Pub and Grub

I don't know where to even begin explaining the problem there. If I decided to open a neighborhood restaurant and compete with McDonald's on McDonald's terms--matching those prices with that speed of service and those hours--I would fail. They work on vast economies of scale, they operate with a set of costs different from small businesses. But why on earth would I want to do that anyway? Let McDonald's be McDonald's. And let Grandma's Saloon & Deli be Grandma's Saloon & Deli. Because Gram's got the panoply of sweet, salty, creamy and/or cheesy bar food sewn up tight. Good for them! By the way, who here thinks that Grandma's clientele is suddenly going to rise up and ask where they can eat a meal that is a lot like what they're already having, but down the street?

Anyhoo, with any luck Town Hall will figure out how to make a dozen homey items like burgers and sandwiches as well as anyone else in town, and then they'll rule the world. I'll probably go back there this summer, at the very least to sample Haggerty's upcoming cream ale--I've never had a craft-brewed cream ale. I'm also hoping for a reprise of a charming evening last summer, when fat raindrops began to fall on Town Hall's patio. A dozen parties scooted their chairs forward under the umbrellas and enjoyed their beers beneath the quiet rain. It was a pretty night, and the mist made the neon of nearby Grandma's look like nothing but fuzz.

 

Kristine Heykants

Location Info

Map

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery

1430 Washington Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55454

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

TABLEHOPPING

PRAIRIEFARE.COM: Organic baby arugula streaming through your modem. Pasture-raised, bluestem-grass-fed beef on your monitor. The Internet has digitized the fields, and it's good news for your dinner table. You'll see it all at www.prairiefare.com, a brilliant concept developed by the Land Stewardship Project and the Western Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association. The site contains links to six farms in the Montevideo area, from which Twin Citizens can order sides of beef or flocks of chickens, sign up to participate in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm, check out the apple harvest, and generally learn what western Minnesota farmers are up to.

Jeremy Murdock, a young farmer and recent Macalester College grad, is one of the three owners of the Easy Bean farm in Milan (pronounced like "my land"). Murdock says the idea is to try to link people in the Cities (and our wallets) with like-minded farmers and their carefully raised products--while at the same time taking an end run around all the strange vagaries of the ag business. For example, did you know it's nearly impossible for new farmers to get into the big Minneapolis and St. Paul farmers' markets because they're all filled up? Did you know that a farmer might drive all the way into town and find that all the co-op shelves are full up of beets, or broccoli, or whatever it is the farmer has in the back of her truck? Do you know that most of the money you're paying for meat in the grocery store is going to a series of middlemen?

Cut out all those middlemen and the marriage of city eater and country grower looks to be a win-win situation: The cheapest way for city dwellers to get the freshest meats and vegetables is to buy directly from the farmer. Simultaneously, the most efficient way for your city dollars to support rural communities and help limit air and water pollution is to buy directly from the farmer.

Audrey Arner, one of the owners of prairiefare.com member Moonstone Farm, says the Web site "is part of a movement in various parts of Minnesota, a widespread phenomenon in which farmers are having to get more innovative about how we do our marketing, because traditional crops and traditional marketing have proved not to be playing out very well. But it's also part of a wave of consumer enthusiasm about knowing where your food comes from, knowing who your food comes from, and paying for quality, better flavor, and the peace of mind about the ecological impact of your food on the environment."

That last part of Arner's comment refers to the way her cows are grazed: They move from pasture to pasture with the help of portable fences, replicating natural herd patterns and fertilizing and reseeding the fields. As for price, while you do have to buy Moonstone beef in bulk--the smallest order is a quarter of a cow, or around 150 pounds--$2 a pound for hormone-free, naturally raised beef (remember, we cannot call beef organic until after federal standards are finalized) qualifies as a blue-light special.

And speaking of being cheap, I've always shied away from the large up-front cash commitment required for CSA's, in which consumers buy a share of a farm and get a portion of all its products. For example, a full share in Easy Bean, with delivery to the Twin Cities, costs $440, while half a share costs $295. Then again, this buys you between 7 and 12 pounds of produce a week in the spring and more than 20 pounds a week in the summer and fall; Murdock says a good number of his urban customers split shares three or four ways, so round up your officemates, your church fellows, and your neighbors. Customers who register with the CSA will start getting grub the first week in June--Murdock says the earliest arrivals will be salad greens, cooking greens, bok choy, arugula, scallions, beets, and kohlrabi. Once the Web has brought you all that local bounty, you can start looking globally for recipes--I found one for a soup reportedly made for Eleanor Roosevelt's daughter (www.eee.org/comm/ sbcmuseum/cookbook/1900/recipes/125.htm), but that's another story entirely.

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