The Tap: Service Culture Meets Millennial Culture

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This week in the Tap: The meaning of “good service” may be evolving.

The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Good Service and Millennial Culture

Two recent visits to two excellent restaurants got me thinking about the nuances of “good service.” Both places — Estrellón in Madison and Heirloom in St. Paul — have talented young chefs on the make, and both boasted staffs whose average age seemed parked around 23.

Commonalities between the places, beyond the uniformly delicious food and drinks: All of the restaurants’ young servers, impeccably dressed and coifed, seemed … busy. Questions and requests, which they politely humored, generally seemed to be impositions on their time. Specials had to be extracted, and when they were provided, they were summarized briefly.

At Estrellón, I watched a server engage with another diner about whether a particular tapa was gluten-free. While it’s hard not to feel the server’s pain, it was also unpleasant listening. It was a prickly exchange, with the server defending what he’d written down and how the menu was phrased against the guest’s increasingly peevish accusations. Lost completely was the idea that diners should be welcome and comfortable, and that the service interaction is meant to facilitate that feeling. In a word: hospitality, a concept at the very core of dining out anywhere (and, certainly, at any place where the average check total approaches $75 a diner).

At Heirloom, the most meaningful interaction we had with our chronically rushed waiter was at the end of the meal, when he explained that the 18-percent service charge tacked onto our bill would be divided amongst the staff … and that if we wanted to tip him personally beyond that, we could write in that additional number on the conveniently provided line on the tab.

Here’s a theory: When you’re used to splitting your day between five social media channels, it’s easy to see any given customer as a task to be accomplished and then rotated away from, rather than a guest to be welcomed. It’s totally understandable, it’s a natural evolution, and it’s a shame. One of the great appeals of restaurants is feeling as though everything is taken care of, and you need only enjoy your food, wine, and conversation.

Age isn’t the only factor here. I’ve been waited on by young servers at places like Brasa, Meritage, Saint Genevieve, and others and had reliable, repeatably great service, where hospitality was the watchword. But those three places (in particular) are helmed by veteran chefs with old-school ideas about how to make guests feel comfortable. It will be a great thing for diners if newer restaurants retain some of the best traditions of their predecessors even as they evolve and innovate. — James Norton

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Join us at Baristas Gone Wild this weekend at Spyhouse Coffee Northeast

Are you the sort of person who brings a (shatter-proof) French press into the wilderness? Do you demand decent coffee no matter how wild the setting? Then you’ll want to head to Northeast Minneapolis on Saturday, May 14 to attend Baristas Gone Wild. You’ll join the award-winning roasters of Spyhouse Coffee as they prepare you for a wild summer of camping, canoeing, and coffee brewing.

And you’ll also learn more about Chef Camp, the Sept. 2-4 camp retreat featuring some of Minnesota’s best chefs teaching open-fire cooking.

Baristas Gone Wild will feature demonstrations on coffee roasting and various styles of brewing (with tastings!), and a coffee mixology tutorial with an emphasis on coffee drinks that would be ideal when made and enjoyed in the great outdoors.

We’re down to our last handful of tickets, so please sign up today if you’re interested.

When:
Where: Spyhouse Coffee — 945 Broadway St NE, Minneapolis 55413
Tickets: $10 + fees via Eventbrite

NOW OPEN

Dogwood Coffee Pour Over
Kate N.G. Sommers/Heavy Table
  • Lou Nanne’s, 7651 France Ave S, Edina | Steakcentric menu with a Manny’s vet (Josh Hill) as chef. Our brief review is here.
  • Encore Karaoke and Sushi Lounge, 2111 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis | The former Verdant Tea space on Franklin now boasts private karaoke rooms that’ll set you back $60 (for two hours in the Silver Room) to $800 (for four hours in the Penthouse, which houses 20-30 guests).

Heirloom in Saint Paul

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Heirloom is billed as a “neighborhood” restaurant that specializes in “modern farmhouse cuisine.” As these terms suggest, it’s utterly inviting and the fare is rustic, centered on seasonal and local ingredients. But the food is also beautiful, subtly complex, and, at times, cutting-edge without being the least bit pretentious. Chef Wyatt Evans (formerly of WA Frost) has our attention.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

The most unassuming dishes on the dinner menu (brunch is served on Sundays) produced the most high-fives and “hot damns.” The pedestrianly named “meat pie” ($14) turns out to be an adorable acorn-shaped cracker crust filled with a luscious, soul-warming mixture of shredded chicken and pork, cinnamon, and a layer of green tomato chutney. Accompanied by sharp English mustard, raisins, and pickled green tomatoes, the delectable pie skillfully balances textures and flavors. Hot damn, indeed.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Moving from England to Ireland, Evans’ black pudding ($11) is another stunner. Made of pork shoulder, pig’s blood and organ meat (heart and liver), and steel-cut oats (for binding), the “pudding” is really a refined, funky, and delicious meatloaf. A light puree of celery root and thin slices of tart, slightly sweet pickled apples cut the dish’s richness while brightening it. Winner winner, fancy meatloaf dinner.

