112 Eatery in the Minneapolis Warehouse District

Sarah McGee / Heavy Table

Sarah McGee / Heavy Table

If you’re a person who considers himself or herself plugged into the local restaurant scene, you’ve no doubt been to 112 Eatery — its critical mass (The New York Times, Beard, Zagat, GQ, Strib, etc. etc.) is overwhelming, and it pulls gourmets in like a pub-sized black hole. The scene is famously chic and / or raucous, and on a visit to the restaurant on a recent Friday night, it didn’t disappoint.

A punky Japanese woman with dyed hair sat at the bar next to a suit-wearing power couple; just a few feet away, a guy who may or may not have been Adam Platt from Mpls.St. Paul magazine sat at a large table with four women who may or may not have been professional models and a large stoic-looking gentleman who could have passed for an executive chef at another, only slightly less well-renowned establishment; on the other end of the restaurant (which is to say not too far away) a man with a braying laugh entertained his table with a stream of fever-pitched anecdotes. From 10pm onward the place, defying all logic and established tradition in the Upper Midwest, actually got busier, and the acceptable selection of 30-something-friendly music played loudly but not blaringly.

Entertaining as it may be, the scene is, has been, and hopefully always will be secondary to the food — more about that in a moment, but we won’t be breaking news when we proclaim it perfectly balanced, maturely conceived, and compellingly delicious.

Here’s the critical thing that should be understood about 112 Eatery if you haven’t heard it or understood it before: The place is an amazing value. It’s a steal. It’s an outrageous bargain basement deal. Two people dining in all-out, too-much-food-on-the-table manner — a bottle of wine, two appetizers, an entree, a salad, two sides, dessert and coffee for one — left 112 paying only a little more than $100 total, tip included. Try ordering in that fashion and then escaping Cafe Maude or Red Stag — both respectable restaurants, but neither regularly hitting the culinary heights of 112 — for less.

Sarah McGee / Heavy Table

Sarah McGee / Heavy Table

Now: the food. Complimentary starters — tender, tartly bright olives and spicy almonds — are a thoughtful bookend to the complimentary post-dinner sticky popcorn. Once you’ve munched through the opening course, you’d be wise to start with the lamb scottadito with herbed goat milk yogurt ($12); the lamb has a beautiful carbonized exterior and tender interior, and the yogurt-based sauce is rich and powerfully flavored without overwhelming the meat’s pleasantly gamey and substantial natural taste.

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

After all that’s been written about it, praising the tagliatelle with foie gras meatballs would be an exercise in redundancy, but praise it we must. If you’ve ever made your own fresh pasta, you know what a hassle it can be, but also how much more tender and superbly delicious the end product is. Additionally: The meatballs were the smoothest, richest, most delicate, most perfectly balanced specimens this diner has yet to encounter in years of scarfing down Italian-inspired entrees, for whatever that’s worth.

And for $11 — the price of a Smoky Shrimp Salad at Cowboy Slim’s in Uptown — you can get a generous half-order of the stuff, plenty of food if you’ve ordered an appetizer, particularly if it’s one as massive as the tartare ($9 for what looked like a soccer-ball sized mound.)

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

The tartare itself is rather wonderful, albeit more suited for a table of four or five than a table of two. (To 112’s credit: the waitress warned us about the size. That’s the very definition of good service.) A raw egg yolk atop the mound of capered meat added richness; the bite of onions and capers perfectly countered the sweetness and creaminess of the extremely finely chopped steak.

Here it’s worth taking a moment to praise the bread and butter — some of the best bread (crusty but tender exterior, tender, modestly sized open crumb interior) to hit a table within several zip codes, no doubt. It’s a minor point, but one that reminds you that fine dining isn’t necessarily always foie gras and ground steak; a simple piece of bread can be equally transportative.

Other dishes were equally memorable, but a surprising highlight was dessert — a relatively pedestrian menu (chocolate pot de creme, banana cream tart) disgorged a tres leches cake ($7) with an impossibly smooth and airy cream-based frosting and an overall texture that was elegant as spun silk. Sweet, but not overly so, a minor miracle.

