Really, we do. I'm totally happy to see the Local with its new, less ambitious, less successful menu. It's doing everything you could ask from a bar. There's a pint glass in every hand (18 beers are on tap, including creamy, nitrogen-gas-pumped Guinness, Caffrey's, and Boddington; pints cost $5). The place still offers a nice selection of single-malt whiskeys as well as some usually overlooked Irish ones, they don't charge a cover, and there are so many, many different rooms that you could effectively execute every possible maneuver you might want in a bar. Why, you can spread out with a large group, hide from an ex-spouse, snuggle up with a new honey, spy from the balcony on your ex-spouse and his or her new honey. Truly, you could even go to the phones near the bathroom, page yourself, and ditch out on your new honey.

And if you can do it all with good fish and chips and chocolate cake in your belly, so much the better. In a lot of ways, the new totality of the Local just makes me think that the possible is often richer and more interesting than the fantasy.

TABLEHOPPING:

Diana Watters

FANCY IRISH STILL IN REACH: If you are mourning the absence of fancy, upscale Irish food around town, please point your wallets to Elegant Irish Cooking, by Noel C. Cullen ($35, Lebhar-Friedman Books). This cookbook is one of my favorites of the past couple of years, and the reason I'm going to give may seem patently absurd: There just seem to be a lot of similarities between the locally available ingredients in Ireland and here. Yeah, despite the whole encircling Atlantic Ocean thing. So many of the 160-some fancy plates here could be put together in a single sweep down an aisle at the farmer's market--dishes like bacon-and-leek flan, potato-and-sorrel soup, lamb pie with parsnips, duck with a rhubarb-honey sauce, venison sausage with rutabaga purée and apple, minted turnips, and beef with a cream-and-watercress sauce with champ (mashed potatoes flavored with scallion-infused milk).

I just can't think of the last time I saw so many recipes easily made with local ingredients in the dead of a Minnesota winter. The foundation of nearly all these recipes is dairy and root cellar. Is it just me, or doesn't it sometimes seem like cooking California or southern European in Minnesota requires too many flown-in ingredients? Artichokes, capers, olives, oranges, Parmesan and prosciutto... Of course these things are all marvelous, but it's nice to see a collection of dress-up foods that basically are our native foods. (Except the oysters and the salmon and such. We must ignore seafood if my thesis is to hold. And my thesis must hold.)

 

ROTI RETURN AND PERSONALITY PLUS: Meanwhile, another island's cuisine is also on the move: Harry Singh is about to reopen his signature place, Harry Singh's Caribbean Restaurant, in uptown Minneapolis in the old Paisano's space, roughly betwixt the Uptown Bar and Urban Outfitters. Those with a taste for Trinidadian cuisine and an elephant's memory recall that Harry Singh opened his first eponymous spot up on Central Avenue in northeast Minneapolis back in 1983, moved to the corner of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue in 1988, moved again to Cedar Avenue and 36th Street in 1993, and finally closed the Cedar location a few months ago, having never liked the off-the-beaten-path location.

"I've been trying to get back into Uptown for five years," said Singh when I talked to him for this column. "I had my devoted customers who followed me for so many years, but no one ever liked the last location. I put a sign up (in the old Paisano's window) this weekend and when I looked later so many people were gathered around I thought the glass was broken or something. But when I looked, it was my old people, and I was so happy, so happy."

The new location will have what the old one did, such as Singh's signature rotis--flatbreads available plain or stuffed with a variety of stews and curries--spicy signatures like jerk chicken and lamb, seafood calalloo, baked clams, and tropical nonalcoholic beverages like mango and soursop drinks. (Cross your fingers for a future wine and beer license.) The one thing that will be different in Uptown, says Singh, is that the entire restaurant will run as vegan one day a week. Barring licensing snafus, Singh says the restaurant will open in June, "and I hope I stay here for a long, long while."

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