Eat Street Social a great new hangout off Nicollet
There's a line often uttered by the stock character of virginal high school girl, usually present in bad horror movies or generic romantic comedies, when her square-jawed jock boyfriend starts putting the pressure on and she tells him, "I just want the first time to be special." Well, if you've never had an egg cream before, and I can imagine that most of you born after 1952 haven't had the pleasure, please go experience your first one at Eat Street Social. If you do, it will be like turning down a chance to do it on prom night in favor of waiting for that truly amazing fling while studying abroad. It will ensure that your first egg cream memory is always revisited fondly and that, in the future, you have a healthy attitude toward egg creams.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that this seemingly simple beverage, made of just milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer water, is so glorious at Eat Street, because at this bar the egg creams and all other beverages (the Dublin with vanilla-kola syrup is spectacular) are mixed for you personally by Bittercube founders Nick Kosevich and and Ira Koplowitz, whose drinks, both alcoholic and non, are raising the bar for other Minneapolis restaurants.
If you really want to get the whole dog and pony show at Eat Street Social, sit at the gorgeous custom bar outfitted with a soda fountain. It's where all the beautiful people are sipping Copper Daggers with their impressively frothed cap of egg whites on Friday night, horseradishy bloody Marys with little orbs of capers on Saturday afternoon, and whatever mystery shot Nick and Ira happen to be pouring for you and the fast friends you'll make at social hour. The social hour is the restaurant's founding concept and one of the many things, along with the dramatic flair applied to the shaking and garnishing of cocktails, that makes it so fun to drink there. Perhaps a little too fun, based on the explanation our server gave us as we were seated next to a gigantic boarded-up window: "Sorry that it's a little drafty here. There was a really drunk guy in here the other night so we had to remove him. He didn't like that very much so he came back and threw a brick through the window. We're still waiting on the replacement glass." I suppose anyone who has worked in a bar has at least one story that involves much more extreme acts of vandalism/injury/nudity, but it was enough to make us put down our glasses and get some food in our bellies.
At brunch nothing was particularly remarkable, but there also weren't any dishes I wouldn't eat again. The lobster scramble on grilled croissant had generous chunks of sweet but slightly overcooked lobster meat mixed with creamy, gently scrambled eggs and bright scallions. The taste was wonderful, but the dish didn't nail the textures. With a little more practice or less time sitting on the line prior to delivery (everyone told us it was their busiest brunch service yet), this would be the perfect thing to order for Mother's Day brunch. Both varieties of pancake borrow their flavors from familiar old muffins—blueberry and banana fluff with walnut—but were sweet and buttery enough even before adding the fruit sauce or syrup that accompanies them.
The classic eggs Benedict is made with local ham and textbook hollandaise and served atop brioche for extra richness. But it was the BLT with a butter-basted egg and the powerfully flavored house burger with onion marmalade and preserved tomato that really stole our hearts...or momentarily stopped them.
Dinner began with an inconsistently textured order of calamari. Most of the rings were tender, but others, mainly the tentacled pieces, were as rubbery as a tire swing and kept us from diving back into the basket, regardless of how lovely the North African harissa paste-blended dipping sauce was. The mixed greens with fennel and pickled radish had a lovely, anise crunch and didn't wilt under the bright and springy lemon-basil dressing. However, the salad would have had a more delicate finish if any of the greens had been chopped or even torn. I understand the desire to keep pieces whole, but in looking around the restaurant as other diners tried to attack their greens, I found that no one could do it elegantly. They all ended up looking like animals in a wildlife reserve, and no one wants that. Soups were executed very well, especially the signature blend of slightly acidic tomato and subtly smoky jalapeño. The pan-seared poussin, while deliciously salt-crusted and juicy, came with an entirely different preparation than the one described on the menu, and there was zero explanation as to why the intriguing-sounding housemade sausage and cassoulet beans were replaced by a triangle of what appeared to be some sort of leek and potato gratin and roasted asparagus. It's not uncommon for a new restaurant to run out of produce or pre-prepped components, but a little forewarning would have been nice. The grilled sirloin, with creamy golden mashed potatoes and sweet and stinging roasted cippolini onions, was cooked to a perfect medium rare and further improved by the juniper-infused demi-glace—a steal of a meal at just $19.
Though Eat Street uses some slightly exotic ingredients and most of the plates are very well executed, the menu isn't particularly ambitious, and that's a good thing. You won't see Eat Street Social trying to do a lot of Asian fusion or attempting to make the kitchen a laboratory of experimentation. They leave that up to the bar, which sets the tone for the whole experience. Based on that fact and how welcoming the neighbors (except for the odd brick-thrower) seem to be of the stylish, relaxed, and occasionally oddball vibe it's achieved, Eat Street Social will do exactly what it did in Northeast and become the new hangout for late night in Whittier, especially if you can manage to make it for social hour.
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