This week in the Tap: In the wake of the late 2015 / early 2016 fine dining closures, we look at the changing landscape through the eyes of a few newcomers to the scene.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Next Dimension(s) in Upscale Dining
The closures of Vincent and La Belle Vie after long and distinguished runs — and the far, far too brief lifespan of Brasserie Zentral — have kicked up a lot of dust about how we dine out when money is no object and the goal is to celebrate to (or well past) the point of excess.
People have told me with a straight face that Minnesota hasn’t actually had anything that qualifies as fine dining since Aquavit closed or, more charitably, since La Belle Vie shut its doors. I’ve eaten at Le Bernardin — I get what they mean. But it’s limiting (not to mention self-destructive) to fixate on a Michelin Guide three-star definition of “fine dining” and to spurn less formal, more inviting restaurants that are born and bred for local tastes. An impeccable celebration meal in St. Paul doesn’t need to be like one in New York or Paris or San Francisco. In fact, it really shouldn’t be.
Part of my self-defined job as editor of the Heavy Table is dining at the high-profile places that our writers review. It brings additional material (and, often, corroboration or added nuance) to the review, and it allows me to talk about the state of the local restaurant scene from a first-person perspective. Armed with my notes, here are some thoughts on a few newcomers to the scene, and what they’re bringing to it.
The Food’s the Thing
Upton 43 is all about working hard and letting you know it. The menu is replete with challenging vocab (ymerdrys or västerbotten, anyone?); the servers are effusively verbal about the ins and outs of the boundary-pushing cuisine; the food itself is a ballet of refined technique and ingredients. At its best, it dazzles with inventive creativity. At its worst, it holds food at a tweezer’s length and overthinks itself. It’s a place, in short, where you may have your breath taken away by what’s on the table, and you’ll exit with some detail-rich stories to share with your fellow gourmands.
See also: Spoon and Stable, Piccolo.
The Mood’s the Thing
The contrast between Upton 43 and Saint Genevieve couldn’t be more visceral. Sure, both restaurants are upscale and ready for prime time, but while Upton 43 offers a sleek, minimalist space that seems designed for intense conversations, the raucous, convivial Saint Genevieve revels in its cheerful hospitality. Saint Genevieve’s food isn’t an afterthought, but it’s approachable and classic — French tavern fare, with some upscale twists. When you’re dining at Saint Genevieve your mind is principally on your dining companions — and, perhaps, the identity of the next bottle of wine.
See also: Saint Dinette and (the glory days of) Barbette.
It Ain’t No Thing
Finally: ie Italian Eatery has received a comparatively small share of press attention, but it offers yet another route to serving up a memorable celebration dinner – its seductively familiar and low-maintenance menu sets a modest bar that the carefully crafted food and warm service effortlessly vault. Case in point would be the spaghetti and meatballs, with lovely house-made noodles and a savory sauce that rings the “ah, the taste of home but somewhat elevated” bell in your brain. The bucatini (above) wins similar plaudits for combining culinary chops and deliciousness.
See also: Broders’, and (we hope) Mucci’s.
- Milkjam Creamery at World Street Kitchen, 2743 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | Featured in the Hot Five.
- The Herbivorous Butcher, 507 1st Ave NE, Minneapolis | Our tasting notes on three of their dishes. We like what Pizza Nea did with their product.
- Barley and Vine, 17516 Dodd Blvd, Lakeville | “Foodie casual” with “eclectic beer and wine selections,” as per their press release.
- The Draft Horse, 117 14th Ave NE, Minneapolis | New restaurant at the Food Building featuring food made from products from The Lone Grazer Creamery and Red Table Meat Co., along with grab & go sandwiches on Patisserie 46 baguettes, salads, and soup. Read our Bite here.
- Coconut Thai, 3948 W 50th St, Edina, MN
- The Bachelor Farmer Cafe, 200 N 1st St, Minneapolis
- Taco Cat, Midtown Global Market | The cult favorite, bike-delivered taco place has become a bricks-and-mortar affair, replacing the former Burrito Mercado spot in Midtown Global Market.
- Nutmeg Brewhouse, 1905 W County Rd 42 W, Burnsville | “A brewpub that explores the former British Empire from a culinary point of view,” as per the Growler. See our tasting notes.
- Upton 43, 4312 Upton Ave S, Minneapolis | This spot, by Victory 44’s Erick Harcey, is a chance for the much lauded chef to bounce back from the bust-up of Stock and Badge and rollup of the ambitious but shaky Parka. Read our review here.
- Heirloom, 2186 Marshall Ave, St. Paul | W.A. Frost chef Wyatt Evans hopes to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors (such as Russell Klein and Lenny Russo) and found a new St. Paul gastronomic institution. “Modern but … approachable … slow food” sounds pretty good to us (quotes from the Pioneer Press preview).
