Rhapsody in Lambchops

Downtown Minneapolis's new 112 Eatery conquers, serves the Holy Grail: Cozy, cheap, charming fine dining till 1:00 a.m.

112 Eatery
112 N. 3rd St., Minneapolis
612.343.7696

Part of me? Part of me wants to tell you about the best new restaurant to hit downtown Minneapolis in years. Yet another part of me is meeting with local contractors to explore the feasibility of installing giant cloaks of invisibility on Third Street so that no one can see 112 Eatery but me, thus ensuring the availability of tables, for me. And mine. Me me me. Me!

What, you say? This is an unenlightened position? I should consult leading ethicists and historians to ask what wise old King Solomon would do? Well, nyah on you, I already did. And leading ethicists report that Sol never tasted any of these mind-boggling scottadito, these insane lamb chops that are pounded thin and seared on a blackeningly hot iron until they blister and crisp in a blossom of gamy, salty, crackling power, at which point they are served in a warm pool of goat's-milk yogurt decorated with bits of fresh herbs, the combined effect of which is so primal, so sweet and sour, so spring and meat, so crackle and lilt that nothing else matters. Except the price. Which is only $8! Yes, I said three cataclysmically marvelous lamb chops, for $8, within striking distance from your very own home.

Perfect Pairings: Married owners Isaac Becker and Nancy St. Pierre bring something truly new to town with 112 Eatery
Jana Freiband
Perfect Pairings: Married owners Isaac Becker and Nancy St. Pierre bring something truly new to town with 112 Eatery

See? Ergo, heretowherefore, and dipso facto, all of history simply goes right out the window. I doubt old King Solomon would spend all day offering to cut a lot of babies down the middle if he knew how few seats there are at 112 Eatery.

There are very few, just a handful arranged around the prettily carved wooden bar, at which you can sit and have a scotch and a bacon-and-egg sandwich that will make your head fly off your shoulders with pure propulsive joy. Just a few more seats in cozy booths. Just another few dozen at the various tables. Which is just how 112's owners, married couple Nancy St. Pierre and Isaac Becker, wanted it.

"It's a small enough place that we can still have a family," St. Pierre told me when I talked to her on the phone for this story. "My son can come visit after school, he can sit in the kitchen and talk and do his homework, and since we're not open during the day, we get to spend time with our baby. Most restaurants make you work too hard--we needed something more comfortable."

If anyone knows about the discomforts caused by restaurant stress, it's got to be St. Pierre and Becker: St. Pierre was a server for nearly 15 years at Minneapolis's most renowned fine-dining Italian restaurant, D'Amico Cucina; she and Becker met when he was a chef at Cucina, before he went on to Cucina sister projects, including several years as the opening head chef at American celebration destination Café Lurcat.

112 Eatery definitely feels like the work of restaurant lifers. That bacon, egg, and harissa sandwich feels exactly like the kind of nonsense a chef would put together back in the kitchen just for boredom, hunger, and kicks: a fried egg, sweet, thick-cured bacon, white toast, and, instead of a more typical condiment, a swipe of harissa, that smoky north African red pepper paste. Out of such nonsense genius is born: This thing is just amazing. Crispy and toasty from the toast, smoky and spicy from the harissa, sweet and chewy from the bacon, gooey and rich from the egg, and given a little bit of clean pop! from a sprig of cilantro. This little seven-dollar wonder is one of those devastating snacks that, even as you're eating it, you start planning the next time you will eat it.

Frankly, I think it's going to transform post-rock-show life downtown. Every time a set of house lights rise, little egg-and-bacon-sandwich thought balloons will rise with them. (112 Eatery is practically right out the back door of the Fine Line.) And they serve this marvel, along with everything else on the menu, till 1:00 in the morning! Why? Because that's when restaurant staffers eat, after everyone else.

The restaurant doesn't just serve restaurant-kitchen snacks, they also serve plenty of Things People Expect from Restaurants (rib eye steak, pork tenderloin, chocolate pot de crème) as well as Things That Are the Chef's Version of a Backward Somersaulting Dive (stringozzi with lamb sugo, choucroute bread pudding). In both instances, the dishes are pulled off with style. The rib eye ($23) is a tender, classically good version, here topped with potatoes that have been poached in a buttery anchovy bath beforehand, then sautéed crisp and layered with fresh wilted spinach to serve. The potatoes are thus rendered salty, crispy, and creamy, the trifecta of potato goodness.

The pork tenderloin is pink and so delicate you could cut it with a fork, yet it comes topped with a sauce so fragrant and magical that you might miss the pork beneath it entirely: This sauce is as bright as the skin of a green apple, has the sparkling, jellied consistency of something used to remove puffiness from beneath the eyes, and smells so extravagantly of fresh apple, perky tomatillo, and herbal cilantro that you practically just want to ask your server for a wide white towel to drape over your head, and your bowl, so that you might simply breathe. There's also a mint jus, a distillation of the bright green essence of mint, melded with the pork jus, that adds something wonderful.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Loading...