The Tap: Minnesota State Fair Food Predictions: Trainwreck or Epic?

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This week in the Tap: A bit of Minnesota State Fair food prognostication — will some of the hottest new foods connect or implode?

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

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

State Fair Food Predictions

As these words are being published, the Heavy Table Wrecking Crew is gearing up for its eighth annual stomach-punishing tour of the new foods of the Minnesota State Fair, an epic endeavor being underwritten this year by the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. Looking ahead, we’re sizing up our targets and making some guesses as to how they’re going to taste. We’ll revisit these predictions when our food tour comes out (Friday, Aug. 26) and see how perceptions square with reality.

Screenshot from
Screenshot from


VENDOR: Sushi Rolls

CONCEPT: Strips of SPAM and fried egg wrapped in nori (seaweed) and served with wasabi.

PREDICTION: Trainwreck. There’s nothing (whatsoever) wrong with mixing SPAM and sushi, as anyone who has had a good SPAM musubi roll can attest. But trying to turn out properly cooked, properly served rice and nongummy seaweed under fair conditions sounds nightmarish.

FOOD: Carpe Diem

VENDOR: Rabbit Hole

CONCEPT: As per the site, a “buttermilk miso waffle cone filled with balsamic-roasted strawberry compote and topped with vanilla ice cream, graham cracker crumble and a fresh strawberry.”

PREDICTION: Epic. Rabbit Hole has a history of executing well, and a sexily presented but otherwise sensible fancy ice cream cone sounds like a great match for the fair.

FOOD: Bang Bang Fresh Chicken Tenders

VENDOR: LuLu’s Public House

CONCEPT: Never-frozen chicken tenderloins fried up and served with a sweet chili sauce.

PREDICTION: Epic. It’s a clean, simple idea that should be pretty easy to execute on the fly. And the “never-frozen” tagline is encouraging.

FOOD: Barbecued Shrimp Taco

VENDOR: Tejas Express

CONCEPT: Barbecued shrimp and jicama slaw in a flour tortilla.

PREDICTION: Trainwreck. Shrimp is easy to overcook and hard to serve well en masse; the chances are that this will be a doughy, carby mass of meh. But it could surprise us.

Screenshot from
Screenshot from

FOOD: Iron Range Meat and Potatoes

VENDOR: Giggles’ Campfire Grill

CONCEPT:  Seasoned beef with cheddar cheese, topped with mashed potatoes and a wild rice gravy.

PREDICTION: Epic. Why? We’re in the tank for Giggles, which seems to bat around .800 when it comes to new fair foods. If anyone can pull this off, they can. — James Norton

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Photos of the Green Line Checklist

The photography of Becca Dilley has been a mainstay of the Heavy Table ever since our founding in 2009. But it has been a particularly integral part of our ambitious Green Line Checklist, our effort to write about, draw, and photograph about 75 independent restaurants along the course of the Green Line light rail in St. Paul and Minneapolis. You can check out a lovely collection of Becca’s favorite images from the epic restaurant crawl over on her site. — James Norton



  • La La Homemade Ice Cream, 3146 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | Homemade ice cream shop in the former Shoe Zoo location in Uptown.


Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
  • Baker’s Field Flour & Bread, The Food Building, 1401 Marshall Ave NE | The bakery sells its naturally fermented breads and stone-ground, heirloom-varietal flours at the Mill City and Northeast farmers markets on Saturdays. The Food Building bakery is not open to the public. Listen to Steve Horton (the bakery’s owner and former owner of Rustica) talk about the project on The Weekend Starts Now podcast. Our visit and tasting notes are here.
  • Wild Mind Artisan Ales Taproom, 6031 Pillsbury Ave S, Minneapolis | As per the website: “Wild Mind Artisan Ales specializes in wild, sour, farmhouse, saison, and rustic ales through barrel aging and blending.”
  • Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis
James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table
  • World of Beer, 356 N Sibley St, St. Paul | Part of a chain including locations in Wauwatosa and Appleton, Wis., and Naperville, Ill. Our Bite is here.
  • Lu’s Sandwiches, 10 6th St NE, Minneapolis | The second location of this “small menu” banh mi spot.
  • Blackeye Roasting Company, 3740 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis | An 18-seat cafe located in the Minneapolis skyway — with 10 tap lines of nonalcoholic beverages that include nitro cold brew coffee, nitro iced tea, kombucha, and draft cocktails — is coming later this summer.
  • Costa Blanca Bistro, 2416 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | The latest spot from the opening-restaurants-like-crazy Hector Ruiz.
  • Lawless Distilling, 2619 28th Ave S, Minneapolis | Our visit detailed here.
  • The Howe Daily Kitchen & Bar, 3675 Minnehaha Ave S, Minneapolis | A complete overhaul and relaunch of the former Rail Station. We’ve got a review in the works.
  • Silhouette Bakery and Bistro, 383 University Ave W, St. Paul | Rice bowls and tacos, plus some cute-looking cakes.
  • Bonicelli Kitchen, 1839 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | Patio space open Friday and Saturday for dinner and Sunday for lunch in the former Razaaq space on Central Avenue.
  • DiNoko’s Pizzeria, 4457 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis | The briefly open Nicollet Avenue location of DiNoko’s is closed, but the long-delayed 42nd Avenue location is now open.
  • Up-Down Arcade, 3012 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | Pizza and video games, hard to top that. We’ve got a review in the works.


