Lowertown Sounds — Summer Concert Series in Mears Park

A new but familiar sound is coming back to Mears Park in St. Paul on Thursday nights this summer: the Lowertown Sounds concert series features live, local and original music, food trucks, local beer, cider, and wine, and benefits the St. Paul Yellow Ribbon Network.

The free concert events take the stage 6-9:30pm, starting June 6 and running through August 29, excluding the week of July 1.

See the full music schedule, beverage and food truck partners, sponsors and more at: www.lowertownsounds.com.

In addition to the music, Lowertown Sounds will pour several local, Minnesota-made craft beers from Castle Danger Brewing, The Lab Brewing, Mankato Brewing, Stacked Deck Brewing, Utepils Brewing, and Wabasha Brewing. Concert-goers can also enjoy local ciders from Minneapolis Cider Company and local wine from Alexis Bailly Vineyard. Each concert will include a roster of food trucks parked along Mears Park for guests to grab a bite to pair with their beverage.

Lowertown Sounds Music Schedule (headliners listed first)

June 6: Jaedyn James and the Hunger, Federales, Hailey James
June 13: Alex Rossi, The Fattenin’ Frogs
June 20: Jazz Fest
June 27: Flamin Oh’s, Tom, Dick, and Harry
July 11: Maudlin, St. Paul School of Rock
July 18: Annie Mack, Nikki and the Ruemates
July 25: Purple Funk Metropolis, Brianna Kočka
August 1: Katy Vernon, Martin Devaney
August 8: The Shackletons, Porky’s Groove Machine
August 15: Porcupine, Southside Aces
August 22: Melismatics, The Plott Hounds
August 29: Mears Park Mystery Band, Saint Small, Joe Hunt

Lowertown Sounds — Summer Concert Series in Mears Park

A new but familiar sound is coming back to Mears Park in St. Paul on Thursday nights this summer: the Lowertown Sounds concert series features live, local and original music, food trucks, local beer, cider, and wine, and benefits the St. Paul Yellow Ribbon Network.

The free concert events take the stage 6-9:30pm, starting June 6 and running through August 29, excluding the week of July 1.

See the full music schedule, beverage and food truck partners, sponsors and more at: www.lowertownsounds.com.

In addition to the music, Lowertown Sounds will pour several local, Minnesota-made craft beers from Castle Danger Brewing, The Lab Brewing, Mankato Brewing, Stacked Deck Brewing, Utepils Brewing, and Wabasha Brewing. Concert-goers can also enjoy local ciders from Minneapolis Cider Company and local wine from Alexis Bailly Vineyard. Each concert will include a roster of food trucks parked along Mears Park for guests to grab a bite to pair with their beverage.

Lowertown Sounds Music Schedule (headliners listed first)

June 6: Jaedyn James and the Hunger, Federales, Hailey James
June 13: Alex Rossi, The Fattenin’ Frogs
June 20: Jazz Fest
June 27: Flamin Oh’s, Tom, Dick, and Harry
July 11: Maudlin, St. Paul School of Rock
July 18: Annie Mack, Nikki and the Ruemates
July 25: Purple Funk Metropolis, Brianna Kočka
August 1: Katy Vernon, Martin Devaney
August 8: The Shackletons, Porky’s Groove Machine
August 15: Porcupine, Southside Aces
August 22: Melismatics, The Plott Hounds
August 29: Mears Park Mystery Band, Saint Small, Joe Hunt

Lowertown Sounds — Summer Concert Series in Mears Park

A new but familiar sound is coming back to Mears Park in St. Paul on Thursday nights this summer: the Lowertown Sounds concert series features live, local and original music, food trucks, local beer, cider, and wine, and benefits the St. Paul Yellow Ribbon Network.

The free concert events take the stage 6-9:30pm, starting June 6 and running through August 29, excluding the week of July 1.

See the full music schedule, beverage and food truck partners, sponsors and more at: www.lowertownsounds.com.

