The Sonder Shaker: An Underappreciated Gem

In which our food critic blames himself for missing a quality spot

I do my best to try the new spots that open, but inevitably some places slide past me.

Maybe a lot of new places opened at once, maybe my editors weren’t interested in me reviewing it, maybe I just messed up and missed it. It happens. And for whatever reason, friends I trust have told me they love the Sonder Shaker, and I just sort of nodded and never got around to it. (By the way—tell me if there are places I should be visiting in the comments! Or on Instagram/Twitter: @DeRushaJ/@DeRushaEats.)

My mistake.

The Sonder Shaker is in the same building as the new Nye’s, and maybe that’s part of why I didn’t pay attention to it. “New” and “Nye’s” are two words that just feel wrong when they’re next to each other. It’s been around since 2018, and during the pandemic, ownership tried a bunch of different takeout approaches and old-fashioned cocktail kits, trying to take care of the neighborhood. Now that they’re back open again—my word, they’re taking care of the neighborhood.

 

Starters defy the predictable with subtle improvements. The ubiquitous Brussels sprouts are elevated with a hot maple glaze and then balanced with a hint of lemon zest. Hard not to smile while you’re eating duck confit poutine ($12)—that beautiful egg, the rich, sublime shredded duck, the fontina cheese fondue. The choice to go with wedges instead of fries was slightly controversial in our group, but I appreciated how they were still crispy as we ate through the dish.

Then there were the mussels, which have become a Sonder Shaker favorite. And the extremely slurpable sake broth ($12), a combination of pork belly, fennel, and leeks. The chef is legit; Tyler Johnson ran Bar Brigade and considers J.D. Fratzke his mentor. You can see the influences: unfussy plating, assertive flavors, and a focus on local ingredients.

That $22 grilled quail has an incredibly bold seasoning and crust. The whole dish is served with wild rice and parsnip purée, and it’s sprinkled with onion ash for a hint of char. Quail is easy to overcook, as there isn’t a ton of meat on the bird, but this was juicy and tender inside, with a crispy, flavorful skin on the out.

The barramundi was one of the most clever dishes I’ve had in a while. Johnson nailed the cooking of the fish, and he added delicate Indian puri—puffs of dough he fell in love with while eating with his wife’s family. Our server told us to poke a hole in the puri and fill it with fish, some of the black chickpeas on the plate, and a bit of the chutneys (tamarind and serrano-and-cilantro). What a bite. The whole fish gets extra flavor from a broth of chai tea. Hard to imagine such an exciting dish is just $24.

Cassidy Flannery, Leo Mao, and Wes Watson own the neighborhood spot and should be commended for creating a beautiful environment with elevated dishes, tremendous service, and really affordable prices.

The Sonder Shaker, 130 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Sun., Tues.-Thurs.: 4-10 p.m.
​​Fri.-Sat.: 4 p.m.-midnight

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