BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Openings, closings, and other local news
Venture Bikes and Coffee, open on the Midtown Greenway at 10th Avenue where the Midtown Freewheel was before the 2020 upheaval, is a new coffee shop and bike shop combo. This is from the team behind Venture North; essentially it’s moved to south Minneapolis and dropped the “North.” They were forced to leave north Minneapolis due to – what else? – gentrification, but have hopes to expand back there because north Minneapolis needs bike shops. And bike shops need coffee shops, or at least they go together well. The owner is Kennis Littleton, his business partner is Anthony Taylor, and the GM is Chris Huff-Hanson, formerly of Freewheel.
Zhora Darling is open in the former Red Stag Supperclub space. Mpls.St.Paul magazine’s Steve Marsh wrote a sneak preview of it on Sept. 29. The skinny is it has no takeout, no delivery, and is open until 2 a.m.! Yes, really. It says so on Google.
King Coil Spirits, a distillery with a cocktail room and pizza, opened by Lake Monster Brewing, at 550 Vandalia St. in St. Paul.
I don’t actually have any closings to report. That’s a nice change, eh?
Why the Twin Cities doesn’t have stars, but we do have some last-standing chain restaurants that are kind of interesting
Axios Twin Cities ran a piece about what it takes to get Michelin ratings on your restaurants and why the Twin Cities aren’t really trying for that right now. It’s basically a matter of money (isn’t everything?) and timing.
Another quirky food article from Racket.com, this one a couple of years old, caught my eye. Titled “Minnesota’s Lonely Links,” it explores the question of what the comings and goings of national restaurant chains can teach us about the way we eat. It’s really a great read from freelance writer JDHovland, with a big, slightly rambling (in a good way) intro about a chain called Maid-Rite, a place called The Barn in Brainerd (which closed in 2021) and something called “loose meat sandwiches” which I dimly recall being something Roseanne was into back when she was married to Tom Arnold.
What links pu-erh tea, bulletproof coffee, buffalo milk butter, and Tibet? Just my amazing brain, that’s all.
I recently bought some pu-erh tea online, the kind that comes in a brick. I read somewhere about the nutritional qualities of something called “dark” (not black) tea and how it was a component of yak butter tea which is drunk in Tibet. Pu-erh is a type of this dark tea, which refers to its processing method of aging and fermentation rather than just its color. Pu-erh just happens to be the most commonly available type in the U.S.
Yak butter is actually kind of scarce and costly, even in Tibet, but I was wondering how to closely replicate it with what is available to non-millionaires like me, and I thought – bison butter! I wonder if anyone’s ever made that? It turns out that, at least in 2017, Trader Joe’s sold fresh bison butter in a tub. However, I cannot find it now. But I did find bison ghee, except they call it buffalo ghee, and it’s made in Colombia and I bought some of that too. Next issue I will report back on my American-style bison butter tea.
In the process of researching all this, I ran across the term “bulletproof coffee,” which I had seen in online ads but never knew what it was. It has an historical close link to
Tibetan Yak Butter Tea! This article in Eater from 2016 explains it all and is totally worth a read: (eater.com/2016/8/25/12624068/butter-coffee-tea-tibet-yak).
Mini-review of Café Racer Kitchen
I have been visiting Café Racer’s free lunch, “Breaking Bread,” on the last Monday of the month for several months now. I decided to go there and have a full-on cafe lunch from the menu and further explore their cuisine.
I went there at about 2:30 p.m. on a weekday. I tend to eat my meals later than normal, in line with also going to bed later and getting up later, a tendency I have fought against my whole life, until I retired and just let it run rampant.
Even when ordering from the menu, Café Racer does not have a huge selection. I kind of like that. I am one of those that can feel oppressed by a
large array of choices. I want just enough choices! Anyway, I chose the roasted vegetables as my main dish, and for the two sides, I chose the arepas and a black bean and brown rice dish.
The roasted vegetables included sweet potato, some other root vegetables, sweet red bell pepper, and several hugely long green beans. It was a perfectly-sized portion for lunch, and was topped with pickled red onions and two sauces, a crema and a mildly hot aioli type of thing, reminiscent of chipotle. The arepas are house-made, slightly sweet and really yummy. They were topped with a dry, white grated cheese of some kind. I had iced tea with it. Café Racer is a very chill place. It’s affordable, friendly and healthy.