Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 8:05 a.m.
The new spot with the funky name on East Lake Street is now fully up and running. The taps are flowing with a tasty beer selection, the ovens are cranking and the fryers are roiling. We stopped in for a first taste and found a couple of unexpected flavors and a little room for improvement.
The space is comfortable, with a modest amount of seating. The front room features a bar and several high tops. The back room has a large table and a few comfortable booths. They also have a few tables available outside for sunny days.
The walls are adorned with pictures of musicians like Charlie Parr and Mayda Slice. There was some soul soothing blues playing.
The menu is primarily fried appetizers like wings, mozzarella sticks, poppers and interestingly, a basket of bacon; sandwiches with a couple takes on a grilled cheese; pizzas and burgers.
Beers listed were from such local craft brewers as Badger Hill, Big Wood and Harriet Brewing.
The wings arrived unadorned, crispy and juicy with the sauce on the side. Having a hard time choosing between the Jack Daniels honey barbecue and peach habanero we got both along with a side of ranch dressing as required by unspoken Minnesota law. We could have used that barbecue sauce as a shooter. The whiskey had not cooked off at all and it was boozy. The peach habanero arrives all adorable sweetness and then at the count of 1, 2 - holy monkey mother of pain! Pure, searing, wash-your-hands-before-hitting-the-men's room, blistering pepper heat. Upon further reflection, how about a hand for the Ranch sauce? Herb flecked, creamy, cool and necessary.
Personal pizza with a soft crust
The pizza crust was more like a lightly grilled flour tortilla. We ordered sausage. The sauce was a bright and tasty tomato base. Grabbing a slice, the cheese slid off, holding the toppings hostage. The Italian sausage was good, but it was hard to move beyond the unfortunate crust.
The burger was a similar situation. The meat was incredibly juicy, soaking into the bottom half of the ciabatta bun. It was a good thing because the bread was stale, tough and dried out. Meanwhile the meat was so salty, it was hard to finish.
What is most charming about Zeke's Unchained Animal is that these guys are scrappy. It's a crew of cooks who came together in the hopes of creating a new neighborhood spot in Longfellow. It looks like they're doing it all themselves and it's understandable that there are a few bumps in the road. Hopefully, they find their groove.