Geno’s in Southeast Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Never underestimate the power of a properly made meatball sandwich. It’s not a sexy sandwich, as it’s pretty much designed to explode, wilt, and melt into your mouth. But with the right components — a bright marinara, light but rich meatballs, enough melted cheese to cover but not smother, and a properly toasted bun — it’s inhalable magic. The meatball sandwich at the newly opened Geno’s is properly made. At $10 on a roll or $12 on a hoagie, it’s a little pricey on the face of it, but the flavor justifies the outlay.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Geno’s, a new shop from the owners of the Lyndale Tap House, seems to be ripping a page right out of the Mucci’s book: Serve up old-school Italian-American favorites using good ingredients, and reap all the goodwill and nostalgia that exists for a much-degraded, much-abused classic cuisine that has in recent years been a repository for laziness and straight-from-the-food-service-bag cookery.

Wisconsin Cheese Reigns Supreme and Morning Roundup

A second Lyndale Tap House is opening in Apple Valley (here’s our initial review), Wisconsin still leads the country in cheese production, a look at new cupcake contender Sweet Bebe Cakes, and a season-ending “thank you” from Bogart Loves.

Ale Asylum Goes Big and Morning Roundup

Madison’s Ale Asylum brewery is planning a new, nearly $7 million brewery and restaurant near the Dane County airport; a review of the Brau Bros. Ring Neck Braun Ale; Betty’s (voted worst pie maker for both absolute taste and value by The Heavy Table) starts its “Slice of Heaven” tour of shopping malls (AKA); the Lyndale Tap house branches out to Apple Valley; Wisconsinites will shed their button-down image and discover the joys of alcohol at 6am; a flashback to the very stylish bust of an illegal gambling and drinking establishment on Hennepin Ave. circa 1938; Rachel reviews Sonora Grill at Midtown Global Market (we loved it); the Harvest PR firm is giving out a $25K grant to a worthy food-related nonprofit; Well Fed Guide to Life heads out to Crooked Pint Ale House; and a rave assessment of Birchwood Cafe.

Horgen’s Lyndale Love Letter

Nightlife columnist Tom Horgen takes a brief break from pounding shots of rail tequila to pen a passionate apologia for the Lyndale Tap House, calling out the “just bloggers” who went after it. His theory: a few weeks post-opening is too early for snarky remarks. How about this as a proposal, Tom Horgen: As food critics, we collectively suspend judgment on any place not yet charging people money for food. After that, if you overcook your chicken to the consistency of leather, it’s fair game for commentary. You can’t demand a place to be perfect when it opens — but you can expect a focused concept and competent execution of basic tasks. Moreover, a lot of restaurants open smoothly to general acclaim — if Bar La Grassa and Anchor Fish and Chips (and probably a dozen other new restaurants in 2009) can stand an early assessment, so can a well-funded venture like the Lyndale.

November 11 Morning Roundup

Rachel highlights the hits and misses of Loring Kitchen and Ginger Hop, meditations on Russian vodka, Well Fed Guide to Life heads to Lyndale Tap House, eat better than the competition and win a ($15) gift certificate at Satay2Go, extensive consideration of favorite coffee shops (the utterly excellent Fireroast Mountain makes the list), and how to order wrong at New Scenic Cafe.

November 9 Morning Roundup

Thoughts on the hunting and cooking of grouse, octopus dumpling adventures worth following (featuring an æbleskiver pan!), Eating Animals points out that the USDA is not, repeat not the US Department of Animal Welfare, the Whitest Thing That Ever Happened*, the Second Whitest Thing That Ever Happened, a review of India Palace in Eden Center, the Captain’s Chair brews what Napolean’s troops called “the champagne of the North” while invading Germany, a cat eating leeks, not to stir stuff up, but Red Pepper gives Lyndale Tap House a “meh,” and Mecca briefly reviews Bar La Grassa. *Not food related. Too funny to miss, though.

November 3 Morning Roundup

Tastebud Tart explains why a 2-oz. scoop is so fabulous, Bill Roehl demands to know how BW-3, which he hates, makes so much money, a vegetarian take on the Blue Door Pub, detailed notes on Surly Darkness from The Captain’s Chair, a local adventure in making Worcestershire sauce, We Got Served takes the Lyndale Tap House challenge and likes the place (while Doug Hamlin backs up our less-than-glowing review), and Chef Chris asks: “What’s the deal with the coffee cups strewn all over St. Paul?”

October 27 Morning Roundup

High marks for Furthermore and Capital Brewery beers in an autumnal ale roundup, the blowback against the Lyndale Tap House review continues over on Because Emily Says So, the Butcher Block has pared down its ambitious wing selection and hours, Bill Roehl digs his BD’s Mongolian Grill preview meal, East Lake concurs with this writer’s unpopular opinion that the Jucy at the Nook trumps any of the old stalwarts, Simple, Good, and Tasty writes about the bleak end to this year’s farmers markets, and much love for Bar La Grassa from Red Pepper.

