Three Tastes: The Heavy Table Team Recalls 2013

The Heavy Table crew — large in number, adventurous in appetite, generously endowed in the palate department — travels quite a bit and eats quite a great deal, collectively. What follows are some of our favorite bites from 2013. Guten appetit!

(And if you enjoy these bites, you may want to flip back to our gems of 2012.)

Dena Alspach | Publisher

Dena Alspach / Heavy Table
Dena Alspach / Heavy Table

Jasmine Deli: Banh Canh (Tapioca Noodle Soup)

With its thick, silky noodles twisting in an unbelievably clean, clear broth, the tapioca noodle soup (banh canh) at Jasmine Deli is one the best lunches in town. Order a huge bowl with chicken or tofu and then just try to sit patiently once Lee sets that plate of crisp bean sprout, basil, and jalapeño slices in front of you. The soup is balanced and delicious and yes, you will eat it all. Don’t forget the Sriracha. Oh, and definitely grab a banh mi to take with you for later. Sandwiches are made fresh each day on perfect, crusty baguette and stuffed with mock duck, chicken, or pork; then carrot, cilantro, and jalapeno.

Adam Vickerman’s pop-up dinner: Ribeye / Brussels / Kale / Rogue Smokey Blue

One of my favorite trends is the wealth of super-chef pop-up dinners happening all over the Twin Cities. This October, I was lucky enough to get a spot at the Colossal Cafe for Adam Vickerman’s dinner (who usually runs the show at Cafe Levain). If you haven’t yet hit a pop-up, stay alert and jump on tickets immediately. The unique intimacy of these experiences and the level of service you enjoy is worth triple the cost. The bite I’m still dreaming about is Vickerman’s perfectly seared ribeye with smokey blue cheese from Rogue Creamery in Oregon, served with brussels and kale. I almost hugged him.

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table
Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

Tilia: Pot de Creme

You know how sometimes when you’re in a restaurant and what’s set before you makes you clap your hands and stomp your feet with happiness? No? Then get to Tilia and order Zoe Francois’ pot de creme. Amy Thielen (her new book is featured in our 2013 holiday gift guide) gives an epic assist with her birch syrup; there’s a good chance you’ll write poetry about it later. Maybe on Twitter. (Who me?) This absolutely luscious dessert is served in a delicate laser-cut eggshell, so you may (may) sit like a lady, holding it gently, just momentarily ignoring your fellow diners.

Ryan Burk | Writer

Kings Wine Bar: Bloody Mary Ribs

It would be easy to over-analyze the task of choosing just three items from a year spent eating well. So I went about it like word association. Without much thought at all, the Bloody Mary ribs from Kings Wine Bar in Kingfield came almost instantly to mind. The braised-then-fried rib is so tender it takes about zero convincing to separate from the bone. And the Bloody Mary portion of the equation doesn’t disappoint either, with the celery seed and soy seasoning nicely evoking a generously salted rim. I didn’t miss the vodka at all.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Parka: Banana Cream Pie

I’m a sucker for banana cream pie. Order it any chance I get. And the banana cream pie at Parka in Longfellow is one of my favorites. It’s an enormous, deconstructed mess of a dessert, the sight of which made my eyes bulge noticeably from their sockets when it was set down in front of us. It’s loosely built on a sturdy pastry foundation, decked in banana slices, some sort of custard-y banana filling, a generous drizzle of salted caramel, topped with whipped cream and finished with a dusting of chocolate shavings. There’s also a bright citrusy pop of flavor that asserts itself in a pleasant way, which saves the whole thing from being just another one-note, cloyingly sweet banana cream pie. It wasn’t the prettiest dessert I had all year, nor was it the most inventive or sophisticated. But what it did is present familiar, beloved flavors in a way I hadn’t expected. And that’s something that gets me every time.

