Tenderloin sliders at Sidecar
The new cocktail bar Sidecar, named not just for the drink but the fact that it's literally on the side of its sibling Town Hall Tap, is a classy and cozy new addition to the 48th and Chicago corner.
After a quarter-century in the beer industry, Town Hall Brewery/Tap/Lanes owner Pete Rifakes was drinking less beer, he said. When neighboring Adrian's Tavern closed in 2016, Rifakes decided to take over the space, devoting the annex to his newer fascination with spirits. After acquiring it in 2019 and a lengthy renovation period, thanks to COVID, Sidecar is now officially open.
The old watering hole has been wildly transformed, most notably by the classic-leaning cocktail menu, with some inventive uses of foam and a whole page devoted to drinks made with Minnesota honey. The new space is all about midcentury modern furniture, crystal chandeliers, retro speakers, gold-flecked wallpaper — and bathroom stalls that no longer lean awkwardly. Rifakes also installed a colorful new patio for both venues, which will open next spring.
Sidecar shares a kitchen with its neighboring beer bar and its chef, Mike Hanson, who is behind the small menu of shareable plates.
And these sliders ($15 for 2) are the clear star. Beef tenderloin spends two hours in a sous vide bath until medium-rare and exceptionally tender, then is seared on the flat top and topped with shoestring onions — and a peppercorn bourbon cream sauce that, frankly, needs to be served by the vat, it's so good. A cone of crisp garlic Parmesan fries are an extra $3 — don't skip them. (Sharyn Jackson)
Sidecar, 4812 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., 612-767-7307, facebook.com/The-Sidecar-at-the-Tap-102330188900150. Open 4-11 p.m. Sun., Tue. and Wed.; 4 p.m.-midnight Thu.-Sat.
Cardamom Spinners at Brake Bread
After taking an 18-month hiatus from retail sales, this gem of a bakery — which for the past seven years has been connecting with customers via a bicycle-based delivery service — is once again greeting walk-ups. Baker/co-owner Nate Houge and his team have set up a makeshift indoor-outdoor counter at the front door; an honest-to-goodness pickup window is scheduled to arrive in a few weeks.
"It's awesome to reconnect with people, and have those face-to-face conversations," said Houge.
The No. 1 seller? These spiraled, not-too-sweet rolls ($3), which reach back to the bakery's startup days as a farmers market stand.
"We wanted to do something that we haven't seen at other bakeries in the Twin Cities," said Houge. "The easiest way to be the best is to be the only."
These singular beauties boast the uncomplicated good looks of baked treats that blossom in the oven, rather than relying upon icings or other decorative embellishments. Not only do they taste great, but their alluring fragrance reinforces the belief that we could all benefit from a little more cardamom in our lives.
"Cardamom's gift is that it's both warming and cooling at the same time," said Houge. "It's interesting on the palate because it's comforting to eat, and it's also refreshing." (Rick Nelson)
1174 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-300-9136, brakebread.com. Open 8 a.m.-noon Fri.-Sat. Delivery and off-site pickup locations also available.
Shrimp n' Grits at Breaking Bread Cafe
This prime destination has also recently reopened its doors to diners following a lengthy, pandemic-induced pause. Hurrah.
Another cause for celebration is this first-rate rendition of the Southern classic ($10.95), a signature dish if ever there was one.
The grits are just as they should be, sturdy but creamy, and a total comfort on a chilly autumn day. But the star of the show is the plump shrimp. After getting a coating in a lively seasoning, they're expertly blackened to a snappy, juicy bite.
What an excellent breakfast. Lunch, too, because the kitchen wisely embraces a breakfast-all-day mind-set. (R.N.)
1210 W. Broadway, Mpls., 612-529-9346, breakingbreadfoods.com. Open 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
I'm Your Daddy pizza at Surly Brewing Co.
When Surly started reopening its massive beer hall earlier this summer, it did so in stages — first the beer started to flow (June), then the food hall opened with a limited menu (July) and finally, the upper-level pizza kitchen fired up its oven and started churning out New Haven-style pizza (September). Did they save the best for last?
After trying the I'm Your Daddy pizza, I vote yes. A thin, chewy crust is topped with red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, sweet and hot peppers and — this is key — drizzled with burnt honey ($14.50). The sweet-meets-spicy combination is a memorable one, making a run-of-the-mill pepperoni pie taste so ... basic. For those not eating meat, the Walter White, with thinly sliced potatoes, rosemary, garlic, Parmesan and charred spring onions ($13), was a close second.
But a pizza is only as good as its crust. Surly employs the New Haven-style for its 12-inch pizzas, albeit with its own touches. The foundation is, no surprise, brewer's yeast — waste not, want not — and the crust is charred to its hallmark perfection in a wood-fired oven.
Unlike the beer hall below, Pizza Upstairs is a counter-service operation. And it's quick. Beer hall customers can come up and grab a pizza to eat downstairs, but you can't order from the beer hall menu upstairs. Beer, of course, is served both places. (Nicole Hvidsten)
520 Malcolm Av. SE., Mpls., 763-999-4040, surlybrewing.com. Open 3-9 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 3-11 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat.
Carne asada nachos from Qué Tal Street Eats
This is a two-for-one, because the Salvadoran food truck Qué Tal was on site last weekend at La Doña Cervecería for the Latin-influenced brewery's third anniversary parking lot party. It was a celebratory way to say cheers to La Doña, a fast fixture in the Harrison neighborhood of north Minneapolis that has done so much to bring more diversity to the Twin Cities beer scene.
While La Doña does have a kitchen on site at its taproom-and-soccer field campus, Qué Tal has also been a big part of its story, often parked there and serving up its signature pupusas, the savory and satisfying cheese-and-meat-stuffed masa pockets that pair perfectly with an ice-cold Doña Fria Mexican lager.
You know what else pairs with beer? Nachos. And Qué Tal has its own unique formula, starting with an umami-packed marinade for the carne asada made with mustard, lime, garlic — and a secret ingredient straight from El Salvador by way of the U.K.
"My whole life, we made 'Salsa Perry,' " said Qué Tal owner Nancy Alayon. "One day I was like, 'What is that?' It's Worcestershire sauce." Perry, she explained, is a nickname for the brand, Lea & Perrins.
To top off that mouthwatering steak, Alayon makes chimol, which is a chunky salsa with radishes, and her fresh queso with roasted chiles and another astoundingly simple ingredient. "You can't go wrong with melted American cheese," she said. "It doesn't have to be fancy all the time."
While the pupusas are Alayon's pride — "it's what I really wanted to introduce the Twin Cities to," she said — these nachos ($12) have become her truck's hot item. "I always have customers fight over the last ones." (S.J.)
Check social media (facebook.com/quetalstreeteats and instagram.com/quetalstreeteats) for locations, quetalstreeteats.com. The truck will be back at La Doña for Día de los Muertos on Oct. 30 starting at noon. La Doña Cervecería, 241 Fremont Av. N., Mpls., 612-315-4613, dameladona.com. Open 4-11 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 3-11 p.m. Fri., noon-2 a.m. Sat., noon-8 p.m. Sun.