St. Genevieve has these modish circular coasters you’ll put your $1 pint of Hamm’s on at happy hour. They’re stamped with deep burgundy curves, and gold doily patterns that shimmer under the bar lights. You’ll run your thumb over the surface of yours, perhaps you’ll sit and ponder the per-unit price for it, then you’ll drop it back onto the counter and plop your $1 Hamm’s right on top of that fancy-font “StG.”
St. Genevieve is the French restaurant in south Minneapolis, but you probably already knew that. MSP Magazine‘s Dara Moskowitz-Grumdahl named St. Genevieve her restaurant of 2016, calling the gem salad “a song” and saying her heart leaps to be in that room. Star Tribune food critic Rick Nelson gushed over trout and chicken paillard. Their champagne list has gotten a lot of attention, too, and it’s emphasized on St. Genevieve’s menu.
But barely a month ago, St. Genevieve kicked off a happy hour that runs 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9-11 p.m. every night. It includes $2 off tap beers, which drops a pint of Hamm’s to $1.
Those coasters have been living their best lives ever since.
St. Genevieve is the brainchild of chef/owner Steven Brown, who also calls the shots at Tilia just off Lake Harriet. Two years in, St. G still feels like you’re walking up to a secret. There’s no loud sign, just a striped awning (a color pattern I’ve dubbed “cool blue, hot mustard”) and a little chalkboard easel by the door. If you’re lucky, you’ll walk in when sunlight is flooding in through the front windows and The Temptations’ “My Girl” is playing over the speakers.
The happy hour menu is four items deep and fits on a little square slip. You have the burger, frites, chicken wings, and beignets. You might think to yourself, “Heck, I’ll eat through the whole damn thing here and now,” but I bet you’ll start with the cheeseburger. You should. It’s small, but a pleasure: white cheddar, a huddle of cornichons, and a luscious chunk of beef.
If you’re looking for something a little more Frenchy, indulge on blue crab beignets. You’ll get a pile of five, stacked in a small pond of tartar sauce. A delicate outer crust hides fluffy, eggy dough and a creamy core of crab remoulade. Depending on the beignet, the first bite into said core can range from “pleasant surprise” to the joy of pulling open a winning pull tab for the first time in your life. I finally opened my first winning pull tab six weeks ago, so the feeling is still fresh.
My bartender called the chicken wings “meat lollipops” and explained the process by which meat is pushed down the bones to form these. Imagine the giant turkey legs you get at the Renaissance Festival, zapped by the Honey I Shrunk the Kids beam, breaded in cornmeal and herbs, then deep-fried. Specks of chopped serrano pepper help raise the temperature, and truffle honey counterpunches with a cool sweetness.
The wings were described to me the same way both time I ordered them, but I got two very different servings. The first round were coated in a dry, crisp breading that crunched under the tooth like that of a great country-fried steak or the best popcorn shrimp ever made. I couldn’t, least off the top of my head, remember the last time I’d had wings like those. The second order was much darker, a little sweeter, and sticky. They were reminiscent of the Korean Fried Chicken on the Red Rabbit late-night menu.
If St. Genevieve’s Instagram feed is any indication, you should expect wings like my second order. I preferred the first, but I think wing fans will be happy with either.
Once you’re a believer, you can take a step up and hit St. G for brunch. You’ll want the quiche, trust me. It’s a velvety stick of egg with butternut squash, cheddar cheese and parsnips mixed in. It’s beyond tasting great; it tastes like you just pulled the perfect bank robbery.
The madame tartine is a nice pile of jambon royale on a baguette slice with raclette and a sunny-side-up egg. Breakfast potatoes land at your table wearing the guise of a pie slice, with chip-like layers you peel off and eat like really thin au gratin. Delicious. Drop the extra $4 for a pair of sunny-side up organic eggs. They’re eager to show you the difference between them and the .99-per-carton variety, and it’s quite a difference.
Speaking of, Hamm’s are full-priced at brunch. So, $3.
When it’s time, you can work your way up to a dinner menu featuring duck breast with hazelnuts, cherry-liver sauce, lentils and turnip; or scallops with butternut squash, pork belly, apples, and potato crisp. Perhaps you’ll even have some champagne – they only sell it in bottles, but Miller High Life is available.
They have separate menus for lunch and mid-day as well. I’ve heard whispers of late-night menu items, like Juicy Lucys, that come at random. If you stop in for brunch and you want pastries, get there early – when my wife and I stopped in for a 1 p.m. reservation, they were all gone.
While word of this happy hour makes it way across the Twin Cities, you can still swing in at 3:30 or 4 p.m. and have your choice of seats. You can get to know the bar staff, and have solo stops feel like you’re with a group of friends. Before long, you’ll be stopping in at every opportunity, with sunlight in your eyes and the chorus of “My Girl” in your head.
If you’re like me, you won’t even need a drink list.