Just a couple of miles west of Chanhassen is the quiet village of Victoria, A place you could easily breeze through on your way to Waconia’s J. Carver Distillery and not think twice about. But you know what? There are some interesting food things going on in Victoria that make it worth the stop. Last year we visited Floyd’s Bar with happy results. Now there’s a new kid on Floyd’s block: The Noble Lion.
The Noble Lion is the brainchild of Marc Huebner, former Food Network America’s Best Cook competitor. He lives in the western suburbs and felt that they have grown enough to deserve an eatery with more sophistication. The space he launched in Victoria is small and cozy with quiet lighting and restrained decor. The kitchen itself is quite small, with no walk-in chiller, so the changing menu is designed with overlapping ingredients and freshness in mind.
Huebner brought in Patrick Donelan, a former Blue Point chef, to run the kitchen, and the two have come up with a menu that is upscale while paying homage to the area’s meat-and-potato, Scandinavian and German heritage.
That means the small but thoughtful menu (which changes every couple of months) includes Brie Curds ($9), a take on the State Fair classic. The curds are lightly battered and need to be eaten quickly — Brie isn’t as sturdy as the classic cheddar curd — but melted Brie dipped in a slightly sweet fruit compote seems both old-fashioned and fun and decadent at the same time. The Scallops & Bacon ($16 for 3 scallops, $24 for 6) is a lovely plate of beautifully seared, melting scallops served with a dish of homemade creamed corn, the kernels sweet with a little crispness.
A tip of the hat to local heritage is apparent in an entree of Jager Schnitzel ($25). A thin slice of pork loin was lightly breaded and fried and served over fresh, tender spaetzle in a resonant wild mushroom sauce. The portion wasn’t ridiculously huge, and the dish seemed surprisingly delicate for such a sturdy set of components. The pork was tender and juicy — a nice accomplishment, given how thin the slice was and how easy it would have been to cook it to dust. The spaetzle were light and the mushroom sauce flavorful but not overwhelming.
There were several seafood items on the menu, including Lake Superior Whitefish Cakes ($14), but when we asked our server what she’d recommend, she didn’t hesitate to point to the Seared Halibut ($29, above). To be fair, it didn’t sound like much on paper, especially compared to Sea Bass En Pappilotte ($30) or Seafood Risotto ($29). But the server seemed quite certain, so we went with her recommendation.
It was a textbook case of a simple dish beautifully prepared and shining in its own quiet, excellent way. The fish was perfectly cooked with a meaty char. The accompanying lemon buerre blanc was judiciously applied, adding just a light, creamy touch of citrus. The seasonal risotto was earthy with a nice accent of sauteed scallions.
Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email email@example.com.
The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.
Beef on Weck at Crossroads Delicatessen
This play on a French dip sandwich brings together sliced-while-you-watch roast beef, a hearty kummelweck roll, a natural jus dip, and a generous side of horseradish. Taken together as a whole, it’s a surprisingly deep experience: crispy, soft, warm, savory, and spicy-hot all at once. Dining at Crossroads always feels like something of a trip back in time, and it’s always nice to rediscover a classic that’s faded from view.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]
Grilled Caesar Salad at The Kenwood
The Grilled Caesar Salad with boquerones (anchovies) at The Kenwood is reason enough to pay the cafe a visit. Though the place does many dishes very well, boquerones aren’t often seen on Minnesota menus. The lettuce is grilled and served warm with the plump, cold fish to contrast. One final touch, just-sweet croutons, cut through the salinity.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]
Winter Rose Pastry at Rose Street Patisserie
I’ve seen this before … almost. In the spring of 2016, John Kraus offered a cheerful raspberry-and-white-chocolate version of this pastry to celebrate the opening of Rose Street Patisserie. The winter version is more subdued in color (a faded rose?) but has the compelling, deep flavor of gianduja (Piedmont, Italy’s ground-hazelnut milk chocolate in the form of tiny prisms wrapped in gold foil). The Winter Rose is a gianduja mousse with a caramel cremeux (a kind of pudding) center. The creamy elements sit on a crunchy hazelnut cookie slicked with marmalade. It was a joy to break a bit of the surrounding chocolate spiral and eat it with a forkful of mousse and cookie. Please don’t utter the word Nutella!
