The Tap: An Appreciation of Mitch Omer

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This week in the Tap: We say goodbye to the founding chef of Hell’s Kitchen and reveal participants in the pre-Nosh event for February’s North Coast Nosh.

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

An Appreciation for Mitch Omer of Hell’s Kitchen

The death of Chef Mitch Omer this past Friday (the Strib obit is a good starting point) leaves the local firmament short one major star. Omer was one of the state’s great wild chefs — even for a culinary professional, he had an outsized reputation, based to some extent on his stormy past and a looming physical presence that was generally the most interesting thing in the room.

But the heart of his reputation came from how he conceived and cooked the unique brand of food that made the original location of Hell’s Kitchen as much of a cult favorite as the current location is a tourist-friendly juggernaut. Dishes like Omer’s house-made peanut butter on sausage bread are local touchstones for a reason — they’re primal and unpretentious, and so simple only a great chef could have conceived of them.

In 2009, Omer and company hosted a party at Hell’s Kitchen to celebrate the release of the restaurant’s cookbook, Damn Good Food. Many of the details are fuzzy at this point in time, but a few things stick with me. One, that the meal’s first course was a caramel-pecan roll (a bold move), two that there was raucous and excellent live music, and three, that all of the party’s attendees were given a printed copy of a recipe that couldn’t be included in the book for various unspecified but understandable reasons. It was a set of directions for making pot brownies.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Omer’s cooking made fervent converts. I worked for Al Franken’s radio show in the mid-aughts, and the future senator was a devoted fan of Hell’s Kitchen mahnomin porridge. It’s a legitimately great breakfast — nourishing, rich, and full of flavor. But it’s more than that. It’s a symbol in a bowl, something a talk show host and future politician could fully appreciate. Omer’s porridge represents a Minnesota throughline from precolonial times to the present, a little bit lakes and woods, a little bit big city, and all comfort.

Our part of the world has become a little less in the wake of Omer’s passing, but his life made it a little more: his food, his book, and his restaurant live on.

Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table

If you’re moved to remember Omer, there will be a memorial service at the restaurant tomorrow (Wednesday, Dec. 23) at 1pm.

Also, the following text comes from a Hell’s Kitchen email we received this week:

To those of you who called about flowers or memorials: Mitch’s heart would sing if you’d instead consider a donation to one of his very personal causes:

EMBARRASS FIRE DEPT (who made the pyromaniac an honorary firefighter during our blizzard trip to the Iron Range for a fundraiser)

SERENA HOWE (a young family friend single-handedly trying to cover her mother’s funeral expenses after recently succumbing to cancer)

TRENT SPANGLER (toward crushing medical bills for a 13-year old aspiring chef battling cancer. When Mitch heard Trent wanted to meet him, he invited him to be Chef for a Day, but on the big day, Mitch was too sick to be there, so our staff rallied for a great experience.)

Checks can be made out to recipient of choice and mailed to
Hell’s Kitchen, 80 S 9th St., Minneapolis MN 55402

James Norton

Christmas cookies
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Holiday Publishing Schedule, North Coast Nosh

The Heavy Table will be relaxing for the holidays on Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 28, but look for new content including a bite from the newly opened Draft Horse and a Year in Review feature next week.

Worth reiterating, as tickets are already going fairly quicky: The North Coast Nosh is back! Heavy Table is co-producing this sip-and-sample extravaganza (named “Best Foodie Event” by Minnesota Monthly) with the Wedge Community Co-op, bringing more than 30 purveyors of chocolate, beer, cheese, and much more to the Solar Arts by Chowgirls space in Northeast Minneapolis on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016.

Confirmed vendors include Alemar Cheese, Meadowlands Chocolate, Du Nord Craft Spirits, Lift Bridge Brewing, and many more. Our exclusive pre-Nosh event will feature Red Table Meat Co., The Lone Grazer Creamery, the Wedge, and Chowgirls Killer Catering. Full purveyor details to come in January.

