Eat Shop in Plymouth
You might think, as I had hoped, that there was some “shopping” component to Eat Shop, the vast new eatery in the swankier part of Plymouth. No. No deli, no displays of olive oil and vinegar and fancy crackers and salt. No shopping.
That out of the way, we can get down to the “eating” part: It’s pretty darn good. And a bit of a revelation for a snobby city girl like myself.
Our server (who was certainly young enough to “ma’am” a couple of moms, but self-consciously and charmingly “miss-ed” us the whole time) took great pains to tell us that everything is made on site. Even the salad dressings. Even the sauces. They even cut their own fries. The only thing they did not do in house, he stressed, was cut their own meat. It’s natural, of course, that in a new restaurant a server will take extra time to introduce the house style to patrons.
But it made me smile.
I don’t want to make this about the ‘burbs versus the city, although Eat Shop has a very, very suburban location (in a higher-end strip mall) and will likely have a very, very suburban clientele. I don’t want to make this about foodies versus … everybody with better things to do with their time.
Instead, let’s make this about my own education and shortsightedness: Holy cow, there are people working in food for whom the mixing of olive oil, vinegar, and herbs for dressing is a revelation. A selling point. Not to be taken for granted. And there are people who plunk down significant money for restaurant meals fairly regularly for whom this is also true. (Not all these people live in the ‘burbs, let me stress.)
And here, in Eat Shop’s massive dining room — with its big, polished tables, deep red booths, and open kitchen, all shiny with stainless steel — the words “house-made vinaigrette” may now become a tautology for some of them. To be taken for granted. Frozen fries and shrimp poppers off a Sysco truck will lose their shine. They’ll start noticing the quality of the bun on their burger.
And that’s awesome.
While of course there are plenty of fantastic restaurants for people who already care about these things, Eat Shop uniquely has the size, location, and atmosphere to bring in people who don’t yet know that they care about these things. Or maybe they’ll decide they still don’t care about these things, but, yeah, the mustard vinaigrette at Eat Shop is really pretty good. And that’s cool, too.
So, where were we? Yes. The food.
The menu is relatively brief: a half dozen “small plates” (which, in a couple of years, will be what we all used to call “appetizers”), half dozen salads, half dozen sandwiches, half dozen entrees. No Crave-length odyssey around the world’s cuisines here.
The trendiest choices you’ll find are the Eat Plate ($17, charcuterie — yes, house-made — generously sized, with bologna, ham, sausage, and pickled fish) and pretzel sticks ($8). (Pretzels are everywhere lately, have you noticed?) These are warm, chewy, and flavorful, but they could use a good deal more pretzel-ly crust. The beer-cheese sauce actually tastes like beer – Summit Pale Ale to be specific – and that’s a good thing. It’s a little gritty, the way these things are when they’re made in a kitchen, not a factory.
Everything else is straight-up, homey, familiar American cuisine. From roast chicken to pork chops to big (big) hearty salads.
The Ugly Chicken ($15) is named for the bird itself, a petite breed known as a naked neck, raised in Ashby, MN. These birds (who have a strangely loyal following among bird fanciers) don’t have any feathers from their shoulders up to their beaks. A strange sight. But once it hits the plate, it’s not ugly at all. We got a quarter chicken — thigh, leg, and wing, but these are small birds, so it wasn’t too much meat at all — roasted, juicy, with a crispy skin and a nice hit of herbs. (Unfortunately, on one visit, the kitchen, so wary of overcooked chicken, undercooked ours. It happens.) The hot chicken sat on a bed of cold, dressed baby arugula, with bits of soft roasted sweet potato. A simple, homey dish.
The Green Chile Pork Sandwich ($12) was a whole lot more complex than anything you’d make at home. Big chunks of very pork-y pork in a mild chile sauce, layered with super-thin onion rings, a mild slaw, tomatoes described as “melted” that must have been griddled in oil, and some entirely extraneous avocado. All on a — say it with me — house-made bun, soft but substantial. (Imagine making that sandwich at home: You’d give up halfway through and just roast a chicken.)
The fries on the side were good. No complaints. Cut thin and long (but thicker than shoestring), skin on, crispy, but still blonde. Competent fries. The most surprising thing we tried came in a little steel dish alongside — the house-made ketchup. Only, it wasn’t ketchup. It was (practically) raw crushed tomatoes with a strong flavor of smoke. It was a jolt at first — Hey! Where’s my ketchup? — but it grew on us. And soon we were finishing it up with the last of the fries.
And we remembered our young server, emphasizing that every last thing Eat Shop serves is made in house. And how we thought, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Do you really want extra points for making vinaigrette?” But he meant right down to the smoky, idiosyncratic ketchup. House-made. All of it. Out here in the ‘burbs.
American casual in Plymouth
16605 County Rd 24 (Hwy 55)
Plymouth, MN 55447
CHEF / OWNER: Jeff Anderson / Flying Swine LLC
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: If you like salads