The Lyndale Tap House in Uptown, Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Uptown’s newly opened Lyndale Tap House seems to exist not so much as a casual pub-grub eatery, but as a middle finger extended toward Danny Schwartzman of Common Roots, whose eco-everything establishment does business right down the block. Despite having “tap house” in its name, only two of the Lyndale’s 17 draft beers are local (three if you count Leinie’s). The fish and chips is made with Atlantic cod, which rates an all caps red AVOID on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. And the atmosphere is a too-dark, too-loud typhoon of “dude-brah.” If I’d been given a quarter for every time the guy at the table next to me said the word “blowjob,” I could’ve bought a $4.50 Mich Ultra for the already sozzled fratern-o-winner at the bar who was attempting to force innocent bystanders to join him in a semi-coherent sing-along to “Rock With You.”

In fact, the Lyndale Tap House has, in the few short weeks since its opening, already developed an atmosphere as toe-tappingly cretinous as that of Cowboy Slim’s. This is no doubt a tribute to the business plan for this restaurant, which seems to be a sound one in principle — pack ’em in, crank the tunes, dim the lights, and keep the beer flowing.

If this doesn’t turn you off — if you are, in fact, thinking: “Thank God, the last thing we need is the return of Cafe Agri,” then you’ll probably be pleased to hear that food at the Lyndale Tap House is absolutely within the target demographic’s comfort zone, and that some of it actually works quite well.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

House-made pretzel batons ($5) may be the best thing on the menu, and that’s no knock. They’re presented like flowers in a vase, served with an over-sweet mustard and a ravishingly creamy cheddar-ale dip. They’ve got a great crispy-chewy exterior, a balanced level of salt, and a nice substantial interior crumb. These are carbs of a truly high order.

The Tap House hamburger ($8) is also surprisingly solid — a harmonious balance between meat, bun, and toppings, decent char on the meat, a bit of pink in the interior, and, overall, an unpretentious, old-school bar-food dinner experience.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

For all the hubbub (prime menu placement and online chatter) about the Baltimore-style Pit Beef ($9), the sandwich itself is disappointing. Here’s a likely series of events: Excited by the “moist and delicious” buzz, you order the Pit Beef. It arrives. You take a bite, acknowledge, yep, that’s a roast beef sandwich, and then regret not ordering the hamburger. If you’re sold on the Pit Beef mystique, a better move is to order the Philly (also $9); the addition of cheddar cheese sauce and grilled red peppers brings a great deal of needed zip and interest.

October 23 Morning Roundup

Bill Roehl disembowels Molly Cool’s Seafood Tavern (“disgusting,” “a huge disappointment,” “ruined by sauces and blackening spices,” and more), a new fro-yo place called Frulala is on the way, arctic char is hot right now, a photo of the new Barrio truck, Hungry in SW tackles the topic of local restaurant marketing and offers praise for Shefzilla and Punch but jeers for Parasole, Scottish style ale is the second of Summit’s “Unchained” beer series, a peek at Kieran Folliard’s new pub, Cooper, celeriac at Midtown Farmers’ Market, Mecca offers a mixed review of Lyndale Tap House, and the Manny’s Tortas team takes to YouTube and makes a free dessert offer — good until Oct. 25 [thanks to iBurt].

October 21 Morning Roundup

Rachel does a ride-along with Captain Awesome of Galactic Pizza, Second Harvest seeks volunteer apple gleaners, praise for the pit beef (“amazingly tender shaved beef”) at Lyndale Tap House, if you missed the whole Cargill beef tonsil thing, it’s pretty disturbing, Dara sings the praises of the cheesesteak sandwich at Papa’s in North Minneapolis, Well Fed Guide to Life heads out to Zake, and the venerable Halek’s bar is changing its name to “Ya Baby Sports Bar” [via Foodland].

September 29 Morning Roundup

Lyndale Tap House opens officially tonight (and Dara praises the sexy art photos blasts the sexist pin-ups on the wall), the newly established Sweetland Orchard makes its debut at the Mill City Farmers Market, Martha and Tom go grape picking at St. Croix Vineyards, a Daily Kos post recapping a controversial Michael Pollan appearance in Madison, Stephanie March picks some Restaurant Week highlights, Anna of True Thai sniffs out a Pad Thai con-man (or con-woman), a review of Great River Brewery in Davenport, Iowa, half-price (and good) beers on tap at Bulldog Lyndale tonight, and Mecca discusses why you need a cheesemonger.