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First Bite: District Fresh Kitchen + Bar
By: Stephanie March | Posted: 06/04/2014
You’re already hooked on the bright blue truck’s arepas, yes? Those airy little griddled corn cakes split and stuffed with all manner of braised goods? Well, now that the truck has planted itself on the corner of Nicollet and 35th Street and grown into a full service eating and drinking establishment, you will find yourself giddy with the expectation of branching out on the new menu and, oh lordy, figuring out what to select from the newly minted cocktail list (designed by owner and former barman, Birk Grudem, and the incomparable Dan Oskey, formerly of Strip Club, now bitterman of Easy & Oskey). Don’t let your brains go buzzy—we asked the team in residence to pick and pair a few things to get you started.
Choose the Hola Fashioned if you’re going to stay with arepas … and may we suggest the roast pork and sweet potato option with a little of that zippy green onion aioli. It is a slightly smoky, woody drink with Brugal Anejo rum, bitters and spice, and a dash of Lagavulin Scotch that’s a gorgeous riff on the genre.
Maybe this is the first stop of your night. Sit at the inside/outside bar and order a Porrón Pitcher. This vessel, not on the menu, will be filled with a bright citrusy libation of the bartenders’ choice … and then it will be poured by them into your mouth from behind the bar in a feat of physics. This is like the ultimate boozy trust fall. In between pours, you ought to fortify with some arepitas, which are little fried balls of goat cheese and jalapenos. Completely pop-able.
The patio has already become a hot spot, not only for the crowds, but for the openness to the shiny sky. When cooling off is imperative, grab a pre-mixed bottle of the Solveig & Hibiscus Tonic, which uses local gin and house-made hibiscus tonic for a sweet, tropical take on the drink of summer. And nothing has been more surprisingly simple and fresh as the quesillo salad. Grilled cheese curds on a vibrant citrus-cabbage slaw with gooseberries! Shut up with your fried cheese curds, this is some tangy and tart business.
Time to go big or go home on flavor by ordering the shiitake cachapas. They start with a sweet corn pancake and top it with rich, earthy sautéed shiitakes, a bit of the corn smutty huitlacoche, just a dash of truffle, goat cheese and a quivering poached egg. It’s a lush mouth lover and best cut with the Center Court, another pre-batched bottled drink. This one is all laser fresh with Pimm’s and Pisco, plus honeydew-chamomile soda and grapefruit bitters that puts you right back in balance.
Stephanie March is Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s food and dining editor. See bio
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