Seventh Street Social in St. Paul

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

I drink a lot of Old Fashioneds. It’s a difficult drink to screw up, because it leans so confidently on its core component: brown liquor. Brandy, where I’m from, or, more typically around here, American bourbon. If you’re using cheap brandy, desecrate it further with some maraschino cherries and 7 Up, and, voila: a trashy but still-totally-enjoyable drink.

It was therefore intriguing to see a Blackberry Old Fashioned ($11) listed on the chalkboard at the newly opened Seventh Street Social. Boasting Bulleit bourbon, blackberry puree, Sugar In The Raw, orange, and soda, it seemed like a can’t-lose beverage: good bourbon balanced with quality mixers.

The drink arrived. I took a sip. I tasted orange, and soda.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Absolutely missing from the flavor profile of the drink: bourbon. Another sip suggested that there might have been some blackberry-flavored vodka present, but little else beyond the orange and soda.

The bourbon was so thoroughly absent that — with a straight face, and in all sincerity — I ordered a shot of Bulleit bourbon from the bar. It took our waitress (who was both sweet and profoundly oblivious over the course of our meal) 15 minutes and two reminders to bring the shot, which arrived as a $7 heavy pour of Bulleit. So it goes.

Once again, I tried the “Old Fashioned.” I tried the bourbon. There was none of Item B contained within Item A. I poured the glass of bourbon into the “Old Fashioned,” and voila: an Old Fashioned. Not the world’s best, but not bad.

Within the story of the $18 D.I.Y. Blackberry Old Fashioned lie the problems of Seventh Street Social: sloppy attention to detail, inattentive service, and expensive, expensive prices.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Take the fried chicken and biscuit ($18), which, like everything else we ordered (other than my shot of Bulleit), arrived on the table a few scant minutes after it had been ordered, which is never a good sign.

The chicken itself was tender but flavorless, and while the crispy exterior had a nice crunch to it, it too lacked seasoning or perspective. An accompanying bucket of honey was a good pairing for the buttery and nicely made biscuit, but wasn’t enough to save the dour chicken. I ended up taking it home, dousing it with chili paste, mirin, and soy, and using it to top off an udon dish. Delicious!

But for $18, we should expect more than useful leftovers. We should get damned fine fried chicken. Seventh Street Social’s ranks above KFC but below Popeyes, Pollo Campero, and my own homemade. And none of those three come close to costing $18.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Our cheeseburger ($8.50) boasted a tasty bun and decent Wisconsin cheddar, but the patties were too thin to come out medium rare (as we ordered them) and the whole thing, again, lacked seasoning. The salt and pepper fries ($2 as an add-on to the burger) — let me restate this — the salt and pepper fries lacked seasoning. They were neither salty nor peppery.

At this point, it’s worth pausing and noting that Seventh Street Social is not related in any way to either Eat Street Social or Northeast Social (both of which are run by the same owners). Whatever minor quibbles we’ve had with Eat Street and Northeast, we’ve largely been impressed with their commitment to service and food, and it would be a shame for the “Social” suffix to either smear Eat Street / Northeast or unfairly polish the aura of Seventh Street.

Let’s recap our meal thus far: Everything has been both expensive and poorly seasoned. The Old Fashioned was a memorable disaster, and a Hibiscus Margarita ($10) was watery and forgettable. The check arrived. Please hold on a second, we asked our waitress. We’d like to try dessert.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Our Kro-Nut Limited Edition ($7; fried pastry rings filled with Nut Goodie cream and chocolate bar chunks, dusted in powdered sugar) came with a steak knife to help us penetrate its bagel-tough layers. Ultimately: Imagine smearing peanut butter and chocolate bar chunks all over a series of thin, tough doughnuts. I sort of enjoyed it, but also realized that I was wrong to do so. A primate-level response to chocolate and peanut butter is not really a critical thumbs up; a decent pastry chef could have taken a crack at ingredients this indulgent and made something brilliant and addictive in no time.

