Pepperoni Pizza at Geek Love at Moon Palace Books

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

What does it take to build a community? The newly relocated Moon Palace Books is putting in the work to create a gathering space in Longfellow, and based on a vibrant mix of customers late yesterday morning, the pieces are coming together. There were people buying books, people entertaining their kids in the kids’ section, and people dining — alone or with friends or family — at the just opened Geek Love Cafe at the back of the bookstore. Taken as a whole, it created the feel of a lively place where people were coming together to read, talk, and eat.

The menu at Geek Love is simple — pizzas, wings, and salads, with a short but well-curated beer menu. We went basic, grabbing some wings and a couple of hot-and-ready slices. The pizza itself is simultaneously nothing special and precisely right. It’s thin, foldable, greasy, a bit charred, with some toothsome texture imparted by cornmeal: a decent approximation of a run-of-the-mill New York slice at a reasonable price ($4.50). The menu’s distinct lack of frills fits the space: comfortable booths with tabletops showing off covers from classic books, and a menu aimed at speed and comfort rather than ambition or pretense.

With the opening next door later this year of the Arbeiter brewery, Moon Palace/Geek Love seems well positioned to be the living room from a fast-evolving Longfellow neighborhood.

Moon Palace Books and Geek Love Cafe, 3032 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis, 612.454.0455

Heavy Table Hot Five: March 9-15

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

ffil James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot fiveBaklava at Pita King
Based on a reader tip, we picked up the baklava at Pita King on Franklin. It joins our trinity of favorites along with Filfillah and Gyropolis. Super crispy layers, wonderful walnut-y body, just the right intensity of sweetness.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an Instagram post by James Norton]

Ted Held / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveRed Wagon Pizza at Red Wagon Pizza
Red Wagon Pizza’s self-titled pie is absolutely perfect. Salty soppressata; meaty sausage chunks; briny pickled pepper; thin, crispy, and sturdy crust; a trace amount of sweet balsamic glaze — all in symphonic balance with one another. There’s a ton of interesting other pizzas on the menu so bring enough people to try a couple of those (they do splits), but it would be regrettable to skip this one.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Ted Held]

Joshua Page / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveAguachile at Octo Fishbar
The marlin in this cevichelike dish was exquisitely fresh and flavorful, and with just a dip in the bright citrus vinaigrette, it was in no danger of being “overcooked.” Charred habanero provided sultry heat, while bits of cucumber and avocado slices kept things cool. It was a delicious summer dish made all the more welcome in the dead of a landlocked winter.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by Joshua Page]

James Norton / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveNoodle Salad with Egg Rolls at iPho by Saigon
Complex-yet-balanced flavor profiles are the hallmark of much Southeast Asian cuisine, and the bun (noodle salad) with egg rolls and pork at iPho by Saigon is no exception: It’s a mix of salty, crunchy, chewy, earthy, bright, and — as you burrow through the layers of pork bits and noodles and hit the lettuce that supports the strata above — remarkably refreshing. iPho’s our go-to for lunch, and every time we branch out (as we did with this dish), we’re rewarded with a new twist on a beloved formula.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #3 | Submitted by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveTacos at La Alborada
We tried three tacos at La Alborada on East Lake Street — cabeza (beef head), longaniza (spicy sausage), and asada (steak). The asada was exemplary, packing an incredible amount of umami-rich, steaky punch into each tender little cube of meat. The cabeza was mellower than the asada, and richer, with a streak of fatty intensity to it. We’d expected the longaniza to be a one-for-one with chorizo, but it was more complicated than that. There was a cinnamonlike spicy depth that was both surprising and enjoyable. All the accoutrements (hot sauces, lime slices, grilled onions) were right, and the tacos rank among the most enjoyable we’ve tried. And we’ve tried … a lot of tacos.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted from an Instagram post previewing a future East Lake Checklist by James Norton]

Heavy Table Hot Five: Oct. 27-Nov. 2

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

M.C. Cronin / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot 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 in a couple of weeks.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton and an Instagram post by M.C. Cronin]

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveNew York Style Pizza from Broders’
Broders’ pizza brings back memories of the classic slice at the corner pizza parlor. The crust is bubbly and chewy but crisp on the bottom — never soggy in the center as fancier pizzas can be. The sauce is full of flavor, but well-balanced, keeping its garlic and salt in check. We’re always surprised at how thoroughly good this old-fashioned pie is.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]

