The Tap: Restaurant Openings and Closings for Early April

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This week in The Tap: A look ahead at upcoming restaurants in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.

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.

NOW OPEN:

  • MN Nice Cream Cafe, 807 Broadway St NE #102, Minneapolis | Instagram-ready ice cream in the former Empire Coffee spot.
  • Surly Pizza Upstairs520 Malcolm Ave SE, Minneapolis | New-Haven-style pizza in the former Brewer’s Table space in the Surly brewery complex.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Geek Love at Moon Palace Books, 3032 Minnehaha Ave S, Minneapolis | The bookstore has moved two blocks north from its original location and its Geek Love restaurant is now open.
  • Finnegans Taproom, 817 Fifth Ave S, Minneapolis | The charitably focused brewer has just opened its new brewery and taproom.
  • Prime Six609 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | A mishmash of everything upscale from around the world, plus a dance floor. In the old Rosa Mexicano space.
  • Holman’s Table, 644 Bayfield St, St. Paul | A restaurant at the St. Paul Airport.
  • Sweet Chow, 116 1st Ave N, Minneapolis | Counter-service pho and veggie-friendly fare.
  • just/us, 465 Wabasha St N, St. Paul | An ambitious-looking new spot in the suddenly closed Red Lantern space.
Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table
  • Biergarten Germania, 275 E Fourth Street, St. Paul | Schnitzel, pretzels, brats, and other German standards, plus beer. Here’s our first look.
  • Fig + Farro, 3001 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | Vegetarian food in the semi-cursed former Figlio’s space.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Sound, 132 E Superior St, Duluth | An ambitious new spot by Chef Patrick Moore (above), formerly of Silos at Pier B.

The Tap: New Purveyors at the North Coast Nosh

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This week in The Tap: The North Coast Nosh is on the way, and a look ahead at upcoming restaurants in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.

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.

Chelsea Korth / Heavy Table

New Purveyors at the North Coast Nosh

We’ve been hosting North Coast Nosh sip-and-samples for the past seven years, and while the purveyors change constantly, the values of the event stay the same: locally made artisan food and drink, sampled generously, and the time (and elbow room) needed for real conversations between guests and vendors.

Our upcoming North Coast Nosh (March 29 at the Food Building) features many old friends, but there will be some new faces in the mix as well, including:

Utepils Brewing, one of the biggest and most exciting breweries to open in recent years

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

St. Croix Chocolate Company, long one of our favorite local makers of artisan chocolates

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Isabel Street Heat, makers of some of the best hot sauces in the region (or the country, for that matter)

Check out the full list at our announcemnt post, and get your tickets while they’re still available.

NOW OPEN:

  • Holman’s Table, 644 Bayfield St, St. Paul | A restaurant at the St. Paul Airport.
  • Sweet Chow, 116 1st Ave N, Minneapolis | Counter-service pho and veggie-friendly fare.
  • just/us, 465 Wabasha St N, St. Paul | An ambitious looking new spot in the suddenly closed Red Lantern space.
  • Biergarten Germania, 275 E Fourth Street, St. Paul | Schnitzel, pretzels, brats, and other German standards, plus beer.
  • Fig + Farro, 3001 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | Vegetarian food in the semi-cursed former Figlio’s space.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Sound, 132 E Superior St, Duluth | An ambitious new spot by Chef Patrick Moore (above), formerly of Silos at Pier B.
  • Hodges Bend, 2700 University Ave W, St. Paul  | Coffee, wine, and cocktails with a side of food.
  • Nye’s Bar112 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | A reboot of the legendary Nye’s Polonaise, in a new space at the Nye’s location, renovated and sans food. Our review here.
  • Sonder Shaker, 130 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | A new restaurant and cocktail bar sharing the site of the old Nye’s Polonaise.
  • Red Sauce Rebellion, 205 Water St, Excelsior | “Approachable yet unexpected” Italian. Our first tastes.
  • Venn Brewing, 3550 E 46th St Suite 140, Minneapolis | A changing selection of brews in this taproom near Minnehaha Park.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Tap: After the Party

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This week in The Tap: Assessing the status of #BoldNorth after one of the world’s biggest parties, plus a look ahead at upcoming restaurants in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.

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.

Ben Hejkal / Heavy Table

After the Party

The Super Bowl has come and gone, and we won’t know for months — maybe years, maybe forever — whether it actually shifted the national perception of Minneapolis-St. Paul (or, if you must, the #BoldNorth). For every story optimistic about the area’s ambitious rebranding, there was something like the Onion’s recent headline: Minneapolis Shocked to Discover Thousands of Super Bowl Attendees Left Without Seeing Rest of City.

