Time’s a-wasting. The official last day of summer is Sept. 22. That’s in seven weeks. Labor Day is in less than four weeks. Summer is slipping away, so why not make the most of it? Let’s count this down.
1. Shop a new(ish) farmers market
With more than 50 farmers markets, you’d think the Twin Cities metro area would be covered. Nope. New ones continue to pop up, and they’re worth checking out, not only for the shopping, but also for the noshing.
Riverplace Market (1 Main St. SE., Mpls.) meets Wednesdays from 3 to 7 p.m. Whittier Farmers Market (2608 Blaisdell Av. S., Mpls., whittierfarmersmarket.com) convenes Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Northeast Minneapolis Farmers Market has added a Thursday night component near the former Grain Belt Brewery (1215 Marshall St. NE., Mpls., northeastmarket.org) that runs from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Due to Nicollet Mall construction, the downtown branch of the Minneapolis Farmers Market has a (terrific) temporary new home, on the south plaza of the Hennepin County Government Center (300 S. 6th St., Mpls., mplsfarmersmarket.com), every Thursday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. And across the street in the Capella Tower (650 3rd Av. S., Mpls.), check out the indoor Wednesday lunch market, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
2. Discover unknown patios
Best to take advantage of weather while we can, right? Rose Street Patisserie (2811 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-259-7921), sibling to popular Patisserie 46, just debuted a sunny stretch of off-the-street tables in Linden Hills. Bang Brewing (2320 Capp Rd., St. Paul, 651-243-2264, bangbrewing.com) sports a charmingly quirky patio and a first-rate food partner: sausages from Ngon Vietnamese Bistro chef Hai Truong. Redstone American Grill has relocated its Minnetonka location (12241 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka, 952-591-0000, redstonegrill.com) to sparkling new digs in the Ridgedale shopping center, complete with, yes, a patio. And Jefe (219 Main St. SE., Mpls., 612-255-2000, jefeminneapolis.com) is serving Mexican fare at dinner and weekend brunch on a lively deck overlooking the Mississippi River.
3. Explore the food truck scene
Yes, on a picture-perfect day, downtown Minneapolis (and, to a lesser extent, downtown St. Paul) has an elbow-to-elbow street food vibe. But for those who can’t make it downtown during a weekday, trucks congregate elsewhere, parking it at farmers markets, distilleries and craft breweries.
The easiest way to track their whereabouts is on Twitter, and the most efficient way to do that is to go to the Star Tribune’s list of 90-plus trucks; find it at strib.mn/foodtrucks.
On Saturday, Aug. 13, check out the goods from 25 vehicles at the Northeast Food Truck Rally at Able Seedhouse & Brewery (1121 Quincy St. NE., Mpls., ablebeer.com), from noon to 7 p.m.
Here’s my current (but changes daily) Top 10 list, and their Twitter handles: Wyn 65 (@Wyn_65), Peeps Hot Box (@PeepsHotbox), Bark and the Bite (@barkandtheBite), Bibuta (@Eatbibuta), the Smoking Cow (@smokingcowmn), Wholesoul Eatery (@Wholesoul_MN), Tatanka Truck (@TatankaTruck), World Street Kitchen (@eatwsk1), Chef Shack (@chefshack1) and the new St. Paul riverside home of a second @RedRiverKitchen.
4. Eat a BLT. Or two. Per day
The world’s best sandwich is best when locally grown tomatoes — fairly bursting with sunshine- and rain-powered juices — make their all-too brief appearance. Sandcastle (4955 W. Lake Nokomis Pkwy., Mpls., 612-722-5550, sandcastlempls.com) keeps it old-school, with an uncomplicated lunch-counter formula ($7.50) that wisely relies upon crisp bacon, and lots of it, from Thielen Meats in Pierz, Minn.
Yum! Kitchen and Bakery (4000 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-922-4000 and 6001 Shady Oak Rd., Minnetonka, 952-933-6001, yumkitchen.com) owner Patti Soskin ups the ante ($9.95) with a house-baked ciabatta roll, garlicky aioli and scads of gold-standard Nueske’s applewood-smoked bacon, and served with the kitchen’s addictive potato chips.
Every year when tomato season rolls around, Birchwood Cafe (3311 E. 25th St., Mpls., 612-722-4474, birchwoodcafe.com) chef Marshall Paulsen starts with plenty of slab-cut-bacon (from Fischer Family Farms Pork in Waseca, Minn.), prodigiously juicy heirloom tomatoes and cool lettuce. Then he goes gleefully off script, adding a punchy sweet corn-chipotle coulis and a lively pesto. It’s all messily stacked inside toasted slices of house-baked whole wheat/rolled oats/sunflower seed bread ($14). Want to make it at home? Find the recipe in “The Birchwood Cafe Cookbook” (University of Minnesota Press). Or at startribune.com/tabletalk.
