Meat, fish and takeout in White Bear Lake

When a strip-mall pizzeria became available near their restaurant, the ownership behind Acqua (4453 Lake Av. S., White Bear Lake, jumped at the opportunity.

Goodbye, pizza. Hello, Meet Market (1971 Whitaker St., White Bear Lake), which will combine a counter-service cafe with a meat and seafood counter.

The butcher component will contain a lengthy list of beef and pork cuts, and the fish and seafood inventory will cover "all the fresh stuff that's in season," said co-owner Daron Close. "The sky's the limit. We don't know how much demand is there, but we've got to have a selection that will bring people back."

Although a dining room will offer a limited number of seats, the restaurant side of the business will focus primarily on takeout: rotisserie chicken, ribs, sandwiches, salads and kitchen pantry items familiar to Acqua regulars, including desserts (the lovely butterscotch budino, for instance) and sauces.

The plan is to open in early October.

In other Acqua news, the restaurant is offering a spin on those bonus gift-card programs that have become popular at year's end. Purchase a house account (or reload an existing account) and receive a 20 percent discount on all deposits of $250 or more, with no limit, through September.

Downtown's diner

Sam Turner and Dion Coker are doing their bit to brighten the stretch of Nicollet Avenue just south of Grant Street in downtown Minneapolis.

After launching their Muffin Top Cafe (1424 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-315-5946, earlier this year, the couple just expanded into the corner space next door with the Nicollet Diner (1428 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-399-6258,

The cheery restaurant — love that 18-seat counter — serves short-order basics at breakfast (omelets, pancakes, chicken and waffles) and lunch and dinner (burgers and fries, BLTs, chef salads and malts), keeping most prices below $10 and cooking until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday (breakfast service stops at 11 a.m., but will soon move to all-day availability).

Turner and Coker are applying for a 24-hour license — a Twin Cities rarity — and a public hearing on the request is taking place at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 23 at Minneapolis City Hall. Here's hoping it passes.

Doughnut-mania continues

Roughly six months after reviving the shuttered Hans' Bakery (1423 5th Av., Anoka, 763-421-4200, www.hans-, owner Kelly Olsen is already in expansion mode.

By early October, Olsen plans to launch a western suburban branch of the doughnut maker in the former home of Minnetonka Mud Coffee Cafe (3465 Shoreline Dr., Navarre).

Along with a full line of coffee beverages (using fresh-roasted product from the Bean Coffee & Wine Cafe in Andover), the new 30-seat location will carry nearly every item featured at the doughnut mother ship in Anoka.

They'll be produced in Anoka and delivered daily (Olsen is toying with converting the existing Navarre kitchen into a gluten-free baking facility), including the shop's signature Beehive, a gigantic dome-shaped pastry filled with pastry cream and topped with sliced almonds.

Business is obviously booming. The raised doughnuts are the most popular — to date, Olsen reports sales in excess of 150,000 since she reopened the beloved Anoka institution last winter — but the Bee Sting, a more modestly proportioned version of the Beehive, is also a big seller.

Does this mean that Olsen plans to ring the Twin Cities in Hans' Bakery outlets?

"I have stopped guessing where life is going," she said with a laugh.

The accidental restaurateur

Tamara Brown never set out to be the owner of an about-to-open cafe. Or to operate a food truck, for that matter.

"I'm a little bit of a random," she said with laugh. "And now I have this really big challenge."

Brown was a nutrition counselor and educator when she started Sassy Spoon ( in 2012 as a way to demonstrate what she was advocating: gluten-free, low-sugar foods that showcase the glories of fresh vegetables, sustainably raised animal proteins and what she calls "clean" fats, including lard, organic butter and olive oil.

Three summers later and Brown has just signed a lease for a brick-and-mortar iteration of her bright-pink vehicle, taking over the former location of 3 Tiers Bakery Bistro (5011 34th Av. S., Mpls.) and hoping to open by year's end.

She's still working through the details, but the casual restaurant will probably follow a counter-service format and will feature wine and (gluten-free) beer.

"And there will be pink somewhere, somehow," Brown said with a laugh. "I love bright colors because I feel like they're happy and fun. I love that energy."

Rick Nelson