Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Gnome Re-visited

Upon picking up the most recent edition of the City Pages, the news and arts weekly of the Twin Cities, I was surprised to see their review of the Happy Gnome. Surprised because it was glowing!

"And the new Happy Gnome is that rarest of birds: a neighborhood tavern worth moving to the neighborhood for."

Whoa. Is this the same pub I called a little sad a while back? I would agree with the City Pages columnist that the Gnome's beer list--both in size and diversity--is the best in St. Paul and perhaps in the state, and I haven't had their food, so I can't respond to her rave reviews of the chef and his creations. But what about the prices? The lack of pitchers and no happy hour? The staff who can't tell a dopplebock from a double IPA? As a friend commented to me, the Gnome feels more like a place to go once a year for an anniversary rather than the bar you visit to get a drink after work. A recent Pioneer Press review hit it right on the nose:

"[The owners] haven't quite figured out what their new neighborhood spot should be. They want to keep the former beer-guzzling Chang O'Hara's regulars. They also want to attract the Cathedral Hill crowd willing to pay $18 for a Belgian beer.

"The mixed signals they're sending also include uneven service, beer-hall ambience and an overly ambitious menu. In fact, early on, the place was so schizophrenic, it wouldn't have surprised me to see the staff in white coats, dispensing little white pills. "

So I went back to the Gnome last night. And I had a great experience. What I've found is that sitting at the bar is the way to go. Service was prompt, and the 'tender knew his beer. He make accurate recommendations, and gave us several samples of different beers (making up for the prices). He clearly enjoyed sharing his advice with us, and was happy to talk shop. Totally a different experience from the last time I was there. But yes, a little schizophrenic.

Once last gripe. The Gnome has got to update their website! They've had several articles written about them and people are talking about them (a simple Google search of "happy gnome" yields many reviews and blogs), but try to get a phone number or better yet --THEIR AMAZING BEER LIST--and you get nothing. Just a picture of a silly gnome and their address. But hey, apparently that's enough--the place is always hopping with drunks, couples on dates, and beer snobs.

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