Colonel Mustard

Café Barbette solves the case of the catapulted condiment

Café Barbette, 1600 W. Lake St., Minneapolis, 612.827.5710

"Colonel Mustard is in the kitchen with a knife!" crackled the static-heavy answering-machine message from Café Barbette owner Kim Bartmann, before cutting out. Still, I didn't need another clue; there was only one thing it could mean. Landon Schoenefeld was back. From where? From the nowheresville purgatory of being an international-media joke of the day.

Now a quick Schoenefeldian recap, for those of you who spent early spring embroidering mailbox covers or polka dancing with lepers or whatever it is that people who are not reading this column do.

Landon Schoenefeld has gone from making novelty news headlines to making gnocchi
Tony Nelson
Landon Schoenefeld has gone from making novelty news headlines to making gnocchi

Location Info



1600 W. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

So, Landon Schoenefeld is the young chef who created the dining sensation of Minneapolis this past spring, in, of all places, a bar-bar called the Bulldog N.E. in Northeast. Why was it a sensation? The food was a dream: steak tartare as silky as satin, pork pâté as real as rent, salads as elegant as couture. How'd he do that? With his best friend and sous chef, and by working 24-hour days, catnapping in a cot in the storage closet with the whiskey bottles.

Then, one dark and fateful night, a bartender—and continual Schoenefeld irritant—attacked! He lunged at Schoenefeld with an order for a salad...with dressing on the side! Schoenefeld retaliated in kind, unleashing the fury of an improvised mustard device upon said bartender. So, he was promptly fired. This tale was picked up by City Pages, and, in turn, the echo chamber of international media, including, but not limited to, the daily version of that variety-section juggernaut News of the Weird.

When I heard Schoenefeld's mustard-capade used as a trivia question on the NPR quiz program Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, I felt as if I could picture a thought bubble arising over the food-loving noggin of all Minneapolis: Would this poor kid ever cook in this town—or anywhere—again?

Yup, he sure will: Schoenefeld has now been heading the kitchen at Café Barbette for about two months. Barbette, of course, is the all-day Uptown cafe that had become, paradoxically, both the heart and soul of Uptown, and a culinary also-ran. A distant also-ran. Happily, however, Schoenefeld isn't just cooking at Barbette, he's cooking memorably.

For instance, let us remember the gnocchi—actually, let us memorize the gnocchi. Elegant little pinches of potato as pale and golden as sunrise mist that catch between the teeth like tubby little bubbles—are you memorizing the gnocchi? I am. I saw them in two different guises, once in a light entree with rock shrimp ($10), and once, gorgeously, in a $15 lunch special. There they were, cozy beside the fat first green peas of spring nestled into a sort of cream sauce, with salt and depth coming from pitted bits of Nicoise olive.

But that wasn't all! The little darlings, tucked in with handfuls of fresh greens, supported a perfectly seared fillet of wild, rich, scarlet Copper River salmon. I know this combination of fish, olive, greens, and cream sounds suspect, but it was delicious in the most surprising way, with the meaty olives somehow uniting the dish along notes that were wild, gamy, and lush. It was so good I tried to order another plate, as if it were dessert, but sadly learned the kitchen had run out. Oh well, I'll be back.

I'll be back for lunch, because that's when the kitchen serves its remarkable cheeseburger, the "royale with cheese" ($9), a house-ground burger made through the same technique Schoenefeld perfected at Bulldog. Namely, he briefly cures the fresh meat with a generous amount of salt, peppercorns, and fresh thyme, then brushes off the cure, and puts the meat in the grinder. This carefully seasoned meat is seared hard and served on a toasted bun beneath a thick layer of creamy caramelized onions and gooey melted brie. Each bite is gooey, beefy, funky, craveable, and just enough too much, if you know what I mean. (If you're a burger fiend, you can also do a back-to-back comparison of the current Bulldog N.E. burgers and current Barbette burger—I did. The Barbette burger is my current favorite, as the last Bulldog N.E. burger I tried, in late May, struck me as both greasy and underseasoned.)

This burger is by no means the only must-order at Barbette for the meat-lover: At lunch, during happy hour, and at dinner, Schoenefeld's remarkable house-made pâtés and terrines are available in various arrangements. The thriftiest is the $5 pâté available during the late-afternoon and late-night happy hours (from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. weekdays, and 10:00 p.m. to close Sunday to Thursday). Here you get a pink slab of sturdy pâté, mustard, and a pile of grilled bread to smash it upon—all very French.

At dinner the elaborate charcuterie plate ($14) is a showstopper, with a generous portion of the house-made terrine presented alongside a wealth of other treats: two spicy kinds of saucisson sausage, lots of good olives, paper-thin slices of cold cured ham, cornichons, a chicken liver pâté served with preserved cherries, and more. It's the kind of plate that, when paired with a date and a good glass of wine, makes the world fall away. A roast Schultz farm chicken ($19) from the dinner menu was seared in such a way that it had bacon-crisp skin and tender, but game-bird, herbal-tasting flesh. It came with a creamy square of potato gratin, and complements of roast shiitake mushrooms and spring asparagus. So comforting, so competently done, it was one of those rare dishes that made me think: I could eat this once a week for the rest of my life, with delight.

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