In case you’ve been living in a cave for the last year with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears, know that a new joint in the Warehouse District called Spoon and Stable opened last month. It’s housed in a bright, Shea-designed space; the chef has some fine laurels; and reservations are scarce. (If you search Open Table, have your 2015 calendar handy).
Perhaps your best bet to taste Gavin Kaysen’s scallop crudo and bucatini with bottarga anytime soon is to shimmy your way into a seat at the bar. The slim lounge faces a tower of white shelving full of spirits and firewood, delicately backlit and framed by orchids and citrus fruit. It kind of looks like one of those bars that were only thought to exist in Williams-Sonoma catalogs.
Bar patrons have access to the dinner menu as well as a svelte list of bar snacks (anyone want to share a tarte flambée and a bottle of prosecco?). They may also be treated to spur of the moment bar specials like truffled pork ramen or Cuban sandwiches, and can watch head barman, Robb Jones, at work, which is always fun.
“It’s just great to be in this environment, where I can challenge myself in different ways,” says Jones, formerly of Saffron. “[Kaysen] gave me a lot of creative license. I mentioned the idea of just doing classics, and he ran it by some people in New York, like ‘I talked to Jim Meehan, and this is a really cool idea.’ Sweet! And it makes sense with what we’re trying to do here. We want people to be comfortable.”
The names on his cocktail list read like Bartending 101, but all of them contain a prepped ingredient or a technique that expands the notion of what that well-known cocktail can be. Take for example his old fashioned with dark rum and pineapple syrup. Or his whiskey sour with grapefruit. Jones’ cocktail prep begins early in the day, over saucepans slowly reducing citrus, sugar, and spice.
“I spent a little time as a saucier when I was a cook,” Jones recalls. “It was my Zen in the kitchen, I can focus on one thing and make it perfect.” He claims that prepping syrups and cordials helps manage his ADD, but it has the added benefit of speeding up pickup time in his continuously busy bar.
His ice program does the same. Jones has a metalworking friend who custom built stainless-steel ice molds designed to make ice that breaks apart into chunks perfectly sized for the glassware. “I got tired of chipping my own ice,” says Jones. “I worked at Bradstreet — I understand the importance of ice. But I don’t want to wait five minutes for someone to chip ice, and it’s also not that safe to have a bunch of people with ice picks.”
We order his Paloma, a drink that might seem out of season right now. I associate them particularly with sweltering summer barbecues, when slapping together tequila and Fresca is about as much work as I want my drinks to entail. But Jones’ spiced-grapefruit cordial blends beautifully with the warmth of the reposado tequila.
Spoon and Stable Paloma
2 oz. reposado tequila (Jones uses el Jimador)
1½ oz. grapefruit cordial
pinch of kosher salt
splash of lime juice
grapefruit peel and lime slice for garnish
Build tequila, cordial, salt, and lime juice in a collins glass; stir briefly. Top with club soda. Garnish with grapefruit peel and a lime wheel.
Spoon and Stable, 211 N 1st St, Minneapolis, MN 55401; 612.224.9850