Get your tickets while you have the chance; they sell out quickly.

James Norton


Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • The Draft Horse, 1401 Marshall St NE, Minneapolis | New restaurant at the Food Building featuring food made from products from The Lone Grazer Creamery and Red Table Meat Co., along with grab & go sandwiches on Patisserie 46 baguettes, salads, and soup.
  • Upton43, 4312 Upton Ave S, Minneapolis | This spot, by Victory 44’s Erick Harcey, is a chance for the much lauded chef to bounce back from the bust-up of Stock and Badge and rollup of the ambitious but shaky Parka. Closed for the holidays, Dec. 22-26.
  • Heirloom, 2186 Marshall Ave, St. Paul | W.A. Frost chef Wyatt Evans hopes to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors (such as Russell Klein and Lenny Russo) and found a new St. Paul gastronomic institution. “Modern but … approachable … slow food” sounds pretty good to us (quotes from the Pioneer Press preview).
  • Scena Tavern, 2943 Girard Ave S, Minneapolis
  • Savory Bake House, 3008 36th Ave S, Minneapolis | Located across the street from Merlin’s Rest, “Savory is a new twist on the old school rustic bakery everyone knows and loves,” or so says their Facebook page. Baker is Sandra Sherva from Merlin’s Rest and formerly of Birchwood.
  • Saint Genevieve, 5003 Bryant Ave, Minneapolis | This Steven-Brown-helmed restaurant has begun to dish up approachable French fare.
  • ie, 4724 Cedar Ave, Minneapolis | AKA “Italian Eatery.” Scratch pastas, with an eye toward the style of Bar La Grassa.
  • Bluefox Indian Bar & Grill, 5377 W 16th St, St. Louis Park | South Indian bar and restaurant with a full bar and craft drink program, utilizing Dan Oskey of Tattersall Distilling as a consultant.
  • SSSDUDE-NUTZ, 317 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis | Crazy new-school doughnut shop in Dinkytown opened by a couple recent U of M grads.
  • The Sheridan Room 337 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis | Some details via Minneapolis St. Paul. Business Journal.
  • Domo Gastro, 1032 3rd Ave NE, Minneapolis | An Asian-inspired gastro pub — shows some real promise. Looking forward to trying the Korean-style fried chicken in particular.
  • Able Seedhouse and Brewery, 1121 Quincy St NE, Minneapolis | Read our tasting notes from their Black Wolf Stout.
  • Lake Monster Brewing, 550 Vandalia St, St. Paul | From the press release: “The 3,000 square foot taproom is housed in a turn-of-the-century brick warehouse, and features a large horseshoe bar and space for over 200 guests. There is also a small private event space available for rent. The December 4 grand opening will feature four brand new beers available for the first time exclusively at the taproom, including a nitro Milk Stout and a Sour Brown Ale.”
  • The Unofficial Dive Bar and Grill, 3701 Stinson Blvd, St. Anthony
  • Lakes and Legends Brewing Company, 1368 Lasalle Ave, Minneapolis
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
    • Sunrise Creative Gourmet, 1085 Grand Ave, St. Paul | A big move for the Hibbing-born Italian specialty shop, which opened in the former Chez Arnaud space on Grand Avenue and offers some cafe-type noshes including soups, salads, and pastries.
    • The Commodore Bar and Restaurant, 79 Western Ave N | Historic art deco spot linked with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
    • SotaRol, 5005 Ewing Ave S, Minneapolis | Is a Minnesota / Japan / Mexico crossover a good idea? Who cares! This is fun. Our review.
    • Harriet’s Inn, 4000 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | Wings, flatbreads, pot pies, nachos, jucys, tacos(?), and hot dish(!), which you don’t typically see on the menu. Our review.
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table


  • The Blue Nile | After a long decline, this institution has shut its doors.
  • Vincent, A Restaurant | Closing Dec. 31. A triumphant run by a classic restaurant.
  • Franklin Street Bakery (closing retail operations to concentrate on wholesale)
  • Glockenspiel
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
  • Nye’s Polonaise Room (closing early 2016) | This trolltastic City Pages column nonetheless does a good job of expressing some of the ambiguity about the passing of the nationally known and locally legendary Nye’s.



