Harriet’s Inn In Minneapolis

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Harriet’s Inn, a new venture by Paul Dzubnar (CEO of Green Mill Restaurants and owner of Crooked Pint) and Jeremy Brown (franchisee of Crooked Pint), lured us in with promises of delicious pot pies and other comfort foods by a fire as fall turned to winter. We didn’t expect that the food would to blow us away, but we were hopeful that we could sate our seasonal casserole and craft beer cravings.

Billed as a “quintessential neighborhood pub,” Harriet’s Inn sports leather chairs, a popcorn machine, fireplaces, and large televisions. Servers wear shirts featuring a Yeats quote — “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t met” — and clearly strive to live up to the welcoming words. Still finding their sea legs, the wait staff is attentive and cordial, with one dubbing a member of our party “boss” (“Gonna have enough food there, boss?” “You okay here, boss?” “How’s that cheesecake working out for ya, boss?”).

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Unfortunately, while the atmosphere is cheery and comforting, much of the food was sad — particularly the much-anticipated chicken pot pie ($13). The filling was a thick mass of bland white goo, vegetables (including some undercooked carrots), and pale cubes of breast meat. An equally flavorless pastry cap tops the tasteless pie, and at least adds some fun; it’s hard to be too disappointed when you’re waving around (and miming wearing) a pastry hat. But a cup of New England clam chowder ($2 with an entree) soured our spirits once again. Our server insisted it was house-made; if so, the cooks did a marvelous job of recreating canned chowder.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Even the standard bar food fell short of our hopes, though it was somewhat redeemed in the context of the omnipresent televised sports and carefully crafted list of primarily local beers. The restaurant’s version of the Twin Cities’ fave Jucy Lucy ($9) (two patties stuffed with American cheese) was more Burger King than Blue Door.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Still, the Ellsworth cheese curds are solid (albeit pricey at $9), and we very much enjoyed the gigantic (14-ounce) warm and chewy pretzel ($9). The jumbo tater tots with serrano peppers, cheddar, and bacon ($9) are filling and full of flavor.

In the end, we’re reluctant to recommend Harriet’s Inn for a full meal, but we’re glad to see that it offers a genial, relatively warm neighborhood spot for sports, bar banter, and good beer in an often overlooked section of the city. Come ready for carbs and craft beer, and we expect you really will feel like a new friend.

Brenda Johnson contributed to this review.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Harriet’s Inn
Restaurant and sports bar in Southwest Minneapolis

4000 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55409
612.354.3852
OWNERS: Paul Dzubnar and Jeremy Brown
HOURS:
Mon-Thu 11 a.m.-11 p.m
Fri 11 a.m.-midnight
Sat 10 a.m.-midnight
Sun 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
BAR: Yes
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Limited
ENTREE RANGE: $9-$17

 

Primebar in Uptown

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Editor’s Note: Primebar is now closed.

“I thought people wanted something that would spike, culinarily. Turns out they didn’t want guanciale,” observed Parasole’s Phil Roberts on the passing of Il Gatto. We take it he believes that the Calhoun Square space is better suited to a more familiar concept (because in an absolute sense, who doesn’t want guanciale?).

Primebar is the new occupant and it certainly seems familiar. The Restaurants-America group has brought their urban alehouse format to Minneapolis following launches in Chicago, Dallas, and Tampa. The reworked room has a color palette and furnishings straight out of Restaurant: Impossible. It looks a bit cold and impersonal in a hotel restaurant kind of way. They’ve done well to ditch the dividing wall: Now a 360-degree bar anchors the uncluttered, breezy space.

They’re shooting for dressed-up bar food – lots of flatbreads, tacos, and sandwiches. No venturing out on limbs, just as Roberts ordered. But the tradeoff for serving familiar fare is that it places a premium on technique and execution. And on that front, Primebar is inconsistent. As a general guideline, we found that the closer an item fit the category of bar food, the better chance it had of success.

And while the menu doesn’t have guanciale, it has plenty of buzz ingredients: house-made chorizo, gnudi, pork belly, kimchi (that leaves us just a macaron short of a trend-spotting bingo!). This isn’t inherently a bad thing. Unfortunately, we often found these foods mistreated so that any distinctiveness they may have brought was thoroughly rendered away.

Happily, Primebar pulls off no-frills bar food as competently as you might hope. We tried the happy hour renditions of both their carnitas tacos and pulled pork sliders (both $4 for two), and you’d be happy with either. The maple barbecue sauce on the sliders was a touch sweet, but you can chalk that up to a personal preference.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The entree portions of tacos come four to an order, and the duck confit version ($12) is right on the money. The contrast of creamy goat cheese to the sweet and spicy ancho was positively charming. And the deviled eggs ($6 for six, pictured above) were perhaps the most successful snack we tasted. The yolk mix was vibrant, with a good amount of heat and spice. But while the description touts house-made choriz, the sad, tiny specks dotting the eggs may as well have been commercial bacon bits.

We’d recommend any of the above to complement their fantastic draught beer selection – over 60 taps, with a good group of regional favorites. And there may be no better way for an out-of-state restaurant group to endear itself to locals than offering $2 Grain Belt during happy hour. That said, it peeves us not to have prices listed on the cocktail menu (they’re all $10, apparently).

Primebar features a selection of flatbreads, and we were pretty nonplussed by the Pigs On A Blanket ($12). We were hoping for super thin slices of roasted pork belly. Instead, we got tiny little cubes of it that could have been grocery store bacon, for all we know. With the very slight tang of kimchi and overwhelming tomato flavor, we’d call it flatbread all’amatriciana. And the crust was perplexing – somehow both wafer thin and chewy with a cornmeal bottom.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

As for their animal fries ($9), we’re unsure how a plate full of what should be rich and flavorful ingredients could come across so weak. The fries had a strange and seriously pronounced “neighborhood Chinese food” taste to them (quizzically, they’re tossed in mustard?). The small shreds of dry pork were tasteless, though the melty cheese curds were a worthy addition. How is it possible for a plate full of cheese and gravy to need more salt?