The Tap: Worshiping the Fire God

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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.

CLOSED / CLOSING:

  • Ecopolitan
  • 128 Cafe (reopening as Stewart’s Cafe late September)
  • Village Wok
  • La Ceiba | Our review of breakfast at the restaurant.
  • Salt Cellar | (will reopen with new concept) – here’s our review.
  • Pilgrimage
  • Tiger Sushi (Ridgedale location)
  • Cafe Levain
  • Restaurant Alma, 528 University Ave SE, closed until early-November | From a pop-up message on its website: “Unavoidably, we must close for three months to connect the restaurant and cafe kitchens and to make significant mechanical and equipment upgrades. At the same time, the dining room will be undergoing renovations to improve the comfort of the guest experience, while also preserving the feel and layout of the original space.”

COMING UP:

Minneapolis

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

  • Five Watt (Roastery and Cafe), 2904 Harriet Ave S, Minneapolis | Autumn | Former Uptown Imports location.
  • Mrs. Dumpling, 700 W Lake St., Minneapolis | December
  • Bad Waitress (second location), 700 Central Ave NE | November
  • Tullibee, 300 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis | Autumn | Nordic fare from nationally known chef Grae Nonas at the soon-to-open Hewing hotel.
  • Esker Grove, Walker Art Center | December | A Doug Flicker / Culinaire project is the latest crack at a dining solution for the finicky Walker space.
  • 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 | Any day now.
  • Trapeze, 1600 W Lake St, Minneapolis | ??? | A new Kim Bartmann “bubbles and toasts” bar opening next door to Barbette.
  • Mercury Dining Room and Rail, 505 Marquette Ave S, 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.
  • Erik the Red, 600 1st Ave N, Minneapolis | ??? | Nordic-influenced barbecue from the owner of Devil’s Advocate.
  • Kaiseki Furukawa, 30 1st St N, Minneapolis | October | Classic kaiseki (progressive small courses) dining. We can’t wait.
  • Young Joni, 165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis | Autumn | Anticipation is high for this new wood-fired pizza and Korean spot by Pizzeria Lola / Hello Pizza boss Ann Kim.
  • Revival, 525 Selby Ave, St. Paul (former Cheeky Monkey space) | Autumn | A second location for the popular fried chicken spinoff of Corner Table. The original location will also be expanding and offering takeout.
  • Project TBD at old Walker Library in Uptown, 2901 Hennepin Ave S | Architectural details available here.
  • Cafe Alma, 530 University Ave SE, Minneapolis | 2016 | It’s 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. The adjacent Restaurant Alma closed for three months on August 12 so its kitchen can be connected to the kitchen of the new cafe.
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. They’re doing pop-up food in the meantime; announcements on Twitter.
  • 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

  • Augustine’s Bar and Bakery, 1668 Selby Ave, St. Paul | Autumn | Another spot from the owner of The Happy Gnome.
  • Herbie’s on the Park, 317 Washington St, St. Paul | September 24 | Upscale tavern fare.
  • J Selby’s, 169 Victoria St N, St. Paul | Autumn | Vegan restaurant that prefers to call itself “plant-based.”
  • Keg and Case revitalization of the Schmidt Brewery | Summer 2017 | Featuring restaurants by the teams behind Corner Table, Hola Arepa, and Five Watt.
  • Babani’s (second location), Wabasha St S | September | A second location for the country’s oldest Kurdish restaurant.
  • Ha Tien Grocery (second location), 1959 Suburban Ave, St. Paul | Fall 2016 | One of our favorite stops on our Green Line Checklist is expanding into a second location.
  • Tori Ramen, 161 Victoria St N, 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.
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

  • 11 Wells Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm Building, St. Paul | 2016 | From the website: “We’ll have a full fledged cocktail room as well as a restaurant so come hungry and thirsty.”
  • 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

  • 1.2.3. Pasta, 6508 Cahill Ave, Inver Grove Heights | Delayed by parking and permitting issues.
  • Baja Haus, 830 E Lake St, Wayzata | January 2017 | A second restaurant by Billy Tserenbat of Sushi Fix, focused on Mexican seafood and scratch margaritas.
  • Second Gavin Kaysen Restaurant Name TBA, 739 E Lake Street, Wayzata (former Blue Point Location) | 2016 | A second restaurant for the much-heralded chef owner of Spoon and Stable. This one will be a French brasserie style as per Rick Nelson.
  • Blacklist Brewing, 120 E Superior St, Duluth | 2016 | Taphouse opening in the once notorious, now rehabbed former Last Place on Earth location.
  • Oakhold Farmhouse Brewery (formerly Oude Oak) Midway Township | 2016 | A new sour beer-only brewery planned for 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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2 Comments

  1. SteveinMN 09/13/2016

    The Instagram comments about the second incarnation of Black Coffee & Waffle Bar reminded me of my visit to their second location about a month ago.

    To be fair, they did state they were “soft open”. And I try not to ding restaurants too hard after just one visit. But after the buildup on numerous food blogs (including the Heavy Table review of the Como location) and continued reports that the second location is not “all that”, I have to add my skepticism.

    Two years after Heavy Table’s reviewer dinged Black for having only one savory option, there still is only one. If you’re not into #allthesugar, you probably should eat somewhere else. There was a 35-minute wait for our (on-the-menu) waffles in a room that’s all hard surfaces — which makes it hard to hold any kind of conversation while waiting. I got no maple syrup with my One Bad Pig and we didn’t find the bottle for it until we were ready to leave. The coffee was quite disappointing for a place that bills itself as a coffeehouse. By the time we were done, we weren’t interested in hanging around long enough to try to find a manager and shout out what we thought could be improvements.

    If this is the buzz the second Black location is generating, I think that room will have a “new concept” fairly quickly. Hard to believe it’s a second incarnation of a business that seems to do so well.

  2. KTFoley 09/13/2016

    The signs say “soft open” but they’ve been doing business — and charging full price — since late July.

    Same experience with One Bad Pig, the only savory item on the menu. The ham was not really seared in any way. Both it and the cheese on top appeared to have been warmed in the microwave. No crisp on the waffle.

    An iced latte came to the table in a plastic to-go cup. There were not enough ice cubes to chill the drink. Getting up for a glass of water, I noticed a bus tub under the counter whose dirty dish collection included the tall glasses normally used to serve iced lattes. The water from their pour dispenser was lukewarm as though the chilled water supply was never conceived of, much less hooked up. The one counter person disappeared whenever someone wasn’t standing in front of him to place an order.

    Isn’t the purpose of a soft open to train in the crews to run the place correctly in real time? There was no management on scene, no feedback sought, no evidence that problems were being identified & handled. It seemed like a soft opening had simply folded itself into a weak operation.

    On the bright side, Groundswell (1340 Thomas Ave, St Paul) has terrific waffles: plain, Earl Gray, or Sweet Potato Poutine.
    http://www.groundswellmn.com/menu-2/#food