5. Hit the water
I’ve noted it before, but it bears repeating: one of the region’s most enchanting and surprising outdoor dining venues is Marine Landing b.o.t.m. (10 Elm St., Marine on St. Croix, 651-433-4577). The food is reasonably priced short-order fare; the real draw is the unparalleled open-air dockside setting. The nicest people, too. Breakfast and lunch are served Wednesday through Sunday, plus an early Friday evening dinner.
6. Feast upon the sweet corn-ucopia
Celebrate the glory of the (tragically) short-lived sweet corn season. Chefs certainly are. At Meritage (410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-222-5670, meritage-stp.com) chef Russell Klein takes four individual yet harmonious approaches to sweet corn on a single, splendiferous platter ($22).
The Good Earth (1901 W. Hwy. 36, Roseville, 651-636-0956 and Galleria, Edina, 952-925-1001, goodearthmn.com) is offering a roasted sweet corn chowder ($4.50 and $5.50), garnished with — what else? — corn chips. Meanwhile, at the Kenwood (2115 W. 21st St., Mpls., 612-377-3695, thekenwoodrestaurant.com), chef Don Saunders gives a sweet corn soup ($7 and $11) the luxe treatment with chanterelles and bacon.
“Chowder” ($14) is the password at Heartland Restaurant & Wine Bar (289 E. 5th St., St. Paul, 651-699-3536, heartlandrestaurant.com). The garnish changes daily, “depending upon whatever trips our trigger,” said chef Lenny Russo.
Common Roots Cafe (2558 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-871-2360, commonrootscafe.com) keeps it simple, shining a spotlight on sweet corn on the cob ($5.50) from Featherstone Farm in Rushford, Minn., by roasting it, brushing it with a harissa-fueled aioli then finishing it with paprika and feta.
Spoon and Stable pastry chef Diane Yang crowns a sweet corn ice-cream sundae with roasted plums ($10) and candied freeze-dried corn. As it has every year for the last 35 years, sweet corn ice cream (made from buttered-up Featherstone Farms corn) has popped up in the scoop case ($4.25 to $7.45) at Sonny’s Cafe (3403 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-824-3868, sonnysicecream.com). Oh, and when the Minnesota State Fair opens on Aug. 25 — that’s in two weeks, and counting — the Blue Moon Dine-In Theater (Carnes Av. and Liggett St.) will be hawking sweet corn ice cream, made on the premises.
7. Check out new restaurants
With so many newcomers, it’s impossible to keep track. But here goes:
The landmark diner that was most recently known as Le Town Talk French Diner & Drinkery has dropped the French accent and is now Town Talk Diner & Gastropub (2707 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-353-5398). Co-owners (and spouses) Charles Stotts and Kacey White are cooking a frequently changing farm-to-table menu at dinner and Sunday brunch.
Another remake: the Howe Daily Kitchen & Bar (3675 Minnehaha Av. S., Mpls., howempls.com), formerly the Rail Station Bar & Grill. Same ownership, but a new look, and new (breakfast, lunch, dinner and bar) menus, as well as a pooch-friendly patio, complete with a menu.
World of Beer (356 Sibley St., St. Paul, 651-493-3558, worldofbeer.com) has dropped an outlet into Lowertown, with tavern fare and a lengthy (and global) draft beer roster.
For his fifth (!) restaurant, tireless chef Hector Ruiz has is serving an impressive tapas menu in stylish surroundings, in a storefront he’s christened Costa Blanca Bistro (2416 Central Av. NE., Mpls., 612-607-3835, costablancabistro.com).
St. Paulites who want to feed their waffle craving (sweet, and savory, with gluten-free options) need look no farther than Black Coffee and Waffle Bar (2180 Marshall Av., St. Paul, 651-313-5693, blackcoffeeandwaffle.com), a Saintly City outpost of the Minneapolis shop of the same name.
8. Go overseas, minus the TSA
The indoor-outdoor HmongTown Marketplace (217 Como Av., St. Paul, 651-487-3700, hmongtownmarketplace.com) is part farmers market, part food court and 100 percent fascinating; there’s nothing like it anywhere in Minnesota. Be sure to take cash, your Instagram account and an appetite.