Restaurants I’ve been to — Issue 1

Howdy, folks!

Why a newsletter?
 I started this newsletter because Skyler Vilt (@viltchamberlain) urged me to blog for some time. That is far too much of a commitment for me, so this newsletter seems much more appropriate. Each week or two I’ll share some sentiments about local eateries with some classic Hansen commentary. Expect the words “great,” “swell,” and “not too shabby” to appear frequently — it’s the language I know.
 
 Why restaurants?
 There will always be content. 
 
 Why now?
 It’s a Great Day.
 
 How are you qualified?
 Have you seen my Instagram
 
 A Word
 I moved to Minneapolis a little over a year ago and since then have had the opportunity to dine at (too) many places. From dive bars to Four Stars, there are tons of attractions for foodies and culinarians — and people who simply want a delicious meal in an inventive, comfortable space. It’s not New York. It’s not LA. And it never will be. I don’t say that with a chip on my shoulder, but more as a recognition of its value and place as a Midwestern city. You can enjoy an urban lifestyle in Minni-Apple with a spacious downtown luxury apartment for the price of a 200 square feet place in an undesirable part of the Big Apple.
 
 (For the record, one cannot compare the historical, architectural, and topographical awesomeness of our coastal cities to what excites us here but, for example, it may surprise you that Minneapolis has some of the best pizza compared to other cities: Pizzeria Lola, Black Sheep Coal Fired, Punch Neapolitan, and Red Wagon to name a few. Or some of the best Vietnamese restos in the US: Quang, Jasmine, Lotus, My Huong Kitchen, as Anthony Bourdain pointed out.) 
 
 We excel in many cuisines, but I am often disappointed by the lack of really good Indian food or a reliable Chinese delivery place. You can’t have it all. 
 
 I enjoy living here (except January-March) and look forward to sharing all of the dining destinations I frequent.
 
 Thanks for subscribing and please feel free to let me know what you think!

This newsletter is split into sections, notably: restaurants I’ve been to in the 7 days, restaurants I am looking forward to visiting, food things I appreciate when not at restaurants, and restaurant news.

In the past week:

Spoon and Stable (of course)
 I avoided this place for a solid 4 months because of an awkward Tinder situation but when summer arrived I could no longer stay away from their beautiful reclaimed wood, semi-outdoor spot. So I started going for a late night boulevardier or for Sunday Brunch. I loved their late summer garganelli so why not give the fall raviolo a go? Little did I know that I’d get a single raviolo for $15. I could have easily eaten 10 of them, so I left rightly feeling a bit guilty and had a frozen pizza at the NE Yacht Club that night. 
 
 Maya Cuisine
 The Mayans will forever be near and dear to me after providing great hospitality this past February when I escaped to the Yucatan for an extended weekend, so naturally I love Maya Cuisine. The wonderful Laura Pancoast was in town, so Maya was chosen as the welcoming spot. Highlight: the spicy guac salsa. Skyler and I also returned for a round two, so there’s that.
 
 Surly
 A gigantic beer hall with surprisingly delicious food. Can’t go wrong. Always get the hog frites with a Todd the Axe Man.
 
 Hola Arepa
 Everyone is obsessed with brunch. Admittedly, it’s nice to head out late on a Sunday morning for a sip of Cava with fresh squeezed juice. But don’t you walk away feeling a hint guilty for forking over 20 or more dollars for something that you actually could have prepared at home? That is why I think dining out for brunch should be reserved for Destination Brunch, i.e. a place that offers something complex, out of this world, and worthy of your morning dollars. Hola Arepa is one of those places. Sit outside and enjoy the busy Nicollet Ave, sip a mimosa, and order some chicken and cachapas or chilaquiles with added pork. Trust me. 
 
 Lolo American Kitchen

Somehow I ended up in Stillwater, MN for a little over an hour on Sunday. Lolo American Kitchen is the best place in town according to Yelp. They have a burger with A1 balsamic, ghost pepper jack cheese, and bacon. Sounds super weird, doesn’t it? I will say that it is not too shabby — even memorable. 
 
 Eastside

I’m going to say it: This is the best new Happy Hour spot in Minneapolis. It’s one block away from my workplace, which is even better. Not only is the Happy Hour worth stopping in for, but the restaurant was clearly designed in the age of Instagram. The tile flooring is fantastic and the dining room, with a corner window on Washington and 3rd Ave has a delightfully bistro feel to it. It’s high-end cooking, yet approachable. By offering such a great Happy Hour, the dinner-only eatery is being honest about its daring location among most places that survive because of the lunch rush. Highlights: Surly Hell and a fried chicken sandwich for $10, the aged cheddar plate, and fried wild rice (How Minnesotan!). 
 
 The Third Bird
 A year ago I visited for brunch; yesterday I returned for dinner. Wonderful roast chicken by the piece (sub $10), glazed carrots, and roasted potatoes that, at times, are remarkably hard to chew. It’s a cozy spot to spend a weekday evening, and how can you beat the alley with the string lights, dance studio, and nearby Lurcat and Four Bells?

Looking ahead:

Scena Tavern in Uptown (soon)
 Another high-end, Italian crudo place in Minneapolis. Just since Spring Il Foro, Monello, and Parella have opened in town. This spot will be worth visiting purely because of the talent. Erik Anderson (Catbird Seat and Brut), Jamie Malone (Sea Change and Brut) as well as Bill Summerville (Spoon and Stable) are apart of the opening team. I’ll make the trek to Uptown for this one.
 
 Bachelor Farmer Cafe (not soon)
 This will be great for the neighborhood. Coffee, breakfast, lunch in a relaxed & quintessentially Scandinavian inspired space for #TeamNorth.

Alma Cafe (not soon)
 The best meal I’ve eaten in Minneapolis was at Alma a year ago — and it was vegetarian! Right now, to me, it seems more like a special occasion place because it’s a chef’s tasting menu eatery. I look forward to a well executed casual cafe concept. 
 
 Upton 43 (soon)
 They already have a top notch Instagram feed. Located in the heart of Linden Hills, this will be a great retreat from the concrete jungle of the North Loop.

When not dining out:

Delivery services:

Fig to Fork (local)
 I’ve had four deliveries as of this week. Pricey. Local chefs (so far from Mill Valley Kitchen and the Kenwood) provide recipes to items they make and include local ingredients to craft the meals yourself. It’s a weekly subscription service.
 
 Blue Apron
 I’ve done this twice. Also pricey but a solid menu and fun to see at your door. I will definitely be using this service in the winter. I have a major problem wasting food (CSA this summer) and this completely prevents that.

Publications:

The Food Lab
 Serious Eats is a great online resource when you want to learn a foolproof way of cooking something. This nearly thousand page book is an excellent resource if you have even the slightest interest in cooking at home. It’s less recipe, more technique. Have this on hand but don’t expect it to replace Bittman.
 
 Essential Guide to Wine
 If you’ve ever googled anything wine related chances are you’ve landed on winefolly.com. This book stems from that site and it is stunning. A great gift and resource if you are trying to learn anything about wine.

News

The Michelin Guide announced its stars for NYC. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend reading this commentary from a former Eleven Madison Park server for a glimpse at the Three Star life (serving elaborate meals to the super rich). It’s both hilarious and culturally alarming.

Hungry?

Check out Eater Minneapolis and/or Heavy Table

“The finest landscape in the world is improved by a good inn in the foreground.”
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Originally published at tinyletter.com.