BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Openings and closings
It seems like the great wave of closings that plagued 2020 and 2021 is finally tapering off. There is only one south Minneapolis closing to announce, but it’s sad because we enjoyed announcing the opening and then had to follow up with a dreadful story about a shooting that injured one of their staff. This ill-starred though pretty decent place was Side Chick in the Lyn-Lake area. Maybe it was the name?
On the upside, there are still lots of plucky food entrepreneurs announcing openings, expansions, and the launch of new ideas. One opening I am thrilled to see, being a library fan, a downtown girl, and a lover of coffee shops, is that a nonprofit called MARCH (Mobilizing and Releasing Caring Hearts Inc., which mentors urban youth through the operation of coffee shops) is opening a coffee shop called Mocha Momma in the space within the Minneapolis Central Library that used to house a Dunn Brothers. I have missed that Dunn Brothers so much! I expect to adore Mocha Momma.
In other news, an expansion and a return. Afro Deli, the small chain founded on the West Bank’s Riverside Avenue by Abdirahman Kahin, has already expanded to the Minneapolis skyway, Stadium Village, and St. Paul, while having to close its original spot. It is now opening another expansion back in the West Bank, just a block or so from its starting point.
Further good news from downtown Minneapolis is that the Minneapolis Women’s Club has opened its famous rooftop patio to the general public for dinner Thursday through Friday. It was already open to all for brunch on Fridays only. And finally, a Rochester-based fast burger chain has opened (if they made their announced opening of July 1) a location in Apple Valley. The chain is called Newt’s and the new Twin Cities outlet is Newt’s 46.
With the opening of the Nicollet Mall farmers’ market in mid-June and the Four Sisters Farmers Market on Franklin Avenue in early June, I think all the markets that are going to open this summer are open – and thriving. If you’re like me and still wearing masks in grocery stores but not outdoors, you’ll welcome the opportunity to shop in the open air.
Workers United (Starbucks) progress update
Two more Minnesota Starbucks have held successful union elections since I last checked in. Welcome to the Workers United family to the Starbucks on the first floor of the Mall of America and also to the Starbucks in St. Anthony.
O’Shaughnessy Distilling Co. widens its distribution
The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal has a piece about O’Shaughnessy Distilling Company in Minneapolis. O’Shaughnessy was founded a couple of years ago by two St. Paul Irish American brothers named O’Shaughnessy, and first hit the news when they were preparing to debut their distillery and cocktail room in Prospect Park. The big buzz was that they had hired away Jameson’s master distiller, Brian Nation. Their initial launch was Irish + American, a whiskey distilled using Irish processes with three copper pots, but using American grains. They followed this with an American single malt, and then Irish + Bourbon, as well as several specialty blends with novel “finishing” (extra flavors imparted in the cask stage). The latest to launch is finished with maple syrup.
The recent piece focused on their phenomenally fast growth in selling to bars and retailers around the U.S. CEO Mike Duggan, previously with Phillips Distilling Company, remarked on how unusual it is for a craft distiller to be shipping to 22 states within its first 18 months. He attributes this to getting their message out about how they are making whiskeys that are new to the world. “It’s given us the ability to have, actually, distributors calling us saying, ‘Please come to our state,’ and that hasn’t happened too many times in my career,” he said.
Longfellow Business Association, Eat for Equity, and BOGO/Eat Local punch cards
Longfellow Business Association launched an Eat Local promotion in early June, but it runs through the end of July, so it’s not too late to cash in. You buy a punch card for $10 at the first participating business you patronize, take their BOGO offer, and then take as many more of the 16 participants’ offers as you can. See www.longfellowbusinessassociation.org for the list and their individual offers.
Most of the participants are familiar food and drink spots in Longfellow – Wildflyer Coffee, All Square, and Arbeiter Brewing are in on it – but one is a bit different. Eat for Equity is the chef-prepared meal kit company operating out of what used to be the Du Nord Craft Spirits cocktail room, and offering a pay-what-you-can option. (It’s run by the same people who run the distillery but no longer run a cocktail room.) I am going to make a rare foray back into meal kit territory next week to try it out. I’ll let you know what I think in August.
Vegan meat raffles are a thing
At least they are here, featuring a spread of Herbivorous Butcher’s products. They just had one at Palmer’s Bar, of all places. Sorry, that’s all I’ve got; that’s the post.
Mini-review – un dito at ie Italian Eatery
I tried un dito at ie Italian Eatery in June. This is a fast casual extension of ie that offers panini, house-made gelato and sorbetto, and drinks, apps and snacks with a choice of patio dining, takeout, or inside in a small space up to 4 p.m. I ate inside, all on my own, which is lovely – you should try it sometime. I had what was advertised as a portabella panino. It was also lovely; very tasty, but it wasn’t a panino. A panino (singular of panini) is supposed to be grilled in a panino press in olive oil or butter, with the innards of the sandwich squashed flat and the outside crisp and thin. This was basically a veggie burger where the burger was one big grilled portabella mushroom with fixings. It was in a hamburger bun or something similar. Big and soft, drippy and messy to eat, no crunch. Not a panino. I also had a house lemonade, which was good. I may return later to try their house-made strawberry sorbetto, which sounds intriguing.
Mini-review – Reverie
I finally used up my Reverie gift card which I got as a perk for helping to fund the opening. I had the smoked brussels sprouts appetizer and a main dish salad that is called a BLT salad but also has croutons and vegan Caesar dressing. The “bacon” is smoky-flavored grilled strips of shiitake mushrooms. Both these items were good but my choice to have them together was poor, as they were too much alike. No counterpoint. Counterpoint is essential to the fine dining experience. And for me both had the same slight shortfall on yumminess (and this is just me). I would have preferred less smokiness, more texture, and more of the creamy stuff – a cashew crema topping on the sprouts and the dressing on the salad. They both had these, but too skimpy for my voluptuous tastes. Vegan does not have to mean skimpy.
I also had the Sociable Cider Werks strawberry daiquiri. It was OK, but I couldn’t finish it. Local ciders seem too high in ABV for me, or maybe it’s just my age. It didn’t really taste much of strawberries either, although the color was nice and berry-bright. I think the combo of dry apple cider and lime overpowered the strawberries.
Dessert mini-review – Pumphouse Creamery and Askinosie Chocolate
I am seriously falling in love with Pumphouse Creamery. First it was their Lemon-infused Olive Oil and Sea Salt (LIOOSS). Then it was their Decaf ice cream using coffee from a local roastery. Then it was their Brother Justus Whiskey ice cream. At my last visit I was going to choose between Rhubarb, which had just come out for the season, and the LIOOSS. I ended up getting both and being talked into trying a new one – Askinosie Chocolate. The Rhubarb is excellent but … Oh. My. Goddess. The Askinosie! Hurry up and get this limited run of ice cream while it lasts. Before you ask (because I did!) Askinosie ticks all my ethical sourcing boxes, as well. If you don’t manage to score the ice cream, Askinosie Chocolate is also available online at askinosie.com.