BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Closings in downtown, openings in South Minneapolis
After all the hopeful hype last month about the return of downtown Minneapolis’ restaurant scene, the two most notable closures in mid-October were downtown. One was trendy and “of that decade” – Seven Steak, Sushi and Rooftop, which apparently closed and reopened several times before, but looks like that’s it.
The other is an old mainstay from the early 1990s at least. I used to go there in my bookstore on New Party organizing days. It was the sudden announcement that Rock Bottom Brewery, a kind of brewery that predated the whole craft brew trend by at least a decade, was closing for good.
The openings, on the other hand, are mostly located close to the home. Three of them are new locations, for Wildflyer Coffee, Momo Dosa, and Vegan East. Wildflyer Coffee is a youth-focused social enterprise as well as the new cafe located in the former location of Peace Coffee on Minnehaha Avenue. They are currently fundraising for a new expansion planned for early 2023 in St. Paul, located inside Seventh Landing, an apartment building for young adults experiencing homelessness.
Momo Dosa’s first spot was at Malcolm Yards, Prospect Park’s hip food hall. They recently opened a second location at Midtown Global Market, in space vacated by Hot Indian. More about them in the mini review below.
Vegan East started in White Bear Lake, then expanded to Uptown and northeast Minneapolis. Their new branch is their fourth location and is in the Nokomis area at 34th Avenue and East 55th Street in what was once a QC Pizza. This news came from bringmethenews.com, where the report was based on the sign appearing on the building, and it was noted that there were no announcements or other information from the parent company.
The brand new location is Marigold, hailed as Minnesota’s very first non-alcoholic bottle store. The story comes from Racket (racketmn.com.) The innovative boutique is now open at 3506 Nicollet Ave., next to the beauty salon that is also owned by founder, Erin Flavin. The shop contains a variety of alternative beverages, ranging from functional beverages like kombucha, shrub, hop tea, caffeinated beverages, or herbal or herbal and dried flavored fruit sodas, to novelty – seltzers enriched with CBD and/or THC.
Weird news from the food world
I was charmed by this piece in Racket (racketmn.com October 13) by guest writer Brendan Kennealy about the idea of pairing a restaurant with a bookstore. You buy a book and bring it to lunch. Alright my jam, I have to admit. The author invited comments such as bookstores he missed (“drop your superior knowledge in the comments,” he said). Well, I don’t know about the superior, but I had additional knowledge and suggested two restaurants to be associated with Uncle Hugo and Uncle Edgar respectively.
I miss the days when a single certification – Certified Organic by USDA – told you everything you needed to know, because it meant that no chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, GMOs, herbicides or insecticides were used in any part of the process. Since the early 2000s, when the certification was changed to appeal to Big Ag, the organic label has both lost its meaning and become less widespread. The proliferation of segmented certifications to fill in the gaps has led to a “GMO Free” label and the like, and is now expanding further with the new “pollinator friendly” certifications.
In fact, there are two, one stricter than the other (although neither is as strict as pre-2000 or even today’s organic certification). An article in one of my favorite sources of agricultural information, Civil Eats (civileats.com), dives deep into the science, history, industry and economics of the two organizations that perform the certification .
The two labels that have been around for a few years for almonds and wine, and now extending to berries, avocados, vegetables and an on-farm distillery in northern Minnesota, are the Bee-Friendly label certified by Pollinator Partnership (with more flexible requirements to appeal to a wider range of growers) and the Bee Better label certified (slightly more stringently) by Xerces.
I was fascinated by the article “How to Use Italian Bitter Sodas” in an online beverage industry journal called Punch (punchdrink.com). I had never heard of most of these drinks and a survey of how to acquire them showed that very few are available on the shelves in Twin Cities, although they are all available online from a variety of sources . I am talking about products such as Stappi Red Bitter, Crodino, Chinotto from Lurisia and Sanbitter from San Pellegrino. They are the non-alcoholic equivalents of Italian amari, which are low-alcohol aperitif liqueurs with a bitter dimension offsetting their slight sweetness. Bitter sodas are similar but zero-proof. I will investigate this and report back later.
I recently discovered, through the online magazine Taste, Barry Enderwick and his “Sandwiches of History” series. These are from Instagram and TikTok, but I’m not really into either of those platforms, so I checked YouTube and there’s a subscription channel, called “Sandwiches of History” . There are a hundred 3-minute or longer sandwich videos, some classics – croque monsieur, banh mi, French dip – and some extremely bizarre, like the St. Paul sandwich, the capucine sandwich and the deeply loathsome bran sandwich. . Check it out.
Finally, the ultimate weird story. One of London’s first bakeries, located in Camberwell, was called Frog. Strange name, but wait, it gets better. Celebrity chef-restaurateur Adam Handling, founder of The Frog restaurant in a fancier part of town, has had a cease and desist order served at the Frog Bakery, along with the threat of a lawsuit for infringement of large-scale brand. So the owners gave in immediately and changed the name to Toad.
I sampled the fare at the new Centro/Vivir/Everywhen Burger Bar spot on Eat Street (in the old Wedge Table space). Use your smartphone to scan the QR code at your table, which will bring up the menu, and the resulting order will have your table number embedded. They also give you a paper menu if you ask, which I did.
I had a fish taco, which was small (as was the price) and rated it 4.8 out of 5. I also had a horchata, which was delicious. And I had yucca fries, which were well executed and good value, but were too spicy for me so didn’t finish them. (Usually these are just salty, and the spice is all in the dip. These were generously coated in some kind of dry chili spice and the dip was a bit spicier, so no refuge for the wimps.) From the Vivir menu I ordered dessert, a chocolate cupcake, which was a 5 out of 5.
I also sampled another new spot in my backyard – Momo Dosa at Midtown Global Market. I wanted to try both the momos and the dosa but knew it would be too much for one meal so I ordered the momos to eat there and a dosa to take home for later. (In retrospect, I should have done it the other way, because the dosa couldn’t be reheated.)
I had the vegetable momos, which have a filling similar to a Chinese vegetable egg roll – cabbage, green onion, carrot, etc. They come with two sauces. I also had a mango lassi with this. Very good and plentiful. Although I somewhat sabotaged the dosa (a masala dosa, vegetarian, mostly potato) by trying to reheat it, it was still delicious, and I’ll probably have it instead on my next visit in nobody. In addition to the momos, including the interesting ones filled with bison, they offer sambar lentil soup alone, three varieties of jhol momo (momos in a spicy soup), samosas, pakoras, and a dosa dessert made from banana, jaggery and whipped cream . It’s a great addition to the market and to your takeout spicy food rotation.