October dining Downtown: Halloween treats and benefit bashes

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October 3, 2005 // UPDATED 1:58 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Tammy Sproule Kaplan
Tammy Sproule Kaplan

Main Street comes alive with wizards and wine, while events help hurricane victims and local farmers

Northeast scene lights up

There are many reasons to cross the river to the Nicollet Island/East Bank neighborhood this month. In the spirit of Halloween, a revelry-filled Wine Potions and Wizard's Brew event will be held Saturday, Oct. 29, 7-10 p.m. in the St. Anthony Main area. Hosts are Vic's, 201 SE Main St.; Tuggs Tavern, 219 SE Main St.; and Pracna on Main, 117 SE Main St.; along with Twin Cities Uncorked, a local organization for wine enthusiasts.

The $35 admission charge includes samplings of food, "spirited potables" and a couple of brews. Main Street will be abuzz with activity, from horse-drawn carriages to live music to fire performance art to prize drawings. Alternatively, merrymakers can purchase a $75 VIP ticket, which includes admission to this event and to the Illusion Theater Crystal Ball Premier Halloween Party for Grown-Ups, to be held just a block away at the Soap Factory, 110 5th Ave. SE.

Victoria Barlow of Vic's believes the area is perfect for this "magical concept" with its cobblestone streets, vintage street lanterns and historic charm. The event debuts this year with Guthrie Theater-costumed characters, a Tuggs saloonkeeper and saloon girl, and an even an appearance by Father Louis Hennepin. Tickets can be purchased in advance from www.tc-uncorked.org.

The official opening of Fugaise, 308 E. Hennepin Ave., took place at September's end. Chef-owner Don Saunders, formerly of Vincent and St. Paul's A Rebours, is now doing his own gig, offering a "unique French dining experience." The chef-driven menu will change with frequently. See the latest version at www.fugaise.com.

Oddfellow's, 401 E. Hennepin Ave., recently welcomed head chef Lucas Henderson. The Michigan native had previously cooked at Oddfellow's, as well as at Caf/ Barbette, Sample Room and Un Deux Trois. While the menu's focus was once a little more equatorial, Henderson says, "It would have been a bad idea for me to continue doing that." Instead, he has added a few more local ingredients and a frequently changing menu that he describes as simple and basic, both for the people cooking it and the people eating from it.

Lately, Henderson says he's had figs and dates on his mind, with the onset of fall, so these are likely to make an appearance on the menu soon. About a third of the smallish menu changes weekly, so monthly visitors are unlikely to see more than one or two of the same dishes on each visit.

As the holiday season approaches, Oddfellow's is considering some wine-tasting dinners in the upcoming months. Check the Web site, www.oddfellowsrestaurant.com, for a peek at the menu.

If you're feeling listless on one of those perfectly crisp October days, there is one other place to scope out on the east side of the river. Head to Aster Caf/, 125 SE Main St., for one last leisurely coffee on the patio overlooking the Mississippi. While you're there, enjoy the new menu and remodel completed earlier this year. It's still counter service but with an expanded food selection including a wide variety of sandwiches, salads and quiches, beer and wine. The selection is greatest on weekends to satiate the brunch crowd. The caf/ has yet to secure a full liquor license, but a staff member mentioned that it hopes to do so soon.

Dine fresh, dine local

Celebrate local food, farmers and eating out on Tuesday, Oct. 11, during the Dine Fresh, Dine Local event at 16 participating Twin Cities restaurants. The focus of the event is on local restaurant-farmer partnerships and resulting menus that incorporate those local ingredients.

A limited supply of gift bags, containing the 2006 Blue Sky Guide, a valuable coupon book for healthy living, containing a Minnesota-grown directory, will be available to diners that mention "Dine Fresh, Dine Local" at the restaurants that evening. Downtown participants include: Caf/ Brenda, 300 1st Ave. N.; Fire Lake Grill House, 31 S. 7th St.; and Sapor, 428 Washington Ave. N.

Participating restaurants will be making a financial contribution in support of promoting partnerships with local farmers. The Web site, www.dinefreshdinelocal.com, contains the complete list of the 16 restaurants taking part.

Hurricane Katrina benefit

Restaurants from across the nation will band together with the American Red Cross Wednesday, Oct. 5 to raise funds benefiting victims of Hurricane Katrina. The donations made by each restaurant will vary, but in general, all or a portion of that day's profits or sales will be donated. Diners may also be able to make individual donations while dining out.

Downtown restaurants taking part include: Applebee's, 600 Hennepin Ave. S. (in Block E); Buca di Beppo, 1204 Harmon Place; Capital Grille, 801 Hennepin Ave. S.; Cousins Subs, 109 S. 7th St.; Joe's Garage, 1610 Harmon Place; McCormick & Schmick's, 800 Nicollet Mall; Noodles & Co., 616 Washington Ave. N.; Oceanaire Seafood Room, 1300 Nicollet Mall; Old Chicago, 518 1st Ave. N.; Olive Garden, 533 Hennepin Ave. S.; Palomino, 825 Hennepin Ave. S.; Rock Bottom Brewery, 825 Hennepin Ave. S.; and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, 920 2nd Ave. S.

View a complete listing of restaurants, along with the portion pledged, at www.dineforamerica.org. Restaurants may continue to register through that day.

Nick and Tony's successor

The empty space at 50 S. 6th St. has been secured by McCormick & Schmick's to introduce its M & S Grill concept to the Twin Cities. According to its Web site, the M & S Grill concept offers a selection of steak, pot roast and chicken, in addition to grilled seafood. It is expected to open in the first quarter of 2006.