10 Years of the Happy Gnome


A portrait of gnomes at the Happy Gnome bar and restaurant in St. Paul, Minnesota

If you were in the Happy Gnome’s Firestone Room Wednesday night, you saw what a decade of rousing success looks like. Many of the nation’s largest breweries had a contingent on hand, and the Gnome had its expected wealth of rare beers on tap — and I don’t mean “follow the truck to the next liquor store” rare. I mean “one keg for the entire state” rare.

Happy Gnome general manager Emily Brink mingled her way through the party, not walking so much as dancing her way around as visitors hugged and high-fived her.

The Gnome celebrated 10 years this week, and treated themselves to 13 additional tap lines. That means 13 more beauties like this one from Lake Mills, Wisc.:

A pint of Tyranena Hop Whore at the Happy Gnome bar and restaurant in St. Paul, Minnesota

Barley gone wild, let me tell you about Tyranena Hop Whore! It’s a little bit sweet, with gorgeous color and body, and leaves a rack of lacing behind. At 7.5 percent ABV, it’s enough to ease the pain of an earlier tooth extraction without compelling you to start hugging strangers. Take it slow and admire this one.

I’d previously written about the Gnome when I brought a Christian rock band over for brunch one Sunday. Now, let’s talk about poutine.

A bowl of poutine at the Happy Gnome bar and restaurant in St. Paul, Minnesota

Rib-stickin’ everything, baby: This poutine was everything you love about pot-pies (gravy, meat, potatoes, gravy, gravy) and nothing you hate (peas). Nope, not a healthy thing in this bowl — but if you’re gonna try and fight December with salads, you go right ahead. I’m taking the curd blanket and andouille sausage heap every time.

Notice the cilantro sour cream. Not only did it provide an extra dimension, it helped with eating while the food was still (probably too) hot. Poutine is a notoriously effective nightcap after a bad day; and, while I don’t remember if this was a bad day or not … see, look how good a job it did.

It looks like a small serving for $9, but trust me — that bowl was loaded.

There are numbers on the menu that might make your face twitch; but best assured, you can have an experience of a beer, absolutely $9 worth of poutine, leave a good tip, and get out under $20. You think that’s still high? Wake up, it’s 2015. A frog-damned Whopper can run you $8. Do this poutine, just trust me.

The Happy Gnome has, to quote Disco Inferno, “it like that.” The service is good, the way a staff would be if it still had something to prove; and you can find a quiet spot, even when there’s clamor over a special beer at the bar. It’s bucolic. St. Paul does well to have this.

I wouldn’t mind another 10 years or more.


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