The Tap: The Meaning of Life, the Universe, and State Fair Food

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This week in the Tap: Thoughts on the upcoming Minnesota State Fair, 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.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

The Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Minnesota Fair Food

2017 marks the 9th (9th!) year that the Heavy Table team has sallied forth to nosh our way through the State Fair and its food offerings. The State Fair functions as sort of a barometer of the Minnesota food scene. While it’s best known for its populist favorites (cones full of cookies, Pronto Pups, various forms of fried dough), there is always a glistening crust of ambitious new food to enjoy as well — everything from walleye-stuffed mushrooms to espresso shakes to custom-brewed craft beers to carp-shaped waffles stuffed with ice cream.

Barring nuclear war, there’s little chance of the annual frenzy ever dying down completely. But the past five or six years have seen the barrage of fair food move from a distant sideline to the main event. Once upon a time, Heavy Table’s encyclopedic and real-time flavor odyssey was unique, but we’ve since become one of a large pack of paid experts cruising through the fair from stand to stand in search of “scoops,” however minor or fleeting.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

At the same time, fair-goers have become better informed, more skeptical, and more demanding. It’s like just about anything: If the crucible of interest gets hot enough, some of the dreck gets boiled off, and the really good stuff — or at least the really accessible stuff — bubbles up to the top.

Every year, I think about changing the way we do our first-day-of-the-fair rush, or even discarding it entirely. Thus far, we’ve stuck with it, for a few reasons:

We are committed to being completists and offering warts-and-all in our coverage. While no longer unique, it’s a rare enough combination that it has some real value for our readers.

It’s a unique opportunity to have a lot of conversations — with people at the fair, with purveyors, with radio hosts — about the Heavy Table and our mission.

And it’s a hell of a lot of fun for our writers and photographers to gather in a mob and take down 10- or 20,000 calories worth of food in one go.

We’ll see you at the fair! Watch our Instagram and Twitter channels Thursday morning for on-the-fly impressions, and then come back to heavytable.com first thing Friday morning for the grand tour. —  James Norton

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

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

  • 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. Our tasting notes.
  • 12welve Eyes Brewing, 141 E 4th St, St. Paul | Brewery and taproom the Pioneer Endicott Building in Lowertown. Our overview is here.

James Norton / Heavy Table

CLOSED / CLOSING:

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Brewer’s Table at Surly
  • Wild Rice of Bayfield, Wis. (Oct. 14).

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Haute Dish
  • Dulono’s Pizza (closing its Uptown spot and consolidating business in the North Loop after 60 years on West Lake Street).
  • Loring Pasta Bar (bought by managers, reopening as LRx).
  • Victory 44 (Upton 43, also helmed by Erick Harcey, is moving to the North Loop, and the Dirty Bird is closing).
  • Tanpopo (one of our favorite spots; closed just as the promising Kado no Mise and Kaiseki Furukawa come online. Kyatchi will open a new location in the space. Sunrise, sunset).
  • Jerusalem’s (building to be demolished; closing end of August).
  • Sidhe Brewing (reopening as Culhane Brewing in Lowertown, St. Paul).
  • Sunrise Inn (The venerable 3.2 bar will reopen as Bull’s Horn Food and Drink under the aegis of Doug Flicker).

COMING UP:

Minneapolis

  • Popol Vuh and Central | Fall | A two-restaurants-in-one (a la Birdie and Nighthawks) high-concept/street food purveyor with a Mexican emphasis. From the team behind the successful Lyn65 in Richfield.
  • NOLO’s Kitchen and Bar and The Basement Bar, 515 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis | September
  • Bardo222 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | End of August | A new “modern American bistro” in the old Rachel’s spot in Northeast, with chef/owner Remy Pettus.
  • Hai Hai, 2121 University Ave NE, Minneapolis | Early Fall | New Southeast Asian restaurant by the team behind Hola Arepa at the former Double Deuce location.
  • Rebel Donut Bar, 1226 2nd St NE, Minneapolis | Soon | More action within the “fancy doughnut” sphere, but in this case miniaturized.
  • Haskell’s Wine Bar,  901 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis | September | A wine bar and lunch counter in the Young Quinlan building by the famed and venerable liquor store folks.
  • Minnesota Barbecue Company, 816 Lowry Ave NE, Minneapolis | 2017 | A Kansas-City-style barbecue place to be led by Chef Kale Thome of the Travail team (and a Kansas native).
  • Great Northern Smokehouse, 3238 W Lake St, Minneapolis | 2017 | Another barbecue spot in the former Falafel King on Lake and Lyndale.
  • Funky Grits, 805 E 38th St, Minneapolis | Late Summer | A soul food spot in the home of the short-lived Hell’s Chicken and Fish.
  • Malcolm Yards Market, 501 30th Ave SE, Minneapolis | 2018 | A food market that will capitalize on its proximity to Surly’s massive brewery/restaurant complex.

St. Paul

Nick Fay / Heavy Table

Nick Fay / Heavy Table

  • Eureka Compass Vegan Food, 629 Aldine St, St. Paul | 2017 | Now open a few day each week for lunch and dinner in the space the owners will renovate now that their Kickstarter campaign has succeeded.
  • Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery, 445 Smith Ave, St. Paul | September | “A craft brewery specializing in German lagers and a wurstery offering a variety of house-made sausages.” Another Kickstarter campaign success.
  • The Market House Collaborative, 289 5th St E, St Paul | Fall | 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.”
  • Seventh Street Truck Park, 214 W 7th St, St. Paul| August 25 | As per Eater, a food hall with a rotating collection of trucks and three separate bars.
  • Keg and Case revitalization of the Schmidt Brewery, 928 W 7th St, St. Paul | 2018 | Featuring restaurants by the teams behind Corner Table, Hola Arepa, and Five Watt, plus Sweet Science ice cream.
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

  • 11 Wells, Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm’s Brewery, St. Paul | Postponed to “at least 2018” | Multi-state distribution is keeping them busy.

Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond

  • Back Channel Brewing Collective, 4787 Shoreline Drive, Spring Park | Summer
  • Deconstructed, 705 Century Ave N, Suite B, Maplewood | Soon | A new pasta and pho spot by the owner of :D-Spot.
  • Oakhold Farmhouse Brewery, Midway Township | 2017 | Brewer Caleb Levar is putting the finishing touches on the brewery’s new barn on the property just south of Duluth.

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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3 Comments

  1. Jason Walker 08/22/2017 Reply

    The Heavy Table’s State Fair roundup is the only one I read, because it’s the best-written, posted the soonest and not afraid to be honest. Looking forward to it Friday before I sally forth myself.

  2. annmartina 08/22/2017 Reply

    It’s my dream to someday join you first day at the fair. With approximately 50 years of experience at the Fair, I think I’d be really good at it.

    • Author

      Hit us up via email next July! Always happy to bring along a qualified wildcard if we have capacity …

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