  • Milkjam Creamery at World Street Kitchen, 2743 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | Early 2016 | A gourmet ice cream shop by Sameh and Saed Wadi, the brothers behind World Street Kitchen and Saffron. They’re now hiring.
  • Shake Shack | Early 2016 | A local outpost of the cult-favorite better-burger chain will open at the Mall of America.
  • Modist Brewing Company, 505 N 3rd St, Minneapolis | Early 2016
  • Taco Cat, Midtown Global Market | The cult favorite, bike-delivered taco place becomes a bricks-and-mortar affair, replacing the former Burrito Mercado spot in Midtown Global Market.
  • Polpo | Early 2016 | In the former La Mac Cleaners space, run by David Hahne, the former chef of the excellent Cave Vin.
  • Cafe Alma, 530 University Ave SE, Minneapolis |  Early 2016 | Hailed by the Star Tribune as this year’s Best Upcoming Project and a “casual breakfast-to-late night cafe, coffee bar, wine bar and bakery.” They’re having a pop-up holiday bakery from 3-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 23.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Blue Door Pub, 1514 Como Ave, Minneapolis | January 2016
  • Inbound Brewco, 701 5th St N, Minneapolis | End of 2015 | Appears to be a spin-off of Lucid.
  • The Viking Bar, 1829 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis | Early 2016 | After nearly a decade of closure, this Cedar-Riverside saloon is on its way to reopening.
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.
  • Lawless Distilling, 2619 28th Ave S, Minneapolis | Winter 2015
  • Bonicelli Kitchen, 1901 Fillmore St NE, Minneapolis | ??? | A catering business that raised Kickstarter money to make the jump to bricks-and-mortar and may not be making the jump to bricks and mortar.
  • Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | Winter 2015
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Q Fanatic, 6009 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | January 2016 (second location) | Although the local BBQ scene is mighty weak, we do think Q Fanatic does a good job at serving up serious Q. This new location, along with the recently launched truck Bark and the Bite, suggests that there’s hope for us yet.
  • DiNoko’s Pizzeria, 4457 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis | Winter 2016 | DiNoko’s is a local place that can do deep dish pizza seriously well. Their move from Nokomis to downtown Minneapolis didn’t work out; here’s hoping that their return foray to South Minneapolis does.
  • Utepils (formerly Bryn Mawr) Brewing, 225 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis | Winter 2016
James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

St. Paul

  • Red Lantern Sushi, 465 Wabasha Ave, St. Paul | Early 2016 | A new branch of the White Bear Lake-based sushi restaurant is opening in the old Fuji-Ya space in St. Paul.
  • Handsome Hog, 225 E 6th St, St. Paul | Early spring 2016 | Former Brasserie Zentral and Meritage chef Justin Sutherland will be cooking contemporary Southern food with a high-end twist.
  • Mucci’s, 786 Randolph Ave, St. Paul | Early spring 2016 | A new old-school Italian-American place from Tim Niver, owner of Strip Club Meat and Fish and Saint Dinette.
  • Parco 400, 400 N Sibley St, St. Paul | Late spring 2016 | A new Italian restaurant opening in the old Trattoria Da Vinci spot in Lowertown, the culinary side to be headed up by Troy Unruh, formerly of New York City’s well-known Del Posto.
  • World of Beer, 356 N Sibley St, St. Paul | 2015 | Part of a chain including locations in Wauwatosa and Appleton, Wis., and Naperville, Ill.
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
  • 11 Wells Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm Building, St. Paul | Early 2016 | A restaurant aspect to the space is rumored to be under consideration.
  • The Lexington (new ownership), 1096 Grand Ave, St. Paul | 2015 or later | 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. Construction is in progress.

Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond

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