But if you wandered the hundreds of totally-, semi- or non-exclusive events this past weekend, you picked up on a warm vibe despite the classic Minnesota winter weather. There seems to be a general recognition (as passed around on Twitter and other social networks) that people around here are pretty nice, and (halftime show notwithstanding) the Super Bowl and its attendant hoopla came off with exactly the blend of Scandinavish efficiency and “ope, shucks” self-deprecation that we all hoped for. Celebrities popped up at local restaurants, a few legitimately thoughtful things were written about the local cultural scene, and Andrew Zimmern was everywhere.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Where are we left, moving forward? Well, not surprisingly, our high-end restaurants (from Spoon and Stable to Meritage to Bar La Grassa and more) held up just fine. We don’t lack for dining that can legitimately wow (or at least satisfy) well-heeled visitors from wherever.

Also — less than surprisingly — we are bad, as a metro area, at showing off some of our most interesting street and first-generation food, most prominently the Mexican fare of East Lake Street (and elsewhere) and the Southeast Asian food of University Avenue (and elsewhere). If there was much of substance beyond this excellent Deadspin piece on East Lake Street, we didn’t see it. This isn’t a knock on government or business. It’s hard enough to put a world-caliber event together in your well-traveled downtowns without trying to shine a spotlight on other parts of the cities. And wealth wants to hang out with wealth. Super Bowl tourists were overwhelmingly well-heeled (some of them private-jet rich) and negotiating between their world and a bare-bones pho shop or taqueria would take moxie and planning.

Next time, then — if we’re smart — we’ll push the best we’ve got, wherever it is. If you think of New York, or Los Angeles, or Miami, or Austin, or Chicago, you think of rich, bold, polyglot dining scenes. We’ve got one of those too, it’s just a matter of framing it. — James Norton

NOW OPEN:

  • Holman’s Table, 644 Bayfield St, St. Paul | A restaurant at the St. Paul Airport.
  • just/us, 465 Wabasha St N | An ambitious looking new spot in the suddenly closed Red Lantern space.
  • Fig + Farro,  3001 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | Vegetarian food in the semi-cursed former Figlio’s space.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Sound, 132 E Superior St, Duluth | An ambitious new spot by Chef Patrick Moore (above), formerly of Silos at Pier B.
  • Hodges Bend, 2700 University Ave W, St. Paul
  • Nye’s Bar112 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | A reboot of the legendary Nye’s Polonaise, in a new space at the Nye’s location, renovated and sans food.
  • Sonder Shaker, 130 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | Early 2018 | A new restaurant and cocktail bar sharing the site of the old Nye’s Polonaise.
  • Red Sauce Rebellion, 205 Water St, Excelsior | “Approachable yet unexpected” Italian.
  • Venn Brewing, 3550 E 46th St Suite 140, Minneapolis | A changing selection of brews in this taproom near Minnehaha Park.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Bull’s Horn, 4563 34th Ave S, Minneapolis | Doug Flicker’s meaty, burger-forward revamp and reinvention of the former Sunrise Inn space. Review here.
  • The Hasty Tasty, 701 W Lake St, Minneapolis | New American with an emphasis on wood-fired food.
  • La Familia Tapatia, 1237 Larpenteur Ave W, St. Paul
  • Book Club, 5411 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis | A Kim Bartmann California-fusion eatery in the former Cafe Maude space. Helmed by Asher Miller. Bite review here.

The Tap: Beer and Sausages

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This week in the Tap: reflections on the primacy of beer and sausages in local cuisine, a look ahead at upcoming restaurants in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.

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

BEER AND SAUSAGES

I grew up in Wisconsin, so my connection to beer, bratwurst, and bratwurst boiled in beer and then consumed with beer is pretty close to elemental. It turns out that the sausage connection in heavily German-descended Minnesota is just as strong, and one of the most enjoyable things about the fine-food revolution of the past 10-or-so years has been watching plainspoken German food boom alongside fusion dishes and exotica from all over the world.

A recent visit to the newly opened Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery put a fine point on the brewery boom, and also called to mind quality sausage operations like Gerhard’s and Red Table (to say nothing of dozens of lesser known but also excellent country butcher shops and the stalwart and always excellent Kramarczuk’s). Waldmann’s sausages were good enough to eat without a bun (although the house mustards were certainly appreciated), and while the bratwurst and currywurst were both undoctored classic renditions (no gummi bears, for example), they were done with an attention to detail and quality that were noteworthy. It’s exciting to see new ventures putting out food that is both traditional and humble. If you build a regional cuisine on heartfelt renditions of simple foods, you can eventually stack a tower up to the (Michelin) stars.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Equally great at Waldmann: the stellar, malty but not syrupy Oktoberfest beer on tap. And that’s my transition to the idea that late September through early October is an absolutely absurd time to try to write about beer around here. Between Märzens, big special releases (like Darkness), and all the fresh-hopped stuff coming out, it’s truly harvest season in the beer world. I’ve been beset with beers to taste and write about, and I’ve been mostly floundering, but here’s a quick pass at a few noteworthy sips.

