799 University Ave., St. Paul
Hours and Details:
Monday - Friday, 3-6 p.m.
$5 appetizers/small plates
Monday - Friday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. & Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
$2 off Minnesota wines, $1 off Minnesota beers
Because Twin Citians voraciously debate where to find the finest pho, the Hot Dish tucked into Ngon in the early evening to check out their locavore happy hour for its Minnesota spirit. Is it worth the field trip to Frogtown?
Venue: Ngon has a hip French colonial decor that somehow calms the soul, with its yellow walls and soothing artwork. The turntable at the bar doesn't hurt either--while we were there our server spun some mellow Gorillaz that made our Minnesota wine easier to swallow (no hard alcohol here--it's wine and beer only). The "Local Brews" selection is renowned, as is Ngon's commitment to local ingredients, which is clear from the small plates menu that rightfully trumpets area purveyors in the name of each dish, i.e. Red Lake walleye sandwich and Thousand Hills beef stew.
Verdict: On the strength of the beer list alone, this locavore happy hour piqued our interest. We're talking Liftbridge, Surly, Summit, Brau Brothers, and Flat Earth, to name just a few of the MN state brewers they offer (and a cask option too--impressive). We only wish it was more of a deal than $1 off. The $2 off of Minnesota wines is a better bargain, but of course less inspiring. Nonetheless, the $5 small plate list on weekday afternoons made it all worthwhile. When we visited, the happy hour menu boasted Kadegan chicken skewers marinated in a lemon grass sauce, a farmers market beet salad with a ginger vinaigrette and our huckleberry, the Fischer Farms pork belly braised in pho spice, sitting atop a wasabi, mashed potato, and brussel sprout puree with five-spice sauce. We quit whining about the drink specials, dug into our exotically dressed local victuals, and declared it a happy hour success.