Editor’s Note: The Inn is now closed.
Visit most restaurants that charge $18 for a burger, and you’ll probably find a menu full of vaguely familiar foreign terms like fricassee, capon, and the occasional unnecessary aubergine (really, if you’re not serving French cuisine, can’t you just call it an eggplant?). However, you won’t find too many of these at The Inn, a refreshingly unpretentious new restaurant on 10th St., downtown Minneapolis.
Filling the dimly-lit space most recently vacated by the ill-fated Subo, and the old Hell’s Kitchen before that, the new restaurant offers up a menu spanning a foie gras-topped burger to a few shout-outs (herring, an aquavit negroni) to the Scandinavian heritage so omnipresent in Minnesota. Each offering cuts through the flowery words and instead presents a simple, accessible grocery list of ingredients which alone look basic, but together present a harmonious dish.
Take, for example, the “Crispy Potato Dumpling” ($6). A riff on the eastern European pierogi, this dish instead enrobed the silky potato filling inside a crispy wonton wrapper. Served with deeply flavored caramelized onions and a mahon cheese dipping sauce, the dumplings comprised a happy meeting of Polish, Spanish, and Asian traditions.
Chicken wings ($7), described with the intriguing combination “Maple / Bourbon / Bitters,” offered a subtly sweet yet zippy glaze. A dinner roll ($3) at first seemed overhyped (seriously? $3 for the typical Wonder Bread dinner roll?) but instead was a pleasantly yeasty, peace-sign-shaped roll with plenty of chew. Served with butter and a sweetly tangy marmalade, this roll is far more substantial than its church basement counterpart.
On the entree side, that $18 grass-fed beef burger (“Foie Gras Mousse / Fried Egg / English Muffin”) was at once bursting with lean, juicy ground beef and — the clear star of the show — velvety foie gras mousse (note: The charcuterie plate, in addition to the requisite salumi and preserves, comes with an entire tub of the stuff). Get the malt fries: they sparkled with a light touch of tangy vinegar without being overwhelmed. The accompanying pickles were zesty and crisp, with a lingering tartness verging on bitter without crossing the line. The aptly-named “Risotto” ($18), meanwhile, was a comfort food favorite. Loaded with squash, mushrooms, sage, and brie, it was toothsome and rich with a warm creaminess perfect for winter.
Of all the items on the menu, one word was in instant red-flag for the “unknown foreign word” test: brandade. A quick Wikipedia search revealed it to be an “emulsion of salt cod and olive oil” — and that’s where things went wrong. The brandade was an absolute salt bomb, as was the pork sandwich ($12). With both a tender pork and olive dish ($16) and a fillet of cod with white beans and brothy tomato sauce ($24) pleasantly full-flavored but carefully toeing the sodium line, it appears The Inn’s weakness is in its salt usage.
Perhaps the liberal salting is for (somewhat) good reason: it makes you thirsty. And with drinks from the guys behind the old Town Talk Diner and the current Strip Club, you can’t go wrong. The Slim Shim, a concoction of Scotch, rosemary, ginger, and honey, offers enough lemony kick and spice to work with the Scotch’s natural sweetness. Similarly, the Captain Wentworth pulls from the black walnut bitters to turn an otherwise sweet bourbon-based drink into something with a bit more depth. A Scandinavian Negroni, meanwhile, blends Cynar (an artichoke liqueur) seamlessly with Linie aquavit and orange bitters, creating a strong, citrusy drink. Boozehounds (or perhaps just the restaurant’s pub-loving intended audience) will be pleased to find a section on the menu called “Bump and a beer,” which pairs shots of rye, whiskey, or aquavit with a pint of beer.
$18 burger aside (and honestly, how many cheap burgers come with foie gras?), the prices — and value that accompanies them — are impressively reasonable at The Inn. Throw out your foodie dictionary, raise your goblet, and grab a bump and a beer. There’s no reason you should have to keep up with the Joneses to enjoy good food.
BEST BET: Try the Crispy Potato Dumplings — like a cross between cream cheese wontons and pierogies, they’re a perfect contrast of textures and temperatures.
Small plates and drinks in downtown Minneapolis
89 10th St S
Minneapolis, MN 55402
CHEF/OWNERS: Tyge Nelson / Aaron Johnson and Tim Niver
Mon-Wed 5pm – 10pm
Thurs-Sat 5pm – 12am
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Yes / No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $16-$32