The coffee was unremarkable. That’s about as bad as things got at 112 Eatery. That was the low point.

If there’s any restaurant in the area in danger of imploding under the weight of its own hype, it’s certainly 112 Eatery; but far from showing strain, the place seems to have shrugged it off effortlessly in favor of producing relatively simple, beautifully executed, and reasonably priced food.

112 Eatery

Rating: ★★★★ (Superb)

Upscale American in the Minneapolis Warehouse District
112 N 3rd St
Minneapolis, MN 55401
612.343.7696
CHEF / OWNER: Isaac Becker
HOURS:
Mon-Thu 5pm-Midnight
Fri-Sat 5pm-1am
Sun 5-10pm
Full kitchen service until closing
BAR: Full
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Yes / Yes, although you can often get seated at the bar on a late-night whim
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $11-28

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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12 Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your review. I also love that the cheap price tag at 112 involves a little escapism. On top of the stellar food, you feel like you took an exciting mini vacation for the night.

  2. Declan 07/06/2009 Reply

    I’m so glad you highlighted the value of this place. It’s truly remarkable. I’m not even sure how they manage to turn a profit. The incredible “cold cut plate” (so understated in the title) is a perfect example: it’s like $9 and I honestly don’t see how they can make a dime off of it, there is so much delicious, quality charcuterie on there that it boggles the mind to think that they aren’t losing money.

  3. Their steak tartare is the stuff dreams are made of. 112 was the first place I’d ever had it and I’ve yet to find another restaurant that holds a candle to theirs. Looks like I’ll be needing to head to 112 soon!

  4. Curtis 07/07/2009 Reply

    Love the egg sandwich. So simple, so delicious. And yes, the bread is quite good. Where do they get it? (I was there on a Sunday a while back, and all this guy sitting near me at the bar talked about was the almonds..)

  5. While i could hardly agree more with the value comment, a recent meal (my first) really let me down. Maybe it was the sky high expectations, or perhaps my inability to identify the cool people in the room i was supposed to be impressed by, but i found the tagliatelle to be overcooked, even if the meatballs were tasty. many, if not most, of the dishes we ordered needed additional seasoning, and very few really rang with bright flavor.

    I guess id rather be disappointed by underperformance than be let down by less than spectacular food at inflated prices – we paid about 50 dollars a head for a large number of plates, so while i appreciated the value i felt like there was something missing.

  6. I agree with Tex. I’ve been more than once and besides the egg sandwich I always felt my food needed some additional seasoning. I much prefer Saffron across the street.

  7. Interesting discussion, and glad that heavy table brought it up. Good time to give the place another look after 3(?) years of being THE SPOT™ in mpls, and good to put it in the context of more recent comers, obviously Maude, Red Stag is a good call, and I think Heidi’s and Blackbird also have to be in the conversation (at different ends of the spectrum).

    I think Tex says something important, but I don’t think he or she disagrees with the original review, actually. “Bright” is not what 112 Eatery is. I would not call its flavors “pure” or “clean,” either, and I may diverge with the reviewer on the point of “balanced,” as well. What it is is rich, modestly luxurious, at times delicate…as James Norton says, relatively simple. Compare to imho the best food in Minnesota now, Heidi, where dude puts out plates that holy shit i dont care what this costs my mouth is on planet x right now, 112 is an amazing value. But it is not really progressive. Satisfying but not really transcendent…to me, it doesn’t implicate a world outside the plate, as some food can do.

    The thing about 112 is precisely the hype; it’s some mpls idea of a nationally known destination. People who are disappointed in the food after hearing so much: in Chicago and NYC and LA, there are zillions of “places to be seen” where the food is shit, we should be thankful that our hotspot has such quietly nice dishes; some of them are even great.

  8. JStone 07/08/2009 Reply

    Ah the 112 … Last time we were there, two things really stood out from the rest of our selections, which were all excellent by the way. The country style pork ribs w/salsa, and as always the best gnocchi/parmesan in the Twin Cities. Looking forward to our return very soon.

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