This week in the Tap: Our columnist looks at an important move for a local chef, gets fired up for the star-powered Scena Tavern, parses the distillery deluge, praises cheese “cakes” … and a morel festival at The Sample Room.
The Tap is a biweekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm. “We raise 100 percent grass-fed lambs & goats traditionally, humanely, and sustainably.”
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 email@example.com.
Almendinger Departing Third Bird, Scena, the Distillery Deluge, and Cheese Wheel Cakes
Seward Co-op’s new restaurant on Franklin Avenue has picked up some serious culinary firepower. LUCAS ALMENDINGER (above right, with Steven Brown) will be moving from The Third Bird over to the soon-to-open Co-op Creamery Cafe in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. He starts at the Creamery Cafe in a few weeks, and the Cafe should open its doors at the end of July, says the Creamery’s production manager Chad Snelson.
With Seward’s extensive experience sourcing quality local ingredients and its acquisition of a proven chef, there’s no reason why it can’t turn the Cafe into a blockbuster … assuming it can find the neighborhood’s price point for various meals, a target that can often be elusive. The Seward neighborhood has seen a surge of good food (from serious curry at Tracy’s to the newly opened Mon Petit Chéri to the terribly named but surprisingly good Sober Fish), but the Cafe will be doing three meals a day and will have to balance an impulse to push the limits of farm-to-table cuisine with the day-to-day competition for the frugal, hungry, but potentially loyal breakfast diner. It’s an exciting struggle, and a chance to put a finger on the pulse of Seward, Longfellow, and other nearby neighborhoods.
There’s no time to breathe: barely a fortnight has passed since Nighthawks started slinging its high-concept diner fare, and SCENA is already sucking up the oxygen as the Next Big Thing. As well it should — the upcoming restaurant (to be located at 2943 Girard Ave S in Minneapolis) combines the culinary forces of proven creators Jamie Malone (above) and Erik Anderson (below), who will be contributing extensive consulting and training to the new venture, and selecting its executive chef.
The restaurant’s press release name-checks some digging-a-page-deeper European favorites, including carbineros (big prawns that will be prepared live at the Scena Crudo bar), house-extruded canestri (pasta), and steamed clams with ’nduja (one of our favorite types of charcuterie, thanks to the version produced by Madison’s Underground Food Collective.)
Bringing Anderson and Malone into this big-money project in a consulting, asterisk-laden way could be anything between brilliant and classically dumb, depending on how things play out — if the two are merely fine-cuisine window dressing for an indifferently run, pump-out-the-standards Uptown meat market, the blast of pre-opening acclaim will boomerang as expectations are dashed; if the duo are successfully mined for their smarts and experience, the place should be a big, lovely, culinary powerhouse in a part of the city where young people with money want to eat smart, current food.
Heavy Table knows both Malone and Anderson and digs their cooking. If their influence definitively shapes the way Scena buys its product, cooks, and serves, Uptown should have a new powerhouse on its hands. We talked to Malone at some length for a story we wrote about battle wounds in the kitchen. She talked about why chefs do what they do, and said: “I often will think about that and wonder: What personality does it take to do this for a living … ? Maybe it’s pretty well known that cooks tend to be more on the introverted side of things. So maybe it’s a way of expressing care for others in a way that we don’t know how to do otherwise.”
And if you’ve got a free hour, grab a glass of something special, and pore over our 5,000-word debrief with Anderson, who talked to our own Peter Sieve about great skate dishes, the success of Tilia, and the appeal of timeless food.
A TORRENT OF DISTILLED SPIRITS is washing across the Land of 10,000 Lakes, drowning local spirits aficionados in white whiskeys, gins, aquavits, rums, ryes, and more. Craft spirits offer a wild frontier opportunity that is in increasing contrast to the possibly approaching plateau of breweries and taprooms, the latter of which have sprouted across the state like mushrooms. Distillers on the horizon include Lawless Distilling, Twin Spirits Distillery, and Tattersall Distilling, and there will no doubt be others sauntering up to the starting line in the months to come.
Lawless founder Nate Karnitz, commenting in the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal, sums up the mentality pretty well: “When I was in school I started seeing [new distillers] popping up in Minneapolis, and I thought it would be better to get in at the ground level rather than trying to break into craft beer, which is in its fifth or sixth wave now.”
