The Tap: The Lowertown Boom

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This week in the Tap: We examine the engine of Lowertown’s gastronomic growth and annotate the listings section.

shepherd-song-tap-logo-final-keylineThe Tap is a biweekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm. “We raise 100 percent grass-fed lambs & goats traditionally, humanely, and sustainably.”


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

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Lowertown’s Moment

Over the past week, we’ve published two unapologetic rave reviews: one of Big River Pizza and another of Saint Dinette. The restaurants opened up across the street from one another in the shadow of the St. Paul Farmers’ Market, and they seem to mark a watershed for the Lowertown neighborhood, which has been building critical mass with the high-profile, large scale incarnation of Heartland, the longstanding quiet grace of Tanpopo, and the Mears park party row of Barrio and PUBLIC kitchen + bar. Throw breakfast at The Buttered Tin into the mix, and you’ve got some real range, and if Ox Cart Ale House lives up to expectations, the district will be seriously hoppin’.

The lovely new CHS Stadium is undoubtedly part of the story — it’s a people magnet. But it’s the organic growth of residents calling the neighborhood home and the farm-to-table power of the market that give the Lowertown boom shape and purpose. Saint Paul restaurants have long taken a backseat to the Minneapolis scene, but the evolution of Lowertown reflects a palpable shift in energy: put enough of the right mojo in one place, and people will visit again and again.

The Annotated Tap

I’ve started adding notes to all of our Tap listings to give them more perspective and context. Notes will include insight into chefs and / or owners, links to preview stories from other publications, related Heavy Table coverage, and more — and if you see something that might make a good note for a listing, feel free to fling it my way at

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Caviar Photo Contest: Ongoing!

We haven’t seen a ton of entries in our Caviar-sponsored Minneapolis restaurant food photography contest, and that creates an opening for you, the reader: we’ve got $200 in free meal prizes on the line for those who post and tag their photos on Instagram or Twitter. Enter up to four times; all the details are here.

— James Norton


  • I (Heart) Pho, 850 Maryland Ave. E, St. Paul | A short item in the PiPress indicates that this place is owned by the same folks who run iPho by Saigon
  • Parella, Calhoun Square | Along with Monello and Il Foro, this is part of the intoxicating fog of upscale Italian restaurants that has descended upon us. Michael Larson (formerly of Parasole, currently of Digby’s) is behind this venture.
  • IN Spirits, 983 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | The crazy flavor crew of Verdant Tea is back after the shuttering of their Franklin Avenue spot, presenting a collaboration in Northeast Minneapolis that pairs them up with Intelligent Nutrients. Jess Fleming praised the aromatherapeutic cocktails as “stunners.” The name is essentially impossible to Google.

Peter Sieve / Heavy Table
Peter Sieve / Heavy Table
  • Tattersall Distilling, 1620 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | Currently the place-of-the-moment, and why shouldn’t it be? Cocktail rooms are white hot right now, and proprietor Dan Oskey has a solid rep.
  • Wander North, 771 Harding St. NE Suite 150, Minneapolis | With the opening of this space, Wander North becomes the third cocktail room in the Twin Cities.
  • Giordano’s, 2700 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | This Chicago deep dish pizza chain has plenty of fanatic followers, based on the 2- to 3-hour waits that have been clogging this place since its opening. We stuck it out and have an initial report due to drop tomorrow (Wednesday). Spoiler: not worth the wait.
  • The King and I Thai (reopened), 760 Highway 110, Mendota Heights | There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when this Thai-food institution closed in 2012; it’ll be revealing to see how much of its original clientele make the trek out to the new incarnation.

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
  • Saint Dinette, 280 E 5th St, St. Paul | Second restaurant by the J.D. Fratzke / Tim Niver team behind the critically acclaimed Strip Club. We gave it four stars and have visited it a number of times, finding everything spot on.
  • Ox Cart Ale House, 255 E 6th St, St. Paul | The third restaurant from the Eagle Street Grille team (Minneapolis / St. Paul Business journal has a nice preview piece.) We disliked their second restaurant (The Salt Cellar), but Ox Cart seems to be a far simpler, cleaner concept. We look forward to reviewing it.
  • Il Foro, City Center, Minneapolis | An Italian-influenced reinvention of the Forum in downtown Minneapolis; half of its leadership team runs the wildly successful Smack Shack in the North Loop. Jess Fleming sketches out the place here.
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
  • Big River Pizza, Lofts at Farmers Market, St. Paul | We reviewed and loved Big River Pizza, yet another locus of activity in the booming Lowertown neighborhood of St. Paul. The pizza is wood-fired, and the restaurant serves breakfast pizzas on the weekend. It’s also the latest of a long string of local food trucks to make successful leaps to bricks and mortar.
  • Gator’s Grilled Cheese Emporium, 955 E Sheridan St, Ely | A simple new sandwich joint in Ely.
  • Insula, 145 E Sheridan St, Ely | Locally sourced, “fusion American” dining in Ely. Is the northern wilderness having its Top Chef moment? We’ll find out next time we visit.
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table


Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Romolo’s in St. Paul | Our review – we’re seriously sad to see this place go. Old-school St. Paul Italian-American to the nth degree.
  • Four Firkins (both locations, Oakdale and St. Louis Park) | It’s too bad this well-regarded local chain couldn’t make it work in an era of unprecedented craft beer sales, but every local and corporate shop has, since Four Firkins’ opening, jumped onto the trend as well.
  • Rice Paper in Edina | We’ve heard that Ngon is moving into this spot.
  • Trattoria Da Vinci | The exception that proves the Lowertown boom rule?
  • Workshop at Union | Soon to be replaced by another “creative space” within this pricey downtown dreadnought? Eater thinks so.
  • Nye’s Polonaise Room (closing 2015) | 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.



