La Dona Cerve­ce­ria

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - TRAVEL -

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.

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