Kings Wine Bar cooks royally tasty menu from scratch

Kingfield hangout even has its own book club

You know what I truly loved? Kings' French fries. Just when you thought that everything that could be done to a French fry had, Kings brought fresh perspective to the category. The fries are hand-chopped in irregular shapes that make them look like a pile of lumber scraps. They're twice fried to have an extra-crisp exterior, while their interior stays moist and pleasantly chewy in a way that's unlike any other French fry I've tried. I know it sounds weird, but it's good. The extra-browned nubs in the pile had the same appeal as the half-cracked kernels in the bottom of a popcorn bowl, without quite the dental risk. Maccaroni likes to approach dish development with a scientist's rigor, having run seven varieties of Russets through a battery of cooking regimens and recording the results before settling on the best potato and technique.

The fries are good enough to eat plain, which is fortunate, as the super-sweet homemade ketchup is a little too close to cocktail sauce for my taste. Still, I had to respect its provenance: a 100-year-old recipe that involves stewing tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers with brown sugar, molasses, and 15 spices, then pushing the sauce through the food mill several times.

Maccaroni's processes may be labor-intensive, but they're also efficient. During salmon season, fish portions that didn't make their way to an entrée plate were subjected to a three-day cure, then served as lox with crostini and dill crème fraîche. The Pete's Macaroni and Cheese is made with a luxe, gooey mix of béchamel, Parmesan, truffle oil, and Pleasant Ridge Reserve—a cheese most would consider too costly to melt and mix with pasta, except when its source is pieces rejected from cheese-plate service.

The royal treatment: Chef Pete Maccaroni with pork chops, tater tots, and beet salad
Jana Freiband
The royal treatment: Chef Pete Maccaroni with pork chops, tater tots, and beet salad

Location Info


Kings Wine Bar

4555 Grand Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Southwest Minneapolis


4555 Grand Ave. S., Minneapolis
appetizers $5-$9; entrées $8-$16

Maccaroni's grilled cheese sandwich is another interesting affair. Soft foccacia is egg-battered and griddled to resemble savory French toast stuffed with Gruyere, fresh mozzarella, and aged cheddar cheese. I like my grilled cheese a little more assertive—sourdough with razor-sharp cheddar—but there was a lot about this one that appealed. Kings serves a few requisite soups and salads, though I wouldn't recommend the beet salad with goat cheese, spiced almonds, and raisins due to its odd, overpowering balsamic vinaigrette.

Since Kings opens at 10 a.m. every day, the kitchen does serve brunch, though frankly I was happier with a cup of coffee and a Rustica croissant than the goat cheese and spinach crepe I tried (I found the wrapper's sweetness at odds with the filling). After sampling several of Kings' breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, I think the kitchen makes the biggest gains with its dinner entrées, which stand up to those at more upscale eateries, but at a more value-oriented price.

My favorite dish was the pan-seared Alaskan halibut, served on a bed of French lentils and sautéed Swiss chard, then smeared with caramelized shallot marmalade. These lentils could convert the most strident lentil hater: tender but firm, infused with carrot, celery, onion, garlic, shallots, and herbs. The only flaw was minor—the marmalade was refrigerator-cold—but otherwise it was a nice dish for $15.95.

For the same price, I also liked the Fischer Farms pepper-crusted pork chop, which was flavorful and moist from being seared in leftover breakfast bacon fat and topped with cream sauce. Even better: It's served with sides of maple-syrup-kissed Brussels sprouts and orzo that's sautéed in pork drippings. The portions aren't huge, but they seem more than generous for the price.

Go ahead and dig in, as there's not much reason to save room for dessert. The apple crisp I tried was all sweet, no tart: a hot, sugary mush. I liked the chocolate chip cookies stacked into a sandwich, but their espresso mousse filling tasted like whipped cream flavored with weak, church-basement coffee. That said, the homemade s'more that will soon be added to the menu could be another story.

Kings' attitude is friendly enough that I found myself willing to forgive a few minor service foibles. One night our waitress accidentally tipped a plate as she set it before us and sent a pile of lentils sliding onto the table. She immediately offered to replace the entrée—a savvy and generous response. We declined, as we'd only lost a few bites, and the incident would have barely registered had she not forgotten to come back and wipe up the mess immediately after she removed the finished plate. My group spent several unfortunate minutes gazing at what looked like a pile of cat barf.

Kings' advantages are its flexible offerings and reasonably priced, scratch-made fare. As it hosts more social clubs and neighborhood meetings, I think it will quickly achieve Loesch and Hanson's dream of becoming a community hub. With a lot of neighborhood notables staffing the bar—writer Jim Walsh, Jayhawks bassist Marc Perlman, and John Schreiner, co-owner of Stroker Ace screen-printing—it's not a bad place for an interesting conversation, either.

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