ON ANY GIVEN EVENING, as Armatage’s schoolkids and exhausted parents head to bed, CafÃ© Maude, the lone star in the quiet south Minneapolis neighborhood’s nightlife sky, pops with energy. Behind its doors, diners strain to catch the strum of live music pulsing beneath the room’s cacophonic chatter.
Since opening this summer at the former site of Connor’s Deli, CafÃ© Maude has been drawing crowds, offering a vibrant atmosphere and sharable, flavor-rich dishes at prices that seem fair—for 1986. The restaurant’s motto is “civilized leisure,” and you need only order the grilled haloumi cheese topped with tomato-jam olive oil to get an instant jolt of what they’re talking about.
The rest of the menu is chic without being complicated. The goat-cheese-and-eggplant-caponata flatbread is reminiscent of a Neapolitan-style pizza. The corn chowder crackles with flavor, as though the ingredients were plucked from the garden moments before. The burger is competently executed and nicely tarted up with a choice of toppings, such as harissa barbecue or grilled wild mushrooms.
To complement the cuisine, there’s a cocktail list designed by La Belle Vie’s inventive bartender, Johnny Michaels. His masterpiece is the Black Bunny, a crisp blackberry mojito seemingly ordered by every third customer.
Our only gripe about Maude was the surly hosting, exactly opposite of the friendly accomodation we’d expect from a neighborhood place. Our requests, on one visit, for a window table and, on another, to slide a reservation back were met with attitude (“I wouldn’t have given you the reservation if I’d known you were going to do this”). But once we were seated, the initially frosty blast quickly melted—thanks to the gracious servers and cunning kitchen staff who have made CafÃ© Maude one of the city’s best places to pass a small plate.
5411 Penn Ave. S., Mpls., 612-822-5411 Â» Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. $ [w]