Happy Hour at Borough Bar

Good news for North Loopers…Borough is starting their happy hour Monday, November 13. Happy hour will be available at the Borough bar from 5-7pm Monday through Friday.

Special happy hour offerings will include half-off select beer taps, $1/ounce pours of select wines, $6 craft cocktails on tap, and a special happy hour food menu.


“Happy Hour” Comet Spreading Alcohol, Sugar Across Space

News from the interstellar imbibing file: astronomers have found booze and sugar left in the wake of Comet Lovejoy.

Formally called C/2014 Q2, but now given the nickname Happy Hour, the comet passed closest to the sun on January 30, 2015, when it was releasing water at the rate of 20 tons per second.

Researchers identified 21 different organic molecules in gas from the comet, including glycolaldehyde, a simple sugar, and, for the first time ever observed in a comet, ethyl alcohol.

While we’re hoping Lovejoy collides with a bitters and cherry comet to mix a space old fashioned, for now, the findings lend credence to the idea that comets are responsible for delivering some of the complex molecules that lead to the emergence of life on Earth.

Read more on the science and implications of Lovejoy’s boozy wake: [H/T NASA]

The Mill Post Bottom Graphic

Wine Wednesday: Roof Deck at JJ’s Downtown

JJ's Coffee, Open Book,

John Garland / Growler Magazine

You stand at the railing of a rooftop deck on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. You notice it’s not crowded with pretty people or high top tables. You don’t hear Top 40 blasting from the speakers – there aren’t speakers at all. You know that a waitress is not on her way to tell you about specials. You’re alone. In fact, you’re not even conscious of another living soul out on this deck.

You’ve found it sheltered behind Washington Avenue on the rear flank of the Open Book Building. But first, you stopped at JJ’s Coffee + Wine Bistro on the main floor. You would have been happy with some regular old pinot grigio, but then you saw the Oveja Negra blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Carmenere, and you thought today would be a good day to try something different. You notice that happy hour runs 4-6pm, with $4 house wines and tap beers (you notice 612brew Mary Ann, Indeed Shenanigans and Lucid Air on the tap tower). You congratulate yourself for leaving work when you did.

Then you took your drink up the elevator to the third floor, to the deck across from the offices of Milkweed Editions. You sat down on the sparse patio furniture, retrieved your copy of The Wish Book by Alex Lemon from your bag and noticed your surroundings. It’s impossibly quiet. Riverside Plaza, with its Mondrian-like arrangement of windows looms in the east. In front of you, a collection of cranes hover about the pit once named for Humphrey. And to your right, the heart of the Mill City beats in the distance.

And you, with a tall tumbler of wine, a quiet reading spot, and 45 minutes on your parking meter. You smile, take a sip, and dive into your book while the busy world floats on by.

JJ’s Coffee + Wine Bistro, Open Book Building, 1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612.215.2626, 

Let’s Get Happy! Soberfish

tempura and spicy salmon at soberfish

John Garland / Growler Magazine

So many things about Soberfish would suggest a lack of focus. The Seward neighborhood restaurant has all the hallmarks of pan-Asian fusion confusion. Except, that is, for where it counts the most.

The name, first announced as Drunken Sake, and then Drunken Fish, finally landed on something that not only makes no sense, but gives a diner very little idea of what to expect. The space is organized better than its previous tenant, True Thai, but the decor is curious. Accent walls in salmon pink brighten up a design scheme that’s a combination of “vaguely nautical” and “Thai restaurant garage sale.” Then there’s the menu: half Thai, half Japanese, with a smattering of Indian and Szechuan thrown in at random intervals. This is all going off the rails, right?

Happily, the kitchen is where the confusion stops. Our first few visits have confirmed that both the sushi and Thai aspects of Soberfish are executed with a sobering hand. Nothing is game-changing but it’s all very competent. For a menu so diverse, that’s a huge victory in itself.

So Let’s Get Happy because a sushi restaurant will always have a menu section of things to nibble on, like edamame, gyoza and tempura. So happy hours are a fine chance for them to offer attractive value (see: Masu Sushi & Robata for the current champion of sushi happy hour). Soberfish does it right: a couple bucks off those snacks, as well as egg rolls, satay and tataki. 5-piece basic rolls (California, dynamite, spicy tuna etc.) are $4.50-$5.50. They also discount a few of the most common stir-fry entrees (Pad Thai, curry, sweet and sour) to around $7-8.

For drinks: $3 rail drinks, house wine and mimosas. $2 off tap beer (a small selection including Lagunitas, Fulton and Rush River) and saké. And next week would be an excellent time to check out Soberfish. They’re throwing a grand opening event week, July 15th-22nd, discounting all their food by 30%.

Soberfish, 2627 E. Franklin Ave. Minneapolis, 612-354-2544. Happy Hours: 2-6pm & 9-close daily. Sat-Sun, noon-6pm & 9-close.

Because if there’s anything we like more than beer, it’s cheap beer, we present our new segment Let’s Get Happy! in which an area restaurant is viewed partly through the lens of its happy hour offerings. Have a favorite drink special we should highlight? Email [email protected].

Beer & Wine Cocktails at Lowry Hill Dunn Bros.

LSD Spritzer at Dunn Bros.

John Garland / Growler Magazine

When asked if I prefer Starbucks or Caribou, my answer is Dunn Brothers. The difference among the chains, for me as a black coffee drinker, is Dunn Bros. roasting their beans in-house.

