BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Openings, closings and other changes
I guess I’m going to keep this section. Lulls are only temporary; change is the only constant, according to Olivia Butler and other wise ones. Tavern on Grand will close permanently in June 2024, after nearly 35 years in business. It’s also famous for being certified as the restaurant that serves the most walleye – in the world!
In January, Owamni pivoted to a tasting menu only and will definitely do this through Valentine’s Day and maybe longer. Consult the website for reservations and updates.
The Camden Social on Minneapolis’s Northside opened last summer, and the buzz started growing and is still ongoing. To explain what’s so great about it, Twin Cities premier restaurant critic Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl wrote an exclusive review for Mpls.St.Paul in the January issue, where she said:
“Where can any of us today walk in and try the food that Prince or Jimmy Jam grew up on? There aren’t many Black restaurants that have survived from the 1970s in Minneapolis. There’s Art Song’s Hickory Hut in St. Paul, on University. There’s Ted Cook’s 19th Hole Barbecue, near Hiawatha in south Minneapolis. But the list of vanished heroes is longer.”
She also noted the amazing caramel cake, the head chef who was a veteran of the Lexington in St. Paul, Hennessy cognac (a traditional choice for African American bar programs, front and center at the bar rather than hidden away like grandpa’s favorite tipple), a stellar burger, and a yummy take on artichoke dip that uses collards in place of artichoke.
Local breweries that also have good food
An Eater Twin Cities piece from September highlights 15 “essential” brewpubs that have their own food that’s good enough to stand on its own. Two favorites of mine, Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub, which I call “my local,” and Town Hall Brewery on Washington Avenue South, made the list. Here’s a link: tinyurl.com/DKRatSSP-2402-Dish5.
Food news and facts
Documentaries about the food system were hot in 2023. A record number of them hit the festivals and streaming services, some winning awards. Check out “The Smell of Money” (about hog farming in North Carolina and its impact on mostly black farmers); “Farming While Black”; “You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment”; a sequel to 2008’s “Food, Inc.,” called “Food, Inc. 2”; and “Common Ground” (also a sequel, to “Kiss the Ground” from 2020). If this gives you a taste for food industry docs, recent years have also seen “Rhythms of the Land” (2022); “El Susto (The Shock),” (2020) which concerns Coca-Cola’s impact on the public health and food economy of Mexico; “The Biggest Little Farm” (2019); and “Farmsteaders” (2019).
The world of tuna is a lot more complex than you may realize. I read a great article about it somewhere, but then I went to Wikipedia to see if it could clear up some confusion I had about varieties of tuna, and the Wikipedia article is just really great. Read it to learn all about skipjack, tongol, yellowfin, albacore, bluefin, the four semi-hemispheres of tuna fishery, which varieties are endangered, and which are only used in sushi, only in canned tuna, or multipurpose types.
Serious Eats, another great food and restaurant online resource, had a useful piece about avocados in May 2023: “How to ripen and store avocados.” This is a deep fund of knowledge to deal with the finicky avocado, which is seemingly only perfect to eat for about six hours, and only good for maybe one hour after prep, if you’re really careful. See how you can use acid, refrigeration, paper bags and bananas to game the ripening of your precious avocados.
Mini-review – Lulu’s Ethio Vegan
I took a friend out to Lulu’s Ethio Vegan, which has only been open for maybe a month. You’ll find it on the north side of Franklin Avenue, half a block east of Nicollet. It’s tiny, but they take reservations and also do takeout and delivery.
We both had the medium-sized (four selections) veggie combo plate. The “veggie” is superfluous since everything on the menu is vegan. These came accompanied by a simple green salad. I don’t know if they cook their own injera there, but I suspect not, as 1) injera is now very available in the area, and 2) it was not hot.
They have a number of Ethiopian specialty drinks, but we didn’t try them. I also got fries and two sambusas to take home for my next meal, which were good. They have parking in the back, a single unisex restroom (very clean), and a few small tables. I was more impressed by the great service and friendly welcome than by the food, although the food is perfectly acceptable. I plan to try the burger and fries, some of the drinks, and the shiro wot on future visits.