In addition to the music, Lowertown Sounds will pour several local, Minnesota-made craft beers from Castle Danger Brewing, The Lab Brewing, Mankato Brewing, Stacked Deck Brewing, Utepils Brewing, and Wabasha Brewing. Concert-goers can also enjoy local ciders from Minneapolis Cider Company and local wine from Alexis Bailly Vineyard. Each concert will include a roster of food trucks parked along Mears Park for guests to grab a bite to pair with their beverage.

Lowertown Sounds Music Schedule (headliners listed first)

June 6: Jaedyn James and the Hunger, Federales, Hailey James
June 13: Alex Rossi, The Fattenin’ Frogs
June 20: Jazz Fest
June 27: Flamin Oh’s, Tom, Dick, and Harry
July 11: Maudlin, St. Paul School of Rock
July 18: Annie Mack, Nikki and the Ruemates
July 25: Purple Funk Metropolis, Brianna Kočka
August 1: Katy Vernon, Martin Devaney
August 8: The Shackletons, Porky’s Groove Machine
August 15: Porcupine, Southside Aces
August 22: Melismatics, The Plott Hounds
August 29: Mears Park Mystery Band, Saint Small, Joe Hunt

Lowertown Sounds — Summer Concert Series in Mears Park

A new but familiar sound is coming back to Mears Park in St. Paul on Thursday nights this summer: the Lowertown Sounds concert series features live, local and original music, food trucks, local beer, cider, and wine, and benefits the St. Paul Yellow Ribbon Network.

The free concert events take the stage 6-9:30pm, starting June 6 and running through August 29, excluding the week of July 1.

See the full music schedule, beverage and food truck partners, sponsors and more at: www.lowertownsounds.com.

In addition to the music, Lowertown Sounds will pour several local, Minnesota-made craft beers from Castle Danger Brewing, The Lab Brewing, Mankato Brewing, Stacked Deck Brewing, Utepils Brewing, and Wabasha Brewing. Concert-goers can also enjoy local ciders from Minneapolis Cider Company and local wine from Alexis Bailly Vineyard. Each concert will include a roster of food trucks parked along Mears Park for guests to grab a bite to pair with their beverage.

Lowertown Sounds Music Schedule (headliners listed first)

June 6: Jaedyn James and the Hunger, Federales, Hailey James
June 13: Alex Rossi, The Fattenin’ Frogs
June 20: Jazz Fest
June 27: Flamin Oh’s, Tom, Dick, and Harry
July 11: Maudlin, St. Paul School of Rock
July 18: Annie Mack, Nikki and the Ruemates
July 25: Purple Funk Metropolis, Brianna Kočka
August 1: Katy Vernon, Martin Devaney
August 8: The Shackletons, Porky’s Groove Machine
August 15: Porcupine, Southside Aces
August 22: Melismatics, The Plott Hounds
August 29: Mears Park Mystery Band, Saint Small, Joe Hunt

Lowertown Sounds — Summer Concert Series in Mears Park

A new but familiar sound is coming back to Mears Park in St. Paul on Thursday nights this summer: the Lowertown Sounds concert series features live, local and original music, food trucks, local beer, cider, and wine, and benefits the St. Paul Yellow Ribbon Network.

The free concert events take the stage 6-9:30pm, starting June 6 and running through August 29, excluding the week of July 1.

See the full music schedule, beverage and food truck partners, sponsors and more at: www.lowertownsounds.com.

In addition to the music, Lowertown Sounds will pour several local, Minnesota-made craft beers from Castle Danger Brewing, The Lab Brewing, Mankato Brewing, Stacked Deck Brewing, Utepils Brewing, and Wabasha Brewing. Concert-goers can also enjoy local ciders from Minneapolis Cider Company and local wine from Alexis Bailly Vineyard. Each concert will include a roster of food trucks parked along Mears Park for guests to grab a bite to pair with their beverage.

