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Q: Do you have any new happy hour ideas?

A: At Giulia (215 S. 4th St., Mpls., 612-215-5450, dinegiulia.com), the smart northern Italian restaurant that’s a collaboration between chefs Josh Hedquist and Steven Brown, happy hour (4 to 6 p.m. daily) includes several clearance-priced pizzas ($8 for the tomato-burrata-basil combination, $9 for the mix of pistachio pesto, fontina and mortadella), rosemary-garlic fries with a basil-scented aioli for $6 and a meat-cheese-crackers plate for $8. The bar contributes a few refreshing $6 libations, including aperol spritzes and draft negronis.

At P.S. Steak (510 Groveland Av., Mpls., 612-886-1620, psmpls.com) “social hour” (4 to 6 p.m. weekdays), chef Wyatt Evans — and his boss, culinary director Mike DeCamp — convert one of Minneapolis’ most elegant eating-and-drinking venues into a bargain basement, with a $10 cheeseburger, $10 shrimp cocktail, a $5 dose of housemade potato chips with a garlic-rosemary dip and a well-chosen cheese trio for $8. At the bar, deals include a $7 changes-weekly cocktail and $6 wines. Another deal: complimentary valet parking.

And at the great-looking Brooklyn (8700 Edinbrook Crossing, Brooklyn Park, 763-315-8550, ­brooklynedinburgh.com), happy hour (3 to 5:30 p.m. daily) means $3 off a long list of bar menu bites, including tuna poke, fish tacos and a fried walleye sandwich, plus $5 house wines and draft beers.

Q: Where can I find a good popover?

A: At the Bachelor Farmer (50 2nd Av. N., Mpls., 612-206-3920, ­thebachelorfarmer.com) pastry chef Emily Marks bakes up beautiful popovers ($4), serving them with honey-laced butter.

Q: I have a friend who is celebrating a landmark birthday and has been bereft since Lucia’s closed. Any recommendations for a similar experience that we could do for her upcoming big day?

A: I miss Lucia’s, too. I think you should book a table at Grand Cafe (3804 Grand Av. S., Mpls., 612-822-8260, grandcafemn.com), which is very different from Lucia’s and yet shares several similarities. The restaurant’s cozy setting and gracious service have a Lucia’s-like aura, and the beautifully executed contemporary French cooking only reinforces how owner Jamie Malone is one of the Twin Cities’ most gifted chefs. Sunday brunch is a treat.

Another suggestion: Hyacinth (790 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-478-1822, hyacinthstpaul.com), where chef/owner Rikki Giambruno, working in an amiable storefront setting, relies upon local farmers for his inspired, hyper-seasonal southern Italian cooking.

Want an upscale brunch? Try Bellecour in Wayzata, which serves a great quiche, or its sister establishment, Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis.
Want an upscale brunch? Try Bellecour in Wayzata, which serves a great quiche, or its sister establishment, Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis.

ELIZABETH FLORES • liz.flores@startribune.com

Q: On the subject of weekend brunch, where should we go?

A: On the upscale side of the equation, consider the duck egg omelets stuffed with smoked trout, the lobster gnocchi and the crisp buttermilk waffles — and vivacious cocktails — at Spoon and Stable (211 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612-224-9850, ­spoonandstable.com) and the spectacular quiche, boudin blanc and smoked salmon tartine at its sibling establishment, Bellecour (739 E. Lake St., Wayzata, 952-444-5200, ­bellecourrestaurant.com).

I’ve always admired what chefs Isaac Becker and Ben Pichler accomplish during their no-detail-overlooked Sunday brunch at Burch (1933 Colfax Av. S., Mpls., 612-843-1500, burchrestaurant.com), and I’ve quickly become a fan of chef Sameh Wadi’s lively brunch at Grand Catch (1672 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-348-8541, grandcatchmn.com), starting with the shrimp and grits but not overlooking the lobster scrambled eggs, king crab Benedict and the kitchen’s highly shareable seafood boils.