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]
Xalwo at Halwo Kismayo
The xalwo (East African halva) of Halwo Kismayo was a cluster of rich, assertively rubbery blobs of sweetness, somewhere between a lightly spiced clove-and-cardamom jam and a mildly fruited gummy bear. Spread on the dry butter cookies that came on our plate, the stuff was downright addictive, and we had to check ourselves lest we get completely full on the first plate of the night.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from the East Lake Checklist by James Norton]
Oat Milk Cappuccino at Peace Coffee
During our recent break from dairy, a barista at Peace Coffee recommended an oat milk cappuccino (Peace uses Oatly). Though skeptical, we took his suggestion. And it was damn good. Unlike watery dairy alternatives, oat milk is creamy, froths nicely, and blends really well with espresso. It has a pleasant, subtle oat flavor, but is otherwise neutral. While not as sweet as milk, it’s one hell of an alternative. Even though we’re back on dairy, we’re still ordering “oat caps.” (Tip: The Seward Co-op on 38th Street sells Oatly.)
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #2 | Submitted by Joshua Page]
The beauty of a busy thoroughfare like Lake Street is the history that quietly builds up along its sidewalks. It’s not a museum, perfectly curated for your learning pleasure. It’s living history. Unpolished. Ever changing. You become part of it by just being there. In a couple of blocks you see the immigrant experience that formed the city we are today. Businesses established by first-generation Americans sit side by side. A century-old Scandinavian market operates just down the block from a new Somali/Ethiopian restaurant and a Mexican bakery. There’s no telling how things will change decades from now, but we think you might find a few tasty reasons below to visit these businesses today. In a way, you’d be shaping history. — M.C. Cronin
OTHER EAST LAKE STREET CHECKLIST INSTALLMENTS: Lake Plaza, Gorditas el Gordo to Pineda Tacos, Taqueria Victor Hugo to Safari Restaurant, El Sabor Chuchi to The Rabbit Hole, Midtown Global Market, Miramar to San Miguel Bakery, Mercado Central
ABOUT THIS PROJECT
The East Lake Checklist is the third Heavy Table illustrated travelogue to explore a major gastronomic thoroughfare in Minneapolis and/or St. Paul. The East Lake Checklist is the Heavy Table’s follow-up to our 55-restaurant survey of independent eateries on Central Avenue and our 72-restaurant series about restaurants on the Green Line. We’ll publish five-restaurant installments biweekly until we’ve documented every nonchain spot on East Lake Street between 35W and the Mississippi River. (We’re estimating 75 spots, but we’ll see how it shakes out.)
This series is made possible by underwriting from Visit Lake Street. Heavy Table retains editorial control of the series — as with Central Avenue and the Green Line, this tour will be warts-and-all.
“From the river to the lakes, visitors and residents can shop local and be social on Lake Street. More information at VisitLakeStreet.com.”
1601 E Lake St, Minneapolis
It’s hard to imagine East Lake Street without Ingebretsen’s. The place has been slinging Scandinavian specialties like picked herring, Swedish meatballs, and fruktsoppa (fruit soup) on Lake Street since many of our great grandparents were in cloth diapers: 1921 to be exact. So, tradition runs deep here. You can feel it in the wood floors, in the Swedish horses on the gift store shelves, and in the hints of rosemåling you find here and there. You even sense it in the people who work here.
One of the guys behind the counter — we’re pretty sure he was an Ingebretsen — gave us a history lesson. He told us Ingebretsen’s was one of the first delis in the city to get refrigerated glass cases back in the 1930s. An interesting detail made all the more so by the fact that earlier we’d been looking through those very same cases selecting a salmon filet. Those refrigerators have been running for almost 100 years. So, why can’t we buy one that last longer than five years these days?
We visited Ingebretsen’s after the New Year and missed out on the — apparently ridiculous — Christmas rush. “We go from our busiest time of the year to our slowest time of the year almost overnight,” said our friend behind the counter. Traditions run deep. It’s easy to see why this place is so incredibly loved by the families of the Nordic immigrants who helped shape the Twin Cities. — M.C.
*** FOOD NOTES ***
It’s hard to know where to go with a deli spread as wide and varied as the one at Ingebretsen’s (everything from fruit soup to lutefisk to luncheon meats), so we kept it simple: a package of lefse ($7), a half-pound of smoked, pepper-studded salmon ($8.50), and a half-pound of whitefish ($5.50). The lefse was delicate, almost feathery light, and papery thin, with a legit potato flavor through and through.
