In just a few weeks, the flavors of fall will emerge in full force. Apples and butternut squash will emerge on menus, whiskey and hot toddies in bars. And “pumpkin spice” — that inescapable behemoth — will once again take over the world.
Now, though, is the time to eke out the last drops of summer, when “refreshing” is still the most attractive descriptor for thirsty patrons.
For at least a few more weeks, frozen cocktails are king.
All summer, elevated versions of those icy libations that were once limited to pina coladas and daiquiris have cropped up on drink lists across the nation. Lucky for us, Twin Cities bars and restaurants are stacked with their own frosty varieties and bartenders are continuing to blend as we barrel toward Labor Day.
“Frozen cocktails are super trendy right now,” according to Spoon and Stable head bartender Robb Jones. “I think the mind-set now with craft bartenders is to kind of do away with all the pretentiousness that kind of surrounded it for a couple of years. If you can dump a bunch of stuff into a slushy and it tastes amazing, then absolutely. And it’s delicious. Of course you want frozen things in the summer.”
Spoon and Stable (211 N. 1st St., Mpls., spoonandstable.com) has offered several different frozen cocktails this summer and currently boasts the Cuba Libre — a concoction that combines rum, coconut and Dr Pepper and features a tiki mug, a mound of crushed ice and live flame (coconut placed in a lime peel is lit on fire upon the presentation). Is there any better manifestation of summer’s end?
Other stops for frozen joy include Hola Arepa (3501 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., holaarepa.com), which whips up Frozen Horchata with banana, coconut and lime, along with other frozen specials. 4 Bells (1610 Harmon Pl., Mpls., 4bells.com) serves up a “slushy” version of a classic negroni with a splash of grapefruit; Handsome Hog (203 E. 6th St., St. Paul, handsomehog.com), meanwhile, is peddling a bourbon slushy with orange juice, mint and ginger beer. And if it’s a boozy milkshake you’re craving, head to Milkjam Creamery (2743 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., milkjamcreamery.com), Hi-Lo Diner (4020 E. Lake St., Mpls., hi-lo-diner.com) and Ward 6 (858 Payne Av., St. Paul, ward6stpaul.com) to re-create that childhood summer rite of passage — but, you know, with a buzz.
New digs, new vision and a new chef
No one dines at food trucks for the atmosphere, but at Red River Kitchen’s new brick-and-mortar location at St. Paul’s City House (258 Mill St., St. Paul, redriverkitchen.com), patrons very well might. The restaurant — and bar! — housed at these digs is a collaboration between Matty O’Reilly of Republic (221 Cedar Av. S., Mpls., republicmn.com) and J.D. Fratzke of the Strip Club (378 Maria Ave., St. Paul, domeats.com) and Saint Dinette (261 E. 5th St., St. Paul, saintdinette.com), and offers a great view of the city. The open-air former grain terminal hangs out over the Mississippi River, which actually flows under part of the building. Expect similar offerings to the food truck, but with a greater selection as well as beer, wine and cocktails. Red River Kitchen at City House is open seven days a week seasonally for lunch and dinner, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“There really isn’t anything like it — I can say that safely,” O’Reilly said. “It’s just really unique and cool, the size of the place, where it sits. I’m just really happy that we got a chance to do this.”
In Minneapolis, Black Eye Roasting Co. — the trendy coffee brewery that began on Chicago Avenue, — has now expanded to a new location in downtown Minneapolis’ skyway (330 2nd Av. S., Mpls., blackeyeroasting.co). The new spot still features Black Eye’s signature cold brew, which can also be found in stores around the cities, and its creamy “nitro” cold brew.
Seward Co-op Creamery Cafe (2601 E. Franklin Av., Mpls., seward.coop) stays put, but with a new vision when it reopens following renovations on Sept. 12. New dishes will range from vegetarian sandwiches to classic brunch fare.
And Eastside (305 Washington Av. S., Mpls., eastsidempls.com), less than a year old, has hired its third chef. Dennis Leaf-Smith, who was a longtime chef de cuisine at 112 Eatery (112 N. 3rd St., Mpls., 112eatery.com), will replace current chef Nick Dugan after a stint in Philadelphia. Dugan will be cooking for Gavin Kaysen at Spoon and Stable.
Shutting the doors
Minneapolis’ only raw foods restaurant, Ecopolitan, abruptly closed after a 15-year run. The former operation at 24th Street and Lyndale Avenue S., which specialized in organic, vegan, raw and gluten-free foods, was one of the nation’s first such restaurants. Also saying goodbye? Ruby Tuesday. The restaurant chain recently shuttered 95 of its 725 locations, including eight in the Twin Cities metro area, in Apple Valley, Bloomington (Mall of America), Champlin, Chaska, Cottage Grove, Eden Prairie, Oak Park Heights and Plymouth. Don Pablos in Richfield has also closed its doors. The only remaining one in the chain in the Twin Cities is in Eden Prairie.