Culinary progress stalls on Uptown’s anchor corner

“Uptown food is just filler for booze,” my friend declared as he nestled into one of Primebar’s oversized curved booths. With a few exceptions, Lucia’s and Barbette among them, he’s right. And this national-chain concept didn’t change his mind.

Following the Parasole restaurant group’s misfire with the Figlio/Il Gatto change-up, Primebar took over Calhoun Square’s catbird seat. The space is more open, with an enormous bar as its focal point, and it looks sleek, in a bland, suburban way. Wall décor consists of sports-tuned televisions and black-and-white prints of giant pairs of seductive eyes and groups of party girls, all bare shoulders and thighs.

The staff wears shirts that read, “Think local, drink local,” and they do pour Uptown’s best craft-beer list. But Primebar’s menu—a mix of American bar food, Mexican fare, and a few upscale entrées—is less reliable. The French dip sandwich was bland (if you’re craving beef, the steak-and-eggs flatbread is better) while the duck-confit tacos with herbed goat cheese and sweet-and-sour sauce were a multi-flavor train wreck. The braised lamb shank is served with a lovely quinoa risotto, but why would I order it here and not at Saffron?

Because it’s Uptown. And that’s where your co-workers are meeting for happy hour and your friend is hosting her birthday dinner. So when you inevitably end up at Primebar, go with something Figlio simple: the terrific hangover breakfast and the gooey yellow butter cake.

3001 Hennepin Ave., Ste. 1200, Mpls., 612-235-4295,