The Churn: Street Food, Lutefisk, and More

Drinks at Psycho Suzi's
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

LaClare Farms breaks ground on a new dairy plant and cheese aging facility. An interview with Don Saunders of The Kenwood and In Season. I try lutefisk so that you don’t have to (you’re welcome). City Page profiles Midtown Global Market pegged to Sabbai Cuisine and Fresco’s Pasta Bar. Seasonal thoughts on pickled herring, featuring Ingebretsen’s. Common Roots is hiring a chef/kitchen manager, among other positions. Our own Becca Dilley writes about street food for Minnesota Meetings and Events magazine (featuring Foxy Falafel, Saucy Burt’s, and Vellee Deli.) And serious volcano drinks (take note, Psycho Suzi’s, pictured above) and wacky atmosphere give Hunan Garden a real edge in the Chinese restaurant party zone scene.

The Kenwood in Minneapolis

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

After soccer practice at Kenwood Park, at the north end of Lake of the Isles, families used to head to the Kenwood Cafe for sandwiches. Piles of boisterous, happy kids in team T-shirts, shin guards, and those knee-high soccer socks would signal to the daytime laptop crowd that it was time to pack up and head home.

The cafe, somewhere between a coffee shop and a deli, was a casual, friendly place, beloved in the neighborhood and mourned when it closed. When Don Saunders, of In Season and the late, great Fugaise, announced he was taking over the spot, the neighborhood rejoiced and rallied around the newcomer: This is their own little Brigadoon, a one-block business node mostly hidden to outsiders, who get confused as the street grid starts to warp and bend around Lake of the Isles. The neighbors themselves have a stake in keeping open the frame shop, the kids’ art studio, and Louise Erdrich’s excellent Birchbark Books, because so few others even know they’re here.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

So, during opening week at The Kenwood, a few of those same soccer families came back. They hesitated visibly at the door: This was not their old, casual deli. While not formal, the interior is decidedly grown-up and deliciously WASP-y, with green plaid fabric on the walls, portraits of hunting dogs, heavy reclaimed-wood tables, wrought-iron chandeliers, and a lovely gray-green banquette running the length of the wall of windows that look out on the playground of Kenwood Elementary School.

Most of those families came in anyway, with a stern look to the kids to behave (and they did). Chef Saunders clearly didn’t mind having them there, because he greeted them with a smart, thoughtful, real-food kids’ menu: spaghetti with (excellent) pesto, a mini steak frites, a root beer float, and the like.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

The rest of the menu veers ever further and further away from the old neighborhood deli. Saunders has definitely created a more casual, everyday sort of restaurant than In Season and Fugaise, but he’s still Don Saunders and he hasn’t packed up the (metaphorical, if not actual) tweezers just yet. There are artful smears of sauce, precise dollops of cream the size of chocolate chips, and little hillocks of microgreens teased into place, just so. (Even the kids’ plates are elegant.) But nothing we tasted elevated fussy looks over flavor — not at all.

Pretty much the entirety of the Snacks and Small Plates menus (all sized somewhere between an appetizer and an entrée) hit the mark. The Duck Offal Cigars ($6) are surprising and fun: the greasy, crispy indulgence of egg rolls with an intensely flavored, salty, rich filling. (Don’t think you like offal? Just don’t think about it. There’s not even a whiff of liver about these things.)

The Kenwood, Pizzeria Lola, Ike’s Minnetonka, Copper Pot Indian Grill, and more

Readers: Win Heavy Table pint glasses

The Tap loves restaurant tips from readers, so we’re awarding a Heavy Table pint glass to the best tipster each month. 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 Jason Walker at jason@heavytable.com.

July’s winner: Mike Haight of Minneapolis

The Kenwood (opens Sept. 6)

2115 W 21st St, Minneapolis

How does all-day service from Don Saunders sound?

