

BEST BET: The Shepherd’s Pie is a simple, classic, well-executed rendition of a classic pub dish, and justifies the visit by itself.

The Anchor Fish & Chips
Traditional pub grub in Northeast Minneapolis
302 13th Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
612.676.1300
OWNERS: Jenny Crouser, Kathryn Hayes, and Luke Kyle
HOURS:
Tue-Sun 4pm-1am
Breakfast
Sat-Sun 10-2pm
Closed Mondays
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes (but “all food items come into contact with meat products”) / No
RESERVATIONS: No
BAR: Beer
ENTREE RANGE: $6.50-10

What Does $100 Buy These Days?

Two beautiful hand-powered machines that make fresh, totally respectable fries — just $100 each! Or, you could spend the same $100 and get “the Jagermeister Machine everybody has been talking about, with LIGHTS.” The choice is yours.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Edina

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table
Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

When I moved to Minneapolis from Washington, DC, three years ago, I wasn’t sad to leave the traffic or the humidity or the sky-high real estate, but I was upset to move away from Five Guys. The local burgers-and-fries chain was a staple on our go-to list of fast, cheap, and delicious meals. No food in the house after returning from vacation? We’d go to Five Guys. Didn’t feel like cooking dinner? We’d go to Five Guys. Wanted to replenish the calories burned during a strenuous work-out? You get the picture. In DC, the chain is a mainstay; the First Lady even gave it a warm shout-out in a press conference yesterday.

So imagine my elation upon hearing that thanks to the wonders of franchising, Five Guys was coming to Edina. (The first Minnesota location is in St. Cloud.) Yes, those big, beefy burgers and salty hot fries would be mine once again! Of course, I had a few worries: Would it be as good as I remembered? Would the diner decor be the same? Would peanut shells cover the floor?

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table
Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

It’s too soon for the floor to get too littered with peanut shells, but yes, the boxes of peanuts are available for munching while you wait for your order. (Note to those with peanut allergies: There is a sign clearly warning potential diners of their presence as you enter the restaurant.) The red-and-white tiled interior has made the trip from DC, too. Interestingly, so have the signs extolling the awards and praises from Washington-area media. Do Minnesotans care what Washingtonians think about burgers? They’ll have to saddle up to the counter and decide for themselves, I guess.

The friendly cashier asked if I had been to a Five Guys before, and upon answering yes, I got a high-five. He still reminded me about the difference between the regular burgers and cheeseburgers and the little versions (two patties vs. one) and pointed out the 15 free toppings (mayo, relish, onions, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, mustard, jalapeño peppers, green peppers, A-1 sauce, barbecue sauce, and hot sauce) listed on the menu. Eager to ensure I ordered the fries I liked best, he let me sample the cajun-style variety before completing my order. Wow, Five Guys+Minnesota Nice=pretty good customer service.

As I munched peanuts and waited for food, I checked to make sure the Five Guys essentials were all present. Malt vinegar for the fries — check. Serve-yourself soda fountain — check. Oodles of napkins — check. But when my number was called just a few minutes later, I was shocked to see that the paper bag containing my dinner was grease-free. The trademark of a Five Guys meal is the grease-streaked bag that holds your order, regardless if you’re taking out or eating in. Odd.

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table
Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

The taste, however, was utterly familiar. Five Guys prides itself on only using fresh ground beef, and the meat had a pure, almost clean mouthfeel that could never be replicated with previously frozen beef. The meat isn’t highly seasoned, so those expecting a jolt to the taste buds will likely be disappointed. The ho-hum bun quickly smushes down to a thin layer under your fingertips, too. But topped with lettuce, pickles, and ketchup, it is a good example of how a simply prepared burger can be so satisfying.

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table
Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

The fresh-cut fries are a delight just out of the fryer – salty, steaming, and slightly oily. Eat them fast, though — once they cool, they go from marvelous to meh. The cajun flavoring offered a smoky finish but was not as spicy as I remembered it to be. Being a fry purist, though, I generally stick with the plain “Five Guys style.”

Five Guys also serves up hot dogs, grilled cheese, and veggie sandwiches, but I wouldn’t make it a destination for any of those foods. Instead, stop by when you’re craving a fresh, no-frills burger. It’s one part of Washington, DC, that I’m happy followed me to the Upper Midwest.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Rating: ★★½☆ (Good)
Burger joint in Edina
3871 Gallagher Dr
Edina, MN 55435
952.893.5489
HOURS: 11am-10pm daily
BAR: No
RESERVATIONS/RECOMMENDED: No/No
VEGETARIAN/VEGAN: Yes/No
ENTREE RANGE: $3-6

Ely Butt Steak Spanked

buttsteak
Eric Faust / Heavy Table

The butt steak at the Ely Steak House goes for $20.95; for only $3 more you can spank your butt steak black and bleu. This 14oz slice of meat is already a glutton’s delight, but covered in bleu cheese it is just short of artery-clogging. The cooling creamy texture of the cheese complements Cajun seasoning-rubbed blackened steak, and “medium rare” takes on a whole new meaning when the chunky white dressing mixes with oozing blood. The pinkish sauce thus created is epic for dipping steak fries. If you are persistent enough to finish the juicy chunk of butt you can enjoy a free game of pool. Presuming you’re able to stand up.

The Twin Cities Burger Boom

Common logic would suggest that this is no time to open a restaurant. The economy is tanking, news of layoffs comes through daily, and people are cutting back on spending to the bare essentials. Right?

Not so fast, a few restaurateurs say. There’s always room for burgers.

At least that’s what the founders of two soon-to-be Twin Cities burger establishments are counting on. Tom Ryan, the founder of Colorado-based Smashburger, and Phil Roberts, the co-founder of Parasole Restaurant Holdings, which is scheduled to debut its new Burger Jones restaurant concept this spring, believe it is the time and the Twin Cities is the place to bet on burgers.

“Why Minnesota? Why not?” asks Ryan, who, though based in Denver, owns a second house on Minneapolis’ Lake of the Isles. “Minnesotans are some of the most prolific, food-forward people around.”

Courtesy of Smashburger
Courtesy of Smashburger

Ryan launched the Smashburger concept just two years ago after noticing a gap in the $100 billion/year burger industry: Customers wanted more than the average McDonald’s burger but didn’t want to spend money on a sit-down restaurant meal. He designed Smashburger to have broad appeal, offering cooked-to-order, certified Angus beef burgers on bakery-style buns, for “burger lovers and the people who hang out with them.” The menu goes beyond fries, offering haystack onions, veggie frites (deep-fried carrots, green beans and asparagus), smashed chicken sandwiches and hot dogs, Häagen Dazs shakes, floats and malts and bottled beer and wine. Burgers start at $5, with the average check coming in just shy of $8.

“Smashburger fills a gap that fast food and Red Robin are not hitting,” Ryan says. “We’re a convenient and cost-effective way to have a good food experience. And we’re doing even better in the recession!”

The first Twin Cities Smashburger outpost is set to open in St. Anthony in May, and Ryan plans to eventually bring 30-35 locations to the metro area. Last fall, he hired Greg Creighton, a Minnesota native and former president of Leeann Chin, to oversee operations at new locations such as St. Anthony, and he has an aggressive approach to expansion nationwide. As far as Ryan can see, there’s no reason why Smashburger won’t succeed in the Twin Cities.