Lowertown Sounds Music Schedule (headliners listed first)

June 6: Jaedyn James and the Hunger, Federales, Hailey James
June 13: Alex Rossi, The Fattenin’ Frogs
June 20: Jazz Fest
June 27: Flamin Oh’s, Tom, Dick, and Harry
July 11: Maudlin, St. Paul School of Rock
July 18: Annie Mack, Nikki and the Ruemates
July 25: Purple Funk Metropolis, Brianna Kočka
August 1: Katy Vernon, Martin Devaney
August 8: The Shackletons, Porky’s Groove Machine
August 15: Porcupine, Southside Aces
August 22: Melismatics, The Plott Hounds
August 29: Mears Park Mystery Band, Saint Small, Joe Hunt

Lowertown Sounds — Summer Concert Series in Mears Park

A new but familiar sound is coming back to Mears Park in St. Paul on Thursday nights this summer: the Lowertown Sounds concert series features live, local and original music, food trucks, local beer, cider, and wine, and benefits the St. Paul Yellow Ribbon Network.

The free concert events take the stage 6-9:30pm, starting June 6 and running through August 29, excluding the week of July 1.

See the full music schedule, beverage and food truck partners, sponsors and more at: www.lowertownsounds.com.

In addition to the music, Lowertown Sounds will pour several local, Minnesota-made craft beers from Castle Danger Brewing, The Lab Brewing, Mankato Brewing, Stacked Deck Brewing, Utepils Brewing, and Wabasha Brewing. Concert-goers can also enjoy local ciders from Minneapolis Cider Company and local wine from Alexis Bailly Vineyard. Each concert will include a roster of food trucks parked along Mears Park for guests to grab a bite to pair with their beverage.

Lowertown Sounds Music Schedule (headliners listed first)

June 6: Jaedyn James and the Hunger, Federales, Hailey James
June 13: Alex Rossi, The Fattenin’ Frogs
June 20: Jazz Fest
June 27: Flamin Oh’s, Tom, Dick, and Harry
July 11: Maudlin, St. Paul School of Rock
July 18: Annie Mack, Nikki and the Ruemates
July 25: Purple Funk Metropolis, Brianna Kočka
August 1: Katy Vernon, Martin Devaney
August 8: The Shackletons, Porky’s Groove Machine
August 15: Porcupine, Southside Aces
August 22: Melismatics, The Plott Hounds
August 29: Mears Park Mystery Band, Saint Small, Joe Hunt

Lowertown Sounds — Summer Concert Series in Mears Park

A new but familiar sound is coming back to Mears Park in St. Paul on Thursday nights this summer: the Lowertown Sounds concert series features live, local and original music, food trucks, local beer, cider, and wine, and benefits the St. Paul Yellow Ribbon Network.

The free concert events take the stage 6-9:30pm, starting June 6 and running through August 29, excluding the week of July 1.

See the full music schedule, beverage and food truck partners, sponsors and more at: www.lowertownsounds.com.

In addition to the music, Lowertown Sounds will pour several local, Minnesota-made craft beers from Castle Danger Brewing, The Lab Brewing, Mankato Brewing, Stacked Deck Brewing, Utepils Brewing, and Wabasha Brewing. Concert-goers can also enjoy local ciders from Minneapolis Cider Company and local wine from Alexis Bailly Vineyard. Each concert will include a roster of food trucks parked along Mears Park for guests to grab a bite to pair with their beverage.

Lowertown Sounds Music Schedule (headliners listed first)

June 6: Jaedyn James and the Hunger, Federales, Hailey James
June 13: Alex Rossi, The Fattenin’ Frogs
June 20: Jazz Fest
June 27: Flamin Oh’s, Tom, Dick, and Harry
July 11: Maudlin, St. Paul School of Rock
July 18: Annie Mack, Nikki and the Ruemates
July 25: Purple Funk Metropolis, Brianna Kočka
August 1: Katy Vernon, Martin Devaney
August 8: The Shackletons, Porky’s Groove Machine
August 15: Porcupine, Southside Aces
August 22: Melismatics, The Plott Hounds
August 29: Mears Park Mystery Band, Saint Small, Joe Hunt

Lowertown Sounds — Summer Concert Series in Mears Park

A new but familiar sound is coming back to Mears Park in St. Paul on Thursday nights this summer: the Lowertown Sounds concert series features live, local and original music, food trucks, local beer, cider, and wine, and benefits the St. Paul Yellow Ribbon Network.