But as a cocktail drinker, there’s a new difference maker at the Lowry Hill Dunn Bros. Owner Sanjeev Azad has developed a casual bar concept that gently transitions the java house into a nighttime gathering spot. It’s been open since June 23rd in the long-disused Hennepin Ave. space formerly home to Muddy Paws Cheesecake.

“It’s beautiful, when it gets dark, and people are sipping on beer and there’s light chatter and a yellow glow from the lights,” says Azad. “People look in, step back, look at the sign, and look back in confused. It’s great. We have families come in, buddies hanging out, people on dates. It’s not a loud bar, you’re not going to drop $50, and it’s just welcoming – that’s important to me.”

Happy Hours

Let’s begin with what’s most important: discounted drinks. Happy Hour at the Lowry Hill Dunn Bros. runs from 2pm to 7pm every day. That means $4 Bender, Oberon and Farmgirl when every other happy hour in the neighborhood stops at 6pm. They plan to change over all the taps and cocktails every three months to keep with the seasons.

Beer and Beer Cocktails

Creative cocktails with a beer/wine license are usually underutilized or poorly executed. Sticky shandys and saké bloody marys – the category is begging for some creativity and that’s where Jason Westplate comes in. He’s a cocktail consultant, having worked mainly in the Chicago area, and his initial lineup of beer drinks at Dunn Bros. is worth a serious look-see.

Hopped up shandy gaff at Dunn Bros

John Garland / Growler Magazine

We’re enamored with his Hopped Shandy Gaff ($7, above) – a Widmer IPA with Fever Tree ginger beer, muddled lime and a couple doses of Bittercube Door County Hop Bitters. The combination of ginger and hops – both piercing flavors, one warm and spicy, the other vegetal and resinous – makes a boisterous duo unlike anything we’ve swilled this summer.

And if you’re walking down Hennepin looking for dessert, try Good Morning, Good Afternoon & Goodnight ($7, below). The combination of Surly Bender, Dunn Bros. Infinite Black cold press, and vanilla bean/cinnamon simple syrup gets a drizzle of heavy cream to complete the White Russian illusion.

Wine and Wine Cocktails

“There’s nothing fun about a white wine spritzer, so how can we make it better?” Westplate asks, pouring a half glass of Chilean sauvignon blanc. “Lavender. It can be great if it’s not too perfuming and cloying, so we have our lavender syrup, but tampered down with some lemon juice. For the big aroma, we use Dashfire Lavender Tincture.” Called the LSD spritzer ($7, pictured at top), it’s light and bright; a breezy summer drink that you could toss back without a moment’s hesitation.

That sauvignon blanc is also available as one of many options by the glass. Of the 32 keg wines currently available for distribution in Minnesota, this Dunn Bros. has 8 of them. I’m a wine guy – I’ll be happy to parse the difference between Rutherford and Oakville cabernets all day long. But more often than not, I’d rather have a cheap glass of whatever wine than a $15 glass of a specific one. Here, no glasses are over $9 and bottles are as cheap as $10 on happy hour (the simple, straightforward Radio Boca Tempranillo).

Cold press Surly Bender cocktail at Dunn Bros.

John Garland / Growler Magazine

Small Plates

“So far, food has been our number one selling category,” says Azad. “So that’s my focus, we’ll do some charcuterie, cheese plates, and other simple things.” With my LSD Spritzer, I’m munching on manchego, 3-year gouda and aged cheddar. It’s more than I’d expect from a coffee shop, and thankfully, less than they could be doing.

The space was equipped with a full kitchen. But Azad’s new landlord didn’t want to deal with another restaurant, so the decision was to make cocktail munchies super quick and easy. You won’t confuse Dunn Bros.’ small plates with those at Heyday. Nothing is “chef-driven”. The fare isn’t so much cooked as it is assembled.

But I’m glad this Dunn Bros. isn’t trying to act like something they’re not. They have a few delicious flatbreads, a hummus plate and quesadilla, some meats and cheeses, and maybe a special or two. The longest cook time on any item is 7 minutes for the chicken wings. For a coffee shop with a small beer/wine menu, a couple of Turbochef ovens churning out simple plates is exactly the right companion. And the value ($10-12 for a beer and a plate) is right where it should be.

Dunn Brothers Coffee Lowry Hill, 2528 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis. 612.377.3176

New Happy Hour Alert: Campus Club

By John Garland


So, here’s an interesting new spot to grab a cocktail in style this summer: The University of Minnesota Campus Club has announced that happy hour (3pm-6pm, Monday-Friday) is now open through August to non-members.

Drink specials are $1 off rail drinks, tap beers, house cocktails and 1/2 price bottles of wine. And their bottle prices are pretty reasonable to begin with, so half-off brings them into no-brainer territory. Filon Garnacha is a favorite of mine—and for $15? That’s nearly retail price.

The real draw, here, is the view. The lounge and terrace on the fourth floor of Coffmann Memorial Union has spectacular views of the Mississippi River and downtown Minneapolis. And if you’re up for an early dinner, you should really take advantage of their food menu. I’d put Campus Club’s executive chef Beth Jones right up there on the list of amazing Twin Cities chefs the average diner doesn’t know about. Food specials Monday through Wednesday include $1 off snacks like fried chickpeas and rosemary brown sugar nuts, to large plates like bistro fries, nachos and fried plantains.

Park in the East River Parking Garage adjacent to Coffman, or take the new Green Line (starting a week from Saturday!) to the East Bank Station.

UMN Campus Club, 4th Floor, 300 Washington Ave. SE., Minneapolis, MN.