- Scena Tavern, 2943 Girard Ave S, Minneapolis
- Savory Bake House, 3008 36th Ave S, Minneapolis | Located across the street from Merlin’s Rest, “Savory is a new twist on the old school rustic bakery everyone knows and loves,” or so says their Facebook page. Baker is Sandra Sherva from Merlin’s Rest and formerly of Birchwood. Read our review here.
- Wicked Wort Brewing Co., 4175 W Broadway, Robbinsdale | Just opened.
CLOSED / CLOSING:
- Parella | Our review
- Chatterbox Pub (Highland Park location)
- Brasserie Zentral | One of our favorite spots for fine dining (or any dining whatsoever) in the area, and a darling of the Star Tribune’s Rick Nelson as well, among others. Sad proof that mere excellent food and world-class service are not sufficient to guarantee a restaurant’s success.
- Nye’s Polonaise Room (closing April 3) | This trolltastic City Pages column nonetheless does a good job of expressing some of the ambiguity about the passing of the nationally known and locally legendary Nye’s.
- Shake Shack | Early 2016 | A local outpost of the cult-favorite better-burger chain will open at the Mall of America.
- Rose Street Patisserie, 2811 West 43rd Street, Minneapolis | 2016 | The Linden Hills outpost of Patisserie 46 will be a full-service bakery and restaurant with 54 seats.
- Modist Brewing Company, 505 N 3rd St, Minneapolis | Early 2016
- Wild Mind Artisan Ales, 6031 Pillsbury Ave, Minneapolis | Summer 2016
- Polpo | Early 2016 | In the former La Mac Cleaners space, run by David Hahne, the former chef of the excellent Cave Vin. Sufficiently under the radar that we’re beginning to worry.
- Cafe Alma, 530 University Ave SE, Minneapolis | Early 2016 | Hailed by the Star Tribune as this year’s Best Upcoming Project and a “casual breakfast-to-late night cafe, coffee bar, wine bar and bakery.”
- Blue Door Pub, 1514 Como Ave, Minneapolis | Early 2016
- Inbound Brewco, 701 5th St N, Minneapolis | Early 2016
- The Viking Bar, 1829 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis | Early 2016 | After nearly a decade of closure, this Cedar-Riverside saloon is on its way to reopening.
- 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.
- Lawless Distilling, 2619 28th Ave S, Minneapolis | Early 2016
- Bonicelli Kitchen, 1839 Central Avenue NE, Minneapolis | Early Summer 2016 | Opening in the former Razaaq space on Central Avenue.
- Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | Early 2016
- Q Fanatic, 6009 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | Early 2016 (second location) | Although the local BBQ scene is mighty weak, we do think Q Fanatic does a good job at serving up serious Q. This new location, along with the recently launched truck Bark and the Bite, suggests that there’s hope for us yet.
- DiNoko’s Pizzeria, 4457 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis | Early 2016 | DiNoko’s is a local place that can do deep dish pizza seriously well. Their move from Nokomis to downtown Minneapolis didn’t work out; here’s hoping that their return foray to South Minneapolis does.
- Utepils (formerly Bryn Mawr) Brewing, 225 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis | Early 2016
- Hi-Lo Diner, 4020 E Lake St, Minneapolis | Early 2016 | Seward and Longfellow are really jumping onto the breakfast train after years of struggling to get by with nothing more than the overpriced Longfellow Grill and the inedible Denny’s; Mon Petit Chéri seems to be doing well, and the new Co-op Creamery Cafe is a serious breakfast presence as well. Hi-Lo is getting in as the neighborhoods heat up. Here’s the press release and a photo of a crane lifting the diner into place.
- Handsome Hog, 225 E 6th St, St. Paul | Early spring 2016 | Former Brasserie Zentral and Meritage chef Justin Sutherland will be cooking contemporary Southern food with a high-end twist.
- Mucci’s, 786 Randolph Ave, St. Paul | Early spring 2016 | A new old-school Italian-American place from Tim Niver, owner of Strip Club Meat and Fish and Saint Dinette.
- Parco 400, 400 N Sibley St, St. Paul | Late spring 2016 | 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.
- World of Beer, 356 N Sibley St, St. Paul | 2016 | Part of a chain including locations in Wauwatosa and Appleton, Wis., and Naperville, Ill.
- 11 Wells Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm Building, St. Paul | Early 2016 | A restaurant aspect to the space is rumored to be under consideration.
- The Lexington (new ownership), 1096 Grand Ave, St. Paul | Spring 2016 | 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.”
Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond
- 1.2.3. Pasta, 6508 Cahill Ave, Inver Grove Heights | March 2016
- Oude Oak, Midway Township | Spring 2016 | A new sour beer-only brewery planned for just south of Duluth.
- St. Croix Brewing Company, 114 Chestnut St E, Stillwater | 2016
- Angry Inch Brewing, 20841 Holyoke Ave, Lakeville | 2016
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 email@example.com.