The following reader commentary, published in the Minneapolis Star on Feb. 13, 1968, is perhaps my favorite restaurant-related Letter to the Editor of all time.
The subject? A liquor license application for the 12th-floor restaurants at Dayton's in downtown Minneapolis – the Oak Grill (pictured, above, in a 2007 Star Tribune file photo) and the Skyroom -- and the ire it created among the members of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Ironically, it's Dayton's, the city's No. 1 department store, that's following Donaldson's, the perennial also-ran, in the chardonnay-at-lunch trend.
The letter was written by Vera Cole of St. Louis Park, secretary of the union’s 5th District.
"We the women of the 5th District of the WCTU numbering 700 members strong protest the granting of the license allowing the serving of alcoholic beverages in Dayton’s Sky Room and Oak Room [sic]. Our organization is banded together for the protection of the home, and the triumph of Christ’s golden rule in custom and law. A liquor establishment is bad enough by itself, but Dayton’s is a family store where entire families go to shop, and must have this influence set before them. Donaldson’s has set the precedent; now Dayton’s, and if other stores follow, what is left for the many fine families who do not care to subject their young people to such an atmosphere?"
Can you imagine what Ms. Cole would have made of Sunday retail liquor sales?
Easter is in less than three weeks, and brunch reservations are filling up, fast.
Just in time for the holiday, two top-performing Minneapolis restaurants are dipping into Sunday brunch for the first time: Brasserie Zentral (pictured, above) and Spoon and Stable. Both will begin Sunday-only service on March 22.
“We figured, hey, it’s starting to get nice out, so let’s give up our Sundays and start doing brunch,” said Zentral chef/co-owner Russell Klein with a laugh.
Along with omelets and Benedicts, Klein is promising yeasted Belgian waffles.
“They’re light and crispy and they’re just delicious,” he said. “I’m a waffle guy, and I’ve never done them in a restaurant before, because they’re such a pain. But they’re delicious.”
Don’t believe him? Take a weekday morning taste-test. The waffles are getting a preview at Cafe Zentral, the restaurant’s skyway-level breakfast-lunch counter.
Other items include a Dutch baby-style pancake with apples, hot out of the cast-iron pan, and schnitzel with a fried egg and caper butter.
Also, pastries. “Our pastry chef, LaShaw Castellano, is doing all sorts of breakfast pastries, and we’ll have them on a cart that we wheel around the dining room,” said Klein.
Zentral brunch is served 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “We may add Saturday brunch in the fall,” said Klein.
Meanwhile, at Spoon and Stable, chef/owner Gavin Kaysen is offering a hash brown spin on the Juicy Lucy, red wine-poached eggs with wild mushrooms, dill-cured salmon with a bagel-style flat bread, cottage cheese and horseradish, and other a la carte items, all falling in the $8-to-$19 range.
Pastry chef Diane Yang will be preparing seasonal sweets, and bartender Robb Jones has crafted a number of $8 brunch cocktails. Spoon and Stable brunch is served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Reservations are highly recommended at both restaurants.
With Easter looming on the calendar, Burger Friday is taking a step away from the beef and diving headlong into variations on the traditional Friday fish fry (pictured, above: A fireside fish fry, from a 1959 Star Tribune file photo). Here are five suggestions:
Each Friday evening at Sapor Cafe and Bar, chef Tanya Siebenaler offers a different take on the classic fish fry formula, with one exception: it’s not an all-you-can-eat situation. Last week, Siebenaler was consumed with catfish, remoulade and potato salad. This week, she’s channeling St. Patrick’s Day with beer-battered cod and hand-cut fries served with malt vinegar tartar sauce ($18). Pair it up with a pint or two of Fair State Brewing Cooperative’s oat-ey brown malt stout, brewed in northeast Minneapolis.
On Friday after 6 p.m., Cafe Maude embraces the season with a fish fry, minus the all-you-can-eat pile-on, and cooks the heck out of it. The fish is tempura-battered cod, served with sauce gribiche, a tartar-like sauce made with hard-cooked eggs, capers, pickles and dill. The russets skip the fryer and instead go the twice-blanched-then-baked route before getting a dusting of seasoning. Oh, and there’s a cabbage-carrot coleslaw, dressed with aioli. Cost: $16.50.
