They just are, for now. In most restaurants this week, I saw employees wearing masks. I have found my old favorites and started wearing them on my arm again, as I was asked twice to put them on while moving through indoor spaces. I’m not mad at that, because I still managed to eat some amazing cheese curds, a killer burger, and hug a bunch of restaurant friends. A lot of people are wondering what they’ll do about the State Fair, and I can’t help but think that no matter what, it will be a different run this year. While you’re doing that noodling, consider some fresh whiskey, grab a hot sandwich, and get ready for curds that will be available all year.
Normally this weekend I would be salading hard as I pre-gamed for the calorie fest of the coming week. But, the Minnesota State Fair released their health guidelines that caused a lot of consternation for many folks. Lots of people I know are pulling out and skipping, and lots of small food vendors I know are panicking because they can’t exactly un-order all the beer and food. There are a lot of questions, lots of data for whichever point you want to make, and no easy answers.
+ O’Shaughnessy Distilling is finally open. The new Irish-American whiskey distillery near Malcolm Yards and Surly Brewing has been in soft parties for almost a month, but they are now ready for the public to belly up to the copper-clad bar. There’s a full kitchen operating on site, a lower bar with sight lines to the three stills, an upper bar known as the Potato Bar with great windows, and a few outdoor options as well. Look for your pal Pip Hanson behind the bar and see what this team can do with only the spirits they make.
+ Toma Mojo Grill is open in Minnetonka. Taking over the old Boston Market space in the Ridge Square area, this fast casual eatery from Paul Backer (formerly of Tilia) and Mike Knox, hopes you will fall hard for roasted chicken that’s been marinated in mojo sauce. Sandwiches, plates, and platters all come with chicken or pork (or veg) with sides and sauces that lean into the flavors of Spain and Portugal.
+ Opening in the former Spoonriver space next Wednesday, will be Farmers Kitchen + Bar. This first restaurant owned by the Minnesota Farmers Union has reworked the space with a MN-maker market area, a coffee bar with fresh pastries, grab-and-go, plus a full menu of sandwiches, salads, and snacks (cheese curds) all made with ingredients straight from the farm.
+ HammerHeart Brewing has given a little peek into their future plans. Earlier this year, the Lino Lakes brewery said they were closing the taproom, but that there were plans in the works. This week the brewery announced that they have made an offer on some land in Ely, where they intend to create a farmhouse brewery named Nordland One. The new spot will plan to focus mostly on traditional Nordic beer and German style rauchbier, while also pushing HammerHeart styles into new territories.
// The fine folks at Skaalvenn Distillery are working out a way to send some money to help the people of Afghanistan. This situation hits close to home for Mary, the owner, whose parents fled the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia. This weekend, the Brooklyn Park cocktail room will be taking $5 from every highball ordered and pledging it to a relief organization to help Afghans.
// Utepils is playing host this year to Kramarczuk’s Kielbasa Fest. This feels like a good match, glad to have the sausage party back. Tonight it’s all good free times when you show up for meat raffle and live music. Tomorrow, it’ll cost ya $5 to get in, but there will be a pierogi eating contest, Kramarczuk’s street food, games ahoy, and more live music all day.
// If you’re headed to the Mill City Farmers Market this Saturday, somebody get this Canteloupe Chiffon Pie from Vikings & Goddesses and tell me how it is. It has me crazy interested because I don’t love canteloupe but think I’d like melon pie, as it’s made with local sugar cube cantaloups and comes in a graham cracker crust topped with sugared mint. On site they’ll drizzle it with sweet balsamic reduction and add a little smoked Maldon salt. KILLING ME.
// You still have time to get in on this Saturday’s Cocktail Class at P.S. Steak. Learn history and technique of “Ultra Classic” cocktails from bar manager Keith Mrotek. You’ll have discussions and learn how to make six drinks (sipping half portions), with charcuterie boards helping ease the excitement.
// The biggest Greek party of the year is back, but a bit smaller. The Greek Summer Festival is happening in St. Paul on Saturday, and it’s going to be packed with gyros and spanakopita and baklava. You can pop by and enjoy music and dancers from 11a-8p while you nosh on souvlaki, or you can order ahead and do curbside pickup so that you can avoid the crowds.
// Not a bad investment, Burgers & Bingo by the Bay in Excelsior is a fundraiser the directly benefits the 4th of July Fireworks fund. This family friendly event starts at 3pm on Saturday, so bring your toddlers and your daubers, 30 games will be played until the BINGO yawps are all called out, just hurry and eat your burgers so you can concentrate.
// You know what place has a cool vibe? Forgotten Star Brewing. If you haven’t been up there to friendly Fridley, go check out their Night Market this Saturday starting at 6pm. Tons of good vintage booths, local makers, record slingers, and SOUL FU will be popping up to pair with your beers and shopping.
// If you want to get in on the best secret burger of the summer, you can head down to Modist Brewing on Sunday where #PrivateSectorProvisions will slinging Oklahoma-style smashburgers for free, and all you have to do is donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. This one has a sign-up system, so watch their instagram today for instructions.
// For a moment of calm in the craziness, and a snap of summer’s last whip, grab tickets to A Bird in the Hand’s pop-up dinner at Harriet Island on Aug 29. This is quiet luxury, not pretension, from a group of culinary pros who know hospitality can be about small moments. I went to their last dinner at Gibbs Farm and was happily fed for $50.
// A dinner I always wish I had early intel on, because it always sells out before I can write about it, is the legendary Nightingale Tomato Dinner. SO HEAR ME NOW, get your tickets for the 9th annual dinner on Sept. 14 and get them quick or rue other people’s pics of yellow tomato soup, pickled green tomatoes, and tomato jelly doughnuts.