News and Noteworthy: Tales from Octo Fishbar
Doug Bigwood of Almanac Fish Market
It’s an interesting arrangement at Octo Fishbar. Buy your fish at the fish market, pay for it and then walk 20 steps to deliver the wrapped package to your server for the chef to prepare. But the end result was one of the best presentations of halibut I’ve ever had. Of course, it helps when the fish is fresh—someone makes a fish run to the airport six times a day, our server told us—and that James Beard-award-winning Chef Tim McKee is the one personally cooking and designing a dish for your fish.
The restaurant, Almanac Fish Market and Peterson’s Meats are officially opened in the former Heartland space in St. Paul’s Lowertown, now known as the Market House Collaborative. Still to come are The Salty Tart, although the three dessert selection were Salty Tart-made, and a brewery.
Buying fish or meat at the market isn’t necessary. The menu has plenty of options from seafood towers to a lobster roll to Buffalo Blow Fish Tails. The tails are interesting, since we remember hearing tales about courageous feats of eating the deadly fish. No danger here, the server assured us, and then cautioned us that like the chicken wing they resemble, there is a bone that runs up the middle of the tail that should be avoided. They don’t taste like chicken, and I’m alive to write about it the next day, so they’re not deadly either. Just delicious.
The winter St. Paul Farmers Market will be taking up residence in the lower level Saturdays, starting this month.
Sweet Jesus, a Canadian ice cream chain, has plans to open a unit in the Mall of America sometime this winter. Ice cream cones in Minnesota are even more welcome when you can walk around licking them indoors. The irreverent brand also serves coffee and has nine locations, all in Canada. The company’s website describes its goal as combining “conceptual thinking with high-quality ingredients and products, in an effort to make something that tastes and looks unlike anything you’ve ever seen and had before.” Sweet, Jesus!
Blowfish tails in Buffalo sauce
If Uptowners won’t show up for pasta, perhaps vegetarian comfort food with a social mission will draw them. That’s the hope of the latest tenant to have its eye on the former Figlio space in Calhoun Square. The local owners behind Fig + Farro are planning to open this winter in the space on Hennepin and serve comfort food from a variety of categories, including From the Woods (with ingredients such as nuts and mushrooms), From the Dirt (fancy vegetables), From the Desert (Moroccan stew and fig and feta salad) and From the Tundra (vegan Swedish meatballs and Viking beet handpie). One of the taglines is “we love food, the earth and staying afloat.”
Be sure to hold onto your copy of our 2018 Top Chefs book, polybagged to this issue. In addition to an interesting read on five top chefs and their front-of-the-house partners, we've included one of their favorite recipes.
The Bartmann Group took over the management of Nighthawks Diner in the Kingfield neighborhood of South Minneapolis, starting in early November. And best of all, it’s with the founding chef Landon Schoenefeld’s blessing, according to Kim Bartmann. The restaurant’s ambiance will remain, with a few “fun additions to the space.” Bartmann will also be bringing back Birdie, the small intimate event space where tickets to the pop-up dinners were coveted. The menu will also be seeing some changes, include a “kick-ass brunch,” Bartmann said in a release. Lunch service will also be offered Monday-Friday starting at 11a.m.
The new St. Paul location (on West 7th Street) of the popular North Loop destination, Parlour Bar, is expected to open in early 2018. On board are two of the players that made the original Parlour a destination, executive chef of Jester Concepts, the company that owns Parlour, Mike DeCamp, and Jesse Held will oversee the menu and the cocktail program. DeCamp described the St. Paul Parlour to Mpls/St.Paul Magazine as: “One side will be Parlour bar, the high-end cocktail spot with a dive-bar soul that fans love in Minneapolis, the middle will be a lounge and another side will be an open-kitchen diner for watching cooks crank out those in-demand burgers.”
Anyone longing for the cuisine of Northern Mexico now has another option. Claudia Gutierrez’s Hamburguesas el Gordo in St. Paul’s Plaza del Sol plans to open a second restaurant, this time in Minneapolis, at 42nd Street and Cedar Avenue. The opening was planned for the end of November. The original location is at 990 Payne Ave. in St. Paul. Gutierrez’s specialties are hamburgers and street tacos.
The husband-and-wife team behind O’Cheeze and Dough Dough food trucks, Haley and Tony Fritz, opened the cookie dough concept at the Mall of America and are in the process of opening O’Cheeze in the skyway in downtown Minneapolis, with a January opening timeframe. And if that’s not enough action, the duo are also launching a new concept, Gazta & Enhancements, a cheese shop, in St. Paul’s Keg & Case Market to open around April.
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