True to its northern Wisconsin roots, Red Stag Supperclub puts out a doozy of a Friday fish fry, and people, there are options: single ($12) and double ($17) servings of cod, and single ($13) and double ($18) servings of walleye, all paired with potato chips, coleslaw and a divine sweet-onion tartar sauce. Don’t miss a drop of the house-made smoked ketchup when you splurge on a cone of the kitchen’s famous smelt fries ($8).
At the new North Loop iteration of Red Cow, fish-fryers can opt for a straight-up single serving ($12) or indulge in the all-you-can-eat ($15) version. It's a familiar formula: beer-batted white fish, house-cut fries.
One of the Twin Cities' great fish fries is served all day (11 a.m. to 10 p.m.) at historic Gluek’s Restaurant & Bar. Get this: Cajun-style catfish, red beans and rice, hush puppies and coleslaw, for $13.95. The kitchen's beer-battered walleye, served with a mountain of crisp fries, slaw and caper-dill tartar sauce ($10.95, a single serving), is another option.
There's a near-bottomless number of reasons why I can't get enough of this Aug. 27, 1970 story from the Minneapolis Star.
For starters: I'd forgotten about the "midi," the calf-length skirt that was the fashion world's compromise between the miniskirt and the floor-length "maxi." Or that Dayton's had a women's apparel department called the "Out of Sight" shop, and that the shop, an apparent shoplifter's target, sold "Women's Lib" T-shirts (for $5!). Or that the store's 12th-floor Oak Grill restaurant, which opened in 1948, had originally been called the Men's Oak Grill, and that women were barred from dining there unless they were accompanied by a male escort. Or that the newspaper published the home addresses of people mentioned in stories. Or that the Star had a "Women's News" section. Or that a woman in the story expresses another woman's approval by saying that she "dug" it.
It goes on and on. Anyway, here's the story. It was writted by Star staff writer Sue Chastain, and the headline reads, "Women Served Easily at Once Men-Only Spot."
At noon Wednesday, approximately 25 women expecting a “confrontation” walked into Dayton’s Oak Grill, were seated, and ordered hamburgers.
There was no “confrontation.”
A blue-jeaned member of the group said she hand’t expected any of the women to be refused admission, but was surprised that “they made no fuss about us at all.”
A spokesman for Dayton’s said the grill at one time served only men but that this has not been enforced for the last year. Any woman with or without escort should have been admitted, the spokesman said.
The grill was the scene of another women’s liberation attack five months ago when protests from a group of women persuaded store officials to remove the “Reserved for Men” sign on the door.
“I just always assumed women couldn’t get in, so I never tried it before,” a tall browned-haired woman wearing huge sunglasses said yesterday. “If they let women in, they ought to make a public statement about it.”
A group of “Women’s Lib T-shirts” on sale at Dayton’s Out of Sight shop drew more wrath from the women assembled in the grill than the restaurant’s admissions policy.
The T-shirts, selling for $5 each, are decorated with the biological symbol for woman imprinted with the clenched fist of women’s liberation.
One of the women said another member of the group had stolen approximately a dozen of the T-shirts from the Out of Sight shop earlier.
“What Dayton’s is doing with them represents everything we’re fighting against,” she said.
No shirts were available in the shop at noon yesterday.
The women reported “quite good results” from 15 minutes of passing out leaftlets to women yesterday morning. The leaflets sketched strike demands and publicized the picnic scheduled for last night.
“We passed out over 1000 in an awfully short time,” one woman said proudly. “Amazingly enough, the older the woman was, the more she dug it.”
The “well-dressed women” who “really looked like they had made it” were less receptive to the strike message, another agreed.
“One who was really decked out crumpled up a leaftlet and threw it in the trash can right in front of me,” she said.
Two women were arrested yesterday morning in front of Donaldson’s downtown department store on charges of vandalism and defacing private property. Other women’s liberationalists said the two were gluing posters onto the store windows.
The two, Mary Berg, 18, 3261 Snelling Av. N., St. Paul, and Carol Shilling, 21, 2620 Harriet Av. S., were both scheduled to appear in Hennepin County Municipal Court today.
Other women also putting up posters on the mall yesterday morning struck a humorous note when they entered one small dress shop.
The agitated manager, evidently assuming the delegation was protesting the midi skirt fashions, attempted to placate them by assuring the leader, “But we don’t carry midi skirts here!”
The women laughed, and departed.
The Star Tribune is leaving its 95-year-old home at the end of the month, a nostalgia-triggering occasion that has sent me, on numerous occasions, into the basement clip morgue, a repository of files that reach back into the 1950s. I've been digging through material related to food and restaurants, but I've also peeked into other various facets of local history.
