A onetime Radisson, smack in the middle of the University of Minnesota’s East Bank campus, was recently reborn as the Commons, a boutique hotel. Naturally, it includes an equally au courant restaurant, the Beacon Public House, which is awash in above-bar televisions and reclaimed wood. For a corporate-owned joint, the menu feels surprisingly personal in terms of its creativity, local sourcing, and complexity. (One example: the kitchen brings in fresh cheese curd and turns it into silky burrata.) The Beacon’s servers tend to be young, green, and refreshingly personable; ours admitted that he had just climbed, sock-footed, onto the seat of our turquoise-leather booth to light the hurricane lamps.
Still, the restaurant doesn’t yet have its formula dialed in. Crowds ebb and flow, based on the school’s athletic schedule, and when things get busy, service can slip—the nachos featuring house-made chips and Fisher Farms pulled pork don’t taste so great lukewarm. And as intriguing as it is to find venison satay on a menu, diners have to finish cooking the meat over a small, tabletop flame, which feels less fun than gimmicky. The menu would be stronger with fewer dishes like the short ribs with house-made broccoli kimchi and more like the Limousin beef burger or the bison bangers and mash. The addictive bacon-cheddar biscuits with Ames farm honey aioli are the best bar snack in miles, the sort of thing you’d find for twice the price at a trendy Brooklyn restaurant.
And where else on the U of M campus could I confidently send someone who has recently entered—or already left—the repayment phase of student loans? Stub & Herb’s? Sally’s? Beacon is among the few places where beer is sipped, not guzzled. Not to say it’s stuffy. Any place where patrons arrive in gopher-ear caps—and proudly so—is healthily egalitarian.
615 Washington Ave. SE Mpls.