The intersection of Lyndale Avenue and Lake Street is in a state of flux. The past few years have seen the addition of a brewery (LynLake Brewing), a gaming bar (Up-Down), and the upgrade of an old standby, the VFW. In other ways, though, the area has remained the same, making it decidedly more stable than neighboring Uptown. It’s Greek to Me (which changed hands a year ago) and Bryant Lake Bowl provide anchors by which to judge the passing of decades.
So when Falafel King became vacant (along with Milio’s across the street), all eyes were on the raucous corner. With high rent and lack of interest from potential tenants, the building owner, Michael Veazey, decided to open a place of his own, The Hasty Tasty. Departing from the steadily rising trend of chef-owned restaurants, Veazey, who has no cooking background, draws inspiration from the boisterous family meals of his childhood and leaves the kitchen skills to Chef Chris Gerster, formerly of Red Stag Supperclub in Northeast Minneapolis and The Commodore in St. Paul.
The fresh coat of mint-ice-cream-colored paint on the exterior brick cues us into what to expect inside — graphic wallpaper and eye-catching finishes, with a comfortably traditional layout. The bar acts as a stage, while a tucked-away dining room provides a comfortable nook for conversation.
The menu is by no means thematic, though Veazey has caught onto the latest revival of the wood-fired trend. It’s easy to identify Southern elements, such as grits, but overall, the dishes have a more generalized Americana vibe. Plates are meant for sharing, and many come in two sizes, but several stand alone with equal finesse.
Take the Smoked Oysters ($11), which rather than being served solo are found atop a composition of Texas toast, celery-leaf salad, and a bright vinaigrette. The sandwich, which is cut into triangles, could be an open-faced lunch to some, or a starter to others. In any case, it’s an excellent and memorable dish. For additional substance, pair the oysters with the Fingerling Potatoes ($9 half/$15 whole). Covered in a well-balanced garlic cream sauce, they’re an ideal counterpoint to seafood, and crispy fried shallots bolster the texture. Horseradish is listed in the description but not found anywhere on the plate. Who’s to say if you’ll miss it.
On the other hand, you can lighten up a dinner spread with the Assorted Pickles ($6). The generous portion showcases the usual suspects plus bitter melon. Each vegetable is pickled differently, from slightly sweet to spicy. It’s not often that a pickle assortment turns heads, and the attention to detail was not lost on us.
The bar program is managed by Bittercube, hence the frequent use of their bitters across the board. Naturally, there are some elements in common with other Bittercube partners such as Lawless Distillery and Eat Street Social. There is no in-house bar manager, but we found the bar staff knowledgeable. An impressive variety of drink formats makes for some difficult decisions. These include semi-frozen offerings and batched options appropriate for groups.
Not all cocktail batching is simple math; mixing up a pitcher ahead of time doesn’t always effectively duplicate the flavors of an individual serving. In the case of the Of the Northern Fashioned, however, the pitcher is perfection ($30 for 3 servings). The woodsy twist on the classic is served in an oversized glass flask reminiscent of a maple syrup jar. It’s a mix of a special whiskey blend, spruce syrup, Bittercube Trinity bitters, and cedar smoke. The three glasses are garnished with charred lemon peel and scorched rosemary, which contributes to the herbaceous and woody aroma. Despite the intense flavors, this is a crowd-pleaser. The hints of pine and anise temper its spirit-forward nature while maintaining bitterness and bite.
For similar complexity with a more subtle profile, opt for the Pick Your Pickle Gibson ($11). Served martini style, the pale-green cocktail features a London Dry blend, Gamle Ode Celebration aquavit, dry vermouth, and Bittercube Orange bitters. It is served with the drinker’s choice of assorted pickled vegetables and a skewer, which creates a refined Bloody Mary DIY feel. Without the addition of the pickles, the combination is delicate and subtle with no overwhelming juniper. Nuanced aromatics develop further when the briny vegetables are added. Try the pickled beets and the piri-piri-stuffed olive.
Less successful was the John Daly ($10), an aptly named, alcoholic twist on an Arnie Palmer. It features elements of the virgin version — Cherry Frost black tea and lemon, with black-tea-infused vodka and Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters. Perhaps the summer months would have bolstered our enthusiasm for this one, but we found it on the sweet side and one-note: fruit, with a strange Red Vines licorice aroma. The balance would benefit from more tea-derived tannin, either by infusing the vodka more strongly or restraining the sugar.
If tropical fruit is on the short list but sweet is not, opt for the Kumquat Caipirinha ($10), which is a successful twist on an internationally beloved cocktail native to Brazil. It showcases the traditional cachaça and benefits from the bitter, pithy kumquat. Skip the Winter Sangria ($9), which was overwhelmingly sweet, especially when paired with well-seasoned dishes.
There were several successes among the more substantial main courses. One unexpected composition, the Coconut Risotto ($12/$18) was pleasantly light-handed on the coconut, never venturing into island territory but instead focusing on nutty flavors: The texture of the rice was spotted with peanuts and what looked to be wild rice. The broccoli maintained its texture and was cut small, causing it to blend into the overall mix.
Equally enjoyable were the earthy Smoked Grits ($12/$18) topped with a variety of seasonal mushrooms. The texture of the grits was impeccable — while they maintained a creamy and lofty presence, the individual bits were still, well, gritty. Perhaps the stroke of genius of the entire night was the pop of sherry vinegar on top, which cut straight through the cream on the palate.
Filed under “very good” was the Lamb Meatloaf with braised greens and spiced gravy ($15/$24). Mint was incorporated into the greens, a welcome addition, and the gravy was actually more of a demi glace. The generous portion of meatloaf, made with half pork and half lamb, was a bit heavy and begged for some form of levity.
For those not big on sharing (you know who you are), the Burger ($14) is wonderful. It had everything a classic burger should deliver: the seasoning and cook were on point, the cheese was melted but not messy, and the bun was substantial without being decadent. It was served with a choice of salad or steak fries. Finally, for a moment of nostalgia, don’t overlook the King Falafel Salad ($9/$15), an obvious nod to the prior tenant. As you can imagine, traditional falafel and cucumber dressing top this one, but an unexpected addition of beets and kale keep it current.
The working title for Veazey’s restaurant was Great Northern Smokehouse, but over time his concept became less meat-forward, and the smokehouse designation became a misnomer. Our group, which included a meat-free diner and an individual with celiac disease, appreciated the lack of focus on animal protein and wheat. No one felt restricted.
Dessert? We highly recommend the Coffee & Donuts ($9). Yes, it’s a cocktail, made with Old Overholt rye, Jim Beam Bonded bourbon, spiced cinnamon syrup, cold press coffee, and a blend of bitters. Sure there’s pie and ice cream on the dinner menu, but this is dessert. It’s served in slushie format with a mini powdered doughnut garnish, and the trompe-l’oeil of the coffee mug as well as the warm flavors in frozen form are very fun. Despite the spice profile, it’s not holidaylike, or even winter exclusive. Each sip delivers a complex interplay of coffee and bourbon.
The Hasty Tasty
Restaurant and bar in Uptown Minneapolis
701 W Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55408
OWNER / CHEF: Michael Veazey / Chris Gerster
Tue-Thu 4 p.m.-midnight
Fri Sat 4 p.m.-2 a.m.
Sun 4 p.m.-midnight
BAR: Beer, wine, and cocktails
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: Yes / Yes for Weekends or groups of 5+
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN / GLUTEN-FREE: Yes / Limited / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $12-$18
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
PARKING: Street parking and nearby pay lots