From cheeseburgers to chocolate chip cookies, here's a rundown of our food writers' dining diaries over the past seven days. What were your top eats of the week? Share the details in the comments section.
Burger at Bebe Burger
A cheeseburger is available on weekends at Bebe Zito Ice Cream, and the word "fantastic" applies.
"We have talked about doing a burger for a long time, and we wanted it to hit on all points," said co-owner Ben Spangler. "Hot, delicious, fast and affordable."
Done. Every detail checks out, and then some. The patty, composed of freshly ground brisket, is fortified with bacon and enriched with emulsified fat. They're fried on an electric flat-top grill, and the even heat transforms the patties' outer surfaces into all kinds of delectable crusty char while maintaining a tender, juicy interior.
The decision to use gooey American cheese, and plenty of it, was a no-brainer.
"It melts so perfectly," said Spangler. "And when you think of Swiss, or aged Cheddar and ask, 'Do they beat what you had as a kid?' The answer is always, 'No.' "
On the subject of nostalgia, the soft, buttered-and-toasted bun is of the slightly sugary Hawaiian variety.
"They bring me back to the sweet rolls I had as a kid," said Spangler. "This time of year, my brain and body need nostalgia. I don't know how everyone else is doing, but I'm eating a lot of comfort foods right now."
The divine pickles — snappy, teasingly sweet and radiating warm spice undertones — are Spangler's grandmother's recipe (he describes the enormous pickle cellar on her Nebraska farm as "A candy store of vegetables"), and the "special sauce" gets a sneaky jolt of Minneapolis-made Cry Baby Craig's hot sauce.
The burgers are produced, eight at a time, in an eye-catching, fire engine-red trailer. Gabriella Grant-Spangler, Spangler's spouse and business partner and an inveterate Facebook Marketplace shopper, found the trailer in Iowa. In scale and setup it's an ideal add-on to their cheery and endlessly creative ice cream shop.
"It was literally designed for burgers," said Spangler. "It looks small but when you get into it, it's bigger than any food truck. It's tall, there's a skylight, and there's tons of storage. It's really efficient. We can pump out a few hundred burgers in a few hours."
Another reason to love? The price: A semi-unbeliveable $5.95, with a $2 upcharge for an additional patty.
"We decided to use our knowledge to make the most affordable burger we could, and then figure out how to make it taste the best it possibly can," said Spangler. "It's about being creative with the time you have. It's the opposite of saying, 'Let's use every luxury ingredient we can, and charge and arm and a leg for it.' It's reverse engineering." (Rick Nelson)
704 W. 22nd St., Mpls. Burger available Sat.-Sun. starting at noon.
Common Roots Cafe has been one of my more regular takeout orders the last few months, not just because it supplies one of the best challah loaves in the Twin Cities: crisp on the outside, with that elastic chewy stretch on the inside. (Read all about their challah business on this Sunday's Taste page.)
Recently, they've launched a membership program. You choose one of three subscriptions and you get a weekly or every-other-week delivery of a box full of surprises. I selected the Shabbat box, and true to my best sabbath intentions, it facilitates the restfulness that comes with not having to plan and cook dinner.
I've gotten two so far, and both floored me with their thoughtfulness. A tray of heat-at-home chicken stew and steak-and-potato pie were the centerpieces, accompanied by spreads and housemade chips, salads, dessert, and of course, a traditional braided bread. All I had to do to make my Shabbat dinner complete was pour a glass of wine.
"For the boxes, a lot of it is about being part of a community and filling a gap of people not going out," said owner Danny Schwartzman.
The idea for the subscriptions was inspired by CSAs, he said. Regulars contribute monthly support to keep the cafe going, and give staff the peace of mind that comes with guaranteed orders; in return, we get something beautiful. As a bonus, anyone who subscribes to a regular box also gets free delivery and a discount on other orders from the cafe.
"It's still smaller volume for more work than before," Schwartzman said. "But it's keeping people in work, it's keeping us ordering ingredients, and it's keeping us in connection with customers, which is important."
The Shabbat subscription starts at $100 and goes up, depending on the frequency and number of servings you select. My biweekly meal for four costs $150 a month. There are other options, too: a Bakery Box and a Meals & Noshes Box.
Common Roots is also a catering company, and without events, Schwartzman has recommissioned the vans to drop off boxes all over town. They'll deliver within a 5-mile radius, maybe a little farther west if you ask. (St. Paul has a waiting list.)
My next Shabbat Box arrives today and I can't wait to find out what's inside. (Sharyn Jackson)
2558 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls. 612-871-2360
Chocolate chip cookies at Jojo & Co.
Jojo & Co. is proof that wonderful things can come from terrible situations. Two top pastry chefs lost their jobs when their restaurants went under: Joanna Biessener from Surly's beer hall, and Elsbeth Young-Haug of Butcher & the Boar. The pair teamed up to start a cottage food business out of Biessener's south Minneapolis kitchen. It might become a brick-and-mortar bakery one day, but for now, there's something especially gratifying about picking up pies and cakes on someone's front porch, when that someone is a serious pro.
