The flavors found on a plate inside The Strip Club Meat & Fish in St. Paul’s Dayton’s bluff are meant to seduce. Vegetables glisten, sauces cascade like drawn curtains over a bed of red meat, molten cheese embraces French fries, duck breasts blush like a school girl. There is no question that the food from co-owner and Chef JD Fratzke’s kitchen is meant to seduce. The restaurant may have gotten its name from a cut of steak, but the double entendre plays out all over the menu. Placing those perfectly bites of food between two lips quivering in anticipation it’s impossible not to fall—if not in love, then in serious food lust.
It’s all done in the name of fun, but Chef Fratzke takes his food very seriously. A passionate Minnesotan, he’s the only person I know who’s Facebook status are full of winter exaltations and I still don’t want to strangle him. He puts his heart and soul into celebrating this land we live in and uses mainly local ingredients at his restaurant. All of the beef is local and grass-fed, a move that was revolutionary for a steak house when they first opened.
Even when the ground is solidly frozen, Fratzke looks for new ways to use local ingredients. Although, it’s still a challenge. “It’s much less of an extensive pantheon we have to work with,” Fratzke said. “There just isn’t as much, but it’s kind of enjoyable. We still find local produce. Right now we’re having a lot of fun with these heirloom rainbow [colored] carrots from Hidden Streams. We’ve roasted them in duck fat and served them with the steaks. I’ve made chow chow—it’s all about taking these ingredients and enhancing them.”
They use Bushel Boy tomatoes on all of their burgers and sandwiches, “But we also hollow them up and stuff them with all manner of things.”
Sometimes the constraints of working with what is available can be inspiring. “In the winter we like to eat from the places we’d like to be. So, there are Indian curries, spices from North Africa and the flavors of the Caribbean.” I’d happily take a warm mouth vacation right now, even if the rest of me is stuck in a snow bank.