Ted Held / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveJerk Chicken at Mama Ann’s Soul Food
Mama Ann’s Soul Food (520 Rice St, St. Paul) has a genuine family-run feel, from the 8(ish)-year-old kid behind the counter to the fact that half the sides weren’t yet ready at lunchtime. The jerk chicken is excellent. It’s juicy as all get out, with a hint of smoke, a mildly lip-numbing heat, and a ton of flavor. The enormous portion of on-the-bone white and dark meat is served over rice and with two sides (definitely get the greens). It feels like a great bargain at $10.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Ted Held]

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveGrisette Beer at Shakopee Brewhall
Shakopee Brewhall is the latest brewery to present a grisette, a traditional variation on the saison. The style, named for the gray uniforms of 18th-century working women on the France-Belgium border, is a lighter bodied variant of the better-known style, with yeast-derived flavors of citrus and spice. Shakopee Brewhall opened several weeks ago, and its Zephyr Grisette is wonderfully refreshing and widely appealing.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]

James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveChicken Pot Pie at Savory Bakehouse
There’s a reason that Savory Bakehouse makes our Hot Five almost every time we visit — the food is made by hand with love and skill, and that always comes through in the flavor. The Savory Bakehouse Pot Pie has a lovely rich gravy that plays beautifully with its flaky crust, which manages the heroic task of being both delicious and durable. Peas, potatoes, and pulled chicken make this a formidable match for our current bout of cold weather.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an Instagram post by James Norton]

Delicata in Como, St. Paul

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

J.D. Fratzke and Matty O’Reilly have been busy. Between summer 2016 and March 2017, they opened two restaurants, Red River Kitchen and Bar Brigade. And now they’ve added Delicata, a casual Italian eatery in the Como neighborhood of St. Paul helmed by Noah Barton (former executive chef at Chino Latino). The newest member of the family has a lot in common with Punch Neapolitan Pizza. Like that local institution, Delicata offers a concise, pizza-focused menu emphasizing fresh ingredients in a family-friendly environment. And like the newer Punch locations, Delicata is counter-service only.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

But this newbie isn’t a knockoff. It adds unique twists to familiar dishes, often with great success (though limited, at times, by poor execution, but more on that in a bit). Take the Antipasto Platter ($12), for example. With sweet, plumped grapes, spicy giardiniera, savory gigante beans, salty cured meats and olives, and crunchy almonds, it’s a delicious adventure in flavor and texture.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Another starter, the Grilled Artichokes ($7) is a refreshing departure from standard artichoke dips: A quartet of smoky hearts pairs brilliantly with bright, nutty romesco sauce. Heaped on expertly bronzed crostini, the “dip” is spot on. The Big Mixed Salad ($12) also excellently updates a classic: We’d be thrilled if pickled onions, gigante beans, prosciutto, sliced egg, and marinated tomatoes became staples in pizza parlor salads.

Several pizzas showcase the Delicata team’s creativity and commitment to killer ingredients. The humbly named Pork Sausage ($12) is one of the most satisfying pies we can recall. It’s piled high with zesty meat, pillowy ricotta, and tender fennel slices; vibrant oregano and punchy romesco pull the aggressive elements into a cohesive whole.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

The Delicata Pizza, made with the eponymous winter squash ($12, top) is another inventive eye-opener. We were skeptical that combining naturally sweet squash and balsamic vinegar with salty prosciutto and blue cheese would work. But where we expected a power surge, instead we got a great balance of sweet and salty (if perhaps a bit too much blue cheese). A veggie option ($13, above) with artichoke, spinach, feta, and olives on rich red sauce doesn’t break new ground, but it’s as tasty as the more adventurous combos.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Delicata’s short list of desserts distances the restaurant from the pack. We’d travel far and wide for the Coconut Cake ($6). As one of our dining partners exclaimed, “That’s what dessert should look like — just stupid good.” Topped with small peaks of light meringue, the cake is moist, airy, and just the right amount of sweet. Slightly burnt shredded coconut is the secret not-secret ingredient, adding depth and texture to an already great slice of cake.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Both types of gelato we tried — pistachio and strawberry ($5 each) — held their own against the pastry. A little less dense and a little creamier than average gelato, these offerings explode with flavor. Given that Delicata bills itself as a pizza and gelato joint, we were surprised that it serves gelato from Sonny’s and Zia’s Gelato rather than make it in house.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Our excitement about Delicata’s desserts was, nonetheless, unable to smooth over the restaurant’s inconsistency. Some pizzas arrived crisp and adorned with beautiful leopard spots, while others showed up floppy and without char. Depending on the night, the Cheesy Garlic Bread ($5) was unappetizingly greasy or well-balanced and satisfying. Even the Big Mixed Salad varied visit to visit. After winning us over during on our first trip, it bombed on the second — limp greens seemed like they’d been dressed earlier in the evening rather than to order.

