At Upton 43, Scandinavian Sophistication Reigns

Chicken Liver at Upton 43. Photos by TJ Turner

Each month, in our restaurant rumble conversation, MnMo food critics Jason DeRusha and Joy Summers review two restaurants as a duo and pick a winner.

Joy: I adore the cozy wood-fire scent that greets you when walking into Upton 43. Having seen pictures, I had expected the room to be a little cold and stark, but the reality was the exact opposite.

Jason: It achieves a Midtown Manhattan sophistication, with a Linden Hills layer of Minnesotan warmth. Stunning.

Joy: The menu is studded with words that make about as much sense to me as IKEA assembly instructions. Even our server got a couple of the items mixed up. However, the flavors of the dishes are often familiar. The fermented lettuce salad eats like a reimagining of a classic Caesar.

Jason: Those familiar flavors are usually deconstructed and reassembled in unusual ways. The plating is gorgeous at times, but it’s really precious. Tweezers are in play, dabs and dots of flavors abound.

Joy: All of which I expected to be put off by, yet when eating, it all made sense! It didn’t feel pretentious. From the chicken liver cut with blueberries to the rye pancake dessert, as with St. Genevieve, I loved the interplay of sweet and savory.

Pickled Herring

Jason: This is an ambitious restaurant, and thus, there are extreme highs and some extreme misses. For example, that chicken liver is amazing: silky, rich perfection. As a kid I grew up eating whole jars full of pickled herring on Triscuits at my grandpa’s house—I’m now ruined for life after having chef Erick Harcey’s version.

Joy: I had the same childhood memories of my mom’s Swedish meatballs. Although hers still reign with their lighter texture.  

Jason: I was surprised to not like the glazed pork cheeks: They had no flavor and the carrot purée added nothing. On the other hand, the cod was incredible, beautifully paired with hazelnut, cabbage, and fermented grapes. Perfectly cooked, perfectly conceived.

Joy: I loved the char on the carrots, but yes, the dried-out cheeks could use a little work. Is it just me or are the customers here exceedingly good looking? Maybe it’s the Instagram-friendly lighting.

Jason: You must be talking about my wife, Joy. Seriously, this was a hot spot on a recent Saturday night—hotness everywhere.

Joy: I love that you’re using this space to bank wife compliments. Point DeRusha. What did you think about the no-tip policy? 

Jason: I loved getting the check and paying it without giving it another thought. When you subtract 20 percent from the prices, they seem in line with other top end spots in town.

Joy: Although, when I did have exceptional service, it left me feeling a bit odd that there was no way to exceed the 20 percent. Even if you leave extra cash, the employees don’t keep it—it’s donated to a charity of the staff’s choosing.

Jason: This is a restaurant to watch. I can’t wait to see where they are after a few months of refining. 

Rye Pancake Dessert

Upton 43 Quick Tips:

Kid friendly? Yes at brunch, for sophisticated little eaters.

Acoustics: Mellow

Gluten free? Friendly for those who eschew gluten.


April’s restaurant rumble pitted the Scandinavian-inspired Upton 43 against the French buvette St. Genevieve. Find out which restaurant Jason and Joy chose as the winner in the April issue of MnMo.

Upton 43, 4312 Upton Ave. S., Mpls., 612-920-3406,