Dining Dish: Town Talk Diner is Reborn and More

All that’s old is new again and dormant spaces are being reborn in this week’s food news.

The most recognizable storefront would have to be the Town Talk Diner. Those iconic light bulbs will soon be switched back on as the space is reborn as Le Town Talk French Diner and Drinkery. Emilie Cellai and her husband Ben Johnson are already in the process of spiffing the place up. Emile and her bar runner Julien Masson both hail from Marseille and will sharing the flavors of home with us on the plate and in the glass. Their initial menu mixes French traditional dishes like steak frites and bouillabaisse with crowd pleasers like bruschetta and harissa spiked hummus on the small plates. As for drinks, they’re bringing back the boozy shakes for the next generation, in addition to French 75’s. They expect to be open this fall.

Now that the Graves 601 has become Loews Minneapolis, the space once occupied by Bradstreet Crafthouse will be reborn as Cask Cookhouse. Initial reports are that they aren’t changing much, including the decor and the feel of the room. They’re promising craft cocktails and small plates. First item on the menu? Balsamic marinated tomato bruschetta.

That certainly fits for the revamped FireLake inside the Radisson Blu in downtown Minneapolis. The entire hotel has been given a glitzy facelift as has the restaurant. The menu, however, is stacked with favorites. I had the pleasure of being hosted for a press dinner this week (while surrounded by Shriners. Attempting to leave after dinner, my car was surrounded by clowns and revolutionary war-era minutemen, which is only the second strangest thing to happen to me this week.) Back to the food. The roast chicken with rosemary jus, walleye, and Minnesota Salad that they’ve served since opening was there. The exceptional service also remains intact. And, oh, look! Bruschetta. Chef Jim Kyndberg will continue to create imaginative specials like the brisket with sweet pomegranate barbecue sauce and roast plum tart with fennel ice cream (pictured above) and other locally, sourced delights that will change with the seasons.

Tim McKee’s Libertine is edging toward opening. Their first day of business will be a week from today. I’ve only had a tiny bite of the menu, but expect to be dazzled by a perfectly cooked, beautifully fatty pork chop.

Over in St. Paul, Payne Avenue continues to percolate with tasty eateries. Tongue in Cheek is now open and serving a killer happy hour Tuesday through Sunday. From 4-7 p.m. they offer small versions of their cocktails for only $2. A Tickle My Tiny Pickle was tart and thoroughly amusing.

Meanwhile, Cathedral Hill is getting a new neighbor. The one-time College of Visual Arts building on the corner of Western and Selby (across the street from Nina’s and kitty-corner from the venerable W.A. Frost) is going to be a retro-style steakhouse called The Salt Cellar. The guys behind Eagle Street Grille, Kevin Geisen and Joe Kasel are St. Paul natives who know the neighborhood well. They’ve brought on Heartland’s Chef Lenny Russo in a consulting role. St. Paul scuttlebutt had them scouting for a space for this concept for quite some time and the approach of updated classics fits with this part of town. They’ll be breaking down the animals in house and keeping the cost of a meal affordable. If all goes well, we’ll be dining inside here in November.

This weekend there’s tons to do what with the MLB’s All-Star game in town and the Bascillica Block Party. Kicking the party off on Friday, Sisyphus Brewing will be opening to the public. They’ll be pouring Oatmeal Pale Ale, Brett IPA, Black Ale with coffee, and Kentucky Common beginning at noon tomorrow.

For those that like to plan ahead, the second annual Borough Block Party will take place August 10th. Tickets are $5 and after the year this team has had, you know it’s going to be a revelatory blow-out.