Sometimes you just gotta eat. When racked with an impatient, irrational hunger, the rigmarole of parking the car, getting a table, pondering menus as thick and impenetrable as a quarterly prospectus, waiting for your food when you run out of things to say, and remembering to use your knife and fork to feed yourself can seem like just too much. This is what pushes people through the fast food drive-thru time and time again. But what if there was an alternative? What if, somewhere, there was a tiny place with a limited menu of real, dig-in-with-your-hands victuals flung out to you and yours in a matter of seconds? Thanks to the addition of restaurants with walk-up windows, two very different neighborhoods know the answer to these questions.
The Venue: Both places are the same: a wall, a window, and a couple of places to perch and eat. Porchetteria at Terzo Vino Bar is a new addition to the Broder's empire, which dominates three of the four corners at the intersection of 50th Street and Penn Avenue. Conveniently located in Terzo's parking lot, Porchetteria is next to a bus stop and within easy walking distance of the surrounding shops. In the heart of the revamped Uptown, Coup d'Etat's walk-up window faces the Lagoon Theater and is a significant improvement over the empty parking lot that once stood in its place.
The Weigh-in: Coup d'Etat is one of the newest Uptown eating additions; locally-owned Jester Concepts has launched this vibrant, chef-driven place to meet the needs of a young and hip crowd. In contrast, Broder's has been a staple of Italian food in South Minneapolis for over 30 years. Their niche in the local food scene already includes a more formal restaurant, a deli counter, and a wine bar. That history gives them the edge going in.
Round 1: The sandwich Both places feature a limited menu of hot sandwiches and easy sides. Coup d'Etat's current sandwich is hot pastrami on a pretzel roll. It is big enough to share and salty enough to taste good after one or several drinks. Unfortunately, even with the mustard and sauerkraut, the sandwich only tastes like one thing. The roasted pork sandwich at Porchetteria is more complex. The grilled vegetables and creamy garlic/parsley aioli sink into the ciabatta and meat, providing a perfect, slightly spicy bite every time.
Round 2: The side One of us swears by Coup D'etat's take on cheese curds; deep fried cheese lumps with enough snap and breading to avoid any mess. One of us has no problem eating this giant mass of slightly spicy, hot and gooey sin which could easily feed a bachelorette party. And one of us is pained by the fact that it will take 3 laps around Lake Calhoun to counter its effects. The wafer-thin homemade potato chips at Pochetteria, which are fried just past golden brown, inspire no such debate. They were a unanimous hit, light and crunchy enough to make us forget our diets.
Round 3: Location There is really no contest here. Although Porchetteria is open every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., would you rather stand and eat in a sleepy South Minneapolis parking lot in the midday sun or would you rather occupy some key people-watching real estate in a young and vibrant neighborhood just as the bars and carousers hit their stride? The team at Coup d'Etat is very smart, and this window -- which is only open from 11 p.m.to 2 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays -- is the place to be.
And the winner is... Porchetteria. While the old real estate adage about location will surely make Coup d'Etat's window a huge success, the food at Pochetteria is more balanced and complex, and will have us returning all summer.
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