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Looking Back at the Stories That Grabbed Our Attention in an Unpredictable Year

Uprisings, fires, courage, and closures: 2020 has been a wild ride

A spray painted tribute to George Floyd
Lake Street continued to be a powerful representation of Minneapolis
Jes Lahay

This past year has been one of remarkable change for the Twin Cities dining world. In January and February, we could have no idea what was about to befall our cities. Now, months later, we look back at a year marked by closed doors, stacks of take out containers, streets filled with citizens demanded justice, and a hospitality industry hobbled, but still mighty, continually reaching out to help each other.

Now, seems like a good time to pause and reflect on the stories that meant the most to Eater Twin Cities’ readers.

Let’s just start with March, the governor made the announcement that as of St. Patrick’s Day, all restaurants needed to close to diners as the coronavirus pandemic descended. Some relied heavily on the “pivot,” a term inescapable over the ensuing months. Others, remained dark throughout the year, deciding early on against a takeout only model.

In April, an ice cream icon fell, when Izzy’s announced the closure of its 20 year-old Marshall Avenue scoop shop. All of its manufacturing continues in the Minneapolis location.

Then, there was the horrifying video of George Floyd under the knee of Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin outside of Cup Foods on Chicago Avenue. “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry as people took to the streets in protest. Violence sparked within the protests near the 3rd Precinct on East Lake Street. Several independently owned restaurants like the Town Talk Diner were damaged. Gandhi Mahal’s owner made national headlines when he said, “Let my building burn. Justice must be done.” Both restaurants were ultimately destroyed by fire.

Amidst the destruction, there was also an outpouring of kindness. Lines of people showed up to donate goods to hungry neighbors. Each morning, people would show up with brooms and garbage cans to clean up broken glass and sweep away rubber bullets. Boarded up buildings became rows of murals memorializing Floyd, demanding justice, and celebrating the wounded city. Lake Street’s landscape, the thoroughfare between Minneapolis and St. Paul was forever changed. Photographer Jes Lehay captured the moving images in June.

Justin Sutherland stands with his arms crossed on a patio with a red background
Justin Sutherland on the patio of his re-opened Handsome Hog in June
Joy Summers

In June, Justin Sutherland reopened his relocated Handsome Hog. He spoke about what it was like to attend the protests.

In July Minneapolis welcomed Gustavo Romero’s new Nixta, a restaurant and man determined to prove the power of corn, by importing heirloom varieties and making his own tortillas. The restaurant is also a harbringer of the change coming to local dining, serving only pre-orders and takeaway for reheating at home. There are no chairs and no space to eat inside, even if we could.

September kicked off with the eyebrow raising news that Surly’s massive beer hall would close in November. The move came just after employees announced an intent to unionize, an effort that ultimately failed. Surly beer is still being brewed, but fans lost that huge patio space plus the decadence and a’pizza of the hall.

More controversy arrived later in the month when the just-opened Elotes Woodfire Cantina dropped the word “elotes,” from its name after outcry from Mexican residents and restaurant owners.

A Manhattan on the black back bar at PS Steak
2020 was particularly rough on the bartending profession
Lucy Hawthorne

In October, Eater looked into the state of drinking, especially the unpredictable future facing bartenders. Professional drink makers from PS Steak, Revival, Lat 14, and Palmer’s talked about managing customer expectations and still trying to make a decent drink while touching things as little as possible.

We also tracked the rise and fall and rise again of Meteor Bar, a new dive bar from the superstar talent that was expected to dominate the year, instead they just found new and creative ways to hold on.

Unfortunately, the situation did not improve for bartenders. In November the governor once again shut down restaurants for dining. But not all news was bummerville. We also found out that Revival is expanding to St. Louis Park.

In a year dominated, for many, by staying home in increasingly comfortable surroundings and expanding pants, it makes sense that one of the final exciting stories of the year was a round up of new hamburgers built to tempt diners.

The final feel-good note of the year came courtesy of DeGidio’s in St. Paul’s West 7th neighborhood, as the 87 year-old restaurant asked fans not to support them, but their neighbors in this restaurant-rich area. Maybe we all just needed to hang our hats on a stand of kindness as we close down this remarkable year.