That’s the plan at The Kenwood, set to open next week right off Lake of the Isles in the former Kenwood Cafe space. Saunders, owner of the critically acclaimed In Season (winner of Best New Establishment in our 2010 Silver Whisk Awards), is creating most everything himself, with only coffee (Dogwood) and pastries (Patisserie 46) outsourced. The days will look like this:

  • Breakfast from 8-10am with the aforementioned coffee and pastries as well as seasonal fruit, yogurt, and granola from Saunders’ kitchen.
  • Everyday brunch from 10am-2pm with poached eggs, pancakes, huevos rancheros, and biscuits and gravy as well as more traditional lunch dishes like seared tuna salad, burgers, and sandwiches.
  • Snack menu from 2-5pm with quick bites like crostini, marinated olives, a hummus platter, a small charcuterie plate, and “duck offal cigars” of duck confit meat and duck livers in brick pastry. Yes, please.

All that before dinner, which starting at 5pm will meld some of Saunders’ more elegant, inspired dishes a la In Season with a few more casual options.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

“Our concept was determined by both what I know how to do and what the neighborhood was looking for,” Saunders said. “We saw a big demand for everything: coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner. And wine and beer has been something the neighbors have wanted.”

Saunders (above) said he had always liked the idea of week-long brunch, so The Kenwood was giving him a fun opportunity to step back from dinner mode and deliver things like rock-solid coffee service.

“It was really cool keeping it familiar enough to not scare people away but still have fun with the menu,” he said. “The cooking style is not going to change from what I’ve always done, which is European influenced and dabbles in all sorts of regionality and seasonality of dishes.

“I want people to feel like it’s the type of restaurant where you can entertain a client or friend and do a crazy-fancy menu that’s sit-down formal and classy, but those same people can stop down last-minute on a Tuesday night and have a burger.”

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Hello Pizza (coming soon)

3904 Sunnyside Rd, Edina

Still packing them in nearly two years after opening, Pizzeria Lola appears to be expanding into the former Franklin Street Bakery space next to the Convention Grill off France Ave. Given the surrounding upscale neighborhood and relative lack of nearby restaurants not slinging burgers and malts, it sounds like a slam dunk for owner Ann Kim and her raved-about wood-fired pizzas. UPDATE 08.28.12: The restaurant will be Hello Pizza, with New York style slices and 16-inch pies. Read our update here.

Ike’s (opens this summer)

17805 Hwy 7, Minnetonka

Stalled for a while now, the new Minnetonka location of Ike’s is gaining steam. The Minnetonka Planning Commission recently OK’d plans for an expanded patio at Ike’s, and the City Council was likely to approve the request at its meeting last night. From reading the commission’s report it appears an oddly shaped lot required some variances from the city, causing the slog.

The location, dormant for some time, most recently was occupied by Prima.

Copper Pot Indian Grill (now open)

10 S 5th St, Minneapolis | 612.331.6677

Just opened last week in the Lumber Exchange building, Copper Pot Indian Grill has a huge menu and daily buffet as well as a full bar. Judging by the sleek interior, Copper Pot hopes to attract more than just weekday lunchers, and the prices (entrees $15-$28) would suggest they’re hoping for an upscale dinner crowd despite its location at one of downtown’s sketchiest intersections. Regardless, there’s not much for Indian food in that general vicinity, so nearby workers will likely be pleased as punch.

NOW OPEN

  • Copper Pot Indian Grill, 10 S 5th St, Minneapolis | 612.331.6677
  • Glory :Days, 500 5thAve NW, New Brighton. Revamped sports bar from :D-Spot owner. | 651.633.2226
  • Foxy Falafel, 791 Raymond Ave, St. Paul | 651.243.0813
  • Five Guys, 2300 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | 612.224.9161
  • Indeed Brewing, 711 15th Ave NE, Minneapolis | 612.643.1226
  • People’s Organic, IDS Center Crystal Court (80 S 8th St), Minneapolis | 612.208.0021

Cap’s Grille and Morning Roundup

A mixed assessment of Cap’s Grille BBQ, Northern vintners work to improve their wine quality (here’s our recent north country wine survey), notes on Summit Dunkelweizen, notes on new food trucks, facts about Peace Coffee, and more details on Don Saunders’s new restaurant.