Chef Thomas Boemer gives brunchers four reasons to book a table at his In Bloom (928 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-237-9630, inbloomstp.com), in the form of four varieties of the Dutch baby, those fluffy skillet pancakes. For a brunch-every-day idea (except Monday, when it’s closed), you should check out the new Rose Street Cafe (882 W. 7th St., St. Paul, rosestreet.co), if only to experience chef/owner John Kraus’ spectacular take on French toast.

Q: Can you suggest a restaurant where we can carry on a conversation? We live in St. Louis Park.

A: Go no further than Mill Valley Kitchen (3906 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-358-2000, ­millvalleykitchen.com), where “lively” covers the health-conscious cooking and the top sound level.

Q: What’s bugging you, restaurants-wise?

A: This seems petty, but I’m a petty person, so here goes. I find those suggested gratuities at the bottom of the tab gratuitous. I can compute my own tip, thank you very much. Even worse is when they start at a presumptuous 20%, and go up from there. I’m also not a fan of text messages reminding me of my reservations, particularly the ones that relentlessly follow up at the T-minus-60- and 30-minute marks. We’re on our way, honest, and I won’t be getting back to you because texting while driving is not only stupid, it’s illegal. Of course, the evergreen “Are you still working on that?” continues to be a fingernails-on-chalkboard transgression.

Erin Sayer’s mural on Rainbow Chinese Restaurant & Bar on Eat Street in Minneapolis
Erin Sayer’s mural on Rainbow Chinese Restaurant & Bar on Eat Street in Minneapolis

Star Tribune, Rick Nelson

You know what doesn’t bug me? When a restaurateur — in this case, Tammy Wong of Rainbow Chinese Restaurant & Bar (2739 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-870-7084, ­rainbowrestaurant.com) — commissions an artist — in this case, Erin Sayer — to brighten the city with an enormous outdoor mural.

Q: What happened to the North Loop’s Jun Szechuan Kitchen & Bar (730 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-208-0706, ­junnorthloop.com)?

A: Jun was felled by a sprinkler system malfunction last fall, but its hiatus is nearly over. Owner Jessie Wong is reopening her restaurant — and yes, the dim sum menu is coming back — on Sept. 12.

The Tomato-Sweet Corn-Fried Egg BLT from Farmers Union Coffee Shop at the Minnesota State Fair.
The Tomato-Sweet Corn-Fried Egg BLT from Farmers Union Coffee Shop at the Minnesota State Fair.

Rick Nelson • Star Tribune

Q: Did you have a favorite new food at the Minnesota State Fair?

A: Several, including the Hickory Grilled Texas Red Hot Sausage at Tejas Express and the Kentikka Fried Chicken Sliders at Hot Indian Foods. I most appreciated the Heirloom Tomato-Sweet Corn-Fried Egg BLT at the Farmers Union Coffee Shop because, besides being outrageously delicious, every morsel proved to be a true taste of Minnesota, and shouldn’t the Great Minnesota Get-Together be a celebration of the state’s agricultural prowess?

The stand — a collaboration with the Birchwood Cafe in Minneapolis — sold 8,400 BLTs during the fair’s 12-day run. Three Minnesota farms — Twin Organics in Northfield, Featherstone Farm in Rushford and Riverbend Farm in Delano — supplied the tomatoes, with greens from Heartbeet Farm in Zumbro Falls. Sno Pac Foods in Caledonia was responsible for the sweet corn. Bacon, all 2,300 pounds of it, hailed from Hidden Stream Farm in Elgin. The bread — baked at Baker’s Field Flour & Bread in Minneapolis — used flour fashioned from Minnesota-cultivated Kernza. Oh, and roughly two-thirds of those BLTs were topped with a fried egg, supplied by Locally Laid Egg Co. in Wrenshall.

Another fun factoid from the Farmers Union/Birchwood partnership: The stand sold 16,600 blueberry Key lime pies, produced using 1,400 pounds of blueberries from Blue Fruit Farm in Winona (“We would have sold more pies if we had been able to keep up,” said Birchwood owner Tracy Singleton), another signal that fairgoers are interested in locally raised ingredients. Especially when they’re incorporated into tasty pies.

Send your queries to rick.nelson@startribune.com.