James Norton / Heavy Table

Lift Bridge puts an emphasis on quick travel time between hop vine and brew kettle, and that comes through in the light, piney, almost perfumed and grassy notes of the clear and delicate Harvestör fresh hop pale ale (6 percent ABV, 50 IBU). Like a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau, the bottle stokes your enthusiasm in part because you know its contents are ephemeral. Pop it open, enjoy it with friends, and wait another year for it to come back again.

James Norton / Heavy Table

The glass of Surly Wet Hopped West-Coast IPA (6.1 percent ABV, 90 IBU) that we tried at Pizzeria Lola gave the evening’s special (a pizza topped with carnitas, corn, and Hatch peppers) a run for its money, and that’s not easy — the pizza was one of the best we’ve had all year. Wet is more dank and funky than Harvestör (or most of its fresh-hopped colleagues) with a bit of bite up front and more of a malt presence. It’s got an almost chewy richness, but there’s still a clear, stone-fruity/almondlike note at the back that’s irresistible. We liked the stuff at Lola more than the Wet we tried in cans. Both were good, but the draft stuff tasted even lighter and more ephemeral.

Fair State’s IPA is now available in strikingly designed, brightly colored cans. They’re the ideal vessels for the beer within, which is also bold, but cunningly designed. This juicy, floral IPA is almost more aroma than beer. It practically floats out of the glass into your face, suffusing your senses with flowers. On your tongue and on the way down it offers a substantial but balanced stone-fruit bite that leaves a lingering, pleasant bitterness that is chased away with every subsequent sip. IPAs can be blunt instruments. This one is subtle and lovely without being underpowered or one-note.

James Norton / Heavy Table

And on another note entirely: Indeed’s Rum King (10.5 percent ABV, 55 IBU), which is an imperial stout aged in rum barrels. I’ve been taking care of a 4-year-old for the past four days, so when at the end of Saturday night I had a Rum King waiting for me, it was less “a beer” than “a cocktail passport to a 90-minute trip to a world of tropical adventure.” It’s a beer so thick and sweet and boozy and fruity that it could comfortable pass as a well-mixed cocktail at a tiki bar (although those tend toward the light rums accented by tropical and other citrus fruit, and this one is all molasses, raisins, and vanilla). Like Darkness (and others of its ilk), Rum King is an experience — you can kick your feet up, fire up Bojack Horseman, and check out from all your cares for a little while. It’s pretty much magic poured out of a can. It’s also pretty much the opposite of Harvestör, so prepare yourself for emotional whiplash if you taste them both in one evening. How are both of these liquids called “beer”?

NOW OPEN:

  • NOLO’s Kitchen and Bar and The Basement Bar, 515 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis
  • Twin Cities 400 Tavern, 1330 Industrial Blvd. NE, Minneapolis | A new collaboration between Scalzo Hospitality and Parasole.
  • Five Watt Northeast, 861 E Hennepin Ave | A second location for the popular Eat Street coffeehouse and roastery, including an expanded food menu. As featured in the Hot Five.
  • Rebel Donut Bar, 1226 2nd St NE, Minneapolis | More action within the “fancy doughnut” sphere, but in this case miniaturized.
  • The Market House Collaborative, 289 5th St E, St Paul | Now open: OctoFish Bar. As per the Shea designers: “The space will include a seafood market, a casual seafood restaurant, a boutique butcher shop, and a bakery, and we can’t wait to kick off.” Vendors are reported to include The Salty Tart bakery, a Peterson Meats full-service butcher shop, Almanac Fish Market, and the OctoFish Bar on the casual seafood restaurant side of things.
James Norton / Heavy Table
Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table
  • Bardo, 222 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | A new “modern American bistro” in the old Rachel’s spot in Northeast, with chef/owner Remy Pettus. Our review of the cocktail program.

