Corner Table Chef Scott Pampuch and I got into it on Twitter about whether to his new Sunday breakfast would better be described as “brunch.” It seems to me that if you’re serving rich, celebratory breakfast food until 2pm on a Sunday and playing yacht rock over the sound system, “brunch” is the only word that does the experience justice. But in deference to the chef (pictured above), let’s call it “lunfast” and move past linguistic squabbles.
Whatever you call it exactly, the stuff Pampuch is serving up at Corner Table on Sunday mornings makes for a hell of a nice beginning of the end of the weekend. We tried (clockwise, below, from top left) the cinnamon toast with caramelized apples and maple syrup, the postmodern braised beef hash (a tribute to Pampuch’s days at the Modern with Jim Grell), a daily special mushroom scramble, and duck fat-fried potatoes. All good, all the mains under $10 (the potatoes were $4.50), and the combined impact of this sort of an order was glorious — bits of potato, egg, apples, beef, and bread were being passed hither and yon over the table, snarfed down with good coffee. At the end of whatever-you’d-call-the-meal, every plate was clean.
A little more than a week after Subo closed its doors, the bamboo is coming down off the walls. The Asian-inspired paintings are getting crated up and the satin throw pillows are finding a new home.
What’s left behind are brick walls, barnwood accents, a hefty wooden bar, and interior window sashes in a long, dim space that looks an awful lot like an old-school tavern.
And that’s exactly what Tim Niver (above) saw in his mind’s eye when Subo’s owner, New York-based businessman Jim Hays, approached him about taking over the space when the one-year-old Filipino-fusion eatery in downtown Minneapolis wasn’t living up to expectations.
Nothing’s set in stone, but look for The Inn, the newest project from Niver and his Town Talk Diner and Strip Club business partner Aaron Johnson, to open sometime in mid-November.
“Envision, back in the day, you walk into an inn and there are other travelers there and you raise a glass and tap it in the air and there’s beer coming down — that’s what I want,” Niver says. “That’s what an inn is. You walk in after getting off your horse and pull open this heavy wooden door and are immediately welcomed.”
Niver, who still tends bar at The Strip Club and plans to remain deeply involved there, knows more than a thing or two about elevating comfort food. This time he says he’s hoping to put a European edge on it, with crocks filled with hearty stews, fish and chips, and steamed English puddings for dessert. (Spotted dick? Maybe.)
The Minneapolis corner of 46th St. and Grand now contains an embarrassment of food related riches: the uneven but sometimes excellent Cafe Ena, the charismatic and intriguing Kings Wine Bar, and now Patisserie 46, a high-end bakery that opened yesterday morning.
The creation of John Kraus (named one of Pastry Art & Design Magazine’s “Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America” 2005 and 2006), Patisserie 46 specializes in cunningly crafted small bites that you’ve probably never quite tasted before. Small cakes are miniature works of art, and offerings of coffee and gelato help round out the shop’s appeal — the only thing missing is a more robust savory option, although a) they’ve only been open a day, and b) the quiche looked quite good.
When last we talked to Landon Schoenefeld about HauteDish, he told us that his plan, in essence, was to deconstruct the homey food of his childhood — elevated hot dish, he said. He filled our ears with tales of tater tots turned croquette, Bloody Mary oyster shooters, duck in a can, and smoked pork bellies sous vide. “This is my idea,” he said, “and I hope people like it.”
With all this promise tucked in our collective salivary glands, we went to HauteDish on opening night this week, fairly well prepared to be delighted, our enthusiasm only slightly restrained by opening night jitters. And, if what we ate that night is any indication, there is every reason to be excited.
It would be a rare restaurant indeed that could out-twinkle the bright lights of Sex World, but when we pulled up to HauteDish the lights were so very dim we thought it might not be open. On closer inspection, a child’s smiling face peering out the window told us otherwise. Inside, the light was actually quite welcoming as it reflected off newly earth-toned walls, a warm complement to the space’s vaulted ceilings and tile floor. Schoenefeld and company have maintained the original bar in all its wood-and-mirror glory and, had we not been laboring under thoughts of braised beef and gravy, it would have been tempting to sit for a while.
