As Longfellow begins to heat up as a homestead for young families, the neighborhood’s food and drink offerings have been undertaking a compelling odyssey. Peace Coffee showed up and started packing them in; Parka flared up, burned out, and was reincarnated as a Dogwood Coffee; and even the Rail Station has added a ton of craft beer taps and a new breakfast service. Add to the list Peppers & Fries, a newly opened joint that underpromises and overdelivers.
Peppers & Fries (which bills itself as a “burger and burrito grill”) doesn’t look like much — it’s a former service station converted into an independently run burger joint with a stripped down design aesthetic and plenty of big-screen TVs. But after visiting a couple of times, we found more than enough to come back for, particularly on warm days when the garage doors are rolled up, and the whole restaurant is converted into an open-air beer garden.
Start, for example, with the cheese curds ($9). Our experience with breaded cheese curds has been almost uniformly negative — in contrast to the soft, almost fluffy texture of battered curds, breaded curds tend to be hard, unpleasantly flavored geodes, their rocky exteriors concealing doleful, doughy bits of congealing cheese. Peppers & Fries offers breaded curds, but we found the breading to be pleasingly thin and the cheese inside of the curds to be piping hot and delicious. The idea of returning for a basket of these and a cold beer or two is truly appealing.
The burgers are just what you’d hope: classic, solid takes on the dish, reasonably sized (6 oz.), and served on tasty, toasted buns. We particularly enjoyed the Firehouse 21 ($10), which comes with grilled jalapenos, melted pepper jack, and chipotle mayo. The menu description touts the burger as “cooled down with cream cheese,” and that’s exactly right — the cheese’s tangy neutrality tames the fiery elements of the burger until they’re flavorful and balanced.
We found the restaurant’s French fries to be simple and truly enjoyable — no duck-fat-fried strings here, just big, hand-cut numbers that pack a solid punch of American potato flavor.
Even the restaurant’s take on a Philly cheesesteak (the Philly Cheese Sandwich, $12) was spot on, with a hefty dose of grilled onion flavor cutting through the salty, creamy Cheez Whiz (or Cheez Whiz-esque) sauce and playing beautifully against the gentle char of the tender meat and the toasty, comforting flavor of the buttered bun.
The joint’s not perfect. We like the fact that our Peppers Classic Burrito ($10) had a soft, pliable tortilla, but little else about it bears endorsement: The verde chicken filling tasted like chicken salad, and there was little to nothing Mexican about the overall flavor. Our Midwest hot dog (a chili dog with onions and shredded cheddar, $8) was underflavored, with little snap to the dog and no soul to the chili. The salsa that came with our side order of tortilla chips was closer to ketchup than anything you’d find on a table located south of the border.
Blips aside, Peppers & Fries brings warm service, a pretense-free vibe, and some legitimately tasty food to the neighborhood. And as the weather warms up, the main knock against the place will likely be that this restaurant / beer garden / sports bar has too long a wait.
Peppers & Fries
Sports Bar and Grill in Longfellow, Minneapolis
3900 E Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55406
OWNERS: Steve Frias and Marie Frias
Sun-Thu 11 a.m.-12 a.m.
Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-1 a.m.
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $9-$12
PARKING: Small lot, street parking