"This is like, my favorite thing to have for lunch. A good sandwich." My friend told me this over a fantastic classic Reuben at the new Northeast Sheridan Room. Basic statement, basic lunch, basic sandwich. And by basic I mean classic. And by classic I mean great. And by great I mean no fussing around, no flounce, no gimmick. Just a good, substantial northeast standard that will probably last as long as its predecessor.
When The Modern closed after almost 30 years in business, neighbor Jon Oulman (331 Club) said he was in a position where he all but had to buy the property, lest someone else come in and put in something horrible on the short, iconic block that houses his neighborhood bar, a freestanding theatre, Northeast Social, and little else. The Sheridan Room, now quietly open, is so innocuous it's almost apologetic. Just everything a Northeast neighbor might want, and nothing she doesn't, and most definitely nothing horrible.
A coat of royal blue paint over the beloved deco Modern Cafe sign (sniff) and no other signage to indicate that they are open but a discreet neon "open" sign in the window, the Sheridan room was nonetheless thrumming at Friday's lunch hour. The neighborhood must have really felt the pain of the Modern's almost yearlong absence, if the full fool booths and harried servers are any indication.
Humble comfort eats, beer in a can, a turntable, a corrugated ceiling, and a lot of wooden booths. If you need anything else, you've come to the wrong spot. The space is not much to look at, divided between a modest bar and a dining room that is almost entirely comprised of privacy booths which keep the noise to a minimum. The bar is a few stools, a turntable, a nice wine list and beer mostly by the can.
Cocktails, not beer, are on tap here, so that's a departure from the reliable every-beer-under-the-sun tap lists we've become accustomed to. But it's a happy departure featuring local booze like vodka from Far North Spirits. There's also a craft cocktail program, but it will be interesting to see how bar staff will able to keep up without the crutch of tap beer to keep imbibers happily, and quickly whetted. On our busy lunch the bartender was challenged with a lot of citrus squeezing and measuring for barrel aged Old Fashioneds and the like.
Keep in mind that the place is quietly open, so they're still working out details— for instance no host at the door meant awkward doorway lingering, though food arrived relatively swiftly and nicely done.
The menu is so familiar, you could be eating at your grandparent's house— steak, fish of the day, mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, chilled beets with dill, chicken gravy, applesauce, cranberry sauce! Did you miss Thanksgiving at mom's? Head on over. Even an Iron Range porketta sandwich with green apple slaw; and breaded walleye with housemade tartar. Sorry, no sign of the beloved Modern pot roast. End of an era is end of an era. Will beer can chicken assuage your pain?
The Reuben is a standout, with heavy caraway in the bread and buttery fat striations in the meat. A side of field greens with the genius addition of radishes actually tasted like something— you know how your gramps made a salt pile to dunk his garden fresh radishes in? It tasted like that. It was good.
The burger may not be one of the best in town but it's solid— mushrooms, caramelized onions and gruyere give it that French Onion umami, and brisket in the meat on a pretzel roll makes it extra savory. Fries, while handcut, weren't notable.
Like the venerable and longstanding Modern before it, The Sheridan Room doesn't feel like a destination, and nor need it be. But if you're a nordeaster with a yen for an extension of your own living room, this is the place. With cocktails on tap. So, you know, way better than your living room.
The Sheridan Room
337 13th Ave.,Northeast, Mpls.