Like the taproom boom, the distillery deluge has at least two components —
One is the production of beer or hard spirits and the selling of those spirits through liquor stores, restaurants, and bars. Conventional wisdom says that this is where the real money is, but not everyone can be Summit, or Phillips, or Surly — particularly when all of those big spirits makers are still aggressively engaged in maintaining and expanding their place in the market. At the moment, there’s a big novelty premium for putting out a quality locally distilled vodka or gin, and bartenders are eagerly mixing and showing off the local hooch — but at some point in the near future, the 12th or 14th or 27th painstakingly wrought Minnesota rye won’t elicit even a politely stifled yawn from drinkers and scene-watchers.
The other is the neighborhood real estate aspect of the boom. A brewery or distillery can make a fair-to-mediocre product and profit mightily if their taproom or cocktail room is located correctly and packed to the gills with locals and tourists celebrating the act of drinking locally. You can muddle through as a brewer or distiller but create a sparkling local business with a well-located venue that can catch cash from special events, private parties, weekly specials, limited releases, and all manner of other promotion that keeps the customers coming back for more. The potential for cocktail rooms to enrich Minnesota’s nightlife is real and wonderful, and it will help popularize the view of spirits as great local food, and not (merely) a fine way to fire up a buzz.
This is really a minor point, but it’s one very near and dear to my heart: brides (and other conspicuous celebrants) are starting to realize the appeal and value of trotting out CHEESE WHEEL CAKES. We live in an era when a top-of-line wedding cake can easily drift into the low four figures, but a massive 20-pound wheel of something lovely (like SarVecchio parmesan from Wisconsin’s Sartori, for example) runs a mere $320 and makes a perfect bottom layer for an Upper Midwestern cheese array that would proudly anchor even a mammoth celebration. Wisconsin leads the way, at the moment: Lindsay Christians has the scoop (or the slice, or the wedge, or whatever) over in the Cap Times.
— James Norton
The premiere taping of the Heavy Table / Secrets of the City podcast The Weekend Starts Now takes place this Thursday night in the Afghan Room at the Bachelor Farmer. Hosts James Norton and Taylor Carik will present an irreverent but enthusiastic rundown of arts, culture, food, and drink taking place in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area, while entertaining a variety of guests and keeping their live audience guessing.
Guests will include illustrator-about-town WACSO and writer M.C. Cronin, Chef Paul Berglund, and Eric Dayton, with more names to be announced in dramatic last-minute fashion.
Tickets are free (and available online), but are nearly gone, so act quickly if you’re interested.
If and when tickets run out, don’t despair — 30 (free) tickets are available via Eventbrite for the taping of episodes 3 and 4 at the Chef Shack Ranch at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 8.
A who’s who collection of local chefs (Thomas Boemer of Corner Table; Jim Christiansen of Heyday; Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable; Todd MacDonald of the soon-to-open Parella; and Nick O’Leary of Smack Shack) will be serving up various wild preparations of morel mushrooms for the gratification of the masses at the end of this month. Live music, all-star bartenders, and chef-MC Sameh Wadi all threaten to make the event a great deal of fun. Tickets are sold on a sliding basis: $75 gets a 3 p.m. entry and the choicest VIP morsels; $55 gets a 4:30 p.m. entry and a full spread of mushroom dishes; and $0 gets a 7 p.m. entry, with music and food available for purchase.
- Colossal Cafe (third location) 1342 Grand Ave, St. Paul
- Sencha Tea Bar (Tea Garden under new ownership and rebranded), 2601 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis
- Bogart’s Doughnut Company, downtown location, IDS building, Minneapolis
- Belle Vinez Winery, W10829 875th Ave, River Falls, Wis.