The Tap: Fulton Gets a Food Truck

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This week in the Tap: Fulton launches a dedicated food truck for its taproom, and a look ahead at upcoming restaurants in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Fulton Beer Starts Up (and Then Parks) Its Own Food Truck

Food trucks are nomads. They come and go freely, changing their location with rapid (and sometimes maddening) frequency. Their fast-moving nature is part of their appeal, but if you’re a brewery taproom depending upon their help to supply the food part of the food-plus-beer combination that customers love so much, you might just want to bank on something more predictable.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Enter the dedicated taproom food truck. Fulton Beer has rehabbed a gorgeous vintage Airstream trailer into a mobile (but taproom-based) Taproom Kitchen, and put veteran chef Scott Pampuch (above) at the helm. Pampuch has rotated through a few high-profile gigs over the past few years, but he’s probably best known as the founding chef of Corner Table, a restaurant that opened strong and never wavered, even after its change in ownership.

Although the Fulton Taproom Kitchen offers a menu that’s casual and accessible (think sausages, pretzels, a charcuterie plate), its sourcing is impeccable. The Kitchen works with partners including Red Table Meats, Tangletown Gardens, Baker’s Field, Johnny Pops, and Lowry Hill Meats, and Pampuch adds house-made touches to everything he serves. We tried a handful of his offerings at Monday’s media preview, held in preparation for this afternoon’s official public debut, and found most of them to be on the money.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The Lonely Brat ($7), for example, had a lovely coarse grind and perfect seasoning, and the pickles (above) in the charcuterie-laden Nosh Plate ($9 for the small) had terrific crunch and a pleasant hint of sweetness. The Downtown Hot Dog from Sentyrz Market ($7) was all beef with a nice snap to the casing. Not too salty, not too greasy. A couple of dishes (the $6 War and Peace Tipsy Pie, the $9 Cheese Wurst) could use improvement, but the menu was on point as a whole.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The menu’s highlight is the Porchetta ($7), slow roasted pork loin and crisp pork belly (the latter a Pampuch signature) with fresh arugula, locally grown tomatoes, and juniper aioli on a ciabatta roll. It’s sloppy, it’s juicy, and it’s finger-licking good.

To our knowledge, Fulton is the first area taproom to jump on the natural synergy of taproom and house-owned food truck (although, see Surly, with its in-house beer hall restaurant), but it likely won’t be the last. — James Norton with tasting notes and photos from Brenda Johnson

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.

NOW OPEN:

James Norton / Heavy Table
  • Seventh Street Truck Park, 214 W 7th St, St. Paul | A food hall with a rotating collection of trucks and three separate bars. Our review here.
  • Bardo, 222 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | A new “modern American bistro” in the old Rachel’s spot in Northeast, with chef/owner Remy Pettus.
  • Tillie’s Farmhouse, 232 Cleveland Ave N, St. Paul | Seasonal cuisine, some of it with a Scandinavian influence, with ingredients from local farms. In the former Trotter’s Cafe.
  • Wonders Ice Cream, 298 University Ave W, St. Paul | A shop selling the latest craze (?), rolled ice cream. See also: Sota Hot and Cold at 394 University Ave W.
  • Delicata1341 Pascal St, St. Paul | A pizzeria and gelateria by Matty O’Reilly, J.D. Fratzke, and Noah Barton.

The Tap: Early September Restaurant Openings and Closings

Banner for the Tap: Food and Drink News

This week in the Tap: A look ahead at upcoming restaurants in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.

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.

NOW OPEN:

James Norton / Heavy Table
  • Seventh Street Truck Park, 214 W 7th St, St. Paul | A food hall with a rotating collection of trucks and three separate bars. Our review here.
  • Bardo, 222 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | A new “modern American bistro” in the old Rachel’s spot in Northeast, with chef/owner Remy Pettus.
  • Tillie’s Farmhouse, 232 Cleveland Ave N, St. Paul | Seasonal cuisine, some of it with a Scandinavian influence, with ingredients from local farms. In the former Trotter’s Cafe.
  • Wonders Ice Cream, 298 University Ave W, St. Paul | A shop selling the latest craze (?): rolled ice cream. See also: Sota Hot and Cold at 394 University Ave W.
  • Delicata1341 Pascal St, St. Paul | A pizzeria and gelateria by Matty O’Reilly, J.D. Fratzke, and Noah Barton.
  • Kaiseki Furukawa, 33 1st Ave N, Minneapolis | Classic kaiseki (progressive small courses) dining at Kaiseki Furukawa, sister restaurant to Kado no Mise. $168 per plate (including gratuity and tax).
  • Barrel Theory Beer Company, 248 E 7th St, St. Paul | As per the Growler: “A partnership between Surly Brewing Company’s former director of technology Brett Splinter, former Surly brewer Timmy Johnson, and CPA Todd Tibesar.” Our preview is here.
Becca Dilley / Lake Superior Flavors
  • Hoops Brewing, 325 S Lake Ave, Duluth | Expectations have been high for this new brewery, a project of Dave Hoops, formerly of Fitger’s. And our first tastes indicate those expectations were warranted.
  • 12welve Eyes Brewing, 141 E 4th St, St. Paul | Brewery and taproom in the Pioneer Endicott Building in Lowertown. Our overview is here.

