Bull’s Horn in Standish-Ericsson, Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

You read it here, first: Time travel is not merely attainable, it’s inexpensive. For us two Wisconsin natives, Bull’s Horn was an honest-to-God temporal portal. From the popcorn popper to the beer-themed light fixtures to the menu to the overall lived-in vibe, Bull’s Horn is a time machine back to 1986. (The pull-tabs and Heggie’s menu mark it as Minnesota rather than Wisconsin, but otherwise the illusion is flawless and the nostalgia is absolutely intoxicating.)

The only thing really different is that the food is mostly (much) better, and the stuff that’s the same — the fries, the pudding in the kids’ trays, the bread on the fried bologna sandwich — all makes sense in context and is charming rather than bad.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The mystery about Bull’s Horn has long been: How unreconstructed would Doug Flicker make this place, which has been touted as the resurrection of a venerable neighborhood spot, the Sunrise Inn? Piccolo and Esker Grove both proved that Flicker’s capable of the twee-est, finest, daintiest of foods. Can he possibly resist sneaking in some microgreens or herbed foams or towers of tiny manicured beet cubes somewhere in the menu? Will the place feel legit or like a Frankensteinish fusion of hipster-meets-townie?

Flicker and his wife and business partner, Amy Greeley, resisted. The place feels legit. It feels fun. The menu and execution are of a certain place and a certain time, and within those constraints, they totally kick ass.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Fried Bologna Sandwich ($8.50) boasts meat that was smoked in house, a deviled egg schmear, a lot of lettuce, pickles, and spicy mustard. Hand to God, the first thing we thought of when we bit into it, with all its fatty, earthy meatiness, is that we were eating a decent corned beef sandwich. The bread (crazy dry and sort of spray foamy in texture) was arguably a minus, but it definitely felt like part of the overall vibe, and the sandwich was delicious.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

We also tried the Bull’s Horn Burger ($10.50) with lettuce, pickle, special sauce, and optional bacon and/or cheese. The bun was perfect (how are so many places getting burger buns so right these days? It’s getting hard to find a dried out, flavorless bun; everything’s full-flavored and delicious), and the patty was substantial without being overkill. The special sauce was applied with a reasonably light touch, and the whole package veered hard toward “classic burger” and away from the ACL burgers that so many places are offering these days. We love ACL burgers, but we love classic burgers, too. The fries were generic, but we can live with that at this price and in this setting.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Bull’s Horn does nightly specials served on metal cafeteria trays, and also does a few trays just for kids. Our appalling picky four-year-old happily ate his way through Macaroni with Red Sauce ($5.50), which came with mixed vegetables (totally fine, roundly ignored), apple sauce (demolished), and vanilla pudding straight from a 1983 salad bar (demolished by dad).

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

We hit Bull’s Horn on a Friday night, drawn like moths to a flame by the lure of a Friday night fish fry just like we used to have in Wisconsin. A large pan of fish ($29) was enough for two and came with sides: snappy, three-bean-salad-like cold marinated green beans (which were delicious), cubed potatoes (undercooked and underseasoned, sadly), and baked beans (perfectly cooked, not mushy, not oversweet — some of the better baked beans we’ve had). The fish itself wasn’t a straight-up nostalgia trip, but that was OK. The batter was softer and more delicate than we were used to, but the fish was extraordinarily tender, and the tartar sauce (which looked and tasted house made) was supremely rich, creamy, and tangy.

Bull’s Horn feels kind of like a theme restaurant, if “The Way Things Used to Be” is a legitimate theme. But nothing about it felt cheesy or calculated, and the energy of the crowds that are swarming speaks for itself — this is a place to which people truly want to return.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Bull’s Horn
Old-school bar in Standish-Ericsson Minneapolis
Rating: ★★★☆ (excellent)

4563 34th Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55406
612.208.1378
OWNERS: Doug Flicker and Amy Greeley
HOURS:
Tue-Sun 11 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Mon: Closed
BAR: Beer and wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $8.50-$14.50
NOISE LEVEL: Dull roar
PARKING: Small lot, street parking

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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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One Comment

  1. David Koski 11/29/2017 Reply

    I have been there on the quieter early Saturday afternoon, four time already. I have had the wings, the chicken gizzards there bacon cheeseburgers and the El Jefe pizza.

    I did not know until the last burger that the cheese is made in house. The last burger seemed a bit salty, but I did have the fries with that one.

    Everything is good and reasonably priced and it looks as though many of the condiments are housemaid, no so with the ketchup.

    The fried chicken gizzards are very good and I was glad to see that they have made it past the latitude of the bottom of Lake Michigan. Wings are good. You expect it and it is. No risk, since the prices are very reasonable.

    The pizza, a Hegges/Flicker collaboration is excellent. It is a Mexican style ingredient pizza. No review should miss this. The other collaboration is the Sloppy Joe pizza.

    What is really going on here is subtlety. Your normal expected bar food, but improved, sometime (g)astronomically.

    I got to talk to Doug, the 5 star chef after he flipped my burger and he was enjoying talking to a local that was investigating with an Old Style. I lobbied for a pastrami sandwich and that is just my deal.

    I keep coming back and the menu has more to it than at first glance. Next time, it will be the fried bologna sandwich.

    I love the pickles

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