By Coco Mault

Gather by D’Amico
Walker Art Center
170 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN
Hours: Tue – Sun, 11:30 am–2:30 pm;
Open late Thurs, 5–9 pm

When it comes to weather, Minnesotans are a hearty bunch. We schedule carnivals and stake out parade spots in conditions many people would be frantically gathering firewood and clutching survival guidebooks. Our willingness to endure less than favorable weather conditions is evident at restaurants with outdoor seating, too. No matter how late into fall, if there is a chair and table outdoors, it’s likely someone will consider it a fine day for having lunch outside.

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And though it is indeed getting to be time to invest in long underwear, we can still count on a few days favorable for outdoor seating. The Walker Art Center’s newest restaurant, Gather, a D’Amico restaurant which recently replaced Wolfgang Puck’s 20.21, offers a grand view of downtown Minneapolis from the inside — and out. There are a handful of tables on their outdoor rooftop dining area above Lyndale Avenue. But on Thursday afternoons, there is even more than the view to make visitors happy.

Every Thursday the Walker Art Center is open late thanks to Target Free Thursday Nights, and Gather stays open late as well, with specials beginning at 5pm. It’s always disappointing when a happy hour doesn’t deliver, but that’s just not the case with Gather. Their specials definitely put the “happy” in happy hour.

(credit: Coco Mault)

On the first Thursday of each month, a new featured guest chef serves complimentary samples and is on site to answer questions and mingle with guests. In October, chef Lenny Russo will create two featured items that will be on the menu all month. Past guest chefs include Adam King, the chef at Café and Bar Lurcat; and Isaac Becker, chef and owner of local restaurants 112 Eatery and Bar La Grassa. For an idea of what guests can expect from the goodies at Gather, Chef Becker’s specials included gnocchi with foie gras meatballs ($9), and cold porchetta with parmesan cracker and horseradish cream ($9).

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Gather also has a special seasonal cocktail menu, and every Thursday evening one of those cocktails will be chosen as the feature and priced to imbibe at only $5. Selected beer and all of the small plates are $5 during happy hour, too! The small plates have a generous serving size, making it easy to order a couple of items to share. The gnocchi and meatballs were light and scrumptious, a monotone cream-colored dish punctuated with parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

Regular menu items on the small plates menu include Sweet Pea Agnolotti, Tomato, Parmesan ($9), barbecue short rib bahn mi with pickled vegetables ($10) and, a favorite in any drinking situation, french fries; here they are served with Truffle Aioli ($7). The pillows of sweet pea agnolotti, also seasoned with fresh basil and parmesan, were positively swimming in a flavorful tomato and olive oil sauce. The barbecue short rib bahn mi had a garden-fresh quality like the other plates, but were noticeably spicier. Along with the pork, the carrots and onion were quite flavorful between fluffy slices of focaccia bread.

With the seasonal drink menu, it’s easy to avoid getting into a cocktail rut. In August, Gather featured refreshing summer cocktails, like Lavender Lemonade — a sweet and tart number made with vodka. Even the garnish was lovely; a generous sprig of fresh lavender popped up over the rim of the glass accompanied by a slice of candied lemon which sat in the cocktail and caught the summer sun like a delicious little stained-glass window.

Chef Lenny Russo, of the restaurant Heartland, will be Gather’s guest chef during the month of October. His creations will be featured on the menu throughout the month.

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Gather by D’Amico features locally sourced and globally inspired American cuisine. Enjoy happy hour drinks and small plate specials from 5pm to 7pm every Thursday.