Heavy Table Hot Five: Feb. 12-18

hotfive-flames

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.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - oneDunn Brothers Burundi Microlot Coffee and B.T. McElrath Changemaker Chocolate Bar
Coffee and chocolate are, generally speaking, two lovely tastes that complement one another, but let’s get specific: this particular coffee and this particular chocolate are a dynamite duo. The Burundi Microlot Coffee is about as big and bold and robust as coffee gets, a blast of both acidity and an earthy chocolate note. The B.T. McElrath Changemaker Chocolate Bar clocks in at that wonderful, serious-but-reasonable 70 percent cacao range, where the chocolate flavor is rich and legitimate without crossing over into excessively fruity brightness. The addition of roasted espresso bean pieces contributes a welcome crunch and a lovely coffee note to the bar. As an added bonus, both products help support a $10,000 contribution by Dunn Brothers to the Minneapolis-based American Refugee Committee.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

2-new - twoHeart-Shaped Cardamom Rolls from Aki’s BreadHaus
Aki’s BreadHaus has an alternative to the chocolate overload Valentine’s Day often inspires: cardamom rolls shaped like hearts. They may look like pretzels, but they have the same gently sweet flavor as Aki’s cardamom bread. They would make a lovely Valentine’s breakfast or teatime treat.
[Debuting on the Hot Five| Submitted by Amy Rea]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - threeLamb Bacon BLT and Fries at Mr. Roberts Resort in Pengilly
A BLT is one of those foods that comes down to interpretation — done poorly, it’s dull as dirt, forgotten the moment it’s eaten. But done correctly — as at Mr. Roberts Resort, with flavorful tomato, umami-dense lamb bacon, and creamy saffron aioli in perfect proportions on lightly toasted bread — this dish is a bona fide killer. We always dug the cooking of Chef Sarah Master at Barbette and Porter & Frye; we’re loving it up on the Iron Range, too. Oh, and the super crisp, flavorful, beautifully cut little French fries are worth the trip, too.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton after a Chef Camp Minnesota scouting trip]

Joshua Paige / Heavy Table
Joshua Paige / Heavy Table

4-new fourMeat Pie from Heirloom
We’ve never had a meat pie like this before. But we’ll definitely have it again. The combination of cracker crust, shredded chicken and pork, fruit, mustard, and pickled green tomatoes is delicious, balanced, and soulful. And the pie is just so damn adorable.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | From an upcoming review by Joshua Page]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

5-new -fivePaczki from Sarah Jane’s Bakery
You don’t have to be Polish, or even to observe Lent, to appreciate the paczki from Sarah Jane’s Bakery in Northeast. They look like little round doughnuts, but the dough is more cakelike, and the filling is generous, whether it’s a smooth, rich custard, or a tart, not overly sweet raspberry mixture. Get them while the season is here.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

Heavy Table Hot Five: Feb. 5-9

hotfive-flames

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.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

Joshua Paige / Heavy Table
Joshua Paige / Heavy Table

1-new - oneMeat Pie from Heirloom
We’ve never had a meat pie like this before. But we’ll definitely have it again. The combination of cracker crust, shredded chicken and pork, fruit, mustard, and pickled green tomatoes is delicious, balanced, and soulful. And the pie is just so damn adorable.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | From an upcoming review by Joshua Page]

Paige Latham / Heavy Table
Paige Latham / Heavy Table

2-new - twoChocolate Raspberry Bismarck from Taste of Love Bakery
The Chocolate Raspberry Bismarck from Taste of Love Bakery in West St. Paul is not filled with curd or even jam — it’s filled with tart, macerated berries. The berry flavor is intensely bright and sour, in contrast to the ganache frosting. A welcome — and affordable — departure from the typical filled pastry.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - threeBarrel-Aged Silhouette Imperial Stout from Lift Bridge Brewery
It was a surprise to encounter one of the world’s best fruitcakes in liquid form, but that’s exactly what happened when we tried this year’s edition of the bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout known as Silhouette. The monks of the Holy Transfiguration Skete on Lake Superior’s Keweenaw Peninsula make a confection called Abbey Cake, a dense, molasses-based, bourbon-soaked, dried-fruit-studded wonder that lasts just about forever when wrapped in cheesecloth and sealed in plastic, and it always tastes like a rich, funky dream. Silhouette takes many of those flavors (notably the molasses and dried fruit, plus the pleasantly boozy kick of bourbon) and translates them into a drinkable, 10 percent ABV dream. Best served approaching room temperature so all those lovely cocoa and spice notes express themselves fully.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

4-new four BBQ Pork Banh Mi at Ha Tien Deli
Easily one of our favorite banh mis on University Avenue, and we’ve tried a few: It arrives wrapped in tinfoil and stuffed with great jalapeno heat, tons of cilantro flavor, and the crowning glory of big pieces of pork. The meat is rich in fatty flavor and a bit of char, touched with sweetness but not overly sauced, and uniformly tender.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton in advance of the Green Line Checklist series]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveAdapted Tarte Tatin with Gjetost
The recipe is pretty simple: Fill one cast iron pan with quartered apples, butter, and sugar. Top with a crust, heat until bubbling, and then melt thin strips of the caramel-like Scandinavian cheese called gjetost for a dessert that is easy, primal, and delicious.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Small Farms vs. Big Milk and Morning Roundup

Fast Company interviews George Siemon of Organic Valley, columnist Jon Tevlin digs into the legend of the $100K server, a look at the power of the big dairy co-ops like Texas-based Dean Foods, a Strib piece takes aim at the “heirloom food = better” theory, a bunch of events for Summit’s fourth Unchained beer, and Rick and Lee Dean round up new hotspots including Faces and Parma 8200.