We learned about Blue Nile through beeradvocate.com, where Al, the bar manager, is a frequent poster. One might not think to go there – an Ethiopian and Middle Eastern restaurant by design – for microbrew selections, but it is most definitely a destination for beer travelers. And since we arrived during Happy Hour (4-6 PM) we enjoyed 2 for 1 beers along with the company of Al.
On tap right now are three Surly beers (Two, Furious and Bender), Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence, Brau Brothers Scotch Ale, Summit Grain Belt, Lion Stout, Bell’s Consecrator Dopplebock and a few others that I just don’t remember.
He told us a lot about what he’s lining up, the interesting music visitors can enjoy (including hip-hop, jazz, reggae, and African bands), and the background of the owners and how their Oromo heritage influences the menu. We ordered appetizers. I did not note the names, but one was like a samosa but made with lentils and served with a really interesting hot sauce and the other was a really tasty Baba Ghanoush served with warm pita triangles.
After some time, we were joined by some people we met through common interests and the Internet – Sharon and Bill came by to meet us, and we had a great time talking birds, technology, books and beer with them.
We headed out to meet friends on the other side of town at Cafe 28– a restaurant owned by one of the brewers / part-owner at Surly, Todd, and his wife, Linda. D and I are still debating about what we read the building used to be, but regardless, it looks like an old firehouse converted into a warm, cozy, eclectic little restaurant. This is the kind of place people come to enjoy wonderful food with good friends – lingering and enjoying the experience. And we did.
Surly beers are on tap, if that wasn’t obvious, and our friend Tom really enjoyed his Surly Two! The food was outstanding – D had the Fish Fry, which was a light, beer battered Canadian walleye served with fries and slaw, while I had the tofu tacos served in a La Perla corn tortilla with romaine, black olives, cilantro, sour cream, queso fresco and guacamole. The tofu was lightly fried and salsa verde was perfect. I also enjoyed a cup of the tomato soup with spinach and garlic. This was no thick Campbell’s tomato soup – this was a light, smooth juice of tomato accompanied by many wonderful flavors, but especially the essence of olive oil.
We enjoyed the company of our friends and the flavors of our food throughout the evening, but were pleasantly interrupted by Linda, who recognized D and I as the beer travelers from PA. She brought Todd out, and we had quite a lengthy conversation with him about Surly brewing and beer in general.
It was such a great night out in Minneapolis, but unfortunately, I was light on sleep so we looked forward to a nice ride under the snow-heavy trees that lined the streets near Lake Calhoun and back to our hotel.