The Tap: Early August Openings and Closings

Banner for the Tap: Food and Drink News

This week in the Tap: A look ahead at upcoming restaurants in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.

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.

NOW OPEN

  • Delicata1341 Pascal St, St. Paul | A pizzeria and gelateria by Matty O’Reilly, J.D. Fratzke, and Noah Barton.
  • Kaiseki Furukawa, 33 1st Ave N, Minneapolis | Classic kaiseki (progressive small courses) dining at Kaiseki Furukawa, sister restaurant to Kado no Mise. $168 per plate (including gratuity and tax.)
  • Barrel Theory Beer Company, 248 E 7th St, St. Paul | As per the Growler: “A partnership between Surly Brewing Company’s former director of technology Brett Splinter, former Surly brewer Timmy Johnson, and CPA Todd Tibesar.” Our preview is here.
Becca Dilley / Lake Superior Flavors
  • Hoops Brewing, 325 S Lake Ave, Duluth | Expectations have been high for this new brewery, a project of Dave Hoops, formerly of Fitger’s. Our tasting notes.
  • 12welve Eyes Brewing, 141 E 4th St, St. Paul | Summer | Brewery and taproom the Pioneer Endicott Building in Lowertown. Our overview coming soon.
James Norton / Heavy Table

The Tap: In Defense of Reviewing Food

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This week in the Tap: Why restaurant reviews matter, a look ahead at upcoming restaurants, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

In Defense of Reviewing Food

Last week, I had the good fortune to share a table with Mecca Bos, one of my favorite food writers anywhere. She’s a particularly dab hand with profiles, and her radar is finely tuned. This recent list of five perfect “regular spots” is nothing but hits.

Bos told me that in her new position at GoMN, her focus is shifting away from traditional reviews. In the same way that Eater, for example, doesn’t go anonymously to restaurants and evaluate the food and experience, Bos’s new gig will be more focused on storytelling and profiling people than writing about a plate of food dined upon anonymously.

The classic restaurant review is becoming an anachronism, she told me, and she may well be right. The review has declined in frequency and profile even at the big local dailies. In its place is a cavalcade of “softer” content — listicles, chef biographies, previews, and slideshows. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these styles of writing (and, in fact, Heavy Table publishes all of them). From a publisher’s perspective, all of these offer readers insight into new establishments without the expense or the unpleasantly candid evaluation of food and value that the review format demands.

That said, the Heavy Table was founded on the notion of providing honest and frequent reviews, and we’re committed to the format. Reviews offer:

1. Context and Expertise

Many people argue that traditional criticism has largely been replaced by Yelp (etc.). Displaced, sure; replaced, not precisely.

A good working critic has likely eaten at thousands of restaurants in dozens of cities, at all price points, and at locations from gas stations to chef’s tables. They will likely have a working knowledge of the finer points of barbecue and of some of the more distinct regional variations in Chinese and Indian cuisine. They will hold strong opinions on the best taquerias, dive bars, and purveyors of molecular gastronomy, and be familiar with many of the complicated techniques and varying approaches used to create modern dishes. They will have interviewed dozens (or hundreds) of chefs, owners, and purveyors. They may well have worked in the industry as a chef or server, or may be an obsessive home cook.

In short, it’s not that reviewers have “better” opinions than any given internet commenter; it’s that they’re drawing from a much deeper well of context when they write. You don’t get to see those depths when everything written is neutral or positive or fawning; a review is a chance to go deep.

2. Value Assessment

One of our constant complaints about preview dinners and special visits with chefs is that however good a dish may be, there’s no way to benchmark it against what a diner would pay. When you dine anonymously to conduct a review, you’re looking at an establishment from a diner’s perspective. A passable roast chicken that’s “just fine” at free feels outrageous at $19, for example. And you’re able to assess service as a diner, too. At the best places (at any price point), all guests receive the kind of treatment that a known food influencer might receive; at other spots, not so much.

3. Advocacy for the Diner

Much of the dining-related content published these days is a partnership between the restaurant or brand in question and the writer, either explicitly (sometimes with money changing hands) or tacitly (again, alas, sometimes with money changing hands). The writer and/or photographer seeks clicks and influence and revenue; the subject seeks an enhanced reputation (and, in part, revenue). In this situation, nobody is looking out for the interest or experience of the diner. A good critic is a diner’s advocate, and a nine-course free spread at a preview dinner has no bearing whatsoever on what a diner will eat (and pay for) on a Wednesday night.