A leisurely stay was perhaps even more tempting after we settled into our booth and perused the extensive drink menu. Our dining companion gasped at the ambitious bourbon list, which he compared to a bourbon bar he had visited recently in Brooklyn. He then ordered a nicely mellow Mint Julep ($10), featuring Maker’s Mark and served in an appropriately frosty stainless-steel julep cup. Also notable, a Sazerec ($10) — Old Overholt, lemon, Le Torment Vert Absinthe — which has a couple things on the Craftsman’s recipe: a soft start and, ultimately, a hint of sweetness make it easier on the palate. A Moscow Mule, which combined Prairie Organic Vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer, did not fail to please, but proved to be a bit summery for a gusty spring evening.
We could not hope to scratch the surface of the drink menu, which (along with a swell cocktail list) also includes something like 36 beers — 16 on tap — and a varied yet not overwhelming wine list, ranging from a $6 glass of La Fiera Pinot Grigio to a $95 bottle of Heidsieck Monopole Champagne.
The HauteDish dinner menu — mounted on a light piece of wood reminiscent of those retro balsam postcards — presented somewhat fewer options. If you are a vegetarian, you might find this a hardship since you’d really only have one option, a Med Plate ($11) combining veggies, legumes, olives, and cheese. But have no fear, cow, pig, duck, chicken, fish, mollusk, and crustacean eaters, there’s plenty of choice and you will be well fed.
There were no vegetarians at our table, so we started things off with the Char-Cuts ($13), a sampling of three charcuterie with traditional garnishes. We were unanimously struck with the spicy head cheese — served with a brilliant red hot jelly — and rustic paté that was at once firm and light and clean in flavor. A chunk of mortadella divided the table between those who found it too bologna-like and those who delighted in its delicate texture and subtle smoke.
If you’ve driven past the popular Golden Valley breakfast spot Good Day Cafe recently, you might have noticed an addition to its illuminated sign: the words “Bad Day Bar” below the logo. The addition of a full bar to the restaurant’s main dining room signals the beginning of dinner service, but the drinks aren’t the real reason to stop by after work. The wide-ranging menu of comfort food — a step up in quality from your traditional diner — should be the main draw.
Vegetarians, consider yourselves warned: The menu offers limited options beyond a veggie sandwich and a few salads. But if you eat meat, you’ll find that the blue plates, burgers, and sandwiches cover the gamut from beef stroganoff and pork chops to Reubens, Rachels, and hot dogs. And for the most part, the meals deliver. A turkey pot pie ($11.25) blends hearty chunks of meat with tender vegetables in a creamy sauce that slowly leaks out the bottom of its pastry crust. Though its size didn’t seem intimidating, a half-portion was more than enough to fill the stomach. The Reuben ($11), made with Kobe corned beef, proved to be a worthy tweak to the traditional sandwich by appearing on a rye pretzel roll instead of bread and with its horseradish-spiked dressing on the side. The rotisserie chicken ($13.50) featured a deliciously spicy crust, but the meat underneath was a tad dry. The kicky cole slaw and crisp fries saved the plate from being a lost cause, however.
Regardless of what you order for your entree, be sure to start your meal with a basket of warm popovers ($4.25) served with pistachio butter and homemade strawberry jam. The feathery light rolls could be in contention for the best bread basket in town. Other appetizers are fine options, too, such as the expertly battered onion rings ($5.25) and spicy black bean fritters ($4.50), but it’s hard to argue with steaming hot popovers.
