Colorful hot dog stands on street corners along Nicollet Mall are a sure sign of summer, but when the heat gets to be too much, you can still satisfy your craving for dogs via skyway year-round. Snacks and Franks, a new, indoor hot dog shop, has opened in the skinny space between Walgreens and Zelo on 9th & Nicollet Mall. The refreshingly low-key stop offers standard fare like hot dogs (including Vienna Beef and bratwurst), potato chips, popcorn, ice cream bars and soda. The new owners haven't hung out their shingle yet, but you can locate Snacks and Franks easily by the white and red Nicollet Mall sign that says "Hot Dogs -- $1.50."
If you prefer more wholesome snacks, Sola Squeeze on the skyway level of the IDS center, 80 S. 9th St., is carrying a larger inventory of quick-to-grab munchies these days in addition to its menu of smoothies. Check out a wide selection of nuts, seeds and trail mix by Bergin's Nuts, a Minneapolis-based natural snack food company. Also, you'll notice several varieties of Newman's Own organic cookies, which admittedly are not low-cal or low-carb but taste delicious while avoiding the use of those harmful hydrogenated oils.
Wild salmon run
Veering off the hot dog track, through September, McCormick and Schmick's, 800 Nicollet Mall, is running a salmon menu that features five species of Pacific Northwest wild salmon, including, King, Sockeye, Coho, Chum and Pink. These species vary from weighty and rich (the King) to slight and delicate, (the Pink and Coho). It's rare to find such a wide variety of wild salmon, as most places exclusively limit their wild offerings to Copper River salmon.
Make a reservation and arrive early if you want to get lunch at Mission American Kitchen, street level of the IDS Center. Mission is continuing to enjoy a phenomenal lunch business, as in, make a reservation and you might still have to eat at the bar. The Kobe beef hamburger with fries ($12) has been especially popular.
Mission, which opened in April, has made efforts to attract more nighttime clientele with its happy hour specials including $2-off mixed drinks and $3 tap beers. The deals are available in the bar, Monday-Friday, 4-6 p.m. and 10 p.m.-1 a.m.
Meantime, Red Restaurant and Lounge, 821 Marquette Ave. S., has discontinued lunch service in its effort to focus on dinner. After initially experiencing stellar lunch crowds, Red's daytime business fizzled a bit. But the evening crowd continues to dazzle. Star sightings have even been known to occur, as Matt Dillon and some of the crew dined there during the local shoot of the indie film "Factotum."
Red's Executive Chef Marianne Miller has departed after a short stint and former Sous Chef Matt Kempf has been promoted to replace her.
Kempf's experience includes five years as sous chef at Goodfellow's in City Center, 40 S. 7th St. Kempf was closely involved with the creation of the original Red menu, but a new menu has been released with some modifications. Of special interest are the Mushroom Pelmeni ($18.95), dumplings stuffed with seasonal mushroom pate in a truffled garlic broth -- a nice, light summer dish, and the Hawaiian Snapper ($26), served with rock shrimp tempura, avocado coconut and Asian slaw -- another equally delicate combination of flavors for the hottest season.
Bikes and buns
At the corner of 600 Hennepin Ave. E., a revamped gas station is the motorcycle-themed Betty's Bikes and Buns. "A lot of people think we are a biker bar and ask if we serve alcohol, but we're not, we're really a coffee shop," clarifies Alexx Roe, who helps run the place with her two sisters and parents.
The family-run establishment serves the requisite coffee and espresso drinks, cookies and scones, but it also offers exquisite goodies from frozen chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick, to root beer floats, to smoothies, like the Hawaiian Vacation, made with pineapple, mango and banana. It also offers a scrumptious little confectionery delight called a "puppy dog tail," a cinnamon twist, made fresh each morning.
Farmer's Market: pick-up spot?
Single guys, pay attention, because 87 percent of women at a straw poll in some of the nation's big-city farmers' markets said they find guy's shopping at farmers' market more attractive than the average man on the street. At least, according to the methodology of Russ Klettke and Deanna Conte, M.S., R.D., L.D., co-authors of "A Guy's Gotta Eat," a guide that promotes healthier, smarter eating for guys, and offers simple ways to break the convenience food habit.
One of the duo's useful suggestions is to ask farmers market vendors for advice on what to do with their products. The Minneapolis Farmers' Market, for example, has a lot of Asian vendors selling less familiar greens such as bok choy and mustard greens. These vegetables add variety to the diet and they really shouldn't be so intimidating, as you can substitute them for spinach or chard in recipes.
See below for a simple recipe for Guy's Grilled Vegetables (with chicken), courtesy of the authors, who maintain veggie-man tips at www.aguysgottaeat.com. (Keep in mind that you could serve these veggies with grilled lean steak, pork tenderloin or fish as a nourishing chicken-equivalent.)
Send food-related tips and Downtown restaurant news to Tammy Sproule Kaplan at firstname.lastname@example.org.