Going Vegetarian at 112 Eatery
Out of the approximately 40 savory items on 112 Eatery‘s menu, seven are strictly vegetarian, while a few more are — let’s say — vegeflexible. We’ve singled out the restaurant before for its lack of kosher options. At first blush, the flesh-heavy menu might be overwhelming to a vegetarian — let alone a person who needs to stick to kosher or halal options — especially given the absence of any strictly meat-free entrees. And these days, one can hardly go out with a group of friends without a vegetarian hitching along. With nary a warning, we recently paid the Warehouse District staple a visit to see what they had to offer the meatless masses.
Once at 112, our server didn’t miss a beat, navigating the menu’s vegetarian and negotiable offerings for us as we munched on the restaurant’s customary candied almonds. His appetizer suggestions included: the lettuce salads [insert your beleaguered sighs here], ricotta with truffle honey, cauliflower fritters, fried padrón peppers, and Minnesota-grown sweet corn with miso and a soft-poached egg.
Our table of two opted to share the romaine salad with a Roquefort cheese dressing ($6), the corn ($8), and the peppers ($5) to start off. The salad was served already split: We each got a neat little canoe of Roquefort, minced parsley, and breadcrumbs. My dining partner and photographer remarked that the crispy bread crumbs were “a nice alternative to croutons,” which he tended to find unwieldy at times. It’s a really well-conceived salad; there must be something about the Warehouse District, as Black Sheep Pizza, Haute Dish, and Be’Wiched Deli also have some great ones on their menus.
112’s corn with miso and a soft-poached egg tasted very fresh, and — at the possible risk of sounding like a total stoner — looked like sunshine on a plate. For this dish, chef de cuisine Dennis Leaf-Smith seems to have taken a page out of NYC chef David Chang’s book, quite literally: page 121, in fact. The dish, titled, “Corn with Miso Butter and Bacon,” is described in haiku form in Chang and NY Times writer Peter Meehan’s food magazine, Lucky Peach. It’s always a treat to find out that chefs are reading the same cookbooks as you are; it’s almost like spotting a celebrity on the street, except you get to eat it.
At a mere $5, the fried padrón peppers make the perfect bar dish. Served with a wedge of lime and a cilantro-yogurt dipping sauce, the thumb-sized peppers were oftentimes sweeter than spicy. Though we were trying to save room for the next courses, we found ourselves snatching more from the plate. “Just one more!” “Last one!” “OK, this is it!” A plate of these and a beer would comprise the late-night snack of champions.
For our entrees, we were given the option of having one of the pastas (tagliatelle or stringozzi) or gnocchi cooked with vegetables, or the bacon, egg, and harissa sandwich sans cochon. No matter how nice the staff can be about it, the Minnesota Nice quinoa junkie may balk at asking the staff to customize a meat dish. Wouldn’t it be a mortal trespass to stay the hands that apply the legendary foie gras meatballs to the tagliatelle dish? To deny a dish the spikes of porcine flavor in its pancetta?
We put our trust in the kitchen and ordered a half portion of tagliatelle ($11) with “mystery vegetables.” What we got was a hefty portion of king oyster mushrooms with arugula and beurre blanc. The mushrooms were beautifully seared and sliced as thinly as the pasta itself, and the butter sauce came off as a really smart improvisation. No surprises here, considering the magnificence of the pastas at Bar La Grassa, 112’s younger sibling down the street.
Honestly, the bacon, egg, and harissa sandwich ($7) was pretty weird without the bacon. The kitchen substituted a perfectly passable fontina cheese for the meat, but it definitely seemed like something was off about the sandwich. Compared to bacon, fontina has the opposite impact: it’s got more of a mushroomy flavor, and isn’t all that salty. The spice of the harissa seemed to hit a wall with the cheese, which diminished the heat considerably. In another kitchen, it would be a decent sandwich, but it stuck out like a sore thumb after four really notable courses.
Though the vegetarian pickings seemed slim, our meal at 112 felt like a feast. And at a mere $50 for five courses (or eight, if you include the olive and nut amuse, bread course, and after-dinner caramel popcorn) and two beers, it’s a hell of a bargain. Vegetarians, don’t be afraid to flash your V-card (not that one), because 112 will definitely treat you right.
Upscale American in the Minneapolis Warehouse District
112 N 3rd St
Minneapolis, MN 55401
CHEF / OWNER: Isaac Becker
Full kitchen service until closing
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Yes / Yes, although you can often get seated at the bar on a late-night whim
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: (See above) / No
ENTREE RANGE: $11-28