The biggest revelation about dinner at Good Day Cafe isn’t the menu, however — it’s the peaceful atmosphere. Anyone who’s ever been to the restaurant for weekend brunch or weekday lunch is familiar with long wait times and a noisy dining room. Dinner service is almost serene by comparison, with maybe 10 tables full of mostly adults seeking a glass of wine, good food, and quiet conversation. Perhaps most fans aren’t aware of the new dinner hours (4-8:30pm daily, though the kitchen may shut down early or stay open later, depending on traffic) or they get their fill in the daylight hours. But since you’ll find a few breakfast favorites on the dinner menu, too, the evening may be the best time to get cozy in a booth — regardless if it’s been a good day or bad.
BEST BET: The warm, jam-accompanied popovers.
Good Day Cafe
Diner / cafe in Golden Valley
5410 Wayzata Blvd
Minneapolis, MN 55416
763.544.0205 OWNER: David Webb HOURS:
Mon-Sat 6:30-11am (breakfast), 11am-3pm (lunch), 4-8:30pm (dinner)
Sun 6:30am-3pm (breakfast), 4-8:30pm (dinner) BAR: Full RESERVATIONS: No, but guests can call ahead before arriving to get on the waiting list VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes, though limited at dinner / No ENTREE RANGE: $9-18 for dinner
The Parasole restaurant group’s newest eatery (built on the final resting place of the long-doddering Figlio) is proudly describing itself as “Uptown Italian,” a designation that makes an experienced diner worry a bit. Uptown’s a charming place, but not something that necessarily makes a good adjective for a new restaurant. After all: What does “Uptown” mean in this sort of a context? Overpriced? Too cute by half? Watered down for the cheechakos? An Italian menu that manages to work steaks, hamburgers, and french fries into the mix also sets off quiet alarm bells.
It’s not, however, possible to ignore Parasole’s impact on the local scene, so we went, and entrusted our meal selection to the advice of our opinionated waitress. This turned out to be a wise decision.
Here then, are five observations from the meal:
1. Get the Sausage Sandwich
Our actively helpful waitress (see “The Staff’s Terrific,” below) pushed a sausage grinder on me as a staff favorite. Lo and behold, it’s the kind of thing you’d expect restaurant staffers to dig: rich in punchy flavor, simple to make, and easy to eat. A thoroughly toasted bun contains a house-made sausage that’s rich in spice and heat, topped with a spreadable Italian cheese called stracchino that packs its own pepper and herbal kick. Asparagus gives the sandwich a bit of vegetal balance and a pleasant textural snap. The overall package is great — balanced, flavorful, filling, and a mere $10 — including about a pound of decent fries covered in herbs and grated parm.
2. Some Boorish Branding Choices Were Made
The humor that pervades the staff T-shirts and overall branding of the restaurant never gets beyond wordplay alluding to whores and whorish behavior, which, har har, gets old after you spot the second or third reference to “cheap” wine and rooms being rented by the hour. Yes, slutty women are funny. Yep. Got it. Prostitution. Har. The “Ah, Phuket” T-shirts at Chino Latino are Thurberesque by comparison.
A menu reference to non-alcoholic drinks as “spayed” was a particularly fratty touch. Having thoughtful non-alcoholic options for designated drivers, the underage, and the habitually sober is a nice gesture, but it loses some of its charm when you imply that the person who skips alcohol is having a partial experience drained of pleasure.
3. The Bomboloni Are As Much Fun As They Sound
A paper sack full of house-made spiced doughnuts (“bomboloni” on the menu, $7) is a bit of an odd way to end a meal that might normally be followed by panna cotta or spumoni, but it’s also really entertaining. The bomboloni come out with three dipping sauces including a decent caramel, a somewhat underpowered chocolate, and a strawberry coulis. Best of the three was the strawberry option, which popped with bright flavor and proved to be the liveliest counterpoint to the warm spicy doughnuts.
4. Wine is Central
Visually, wine bottles dominate the room and set the mood for your meal — good luck staying away from the wine list, particularly after a basket of the adequately crusty bread arrives along with a saucer of herbed olive oil. Il Gatto works on a carafe-served “glass and a half” system for its house wines, which is a charming way to do business (and a fine deal at $5 per serving.) Its other wines are priced at $7, $9, and $11 per glass — and neatly organized by price on the menu. Italian wines dominate, not surprisingly, but choices from Australia, California, Argentina, and Germany also make appearances.
