With its up-at-the-lake decor and laid-back vibe, the Red Stag Supperclub is an ideal setting for a Friday Night Fish Fry in the secular “Lenten” tradition of the Upper Midwest. Thus, at the start of every weekend, Twin Cities folks can head up north(east) to get in on the action. After working our way through the special menu — served in addition to the restaurant’s usual full menu — we can report that about half of the offerings live up to the nostalgic setting.
By far, our favorite dish of the night was the smelt fries ($8, below). The large portion of freshly fried whole smelt was addictive — we ate the entire plate and could have (and would have) kept chowing down if another helping found its way to our table. The batter-to-fish ratio was spot on, just enough to add extra crunch to the rich-yet-mild flavor of the smelt. Bright sweet onion tartar sauce was a great complement.
While we enjoyed the other punchy condiment, the smoked tomato ketchup was a little strong for the fish. Our only suggestion is that the smelt could be crispier; some were a tad floppy for our liking. Nevertheless, we’ll definitely return for smelt fries and beer, an excellent combo for winding down a long workweek.
We also enjoyed the fish and chips. We went with bluegill ($13 for 5oz, $18 for 10oz, below) rather than cod or walleye, which proved wise. The fish was moist and the perfect size for eating with our hands. Lemon and tartar sauce added acidity and sweetness, and the nicely fried exterior offered pleasant crunch. The batter-to-fish ratio again was on point, and the dish wasn’t the least bit greasy. The fish basket comes with either Red Stag’s awesomely giant and flavorful potato chips or house-cut fries, both of which do well in supporting roles. But the red cabbage coleslaw was dreadful. As one of our diners put it, the flavorless, lukewarm salad seemed “old and sad.”
Since we were in the market for fried fish, we nearly skipped the mussels ($12). As borderline mussels fanatics, though, we couldn’t resist. The shellfish was fresh and juicy, but the sauce (white wine, garlic butter, basil, and white onion) was watery and mild. We didn’t taste the basil, and the garlic was only slightly more noticeable.
The presentation of the crab cakes ($12) was simple and attractive, and their accompaniments — a light-roasted red bell pepper sauce and fresh micro-greens — were excellent.
However, the cakes, consisting mostly of potato and shreds of shellfish, were disappointing. As if baked rather than fried, they lacked crunch. The thick, almost pasty cakes may be an ode to the standard German-Wisconsin tradition of serving potato pancakes at fish fries, but once you call something a crab cake, we figure it should taste like crab.
Learn more about this business in The Heavy Table’s Atlas of Ethical Eating and Drinking.
Red Stag Supperclub
Supperclub in Northeast, Minneapolis
509 1st Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
OWNERS: Kari and Kim Bartmann
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $8-$48