With its up-at-the-lake decor and laid-back vibe, the Red Stag Supperclub is an ideal setting for a Friday Night Fish Fry in the secular “Lenten” tradition of the Upper Midwest. Thus, at the start of every weekend, Twin Cities folks can head up north(east) to get in on the action. After working our way through the special menu — served in addition to the restaurant’s usual full menu — we can report that about half of the offerings live up to the nostalgic setting.
By far, our favorite dish of the night was the smelt fries ($8, below). The large portion of freshly fried whole smelt was addictive — we ate the entire plate and could have (and would have) kept chowing down if another helping found its way to our table. The batter-to-fish ratio was spot on, just enough to add extra crunch to the rich-yet-mild flavor of the smelt. Bright sweet onion tartar sauce was a great complement.
While we enjoyed the other punchy condiment, the smoked tomato ketchup was a little strong for the fish. Our only suggestion is that the smelt could be crispier; some were a tad floppy for our liking. Nevertheless, we’ll definitely return for smelt fries and beer, an excellent combo for winding down a long workweek.
We also enjoyed the fish and chips. We went with bluegill ($13 for 5oz, $18 for 10oz, below) rather than cod or walleye, which proved wise. The fish was moist and the perfect size for eating with our hands. Lemon and tartar sauce added acidity and sweetness, and the nicely fried exterior offered pleasant crunch. The batter-to-fish ratio again was on point, and the dish wasn’t the least bit greasy. The fish basket comes with either Red Stag’s awesomely giant and flavorful potato chips or house-cut fries, both of which do well in supporting roles. But the red cabbage coleslaw was dreadful. As one of our diners put it, the flavorless, lukewarm salad seemed “old and sad.”
Since we were in the market for fried fish, we nearly skipped the mussels ($12). As borderline mussels fanatics, though, we couldn’t resist. The shellfish was fresh and juicy, but the sauce (white wine, garlic butter, basil, and white onion) was watery and mild. We didn’t taste the basil, and the garlic was only slightly more noticeable.
The presentation of the crab cakes ($12) was simple and attractive, and their accompaniments — a light-roasted red bell pepper sauce and fresh micro-greens — were excellent.
However, the cakes, consisting mostly of potato and shreds of shellfish, were disappointing. As if baked rather than fried, they lacked crunch. The thick, almost pasty cakes may be an ode to the standard German-Wisconsin tradition of serving potato pancakes at fish fries, but once you call something a crab cake, we figure it should taste like crab.
Red Stag Supperclub
Supperclub in Northeast, Minneapolis
509 1st Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
OWNERS: Kari and Kim Bartmann
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $8-$48
Nothing can make harsh, cold weather more bearable than the comforting textures and flavors of slow-cooked meats and vegetables. Chef Alex Roberts and his team at Restaurant Alma are currently preparing a wonderfully delicious gnocchi with black kale, turnips, and locally raised Shepherd Song lamb (above). Try the succulent, complex flavor of braised Shepherd Song lamb and many other wonderful local products as part of a three course dining experience at Alma tonight.
Restaurant Alma opened in 1999 and specializes in serving a seasonal multi-course menu in a casual, hospitality driven environment. The cooking is eclectic in style and handcrafted using fresh, organic, and local ingredients. Alma is currently rated #1 in the Twin Cities on Open Table for food and recently earned Zagat’s 2014 #1 overall restaurant ranking among all Twin Cities restaurants. Restaurant Alma is open for dinner seven days a week starting at 5pm. Shepherd Song, a local farm provider, raises 100% grass-fed lamb and goat meat and is located near Menomonie, WI. Visit them online and use coupon code lamb15 for a 15% discount on premium lamb and goat products.
The only fish fry guide you’ll need to get you through Lent. A profile of Burning Brothers and their gluten-free beer. A sneak peek at Prairie Dogs (the restaurant; pictured above; here’s our review of their pop-up restaurant). Some new dining options in the skyways. And the Hot Indian food truck makes the leap to food kiosk at Midtown Global Market.
Nowadays, everyone is — as my friend would say — DTB: down to brunch. Anytime. Anywhere. Obviously, the concept surrounding brunch isn’t anything new. With that said, there seems to be an unspoken brunch battle within the confines of the Twin Cities and beyond. “Do you know of a good brunch place where I can take my parents?” “XYZ has the best brunch. Have you been yet?” And need I mention the inevitable hangover brunch craving? Brunch is the new black.
With what seems to be an endless array of options, establishments really need to step up their game to even have a chance of repeat customers. There are too many restaurants that have it down to a science. This brings me to Makers Cafe, the latest venture from Dunn Bros. in conjunction with Cafe Inc.
The restaurant plays the “local” card and deploys the tagline, “Eat at your desk with dignity,” so we were expecting goodness. And in terms of sourcing and decor, all seemed well: the fast-casual dining eatery uses Autumnwood Farm ingredients, Wood From the Hood decor, and it sells homemade crafts from local businesses. Sadly, actual breakfast food fell flat — figuratively and literally.
The Cinnamon Roll French Toast ($5) was lackluster. At times, we didn’t know if we were actually eating the brown paper plate it was served on. It looked and tasted sad and lonely.
Between Yum! Kitchen and Bakery on the east end and Thanh Do on the west, Minnetonka Boulevard in St. Louis Park hasn’t had much going for it culinary-wise for quite some time except for a few pizza joints. That changed four months ago when Nelson’s Meats, a Hopkins institution for nearly 50 years, relocated to a small strip mall at the corner of Minnetonka and Dakota Avenue South after eminent domain for the expansion of Shady Oak Road forced the deli and butcher shop to find a new home. Since then, nearby residents have welcomed the family-owned shop — now run by Rick Nelson, son of founder Leonard — into a neighborhood that could use an injection of local flavor.
A large meat case dominates the small, light-filled shop, but customers also can grab a sandwich or hot plate from the deli or a cookie from the bakery case. The hot food bar dishes up meaty, stick-to-your-ribs meals six days a week starting at 11am, and while the plates are spiced for the stereotypical Minnesota palate from 50 years ago, there’s comfort in digging into a generous pour of beef or turkey tips over mashed potatoes on a cold day.