La Dona Cerveceria
Twin Cities native Christina Nguyen and partner and husband Birk Grudem expanded on their Latin hit Hola Arepa with the year-old Hai Hai, a warm and colorful tribute to the couple’s love of Southeast Asian food and Nguyen’s Vietnamese background. Lush potted plants, punchy wallpaper and bunches of fresh herbs on the bar warm the tropical, climate-defying restaurant where Nguyen indulges in her favorite things, “like fish sauce, citrus, spice, tons of herbs and aromatics,” she said. Blue and white pottery and cane chairs nod to her grandparents’ house. “The whole restaurant is just years and years of collective inspiration poured into the space,” she said. Expect vibrant flavors and colors in dishes like banana blossom salad, beef larb and Vietnamese lettuce wraps. Drinks are equally exotic (think dragon fruit- and hibiscus-infused vodka with lemongrass and lime leaf bitters in the Floating Market) and playful tiki slushies.
Popol Vuh 1414 Quincy St. N.E.
The book “Popol Vuh,” or Book of the People, is the earliest known written account of Maya mythology. That origin story is a springboard for the restaurant Popol Vuh, which emphasizes quality ingredients cooked simply, often over its centerpiece wood hearth. Simple does not mean basic; on the contrary, chef Jose Alarcon brings French training to Mexican cooking, with a “jugo” or juice of chile pasilla on the carne asada and short ribs in mole with
French for half, Demi hides in plain sight behind chef and owner Gavin Kaysen’s original restaurant Spoon and Stable. The intimate newcomer offers its tasting menus to just 20 diners at a counter. “Guests have described it to me as inviting them into my home while I’m cooking dinner for them,” Kaysen said. Reservations come as two-hour or 2 1/2hour options running between 11 and 16 mini courses with an emphasis on northern ingredients and a few cheeky nods to local fare, including a play on Jell-O salad or what the chef calls a “church basement special” upscaled with foie gras and jellied apple cider.
Tattersall Distilling 1620 Central Ave. N.E.
Tattersall Distilling co-founder Dan Oskey started soda and bitters companies before opening, in 2015, Minneapolis’ flagship distillery, where he applies his native curiosity to a curious and crowd-pleasing lineup of spirits. It includes a barrel-aged gin so rich it demands to be served neat, a caraway aquavit that pays homage to the state’s Nordic culture and a whole collection of mixology-friendly liqueurs, including amaro and fernet. The cocktail bar at the distillery is a good showcase for Tattersall’s range, offering drinks like the bourbon-cherry Blood and Snow, and The Giving Tree with barrel-aged gin and cardamom tonic. Distillery tours, offered Saturdays, include spirits tastings.
241 Fremont Ave. N.
Among the many worthy and delicious breweries springing up around the Twin Cities, La Dona Cerveceria takes the title for most colorful with its Day of the Dead theme. It’s also the most sporty as the sole contender with
Jacquie Berglund, CEO and self-described “rambunctious social entrepreneur,” has run Finnegans Brew Co. for 18 years, mostly contract-brewing elsewhere. But last year, she opened her own taproom and microbrewery, offering fans a place to drink for a good cause. The specialist in Irish-style ales donates its profits to feeding the hungry, giving a total of $1.3 million since 2003. Most of the beer, which is distributed in several states, is made somewhere else. But the brew kettles on view from the bar contain lead brewer Ryan Mihm’s experiments in new flavors and styles that can be sampled in the taproom. Finnegans adjoins the new Elliot Park Hotel, making for a short commute from barstool to bed, and it’s just a 10-minute walk from U.S. Bank Stadium.