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Rodeo Pizza at Earl Giles

This new Northeast spot is a distillery that's not yet distilling. The project has been a years (and years) long dream of local bartenders-turned-makers Jeff Erkkila and Jesse Held, who have also partnered with Nick Kosevich of Drinks Apothecary. While some of the vital equipment for booze making remains off shore (but inching closer to landfall every day), the duo decided it was time to open with their vast hospitality talents leading the way. That's why this is your new favorite spot for lunchtime pizza.

It may not be a logical leap, but hear me out. In the kitchen is Matt Reisenger, who is having all kinds of fun playing with elevated bar snacks. The pizza dough gets a two-day ferment with a sourdough (named Blanche, naturally), that rises to the occasion with a light and airy crust, lending just the right amount of chewiness. Of all the toppings we sampled on a recent media visit, the Rodeo ($20) was a standout. Smoked cream, cheddar cheese and ground beef are drizzled with tangy barbecue sauce and topped with plenty of crispy fried onions.

Plus, the sunny open warehouse space is filled with towers of plants and great views of the nearby busy train tracks. For now, Earl Giles is open at 11 a.m. daily for lunch (and for takeout), but nights and locally made booze are coming soon. (Joy Summers)

1325 NE. Quincy St., Mpls., 612-345-5305, earlgiles.com

The smoked chicken wings at Butcher’s Tale.
The smoked chicken wings at Butcher’s Tale.

Nicole Hvidsten, Star Tribune

Smoked chicken wings at Butcher's Tale

In an effort to squeeze every last second out of patio season, we finally made it to the Butcher Tale's spiffy new outdoor space, which debuted earlier this summer. The glass roof and retractable walls make it usable even when the weather doesn't cooperate, but on this beautiful night — and with lush greenery, fresh air and stellar service — it was at its peak.

With the new space came a new menu, serving up a variety of casual handhelds and bites not found in the dining room. Chef Peter Botcher is a magician with a smoker, so it's no surprise that his housemade smoked cheddarwurst ($16) was a table pleaser. It's served on a robust hoagie to hold all the fixings — caramelized onions, barbecue sauce and bacon — but try a bite of the sausage sans accoutrements. It's fantastic and deserves to be savored.

The smoked chicken wings ($17), however, won the night. They're incredibly juicy and tender with a smokiness that is mouthwateringly perfect. We couldn't decide on the rum-chile barbecue or Buffalo sauce, so ordered both on the side — and that's the key. Like the cheddarwurst, the wings have so much flavor on their own, smothering them in sauce would be a disservice. Use the sauce for dipping instead, and save the extra for the second order of wings you'll be buying to go. They're great for lunch the next day.

A side note to our friends who don't eat meat: The beer garden's black bean burger ($15) is top notch: delightfully messy and full of spice and flavor. Like all good beer gardens, Butcher's Tale has something for everyone. (Nicole Hvidsten)

1121 Hennepin Av., Mpls., 612-236-4075, butcherstale.com

The spread from Brasa’s subscription.
The spread from Brasa’s subscription.

Sharyn Jackson, Star Tribune

Subscription dinner from Brasa

One of the silver linings from the pandemic, for my household anyway, was the proliferation of family-style takeout meals — and the subscription services that would deliver them to my door. While I much prefer open and fully functioning restaurants to even the best takeout options, I do miss discovering all the creative ways chefs were getting their food to us during those homebound times.

Alex Roberts hasn't stopped thinking that way. The owner of Brasa and Alma recently joined forces with Table22, a national company that helps restaurants create and execute monthly subscriptions.

"It's a way for us to keep those habits alive in the restaurant," Roberts said. "We don't know what's going to happen with more COVID, and monkeypox, or just volume in general. The ground doesn't seem completely solid yet. So we want to keep the systems alive to do those takeout meals because they were so helpful during the pandemic."

With the promise of off-menu and special items, along with greatest hits from one of my family's go-to spots, I signed up for a Brasa subscription right when it launched. (A meal for two is $65, for four is $125, and optional delivery is $15.)

This week we got our second delivery, a huge spread with all the fixings for Carolina pulled pork sliders. Both months, the delivery also included a half of Brasa's killer rotisserie chicken, an all-time favorite. Smoky baked beans and cheddar biscuits were on the side, plus coconut tapioca pudding for a little after-dinner palate cleanser.

The meals are put together through Brasa's events and catering wing, which still hasn't recovered all of its office and corporate business. They're assembled at Brasa's commissary kitchen and packaged cold to reheat at home, just like the restaurant's holiday meal kits.

Waiting for everything to heat up was a bit of a slog, but part of the fun of a subscription, vs. just picking up takeout from the restaurant, is the surprise of it all; the menu changes each time and isn't shared with customers before the delivery arrives. It's like getting an unexpected package in the mail — that you can eat. (Sharyn Jackson)

Explore subscription options for Brasa at table22.com/brasa or for Alma at table22.com/alma

Chicken fried ribs at Northern Soul on the Nicollet Mall rooftop of Ties Lounge
Chicken fried ribs at Northern Soul on the Nicollet Mall rooftop of Ties Lounge

Sharyn Jackson, Star Tribune

Chicken fried ribs at Northern Soul

There must have been something in the air — hickory smoke, no doubt — because we all gravitated toward barbecue this week. Makes sense for a late summer (!) roundup.

On the Nicollet Mall rooftop of Ties Lounge, a new multi-floor venue with two kitchens and a placid view of downtown Minneapolis, I was nudged toward a barbecue lunch by the ample list of snacks and finger food on the Northern Soul menu, which was designed by chef Justin Sutherland. It reads like Handsome Hog West, a Minneapolis satellite of Sutherland's flagship restaurant in St. Paul.

An order of Ritz crackers and pimento cheese dip, bright orange in a baby food-sized jar, was a charming starter ($6). And so were these chicken fried ribs ($12), stacked like Jenga, four to a tray. Small but mighty, the ribs retained ultimate juiciness and delivered Sutherland's signature fried chicken-coating crunch. Drizzled with Cry Baby Craig's hot honey, they had the perfect tinge of sweet to break through the richness. Yes, there are entrees here, too, but I'd much rather order a sampler of Southern-style apps — and these ribs, every time.

Not in the mood for Soul Food? Ties customers can order off two other food menus, both courtesy of chef Josh Hedquist: Joey Meatballs, the pasta joint that has appeared in food halls around the Twin Cities, and the new pizzeria OG Zaza, which admirably replicates tomato-ey New Haven-style pies. (S.J.)

Ties Lounge & Rooftop, 921 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-248-8196, tieslounge.com

Live like a kid again with a scoop of ice cream eaten out on Grand Avenue during summer’s zenith.
Live like a kid again with a scoop of ice cream eaten out on Grand Avenue during summer’s zenith.

Joy Summers, Star Tribune

Milk chocolate kid scoop from Grand Ole Creamery

On warm summer nights, St. Paul residents line the sidewalks outside the iconic red and white exterior of Grand Ole Creamery. As the door opens and closes, the sweet perfume of toasty waffle cones emanates from the family-owned scoop shop, which has been serving the city treats since 1984.

Every day 32 flavors — like cotton candy, lime sherbet and peppermint bon bon — are available. However, my family of St. Paul purists (ahem, basic) all order chocolate. The simplicity has to be respected. On a recent warm night, we ordered kid scoops ($3.96) topped with malted milk balls and joined the others outside, basking in the warm season and sharing in the sweet camaraderie of a creamy, cold treat and a few extra hours of daylight before bedtime. (J.S.)

750 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-293-1655, grandolecreamery.com