4. Accountability

If a critic commits an error while writing a review — anything from a misstated price all the way up to praising a sub-par restaurant — he or she can be held accountable, through comments, corrections, and conversation through the publication he or she works for. Commentators on social media can and do hit and run; critics have a home address.

The flip side of this is that critics provide accountability for chefs and owners. If a value prospect is off, or consistency is flagging, notice from a critic is a great motivator to tighten up the ship and refocus. In the end, everyone involved wins — the restaurant and the diner alike.

In conclusion, we’re in it for the long haul with reviews, regardless of how unsexy they get. They’re a critical lens through which to view the world of food. — James Norton

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.

NOW OPEN

Becca Dilley / Lake Superior Flavors
  • Hoops Brewing, 325 S Lake Ave, Duluth | Expectations have been high for this new brewery, a project of Dave Hoops, formerly of Fitger’s.
James Norton / Heavy Table

The Tap: Rise of the Food Hall

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This week in the Tap: Thoughts on the food hall boom, a look ahead at upcoming restaurants, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

All Hail the Food Hall

With the upcoming openings of Keg and Case, The Market House Collaborative, and Malcolm Yards, the Twin Cities is poised to see a monster boom in food hall spaces — indoor spaces containing some combination of fish, meat, and produce markets, restaurants, quick-service counters and stalls, and drinking establishments. The somewhat chaotic Midtown Global Market has been slinging a wide variety of sometimes excellent food for more than a decade, making the upcoming boom feel a bit delayed. It’s welcome nonetheless. Anyone who has ever been to a top-flight food hall like Chelsea Market in New York or the Ferry Building in San Francisco knows that they have the power to transform and help define a scene. And anyone who has been to any of the ethnic food halls like Mercado Central or the Hmong Village knows that they can contain a wealth of culinary wonders that are almost entirely off the mainstream map.

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Whenever we get a lot of something (think: crudo) there’s an immediate and understandable tendency for diners to worry that the hot new thing is a mere fad. Sometimes (think: crudo) it certainly is, but sometimes (think: taprooms and cocktail rooms) it’s not — it’s a meaningful change in the way people eat and drink. The food hall seems like an idea whose time has very much come for a few major reasons:

Scalability — The boom in food and drink businesses in recent years means that there are a lot of new players, and a lot of smaller players trying to grow. Having halfway steps between the home kitchen and a stand-alone, bricks-and-mortar restaurant is a great way to help the scene grow organically. Food trucks have been that halfway step for many of the best new restaurants in the region. Food halls may well serve that role for the next decade or two.

Co-location and Community — Food halls can help their members co-market and collaborate. Chefs and food artisans are naturally prone to share and work together, and being cheek-by-jowl in a market setting boosts those opportunities to cross-pollinate. And for visitors, the close proximity of multiple vendors can make a food hall a one-stop destination for dining, drinking, and shopping.

The Sense of Discovery — Because tenants in food halls often hold short-term leases and smaller shops are often expanding or graduating to new digs, food halls tend to host a shifting roster of vendors, which means that if you visit every month or two, you’re likely to stumble upon new discoveries that reward your patronage. And when you’re showing out-of-town visitors around the area, few things can top a well-curated food hall for making a good impression. — James Norton

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.

NOW OPEN

Becca Dilley / Lake Superior Flavors
  • Hoops Brewing, 325 S Lake Ave, Duluth | Expectations have been high for this new brewery, a project by Dave Hoops, formerly of Fitger’s.
  • Portillo’s, 8450 Hudson Rd, Woodbury | First Minnesota outpost of the famous Chicago hot dog empire.
  • 510 Lounge & Private Dining, 510 Groveland Ave, Minneapolis | Private event space and open-to-the-public lounge run by Chef Don Saunders (The Kenwood).
  • Gray Duck Tavern, 345 Wabasha St, St. Paul | “Comfort food from all over the world.”
  • 1.2.3. Pasta, 6508 Cahill Ave, Inver Grove Heights | Fresh pastas, pizza, and more from the owners of La Grolla.
  • The Lynhall, 2640 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | “A market-inspired cafe, event space, kitchen studio, and incubator kitchen.”
  • Town Hall Station, 4500 Valley View Rd, Edina | The latest in the growing Town Hall mini-empire.
Chelsea Korth / Heavy Table
  • Rise Bagel Company, 530 N 3rd St, Minneapolis | Quality bagels in a town hungry for them.
James Norton / Heavy Table
  • The Original on 42nd, 1839 E 42nd St, Minneapolis  | A sandwich shop in the former Colossal Cafe location.
  • StormKing Barbecue, 16½ W 26th St, Minneapolis | A new Texas-style barbecue window from the team behind the adjacent Black Sheep Pizza.

