Big E is Back

The popular soul food chef's new venture brings New Orleans to South St. Paul

Steak eaters have several choices on the menu, including the Tomahawk, a 20-ounce rib eye that's been frenched, or trimmed, to look like a meat ax (picture a steak big enough to bludgeon someone, attached to a curved bone handle) and seasoned with herbs assertive enough to stand up to the meat but not hit you over the head. The steak was served with a corn succotash beloved at Big E's—blackened kernels with thin strips of onion, red and green peppers (though no edamame, as the menu had mentioned) that had the right mix of buttery crunch and spicy heat. A side of mashed sweet potatoes had the same piercing sugar-rush as Halloween candy corn, as if Austin was taking the potatoes as close to cloying as possible without making them overly so.

Austin serves several entrées that feel European—lamb chops with rosemary and Parmesan dressing, scallops with baby pea shoots and risotto—and highlight his formal talents. The most over-the-top of these may be the seared duck breast, served with wilted arugula, bacon-wrapped salsify, and a foie gras and mushroom reduction. While I did enjoy the composition, the fruits and vegetables weren't quite enough to cut the richness of the meats, which prevented me from sustaining interest. Maybe it was just the mood I was in, but I kept easing my fork toward a shared bowl of beans and rice, preferring the comfort of the humble protein and starch, simply seasoned with scallions and ham.

On weekend evenings, by the time you're finishing your meal, the beats from Valentino's will likely be making their way through the restaurant's ceiling, beckoning you toward the dance floor. If you're worried that ordering a dessert will prevent you from squeezing into skintight clubbing gear, be advised that the former—pecan pie, red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, boozy bread pudding topped with bananas—are worth forgoing the latter.

Big E takes a little R&R: Eric Austin at Bourbon Street
Fred Petters
Big E takes a little R&R: Eric Austin at Bourbon Street

Location Info


Bourbon Street Steak House

200 N. Concord Exchange
South St. Paul, MN 55075

Category: Restaurant > Steakhouse

Region: South St. Paul


200 N. Concord Exchange, South St. Paul
651.209.6854; Visit the web site
appetizers $8 to $15; entrées $9 to $36

Though Bourbon Street has resurrected Big E's cooking, the new restaurant hasn't been very busy when I've been there. Either Austin's former Minneapolis fans haven't figured out where he is, or they consider it too far to travel. Without the social atmosphere, Austin doesn't seem quite at home as he pads through the dining room to check on diners, dreadlocks flapping against his white chef's coat. He says he's working on opening his own place sometime soon, in a south Minneapolis duplex, but that he's still renovating the space and negotiating with the city. ("We'll either have a very cool restaurant, or a house with a very large kitchen," he jokes.) In the meantime, Bourbon Street should help to tide us over. 

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