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Kanson-Benanav oversees the company’s overall food-and-drink operations — which includes Parka in south Minneapolis, as well as the savory lunch items served at the Rustica mothership — while Lange manages the day-to-day cooking at Grain Stack. They’re part of a wave of young talent — both are 24 — that’s invigorating the Twin Cities dining scene. The MIA is fortunate to have them.
Stock and Badge’s other improvements include a superb first-floor Dogwood Coffee outlet, which has transformed the formerly sterile lobby into a lively gathering place for meticulously brewed beverages, local beers and, of course, a full phalanx of Rustica goodies.
Meanwhile, the notion of a kids’ cafe seems a bit half-baked, but the adorable Half Pint is anything but. The young (and the young at heart) will enjoy its fruity-and-fizzy house-made sodas, Izzy’s-made ice cream treats, a sly (and tasty) twist on the Lunchable and a handful of beyond-cute cookies. Don’t miss the crisp, gently lemony cutouts (I’d like to think that their gingerbread-man form is Rustica’s salute to the Doryphoros, the museum’s monumental Roman statue) or the supremely addictive ode to the Oreo.
Looks-wise, Half Pint could pass as a snack-bar prototype for Pottery Barn Kids. Dogwood Coffee is similarly stylish. Unfortunately, Grain Stack still bears a remarkable resemblance to its drab predecessor.
An easy overhaul could start with adios-ing the funky half-moon-shaped chairs. A remarkably durable chrome-and-pleather callback to the room’s Me Decade roots, they’re as uncomfortable now as they were then, and perhaps it’s time to bid them farewell.
Semi-dreadful as it is, the Grain Stack name is a logical shout-out to the museum’s “Grainstack, Sun in the Mist,” a Monet canvas of a wheat field shimmering in the rosy morning light.
The Impressionist masterpiece will never hang in the restaurant, but perhaps Grain Stack could follow the example of the coffee bar, a similarly all-white space that’s dominated by a blowup of a 1927 Japanese woodblock print. It’s a total eye-grabber, one that not-so-subtly celebrates the extraordinary Asian art collection housed on the floor above.
Imagine taking a lunchtime seat beneath a billboard-scaled Monet knockoff. It may be a tad literal — a grainstack in Grain Stack — but there are worse ways to spend an hour.
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