  • Ramen Kazama, 3400 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis | August 2015
  • Cafe Alma, 528 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis | Summer 2015 | 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.”
  • Bogart’s Doughnut Company, downtown location, IDS Center, Minneapolis | July 2015 | Bogart’s is up there with Mojo Monkey and Yo Yo Donuts for quality and creativity, so it’s encouraging to see them grow.
  • Lawless Distilling, 2619 28th Ave S, Minneapolis | Summer 2015
  • Scena Tavern, 2943 Girard Ave S, Minneapolis | Summer 2015
  • Bonicelli Kitchen, 1901 NE Fillmore St, Minneapolis | August  2015 | A catering business making the jump to bricks-and-mortar.
  • Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | Fall 2015
  • Able Seedhouse and Brewery, 1121 Quincy St NE, Minneapolis | Winter 2015
  • Lakes and Legends Brewing Company, 1368 Lasalle Ave, Minneapolis | Summer 2015
  • Q Fanatic, South Metro, Minneapolis | Summer 2015 (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 upcoming truck Bark and the Bite, suggests that there’s hope for us yet.
  • DiNoko’s Pizzeria, 4457 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis | August 2015 | Apropos of Giordano’s (see above), 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.
  • Eggy’s Diner, LPM Apartments, 1369 Spruce Pl, Minneapolis | Summer 2015 | If this name doesn’t set expectations comfortably low for you, I’m not sure what would.
  • Bryn Mawr Brewing, 225 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis | Winter 2015
  • Eastside at Latitude 45, 301 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis | September 22, 2015 | Eastside will feature Seattle-based chef Nick Dugan as its Chef de Cuisine, working alongside Executive Chef Remy Pettus.
  • 4 Bells, 1610 Harmon Place, Minneapolis | Summer 2015
  • Restaurant TBA replacing the Modern in Northeast Minneapolis | Summer 2015
  • Seward Co-op Creamery Neighborhood Cafe, 2601 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis | July 2015 | See our preview here. We have high hopes for this place between the chef (Lucas Almendinger, formerly of Third Bird) and Seward’s connections to the local food scene.
  • Hi-Lo Diner (working name), 4020 E Lake St, Minneapolis | Summer or Autumn of 2015 | Seward and Longfellow are really jumping onto the breakfast train after years of struggling to get by with nothing more than the overpriced Longfellow Grill and the inedible Denny’s; Mon Petit Cheri seems to be doing well, and the new Seward Co-op Creamery Cafe will be a serious breakfast presence as well. Hi-Lo is getting in as the neighborhoods heat up.
  • St. Genevieve, 5003 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis | 2015
  • Seward Co-op Friendship Store, 317 38th St E, Minneapolis | Summer 2015
  • Upton43, 4312 Upton Ave, Minneapolis | September 2015
  • Urban Forage Winery and Cider House, 3016 E Lake St, Minneapolis | Fall 2015 | We profiled these guys when they were mounting their (successful) Kickstarter campaign, and they have a fascinating take on how to do earthy, grassroots local wine and cider.
  • Lost Falls Distillery, 1915 E 22nd St, Minneapolis | Summer 2015
  • The Herbivorous Butcher, Minneapolis | Summer 2015 | These guys have gotten serious national press and look poised to become a force in the food scene once their bricks-and-mortar spot is up and running.
  • Pizzeria Lola concept TBD, 165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis | 2015
  • The Bachelor Farmer Cafe project to be named, 200 N 1st St, Minneapolis | 2015

St. Paul

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
  • 11 Wells Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm Building, St. Paul | Summer 2015
  • Lexington (new ownership), 1096 Grand Ave, St. Paul | Summer 2015 | 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, it’ll be tough to sort the baby from the bathwater on this one.

Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond

  • St. Croix Brewing Company, 114 Chestnut St E, Stillwater | 2015
  • Angry Inch Brewing, 20841 Holyoke Ave, Lakeville | July 2015
  • Ruscello, Nordstrom Ridgedale, Minnetonka | October 2015
  • 10K Brewing, Bank Block on Second and Main, Anoka | July 2015 | A reader writes: “According to their Kickstarter, they are looking to have a backer party August 21/22 and then a full opening after that. It’s currently all dependent on a liquor license from Anoka though. But since they drove the city council to allow tap rooms inside city limits, this is likely to approved.”
  • Gogi Bros. House, Shady Oak Retail Center, Eden Prairie | Summer 2015 | These guys haven’t updated their Facebook presence since April.
  • Wicked Wort Brewing Co., 4165-4175 W Broadway, Robbinsdale | Fall 2015

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