5. The Staff’s Terrific
Before we headed out to Il Gatto, we’d heard from other Heavy Table staffers that the staff was really on its game. This turned out to be true. From the hostess to our waitress to the busboy who boxed up our food, the Il Gatto team was cheerful, focused, competent, and, in a word, welcoming. Whatever training or hiring program that’s in place seems to be working; kudos to the team for a job well done.
No matter how sophisticated we may see ourselves when it comes to food, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who claims his or her tastes are too refined for pub grub. Really, what’s not to like? It has the four basic American food groups covered — carbs, fried stuff, fried stuff with cheese, and calorie-laden dips — and, during happy hour, is plated for sharing so you don’t have to feel too guilty about eating it. At the new Cooper Pub & Restaurant, located in the Shops at West End center in St. Louis Park, you’ll find your typical pub favorites and some interesting new dishes with varying degrees of success.
The Heavy Table tried four of Cooper’s happy-hour offerings ($4.99 each, available from 2-6:30pm) during a recent visit, and out of the group, the soft pretzels were the most disappointing. Though coated with a liberal sprinkling of salt and tasting considerably fresher than the freezer variety you’d find at a warehouse store, the doughy twists lacked the crustiness for which another new restaurant’s version was recently praised. The waitress delivered a warning that the two mustard dipping sauces were hot, and while they certainly had a kick, they were nothing that the tasters couldn’t handle.
Notably better were the chicken shots — imagine a highly evolved version of popcorn chicken basted in a whiskey sauce. The chicken tasted juicy and fresh, unlike the defrosted kind you’ll find at fast-food restaurants, and the whiskey sauce was both sweet and tangy. The accompanying ranch dipping sauce did little for the appetizer, mainly because its thin consistency barely clung onto the chicken with each dunk, but luckily, it’s not necessary. Though buffalo wings often need blue-cheese dip to cut through the spiciness of their glaze, these chicken bites are nicely balanced on their own.
The other two appetizers were a mixed bag. The chips (fries to us Yanks) came with a trio of dipping sauces: curry, tomato chutney, and the aforementioned wimpy ranch dressing. The most successful was the tomato chutney, with a pleasing chunkiness and slight smokiness that made it an upgrade from standard ketchup. The curry authentically tasted like a sauce you’d find in an Indian restaurant, and it is a popular chip dip on the other side of the pond, but it just didn’t work for this reviewer — blame those Yankee taste buds. The chips stood well on their own, too — their crisp, well-seasoned exterior gave way to a pleasingly soft potato interior without excess greasiness.
The Reuben fritters seemed to be an intriguing nosh on paper. They featured the traditional sandwich ingredients — corned beef, sauerkraut, and cheese — nestled inside a fried shell, with the Russian dressing and Dijon mayonnaise on the side. The Russian dressing finally offered the heft and thickness that the ranch was sorely lacking, but the tangy sauce couldn’t bring out the rest of the Reuben flavors, which were masked by the fritters’ crispy coating. It was hard to taste the corned beef lurking inside the browned spheres, and for Reuben fans, that’s non-negotiable.
In a move that’s sure to please Cooper’s diverse crowd of after-work professionals, families grabbing an early dinner, and pre-moviegoers (the nearby theater is scheduled to open next month), the happy hour drink menu covers all the bases. No Irish pub would be considered Irish without a long list of whiskeys priced from $6 to $14, and Cooper doesn’t disappoint. Wine and cocktail lovers have plenty of reasonably priced choices ranging from $4 to $12 a glass, and the draft beer list ($4-6) includes both local and imported favorites, such as Summit, Crispin, Guinness, and Smithwick’s.