Jojo & Co. is having a lot of fun with their first menus. There's a whole section on Lutheran funeral bars. You can also get a holiday cookie plate and sparkly hot chocolate bombs the size of a tennis ball.
I ordered a little of this and that, never expecting that my last-minute add to the online shopping cart of chocolate chip cookies was going to yield me a dozen decadent, enormous treats, each with a hardened puddle of previously melted milk chocolate floating in the middle ($12).
"They're totally unabashed, unafraid, gooey, salty chocolate," Biessener said. "This is not your proper, dainty cookie. This is the cookie where you are going to dive headfirst into chocolate."
The recipe nods to one she developed at Surly for the kids menu, which undoubtedly was consumed by plenty of the adults in the kitchen.
"I had constant pressure from the chefs," she said. " 'Can't you just make chocolate chip? The kids like chocolate chip.' I said, 'Do the kids like the chocolate chip, or do the chefs?' "
It's fair to say: both. (S.J.)
Order two days in advance, for pickup. At chefjojoco.com, hover over "More" and click "Online ordering."
The Vincent Vega at Dirty Sams
The cloth napkins have been replaced by paper, the steak knives for chopsticks. For shutdown No. 2, two high-end restaurants in the Jester Concepts family have done a 180-degree pivot straight into takeout-friendly sandwiches and noodles.
Monello, the modern Italian restaurant in downtown Minneapolis (and its basement counterpart Constantine) kept two of its pastas on the menu. Otherwise, it's taken on a new name — Dirty Sams — and put out a new menu of hearty sandwiches that could easily feed a family. The Vincent Vega — all the sandwiches are named after "Pulp Fiction" characters — plops Monello's Sunday special beef-and-pork meatballs in a housemade semolina hoagie bun, and smothers it with red sauce, cheese and spicy olive salad ($16). It might sound simple, but it's more than a run-of-the-mill meatball sub.
"We're still putting our craft into it as much as we can," said chef Mike DeCamp. "We make everything, which I think tends to make it better."
Sister restaurant P.S. Steak is now P.S. Noodles, with a lightly Japanese menu of ramen, yakisoba and dumplings.
"We've learned a bit from the previous shutdown," DeCamp said. "We realized people don't really want to eat a $60 steak out of a cardboard box." As someone who's cut steak frites with a plastic knife in a soggy box balanced on my lap at a backyard gathering, I concur.
Fans of Monello, Constantine and P.S. Steak needn't worry. They'll be back when on-site dining is back. But the new brands might stick around, too.
"We like to develop new concepts," DeCamp said. "This could be something that, if we like it, it sits on the shelf until there's a good spot for it." (S.J.)
Dirty Sams: 1115 2nd Av. S., Mpls., 612-353-6207. Takeout and delivery noon-8 p.m. daily. P.S. Noodles: 510 Groveland Av., Mpls., 612-886-1620, 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Wed.-Sun.
Kung pao ribs at Revolver Ribs
When business slowed to a pandemic-related trickle at popular Hot Indian, chef Janene Holig decided that the time was right to embrace her longtime fascination with ribs.
"When I was young chef Janene, I spent a lot of time in my backyard with my smoker box, making ribs," she said.
Unfortunately, her partner is not a fan of smoked foods. That hitch sent the ever-resourceful Holig in an entirely different direction, ribs-wise, and the results of those playful experimentations is a ghost-kitchen setup she's calling Revolver Ribs.
So far, she's working with five variations, culled from food memories and global travels: salt-and-vinegar served with a jalapeño-fueled ranch sauce, apple butter-barbecue, beer-cheese, "Holiday" (a Thanksgiving stuffing-inspired spice rub) and kung pao.
"But my back stock is maybe 78 flavors," Holig said with a laugh. Cost is $11.50 per 8-ounce order, which includes three to four bones plus condiments.
The kung pao versions are the top seller for a reason. The meaty ribs are roasted, low and slow, until the succulent pork is easily nudged off the bone. They're fried for about a minute to add a delicately crispy edge, then glazed in a lively sweet-hot red chile sauce and finished with peanuts and scallions.
"Ribs are so easily transformed with seasoning and sauces and condiments," said Holig. "They're better than chicken that way."
Next up: a play on schnitzel, with mustard and pickled vegetables. Right now, each variety is sold separately, but Holig is pondering a flight-inspired variety pack. She's hoping to supplement the delivery-only operation (Bite Squad, with ChowNow, GrubHub and DoorDash coming soon) with a curbside pickup service at Hot Indian's Midtown Global Market location. A website (revolverribs.com) should be online any day now.
Delivery available 4-8 p.m. Thu., 4-9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., noon-8 p.m. Sun.