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Look what's open: St. Paul's first Spyhouse Coffee

St. Paul’s first Spyhouse Coffee opened for business this morning promptly at 6 a.m.

“I haven’t been up this early since…I can’t remember when,” said owner Christian Johnson with a laugh. “Even my dog didn’t get up.”

But it seems as if the rest of the neighborhood is filled with caffeine-seeking early risers. By sunrise, the place was doing a brisk business, with smartphone-wielding customers snapping images left and right. By noon, the corner of Snelling and Palace is surely going to be the 651’s Instagram hot spot, and then some.

And why not? Like all Spyhouse locations – there are four others, all in Minneapolis – it’s a style-conscious space, one that takes full advantage of its 1930s-era storefront roots (the building once housed a neighborhood market and was most recently an antiques story), finished with envy-inducing marble counters trimmed in trendy brass, and plenty of Johnson's sharp-eyed collection of collectibles. Yeah, there's a reason Spyhouse has collected nearly 33,000 Instagram followers. 

The usual Spyhouse menu is in play, with beverages fashioned from beans roasted in Johnson’s northeast Minneapolis plant. The counter boasts a full complement of beautiful goodies from Sarah Botcher’s Black Walnut Bakery: scones, croissants, cookies, muffins and other pastries.

The cozy 42-seat coffeehouse, the smallest in Johnson’s orbit, also features a backyard patio, one that’s bound to be popular when the weather cooperates. 

Find it at 420 Snelling Av. S. in St. Paul, about six blocks south of the Macalester College campus.

Bad Waitress relaunches northeast Minneapolis location with new chef, menu and cocktails

The Bad Waitress in northeast Minneapolis is relaunching and re-concepting this month, shifting gears from breakfast diner to a cocktail bar with elevated comfort food.

Behind the change? The same ownership team – Andy and Mary Cohen – but a new chef and a new bar director.

Out is Twin Cities’ star bartender Johnny Michaels, who was previously running the bar program and had created an extensive cocktail list. Michaels, considered by many the godfather of the modern cocktail movement in Minnesota from his days at the former La Belle Vie, left in September, Cohen said.

“It was really a fit thing,” Cohen said. “His cocktails were amazing but we really didn’t need 30 of them. And we really just needed a dinner menu to go with that.”

Enter Obediah O’Connor, the new head chef, who joined the team in August. O’Connor, a Minnesota native who has worked at former restaurants Cafe Maude, Haute Dish and the Bulldog NE, has totally remade the menu, replacing egg dishes and French toast with the likes of bone marrow, beet tartare, pork chops and poutine. There are still light-hearted, casual notes – such as the burger and the syrup-less chicken and waffle with fire-roasted poblano gravy and bourbon-pickled jalapeno – but overall, the vibe is more “restaurant” than “breakfast joint.”

The new dinner menu will go into effect on Friday, Nov. 24. The day menu, for the meantime, will remain the same, and the other Bad Waitress on Eat Street will go unchanged.

“We’ve got this awesome cocktail bar behind us and we felt the food needed to match it,” O’Connor said. “We realized that no one is coming in here at 10 at night for pancakes and cocktails.”

The cocktail focus, meanwhile, has stayed, although the list is condensed and more focused. Bartender Tammi Rose was promoted to bar director and front-of-house manager, and created an all-new list of libations such as the Voodoo Lady, a shimmery gin beverage that arrives in a coupe with a decorative ribbon of fruit leather, and the South of Heaven, a bourbon and bitters-infused sipper.

And there’s new attention being given to local spirits and local craft beers on tap, as well.

Both Rose and O’Connor worked at the original Bad Waitress long ago, so their return – together – seems fitting.

“Here we are again,” O’Connor said. “It feels like it has come full circle.”

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