Off to a good start but with room for improvement, Cooper provides a much-needed happy hour destination to an area of town with few options besides Fuddruckers and Chili’s, and the happy hour menu offers an excellent value. A word of warning on portion sizes, though: Those baskets are larger than you might imagine. If you’re moving on to the dinner menu, stick with one appetizer.
BEST BET: The chicken shots, with or without the dressing.
“Represents three important triads: earth, atmosphere, and heaven; the major Hindu gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva; and the sacred Vedic scriptures, Rig, Yajur, and Sama. Thus om mystically embodies the essence of the universe.” – Encyclopaedia Britannica
Last night, ŌM Contemporary Indian Cuisine opened to a packed, albeit invite-only house — an enthusiastic crowd as ready for cocktails as it was for the sample menu. Located in downtown Minneapolis’ warehouse district, the restaurant is a partnership between entrepreneur Vik Uppal and restaurateur Randy Norman of Capital Grille, r. Norman, 7 Sushi Lounge, and the ill-fated Bellanotte. However, the menu was, as the website will tell you, “culineered” by Raghavan Iyer, the well-known cookbook author (660 Curries), chef, and co-founder of the Asian Culinary Arts Institutes in Minneapolis.
In its two-story format, ŌM reminds us a bit of Uptown’s Chino Latino. Guests enter into a lofted lounge setting with long leather couches, chandeliers, and floor-to-ceiling drapes in fluid pastel fabrics that add warmth to the contemporary space and a certain Indian ambiance. In the center of the room, a stunning spiral of tiny, spot-lit crystals cascades down a floor, leading the eyes to a tiled pool, scattered with floating candles and fresh flowers. A staircase leads down to a dining area principally comprised of cozy circular booths. It is lovely.
And so are the cocktails. In particular, the Amber layered mango, Bombay Sapphire, and creme de cassis very prettily; with just enough lemon to temper the heavy fruitiness, it tasted good, too. We also tried the Bollywood, a sparkly combination of Domaine de Canton liquor and Prosecco that was quite refreshing with some of the evening’s more salty dishes. Yet the Agni, with its muddled limes, Grey Goose Citron, simple sugar, and chiles was the favorite of the set; piquant enough to be interesting, sweet enough to go down easy.
A dining companion commented that she loved the drama the restaurant’s stairs provide at the lower level. Indeed, they allow one to make a grand entrance into the dining room, which is good, as we predict ŌM will become a place to be seen as much as a place to eat.
The tasting provided a glimpse of the full menu, which ranges from a $6 for a small plate to $27 for a dinner. In a very brief conversation, Vik Uppal said that the restaurant designed the menu to be “contemporary but accessible, where the uniqueness of the dish comes from the spices.”
On that note, the cardamom filet mignon was a tender and well-cooked piece of meat, but it was so subtly spiced that the accompanying mushroom sauce — tasty, but not distinctly Indian — dominated the flavors. That plate also featured miniature papadum crackers, the salt and spice of which played nicely against a cool yogurt and spinach sauce (which was a bit like a very mild saag paneer, without the paneer).
A salad of papaya with peanuts tossed in a raisin dressing also provided a fresh, slightly sweet reprieve from the salt, and it was textural treat. Similarly, we also enjoyed the delicacy of the saffron-kissed rice; fragrant and light, it featured fruit and cashews.
On the aggressive side, a mango chutney served on wedges of warm naan well-nigh divided the table. Some of us found it pleasantly hot and caught an undertone of sweet; others thought it was all heat and no flavor. We could all agree, however, that a very salty, very mushy eggplant pate was a no-go.
We were also united in thinking that the star of the sampling was the fenugreek lamb chop — a beautifully prepared piece of meat, subtly spiced, with a simple fenugreek cream sauce. It was delicious but, again, not — at least to this Western palate — distinctively Indian.
Here we began to note a pattern: meat with a small amount of mild sauce. Aside from the aforementioned, there was also a Goan Pork Tenderloin with vindalho sauce that was billed as assertive — it’s a curry dish, after all — but tasted only of sweet onions and garlic. Maybe it’s the assumption of too many years of eating Indian food or the fact of Iyer’s involvement in the menu, but we had expected to sample at least one or two big, sauce-based dishes (curry!?) featuring — but not focusing on — chunks of meat.
