The Tap: Fast Food, Real Food

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This week in the Tap: Local independent restaurants adapt the tactics — if not the gastronomic philosophy — of quick-service spots like Chipotle.

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

Real Food Takes Some Lessons from Fairly Fast Food

It’s an open secret that one of the hottest segments in the world of restaurants is the halfway point between full-service dining and franchise-driven fast food. Chipotle and Five Guys are gold standards for this style, with an order-at-the-counter format, a simple, modular menu that allows for many variations on a few simple themes, and a humble, but still food-first, approach that attracts diehard fans and — occasionally — kind words from food critics.

It has been interesting to see Chipotle have its day, but it’s possibly more interesting still to see its lessons — endless customization, classic themes, and quick service — be adopted by local independents. Catrina’s Cerveza and Grill (short review coming up later this week) has soulful food that tastes like any good Mexican joint on East Lake Street or Central Avenue — think pork al pastor or barbacoa. But the mode of delivery (taco, “Catrina bowl,” burrito, taco salad) is infinitely flexible, and the fillings can be mixed and matched effortlessly at the counter while you watch. The newly opened Northeast location already seems to have caught on. We’ve been watching with interest as it gets tweeted around with obvious enthusiasm.

The Himalayan — until now, a traditional Nepalese-Indian buffet spot on Lake street — has just opened a campus location in the fast-but-customized format. Himalayan Dinkytown does choyalas (your choice of protein plus bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, ginger, and garlic) and biryani bowls that simplify (and customize) what can otherwise be an intimidating menu for those who haven’t eaten much South Asian cuisine before.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

And for a few years now, World Street Kitchen has been pumping out the cosmopolitan cooking knowledge of Sameh Wadi via the familiar magic of forms like burritos, lettuce wraps, and bowls. Spots like the newly opened PinKU and Moroccan Flavors are getting in on the act with their own spins and modifications of the formula.

If early results are anything to judge by, we eagerly welcome our ambitious, locally owned, Chipotle-inspired overlords. They present simple menus, offer good value, and let diners customize, without losing the essential thread of the cuisine in question. — James Norton

NOW OPEN

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

CLOSED / CLOSING:

COMING UP:

