It’s like Texa-Tonka knew I was moving into the neighborhood. On my first weekend in my new house, I walked over to the new Revival and had fried chicken and bourbon to toast the move. Later, I celebrated my neighbor’s kid with donuts from Angel Food Bakery. Then La Bodega Taco Bar opened across the street with my favorite quesabirria, and of course there’s always been Best of India to blow my sinuses with Vindaloo and Brito’s Burritos presses tortillas to order for your quesadilla. Wok in the Park is a neighborhood staple, full stop.
But now, two new foodist destinations have come to the crossroads that are Texas Ave and Minnetonka Blvd., and I am probably now never moving. I give you Brookie’s Fish Market and Westside Wines & Spirits, two fresh owner-operated small businesses that have been built to feed the community and the souls of the owners.
NOW OPEN: Brookie’s Fish Market.
Chris Nelson has been the fish friend of choice for many local chefs over the years, so tirelessly did he work as a wholesale rep. But working that pace, needing to respond to the frantic needs of the restaurant business took its toll, and he decided to forge another path that might allow him to hang out with his kids more. “I thought, what about retail? Turns out the specialty markets got a good boost from the pandemic, because everyone started cooking and learning to explore new foods in their kitchens.” Please welcome Brookie’s (the nickname for brook trout) to your shopping rotation.
It’s a neighborhood fish market, a retail segment which doesn’t often open in the Twin Cities. “We sold out of almost all of our smoked fish in five days,” Nelson told me while touring me through the cases. Drawing from the best seafood wholesalers in the metro (not just the one he used to work for) Nelson is stocking his opening fish cases with catch that people are familiar with: salmon, Arctic char, tuna, and the like, plus oysters, clams, and scallops. I love that besides cuts, I can grab whole fish here too. “We’ll see what the neighborhood wants and build from there. If they come in and don’t see a fish they want, they just have to tell us and we’ll do what we can to get it in. It’s all about service.”
And it’s not only fresh fish, but there’s a whole freezer case packed with goodies, from frozen lobster claws to chowder, to desserts and steaks. Don’t underestimate his connections to the food world, he knows a lot of chefs, cooks, and their side hustles. Shelves along the wall hold dry goods that every cook will love: From Maldon salt and Duke’s Mayo, to locally made dilly beans and other specialty items.
There’s even a wall with customer photos and recipes that you can grab on your way out. Nelson believes, “It’s not just about opening a shop in a community, it’s about being a part of the community.” Please do yourself a favor and watch the Brookie’s Insta so that you know what’s fresh and in stock. Things will sell out and that’s a good sign of a good fish shop.
COMING SOON: Westside Wine & Spirits
Right next door is a two-sided business from Alex and Tom Schoenberger, a couple of longtime restaurant industry vets who live in the neighborhood (just up Westwood way)! After many years working in restaurants and country clubs, this is their first move into working for themselves.
On one side you’ll find a market and deli, nestled into about 1,500 square feet. The bright space has cool blue shelving which will be stocked with all manner of meats, artisan cheeses, crackers, olives … basically this could be board central. In fact, they will be selling locally made boards from DB Timberworks if you’re looking to trade up.
The market will launch first, in a manner of days, but the deli portion will ramp up. Besides specialty meats, they plan an easy offering of grab and go, deli salads, soup, and a 12-15 item roster of hot and cold sandwiches. Look for this to get going after the holidays and plan to watch me eat breakfast sandwiches on social. The market will be open in the morning and close around 6pm.
Next door, through the MN mandated separate entrance, you’ll find about 4,000 square feet of wine and spirits shop. They just got all their papers stamped and will be stocking the shelves as soon as possible. “We want to be able to offer the top of the low end prices for your grab and go weekly, and be able to get the tippy top of whatever you want,” Tom explained. “If you want special bottles, a particular Bordeaux or a high-end tequila, we’ll do that too.” There are special blue cabinets on the west wall for the high-end brands, and across they top they’ll stock large format bottles. When Tom and Alex lived in Seattle for a while, he got his sommelier certification while working at Wild Ginger.
In the middle of the shop, they’ll have red wine down one aisle, white wine down another, and the center racks will hold $20 and up bottles. Look for beer on the shelves, so that you can mix and match six packs, as well as craft and domestic beer in the cooler in the back. On the other wall, there’s some great news from Tom, “We’re going to have a big bubble footprint, because that’s our favorite thing to drink. So the first four or five doors over there are going to be cold wines and Champagnes.” I’m never moving. They’re also stocking the nice ice as you can see.
In the back of the store they’ve built a tasting bar where they plan to host events. Makers, purveyors, educators might all have a turn at sampling there. “Having lived in the neighborhood, we’re as excited for this as our neighbors are,” Alex said. She made sure to point out the little westside hand sign that’s been incorporated into their signage. Watch their socials for opening day announcements.