Crave, Cooper, and Icon bring convenience to St. Louis Park

Taste is often lost in the strip-mall dining experience

ACROSS THE STREET is Cooper, Kieran Folliard's latest restaurant and bar, which was created with similar attention to its aesthetic. While the dark wood and the etched glass and mirrors look like a traditional Irish pub, the rest of the decor—ornate moldings, carved curlicues, Baroque-looking figures painted on the ceiling—makes the place look a little like a cross between Tavern on the Green and the Sistine Chapel. The bar's circular shape resembles a carousel, which seems to suggest that Cooper is fun—a playground for adults.

The food is far less elaborate than the space, mostly traditional Irish fare with a few new creations like the Reuben fritters, which convert the sandwich to tater-tot form, to ill effect. The fish and chips plate is one of the best things on the menu—the fillets are flaky, crisp, and lightly salted, with a little kick of pepper at the end, though the thick, pale fries are only okay. Most everything else falls into the category of comforting but a little bland, more useful for sopping up a Guinness, Smithwick's, or Boddington's than thrilling the palate. A plate of pork sausage, a steak and mushroom pie with a swirl of mashed potatoes on top, and a mild vegetable curry all made about the same impression: meh.

One simple dish—a plucky tomato soup—turned out to be the evening's star. The bright-red puree was lively and acidic, and it contained hidden globs of molten sharp cheddar: the classic grilled-cheese-tomato-soup pairing combined in one bowl. But another basic, bread pudding, which is typically a slam-dunk, was the worst I've ever sampled, as its surface bread hunks were dried out and tough.

Applebee's for yuppies: The sushi bar at Crave
Jana Freiband
Applebee's for yuppies: The sushi bar at Crave

Location Info

Map

Crave - West End

1603 W. End Blvd.
Minneapolis, MN 55416

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Golden Valley

Details

Crave
1603 West End Blvd., St. Louis Park
952.933.6500; www.cravemn.com
appetizers $8-$13; entrées $19-$37

Cooper
1607 Park Place Blvd., St. Louis Park
952.698.2000; www.cooperpub.com
appetizers $6-$10; entrées $9-$17

Kerasotes ShowPlace Icon
1625 West End Blvd., St. Louis Park
612.568.0375; www.kerasotes.com
$3-$12; entrées $8-$13

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As with Folliard's other establishments, Kieran's, the Local, and the Liffey, Cooper seems more of a place for drinking than dining, but it's still notable for its playful attitude and hospitality. When asked about a lucky stone that sits in the middle of the dining room, a server explained that it could be used to make a wish: "Touch it, kiss it, just don't pee on it," he said, as he rushed off to deliver another pint.

EVERY FEW YEARS somebody tries to cash in on the captive movie-going audience by trying to get them to eat more than popcorn and Junior Mints. (Including me. My never-pursued get-rich-quick scheme from a while back was called "edamovie" and involved serving salted edamame to moviegoers as a healthy alternative to candy and butter-drenched popcorn.)

Roughly a decade or so ago, I endured one of the most terrible meals of my life at one of these dinner-and-a-movie combos, the old Yorktown Cinema Café in Edina. I believe I had some sort of grease-soaked quesadilla, but my friend's meal was arguably worse: an overcooked burger on a dry, hard bun with a side of frozen mixed vegetables that included cubed carrots and lima beans. After her first bite of the arid burger, she decided she wanted some ketchup, but the movie had started and the server was gone, so she ended up missing several minutes of the film as she wandered back into the kitchen and found it herself.

By that standard, the Icon's offerings are a major improvement. The theater sells a limited number of VIP balcony seats that provide access to a more substantial food selection, at a $2.50 matinee and $5 evening premium. Before the show—I'd recommend arriving at least a half-hour in advance—you can stop into the second-floor bar-lounge and place an order, which they'll deliver to your seats. The bartender I talked to was a little vague on wine recommendations, and my stemless wineglass was water-spotted, but the French pinot noir he poured was totally respectable for its $6 price and helped take the edge off during the battle scenes in Avatar.

The menu is short but sophisticated: appetizer plates, pizzas, panini, a few sides and desserts. While sopressata, mortadella, and taleggio might not be familiar to all theatergoers, the mix-and-match meat-and-cheese plates are a good value at $8 and $12. The Neapolitan-style pies aren't Punch-worthy, but they're perfectly good. The prosciutto panini comes on walnut-cranberry bread with arugula, quince jam, and gorgonzola—and it's served with a side of house-made potato chips. The sandwich was tasty but a little dry, though I suppose the last thing you want to be eating in a theater is something juicy.

So even though the food at the Icon was pretty good, I still struggled with the fact that I was eating in a theater, not a dining room. (Next time I'd probably just eat in the lounge before or after the show.) The food makes the theatergoing experience more social, by encouraging conversation with your seatmates, but it does induce a bit of awkwardness.

The tables are positioned between pairs of seats, but in my row, at least, tickets had been sold so that twosomes shared tables with strangers instead of one another. It's a little uncomfortable to turn sideways towards the stranger as you eat, but the other alternative is to put your plate on your lap. As the lights dimmed, the woman next to me expressed concerns about that approach. "You'll get up and it'll be all over you," she warned. 

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