Minneapolis

Screenshot from Wild Mind Ales website

Screenshot from Wild Mind Artisan Ales website

  • Wild Mind Artisan Ales Taproom, 6031 Pillsbury Ave S, Minneapolis | As per the press release: “Wild Mind will predominantly produce wild, sour, farmhouse, saison, and rustic ales in the traditional European method: through barrel aging and blending, which produces beers with rich, deep, complex flavors.
  • Five Watt (Roastery and Cafe), 2904 Harriet Ave S, Minneapolis | August | Former Uptown Imports location.
  • Bad Waitress (second location), 700 Central Ave NE | November
  • Game Sports Bar, 2841 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | 2016 | A gay-clientele-focused sports bar replacing Salsa a la Salsa, which replaced BoneYard, which replaced Old Chicago.
  • Barbecue Joint Name TBA, 816 Lowry Ave NE, Minneapolis | 2016 | A Kansas-City-style barbecue place “with no chairs and tables” opened by some combination of the Travail team.
  • Red Rabbit, 201 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis | Autumn | Red Cow owner Luke Shimp’s new spot will offer “a variety of dishes including handcrafted pizzas, oysters, pasta, fresh salads and more.”
  • Clockwerks Brewing Company, 25 4th St N, Minneapolis | Summer
  • Trapeze, 1600 W Lake St, Minneapolis | Early Summer | A new Kim Bartmann “bubbles and toasts” bar opening next door to Barbette.
  • Lu’s Sandwiches, 10 6th St NE, Minneapolis
  • Mercury Dining Room and Rail, 505 S Marquette Ave, Minneapolis | Autumn | Scratch fare from the Blue Plate Restaurant Company in the old Brasserie Zentral space. The former Foreign Legion will become the Shindig Event Center.
  • Blackeye Roasting Company, 330 2nd Ave S, Minneapolis (Skyway level) | Summer | An 18-seat cafe located in the skyway with 10 tap lines of nonalcoholic beverages that include nitro cold brew coffee, nitro iced tea, kombucha, and draft cocktails. A Chicago Avenue location opens July 13.
  • Erik the Red, 600 1st Ave N, Minneapolis | Summer | Nordic-influenced barbecue from the owner of Devil’s Advocate.
  • Kaiseki Furukawa, 30 N 1st St, Minneapolis | October | Classic kaiseki (progressive small courses) dining. We can’t wait.
  • Young Joni, 165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis | Summer | Anticipation is high for this new wood-fired pizza and Korean spot by Pizzeria Lola / Hello Pizza boss Ann Kim.
  • Bakers’ Field, The Food Building | July | Bread made from grain milled on site at the Food Building in Northeast Minneapolis. The bakery’s owner is Steve Horton, formerly of Rustica. Listen to Steve talk about the project on The Weekend Starts Now podcast.
  • Revival, 525 Selby Ave, St. Paul (former Cheeky Monkey space) | Summer | A second location for the popular fried chicken spin-off of Corner Table. The original location will also be expanding and offering take-out.
  • Project TBD at old Walker Library in Uptown, 2901 Hennepin Ave S | Architectural details available here.
  • Cafe Alma, 530 University Ave SE, Minneapolis | 2016 | Slated to be an all-day cafe with a liquor license and a six-room hotel upstairs, as Alex Roberts explains in this Q and A with Rick Nelson.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Brut, 428 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis | 2016 | With all the culinary firepower of Erik Anderson (above) and Jamie Malone, Brut promises exciting things. It’s going into the old Sapor space on Washington Avenue.
  • Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | 2016
  • McKinney Roe, 550 4th St S, Minneapolis | September | Contemporary American food by the owner of O’Donovan’s Irish Pub and Lola’s Lakehouse.
  • Utepils (formerly Bryn Mawr) Brewing, 225 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis | Fall 2016

St. Paul

  • Black Coffee and Waffle Bar, Marshall and Cretin Aves, St. Paul | Second location. Plenty of build-out evident, things seem to be cookin’.
  • Parco 400, 400 N Sibley St, St. Paul | ??? | A new Italian restaurant opening in the old Trattoria Da Vinci spot in Lowertown, the culinary side to be headed up by Troy Unruh, formerly of New York City’s well-known Del Posto. Facebook page is eerily quiet, website is a placeholder.
  • Ha Tien Grocery (second location), 1959 Suburban Avenue, St. Paul | Fall 2016 | One of our favorite stops on our Green Line Checklist is expanding into a second location.
  • Tori Ramen, 161 N Victoria St, St. Paul | 2016 | Chicken-focused ramen shop in the former Lee and Dee’s.
  • Bottle Rocket, 1806 St. Clair Ave, St. Paul | 2016 | A reboot by the Blue Plate Restaurant Company of the former Scusi space with craft cocktails.
  • World of Beer, 356 N Sibley St, St. Paul | 2016 | Part of a chain including locations in Wauwatosa and Appleton, Wis., and Naperville, Ill. Opening seems interminably delayed.
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

  • 11 Wells Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm Building, St. Paul | 2016 | A restaurant aspect to the space is rumored to be under consideration.
  • The Lexington (new ownership), 1096 Grand Ave, St. Paul | ??? | It’ll be interesting to see how the ambitious team behind this revamp and relaunch tackles the task. Between its facade, its location, and its glorious but stuffy, old-school feel, we’ll find it tough to sort the baby from the bathwater on this one. Their Facebook page says, “Keep calm. We are opening soon.” Last Facebook update: March 8.

Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond

The Tap is the Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled and published biweekly by the Heavy Table. If you have tips for The Tap, please email James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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