Heavy Table Hot Five: Aug. 11-17

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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

1-new - one - hot fiveCold Chasoba at Kado no Mise
Green-tea-infused soba noodles are the heart of cold Chasoba, a feather-light vegetable-and-noodle soup that might be the world’s best entree for warm summer weather. Kado no Mise has a light touch, and that sort of minimalism really works with a dish like this. All the flavors are mild, the textures delicate, and the overall impact is calming and cooling.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveLion’s Mane Mushrooms from Cherry Tree House
No, it’s not a tribble. It’s a lion’s mane mushroom, available (occasionally) from Cherry Tree House Mushrooms at the Mill City and Kingfield farmers markets. The lion’s mane is a slightly sweet, rich-tasting mushroom, almost lobsterlike in texture and flavor. It works well as the base of a stir fry or pasta sauce, but it’s also delicious simply sauteed in butter until crisp.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveCafe Miel at Botany Coffee
Botany Coffee recently opened at 38th and Cedar Ave and the space is beautiful. With specialty, single-origin beans and a purposeful selection of espresso beverages, it’s a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Try the Cafe Miel, with moderate sweetness and excellent balance. You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into Instagram with a warm beverage in hand.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]

James Norton / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveArugula Salad at Delicata
Nothing quite cements a pizza place in our hearts like a great salad. It’s one of the reasons we fell so hard for Black Sheep Pizza back when it opened. St. Paul’s Delicata offers an arugula salad that doesn’t look like much on the menu. It’s just arugula, roasted grapes, almonds, and a Kalamata-based dressing — but it’s so nicely seasoned and balanced that it’s absolutely irresistible. And the sweet, tender impact of the grapes is such a perfect offset to the tartness of the vinegar and the richness of the olives that it’s a wonder they’re not standard issue in salads everywhere.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveTomato and Mayo Sandwich with Loon Organics Tomatoes and Rustica Bread
In the children’s classic Harriet the Spy, the overly nosy Harriet insists that her nanny, Ole Golly, make her the same lunch every day: tomatoes and mayo on white bread. I re-create this every summer, upping Harriet’s game with good bread (in this case, a baguette from Rustica) and heirloom tomatoes from Loon Organics at the Mill City Farmers Market. Is there anything better than fresh tomatoes in the summer? I think not. Turns out Harriet was onto something with her lunch, if not her snoopiness.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

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.

Jakeeno’s Pizza and Pasta in South Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Restaurants that keep their doors open year after year interest us. They must be doing something right to endure economic slowdowns, food trends, and intense competition. And Jakeeno’s has been going strong since 1975. It’s survived Generations X, Y, and Z.

What’s the key to Jakeeno’s longevity? Comfort. It’s familiar, unpretentious, and low-key. The staff is easygoing, and the customers clearly pick up the vibe. Even when busy, there’s none of the hustle, bustle, and, well, stress (on the part of staff and diners) that often characterize the latest “it” spots. Seemingly impervious to flashy trends, Jakeeno’s and its regulars are refreshingly comfortable in their own skins. Why else would we see such an embrace of what we’ve nicknamed the “Jakeeno’s lounge” — a laid-back posture more common on porches than in restaurants?

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A little sign over a little table near the front of the restaurant won our hearts. It reads, “The table by the door is ‘The Worst Seat in the House.’ Dine here and receive 15% off your meal.” Now get this: The deal applies year round, and even when there are other tables available. Hell, when we inquired about the sign, our server encouraged us to move one table over and get the deal. (Though too earnest to move, we appreciated the suggestion.) Speaking of deals, Jakeeno’s has them all: cheap date night, happy hour, and all-you-can-eat pasta, to name a few.

Like the atmosphere and service, the food is comforting. It’s what “throwback” Italian-American restaurants throw back to. Unlike Mucci’s in Saint Paul (which we adore), Jakeeno’s doesn’t update the classics. In fact, we doubt the recipes have changed much over the last four decades. Of course, red sauce is the cornerstone of the menu: rich, flavorful, and slightly sweet (thankfully not too sweet), it’s well suited to pasta, pizza, and hoagies.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Of the pizzas we tried, a simple pepperoni pie (large, $16.45) stood out. Jakeeno’s crust is thin and well balanced (not too salty or sweet) and sturdy when not weighed down with too many ingredients. Although it lacks the snap associated with “cracker crust,” it holds its own. Covering thin slices of zippy pepperoni, the cheese is nicely browned without being burnt. As much as we enjoyed this option, we didn’t care for Jakeeno’s margherita (large, $21.75): The cheese was too thick, and the overwhelming garlic and flavorless tomatoes were way out of balance.

Di Noko’s Pizzeria in Downtown Minneapolis

Di Noko's Pizzeria
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table

Editor’s note, Jan. 12, 2015: Di Noko’s has closed; it may reopen in South Minneapolis.

It’s no secret. This winter has been a real thorn in our side, to say the least. Bundling up to bear the bitter vortex seems almost as daunting as doing your taxes. (Anyone else counting down the days until those H&R Block commercials die?) However, in true Midwest fashion, we braved the conditions and decided to eat our feelings at the newly relocated Di Noko’s Pizzeria. After all, misery loves company – and Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.

The temperature outside was at an all-time low, but the bar was set high. We knew you could take Di Noko’s out of Nokomis, but could you take good pizza out of Di Noko’s? The answer: with the exception of substantially raised prices, no. Reasons why are threefold: deep dish, thin crust, and wings.

Di Noko's Pizzeria
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table

Quality deep-dish pizza: confirmed, again. Di Noko’s 12” deep dish ($24 + $4 a topping) was a basin of hearty crust filled with what seemed be an abyss of Burnett Dairy Co-op mozzarella and Di Noko’s signature, well-spiced chunky tomato sauce. The crust, cheese, and sauce came together to tell a convincing story. A massive heap of low-grade cheese would’ve been a waste of space, but the high-quality cheese used was smooth, fresh, and exciting. It was cheese that made the Wisconsinites at the table proud. And yes, it still takes 45 minutes to make. But like my fifth-grade teacher always said, “Good things come to those who wait.” So, we sat back and relaxed.