The dish on Gastro Non Grata

An all-night party of local food, booze and bands courtesy two well-cultured dudes.

by Kara Nesvig

GASTRO NON GRATA WHEN: Nov. 22 WHERE: Triple Rock Social Club, 6 p.m., $5 I met Craig Drehmel and Jeff Mitchell of Gastro Non Grata one gloomy Friday afternoon at the Wienery on the West Bank. Over Upsetter dogs and coffee, the duo detailed the story of their extravaganza brainchild; a fusion of delicious, innovative eats from the top chefs in the city and the choicest booze. ItâÄôs like an all-night party celebrating local cuisine, with loud music and bucketloads of beer. HowâÄôd you meet? HowâÄôd you create GNG? Craig: Jeff was working at the Bulldog bartending once a week. I called on Bulldog for my job. I work at a wine distributor; he was working in restaurants forever. Our idea for the show at first was a talk show format. WeâÄôd get wine people and chefs to talk for a half hour, but we soon found that nobody wants to listen to people talk that long. The first three shows were at 331 Club. It was up and down, changing the format. It was the show Pat [of the Wienery] did at Memory Lanes where things really went off the rails. It was horribly awesome. It gave us the kick in the pants we needed to do it right. Now at the Triple Rock, weâÄôve had a format that works well. ItâÄôs a lot of fun. Good reason to drink on a Sunday. Are you guys foodies? Where are your favorite places to eat around the cities? Jeff: The Wienery! Craig: I go to Bandbox , Modern Café, Sea Change. I really want to go there. Jeff: ItâÄôs amazing. Craig: All the chefs weâÄôve had on the show are from restaurants we frequent. Nobody wanted to do it so we had to talk to people we sorta knew to do the show at the beginning. C: We really blew our wad on the first show. We had Steven Brown and Tor Wesgard , David Kuennen at . HeâÄôs got an underground wine shop in St. Paul. WeâÄôve only done a few wine shows, itâÄôs mostly beer. [Brewery] Furthermore is a great supporter. [Jeff orders an Upsetter dog.] WhatâÄôs the turnout for a GNG event? Is there a typical kind of person, an age group, who shows up? Jeff: ItâÄôs a broad range actually. We have older people, we have kids. You get the beer people, food people. Beer people tend to be middle-aged guys. We start the show off kind of mellow with a mellow music act, the food and drinks, and the end of the night is like a rock show. Craig: It gets really loud. We push out a lot of older people with the last band. IâÄôd say 250 [people] is a good estimate of what we usually expect. How do you get bands involved? Does the Triple Rock help out? Craig: Nope. ItâÄôs MySpace, friends, people we like around town, people who come to shows. If you really liked our show and youâÄôre a good band, weâÄôll probably have you on. ItâÄôs grown really organically. People who want to be involved contact us. ItâÄôs a really good vibe. At the Triple Rock, if you go there just for music, itâÄôs a lot of people standing around trying to look cool. Jeff: I was talking to Jim from The Blind Shake, and after the show he pulled me aside and he said, âÄúItâÄôs such a positive feeling.âÄù ItâÄôs not rock show dourness; itâÄôs a really good vibe. Craig: ThatâÄôs a big word. Jeff: IâÄôm an alum of the University of Minnesota. WhatâÄôs the big draw of the show beer-wise? 21st Amendment brewery, out of San Francisco, is moving all their contract brewing to Cold Spring, so this is their big launch. They moved their launch date back just to be part of it. Jeff: WeâÄôre their launch party, I guess. Where did the name come from? ItâÄôs pretty clever. Craig: It took like two and a half months of subconscious work. Jeff: I thought you said you were reading Hemingway and thatâÄôs where it came from. Craig: I think I finally figured out what âÄúpersona non grataâÄù means. IâÄôm a big believer in letting your subconscious do the work. It had been everything from âÄúFree BeerâÄù to whatever. Gastro Non Grata is nice. It means a lot of things. Jeff: It didnâÄôt exist on Google until we coined it. Craig: People donâÄôt want you to go to independent restaurants. ThatâÄôs why places like Don PabloâÄôs are always [expletive]ing full and El Taquito are only half-full, and thatâÄôs real Mexican food. People want it watered down so much, but this is the real shit. The concept is visiting independent restaurants that are taking it on. ItâÄôs a hard life for small restaurant owners to make it.