The Tap: The ACL (Au Cheval-Like) Burger Reigns Supreme

Banner for the Tap: Food and Drink News

This week in the Tap: A look ahead at upcoming restaurants, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.

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.

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

ALL HAIL OUR NEW OVERLORD, THE AU CHEVAL(-LIKE) CHEESEBURGER

A recent cheeseburger lunch at Lowry Hill Meats (see above) got me thinking: Haven’t I had this burger before? Lowry Hill’s version was great — richly flavored and juicy as an orange — but the combo of excellent meat plus American cheese plus simple caramelized onions plus top-notch bun is something that keeps turning up at restaurants all around Minneapolis and St. Paul. It’s a trend that’s raging with the same force and ferocity as the upscale Jucy Lucy epidemic that swept the area three or four years back. Over the past year or so, it has gone well past the upscale, chef-driven places where it got its start in 2015 and penetrated spots from hotel restaurants to bars to suburban eateries.

Call it the rise of the ACL (Au Cheval-like) burger. Chicago’s Au Cheval is famous world-round for its simple but decidedly upscale spin on a classic American cheeseburger, and now similar burgers are everywhere from Revival to Saint Dinette (the first I had locally) to Parlour / Borough (below) to Hi-Lo Diner, and so on and so forth.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The burger is a bit difficult to define. It’s not like a Chicago dog, where there’s one canonical list of ingredients down to the poppy seeds on the bun. The telltale combo is that it’s an expensive burger, but with a (seemingly) unpretentious list of supporting ingredients. American cheese is a hallmark. They make their own at Lowry Hill Meats, but that’s not a must. House-made pickles, caramelized onions, and a high-quality, carefully toasted brioche or pretzel bun are also typically part of the package. Maybe there’s some lettuce, maybe some special sauce, and the burger probably sports a quarter to a half pound of meat, so it’s not one of those dinky but delicious smashed up diner charburgers that you get at Five Guys or Culver’s. It could be one patty or two. The meat is usually a house blend that brings in some fatty richness, some steak flavor, some textural lightness, and more.

Our own Peter Sieve captured the essence of the trend at its dawning at the start of 2015, writing about the Parlour burger:

“There is nothing hiding the refined bare essentials except the burger’s deceptively simple appearance — the two patties are formed from ground sirloin, ribeye and brisket. There is no aioli, no sad, obligatory lettuce and tomato, no fucking bacon (is the bacon thing still a thing?). It’s a double cheeseburger.”

Simplicity done well, that’s the thing. Farewell, aioli; hello generally better cheeseburgers nearly everywhere. — James Norton

Editor’s note: We received the following thoughtful email from restaurateur Tobie Nidetz:

Great segment on the Au Cheval influence.  But there was something in town pre-dating it all. The burger at Ike’s downtown. We created it with the same ethos of great meat, simple cheese (we chose a 4yr Wisconsin cheddar for a little high brow) on a locally baked egg bread bun from Franklin Street.

NOW OPEN

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table
Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table
  • Black Stack Brewing, 755 Prior Ave N, St. Paul | Sharing a complex with Can Can Wonderland (above).
  • J Selby’s, 169 Victoria St N, St. Paul | Vegan restaurant that prefers to call itself “plant-based,” opening tonight.
  • The Early Bird, 1612 Harmon Pl, Minneapolis | Formerly Bearcat, formerly Third Bird, still a Kim Bartmann joint. Sometimes just referred to as “The Bird,” further muddying the waters.
Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table
Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table
  • Old Southern BBQ Smokehouse, 4501 France Ave S, Minneapolis | New barbecue chain from the founder of Famous Dave’s; we reviewed and enjoyed the location in Hudson (above).
  • HeadFlyer Brewing, 861 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis
  • Mercy, 901 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | The former Marin.
  • Jambo! Kitchen, 1939 S 5th St, Minneapolis
  • Rah’Mn, 300 Snelling Ave S, St. Paul | A Chipotle-style build-your-0wn-ramen restaurant by Tryg Truelson, formerly of Tryg’s.
  • Baja Haus, 830 E Lake St, Wayzata  | A second restaurant by Billy Tserenbat of Sushi Fix, focused on Mexican seafood and scratch margaritas.
  • Bellecour, 739 E Lake Street, Wayzata (former Blue Point Location) | A second restaurant for the much-heralded chef owner of Spoon and Stable. This one is a French-inspired bistro and bakery.
  • Copperwing Distillery, 6409 Cambridge St, St. Louis Park | Distillery and 45-seat cocktail room.
James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table
  • Bottle Rocket, 1806 St. Clair Ave, St. Paul  | A reboot by the Blue Plate Restaurant Company of the former Scusi space with craft cocktails. Our review here.
  • Bar Brigade, 470 Cleveland Ave S, St. Paul | French-inspired bar from J.D. Fratzke (Strip Club Meat and Fish) and Matty O’Reilly (Republic) in the old Ristorante Luci space.
  • Geno’s, 12 4th St SE, Minneapolis | Italian sandwich shop from the owners of Lyndale Tap House.
  • Zait & Za’atar, 1626 Selby Ave, St. Paul