The free concert events take the stage 6-9:30pm, starting June 6 and running through August 29, excluding the week of July 1.

See the full music schedule, beverage and food truck partners, sponsors and more at: www.lowertownsounds.com.

In addition to the music, Lowertown Sounds will pour several local, Minnesota-made craft beers from Castle Danger Brewing, The Lab Brewing, Mankato Brewing, Stacked Deck Brewing, Utepils Brewing, and Wabasha Brewing. Concert-goers can also enjoy local ciders from Minneapolis Cider Company and local wine from Alexis Bailly Vineyard. Each concert will include a roster of food trucks parked along Mears Park for guests to grab a bite to pair with their beverage.

Lowertown Sounds Music Schedule (headliners listed first)

June 6: Jaedyn James and the Hunger, Federales, Hailey James
June 13: Alex Rossi, The Fattenin’ Frogs
June 20: Jazz Fest
June 27: Flamin Oh’s, Tom, Dick, and Harry
July 11: Maudlin, St. Paul School of Rock
July 18: Annie Mack, Nikki and the Ruemates
July 25: Purple Funk Metropolis, Brianna Kočka
August 1: Katy Vernon, Martin Devaney
August 8: The Shackletons, Porky’s Groove Machine
August 15: Porcupine, Southside Aces
August 22: Melismatics, The Plott Hounds
August 29: Mears Park Mystery Band, Saint Small, Joe Hunt

Lowertown Sounds — Summer Concert Series in Mears Park

A new but familiar sound is coming back to Mears Park in St. Paul on Thursday nights this summer: the Lowertown Sounds concert series features live, local and original music, food trucks, local beer, cider, and wine, and benefits the St. Paul Yellow Ribbon Network.

The free concert events take the stage 6-9:30pm, starting June 6 and running through August 29, excluding the week of July 1.

See the full music schedule, beverage and food truck partners, sponsors and more at: www.lowertownsounds.com.

In addition to the music, Lowertown Sounds will pour several local, Minnesota-made craft beers from Castle Danger Brewing, The Lab Brewing, Mankato Brewing, Stacked Deck Brewing, Utepils Brewing, and Wabasha Brewing. Concert-goers can also enjoy local ciders from Minneapolis Cider Company and local wine from Alexis Bailly Vineyard. Each concert will include a roster of food trucks parked along Mears Park for guests to grab a bite to pair with their beverage.

Lowertown Sounds Music Schedule (headliners listed first)

June 6: Jaedyn James and the Hunger, Federales, Hailey James
June 13: Alex Rossi, The Fattenin’ Frogs
June 20: Jazz Fest
June 27: Flamin Oh’s, Tom, Dick, and Harry
July 11: Maudlin, St. Paul School of Rock
July 18: Annie Mack, Nikki and the Ruemates
July 25: Purple Funk Metropolis, Brianna Kočka
August 1: Katy Vernon, Martin Devaney
August 8: The Shackletons, Porky’s Groove Machine
August 15: Porcupine, Southside Aces
August 22: Melismatics, The Plott Hounds
August 29: Mears Park Mystery Band, Saint Small, Joe Hunt

Birch’s on the Lake joins St. Paul’s Market House Collaborative

Birch's on the Lake is coming to St. Paul with a new Market House Collaborative location // Photo by Joseph Alton, The Growler

Birch’s on the Lake is coming to St. Paul with a new Market House Collaborative location // Photo by Joseph Alton, The Growler

Birch’s on the Lake, the supper club-brewery combo nestled alongside Long Lake, is the latest business to join Tim McKee’s Market House Collaborative in Lowertown.

The former Heartland space is set to house a collection of food businesses under one roof—Octo Fishbar, The Salty Tart bakery, Peterson Craftsman Meats butcher shop, the Almanac Fish Market—and now, Birch’s second satellite brewpub.

Located beside The Salty Tart, the brewpub will serve a variety of beers and a selection of sours, while also brewing on site.

“We’re thrilled to not only be a part of a new and exciting concept in the Twin Cities, but to share our passion for exceptional beer with St. Paul,” said Brennan Greene, co-owner and brewmaster of Birch’s on the Lake, in a press release.