Now: If you’re even passingly conversant in history, you know about the assassination of Julius Caesar, the Roman general who assumed the godlike position of emperor at the expense of the Republic. At some point during Caesar’s death, he must have looked up and realized that his friend Marcus Junius Brutus was in on the plot, and felt a crushing sense of betrayal and disappointment as his confidant’s knife slid between his ribs. That’s how we felt about the Seasonal Fruit Cobbler ($6) at Seventh Street Social. A seasonal fruit dessert is error-proof. In autumn, it is guaranteed to be delicious: All you need to do is provide fresh apples and a simple butter / flour / oat streusel topping, and you’re there. Our cobbler tasted precisely like microwaved industrial-grade pie filling, either because it was microwaved industrial-grade pie filling, or because the cooks at Seventh Street Social have found a way to transform seasonal fruit into something that tastes overly sweet and insipid.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

We enjoyed the real whipped cream on top, for what it’s worth.

Our meal for two at Seventh Street Social cost us $90 (after tip) and was beset with problems from beginning to end. We wouldn’t recommend the restaurant in its current condition. If it tightens up its game by tasting the food for proper seasoning, mixing strong, correctly proportioned drinks, and serving seasonal desserts worthy of the title, it could be a force to be reckoned with; the interior design is tasteful, and its location seems to be shrewdly chosen. We hope to return down the road and enjoy a very, very different meal.

Seventh Street Social
American Bistro

2176 W 7th St
St. Paul, MN 55116
651.330.4688
OWNER: Brian Glancy
HOURS: 4pm-1am daily
ENTREE RANGE: $7-$24
BAR: Full

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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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10 Comments

  1. I was there during their opening week, so discounted my bad experience to the kitchen not finding their groove yet. The lobster pot pie had no depth of flavor. The smoked and then battered and fried chicken wings lost the greasy, flavorless batter at first touch. The “pastrami” reuben was OK, but I found no evidence of coriander or juniper berry in the flavor profile, so let’s call it lightly smoked corned beef. The fries and coleslaw were fine for me. One person got charged for 3 drinks when they only ordered 2. The tasteless lobster pot pie was $24! I can get a spot on entree at a lot of very good restaurants for that price.

  2. annmartina10/21/2013Reply

    Nut Goodie cream should be maple not peanut butter

  3. I had high expectations for this restaurant, which was probably a mistake. We have been twice now and both times the experience has been underwhelming.

    The Lobster Pot Pie was full of lobster but also full of green and red peppers which completely overpowered the flavor of both the lobster and the gravy (or whatever makes up the inside of pot pie..) and the biscuit on top, while delicious and flavorful, was as tough as an old boot. I needed a steak knife to cut through it.

    The Salmon Roll was good, owing to the buttery brioche it was served on. Otherwise there was no depth to the flavor; just salmon (unseasoned) and mayo.

    I think my biggest issue with 7th Street Social is the service. There is an overall weird vibe to the servers and restaurant environment. Lots of movement but very little customer interaction. Our first waiter was attentive but the other servers were bustling around with seemingly very little to do.

    In a large, open space like that, there should be some purpose or direction to the constant flow of servers but there was no food being carried, or water or beverages being refilled. It almost seemed like they moved around to create a sense of fullness to the restaurant that wasn’t being supplied by customers.

    Our second waiter seemed very nervous. It was as if he was in a huge hurry every time he stopped at our table but there were very few other customers to account for his rush. I noticed a similar situation at other tables. Waiters were very quick to move through the order taking – to the detriment of the taken orders. I overheard other customers commenting on mistakes in their orders. And that’s on a slow night.

    It seems to me that 7th Street Social might need to step back and take a look at what makes a restaurant great: Good Service and Good Food. As it stands right now, the restaurant has a Denny’s like quality to it with the prices of a Strip Club caliber restaurant. Management and owners need to work with the chefs and staff to tighten up the food and get the service into place.

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