A huge tap beer list is a sure bet, but a menu built around meatballs? Hold the jokes - Devil's Advocate wants to do bar food differently.
Attention: Men. If a guy were to design a kitchen for his "man cave," it would look something like Minneapolis' newest downtown bar, Devil's Advocate.
Here's the concept: beer and meatballs. Because what else do you really need?
"The idea," owner Erik Forsberg says, "is for people to come in expecting one thing and discover that it's something else."
Oh, so we need more than beer and balls? With 40 craft taps and a Choose Your Own Adventure meatball menu, Devil's Advocate seems to be arguing for beer and bar food done differently. You'll get no argument here.
The bar opened last weekend at a downtown address that's seen three restaurants open and close in as many years. After Hell's Kitchen vacated in 2008, the New Calhoun Grill had a short stint, followed by Subo and the Inn. Forsberg has kept much of the Inn's rustic charm -- exposed brick and hardwood floors -- but expanded the bar to fit 30 stools. Forsberg thinks he has the formula to make this location work. While the last two spots focused on dinner and late-night, he hopes to build on lunch and happy hour.
For Forsberg, Devil's Advocate is almost a restart of his own career. The 38-year-old spent the past decade toiling away in the downtown party scene, first running other people's joints and then his own with the Ugly Mug. Keeping that quasi party bar afloat was no easy task. Forsberg led it through the smoking ban, the recession and the crossfire from nearby Karma last year. He's still in downtown, but far away from the club scene.
"We all have to grow up sometime," he said.
The case for meatballs
A menu full of meatballs seems to bring out the adolescent mind in all of us. Looking at the menu last Saturday night, a friend felt compelled to read a particular item aloud:
"A Bowl of Balls?!"
Don't worry, I'll keep my own juvenile puns to myself. In fact, Forsberg and chef Nathan Beauchamp actually take their balls very seriously. (Sorry.)
The menu takes some explaining. Customers are given an order form that looks like a multiple-choice exam -- this is the Choose Your Own Adventure part. You have your meatball options: beef, pork, chicken, salmon and falafel. You have your sauce options, such as pomodoro, Sunday gravy, mushroom, pesto and yogurt. And then you have your cheeses.
Whatever combination you choose can then be applied to a solo ($3 slider), a double ($6 pretzel bun) or a triple ($9 hoagie). The latter two are served with fries or a small salad. Or just go to town on that Bowl of Balls ($10).
What if you don't want to eat like a caveman? Forsberg says those looking for a lighter meal should consider ordering a chicken and pesto meatball resting on a bed of arugula. Match it with a glass of wine. He has 65 bottles to choose from and 20 by the glass.
Draft beer conquest
It seems like you can't open a bar anymore without a monster draft tower. Republic just beefed up its spread to 56 taps. Last week, Butcher & the Boar opened its beer garden with an additional 30 drafts.
Devil's Advocate has a respectable 40. The list runs the gamut from Minneapolis stars (Fulton) to American craft institutions (Stone) to Belgian favorites (Maredsous). Forsberg already has a couple of beer dinners planned -- Stone on June 2 and Brooklyn Brewing on June 21.
The bar is still a work in progress. When I checked in earlier this week, the bourbon shelves hadn't come in yet and the windows didn't have any trim. And Forsberg hopes to reveal his big happy-hour plans in the next couple of weeks.
When the happy hour finally revs up, I expect Devil's Advocate to go balls to the wall. (Sorry, couldn't help it.)
Follow Horgen on Twitter: @tomhorgen