Delicata has the right ingredients to become an excellent neighborhood restaurant: a friendly vibe, comfortable indoor seating, a spacious patio, interesting yet approachable food, and rosé on tap. Given Fratzke’s and O’Reilly’s respective track records, we’re confident that Delicata will fix its consistency issues and, with a little luck, enjoy Punch-style success.

Jane Rosemarin edited this story; James Norton has worked closely with Noah Barton at Chef Camp.

Delicata
Pizzeria and Gelateria in the Como neighborhood of St. Paul

651.756.8123
1341 Pascal St
St. Paul, MN 55108
CHEF/OWNERS: Noah Barton / J.D. Fratzke and Matty O’Reilly
BAR: Beer and wine
VEGETARIAN/VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $9-$14
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
HOURS: Mon-Fri 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
Sat and Sun 10 a.m.-10 p.m. (Brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m., beginning Sept 23)
PARKING: Street

The Seventh Street Truck Park in St. Paul

James Norton / Heavy Table

The newly opened Seventh Street Truck Park has all the authenticity of a Guy Fieri S’mores Indoors Pizza, which is to say not a very large amount. We’ll unpack what that means in a moment; for now, here’s our evidence:

1. The entire “truck park” — which we were naively hoping might contain counters serving local food-truck menus or be some kind of a covered eating space at which actual food trucks could dock — is an indoor space with ersatz food-truck counters, lighted signage, computerized menus, and condiment stations. You are essentially eating in an up-to-date mall food court with a full bar. It’s one part street food, about six parts Disney.

James Norton / Heavy Table

2. There are big-screen televisions everywhere, to the point where there is essentially nowhere you can look without seeing four to six of the things. Name a sport, and it’s on the wall, often in several places at once. The effect is like being locked inside of an ESPN news ticker.

3. Legitimate food trucks push the envelope of food; the Seventh Street Truck Park plays it padded-helmet safe with a mixture of pizza, fried chicken, tacos, and ice cream sandwiches. There are a few local purveyors in the mix (Surly, Sebastian Joe’s, etc.), but nothing on the menu would be particularly out of place if you stepped back in time to 1989.

4. While we visited on Sunday night, a live band (yay!) performed a set comprised of pop song medleys (boo!) including a cover of Is This Love that must surely rank among the whitest musical events of modern America.

James Norton / Heavy Table

Now back to unpacking the “authenticity” thing. Let’s assume that you are a) in a crowd emerging from the Xcel Energy Center, b) drunk or about to become drunk, and c) in an open-minded or otherwise not horribly critical mood. Under these conditions, the Seventh Street Truck Park is a fun, busy, happening extension of the neighboring New Bohemia Wurst House (whose team also owns the Truck Park). It’s lively, it has a lot of menu options, and it feels like some strange but cheerful middle ground between a college bar, a house party, a food truck court, and an Applebee’s.

Although it might not be for everyone (notably: food people), the theme is coherent — it’s well-executed and likely to gain real traction in the market.

The Debut of Chef Camp’s Wood-Fired Pizza Oven

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

This post is sponsored by Chef Camp and was written by Peter Sieve.

Look, I’ll be up front with you. I was never into the idea of summer camp as a kid. I grew up in the city. The thought of singing Kumbaya around a campfire with a bunch of kids I didn’t know sounded like the worst thing in the world — I already had my neighborhood buds, we had our bikes, and we owned the city in the summer. Leave camp to the dorky kids who were super pumped to make lanyards or whatever.

