When Corner Table opened in 2004, the restaurant was early to the farm-to-table movement, preparing local, seasonal ingredients with meticulous technique. There was something very Midwestern about the spare culinary style and stripped-down dining room: Corner Table wasn’t cheap, but diners felt that their dollars were going into the art on the plate, not the walls.
Last winter, the restaurant’s ambitious founder, chef Scott Pampuch, sold the business to Nick and Chenny Rancone, a young-but-experienced restaurant couple (Nick had been managing at Seven and Chenny was serving at Corner Table). Now the Rancones wait tables while chef Thomas Boemer runs the kitchen, putting their stamp on the restaurant’s place-minded ethos.
The kitchen makes almost everything in-house, including the extensive selection of charcuterie. Boemer’s adult bologna sandwich typifies his command of humble haute cuisine: Wonder Bread–tender brioche is stacked with a pink puck of fried mortadella and a sunny-side-up egg. Creamy chicken liver pâté arrives, fat-sealed, in a small mason jar; finely ground boudin blanc pairs smartly with beluga lentils and Dijon mustard.
Boemer grew up in the Carolinas, so he works in a few low-country touches, including a homey Andouille sausage entrée and a more refined breakfast-like appetizer of johnnycake, smoked ham, black-eyed-pea purée, and poached egg. And his supple fresh pastas lure even skittish diners to try duck-heart ragu, which tastes rather like a rich sausage—not liver-like at all.
Nick Rancone is a hospitable presence, whether geeking out about the exact grapefruit-or-pine-resin character of a beer’s hops flavor, or joking about his kids. The very human scale of his restaurant allows for a rare level of consistency, attention, and personal connection.
4257 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-823-0011, cornertablerestaurant.com