Big News in the South Suburbs

All the news is south of the I-494 strip this week. Like, first off, I’ll be helping the Burnsville Byerly’s celebrate their new wine and spirits shop opening; come down at 1 p.m. tomorrow and I’ll sign books, help you pick out wine, talk about the latest issue of Real Food—heck, I’ll help you grocery shop! My great passion this week is to combine two parts chevre with one part pesto—it makes a concoction that has a slightly odd consistency but makes killer sandwiches, a great sauce for chicken, and a wonderful topping for rice. Don’t believe me? Come on down and argue your point in person. One o’clock, Burnsville Byerly’s! Not convinced? They’re also selling 12 packs of Summit for $9.99. Yes, I know my book Drink This: Wine Made Simple is about wine, not beer, but I have love in my heart for Summit, too—especially at that fantastic price!

What else goes on in the South Suburbs? Two intriguing restaurant openings. The first is in west Bloomington, where a restaurant called Poor Richard’s Common House will be replacing the Major’s Sports Café near the intersection of highways 100 and I-494. This new restaurant will be helmed by chef Chad Rasmussen, a Minnesota native who has no connection that he knows of to the Rasmussen family behind the college. (“Wish I did, I’d probably be in the Caribbean on a yacht then, right?” says Rasmussen.) The restaurant is Rasmussen’s third current project. He’s also the head chef at Stella’s in Uptown and Molly McCool’s in Lakeville, two high volume restaurants that I think perform at a remarkably high and consistent level. Rasmussen says that this new restaurant will have less of a seafood focus than his other restaurants, he’s particularly happy right now with what his new kitchen is doing with burgers and steaks (“just phenomenal”) and flatbreads, the base of which he’s sourcing from the local company with Lebanese origins, the St. Paul Flatbread Co. A few other menu tidbits: No appetizers over $10, chicken pot-pie for $11, and parmesan crusted walleye for $19. Rasmussen tells me that the restaurant is hoping to have a VIP preview party on September 10th, and should be open to the public shortly thereafter. Looking forward to it!

Next, in the “I didn’t see this coming at all” category, Eden Prairie is getting a… Next Generation Sports Bar Slash Gastropub! Called the Prairie Ale House. No really. Really! Prairie Ale House is going in the site of a former Timber Lodge Steakhouse near where highway 5 takes off from highway 212 (near the Kowalski’s). And it’s being helmed by… drum roll please… Aaron Johnson, one of the founders of the Town Talk Diner, and quite possibly the man responsible for bringing ice cream drinks into the current age, as well as the rage for 40-ounce beers tucked into a champagne bucket. Johnson, who has been keeping busy lately working at Strip Club Meats & Fish in St. Paul and taking care of his newborn and toddler, tells me the new spot:

  • Will have Town Talk Diner veteran chef Tommy Begnaud as the chef.
  • Is being designed by Michael Johnson, the guy responsible for great-looking bars like the Cooper and the Local.
  • Will specialize in sustainably raised gastropub bar food, with meats from Tim Fischer and 1,000 Hills Cattle Co.
  • Will offer 12 tap beers on the line, and some 75 options by the bottle. Expect a mix of local craft beers and everything under the sun: “Chinese, Belgian, 40-ounce bottles, you name it,” says Johnson. They’ll also be offering fun cocktails, made with house-made bitters and some of the other tricks customers enjoyed at the Town Talk.
  • Is bringing back pickled eggs! “I grew up in Wisconsin, and I love the old bars with a jar of pickled eggs on them,” says Johnson. “My grandma used to make pickled eggs with jalapenos that were pretty awesome—all you need for a quick lunch is a couple of those eggs and the salt and pepper shaker.”
  • Is upping the stakes in the deep-fried-pickle wars. You didn’t know there were deep-fried pickle wars? There are about to be: We all know about the frickles at the Town Talk—those deep-fried slices of pickle that are so good and awful at the Town Talk, right? Well, get ready for something Johnson says will be bigger, badder, better: A whole pickle, cored-out, stuffed with cream cheese, Spam (naturally!), and jalapeños, with the entire thing affixed to a stick and deep-fried.
  • Is redefining sports bars! Johnson says the place is chock-a-block with televisions, so you can eat your crazy deep-fried pickle while cheering on the Vikings.

Time table? Opening in October, hopefully.

That’s it! Come on down to Burnsville on Saturday and say hi, won’t you? Till then: Have a great early September everyone!