The Pig & Fiddle cleans up nicely

  • Article by: TOM HORGEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 19, 2012 - 4:59 PM

The owners of the Muddy Pig have opened a second pub in a shiny shopping district.

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I call it beer babble. Mainly because I'm not smart enough to understand it. I overheard it again, this time at the Pig & Fiddle, the three-month-old pub near the corner of 50th and France. Four guys were sitting at the bar, engaged in a passionate discussion. From afar, you might have thought they were talking about "Star Trek" or maybe something to do with the upcoming Hobbit movie. The level of nerdiness was that apparent.

They spoke of quads (Quadrupel-style Belgian beers) and IBUs (International Bitterness Units). Like I said: beer babble.

This is good news for the pub's owners, Mark van Wie and Paul Schatz, two guys who know their beer. For almost a decade, the duo's Muddy Pig in St. Paul has reigned as a top Twin Cities destination for adventurous beer-drinking. Now they're hoping this retail district on the border of Minneapolis and Edina -- an area better-known for shopping sprees than Surly fans -- will embrace their second bar, Pig & Fiddle.

So far, so good. After the always-popular Fulton, the top-selling beer at Pig & Fiddle is Tripel Karmeliet, a high-alcohol, bold-flavored Belgian that costs $7 a glass.

"Turns out people will drink beer anywhere," Van Wie joked with me last week.

Let's take a look at what this Pig is offering.

Concept:

The original Muddy Pig is the type of place you walk into and yell, "Hey, give me an Isid'or from Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven," and the bartenders know what you're talking about. Beyond the esoteric suds, the pub is beloved for simply being a neighborhood joint that's gotten better with age (and a little wear and tear).

Its new sister bar is a Pig of a different sort -- she's all dolled up. Located in half of the former Pearson's, the bar features a shiny white granite bar-top, murals in the dining room and a Euro country-style menu courtesy of chef Stephanie Kochlin (formerly a sous chef at Heartland). The food is a step up from the other Pig, with Kochlin culling her menu from all over Europe. It's old-country grub meant to satisfy us hardworking peasants. Think: pierogies, pasties, stews.

Works well:

The beer list is smaller than the original Pig (36 draft lines compared with 48), but it's nicely balanced. It's basically a union of American craft and bold European beers. You'll find Bud Light bottles hiding in the cooler.

Pig & Fiddle was the first Twin Cities bar to carry beers by Boom Island, a new microbrewery in north Minneapolis. Try its hoppy Thoprock IPA, which goes down surprisingly smooth. On Thursday, the dining room will host a four-course beer dinner with acclaimed Colorado brewery Odell ($50 a person). With his chef-driven kitchen, Van Wie hopes to do more beer dinners at Pig & Fiddle.

Now about that food. Back in the day the Ploughman's Plate ($13) -- with its meats, cheeses and pickled veggies -- would have been a farmer's best friend. Now it's the perfect snack after being dragged through that giant Anthropologie by your significant other. Other Old World favorites include rabbit stew and braised-beef carbonnade. I enjoyed the pot roast pasty ($10), an epic grilled cheese ($9) and one juicy burger ($11). All come with great hand-cut fries.

Needs work:

Some of the pricing is odd. The sandwiches and burgers were affordably priced, but a pierogi entree (four average-sized dumplings, plus a smattering of mushrooms) cost $14. The pub is within spitting distance of Edina, so I guess you have to expect some overpricing.

One other nitpick (and maybe this is unfair). The place is too clean. I love the original Muddy Pig because it's weathered and worn, like a good pair of Red Wing boots. Van Wie said he'll clutter up the place in due time.

"I'm not a shiny and sparkly kind of guy," he said.

Impact:

Pig & Fiddle definitely fills a void at 50th and France. Sure, you can grab a craft brew at the Edina Grill, but the selection there doesn't compare. Whether you're seeing an Oscar contender at the Edina Cinema or just along for a weekend shopping extravaganza, Pig & Fiddle is a stop you'll want to make.

But as I saw last week, some people are still warming up to the pub. I watched two little old ladies enter the bar with baffled looks on their faces. One of them asked the host: "What happened to Pearson's?" Not expecting a beer bar, they turned around and left.

My suggestion to the little old ladies of Edina (and beer drinkers of all ages): Give this Pig a try.

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  • Pig & Fiddle

  • PIG & FIDDLE

    Where: 3812 W. 50th St., Mpls.

    Hours: 4 p.m.-1 a.m. daily.

    Contact: 952-955-8385 or pignfiddle.com.

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