Too Early Review: Pig & Fiddle

Two restaurant critics and four preschoolers walk into a bar… Well, that’s not true, one of the kids was in first grade, but there were four children six-and-under in my party the first time I went to Edina’s new Pig & Fiddle. Well, that’s not actually true either—the Pig & Fiddle is on the Minneapolis side of the border, but it feels like it’s in Edina, being right off the 50th and France corner, and generally having that Edina-like air of calm prosperity. I don’t ordinarily bring my preschoolers to a bar, but I really wanted to check it out, I was on vacation so I could make it there by five o’clock, I wanted to see Jason DeRusha and his lovely wife, they have preschoolers, and why shouldn’t the adults have a play-date sometimes? It also seemed like a good opportunity to test the idea that owner Mark van Wie had put forth to me in a phone interview—that the Pig & Fiddle was essentially a little bit of northern European unpretentiousness, come to Edina. And what’s more European than treating beer like it’s no big thing? Which is how four pre-schoolers walked into a bar…

First things first, the old Pearson’s is nicely renovated. The centerpiece is a big beer bar with a vast chalkboard listing the beers of the day, plus a crackling fireplace, an overall vibe of sturdy, open cleanliness, and wood. Then, the apple slices started coming. No really. The server we had is now in the running for server-of-the-year—I haven’t had such helpful, attentive, not hovering, confident and useful service in the Twin Cities outside of La Belle Vie. Within minutes of getting our coats off we had cups of sliced apples and straw-cups with secure lids for the little ones, and beers for the moms and dads. I tried Deschutes Fresh Hop Mirror Pond ale, which I loved. It has a nice malty undertone which balances the briskness of the fresh hops.

The beer list at Pig & Fiddle has about three dozen options, including local stars like Dave’s Brewfarm, Fulton, and Harriet, as well as some well chosen far flung options, like Boon Kriek, a sour cherry Belgian ale aged for two years in oak vats. Jason DeRusha might have had that, I couldn’t tell, it was a long table. A long, well-filled table.

The kids were nuts about the Ploughman’s plate, an abundant selection of various cheeses, bread, ham, chicken liver mousse, and house-made pickles, including pickled whole carrots and cippolini onions, and I liked it too. The kids went even more nuts for their special kid entrees—the $5 grilled cheese with a side of apples or fries, the wide buttered noodles, and the $6 kid burger. The adults adored that the kid-food flew from the kitchen with the speed of a kitchen and service staff united in an understanding of how to make patrons happy. Hooray.

Now the adults moved on to adult concerns: Eating the moules frites, served winningly in a sturdy iron cauldron, the better to keep them warm. The bacon and fancy beer broth was a great addition and the salty, ultra-crisp French fries were great pairs with beer—or apple slices. They had me at beer, fries, kid food, and apple slices, but I kept going deeper into the menu.

Maybe I shouldn’t have. I’ve never had a Czech apple bramborak before, so I’m not sure if my lack of enthusiasm for this version of a potato pancake is bred of ignorance, but I couldn’t tell what the ham slices were doing up top, and the bramborak seemed overly plain and bland. The entrees for grown-ups didn’t strike me as anything particularly great or notably awful: The Alpine rabbit stew was essentially a creamy and comforting sauce for pasta; the beef carbonnade ($19), a beef pot roast made with beer, was tough but pretty good; the fish and chips ($15) were made of halibut, and good and crisp; and the Pig & Fiddle burger ($10) was nicely weighty and tangy with its crown of sweet and sour cabbage. It’s probably the best burger on 50th between Dupont and Woodale, but not the best burger once you get north of 43rd Street, if you know what I mean.

If you don’t know what I mean, Pig & Fiddle is probably of limited interest to you. It’s the sort of place that is a neighborhood gem, a neighborhood delight, and a neighborhood haven, but if you live in a neighborhood with a restaurant with a similarly wonderful beer list—say, Muddy Pig, Muddy Waters, Republic, Town Hall Tap, Town Hall Brewery, Barley John’s, Great Waters, the Prairie Ale House, the Lowry, and so on—it’s hard to imagine why you’d make the drive. Unless of course, you’re in the mood to try to take four preschoolers to a bar. Because nothing puts a restaurant’s service staff to the test like a table with little kids, and if Pig & Fiddle wants to make their name by providing great beer and good food in a friendly neighborhood restaurant, to this critic they already did.  

Pig & Fiddle
3812 W. 50th St., Mpls.