Azia Market, Sparks, Droolin’ Moose, Citizen Cafe, and more

Readers: Win Heavy Table pint glasses

The Tap loves restaurant tips from readers, so we’re awarding a Heavy Table pint glass to the best tipster each month. 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 Jason Walker at jason@heavytable.com.

February’s winner: Paul Schadewald of Minneapolis.

Azia Market Bar & Restaurant (opens in late April)

2550 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.813.1200 | Find it on Facebook

The restaurant scene is really hopping so far in 2012 (check out that massive “Coming Up” list below), but the corner of 26th and Nicollet in Minneapolis is especially exploding. Eat Street Social just opened, Icehouse (from the owners of Be’Wiched Deli) has long been in the works, and Little Tijuana is planning to reopen in a few months.

Now, one of the old standbys of the corner is coming back, as Thom Pham is opening Azia Market Bar & Restaurant. The concept is to use market-fresh ingredients to make a range of small plates and meals – focused on vegetables, rice or noodles, seafood and meat – as well as cocktails with fresh-squeezed juices. There will be a raw bar serving oysters and seafood as well as a sizable sake list, the entire space has been renovated, and a patio is planned.

So, what’s on the menu? Look for small dishes like broiled black cod marinated in miso and black beans, pomegranate-duck salad and crab rangoon; bowls like pho and bibimbap; and entrees such as banana-leaf-wrapped halibut, Dungeness crab simmered in sake, and lemongrass-braised short ribs.

Azia Market hopes to open in late April.

Sparks (now open)

230 Cedar Lake Road S, Minneapolis | 612.259.8943 | sparksmpls.com

If you live in or near Minneapolis’ Bryn Mawr neighborhood, you are smiling. Sparks opened in mid-March as the newest from owner/chef Jon Hunt – also behind Minneapolis restaurants Rinata and al Vento – and has a short menu of wood-fired plates like small plates, pizzas, chicken and seafood.

However, check out this beer lineup: Fulton Lonely Blond; Lake Superior Oatmeal Stout; Rush River Unforgiven Ale and Lost Arrow Porter; Summit Oatmeal Stout and Extra Pale Ale; Lake Harriet West Side IPA, Divine Oculust and Dark Abbey; and Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat. Now there’s a short but kick-ass tap list.

Droolin’ Moose (now open)

9424 Lyndale Avenue S, Bloomington | 952.451.9634 | droolinmoose.com

Kitty-corner from David Fong’s in Bloomington is a new shop specializing in high-end chocolate-covered doodads, Droolin’ Moose. It’s pretty straightforward: come in, try everything, and buy a big plastic cup of what you like. And if you can imagine a tiny, roundish food product, Droolin’ Moose probably sells it covered in some sort of chocolate: cherries, almonds, orange-flavored pecans, peanuts, pretzels, malted milk balls, biscotti chunks, etc.

“Everyone loves chocolate, and it makes a great gift, especially in such a down economy,” co-owner Missy Wettstrom said. “If you are going to spend $10 on a gift, it should be something people really want and look forward to.”

The sampling system is nice. Not content with just offering tidbits next to the product, Droolin’ Moose has provided a noshing table with tiny bowls of each chocolate-covered morsel. The Tap hasn’t eaten so much free chocolate since a memorable slab of torte at sadly now-defunct River Chocolate Company.

Sarah McGee / Heavy Table

Citizen Cafe (closing temporarily to remodel)

2403 East 38th St, Minneapolis | 612.729.1122 | thecitizencafe.com

Changes are coming to Citizen Cafe as owners Seaen & Michael MacKay remodel their South Minneapolis restaurant to house a wine bar. Citizen is now closed but will reopen April 10 at 4 p.m. They’re also ending lunch service Tues.-Thurs., but the Friday-Sunday hours won’t change (open at 8 a.m.). The MacKays thought the time was right to retool and add a wine bar because sous chef John Lambe has left to spend more time with his family.