But you know what? This past Saturday, up at Camp Miller on Sturgeon Lake — one of the oldest YMCA camps in Minnesota — I began to regret that I never went as a youngster. At this pizza party/media preview event, a small group of lucky folks were given a taste of what’s to come at the two Chef Camp weekends happening Sept. 1-3 and 8-10.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The initial exhale upon arriving at the beautiful Camp Miller grounds was worth the drive alone, and the mid-August weather couldn’t have been calibrated more perfectly. The comforting smell of wood smoke enveloped us, drifting over from the freshly constructed (and permanently installed) pizza oven, a project led by the Northern Clay Center. Emily Rheingens of Mon Petit Chéri bakery and cafe was already creating delicious appetizers — a garlicky gazpacho, mushroom tarts, and deviled eggs.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Built around the principles of cooking with fire, foraging, and generally appreciating the beauty and bounty that surrounds us here in the north woods, Chef Camp is a winning concept. The earnest joy of those involved was palpable at the media preview, and it won over even this camping-cynical heart. Soon after a few bites of the tasty appetizers, some of us were led on a walk through the woods by forager and author Kathy Yerich. Kathy taught us how to spy a variety of mushrooms, and she expertly led us through the snaking trails along the lake. We returned with a bounty of beautiful fungi the likes of which I’d never seen, and we learned about the qualities — and dangers — of each one. Cool!

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Soon after, chef J.D. Fratzke (of Bar Brigade, Delicata, and Red River Kitchen) started slinging pizzas in the Delicata style. The beautiful, chewy blackened crusts arrived in a few variations — one featured red sauce, fresh ricotta and Italian sausage, and another with roasted vegetables and lightly dressed fresh arugula. Standing near the lake in the sun and snatching fresh slices of these pies, hot out of a wood-fired oven, with a cold beer in hand — this is what it means to truly live.

But wait, there’s more! Have you ever shot arrows at foam deer? Chef Camp gives you that opportunity. The glorious few who successfully hit the poor thing were honored like the gods and goddesses they are.

Next, we found a canoe down by the docks and spent a while lazing near the shoreline in the slowly waning sunlight, pizza-sleepy and blissed out.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

We ended the day making s’mores and swinging around lazily in sky chairs at the campfire, happy campers one and all. Not a lanyard in sight.

What a day! And to think it was just a taste of what all the lucky campers will experience at Chef Camp in its full glory. The first weekend (Sept. 1-3, currently waitlisted) will feature sessions with Vincent Francoual, Erik Sather, Jason Engelhart, Nick Kosevich, Yia Vang, and Kathy Yerich. The second weekend (Sept. 8-10, tickets still available) will have J.D. Fratzke, Nettie Colón, Brad Leone, Nick Kosevich, Brian Merkel, and Lukas Leaf. That’s some crazy-amazing Minnesota food and beverage firepower. With the pizza party/preview being as fun as it was, I can’t wait to see how things go down at Chef Camp for real.

Maybe I’ll even bring home a lanyard.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Station Pizzeria in Minnetonka

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Get too far out of the metro’s Minneapolis-St. Paul heart and you’re tempted to grade on a curve — “it’s good for White Bear Lake,” or “it’s pretty solid for Richfield.” More and more, however, A-games are diffusing throughout the region, and you’re seeing stuff like the excitement of Lyn65 (and its upcoming Popol Vuh and Central offshoots), the whole Travail / Rookery / Pig Ate My Pizza mishegoss, and the ongoing shock wave of militarily managed hype (and probable excellence) that is Bellecour in Wayzata.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Less splashy but also deserving of mention is the newly opened Station Pizzeria in Minnetonka. Located in a converted gas station, the restaurant is putting out some good pizzas and great accompaniments in a casual but tastefully decorated (hello, giant photo portrait of Prince) space.

The team behind this spot, owner Ryan Burnet (Barrio, Burch, Bar La Grassa, and more) and chef David Ellis (Bar La Grassa, 112 Eatery, Piccolo) are heavy hitters, and it shows. The menu is tight and focused, the decor is sophisticated and fun without being overbearing, and the food is, by and large, right.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Our Barrio Pizza ($17.50) was the closest we came to going off the rails. This combination of grilled chicken, pleasantly smoky bacon, red onion, tomato sauce, and mozzarella was so overloaded with fiery jalapeño slices that it begged for some relief; a barbecue-style sauce would have been an obvious fix. When we reheated our leftovers at home, we topped them with chunks of pineapple, and the result was a great slice of pizza. This was a concept one ingredient short of being a balanced pie. Heat notwithstanding, the pizza had other good qualities, chiefly a crust that was a deftly balanced blend of crispy and chewy. We’d give the reigning champs, Hello Pizza, the edge for a legit New-York-style experience, but Station pulls even with other credible local establishments such as Andrea Pizza.

