We had dinner at Stewart's, which is the new incarnation of Cafe 128. I have to admit I was never the biggest fan of Cafe 128; I always found the prices high for basically eating in a basement rec room. The re-design makes it feel far nicer (though without losing the retro glam, in fact improving on it), but the new menu is a big improvement. It's kind of all mixed together — apps, main courses, and sides — which encourages you to try different thing together. Price points are reasonable, and it feels far more authentic than the old place. Patrick had the Lake Woebegon Shore Lunch (basically walleye with potatoes fried in bacon), which was well-flavored and hey enjoyed (though I could not sample the potatoes, too bacon-y). I had a nice grilled cheese sandwich with a flavorful tomato aoili, plus a side of fries that we shared. There's now a full liquor license, and the cocktails were a little uninspired but nice enough. Service was quick and friendly, so we had plenty of time afterwards to grab a drink at our next destination...
...which was Lawless Distillery. I had heard a lot about Lawless from my friend Rebecca, who appreciates the atmosphere and fine bartending. We needed a place where we could just sit and talk, and thought it might fit the bill. And it certainly did; as I tweeted:We walked in and looked over
This place is magic. Like a balm for the soul.The first thing I appreciated, when we walked in, was the sense of place. It was clearly a distillery, where spirits are actually made, but the bar area made it clear that they were also appreciated. It was funky and speakeasy-esque, without presenting an annoying, over-hipster vibe (like some other places which will remain nameless). You know the neighborhood coffeeshop you go to because the coffee is great, and it feels comfortable, and they are not navel-having snobs about their beans, and you feel like you could stay forever. Lawless is the alcoholic version of that.
We sat down at the bar, where bartender Adam quickly realized we were celebrating Patrick's birthday, and brought us a couple of shots of a very Christmas-y tasting hibiscus concoction, followed by a couple of cups of punch. He kept up great banter, and guided us to two fantastic cocktails. I think it's safe to say that Patrick does not normally order a tiki drink, but his tiki-inspired Old Fashioned was a complex, outstanding drink. At the same time, my simple gin and tonic was probably the best G&T I have ever had; equally complex and full of flavor.
We watched Adam work for awhile. The drinks are multi-faceted, but Adam was both deft and meticulous, and quite entertaining to watch. He reminded me of the bartender at The Franklin, which until now had been one of the best bar experiences of my life.
After awhile, he noticed we were having quite a deep conversation, so he came back over to check on us. That's when we told him about the last week, and got into a long-ranging conversation of any number of topics — all while he managed to serve other customers and bring us a couple more double shots. Throughout it all, he was the consummate host, the kind of bartender you don't think exists anymore, who appreciates people, and his craft, and the evening out. (We even found out that he turns 24 today, so happy birthday, Adam!)
(And then, at the end, he told us not to worry about the tab, and that he appreciated that we had come in that night. But I have to say that even without that, I would be raving).
To say that this is exactly what we needed is the understatement of the year. Lawless earned themselves two very loyal customers last night. As Patrick tweeted as we left:
Local folks, go to @LawlessMN and see Adam at the bar and thank him and tip him well because he treated me with such love tonight.