The Heavy Table Reviews 2011: Part 1

Ambitious openings, fire closings (and post-fire recoveries), a madcap brewery boom, and a continued blossoming of the farm-to-table marked the year in food for 2011. What follows are some of the highlights and lowlights: notable openings and closings, some of our favorite meals, and most controversial writings about food and drink over the past 12 months.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table


James Norton visited with Lenny Russo of Heartland (above) about his ambitious pork and charcuterie program.

Coffee writer Eric Faust checked in with Dogwood, coincidentally the sort of coffee on hand at the ambitious new Yo Yo Donuts that John Garland reviewed in Minnetonka.

Madison, WI, contributor Sean Weitner wrote up the ambitious (Underground) Kitchen (which later burned down and was reinvented, in part, as a charcuterie company), and James Norton checked out northwestern Wisconsin’s ambitious tilapia and salad greens farm.

Charcuterie at The Inn
Kate NG Sommers / Heavy Table

And Maja Ingeman reviewed the intriguing (and ultimately nonviable) downtown gastropub The Inn (above).

In the Churn: Town Talk Diner folded, Cake Eater Bakery relaunched, local brewers made good on an international list of beers, Harriet Brewing opened its doors, and Minnesota’s congressional delegation had a hotdish throwdown (winner: Sen. Amy Klobuchar).

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table


Blackbird (above) and Heidi’s both reemerged from the ashes of last year’s massive fire with reopened restaurants in new locations.

James Norton hailed the innovative cooking of Don Saunders at In Season, and we explored Northeast with beautifully illustrated stories about Dusty’s and the Korean market Dong Yang.

38th Street: A Culinary Travelogue Andy Sturdevant
Andy Sturdevant / Heavy Table

Speaking of illustrations: Andy Sturdevant’s epic trip down 38th St. with pen and sketchpad in hand is one of the most ambitious things we’ve published on this site.

In the Churn: Surly announced its $20 million brewery plan, Pearson’s closed, D’Amico took over food at the Walker while Wolfgang Puck’s 20.21 was kicked to the curb, and Summit dumped twist-off beer caps.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table


Heavy Table’s Silver Whisk awards were announced — they honored Uplands Cheese Company (above), Chef Sameh Wadi, and In Season.

We provoked a bit of controversy with a not-so-flattering assessment of the St. Clair Broiler, and a loving tribute to the Spaghetti Board of Bunky’s in Madison, which many commenters found to be, in a word, gross.

We visited Moscow on the Hill and tried its remarkable horseradish vodka, and later sampled national prize-winning Evalon cheese from Wisconsin’s LaClare Farms.

And we traveled all the way out to Iowa to try Flavor Flav’s new chicken restaurant, a not-so-bright star that shone all too briefly.

In the Churn: A broad survey of Minnesota pizza ran in Slice by our own Aaron Landry, Evalon cheese from Wisconsin’s LaClare Farms won a major national prize, patios touched off a restaurants-vs.-City Hall fight, a look at where Wisconsin protesters were eating, and the issue of support for Gov. Walker started a minor civil war in the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table


At the start of the month, readers poured in from around the world to see if we really saw the interior of Prince’s fridge, and to debate whether Pour Decisions was truly a new brewery, or an elaborate prank (turns out to be the former).

John Kovalic / Heavy Table

Sean Weitner and cartoonist John Kovalic visited a smelt fry at a shooting range in south-central Wisconsin, and we hailed the opening of Tilia and explored the lunch food of Minnesota’s storied past and diverse present in the book Minnesota Lunch.

And James Norton tried Gianni’s steakhouse of Wayzata, rendering a controversial verdict.

In the Churn: The venerable drive-in Porky’s closed, Republicans fought to weaken protection for wild rice in Minnesota, Erik Anderson left Sea Change for Nashville, the endlessly shuttered Rachel’s finally opened, City Pages readers named us “Best Local Blog,” the ambitious Forum restaurant closed, and a rockslide crushed a bakery in St. Paul.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table


James Norton and Becca Dilley drove southeast for a beautiful Lake Pepin getaway in Stockholm, WI, and visited the nearby Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery.

We gave the high-minded casual spots Lowbrow and Bread and Pickle an initial inspection and talked at length with the chef at the soon-to-open Gather at the Walker museum.

In the Churn: The post-fire Nook re-opened, Chef Isaac Becker won the Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest, Schumacher’s Grill 212 closed, ambitious new airport dining was cleared for takeoff, and Big Brewing targeted the little guy in Wisconsin.

Lars Swanson / Heavy Table


We visited and totally enjoyed the newly opened New England-themed Patriots Tavern and were blown away by the sushi and Japanese pub grub of Masu Sushi & Robata.

The chilaquiles at Homi warmed our souls, the gourmet chicken wings of :D-Spot caught us off-guard (in a good way) and we ventured up to Grand Marais to enjoy the Angry Trout.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

And we held our first ever North Coast Nosh at Peace Coffee, bringing together more than a dozen local purveyors and 120 guests. (Our next edition of this sip-and-sample takes place on Jan. 20 at Open Arms.)

And — never to be forgotten — an epic journey into pie for Pie Week, including Minneapple Pie, a pie poll, goat cheese pie, a pie shake, and a gut-busting fruit pie taste-off.

In the Churn: The critically beloved Inn shut its doors, the Sunnyside Up closed down, Lucky Bucket beer launched, Totino’s closed after 60 years, Muddy Waters cafe reopened as a restaurant, and the website Simple, Good and Tasty was sold.


  1. David Foureyes

    A quick note to all who contributed to HT this past year: Thank you!

    As a consumer of your publishing and of those things you highlight, I can honestly say no other food magazine in the Twin Cities can match your commitment and quality.

    Thank you for all your enriching work last year and here is to another one in 2012!

    David Pearson

  2. James Norton

    Appreciate the kind words, David! We’ll keep doing our best… and at the rate that the local food scene is evolving and improving, I think 2012 will be another corker of a year.

    Best Regards,

    James Norton

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