The fact that we didn’t get it was disappointing but not fatal; nearly everything we tasted was delicious, it simply lacked the depth of flavor we’ve come to expect from Indian food. Perhaps that’s the point — it is very approachable.
It will be interesting to see where ŌM takes its contemporary menu — will it deepen its flavors? Will it move toward fusion or tradition? — and to see how representative this initial tasting is of the food on the menu. We look forward to going back for a second look.
With the closure of Three Fish in December, Calhoun Commons’ sunny corner spot has stood empty — that is, until last week. Newly introduced is Wakame, a sushi bar and Asian bistro that, according to the website, “feature[s] both traditional and modern Asian cuisine, especially Japanese.”
As the website states, the menu plays up many Asian favorites and flavors. Curries are listed alongside noodle dishes and stir-fries, most served with your choice of protein, ranging from $10 to $14. Other sea and land entrees, like sea bass with miso, apple teriyaki salmon, whole red snapper, and several steaks, are features on the menu and range from $15 to $27. Of course, there is sushi, the extensive menu listing sashimi, sushi, and signature rolls with creative names like the Minnesota Roll, Excelsior Boulevard Roll, Las Vegas Roll, and Hot & Spicy Girl Roll, to name a few.
Wakame features early and late happy hours on appetizers and sushi, but the best meal deals are to be had at lunch when Wakame runs specials on bento boxes ($9 to $11), sushi ($11 for 1 California roll and 5 pieces), sashimi ($14 for 12 pieces), and rolls (2 for $10 or 3 for $13).
For our first taste of Wakame, we visited at lunch and sampled several options. First was the seaweed salad, a light and well-seasoned starter dressed with a toasted sesame vinaigrette. Amongst the many signature rolls, we decided on the Sweetheart Roll — salmon, tuna, and tempura flakes on the inside, fresh tuna on the outside, and drizzled with wasabi mayo. While the roll was a fun blend of flavors and textures, it did not stand out overall as fresh.
A lunch special, a bento box with shrimp tempura, was served with a side salad and miso soup. While the tempura was well-cooked and perfectly crispy, overall the bento box was bland, especially with the apparent lack of any seasoning on the shrimp and in the soup. And while the Ginger Mushroom stir-fry with tofu could have been a favorite dish with its fresh ginger and crisp vegetables, the heavy sauce weighed it down.
Not even a week into service, Wakame still has time to work out some of its new-restaurant kinks. If executed well, the well-rounded and interesting menu could be a promising addition to the Calhoun Commons neighborhood, the main focus of which centers around the usual fast-service suspects of pizza, burgers, and burritos.
Asian in Uptown
3070 Excelsior Blvd
Minneapolis, MN 55416
Sun 12pm-10pm BAR: full bar RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: No VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes ENTREE RANGE: $10-27
Last week, Galaxy Drive In’s website touted its July 9 opening. On Friday, the Foodie File blog promised it was open. So imagine my surprise early on Saturday evening when my family and I drove up to the newly revamped restaurant on Highway 7 in St. Louis Park and noticed chains barring us from entering the parking lot. Two uniformed women on roller skates had the undesirable job of telling would-be customers that the Jetsons-style drive-in wouldn’t be serving up Galactic Burgers and Cosmic Cones until today. Sigh.
But Galaxy gals did have one small token for those who came and left empty-stomached — the drive-in’s menu, wherein lie a few noteworthy tidbits:
Aliens, Humans and All of Our Four Legged Friends Welcome™
Fantastic! Now ALF and I can finally schedule that lunch date. He can even bring along a cat as an appetizer.