Beer and menu details will be released at a later date. The Lowertown location is slated to open in mid-2018.

East Meets West: Minneapolis restauranteurs are crossing the river to join in St. Paul’s restaurant resurgence

Tim McKee is the driving force behind Market House Collaborative in Lowertown St. Paul // Photo by Kevin Kramer

Tim McKee is the driving force behind Market House Collaborative in Lowertown St. Paul // Photo by Kevin Kramer

The Twin Cities are born of the same mother and, like most siblings, took very different paths in life. The two cities have taken such different trajectories in the last century and a half that it seems the only thing they have in common now is the river. St. Paul, the firstborn, has long been outshone in terms of cultural and economic impact, and has more often than not had to play catch up to trends set by the younger sibling. Minneapolis is flashier and has a larger presence than St. Paul, enabling it to claim the lion’s share of the credit for what both cities contribute to the national conversation.

But rumblings of critical mass and burgeoning scenes are now leading several prominent Minneapolis chefs over to the east of the Mississippi.

Sam Peterson, who runs Kyatchi in South Minneapolis, is one of them. Kyatchi’s chef, Hide Tozawa, received a letter from Tanpopo’s co-owner Koshiki Yonemura earlier this year, asking if Kyatchi would be interested in making an offer for the Lowertown noodle shop. Yonemura and her husband Benjamin Smith had ran Tanpopo six days a week for 17 years, and wanted to spend more time with their growing family. For Peterson, it was an offer he could not refuse.

“We’ve always been interested in expansion,” Peterson said, “and we were real happy to be able to slide in and have Koshiki’s blessing. It just felt like a perfect fit for our concept.”

Kyatchi Minneapolis routinely seats diners driving in from Woodbury, Inver Grove Heights, and Edina, and often has to turn away big tables due to lack of space. The Lowertown location has more dining space than the Minneapolis spot and includes a semi-private table that can seat up to 16. Kyatchi will now operate among other high-profile restaurants that have made Lowertown a popular dining district. He’ll also benefit from Tanpopo’s loyal crowd and Lowertown’s increasing residential foot traffic.

(L to R) St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Lenny Russo, Tim McKee // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

What really has Peterson excited, however, is the feeling that people in the Twin Cities are looking for the next big thing, and that thing is in St. Paul. The momentum in Lowertown is hitting an all-time high with the opening of the Tim McKee–driven Market House Collaborative this October in the former Heartland space. The Collaborative is the St. Paul equivalent to Minneapolis’ Food Building, with a collection of food businesses collaborating under one roof: Octo Fishbar, a casual seafood eatery; The Salty Tart bakery; Peterson Craftsman Meats butcher shop; and the Almanac Fish Market.

“I grew up in St. Paul. I’ve always had a special affinity for St. Paul,” McKee said at a press briefing in June. “I’ve been watching the market for a long time, and it’s so full of energy right now, it’s amazing and great to see.”

The influx of Minneapolis-based concepts into Lowertown, like Kyatchi and Market House Collaborative, are just the tip of the iceberg. The rest of St. Paul seems poised for a similar upsurge.

“I prefer emerging neighborhoods and/or pocket neighborhoods,” says Matty O’Reilly, the Republic restaurateur who launched a major recent St. Paul expansion with Red River Kitchen, Bar Brigade, and Delicata. “I love to do my best to really differentiate my concepts drastically based on what already exists.”

Matty O'Reilly, of Republic in Minneapolis, has gone all in on St. Paul, opening Red River Kitchen at City House, Delicata, and Bar Brigade in the past year // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Matty O’Reilly, of Republic in Minneapolis, has gone all in on St. Paul, opening Red River Kitchen at City House, Delicata, and Bar Brigade in the past year and a half // Photo by Aaron Davidson

O’Reilly has found prime facilities for relatively little money in the capital city, in neighborhoods that haven’t seen much restaurant turnover in the last two decades. He points to St. Paul’s efforts to make liquor licenses more available as another factor appealing to new restaurant owners hoping to become a neighborhood fixture. “I picked cities because of facilities, to get ahead of certain concepts, and get a little ahead of the curve, so I am prepared to continue to evolve,” he says.