NOW OPEN

  • Sparks, 230 Cedar Lake Road S, Minneapolis | 612.259.8943 | sparksmpls.com
  • Harriet Brewing Taproom, 3036 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis | 612.225.2184 | harrietbrewing.com
  • Bullwinkle Saloon, 1429 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis
  • Original Pancake House, 1415 County Road 101, Plymouth | 952.475.9151 | Find it on Facebook
  • Ze’s Diner, 3448 Denmark Ave, Eagan | 612.207.6793 | Find it on Facebook
  • Ipotli Indian Grill, 601 Marquette Ave S (Northstar Center skyway), Minneapolis
  • Butcher and the Boar, 1121 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | 612.222.7171 | butcherandtheboar.com
  • :D-Spot, 1993 Burns Ave, St. Paul | 651.738.8300 | Our take on the original
  • Aida, 2208 W 66th St, Richfield | 612.866.5601 | aidamn.com
  • Droolin’ Moose, 9424 Lyndale Avenue S, Bloomington | 952.451.9634 | droolinmoose.com
  • Victoriano’s, 402 N Main St, Stillwater | 651.430.3700 | http://victorianospizza.weebly.com/
  • Fulton Brewing Taproom, 414 Sixth Ave N, Minneapolis | 612.333.3208 | fultonbeer.com
  • Uncle Moe’s Deli & Drafts, 1501 University Ave SE, Minneapolis | 612.886.2553 | unclemoesdeli.com
  • Lucio’s Grill, 433 S Robert St, St. Paul | 651.414.9060 | Find it on Facebook
  • Patron Mexican Restaurant, 207 N. Chestnut St, Chaska | 952.479.7053 | Find it on Facebook
  • Dr. Chocolate’s Chocolate Chateau, 579 Selby Ave, St. Paul | 651.379.3676 | chocolatechateau.wordpress.com
  • The Dog House, Alliance Bank Skyway, St. Paul | Find it on Twitter
  • Tibet Kitchen, 1833 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis
  • Eat Street Social, 14 W 26th St, Minneapolis | 612.767.6850 | Our take
  • Saigon, 704 University Ave W, St. Paul. Open again after remodeling. | 651.225.8751 | Find it on Facebook
  • Which Wich, 2073 Ford Pkwy, St. Paul | 651.328.8044 | whichwich.com
  • Turkey to Go, 101 7th St S, (Roanoke Building skyway), Minneapolis | 612.655.1795 |turkeytogo.com
  • Cintia’s of Mexico, 6042 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis
  • Freestyle Yogurt, 500 Lexington Parkway S, St. Paul | 651.699.1992 | Our take

CLOSED/CLOSING:

  • The Lunch Box, 950 Nicollet Ave (Retek on the Mall skyway), Minneapolis
  • Franklin Street Bakery, 3904 Sunnyside Road, Edina | franklinstreetbakery.com
  • Joe Senser’s, 16605 County Road 24, Plymouth
  • Cafe Raisa, 15090 Chippendale Ave W, Rosemount
  • Fermentations, 236 Railway St N, Dundas
  • Marcello’s Pizza, 4112 Lancaster Lane N, Plymouth
  • Roman Anthony’s, 1350 Minnesota County Rd 96, White Bear Lake
  • Vescio’s, 601 Marquette Ave S, Minneapolis | vescios.com

COMING UP:

