I hit two new outposts on the opposite ends of the food spectrum this week, and am really excited about the possibilities at both!
First: Plymouth is a culinary wasteland. Not a bold statement, but a true one. I know this because my in-laws live in Plymouth, and for decent food we will go to Wayzata, or more likely, we try to get them to meet us in Minneapolis.
In comes Eat Shop Kitchen & Bar at the corner of Highway 9 and Highway 55, in what used to be a Joe Senser’s. The re-do inside is quite nice—on par with the decor in BLVD. The patio has incredible potential—cool, modern fireplaces and very sexy-looking furniture. They’re still waiting for some of the tables to come in.
The restaurant is run by Michael Larson, late of Parasole, a guy who was the GM at Chino Latino when that place was firing on all cylinders, and his chef is Jeffrey Anderson, who was last cooking at Cafeteria.
Lots to like in my first visit: the taco small plate was beautiful and delicious, the swordfish spicy, topped with pickled onion and guac, in a hard corn tortilla.
I ordered the ugly chicken entree ($15 lunch), chose white meat, and got a wonderfully flavorful oven-roasted quarter chicken—juicy and well seasoned. It sat on top of a pile of spinach with little golden sweet potatoes, charred red onion, and a sage jus.
My wife’s green chile pork sandwich has the potential to be the killer item on the menu, but the pork needed the green chile to be amped up a bit. The combo of the pulled pork, avocado, fried onions, and sweet cabbage was just delightful.
I also liked the kids menu. The kids cheeseburger was clearly hand-formed, and the fried chicken was a lightly battered chicken strip—which I would have eaten entirely had my four-year-old not beaten me to it. (Of course, true to the challenge of a suburban place trying to dial up the food quality, someone on the restaurant’s Facebook page is asking for a more “kid-focused” kids menu, meaning Kraft Mac & Cheese instead of that fancy stuff made from scratch.)
Kinks: typical first-week problems with timing. The food took a long time, even though we were there at lunch and the crowd was very small. The fries came out cold (we had a group of seven—perhaps trying to get it all out at one time was the problem—but they sent us a new giant bowl of fresh fries when we pointed out the problem). My father-in-law said his burger came out nearly well done instead of medium as ordered.
The bar options didn’t impress—the bloody mary mix was very ordinary, nothing popped, it was fine. The Blood & Sand ($11!) had a really nice housemade grenadine with tequila and orange bitters, but it felt like too much sweetness in the cocktail.
But with the background of the team at Eat Shop, the quality in the first week, and the menu they’ve designed, the potential for this place is sky high. I’m excited to go back, and excited for people in the area to have a great local option, close to home.
And a quick note on AZ Canteen, the food truck that has the food trucks talking, because it’s not a small, tiny, broke chef trying to make a dream come true. Instead the AZ is Andrew Zimmern, the biggest brand name in food in these parts. Many know AZ from Bizarre Foods and for writing for MSP Magazine, but before all that he was a chef. And he and his partners have hired a great team to run his truck—the general manager is Asher Miller of Tucci Bennuch and 20.21. He’s brought in some of his people from his past, and the veal tongue slider they cooked up ($9) is truly some of the best tongue I’ve ever had. It’s sliced thin, and cooked to be crispy, resulting in a texture that’s like some of the best gyro meat I’ve had, except it tasted like veal. The tongue is on a New French Bakery bun, topped with a tonnato sauce that was lemony and bright and wonderful. AZ Canteen will travel around the country, and I’d expect to see a bunch of these trucks in cities with big food truck scenes.
For those who worried that AZ Canteen would ring up sales because of the celebrity of its owner, they should be more worried that AZ Canteen is kicking their butt in terms of quality of concept, and quality of execution. Check it out before it’s gone!
Eat Shop Kitchen & Bar
16605 County Road 24, Plymouth