Red Rabbit in the North Loop, Minneapolis

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Remember when Sexworld dominated a block on Washington Avenue just off 394? Now it’s been relegated to a side street, and there’s some gentrification going on. Not that gentrification is necessarily bad; witness the opening of Red Rabbit. Red Rabbit is the latest offering from Red Cow‘s Luke Shimp, who appears to be trying to retake the block for the family-friendly crowd. While Red Cow is the burger arm of Shimp’s empire, Red Rabbit is focused on reasonably priced Italian dishes, with offerings intended to appeal to a range of tastes from basic to more adventurous. But like Red Cow, Red Rabbit keeps the menu from being overwhelming and focuses on a few dishes in each category. Scalability may be a factor in that; Red Cow now has three locations, and it doesn’t look like Red Rabbit’s concept would be difficult to replicate either.

Red rabbit seems designed to be a cheerful neighborhood hangout with a warm, welcoming interior that matches a friendly menu primarily focused on pasta, wood-fired pizzas, and oysters. The oysters appear in a few daily selections at market price as well as in a wood-grilled version (above, $13) that turned out to be an indulgent platter of buttery goodness. The oysters were plump and tender and swimming in a scallion butter that was both rich and tangy. They were topped with herbs and Parmesan, and served on freshly toasted crostini that were excellent for wiping up every last drop of the liquid.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The menu has its moments of cheekiness. Leave it to a restaurant named Red Rabbit to label its salad section “Rabbit Food.”

That playfulness was apparent in other areas, too. We tried a pizza named P, B & J ($12), which was not — thankfully — a peanut butter and jelly pizza but a pineapple, bacon, and jalapeño version. It was a rather fun mix of sweet and spicy served on a nicely grilled thin crust that still had a little chewiness — not quite the wonder of a crust from Pizzeria Lola, but several notches above the frequently skimpy, underdone crusts served by most Punch Pizza outlets.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The Yukon Gold Pizza ($13) was a play on a brunchlike dish of eggs and potatoes. Shredded Yukon Gold potatoes served as a base, like hash browns, and were topped with bits of crispy pancetta, red onion, and fontina. The pizza was drizzled with rosemary oil, and a perfectly runny egg took the center. When the pizza was brought to the table, the server delivered a little showmanship by taking a spoon to gently open the yolk and then carefully spoon it around the perimeter of the pizza. In nearly every way, it was the opposite of the P, B & J, except again, for a well-prepared crust and the fact that it also was a treat to eat. This would be an excellent weapon against a hangover.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The El Pato Loco Pizza at San Pedro Cafe

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

It was on one of the many recent frigid days that we stopped by the cheerful, boisterous (and very warm) San Pedro Cafe in Hudson. There were many tempting Caribbean items on the menu — jerk chicken, Cuban meatloaf — but when we asked our server what she’d recommend, she pointed to the wood-fired pizza column of the menu. Pizza isn’t the first thing you’d think of ordering at a Caribbean restaurant, but she assured us we wouldn’t regret it.

She was right. The El Pato Loco ($13) came on a delicate, crackerlike crust topped with a heady mixture of sweet and spicy — a soft marinara sauce, sweet corn in chunks that looked like they’d just been sliced off a cob, and a slightly sweet smoked duck breast paired with a generous serving of jalapeños, zippy pepperoni, and an “it catches up to you” habanero aioli. Lots of pieces and parts, flavors and textures, that equaled a much better whole than might have been expected.

San Pedro Cafe, 426 2nd St, Hudson, WI, 54016; 715.386.4003; Mon-Thu 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat 8 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Young Joni in Northeast Minneapolis

Lucy Hawthorne / Heavy Table
Lucy Hawthorne / Heavy Table

Next time you’re in Northeast Minneapolis, the pervasive aroma of wood smoke will levitate you like a cartoon character until you involuntarily find your slobbering, somnambulant face pressed against Young Joni’s glass-walled entrance. It has been a long wait for Ann Kim’s fiery new venture, and everyone’s patience has paid off deliciously.

Following in the footsteps of Kim’s successful and lauded Pizzeria Lola in southwest Minneapolis and Hello Pizza in Edina, Young Joni also trades on her expertly-fired pies — and why not? They’re among the best anywhere. But Young Joni takes the elemental core of Kim’s expertise — the simple wood fire — and amplifies it to wonderful effect across a range of delightful and surprising dishes.