  • Hajime Japanese, 10950 Club W. Parkway NE, Blaine. Opens March 28. | 763.780.7944 | Find it on Facebook
  • Wellman’s Pub, 26 5th St N, Minneapolis. Opens April 5. | wellmanspubandrooftop.com
  • Sea Salt, 4801 Minnehaha Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens for the season April 6. | 612.721.8990 | seasalteatery.wordpress.com
  • Well Seasoned, 920 E Lake St, Minneapolis (Midtown Global Market). Opens this spring. | 612.886.2489 | wellseasonedmpls.com
  • The Left Handed Cook, 920 E Lake St, Minneapolis (Midtown Global Market) | Find it on Twitter
  • Azia Market Bar & Restaurant, 2550 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens in late April. | 612.813.1200 | Find it on Facebook
  • Tin Fish, 3000 E Calhoun Pkwy, Minneapolis. Opens for the season in late April. | 612.823.5840 | thetinfish.net
  • Rincon 38, 3801 Grand Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens this spring.
  • Devil’s Advocate, 89 S 10th St, Minneapolis. Opens in April.
  • Nadia Cakes, 11650 Fountains Drive, Suite 207, Maple Grove. Opens May 18. | nadiacakes.com
  • Maruso Street Food and Cocktails, 715 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis. Opens this spring.
  • Cowboy Jack’s, 126 5th St N, Minneapolis. Opens this spring. | theaftermidnightgroup.com
  • George and the Dragon, 813 W 50th St, Minneapolis. Opens this spring. | 612.355.9114 | ganddpub.com
  • Lynden’s Soda Fountain, 490 Hamline Ave S, St. Paul (old Kopplin’s). Opens April 15. | 651.235.5646 | lyndens.com
  • Ike’s, 17805 Hwy 7, Minnetonka. Opens in April. | ilikeikes.com
  • Rodizio Grill, 12197 Elm Creek Blvd N, Maple Grove. Opens in April. | rodiziogrill.com
  • Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis. Opens in May. | Find it on Facebook
  • Selma’s Ice Cream, 3419 Saint Croix Trl S, Afton. Opens in May.
  • J.J.’s Coffee Company & Wine Bar, 1800 W Lake St, Minneapolis. Opens in May. | Our take on the original
  • Little Tijuana, 17 E 26th St, Minneapolis. Reopening this spring. | Find it on Facebook
  • Cafe Maude at Loring, 1612 Harmon Place, Minneapolis | cafemaude.com
  • Masu Sushi & Robata, Mall of America. Opens this spring. | Our take on the original
  • Bar Louie, 1320 Lagoon Ave, Minneapolis. Opens this spring. | barlouieamerica.com
  • Birdhouse, 2516 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens this spring. | Find it on Facebook
  • Sweet Ducky Cupcakery, 117 W Churchill St #2, Stillwater. Opens this spring. | 651.472.1150 | Find it on Facebook
  • Blue Door Pub, 3448 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens this spring. | thebdp.com
  • Mona, 333 S 7th St, Minneapolis. Opens this spring. | 612.208.7675 | Find it on Facebook
  • Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub, 2724 E 38th St, Minneapolis. Opens this summer. | 612.328.1450 | northboundbrewpub.com
  • Smack Shack, Washington Ave N and 6th Ave N, Minneapolis. Opens this summer. | smack-shack.com
  • Pizza Luce, 800 W 66th St, Richfield. Opens in June. | pizzaluce.com
  • Tavern Grill, 772 Bielenberg Dr, Woodbury. Opens in June.
  • Harriet Brasserie, 2724 W 43rd St, Minneapolis
  • Primebar, 3001 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | restaurants-america.com
  • Indeed Brewing, 711 15th Ave NE Minneapolis. Opens this summer. | 612.643.1226 | indeedbrewing.com
  • Sole Mio, 1750 Weir Dr, Woodbury. Opens in July.
  • Cossetta’s, 211 7th St W, St. Paul. Existing market opening new rooftop restaurant; opens this summer. | 651.222.3476 | cossettaeventi.com
  • New Don Saunders restaurant, 2115 W 21st St (old Kenwood Cafe), Minneapolis | Our take on Saunders’ In Season
  • Blood and Chocolates, 495 Selby Ave, St. Paul. Opens in 2012. | 651.492.4799 | Find it on Facebook
  • Super Moon Buffet, 6445 Wayzata Blvd, St. Louis Park
  • Dangerous Man Brewing, 1300 2nd St NE, Minneapolis | 612.377.4164 | dangerousmanbrewing.wordpress.com
  • The Original Just Turkey Restaurant, 3758 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | originaljustturkey.com
  • Rusty Taco, 522 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | rustytacomn.com
  • Hell’s Kitchen Bakery, 80 S 9th St, Minneapolis | hellskitcheninc.com
  • Alley Sports Tavern, 100 6th St N, Minneapolis
  • :D-Spot, Dinkytown, Minneapolis | Our take on the original
  • Burger Night, Minneapolis. Still looking for location. | 612.217.0102 | burgernight.me
  • Pistol Pete’s BBQ, 222 N Chestnut St, Chaska
  • Damera Ethiopian Bar & Restaurant, 823 University Ave, St. Paul
  • Chopstiks Cafe, 501 University Ave, St. Paul
  • Moonlight Cafe, 1907 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis
  • Ruze Bakery and Lounge, 4669 Lakeland Ave N, Robbinsdale | ruzebakery.com
  • Humble Pie, 822 W. 36th St., Minneapolis. Kim Bartmann’s revamp of Gigi’s. | 612.825.0818
  • Rocky and Shem’s Ice Cream Shoppe, 56th and Chicago, Minneapolis. Opens late 2012/early 2013.