Earth Girls Aren’t Easy, They’re Just Watching Their Figures
The Earthling Burger is a quarter-pound burger with sauteed onions and pickles. An Alien Burger Blast is made of two quarter-pound burgers with sauteed onions and pickles. Are we to deduce that making your burger a double makes you extra-terrestrial? Or just extra-prone to heartburn?
Presenting… Pronto Pups?
Do Pronto Pups really exist outside the Minnesota State Fair? Apparently so, and Galaxy has them, albeit with the moniker “Area 51 Pronto Pups.” With the Great Minnesota Get-Together coming up next month, ambitious corn-dog lovers can taste them head to head to see which version is out of this world. (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.)
Burgers and Fries Must Not Co-Exist in Outer Space
The Space Dogs come with fries (excuse me, Galaxy Fries), but the Galaxy Burgers don’t. Weird.
S’mores Fire Pits
This move is either genius or a disaster in the making — you can buy the fixings for s’mores and make your own in the fire pits in front of the drive-in. It’s a good thing Galaxy doesn’t serve alcohol. Drunks+junk food+fire=bad.
We Get It, It’s a Theme Restaurant
But really, Starburst Milk? Does it have the fruit chews mixed into the drink? If it doesn’t, just call it milk. Same goes for the Bottled Moon Water and the Intergalactic Iced Tea.
What follows is a brief sneak peak of Kate Sommers’s shots from the penultimate Paired underground restaurant experience. You can find the full story (with photos) over on Les Petites Images.
Woodworking was the theme, and hand-crafted wooden elements made the meal unique. Scott McGlasson of Woodsport was the event’s featured artist.
The menu: White gaspacho with poached egg and grapes; chickpea, red onion, leaf lettuce, plum and minted yogurt salad; cedar planked North Dakota walleye, rhubarb compote, wilted field greens, roasted new potatoes, and garlic chips; gingerbread with strawberry ice cream.
After all the hype about the opening of The Butcher Block, the new trattoria is now officially open. Located in the former Fugaise space in Northeast Minneapolis, the eatery has been touted for its new decor (some paint and a few pictures on the wall), diverse menu (sophisticated Italian plus 29 varieties of chicken wings) and passionate chef, Chef Darin Koch (formerly of I Nonni). The Heavy Table stopped by Saturday night to check it out.
The menu is undeniably exciting. Pastas ($13 to $14) such as the Pork Ragú, spaghetti smothered in a slow cooked braised pork ragú, and Rigatoncini alla Gricia, with guanciali, arugula, onion, and pecorino cheese, are enticing first courses, and secondis ($17) are an equally tempting assortment of lamb chops, steak, short ribs, and fish of the day. For diners interested in a more casual meal, there are several options for burgers and sandwiches.
Although the late night menu ($8) is not yet available (the waitress was unsure when it would debut), the options listed looked tasty with selections like the Tuna and Egg with Harissa, Pork Tonato (sliced pork with a creamy tuna sauce served with an egg), and the Fried Rice Omelet. The Butcher Block is open until 4am on weekends and 2am on weekdays, making it one of the few truly committed late-night games in town.
And, as promised, there are the 29 varieties of wings ($9 for 12 wings).
Traditional flavors such as BBQ, teriyaki, buffalo, and jerk coexist with other, more unusual offerings such as green coconut curry, cranberry chile, country fried, pesto / salsa verde, and cacciatore. Tempted by the array, we tried two varieties: the Mango Curry and the House.
Meaty and with crispy skin, these wings were fantastic. The mango curry featured a subtle mango and peanut undertone that reminded us of chicken satay. They had a moderate spice level that lingered lightly, but only until relieved with a quick sip of beer. As for the House wings, sesame and soy as the prominent flavors made these an immediate favorite. The existence of a number of similarly themed wings raises the question of how much overlap might exist between similar flavors, but the overall quality is indisputable.
As can be expected with a very recent opening, there were some tasting glitches — an otherwise inspired ravioli dish suffered from a crushing excess of mint — but, overall, The Butcher Block’s inspired menu lives up to the hype and promises great things to come.