- La Ceiba Bistro, 3500 Bloomington Ave S, Minneapolis
- Surly Brewer’s Table, 520 Malcolm Ave. SE, Minneapolis
- Nighthawks, 3753 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis
- Como Dockside Lakeside Pavilion, Como Park, St. Paul
- 56 Brewing, 3134 California St NE, Minneapolis
- Workhorse Coffee Bar, 2399 University Ave, St. Paul
- Tamarack Tap Room, 8418 Tamarack Village, Woodbury
- Sidhe Brewing Company, 990 Payne Ave, St. Paul
- Grand Rounds Brewing Company, 4 3rd St SW, Rochester
- Breaking Bread Cafe, 1210 W Broadway, Minneapolis
- Cafe Racer Kitchen, 2929 E 25th St, Minneapolis | Our review
- Revival, 4257 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis | Our roundtable review
- Blackstone Bistro, 3808 Grand Way, St. Louis Park
- Emmett’s Public House, 695 Grand Ave, St. Paul (former Dixie’s on Grand party room)
- Vellee Deli, Baker Center at 109 S 7th St, Minneapolis
- Wabasha Brewing Company, 429 Wabasha St S, St. Paul
- Prairie Dogs, 610 W Lake St, Minneapolis | Our review and Our visit to the Prairie Dogs pop-up
- Shag Sushi, 730 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis
- Tinto Cocina + Cantina, 901 W Lake St, Minneapolis
CLOSED / CLOSING:
- T’s Place in Minneapolis
- Pairings in Minnetonka
- El Burrito Mercado (Midtown Global Market location)
- Umbria Pizza in Eden Prairie
- Sapor (closing June 2015)
- School II Bistro in Chanhassen
- Bars Bakery (both locations)
- Nye’s Polonaise Room (closing 2015)
- Lawless Distilling, 2619 28th Ave S, Minneapolis | Summer 2015
- Scena Tavern, 2943 Girard Ave S, Minneapolis | Summer 2015
- Bonicelli Kitchen, 1901 NE Fillmore St, Minneapolis | July 2015
- Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis | Fall 2015
- Able Seedhouse and Brewery, 1121 Quincy St NE, Minneapolis | Winter 2015
- Lakes and Legends Brewing Company, 1368 Lasalle Ave, Minneapolis | Summer 2015
- Q Fanatic, South Metro, Minneapolis | Summer 2015 (second location)
- DiNoko’s Pizzeria, 4457 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis | Summer 2015
- Eggy’s Diner, LPM Apartments, 1369 Spruce Pl, Minneapolis | Summer 2015
- Bryn Mawr Brewing, 225 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis | Winter 2015
- Eastside at Latitude 45, 301 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis | August 2015
- Monello and Constantine, Hotel Ivy 201 S 11th St, Minneapolis | June 2015
- 4 Bells, 1610 Harmon Place, Minneapolis | Summer 2015
- Restaurant TBA replacing the Modern in Northeast Minneapolis | Summer 2015
- Seward Co-op Creamery Neighborhood Cafe, 2601 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis | July 2015
- Parella, Calhoun Square | July 2015
- Hi-Lo Diner (working name), 4020 E Lake St, Minneapolis | Summer or Autumn of 2015
- Tattersall Distilling, 1620 Central Avenue NE, Minneapolis | Summer 2015
- St. Genevieve, 5003 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis | Mid-2015
- Il Foro, City Center, Minneapolis | June 2015
- Seward Co-op Friendship Store, 317 38th St E | Summer 2015
- Upton43, 4312 Upton Ave, Minneapolis | September 2015
- Urban Forage Winery and Cider House, 3016 E Lake St, Minneapolis | Fall 2015
- Lost Falls Distillery, 1915 E 22nd St, Minneapolis | Early 2015
- Bradstreet Neighborhood Craftshouse, 1930 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | Early 2015
- The Herbivorous Butcher, Minneapolis | Late Spring 2015
- Pizzeria Lola concept TBD, 165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis | 2015
- The Bachelor Farmer Cafe project to be named, 200 N 1st St, Minneapolis | 2015
- Lake Monster Brewing, 550 Vandalia St, St. Paul | 2015
- Ox Cart Ale House, 255 E 6th St, St. Paul | Summer 2015
- Bad Weather Brewing, 414 7th St W, St. Paul | 2015
- Big River Pizza, Lofts at Farmers Market, St. Paul | June 2015
- Heirloom, 2186 Marshall Ave, St. Paul | June 2015
- 11 Wells Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm Building, St. Paul | Spring 2015
- Lexington (new ownership), 1096 Grand Ave, St. Paul | Spring 2015
- Saint Dinette, 280 E 5th St, St. Paul | June 2015
Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond
- St. Croix Brewing Company, 114 Chestnut St E, Stillwater | 2015
- Valhalla Nordic Smoke and Ale House, 310 Stillwater Rd, Willernie | May 2015
- Angry Inch Brewing, 20841 Holyoke Ave, Lakeville | July 2015
- Ruscello, Nordstrom Ridgedale, Minnetonka | October 2015
- 10K Brewing, Bank Block on Second and Main, Anoka | July 2015
- Gogi Bros. House, Shady Oak Retail Center, Eden Prairie | Spring 2015
- Crêpe and Cake, Plymouth | March 2015
- Gator’s Grilled Cheese Emporium, 955 E Sheridan, Ely | Spring 2015
- The King and I Thai (reopening), 760 Highway 110, Mendota Heights | 2015
- Wicked Wort Brewing Co., 4165-4175 W Broadway, Robbinsdale | Fall 2015
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.