The Dales, for example. My family lived in Brooklyn Center from 1959 to 1972, which of course meant that nearby Brookdale (pictured, above, in a 1962 file photo) was our shopping center of choice. I pulled the morgue's Brookdale-related materials, and along with dozens of tiny announcements on art displays, tax preparation clinics and kids' activites -- the bread and butter of a daily newspaper -- I stumbled upon a trove of articles illuminating the development of the now-demolished shopping center.
A recent update to the newspaper's electronic photo archive also revealed a number of previously unseen (well, to me, anyway) images of "Mad Men"-esque Brookdale, and they've released a torrent of happy memories. Here's some of what I found.
Sneak peek: Brookdale was built in stages. The shopping center's about-to-open East Mall was featured in a July 27, 1966 spread in the Minneapolis Star. “Air-conditioned, and accented in oak. A 35-foot-high illuminated fountain, at rear center, gives illusion of perpetual rain.”
A Minneapolis Star story dated July 31, 1966 delved into further detail. "Second-stage construction has added 421,051 square feet of space to the shopping center at Hwy. 100 and Osseo Rd. [now Brooklyn Blvd.] in Brooklyn Center. Brookdale now covers 862,460 square feet, compared with 929,815 square feet at Southdale Center in Edina, Dayton Development's first shopping center.
"Included in the second stage are: A new Dayton Co. department store, covering 195,368 square feet. Some 20 news stores, shops and servinces in the newly built East Mall, bringing the center's total number of stores and services to 55. An enlargement of the J.C. Penney Co. store to 140,320 square feet, plus a 10,269-square-foot Penney's automotive service center.
"Construction is scheduled to begin soon on a new Donaldson's department store. When it is completed next fall it will become Brookdale's fourth major department store, joining Dayton's, Penney's and a Sears, Roebuck & Co. store that opened in 1962."
Above: A close-up of the so-called "rain fountain" (1966) which fascinated me to no end when I was a kid.
Above: The East Mall's aquariums (1966), another Brookdale attraction that I remember with great affection.
Big D: The view into Dayton's from the East Mall (1966). Bear with me for a moment. In keeping with tradition, the store's budget department was called the Downstairs Store, so named because the department was located in the basement of Dayton's original store in downtown Minneapolis. However, at Brookdale, the Downstairs Store was located on the main level (the store had a smaller second level, for housewares and restaurants). My memory leads me to believe that, if you entered Dayton's Brookdale store from the mall (pictured, above), the Downstairs Store was to the right. A double-sided overhead sign hanging over the aisle delineated the Downstairs Store from the rest of the sales floor. One side said "Downstairs Store" and the other side read "Mall Level" (or something like that) and as a 12-year-old I found that endlessly amusing. I also have no idea why I remember that.
Above: Interiors of the new Dayton's store. Unfortunately, I couldn't unearth any images of the store's Brookdale Inn restaurant, or the Bandstand snack bar.
Movers and shakers: "At the opening of Dayton's new Brookdale store (Minneapolis Star, Aug. 2, 1966) are from left: Kenneth Dayton, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of Dayton's; Douglas Dayton, president of Target; and Donald Dayton, chairman of the board of the Dayton Co." The three brothers' grandfather, George Draper Dayton, founded the store in downtown Minneapolis in 1902. Donald Dayton died in 1989, Kenneth Dayton died in 2003 and Douglas Dayton died in 2013. Their nephew is Gov. Mark Dayton.
Above: Bachman's Brookdale store, in the center's East Mall, two days before its 1966 opening.
The last big store: When Donaldson's opened in September 1967, the Minneapolis Star returned to Brookdale and published these four images (above). "When Donaldson's opens its new store in Brookdale Shopping Center, Monday, the center will be the first major enclosed mall shopping center to have four major department stores under one roof (Sept. 27, 1967). Donaldson's will join Dayton's, Penney's and Sears in the Brookdale complex. The new store will have a two-level 160,498 square foot space located on the north side of Brookdale Center. With the advent of Donaldson's the center will employ more than 3,000 with parking accommodations for 5,200 cars."
Carter-era dining: The East Mall's distinctive "rain fountain" disappeared in 1977 and was replaced by Olives East restaurant, "an airy wooden gazebo that has done well and has won national design awards," reported the Minneapolis Star on March 13, 1977. A Brookdale spokeswoman said the restaurant "has broken up the 'cattle run' look of the mall, with the result that the smaller stores between Donaldson's and Dayton's are doing better."