Restaurateurs are finding these preferential pockets all over the city. “I don’t think it’s all about Lowertown,” said Nick Carmichael, a St. Paul-based commercial real estate broker, citing less room for new development in Lowertown, and noting several other growing neighborhoods. The area around Rice Park, just southwest of Lowertown, has several big new developments, including the new Minnesota Wild training facility and the newly renovated Palace Theater, which have has a great impact on nearby restaurants like the Amsterdam, Vieux Carré, Wild Tymes, and the Afro Deli.

The area around Selby and Western, near W.A. Frost, has lower leases than Lowertown and prime demographics that can attract trailblazing chefs. Last winter, the area welcomed Nick Rancone and Thomas Boemer’s second Revival restaurant, located in the former Cheeky Monkey Deli space. Like at Kyatchi, Rancone and Boemer found in their St. Paul location not only more room to seat diners, but they also gained the ability to expand their menu beyond the fried chicken that made them a Minneapolis sensation. At Revival St. Paul, Boemer is using a top-of-the-line smoker to cook up some stand-out barbecue, from brisket and pork shoulder to hot links and ribs. The new Revival also benefitted from St. Paul’s updated liquor license rules, which allows the location to offer a full cocktail menu.

Cocktail are available at Revival's St. Paul location thanks to the city's favorable liquor license rules for restaurants // Photo by Kevin Kramer

Cocktail are available at Revival’s St. Paul location thanks to the city’s favorable liquor license rules for restaurants // Photo by Kevin Kramer

Recent purchases by commercial developer Excelsior Group in the Selby neighborhood—the same developer responsible for the new North Loop luxury apartment complex with a Whole Foods on the ground floors—hold promise for more to come. And Frogtown all the way to Midway is primed for new restaurants, with the new soccer stadium going in at Snelling and University and mixed-use developments popping up all the way down through to Hamline Avenue on the south end.

Along West 7th Street, a similar transformation is happening. Well-known Uptown chefs Tyge Nelson and Stephan Hesse breathed new life into the former Glockenspiel space last December with Pajarito. Construction at the historic Schmidt Brewery is transforming the long-defunct keg house into Keg & Case Market anchored by a new restaurant concept by Rancone and Boemer.

This flurry of activity has been a long time coming, and required the work of enterprising chefs who were willing to open the door for others to come in after them, and really break open the St. Paul food scene.

Brasa’s original Minneapolis location makes use of its cozy dining room and small, efficient kitchen space

“It usually takes a brave chef to start things going, then the rest can follow,” says Alex Roberts, chef and owner at Alma and Brasa.

Opening a second Brasa location on Grand Avenue in 2009 may seem like less of a risk than  compared to Roberts opening his first location in the once-seedy area of Northeast Minneapolis. But it was nonetheless challenging, and proved a case study in the differences between the food cultures of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Brasa on Grand was busy at first. People came and checked the new place out, were friendly and encouraging, and Roberts felt good. But the crowds thinned, and Roberts started feeling the pressure as year two rolled around with little uptick in the business. Complaints about the kid’s menu, which was just a version of the adult menu and lacked chicken fingers, fries, and fountain sodas, pointed toward what could have been a fundamental flaw in bringing a concept over the river. At his wit’s end, Roberts reached out to a friend.

Brasa’s St. Paul location offers a large dining room and kitchen that allowed Alex Roberts the option of catering events // Photos by Dan Murphy

“I called up Larry D’Amico, from D’Amico & Sons, and asked him if he had any observations on St. Paul,” Roberts recalled. “He said that the first year was slower than expected, and then things just took off. We ended up having that same experience. I learned that people here are very loyal to their favorite spots. It wasn’t that we weren’t doing a good job, we just needed to wait until we became people’s regular place.”

Once Brasa’s St. Paul credentials were established, the restaurant discovered the tight-knit, loyal, and incredibly diverse crowds that make up the St. Paul neighborhood.

