Not so for the bone-in steer tenderloin ($32.95), a great rendition of the often underwhelming filet mignon. The filet mignon is supposed to be the most tender cut on the steer, but since it's butchered off the bone and not aged, lacks the winey, big taste of a great steak. They've thought their way around this at Jax, where the tenderloin is cut into chunks along the bone and grilled like that. It's not a beautiful presentation, since the steak ends up taller than it is wide and looks like a lopsided tent, but it's incomparably tender and has all the depth and thunder of the greatest steaks.

The items that come with the critters--the salads, sautéed fresh vegetables, big, soft breadsticks, and such--are all of the high-class supper-club variety. Think chopped romaine coated with a creamy, vaguely garlicky dressing, interlaced with good, crispy croutons and topped with the expensive variety of pre-grated parmesan--you know the stuff, the kind that comes shredded, not powdered. My big disappointment were the mushy hash browns and frozen fries. If I had one piece of advice for the next generation of Kozlaks, it would be to make a better French fry. It's one of those things that costs a little more, but makes a tremendous impression.

Desserts run the gamut from sugar-sweet eye candy, like the wedding-cake-pretty Bailey's Irish Cream torte ($4.95), to the surprisingly good--like the fruit tart ($4.95), a crisp, buttery pastry filled with a vanilla-rich custard and topped with absolutely perfect berries. I've gotten used to tired old pieces of tart with the fruit bleeding into the custard, but Jax's pristine rendition single-handedly revived my appreciation for one of summer's best desserts. Curled up at the table, a bottomless pot of coffee at my elbow, watching the restaurant's clockwork hum in its perpetual perfection, I was charmed near to purring. Surveying the room, all dark and rich like the inside of a jewelry box, I asked myself: Had time really been stood still here? There were, it must be said, a few indications that the days when Bill Sr. fished off the Lowry Avenue bridge pier, icemen lugged 100-pound blocks into Northeast kitchens, and neighborhood kids spent their Saturday mornings at the Ritz are long gone. For one thing, the menu featured lattes ($3.25). For another, what was that at the table next to me? Half the size of a bread stick, one-tenth the size of a slice of prime rib--of course, a cell phone, ready to jerk its owner back to 1999.

Craig Lassig

Location Info


Jax Cafe

1928 University Ave. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Northeast Minneapolis



WHINE TO CHANGE THE WORLD: My incessant whining about restaurants' irritating no-reservations policy has finally paid off: Both Big Bowl and Campiello now take reservations. "We were inspired by wonderful write-ups in the paper, like your own," says Drew Gass, general manager at Big Bowl, and self-described "sometime kicking ball." What Gass has come up with is actually not a full reservation policy: You can call ahead no more than an hour before you plan to dine. Even this modest concession has killed off the maddening three-hour waits for tables--and that, coupled with the fact that Big Bowl can now put real, live, hard alcohol in its funky drinks should pretty well wipe out all of my (ahem) reservations about this Edina hot spot.

Want to put them through their paces? Big Bowl is hosting a Château St. Michelle wine dinner on July 28, put together by executive chef and food-world giant Bruce Cost. The meal will feature five full courses, pushing the boundaries of Asian-fusion cuisine--think curry flatbread, Thai crab cakes served with a "lotus package" (a steamed side of a sort of black sticky rice), and specially made Sonny's lemon-lime ice cream paired with fresh peaches. The date is Wednesday, July 28 at 7:00 p.m., the cost is $38 per person, including wine, tax, and gratuity. Big Bowl is inside the Galleria, Edina, (612) 928-7888.

Making even greater strides, Campiello has embraced a full, conventional reservation policy--you can get a table up to two months in advance. "We had been hearing about [the reservation policy] from customers for a long time," says Ann Grant, Campiello Uptown's general manager. "In Uptown, people were trying to make movies or plays, while in Eden Prairie we have more of a business client, and they wanted to eat at exact times. So we've tried it at the two restaurants for different reasons, and it's worked out great." Campiello has hit on a compromise solution: About half the restaurant's tables are under the full reservation policy, while the other half is held for walk-ins and call-aheads. Has the change had any effect on the clientele? "We're doing a lot more romantic dinners," concedes Grant. Well, I should hope so. All the couples that have met in the restaurant's hopping bar should be allowed to celebrate their love in the (flattering, amber) light where it was born. The Uptown Campiello is at 1320 W. Lake St., (612) 825-2222; the Eden Prairie location is at 6411 Shady Oak Rd., (612) 941-6868.

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