The Tap is The Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled by Heavy Table writer Jason Walker, and will be published biweekly. If you already subscribe to our newsletter, look for an emailed version of The Tap every other week — otherwise, you can find it on the website on alternating Tuesdays.

If you’ve got tips for The Tap, please email Jason Walker at jason@heavytable.com. The Tap’s Twitter feed has moved to @heavytable.

In Season in Armatage, Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Editor’s Note: In Season is now closed, but sister restaurant The Kenwood remains open.

If you’re looking for a model for how to do Upper Midwestern fine dining, look no further than In Season in South Minneapolis. Rising from the metaphorical ashes of the French-inspired Fugaise, Chef Don Saunders has taken his gift for deft execution of beautifully pared-down dishes in a new, soulful direction; the result is some of the best and most exciting dining in the state.

In Season sounds like a bit of a gimmick until you experience it. The front of your menu lists a bunch of ingredients that serve as inspiration (right now, they include baby turnips, chioggia beets, kale, oxtail, and sweet potato, among others) — the back features the actual food for the ordering. Prices are fair-to-cheap (particularly considering the quality of food served) — small plates hover around $10, larger dishes around $20. The menu is flexible enough that you can take a passed-plate tapas style approach to dining, or an appetizer + entree + dessert approach, or some hybrid of both.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Saunders is in tune with local food but not a slave to it; oysters, Rio Star grapefruit and Clementines are among his current winter inspirations, and the presence of seasonally appropriate tourists brings a sparkle of excitement to the mix. Dishes such as roasted monkfish with five-spice sweet potato gnocchi and roasted garlic ($24) may not be sourced next door, but the pairing of a mellow, tender ocean fish and hearty, deeply flavored winter staples like sweet potato and roasted garlic is a good one.

Similarly, In Season’s cheese plate ($14) is a masterwork of international diplomacy. Three-time American Cheese Society “Best of Show” winner Pleasant Ridge Reserve (from southern Wisconsin) shines even on a plate with French selles sur cher and Spanish manchego; tangy Castle Rock Bleu from Wisconsin rounds out the plate and holds its own just fine.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The best dish we sampled at In Season may have also been one of the most unusual. Our waiter informed us that the salmon for the blinis appetizer was still in the process of being cured, but, as a completely non-similar substitute, we could order a portion of their elk goulash. It arrived with velvet-tender pieces of elk wrapped in sensuous blankets of creamy paprika flavor, floating above finely mashed potatoes at the base of stew’s urn-like white bowl. A perfectly seasoned and executed dish, it had plenty of well-balanced flavor (from both meat and spice) with no unpleasant texture or gameyness, and you couldn’t do better for an entree on a subzero night.