  • Village Wok | The campus stalwart will close Aug. 21 (just a week or two before our Green Line Checklist reached it).
  • La Ceiba | Our review of breakfast at the restaurant.
  • Salt Cellar | (will reopen with new concept) – here’s our review.
  • Pilgrimage
  • Tiger Sushi (Ridgedale location)
  • Cafe Levain
  • Restaurant Alma, 528 University Ave SE, closed until mid-November | From a pop-up message on its website: “Unavoidably, we must close for three months to connect the restaurant and cafe kitchens and to make significant mechanical and equipment upgrades. At the same time, the dining room will be undergoing renovations to improve the comfort of the guest experience, while also preserving the feel and layout of the original space.”
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table



Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
  • Five Watt (Roastery and Cafe), 2904 Harriet Ave S, Minneapolis | August | Former Uptown Imports location.
  • Bad Waitress (second location), 700 Central Ave NE | November
  • Esker Grove, Walker Art Center | December | A Doug Flicker / Culinaire project is the latest crack at a dining solution for the finicky Walker space.
  • Game Sports Bar, 2841 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | August 19 | A gay-clientele-focused sports bar replacing Salsa a la Salsa, which replaced BoneYard, which replaced Old Chicago.
  • Barbecue Joint Name TBA, 816 Lowry Ave NE, Minneapolis | 2016 | A Kansas-City-style barbecue place “with no chairs and tables” opened by some combination of the Travail team.
  • Red Rabbit, 201 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis | Autumn | Red Cow owner Luke Shimp’s new spot will offer “a variety of dishes including handcrafted pizzas, oysters, pasta, fresh salads and more.”
  • Clockwerks Brewing Company, 25 4th St N, Minneapolis | Summer
  • Trapeze, 1600 W Lake St, Minneapolis | Summer | A new Kim Bartmann “bubbles and toasts” bar opening next door to Barbette.
  • Mercury Dining Room and Rail, 505 Marquette Ave S, Minneapolis | Autumn | Scratch fare from the Blue Plate Restaurant Company in the old Brasserie Zentral space. The former Foreign Legion will become the Shindig Event Center.
  • Erik the Red, 600 1st Ave N, Minneapolis | Summer | Nordic-influenced barbecue from the owner of Devil’s Advocate.
  • Kaiseki Furukawa, 30 N 1st St, Minneapolis | October | Classic kaiseki (progressive small courses) dining. We can’t wait.
  • Young Joni, 165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis | Summer | Anticipation is high for this new wood-fired pizza and Korean spot by Pizzeria Lola / Hello Pizza boss Ann Kim.
  • Revival, 525 Selby Ave, St. Paul (former Cheeky Monkey space) | Summer | A second location for the popular fried chicken spin-off of Corner Table. The original location will also be expanding and offering take-out.
  • Project TBD at old Walker Library in Uptown, 2901 Hennepin Ave S | Architectural details available here.
  • Cafe Alma, 530 University Ave SE, Minneapolis | 2016 | It’s slated to be an all-day cafe with a liquor license and a six-room hotel upstairs, as Alex Roberts explains in this Q and A with Rick Nelson. The adjacent Restaurant Alma will be closing for three months on August 12 so its kitchen can be connected to the kitchen of the new cafe.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • 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.
  • McKinney Roe, 550 4th St S, Minneapolis | September | Contemporary American food by the owner of O’Donovan’s Irish Pub and Lola’s Lakehouse.
  • Utepils (formerly Bryn Mawr) Brewing, 225 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis | Fall 2016

St. Paul

  • Augustine’s Bar and Bakery, 1668 Selby Avenue, St. Paul | Autumn | Another spot from the owner of The Happy Gnome.
  • Herbie’s on the Park, 317 Washington St., St. Paul | September 24 | Upscale tavern fare.
  • Babani’s (second location), Wabasha St S | September | A second location for the country’s oldest Kurdish restaurant.
  • Ha Tien Grocery (second location), 1959 Suburban Ave, St. Paul | Fall 2016 | One of our favorite stops on our Green Line Checklist is expanding into a second location.
  • Tori Ramen, 161 N Victoria St, St. Paul | 2016 | Chicken-focused ramen shop in the former Lee and Dee’s.
  • Bottle Rocket, 1806 St. Clair Ave, St. Paul | 2016 | A reboot by the Blue Plate Restaurant Company of the former Scusi space with craft cocktails.
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
  • 11 Wells Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm Building, St. Paul | 2016 | From the website: “We’ll have a full fledged cocktail room as well as a restaurant so come hungry and thirsty.”
  • The Lexington (new ownership), 1096 Grand Ave, St. Paul | ??? | 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.” Last Facebook update: March 8.

Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond

  • 1.2.3. Pasta, 6508 Cahill Ave, Inver Grove Heights | Delayed by parking and permitting issues.
  • Bald Man Brewing Company, 2020 Silver Bell Road, Unit 28, Eagan | August 27 | Beers to include: “our already ‘almost’ famous Tupelo Honey Brown Ale, our Young American Pale Ale (APA), our Misty Mountain Hops IPA, our Heart Of Glass Blondie Ale blonde ale and our Dark Side Of The Moon Porter.”
  • Baja Haus, 830 Lake Street E., Wayzata | January 2017 | A second restaurant by Billy Tserenbat of Sushi Fix, focused on Mexican seafood and scratch margaritas.
  • Second Gavin Kaysen Restaurant Name TBA, 739 E Lake Street, Wayzata (former Blue Point Location) | 2016 | A second restaurant for the much-heralded chef owner of Spoon and Stable. This one will be a French brasserie style as per Rick Nelson.
  • Blacklist Brewing, 120 E Superior St, Duluth | September | Taphouse opening in the once notorious, now rehabbed former Last Place on Earth location.
  • Oakhold Farmhouse Brewery (formerly Oude Oak) Midway Township | Summer 2016 | A new sour beer-only brewery planned for just south of Duluth.

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