The Vincent Burger at EaTo
The Vincent Burger is back. And so is its creator, Vincent Francoual. The French chef, who was led astray into Irish pubs and a country club after his eponymous downtown Minneapolis restaurant closed in 2015, has returned to cooking for the masses. He joined EaTo this summer and is part of a new restaurant partnership, Restore Restaurant Holdings, that will see the chef opening a casual French bistro later this year.
"I realized I'm more of a restaurant guy than a country club guy," Francoual said. "The Vincent Burger went elitist for three years. Now we're back in the mainstream."
His legendary burger isn't a regular thing — yet. But it will be on the menu this Sunday, Sept. 25, for a Vincent Burger Pop-Up at EaTo during the Vikings game at nearby U.S. Bank Stadium (and, possibly, on future Vikings Sundays). Consider it a preview, of sorts, to his new, yet-unnamed spot, which is aiming for a Q4 opening at the nearby Canopy by Hilton hotel.
A second, higher-end Minneapolis restaurant, one that's more akin to the old Vincent A Restaurant, is in the works for 2023, said Matthew Monroe of Restore Restaurant Holdings.
If it's been awhile since you've had one of these bad boys — a burger stuffed with braised short rib and smoked Gouda — it's a welcome throwback to the glory days of Francoual's high-profile hideout on Nicollet Mall, where people would line up at happy hour to get in an order. Describing it as a Juicy Lucy is the easy way out ("It is NOT a Juicy Lucy," Francoual insisted). It's much more complex. Is it a one-of-a-kind burger, or is it actually a pot roast in disguise? That's what I found myself pondering when I stopped by to sample one.
Only 90 Vincent Burgers ($18.50) will be available Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but Francoual has had his hand in much of the EaTo menu since he came on board, tweaking the pizza dough and focaccia recipes and improving the steak and Velveeta sandwich — now with more Velveeta.
Still, the burger is and always will be his trademark. He's resigned to that fact.
"I went to culinary school at 15," Francoual said. Alas, "the burger is my legacy." (Sharyn Jackson)
305 Washington Av. S., Mpls., 612-208-1638, eatompls.com
Honey Bun Croissant at Bellecour at Cooks of Crocus Hill
The University of Minnesota's Bee Lab speaks for the bees: Its mission is to promote the conservation, health and diversity of the pollinators. In practicality, it works with students, researchers and just about anyone who wants to know more about the busy little critters and what can be done to promote pollinator well-being. And where there are honeybees, there is honey.
For a limited time, Bellecour Bakery, located inside Cooks of Crocus Hill stores, is serving buttery honey buns that celebrate nature's liquid gold. The Honey Bun Croissant ($5.95) is a witch's hat twirl of buttery, flaky croissant that's filled with pastry cream sweetened only with honey from the U. The result is a golden rich sweetness that tastes like summer sunshine served on a puffy cloud. It's an ideal harvest season sendoff to the warm summer days, when the bees feasted on sweet nectar. (Joy Summers)
877 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-228-1333; 210 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612-223-8167, bellecourbakery.com
Fall cider flight at Ferguson's Minnesota Harvest
A craving for all things apple, especially apple cider doughnuts, led us to Ferguson's Minnesota Harvest in Jordan. But just two hours after opening, the bustling store was already out of doughnuts and apple turnovers, and the food lines were nearly out the door. So we did the next best thing — had hard cider for lunch.
Available on tap or in bottles, the cider is fermented and bottled on site. The list of ciders is long, making a flight the most economical way to taste several of them. We chose to lean into the season and ordered the fall flight ($12). The pours were generous and the flavors playful — pumpkin spice, toasted marshmallow, caramel apple butter and spiced brown sugar. The caramel apple butter was the favorite; smooth, buttery and slightly sweet, but still dominated by crisp apple flavor. The toasted marshmallow was the surprise hit: Cider flavors were prominent all the way through, with hints of marshmallow sneaking in on the finish. Other standouts (from the Ferguson flight) were the crisp apple, which is the base of all of the orchard's hard ciders, and the cranberry tart, a pucker-punch to the taste buds in the best possible way.
This is the first season for Minnesota Harvest under the Ferguson's umbrella. All the orchard favorites are still intact, and several new attractions (wagon rides, farm animals, apple cannons) have been added. If you want to pick your own apples and enjoy the attractions, there's a $15 admission fee; there's no cost to visit the general store, which also houses the pizza kitchen and bar. The orchard is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but get there early if you want doughnuts. (Nicole Hvidsten)
8251 Old Hwy. 169, Jordan, 952-492-2785, minnesotaharvest.net
Charentais melon ice cream at Dream Creamery
Weather means nothing to me when it comes to ice cream; I'll happily hit the scoop shop in a polar vortex if it means sampling an exciting new flavor. But this recent effort from Dream Creamery chef and co-owner Nathan Mickelsen is best enjoyed during the current summer-fall cusp.
The flavor was a request from a neighbor of the Travail team's northeast Minneapolis burger-and-ice-cream parlor, according to a social media post, and it utterly captures the mouthwatering complexity of a late-season gourd that's so sweet it's almost on the verge of turning. Edging toward fermented, sugar from ripened French heirloom cantaloupe tastes like deep, dark caramel in this velvety scoop ($4). To top it off, the whole thing is laced with melon liqueur. It's a late-September triumph. (S.J.)
816 Lowry Av. NE., Mpls., dreamcreamerymn.com
Sunshine Helps sandwich at Alma Provisions
Approaching the just-opened Alma Provisions required weaving through a sidewalk filled with grinning pups and parents doing the universal bounce carrying their small humans — the shop and grab-and-go cafe is a popular draw in this easily walkable neighborhood.
It's the newest collaboration between spouses Margo and Alex Roberts. She's the creator of a gorgeous line of apothecary goods that are stocked in their boutique hotel; he's the James Beard Award-winning chef. The two also own and operate Brasa, which opened its third location on 46th Street near the seemingly endless construction on Bryant Avenue S. The location came with a good bit of real estate, and now next to Brasa is this lovely little shop.
Outside there's a walk-up window where you can grab coffee, breakfast, treats or lunch to go. Inside, the small shop has a few dedicated shelves with body products scented with a distinctive, woodsy fall aroma. Plus, there are a few kitchen implements, pantry items and some of Alma Cafe's greatest hits, like savory danish, gluten-free almond/orange financiers and chocolate croissants. For those craving something heartier, there's a selection of sandwiches.
Taking advantage of the late summer bounty of tomatoes, I got the biscuit called Sunshine Helps ($9.50). Fluffy egg anchored this heavenly, hearty bite. While Alma Provisions is too small for seats, there is plenty of outdoor patio space to sink into the breakfast treats and luxuriate in a few quiet moments at the start of the day. If it's not patio weather, you can eat your treats inside Brasa, too. (J.S.)
812 W. 46th St. Mpls., 612-895-1251, almaprovisions.com