The Tap: In Season, Pinstripes, and more

In Season (now open)

5416 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.926.0105 | inseasonrestaurant.com

Chef Don Saunders (formerly of the much loved and now-closed Fugaise) is back, moving his base of operations from Northeast to Southwest Minneapolis. His new restaurant, In Season, opened Nov 16 at 5416 Penn Ave S, in the former Armatage Room space. Like The Craftsman or Corner Table, it’s committed to giving diners an affordable seasonal menu of high-quality ingredients in a neighborhood setting.

Saunders said he’s always cooked seasonally, including at Fugaise, but In Season would tell a “complete story” with four distinct menus.

“You can see it right on the menu,” he said. “On the front, you’ve got a brainstorm of all ingredients that are seasonally appropriate and what I want to base the menu around. On the back is the menu. It really tells you the story of what we’re all about.”

Much of Saunders’ food is sourced locally, including the lions’ share from Six Rivers Cooperative in northwest Wisconsin. Yet he said In Season wasn’t strictly locavore, naming Texas ruby red grapefruits, clementines, and monkfish as several vital winter ingredients.

“We really stress the seasonality of some common ingredients and some really cool ingredients,” Saunders said. “For instance, cauliflower and leeks are in season now; the leeks are huge with big, green tops, the cauliflower is blooming really, really nice. Leeks and cauliflower are available year-round, but they’re not always at their peak. That’s sort of the whole concept.”

Entrees like rabbit pappardelle, pork loin, and belly, and braised beef cheek are kept in the $15-$20 range, and wine and beer are available, with a wine list of 44 bottles that includes nine under $30. Wines and beers may shift slightly with the seasonal menus, too.

“The feel is definitely more casual, there’s more value and a more flexible way of dining than Fugaise,” Saunders said. “Not only are prices not as high, but you can come to In Season and order anything. I like to think the service level and quality of food is the same as Fugaise but the flexibility makes it feel more homey, more neighborhood-y.”

Saunders plans to shift from the fall to winter menu the week of Dec. 7.

Pinstripes (now open)

3849 Gallagher Dr, Edina | 952.835.6437 | pinstripes.com

A gigantic new option for whiling away the winter, Pinstripes, a 39,000-square-foot restaurant with six bocce courts and 16 bowling lanes, opened Nov 20 in Centennial Shops at 3849 Gallagher Drive, Edina. The concept is broad: mixing family fun, food, and adult drink by offering a varied menu of Italian and American food, wines and house cocktails, Sunday brunch, and even box lunches along with its indoor sports. The Edina location is the third of a chain that includes two outposts in suburban Chicago.

The menu is vast and includes a myriad of appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, pastas, and entrees, including linguini and clams, jambalaya risotto, beef tenderloin, a lobster roll, and pine-nut-crusted halibut. Desserts are also plentiful and feature housemade gelato. Give owner Dale Schwartz points for bravado — this is quite a big idea. The Chef is Mark Grimes, formerly of Champps Americana. Sounds like nobody walks away hungry.

NOW OPEN

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Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
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NOW CLOSED

Whither Don Saunders…?

Girl Friday has the update on Don Saunders’s post-Fugaise move: A “unique island getaway in Wisconsin called Stout’s Lodge.” He’ll also be reopening the Commodore in St. Paul.

Nick and Eddie and More…

Dara is the latest (we’re apparently the last) to report on Steven Brown moving to Nick and Eddie, which she describes as a “foundling home for displaced chefs.” She also reports that Don Saunders of Fugaise apparently won’t find a home there, and revels in the opportunity to eat $8 bar plates cooked up by a master. The ongoing economic Ragnarök may provide plenty of future chances to enjoy masterfully cooked sliders and hot wings…

Zimmern’s Fugaise Farewell

A beautiful and angry send-off to Fugaise by Andrew Zimmern. “Don Saunders is a gentleman and a great talent with a ton of passion, and I wish he was cooking in a restaurant where more customers could see that…”