Midcentury modern: “Red Owl is going octagonal with two stores (Dec. 14, 1966). Model watchers are president James Watson and James E. Gottlieb, construction director. Red Owl Stores, Inc. plans to build two modern supermarkets at a combined cost of $1.5 million, Watson announced today. One of the octagonal buildings is already under construction at Brookdale. The other building will replace an existing Red Owl store at Southdale.” The Brookdale store, located to the southwest of the shopping center, opened in October 1967, and it replaced a store inside the mall. My father worked for Red Owl, and until we moved to Burnsville in 1972, a Friday night visit to this well-appointed store was my parents' weekly grocery shopping ritual. Both locations were later converted to Red Owl Country Stores (a rival to Cub Foods) and were eventually demolished. Trivia note: Watson’s daughter Lucia Watson would go on to open Lucia’s Restaurant in 1985; she sold her Uptown landmark last December.
Early eatertainery: An occasional clip reveals a bit of Brookdale-related restaurant news. On Jan. 27, 1969, the Minneapolis Star published plans for the first, yes, Jolly Green Giant Restaurant. "It is intended for the business lunch and family dinner trade, according to company officials. This restaurant is scheduled to open at the Brookdale shopping Center in Brooklyn Center in July. A second Giant is planned for a later opening in Bloomington." The restaurant was a huge favorite of my pre-teen self, in part because the lobby featured a statue of the JGG. Or was it a gigantic JGG chair? I'm fuzzy on that detail. Anyway, the restaurant didn't last long. According to a January 1973 clip, it was replaced by Steak & Stein.
Another Nelson family favorite, Marc's Big Boy, opened its first Minnesota outlet near Brookdale (Dec. 5, 1968). Company president Ben D. Marcus said it was the first of 20 planned franchises in the state over the next five years. Big Boy Restaurants of America operated 480 units around the country at the time, and the chain was a subsidiary of Marriott Corp.
Yet another yellowed clip reminded me of the current discussion regarding Sunday liquor sales: In 1968, Dayton’s and Donaldson’s opened their stores at Brookdale and Southdale on Sunday for the first time. “The decision did not change the positions of J.C. Penney, Sears and Power’s, which had announced earlier that they would not do business on Sunday," reported the Minneapolis Star on March 20, 1968. "Today’s announcement followed a ruling Tuesday by the Minnesota Supreme Court, which ruled that a Sunday closing law by the 1967 legislature was unconstitutional. A spokesman for J.C. Penney repeated a national policy prohibiting its stores from operations on the Sabbath." Three days later, Woolworth’s announced it would open its Brookdale and Southdale stores on Sunday.
Get cooking. Or maybe not. Of course, the files contain recipes. Since its inception in 1969 and for years thereafter, a longstanding Taste feature was Restaurant Requests. Readers would call upon the newspaper to act as an intermediary and publish home-cooking versions of popular restaurant recipes.
On Sept. 21, 1977, Mrs. Patrick Bayless of Anoka inquired after the recipe for "Poulet Elegante Crepes, as served at Dayton’s Brookdale Restaurant." The reply came from Linda Lokkesmoe of Dayton’s and, well, it’s a doozy:
“For sauce, add canned mushroom stems and pieces to Stouffers’ frozen, creamed chicken; heat. Place 2 1/2 oz. of heated sauce in each crepe, fold edges toward center and overlap. Place in microwave oven for a few seconds, until bubbly. Remove and top with 1 tablespoon of sauce; garnish with parsley.”
Judy Harding of St. Francis requested the recipes for the punch and the cranberry salad served at Dayton’s Buffet Room in Brookdale. Becky Longabaugh of Dayton’s replied, and her more formal response (again, yikes) was published on April 4, 1973.
BROOKDALE INN BUFFET PUNCH
Makes 64 (4-oz) servings.
1 gallon lemonade
2 (46-oz.) cans pineapple juice
3 (12-oz.) cans Diet 7-Up
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Red food coloring
Directions: Blend ingredients.
DAYTON’S CRANBERRY FLUFF SALAD
2 (1-lb.) pkg. fresh cranberries
2 c. sugar
1 (10-oz.) pkg. miniature marshmallows
3 qt. whipped cream (1 1/2 qt. whipping cream)
Directions: Chop cranberries; add sugar, mix and let stand 1/2 hour. Add marshmallows and cream, then put in a mold. Refrigerate before serving.
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