425 Bench St., Taylors Falls, 651-465-1000
Review published October 2004
While Bob Dylan’s actions seem to attract instant attention (did you catch the Slate headline when he appeared in a spring Victoria’s Secret ad—“Tangled up in Boobs”?), news of the year-old Taylors Falls restaurant Tangled up in Blue has circulated more like a bootleg tape. But if you’re cruising the St. Croix River Valley and all of its autumn oranges and golds begin to look the same, the indigo-hued restaurant stands out—refreshing both your eyes and your palate.
In the area’s culinary context of burger joints and biker bars, Tangled Up in Blue’s forward-thinking food and decorating whimsy make it feel like a destination for retired academics and weekend cowboys. The walls are painted a deep cobalt, the dining room decorated with creatively applied industrial materials (stacked metal window wells form a cash register stand, steel bars create a candle shelf) and a judicious use of Ikea (a wall-mounted trash can is used as a towel basket). Not bad for a place covered in vinyl siding.
The unisex character of the single restroom is indicated by two blue suede shoes tacked to the door: one, a pump; the other, a loafer. Inside, the walls and floor are painted chartreuse, and the small space is cluttered with a hodgepodge of shabby-chic accessories, including framed sheet music of the restaurant’s namesake displayed on the back of the toilet tank. This room is, in some ways, a lot like the food: a little eclectic—maybe not all to your taste—but you’re glad to have experienced it.
The ceviche was a favorite starter: soft seafood and grassy napa cabbage married with biting lime. It tasted best without the flour tortillas, as their dry blandness did nothing but detract from the freshness of the other flavors. The chicken cannelloni was good but not particularly memorable. The Korean spareribs were quite interesting. The meat was cooked tender enough to fall off the bone, then served on a mound of sticky rice with shredded red cabbage and stalks of green onion dotted with black and white sesame seeds. The combination of chewy with crisp—meat and starch and bitter leaves—was respectably assembled, but the sweet and sour sauce could have used some refinement; it was thin, acidic, and overly sweetened.
For dessert, the stacked tower of semisweet chocolate cake (resembling the light cocoa flavor of German chocolate cake) was dense and ultramoist—almost the consistency of cheesecake—and so rich, two people couldn’t finish it.
Though none of the dishes was astounding, everything tasted good—except, surprisingly, the water, which was redolent of stale freezers and metal pipes. Nonetheless, as dusk enveloped the patio and an adjacent party inquired about our dessert, it felt as if the area’s culinary offerings were catching up to its natural beauty. The times they are a-changin’.