“On Grand we get everyone—young and old; white collar and working class; black, white, and Latino; and new immigrants,” Roberts said. “I love the loyalty of St. Paul and I’m proud that we’ve made Brasa and Grand Avenue a place where so many in the community feel comfortable to come and eat.”

Attitudes toward dining out have changed nationally: more people are going out to eat, and looking to try new flavors and concepts. These trends, and the waves of development and gentrification that run parallel to them, are now flowing into areas of St. Paul. But incoming restaurateurs should understand that Minneapolis and St. Paul are fraternal twins, each with its own identity.

Saint Dinette’s quail is St. Paul’s underrated fried bird

Photo by John Garland, The Growler

Welcome to Plate Of The Week, a journal about memorable dining experiences in the Twin Cities. Which plate can’t you stop thinking about? Let us know @growlermag.

You’ve no doubt already gorged on a certain fried bird up on Cathedral Hill, and as well you should have. But next time the urge strikes you, there’s one in Lowertown that should be drawing just as many raves.

The spring menu at Saint Dinette is an exercise in giving the people what they want, in a way they’ve never had it. There’s a barbecue-sauced octopus tentacle on a bed of dill macaroni salad—a preposterous combination that succeeds by scrambling up the tastes and textures you remember from family reunions in the park. The wonderful Old Bay–inflected capellini tastes like a distillation of the sea breeze wafting through a crab shack on the shore.

But the fried quail is where your dinner turns from nostalgic to interactive. Three half quails, fried to a crunchy golden brown, served with lemon and ranch. (This is the same restaurant that dusts chicharrones with their own cool ranch powder, which will end up dusting your entire body no matter how careful you are about eating it.) It’s the ranch you know you want, made by a chef who cares, presented in a way that doesn’t make you feel like a grade-schooler for ordering it.

But this dish isn’t “chefy,” it’s just fun. It’s three chances to savor the juicy dark meat, to gnaw like a mouse around the tiny bones, to dip a petite drumstick and strip it clean in a single bite. Go to Dinette and don’t order the cheeseburger this time—there are pleasures to be had far beyond the dripping double patty.

Tim McKee announces Market House Collaborative, a new food hall for Lowertown St. Paul

Tim McKee announces Market House Collaborative // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

Tim McKee announces Market House Collaborative // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

Chef, restaurateur, and current fishmonger Tim McKee, flanked by chef Lenny Russo, and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, chatted Wednesday afternoon with a group of reporters about McKee’s upcoming Lowertown project, Market House Collaborative.

“I grew up in St. Paul. I’ve always had a special affinity for St. Paul,” McKee said. “I’ve been watching the market for a long time, and it’s so full of energy right now, it’s amazing and great to see.”

Russo added: “It’s just a giant coup for St. Paul to have someone of Tim’s caliber and integrity to be here.”

The former bar area of Heartland, soon to become a casual seafood restaurant in the Market House Collaborative // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

The former bar area of Heartland, soon to become a casual seafood restaurant in the Market House Collaborative // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

McKee is leasing from Russo about two-thirds of the former home of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market. McKee’s planned food hall will be divided into four separate entities:

  • A bakery, on the corner of 5th and Broadway Street, in the former Heartland market space (pictured, below.)
  • A double-threat retail space in Heartland’s old dining room: a butcher shop on one side (very likely, a second outpost of a certain Minneapolis butcher) and a fish market on the other, called Almanac Fish.
  • A casual seafood restaurant will occupy the middle of the space, anchored by an expanded bar. McKee is currently determining a chef-partner to collaborate on the concept.

Heartland’s two bi-level private dining rooms, which are separate properties, are still available for lease. Russo speculated that an art gallery would fit perfectly in one of them.

McKee stresses that “Collaborative” is not just a name. The restaurant will purchase meat and fish from the adjoining markets, and bread and pastries from the bakery. He expects the three retail outlets to collaborate amongst themselves as well.

He also stressed that the Collaborative is his venture, and the business is fully distinct from his interest in The Fish Guys, though Almanac Fish will purchase from the seafood distributor.