Lucy Hawthorne / Heavy Table
Lucy Hawthorne / Heavy Table

But before you get a peek at the menu, the first thing that will hit you is the space itself. Designed by Studio MAI‘s Milo Garcia — who has also designed the infamous Gjelina in Venice Beach and Verve Coffee in downtown Los Angeles (both establishments having been visited by this writer, with the design making a big impression) — the restaurant is truly unlike anything else that currently exists in Minneapolis or St Paul. The kitchen, bar, and dining areas occupy the same airy, soaring space, but the design pulls off several neat tricks at once. The wraparound bar cuts a long hypotenuse through the space, with the back kitchen counter facing the ovens; the phalanx of four-tops is nicely broken up by a few large communal tables, and one wall is lined with banquettes that can cradle couples in lush upholstery and low lighting. Within the same room, there are multiple places to go, and quite a few different dining experiences you can have. Warm, natural materials appear everywhere, from the custom-made furniture to the incredible iridescent tile surrounding one of the wood-burning ovens. Rough timbers contrast with creamy, forest-green tabletops and supple leathers; the bathrooms make neat use of raw copper piping that echoes the massive copper pizza oven that anchors the kitchen. Custom-made light fixtures dot the walls, and it all comes together artfully.

Yet perhaps the most impressive trick pulled off by Young Joni’s design is that the details are there if you look for them, yet all of it manages to fade into the background to bring what’s most important into focus: your food and your friends. In a neighborhood dominated by taprooms where the predominant vibe is backward hats, food trucks, and board games, the stylish but causal vibe cultivated at Young Joni is most welcome. It’s clear that Kim and her partners have calibrated every element of the place to encourage conversation and conviviality. This is the rare restaurant in which you can actually talk without yelling, but still clearly hear the (well-curated) music. How they did it, we do not know, but it’s a relief.

Young Joni’s not-so-secret, speakeasy-style cocktail lounge — accessible from a separate entrance off the alley next to a lightsaber-like red beam in the concrete wall — exudes a similar cool factor, but tilted toward a 1960s vintage vibe. Look for our separate take on their cocktails soon — but for now, it’s worth noting that the audio system is second to none. An analog reel-to-reel tape machine sits on the bar, playing custom playlists filled with jazz, soul, and lounge through a stack of tube amps and high-fidelity speakers.

Lucy Hawthorne / Heavy Table
Lucy Hawthorne / Heavy Table

So! The food. People will come for the pizzas — as they should, because they’re uniformly great — but the rest of the menu is where Young Joni machetes a fresh path through the thicket of redundant dining options in Minneapolis, and we highly recommend that you order expansively from the non-pizza side of things. The menu is divvied up into Vegetables, Salads, Other Delights, and Pizza, and everything is meant to be shared. Ann Kim’s Asian roots bob and weave throughout in some delightful ways.

Heavy Table Hot Five: Oct. 28-Nov. 3

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

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

1-new - oneBanh Mi at the Campus Club in the Coffman Memorial Union
Chef Beth Jones of the Campus Club came up with a killer custom menu for our recent Green Line Checklist finale event. It riffed off some of the cultures found up and down University Avenue, including East African (mind-blowingly crisp and delicate sambusas), Russian (one of the best borschts we’ve tried to date), and Middle Eastern (spot-on falafel). Our favorite taste of the four might have been the banh mi, which was an ideal textural blend of slightly crispy baguette, pickled veg, and some of the richest, creamiest pate we’ve had on a sandwich — ever.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

2-new - twoBreakfast Pizza at Rose Street Patisserie
Rose Street Patisserie has added an all-day breakfast pizza to its seasonal lineup. It’s sized for sharing, and it’s a decadent start to the day: crisp flatbread covered with a generous coating of mozzarella, topped with soft eggs and crisp, smoky bacon. Rich (but full of protein!), and will make any day start off better.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted Amy Rea]

Ted Held / Heavy Table
Ted Held / Heavy Table

3-new - three

Brisket Sandwich at Breaking Bread Cafe
We’re fans of Breaking Bread Cafe for the great food, the inviting space, and the mission behind it all. On a recent trip, the brisket sandwich proved an impressive alternative to their popular shrimp and grits. While it’s not necessarily the best brisket in town, the blueberry barbecue sauce added a new, Minnesota-focused twist to a soul food classic. The classic barbecue spices stood up front, but there was a distinct blueberry flavor that was complimentary in that seasonally appropriate, Thanksgiving-leftovers kind of way. The side of spicy vinegar-dressed slaw was also worth raving about.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Ted Held]
Ruthie Young / Heavy Table
Ruthie Young / Heavy Table

