Here’s what hospitality looks like. A server arrives with a plate of gratis noshes—“They’d charge you 10 bucks for this at any other restaurant,” one delighted diner exclaimed—and carefully explains every item, from the house-made Cheez-Its to the hops-flavored butter. As she sets down the plate, the server notices the wobbly tabletop and immediately crouches to remedy the situation. Welcome to the Gray House!
Just as a pleasant restaurant experience is created by dozens of details, it can also be marred by the smallest of them, and the Gray House isn’t without a lapse or two. For example, can a restaurant say it offers brunch service if it doesn’t have brewed coffee, and the only dairy on hand is skim milk?
Still, chef/owner Ian Gray, formerly of Tosca, prepares his brief-but-creative menu with solid technique. A rotating array of fresh pasta dishes, in half and full portions, includes a light, unbaked lasagna layered with kale; cabbage; a bright, acidic tomato sauce; and a dollop of lemon mascarpone on top. To enrich a simple mixed-green salad, root vegetables are shredded to a soft fluff and covered in a snowfall of grated cheese.
Gray’s cooking makes a strong case for eating goat meat—the sustainability argument won’t change habits if beef’s alternative is musky, tough, and riddled with bones. His goat stew is hearty and slightly sweet, due to the meat’s slow marinade in vanilla-infused port. I’m looking forward to this spring’s return of Gray’s brunch service in the hopes of enjoying another breakfast burrito: ground goat meat’s lamb-like gaminess goes perfectly with the accompanying pickled onions, arugula, crème fraîche, polenta, and beans.
610 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-4338, thegrayhouseeats.com