Heartland's market space is soon to become a corner bakery // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

Heartland’s market space is soon to become a corner bakery // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

With the project succeeding Heartland in Lowertown, McKee drew a parallel with launching La Belle Vie in the footprint of Gordon Schuette’s revered 510 Groveland.

“I was stepping into the shoes of the restaurant that pretty much invented fine dining in the Twin Cities,” McKee says. “That was intimidating, and I kind of feel like I’m in the same position all over again. I mean what [Russo] built here, was actually impossible, and he did it, and I really appreciate the chance to work on the road that [he] paved.”

Mayor Coleman echoed McKee’s praise of Russo: “I also think a true visionary sets up a future vision and that’s what we have here with Tim coming in.”

(L to R) St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Lenny Russo, Tim McKee // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

(L to R) St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Lenny Russo, Tim McKee // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

The Mayor sees the project as contributing to the trajectory of the area. “It’s going to fit in perfectly with the vibe of Lowertown,” Coleman said. “If anyone doubts the reality of the excitement and vitality of downtown St. Paul, then you weren’t here last weekend [for Twin Cities Jazz Festival]. It was an amazing special weekend, but it’s no longer the exception, it’s now the rule.”

And will McKee, a James Beard Award-winning chef, be found in the kitchen at the as-yet-unnamed restaurant? “Well yeah,” he demurs, “but, I have other jobs, too.”

Market House Collaborative is aiming for an October opening.

Kyatchi will replace Tanpopo in Lowertown St. Paul

Photo via Kyatchi Instagram

The shuttering of Tanpopo left a kimchi nabe-sized hole in Lowertown. But good news on its successor: Kyatchi is expanding to St. Paul.

Siblings Sarah and Sam Peterson, along with chef Hide Tozawa, and consultants Kim Bartmann and Anne Saxton, announced today that they will open a second location of their Eat Street sushi house on Prince Street next to CHS Field.

Expect much the same menu as the original Kyatchi: a focus on sustainable seafood, grilled meat & vegetable skewers, donburi rice & vegetable bowls, their fan-favorite hot dogs, and an assortment of small plates. They plan to make heavy use of whatever is fresh at the neighboring St. Paul Farmers Market. They’ll also have a full selection of Japanese whiskey and sake, and an events space for private parties.

Opening date is TBD, but sometime in the late summer. They’ll likely host a pop-up or two between now and then.

The Growler takes on Lowertown’s new Escape MSP

Escape MSP in St. Paul is located above Dark Horse Bar & Eatery  // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

Local investigators have brought in Miss Amanda Treedeath for questioning on suspicion of murder. (Gasp!) It’s up to you and your team to help with the investigation. But here’s the kicker: You only have 60 minutes.

As we previously mentioned, The Growler crew turned into sneaky sleuths for a day as we visited Escape MSP, Lowertown St. Paul’s new interactive puzzle space.

We came.

We saw.

We, however, did not conquer.

Was this a clue? // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

During a frantic and ultimately futile 60 minutes, our crew scrambled from room to room, pouring over mundane items (“Hey, is this a clue?” No, that’s a plastic tomato.) until we found the patterns that would unlock the next challenge. Egos bruised from our eventual defeat, Evan Flolid, Escape MSP’s branch manager at the St. Paul location lifted our spirits. “I would say The Growler editorial team did an above average job working through the mission,” Flolid told us. “Your group did a lot of things without out any assistance or clues which is exactly what we like to see and is a sign of a quality group.”

At the end of the day, that’s what the experience was really about. We didn’t successfully solve the “Investigation of a Miss Treedeath,” but we did bond and build morale through working together (and have fun while doing it). Besides, we can always go back to Lowertown and take our chances solving the challenge of “The Raid on Mr. Croft’s Museum.” Or even trek over to Minneapolis, where Escape MSP has a total of four missions. Game on.

“The great thing about escape rooms are that they take people out of their comfort zone and thrust them into a fully themed mission where groups need to work as a team and communicate well,” said Flolid. “The missions are great for a team building activity because they promote working together towards a common goal as well as problem solving skills in a fun themed environment.”

Photos by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

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