The Tap: Restaurant Opening and Closings in September

Banner for the Tap: Food and Drink News

This week in the Tap: Local restaurant openings and closings.

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.

NOW OPEN

  • Herbie’s on the Park, 317 Washington St, St. Paul | Upscale tavern fare.
  • Mansion at Uptown (at old Walker Library), 2901 Hennepin Ave S | Event space with weekend “Lounge” on Friday and Saturday 10pm-2am with DJs, hookah lounge and private tables.
  • The Wilder Scratch Kitchen, 338 5th Ave N, Bayport | Opened by Jeffrey Lundmark, the former head chef at Domacin Wine Bar and Restaurant in Stillwater.
  • Bald Man Brewing Company, 2020 Silver Bell Road, Suite 25, Eagan | Reviewed in our Toast column.
  • Game Sports Bar, 2841 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | A gay-clientele-focused sports bar replacing Salsa a la Salsa, which replaced BoneYard, which replaced Old Chicago.
  • La La Homemade Ice Cream, 3146 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | Homemade ice cream shop in the former Shoe Zoo location in Uptown. Read our review.
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The Tap: Death of a Butcher

Banner for the Tap: Food and Drink News

This week in the Tap: The importance of a neighborhood butcher can hardly be overstated.

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

Death of a Butcher

Like many people across the metro area, we were profoundly saddened to hear about the death of butcher and neighborhood celebrity Stuart Gerr in a fire at Stasny’s Food Market in St. Paul. In a generic sense, all unexpected loss of life stings bitterly. But in a more specific sense, the Stasny’s fire and the community’s reaction to it illustrates exactly what’s most important about the people who cook and sell real food: They are nexus points for society, living connectors between people from different walks of life and parts of the world, united by a love of good eating.

A place like Stasny’s, with its 94-year history, isn’t just a shop where people stock up for the week; it’s a thread that’s woven over the course of generations into the very identity of its neighborhood. You need to trust your butcher: He or she is providing you with a product that can be handled respectfully (or not), prepared skillfully (or not), and priced fairly (or not). Across the city there are places like Stasny’s, but always too few and far between. Near my house, it’s Everett’s, but elsewhere it might be Clancey’s, or Ready Meats, or Mike’s Butcher Shop. We come to depend upon our butchers. If Everett’s closed for any reason, I’d be crushed, and if it closed under tragic circumstances, I’d be gutted. You could say, “it’s just meat,” but you might as well say, “it’s just life.”

Our own Jason Walker interviewed Gerr while researching The Secret Atlas of North Coast Food:

“… Stasny’s is the type of tiny place that you’d drive across town to visit. It’s also like stepping back in time to when every grocery store was of the small, neighborhood variety and probably had a traditional meat counter in back. The butcher on my visit, Stu Gerr, said he’d been cutting meat for more than 60 years. … Stasny’s makes its own sausages and cures its own bacon that’s available sliced to order. It also has a nice selection of Kansas City barbecue sauce as well as frozen fruit-filled “kuchen” that Gerr told me were ‘the real thing, they’re made by old ladies over in North Dakota.’”

A GoFundMe site has been set up for Gerr’s funeral expenses.

James Norton

NOW OPEN

Dogwood Coffee Pour Over
Kate N.G. Sommers/Heavy Table
  • Dogwood Coffee Company (new location), 825 Carleton St, St. Paul
  • Handsome Hog, 225 E 6th St, St. Paul | Former Brasserie Zentral and Meritage chef Justin Sutherland is cooking contemporary Southern food with a high-end twist. Review later this week.

    Brianna Stachowki / Heavy Table
    Brianna Stachowki / Heavy Table
  • Hoban Korean Barbecue, 2939 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | Our brief review is here.
  • Hi-Lo Diner, 4020 E Lake St, Minneapolis
  • Q Fanatic, 6009 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | The second location of our favorite local BBQ joint.

    Joe Krummel / Heavy Table
    Joe Krummel / 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).