Single-item menus are all the rage in large cities these days—New York has its dumpling, mac & cheese, and rice pudding eateries, among others—but they haven’t quite caught on in the Twin Cities. (Remember P.B. Loco?) What budding entrepreneur believes we have the population density to support a restaurant that only serves mussels?
But what about meatballs? Erik Forsberg, who used to run the Ugly Mug, is testing those waters at his new joint, Devil’s Advocate.
Blaring a soundtrack as heavy as those that teenage boys blast, Devil’s arrived at 89 S. 10th Street earlier this month. (And, yes, that’s the address most recently occupied by The Inn, and before that the short-lived Subo, and before that the even-shorter-lived Calhoun Grill. No restaurant has managed to survive in the space for more than a year since Hell’s Kitchen decamped for its larger, subterranean digs in 2008.) The space looks as if Devil’s crew moved in the day they were handed the keys, or at least the untrimmed bank of windows seems to lend a work-in-progress vibe.
Devil’s kitchen offers a mix-and-match menu of five types of “balls”—pork, beef, chicken, salmon, falafel—with five different sauces—pomodoro, Sunday gravy, mushroom, pesto, and yogurt, respectively—to be ordered in various amounts, served on beds of noodles, pretzel buns, and such.
The spicy pork and chicken ones are by far the best of the lot, so my first thought was that the kitchen might as well take its menu by the proverbial balls and ditch those obligatory vegetarian and pescitarian options. You’re clearly not trying to cater to everyone, so why dilute your best dishes’ impact? If you’re not going to eat pork, beef, or chicken, eat the arugula salad. It’s delicious—just don’t bother trying to figure out what arugula and shaved fennel and supremed grapefruit are doing at a meatball joint.
My second thought: Before you’d open a single-item menu restaurant, why not do a food truck? Maybe because you wanted to compile downtown Minneapolis’s most interesting list of 40 tap beers? Even the geekiest of beer geeks will find something they’ve never tried in Devil’s selection, which includes everything from Belhaven’s Scottish Ale, to New Holland’s oak barrel–aged Dragon’s Milk stout, to a cherry wheat beer out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and a Nebraska-brewed barleywine.
So far, Devil’s is an okay place to eat meatballs and an even better place to drink beer. If the restaurant space’s curse resurfaces, perhaps Devil’s could work as a liquor-licensed food truck? Whaddaya think, City Council?