4-new fourLobster Mac Totchos at Blue Door Pub (all locations)
“Tots of Time” is a catchy enough title to make us want to order tots every time we are at one of the Blue Door Pubs, but when we saw that “Lobster Mac Totchos” were the current feature, we just couldn’t say no. A hearty layer of Cajun tots is topped with an equal amount of cheesy macaroni laden with lobster meat, herbed bread crumbs, and scallions. We would have preferred the dish to be mixed rather than layered, but we soon perfected the fork stab needed to achieve an ideal ratio. The lobster is the perfect ingredient to lighten up an otherwise heavy dish — we just wish there had been more of it! The Lobster Mac Totchos will be available at all three locations for a few more weeks.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Ruthie Young]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveGreen River Highball from Lawless Distilling
Lawless Distilling is serving up the Green River Highball, a perfect combination of citrus-infused vodka, lime cordial, orange bitters, and seltzer. Not too sour, not too sweet, and the dried lime is like a little piece of art. Lawless continues to reflect its “Local. Craft. Small Batch” motto. So many artistic cocktails to try. Too little time.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted Brenda Johnson]

The Tap: Worshiping the Fire God

Banner for the Tap: Food and Drink News

This week in the Tap: A meditation on the primal importance of fire when it comes to cooking, and advancing the region’s culinary profile.

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.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Worshiping the Fire God

Imagine a spectrum. One on end is what is (sometimes unfairly) called “tweezer food” — foams, microgreens, gels, steak that’s been so thoroughly sous vided that it takes on the consistency of jam. On the other end is a hunk of meat, dangling over a pile of burning wood.

The longer I write about food, the more I find myself anchored to the hunk-of-meat end of the spectrum, in defiance of white tablecloths, painstakingly manicured small plates, and precious little tidbits sent out as gifts of the kitchen. The kitchen gift I want is a quarter of a lamb, rubbed in spices and coffee and subjected to the heat of an old-fashioned grill, or onions cooked right in the embers of a fire so that their exterior layer turns black as coal, leaving the interior juicy and caramelized.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Hunks of homemade bread, earthy local cheese, whole grilled fish, and cunningly made sausages — that’s what’s for dinner at the peasant end of the table, and that’s where some of the future of food must certainly lie.

This isn’t a unique opinion. Thomas Boemer and Nick Rancone, the Corner Table / Revival guys, are moving toward fire in a big way with their new place at the former Schmidt brewery. (Big isn’t a metaphor; it’s a literal reference to the 20-foot-wide wood-burning hearth that will anchor the yet-to-be-named place.) Jordan Smith of Black Sheep Pizza does some amazing things with coal-fired pizza and the new grill at his Nicollet Avenue location. Jorge Guzman has put Surly’s Brewer’s Table and dining hall on the national map via his skill with fire and smoke.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

And with the Heavy Table’s involvement in the Chef Camp project (pictured) we’re trying to put a hand in because fire makes delicious food, because it’s seductive and mercurial, and because this is an authentic direction for the Upper Midwest culinary scene: something anchored around a campfire (or a hearth) that brings a pioneer spirit to the world of dining.

Molecular gastronomy and artfully composed fine plates will always have their place here in the Upper Midwest and elsewhere. But diners looking for something a bit more wild and soulful need only get the grill going to discover the past — and future — of food. — James Norton

NOW OPEN

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table
Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table
  • World of Beer, 356 N Sibley St, St. Paul | Part of a chain including locations in Wauwatosa and Appleton, Wis., and Naperville, Ill. Our Bite is here.
  • Lu’s Sandwiches, 10 6th St NE, Minneapolis | The second location of this “small menu” banh mi spot.
  • Blackeye Roasting Company, 3740 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis | An 18-seat cafe located in the Minneapolis skyway — with 10 tap lines of nonalcoholic beverages that include nitro cold brew coffee, nitro iced tea, kombucha, and draft cocktails — is coming later this summer.
  • Costa Blanca Bistro, 2416 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | The latest spot from the opening-restaurants-like-crazy Hector Ruiz. Here’s our review.
  • Lawless Distilling, 2619 28th Ave S, Minneapolis | Our visit detailed here.