Edit ModuleShow Tags

Tongue! Bye-Bye Fried Chicken & Cru! Molecular Gastronomy Man-Cave!


Lots to report in the world of food:

First, we’re sending the food issue I’ve been working on for two years to the printer today. If you liked my burger cover of two years ago, or my pizza personality cover from last summer, get ready to have your world rocked. So proud. Best thing I’ve done in years. Details as soon as it hits the newsstands…

Second: There’s really good tongue to be had in St. Paul! No, get your mind out of the gutter. I mean the deli kind—smoked beef tongue, at the St. Paul Cheese Shop. The shop’s manager, Benjamin Roberts, is working with Lorentz meats to bring back what was once one of the world’s most prized foods. I stopped in late last week to try it out: Yum. Tender like head cheese, subtle and light like veal, as a sandwich it paired perfectly with the Cheese Shop’s house-made mustard, but would make a spectacular first course for a fancy dinner party too—I’m picturing slices sort of twirled into a cone on a plate with a bit of mache or another herb and mustard. If you’re a fan of classic delicatessen, or a nose-to-tail adventurer, I say run, don’t walk, to St. Paul.

Third: I heard from Derrick Williams, the former chef of Derrick’s Southern Style BBQ on 38th and Chicago. Yup, former. Man oh man do soul food places in Minnesota have a hard row to hoe. So, our brief window for great fried chicken and knee-weakening black-eyed peas has closed. Blink and you missed it. Fans of Derrick’s can catch him in Maplewood Community Center at the Suds, Sauce, and Soul event June 11, 2010 (6-10 p.m.). Admission is free. I feel a little sad about all of this. It’s one thing for a restaurant to fail, but another when it doesn’t even get to really start.

Fourth: More sadness. Restaurant Cru, the far-northern suburbs’ farm-driven restaurant, is closing June 5. It will be reopened as Bricks’ Pub. Oh well, I guess the question about whether the ex-urbs could support that level of dining has been answered. Sad.

Fifth: Let’s stop being so sad, because details about the Victory 44 offshoot have started to emerge. I spoke to James Winberg today and got the inside-scoop on the molecular gastronomy man-cave coming to Robbinsdale soon. Why do I call it a molecular gastronomy man-cave? I don’t know. Just a feeling I have. What would you call a restaurant with half a dozen male cooks, eight local beers on tap, no servers, darts, shuffleboard, and liquid nitrogen?

The owners are going to call it “Travail Kitchen & Amusements.” It’s going into downtown Robbydale at 4154 West Broadway, in the former Talula’s Café space, across from one of my favorite old-school butcher shops in the Twin Cities, Hackenmueller’s. Currently the restaurant is undergoing a light remodel to open up the kitchen so that diners can see the cooks (and the cooks can see their tables). Yes: No servers, just like Victory 44! Owner James Winberg, late of Victory 44, tells me this is a model I better get used to: “It’s really the only good way to do business in a small space, otherwise the amount you’re spending on labor and taxes makes it impossible for an owner/chef to make a living wage. And it’s more fun this way. You create a completely different dynamic with the customers when they’re talking to the person who’s cooking, and watching them cook.”

I can attest to this: If there’s a delayed entrée and you’re staring at your server texting on her phone you start with impatient and slowly grow angry, but if there’s a delayed entrée and you’re watching your cook/server running like heck to get it, you feel sympathy. Winberg wouldn’t tell me much about the menu, per se, except that there will be local farmers involved, decorative but also useful baskets of produce in sight that they’ll be cooking from, and agar-agar and liquid nitrogen in the kitchen.

“So, molecular gastronomy?” I asked.

“If you want to call it that,” said Winberg.

“What do you want to call it?” I parried.

“I call it just another kitchen tool, and we all know how to use it. It’s just standard cooking these days. Just another way to change texture.”

Okay, if you insist, chef.

“Travail, it’s going to be just like a neighborhood pub, but more refined. There will be an eating bar right in front of the kitchen, and you’ll be able to reach out and high-five a cook. It’s all about interaction, everyone being involved.”

I don’t know. I don’t particularly high-five anyone except toddlers, so, we’ll see. Different strokes for different folks. If you’re the sort of person who likes to high-five cooks, this high-fiving will commence... sooner or later. Winberg tells me their crucial first step is to get beer and wine license approval; their hearing is scheduled for June 15. After that it’s all licensing. Winberg says they’re hoping for an early July opening, and if that comes to pass I will be mighty impressed with the efficiency of Robbinsdale. Either way, can’t wait for this particular man-cave to open!

It seems like the Twin Cities is, finally, coming back from the great recession in interesting ways: Piccolo, Haute Dish, Chef Shack, Victory 44, Travail, and even the cupcake bakery Cake Eater all seem to be working from a place that feels very exciting to this critic, a place that seems very rock-and-roll, DIY, no-rules, Minnesota-proud but with international ambitions and horizons. Good for all of them. And good for all of Minnesota for supporting them!

And that’s all I got. Happy June everyone!

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

Have a food-related question? Email rhutton@mnmo.com

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Taste Blog

Toast the Royal Wedding with British-Gin Cocktails

As Britain’s Prince Harry and U.S.-actress Megan Markle tie the knot, raise a glass to the happy couple—and those close to you—with wedding-themed tipples

Bottoms-Up Cinnamon Caramel Pinwheels Recipe

With this fast version of a sticky bun, baking at home can be no muss, no fuss—and delicious

Leslie Bock's Newest Bar Wants to Save the Future

"We're attempting to show humans as messy and complicated."

Rosé All Day: The Best Tastings (Some Free)

More than 100 different rosé wines available to try—many for free

Wine Clubs: The Perfect Mother's Day Gift

Sip Better figures out your taste for wine and goes deep

Gavin Kaysen Takes Midwest Gold

A quick note on our 2018 James Beard Best Chef: Midwest

Sue Z.'s Charitable Check-In: May

This month, Sue Z. recommends supporting local student chefs with a dinner at Saint Dinette

Greek Yogurt Marinated Chicken Kebabs Recipe

Get fired up for grilling season with tender, flavorful chicken kebabs by meat guru Bruce Aidells and a marinade that also works well with other proteins

My Name Is Jason and I Used to Hate Brunch

Brunch has undergone a renaissance in the Twin Cities. Food critic Jason DeRusha picks his top spots for brunch this year.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags