The New Restaurant Scene
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Loring Kitchen & Bar
If you live on Loring Park, the new Loring Kitchen & Bar is a godsend: Basic diner chow, with no need to sacrifice your precious parking spot! If you don’t live in the neighborhood the place is less of a draw, for it’s hard to imagine a more basic and conservative menu than the one on offer here. Calamari, pizzas, caesar salads, short ribs, ahi-tuna steaks, burgers, roast chicken, walleye with tartar sauce, waffles at breakfast, and chicken-noodle soup. It’s all very competently done. The hand-cut French fries, for instance, are sweetly, appropriately potato-like, brown and nubby, appropriately salty and appropriately yummy. The most craveable offering is their fried chicken, charmingly served with a little honey bear. The restaurant’s stark, angular granite and smoke-toned interior is elegant in an executive-office suite sort of way. Yet for everything this new restaurant does right, it’s hard to imagine it as a city-wide destination. Basic and conservative are all well and good, but they’re not qualities that inspire diners to travel great distances. Loring Kitchen & Bar, 1359 Willow St., Mpls., 612-843-0400, loringkitchen.com
If you spent the summer at your cabin and missed the big restaurant news, it was this: Cue, the all-local fine-dining restaurant at the Guthrie opened by chef Lenny Russo, is no more. In its place now stands Sea Change, a sustainable-seafood restaurant helmed by Tim McKee, Minneapolis’s white-tablecloth-cooking standard-bearer. The food is surprising and delicious. Your best bet is to simply order every single thing off the raw-bar menu: compressed cucumber with hand-harvested sushi-grade scallops, raw Santa Barbara spot prawns as tender as warm jelly, fat sections of sweet, briny Bristol Bay king crab leg, sashimi-like slices of pale albacore tuna paired with wafer-thin pressed watermelon and mint, and flawless oysters.
Pair it all with one of the unusual international white wines that the restaurant specializes in and enjoy the bounty of the seas guilt-free: Delicious as the food is here, the place’s real claim to fame is its pristine sourcing. McKee’s crew works with suppliers to ensure every bit of seafood served is from a healthy population and sustainably obtained.
A final tip: Sea Change is also the 11th-hour reservation-seeker’s best friend. While it’s often tough to get a table here before the show, once the crowd piles into the theater the place becomes a ghost town. If you think you can’t get a last-minute 7:30 reservation anywhere worth going to, think again. Sea Change, 818 S. Second St., Mpls., 612-225-6499, seachangempls.com
Northeast Social Club
Minneapolis restaurant-hounds noticed a distinct trend over the spring and summer as three completely distinct meat-focused gastropubs sprung up around the city. North Minneapolis got Victory 44, a corner bar with a serious side in great local meats, and northeast Minneapolis received both Butcher Block, an upscale and Italian-inflected take on the protein side of the plate, as well as Northeast Social, which feels like a classic bar, not unlike Mayslacks’ around the corner, but sweetens the experience with more ambitious cooking.
Ambitious cooking like a rainbow trout stuffed with red chard wrapped in ham and seared until the whole bundle is crisp as a potato chip, a salty-savory inspiration that pairs beautifully with creamy fingerling potatoes and a peppery watercress salad. Still, while the food can be quite good it’s the spirit of Northeast Social that really impresses, the stately Victorian-inspired wooden bar beneath the ornate tin ceiling looks exactly the way a bar should, old-and-comforting yet fresh-and-lively, the bartenders are friendly, and there’s something interesting to drink for every palate. In a season with plenty new under the sun, it’s nice to find a place where one of the oldest restaurant virtues of all, conviviality, thrives. Northeast Social Club, 359 13th Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-877-8111, northeastsocial.com