We thought the salmon was wonderful — evenly smoked with a pronounced (but not acrid or overly aggressive) smoky flavor, a tender, moist texture, and good, evenly distributed hits of black pepper. The whitefish was simple as can be — neutral in flavor with only a hint of smoke, a blank canvas on which to paint other flavors. — James Norton
2937 Bloomington Ave S, Minneapolis
A couple of us spotted this place while parking and peeked into the front window just to make sure it was actually open. Our plan was to go wrangle our full group and return, but a gentleman came out and insisted we come in right away. The patrons gathered in the main room welcomed us with open arms.
They treated us as friends immediately, happily filling us in on details about the restaurant, smiling and joking with us. They told us the place had been more of a cafe, but it recently reopened with a full kitchen. They said it wasn’t a cheap endeavor, but it was worth it, because, according to the entire group, it has the best sambusas in town. These guys couldn’t have been bigger advocates for the place if they were owners. In fact, if they weren’t owners they should get a commission for the sales job they were throwing down.
The decor is straightforward. There’s an order counter and a few tables in the front room, and there’s a small room with additional seating in the back. Eventually, the rest of our group joined us and we were seated in the back room.
Unfortunately, the restaurant was out of sambusas, so we’ll have to come back sometime. Something tell us we’d be welcomed. — M.C.
*** FOOD NOTES ***
The Heavy Table is pleased to announce the 16th edition of the North Coast Nosh, the Upper Midwest’s premiere sip-and-sample with local purveyors of artisanal food and drink. We’ll be co-producing the March 29 event with our partners at the Wedge Community Co-op and Linden Hills Co-op at the Food Building in Northeast Minneapolis.
The event runs from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Tickets are $36 plus taxes and fees and include all the local cheese, artisan meat, craft beer, and more that you care to sample. There will also be a special bread-focused class at Baker’s Field (in the Food Building) from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tickets for the Nosh + bread class are $56 plus taxes and fees. We have space for 20 attendees at the class.
NOTE: We’d originally planned to do an early Nosh session, from 4:30-6:30pm. That session has been cancelled and guests with tickets will be refunded.
The Nosh will be at the Food Building (1401 Marshall St NE) on the evening of Thursday, March 29.
If there were a physical embodiment of the North Coast Nosh ethos — scratch food prepared with care, an emphasis on process, a serious focus on quality — it would be the Food Building. The Food Building’s tenants, including Red Table Meat Company, Baker’s Field Flour and Bread, and The Draft Horse, are what we consider models of the future of Upper Midwestern food, and we’re excited to have them join us for this event.
In addition to sampling craft beer, cheese, meat, and many other foods, you will be able to join in conversation with the purveyors who create the food and drink. (Guests must be 21 years of age or older.) We keep our purveyor-to-attendee ratio low so that you’ll have plenty of time to connect with vendors and other attendees. We are planning to have 20-30 purveyors present at the Nosh, all local to the Upper Midwest.
Please visit Brown Paper Tickets and get your tickets today.
Vendors confirmed thus far include:
Baker’s Field Flour & Bread
Caves of Faribault
Fair State Brewing Cooperative
Freak Flag Foods
Isabel Street Heat
Kiss My Cabbage
Red Table Meat
Rise Bagel Co.
Sociable Cider Werks
St. Croix Chocolate Company
Thousand Hills Cattle Co.
Tree Fort Soda
Wedge and Linden Hills Co-ops
This week in The Tap: A look ahead at upcoming restaurants in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.
The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Holman’s Table, 644 Bayfield St, St. Paul | A restaurant at the St. Paul Airport.
- just/us, 465 Wabasha St N | An ambitious looking new spot in the suddenly closed Red Lantern space.
- Biergarten Germania, 275 E Fourth Street, St. Paul | Schnitzel, pretzels, brats, and other German standards, plus beer.
- Fig + Farro, 3001 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | Vegetarian food in the semi-cursed former Figlio’s space.
- Sound, 132 E Superior St, Duluth | An ambitious new spot by Chef Patrick Moore (above), formerly of Silos at Pier B.
- Hodges Bend, 2700 University Ave W, St. Paul | Coffee, wine, and cocktails with a side of food.
- Nye’s Bar, 112 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | A reboot of the legendary Nye’s Polonaise, in a new space at the Nye’s location, renovated and sans food. Our review here.
- Sonder Shaker, 130 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | A new restaurant and cocktail bar sharing the site of the old Nye’s Polonaise.
- Red Sauce Rebellion, 205 Water St, Excelsior | “Approachable yet unexpected” Italian. Our first tastes.
- Venn Brewing, 3550 E 46th St Suite 140, Minneapolis | A changing selection of brews in this taproom near Minnehaha Park.