Sing along! Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall (and one Manhattan with Buffalo Trace, Cocchi Vermouth, egg white, orange liqueur, Cherry Herring and bitters). Sigh.
A guy walks into a bar. He orders a vodka tonic. That’s it. That’s the whole joke. Because, can you remember a day when ice wasn’t hand-cut, when bitters didn’t come in an eyedropper, when your bartender was just that, and not a handlebar-mustaschioed mixologist in a porkpie hat and bowtie? Craft cocktails. The culture of the drink seems as poised to take over the bar experience as latté culture once was to the lowly cup of drip coffee.
And like that now de rigueur trend that’s no longer a trend but rather a matter of course—(drip or Chemex?) the philosophy of it all seems rife for the haranguing. Because of, let’s face it, the eye-rolling minutiae of it all. Has craft cocktaildom jumped the shark? Is it fair to say that some days you’d just as soon be poured a simple, life-validating Jack and Coke and then be left the hell alone—no essences, bitters, tinctures or garnishes, please?
I posed this question to a handful of our city’s most prominent bartenders (mixologists, if you must). Here’s what they had to say:
The Twin Cities’ most veteran culinary instructor has been cooking since the Kennedy administration. It was 1962, says Don Wood of Hennepin Technical College, when his mother decided he needed a job. “My brother was a sous chef at the Leamington Hotel (formerly at 10th Street and 3rd Avenue South in downtown Minneapolis, built in the early 1910s). My mom said to him, ‘Can’t you get this guy a job?’ You know, I was the kind of kid who had a car, but no money to put gas in it. So they put me on as a dessert boy.”
At this point, I interject: pantry position?
The hottest, most successful new restaurateurs are staring convention in the face. And laughing.
It’s on a low cliff overlooking the shimmering turquoise Caribbean Sea. My favorite restaurant in the world, the one I have for years been calling “The Nameless Restaurant,” because it indeed has no name, is also my dream restaurant. The one that, if I had all of the money in the world, I would buy, and run no differently than it runs today. I have even gone so far as to approach the owner, a charmingly belligerent, harmless drunkard who spends many of his days in a hammock smoking cigarettes. “I’ll never sell. I’m going to die here,” he wisely reported.
This nameless restaurant of mine is almost not a restaurant at all. The kitchen is dark and spare, and houses only a few rudimentary pieces of equipment. The tables and chairs are of the cheapest brand of plastic available from Walmart, and the server is usually a kid under the age of 10. There is no menu—instead you’re told what you’ll be dining on tonight, should you care to stay. A verdant spread of the freshest guacamole, a rustic quinoa stew, a groaning platter of arroz con pollo; whatever is on, it’s always, always good. And not just good, but memorable, in the way that sears itself into your senses, as some of the best food you’ve ever consumed, in spite of, and probably because of its simple, yet perfect execution.
A look back proves it’s not where we’ve been, but where we’re going.
We are chatting over Tater Tot HauteDish at—where else—Haute Dish when my friend goes, “So, I have to come to Minneapolis to get good food, huh?” That previous year she had relocated to check out a famous American food city (specific names will be withheld to protect food scenes less awesome than ours). Ostensibly, she would discover a more robust and innovative restaurant community than ours.
Seems she left just in time—to miss out on ours, which truly blossomed.
Two new Lyndale Avenue restaurants turn raw spaces into unique venues—one designing on the fly with a reality TV upstart, the other with an architectural heavyweight.
Nightingale takes flight
It started with a tufted blue booth.
Carrie McCabe Johnston and her husband Jasha Johnston dreamt of a little place of their own for over a decade. But as these things go, they had to wait for the right place at the right time. Imbibing at the CC Club one night, the couple said they kept glancing over at the gutted convenience store at 26th Street West and Lyndale Avenue. “That’s it,” they agreed.
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