The Eat Street music club features crafty cocktails and gourmet comfort fare
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At Icehouse, Bickford expands well beyond the bounds of Be’Wiched’s gourmet deli fare to show off his fine-dining chops. But don’t fret, the famous smoked, cured meats remain. Icehouse’s pastrami sandwich is excellent, but Bickford’s new cheesesteak is even better: a hearty, house-baked roll is stuffed with tender shredded beef, its smokiness fused seamlessly with earthy blue cheese and sweet/hot pepper relish. Cancel that trip to Philly.
Is it pandering to top a burger with a slab of seared foie gras that’s nearly as large as the beef patty? Do we care? Not if it’s Bickford’s smart, simple formula: house-ground sirloin, chuck, and brisket blended with shallots and thyme butter then tucked into a puffy house-made bun. The burger oozes the juicy richness of beef, foie gras, truffle butter, and duck demi glace, which I gleefully licked from the plate. Even with my wallet $22 lighter, I had a new contender for my Best Burger shortlist.
Bickford’s all-scratch cooking clearly isn’t your average bar food. Take the laborious duck plate: breast medallions, seared foie gras, and duck-confit rillettes. Foie gras is also used to enrich chicken mousseline “sausages” paired with a savory granola salad of puffed fried grains that brilliantly crackle and pop with texture.
Whereas Be’Wiched has a largely meat-focused menu, at Icehouse Bickford incorporates more legumes and seafood. Bill’s Electric Beans are inspired by his father’s crock-pot competitions with co-workers (Dad likes spicy food and works at a power plant). When our server arrived with a cloche-covered bowl and a small metal tin, my friends and I feared we were about to eat cat food. Fortunately, we were presented with a zesty chili-ratatouille hybrid—a cheeky fine-dining take on Dad’s cans-and-jars dish. The lobster fettuccini and crab-ball-topped macaroni-and-cheese are both okay, but I was more impressed by Bickford’s fish specials—an expertly cooked John Dory fillet in a whisper-light tomato broth would not have been out of place at La Belle Vie.
Bickford is currently modifying his menu to add a few more robust, meaty dinner plates. That all sounds fine, so long as diners don’t overindulge, as I did one morning at brunch, when a pair of savory éclairs turned my formerly enthusiastic appetite for fat—whetted on my first visit by the foie-gras burger—into loathing. The feather-light pastry shells are filled with a thick slice of pork belly and a smoked-cheddar variant of pastry cream. It’s a decent idea, in theory, but much like the bacon sundae, it’s a little excessive. With my stomach stuffed, and my head orbiting from an Escape Velocity cocktail’s caffeine-and-booze buzz, I started envisioning the pastry cream as a liposuction harvest and was forced to seek refuge in the complementary fruit cup.
As long as you aren’t planning on following your meal with a visit to the adjacent Vertical Endeavors climbing gym, Icehouse is a versatile, likeable place. Next time I visit, I’ll keep myself more in check.
THE PERFECT DRINK
The Little Richard’s sweet-tart fizz and latte-like foam combine to create a light, refreshing take on the alcoholic milkshake. Michaels keeps the formula secret, but he will disclose his method for getting craft cocktails to the table quickly: batching. The ingredients for each drink—liquor, bitters, tinctures, etc.—are blended into various base formulas in color-coded bottles that the barkeep combines upon order.
Icehouse is Nicollet Avenue’s coolest restaurant, bar, and music venue, with inventive-but-approachable fare.
Ideal Meal: The cheesesteak or the foie-gras burger, plus whatever Bickford is offering as a daily special. Tip: If you want to sit outside, there’s a pleasant patio adjacent to the courtyard alongside the new Vertical Endeavors climbing gym. Hours: Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–2 a.m.; Sun. 9 a.m.–1 a.m. Prices: Snacks, sandwiches, and small plates, $4–$19 Address: Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-276-6523, icehousempls.com
Rachel Hutton is a senior editor at Minnesota Monthly.