Photos by Daniel Murphy
The small bites at Tongue In Cheek are both impressive and inexpensive. We run the menu and consider a few other great tastes on a skimpy budget.
1–12 Teasers at Tongue In Cheek
It’s Thursday afternoon in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood of St. Paul and we’re on a mission to drink six cocktails. At Tongue In Cheek that’s not an unusual strategy.
We find general manager Ryan Huseby behind the bar. He smiles as we order the full happy hour flight. A passion fruit/cayenne chelada while we wait makes lucky number seven.
He lines up six petit martini glasses, each of them able to hold about two ounces. He begins with garnishes—an orange wedge, a lemon twist, a cornichon—and on down the line until each glass is adorned.
He then produces bottles of six pre-batched cocktails and, two at a time, fills the flight to the brim. They’re an enticing set of targets arrayed in front of us, and this is our kind of shooting gallery.
“We thought it would be a fun way to do happy hour,” says Huseby. “We didn’t know of anyone else doing it. We want people to sample a wide variety of things without having too much to drink.” All the mini-drinks are also available in full-sized versions or in flights of three during non-happy hours.
We dive in. Jack’s Pool is a classic mai tai, fruity and sweet. Why Not Minot is a tasty gimlet made with white whiskey from Iowa. When In Rome is like a Minnesota Negroni, with aquavit, Cynar, and sweet vermouth.
“For a couple of these, I just played with some fun flavors,” Huseby explains. “The Mother Of Dragons is jalapeño-infused bourbon with peach liqueur and orange juice. The Cross Eyed Mary is gin that’s infused with Bloody Mary flavors. That’s something Chef Leonard [Anderson] had done years ago at W.A. Frost. Back then, it was a sauce. We just revived it as a cocktail.”
The happy hour menu lists the mini-libations under the heading “COCK(tail) TEASERS” (which, for a place called Tongue In Cheek, seems woefully above-board.) But we’re willing to overlook the kitsch, considering the Tickle My Tiny Pickle is the most adorable little martini you ever did see.
The restaurant is humming. Most patrons have congregated near the bar and nearly all are drinking the teasers. There are roughly twenty-five diners present and we estimate eighty cocktail glasses among the tables.
Anderson then emerges from the kitchen with our food teasers. “Our main focus is sustainable meats,” he explains, “and after that it’s casual fine dining. We want to have it be interactive and fun for the guest without it being pretentious.”
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