As the first Friday of Lent, today heralds the opening of fish fry season. Churches, VFWs, and bars all over will begin offering fish specials or hosting all-you-can-eat fried fish dinners. There are two things to know concerning this: 1) you don't have to be Catholic to engage, and 2) there's something soul-soothing about scooting down a lunchroom table, holding a paper plate laden with crisp cod and slaw, as you're packed in butts-to-butts in a church basement with your fellow Minnesotans. Kick off your weekend with that, then check out a new Italian diner, play a little Catan at a proudly geeky eatery, or plan a road trip in the name of sour beer.
>> Geno's is now open in Northeast, just a skinny door up on 4th from Masu. Gene Suh, of the Lyndale Tap House et al is behind the small sandwich shop that reads like a red sauce Italian diner. Sidle up to the counter/bar and order a hoagie or roll with meatball parm, chicken parm, other parm, or porchetta and roasted turkey. A few appetizers and some sides, along with a lasagna, round out the food menu, but wait, there are $3 juice glasses of wine, sangria slushees, and cocktails too. If you find some resemblance to Torrisi's Parm in NYC, you wouldn't be the first.
>> What was once The Tangiers, a darkly NOT foodist night club in North Loop, has now become Hennepin Steam Room, a full service restaurant. They've overhauled the space, opening up the kitchen, adding a floor to ceiling wine room, a 32-foot marble topped bar, and a stage for live music. Jessie Spitzak is the chef cooking up global dishes like cannellini bean cakes with house kimchi, Thai spiced goat cheese balls, and a mutton and chicken stew. Not all steamed, btw.
>> A self-proclaimed geek bar has opened in town. Byte is a cafe and bar that plays to, shall we say, the smart set. In an anime-flavored room, stacked with tables ready for your board games or dice rolls, you'll enjoy counter service food like loaded tots, taco salad, Korean BBQ wraps, plenty of rice bowls, even a patty melt. Nothing on the menu is over $10, so you can shell out those extra bucks on your cosplay togs.
>> Herman the German welcomes you to New Ulm for the opening of Schell's Starkeller Brewery, Jace Marti's sour beer only brewery that has been in the works for a loooooooooong time! They are open softly today and tomorrow and will allow a few tours and sales from the brewery that is just down the road from the original (where bocks will gather).
>> Jd Fratzke and Matty O'Reilly are launching Bar Brigade in the old Ristorante Luci spot, and quite soon!
>> Bellecour, the Gavin Kaysen takes Wayzata situation, will open on March 15.
>> Coming this summer to downtown Mpls. is another national craft beer centric chain. Hop Cat is reportedly going into the Nic on 5th building, offering 100 craft beers, burgers, pizzas, loaded fries, and such. But don't worry, they'll have Pretzel Nuggz so I'm sure they're nothing like Yard House, City Works, or Bar Louie.
>> On the good side, we will have SUNDAY SALES of liquid libations by this summer!
>> On the bad side, we have suddenly lost a truly creative force in the restaurant industry. RIP Tim Rooney of Butcher & The Boar and 4 Bells. He will be missed by many.
>> Five Fish Frys to hit tonight: St. Albert the Great (AYCE $12), South St. Paul VFW (AYCE $12), Our Lady of Peace ($13 adults, but $40 max for the whole family), Our Lady of the Lake ($10 fried SHRIMP dinner), Sacred Heart ($10 beer battered cod filet OR sandwich).
>> Gather ye bocks while ye may, it's Schell's Bock Fest y'all. Get down to New Ulm on Saturday for the best outdoor brewery party all year. It looks to be great weather for the wearing of skins, the noodling of clues and the finding of the Seven Bocks of Winter hidden on the grounds. Meanwhile there will be beer, brats, songs, and fire to welcome the spring. If you haven't done this one, you really can't wear that #North badge, can you?
>> All my Swatch Dogs and Diet Coke Heads should know that on Saturday night, the Phoenix theater is hosting Heathers: A Drinking Game. Live actors read the movie script out loud with fight choreography, props, music, and of course drinking (no mixing orange juice and milk, please).
>> If you're looking for a world class wine tasting that gives a damn, go to the Vintner's Ball this Saturday, which is a huge benefit for Second Harvest Heartland. More than 100 wines from all over the world will be sampled, along with plenty of high-quality nosh. Proceeds go to feed hungry kids and families in Minnesota: One ticket is equal to 450 meals provided, go with a friend and you're almost batting 1,000.
>> Heyday is kinda loving playing dress up! On W-Th 3/8-9, they are hosting an Evening in Mexico for you in their restaurant. Dishes will be inspired by Mexico, with a four course $49 dinner in the main, and a snappier menu in the bar. There's talk of a mariachi band, tamales, $3 Tecates, and churros in the mix. Talk about staycation.
>> This will be a small gathering, so let's get it on the books, shall we? Cute shop Valentine Wood is offering a Vermouth Martini Workshop with Erik Eastman on Sat. 3/11 for $90. Along with the shaking and stirring lessons, there will be much discussion of vermouth and its magical properties, and then the sipping. You go home with your glass.
Photo: Flickr/5chw4r7z, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0