With Easter looming on the calendar, Burger Friday is taking a step away from the beef and diving headlong into variations on the traditional Friday fish fry (pictured, above: A fireside fish fry, from a 1959 Star Tribune file photo). Here are five suggestions:
Each Friday evening at Sapor Cafe and Bar, chef Tanya Siebenaler offers a different take on the classic fish fry formula, with one exception: it’s not an all-you-can-eat situation. Last week, Siebenaler was consumed with catfish, remoulade and potato salad. This week, she’s channeling St. Patrick’s Day with beer-battered cod and hand-cut fries served with malt vinegar tartar sauce ($18). Pair it up with a pint or two of Fair State Brewing Cooperative’s oat-ey brown malt stout, brewed in northeast Minneapolis.
On Friday after 6 p.m., Cafe Maude embraces the season with a fish fry, minus the all-you-can-eat pile-on, and cooks the heck out of it. The fish is tempura-battered cod, served with sauce gribiche, a tartar-like sauce made with hard-cooked eggs, capers, pickles and dill. The russets skip the fryer and instead go the twice-blanched-then-baked route before getting a dusting of seasoning. Oh, and there’s a cabbage-carrot coleslaw, dressed with aioli. Cost: $16.50.
True to its northern Wisconsin roots, Red Stag Supperclub puts out a doozy of a Friday fish fry, and people, there are options: single ($12) and double ($17) servings of cod, and single ($13) and double ($18) servings of walleye, all paired with potato chips, coleslaw and a divine sweet-onion tartar sauce. Don’t miss a drop of the house-made smoked ketchup when you splurge on a cone of the kitchen’s famous smelt fries ($8).
At the new North Loop iteration of Red Cow, fish-fryers can opt for a straight-up single serving ($12) or indulge in the all-you-can-eat ($15) version. It's a familiar formula: beer-batted white fish, house-cut fries.
One of the Twin Cities' great fish fries is served all day (11 a.m. to 10 p.m.) at historic Gluek’s Restaurant & Bar. Get this: Cajun-style catfish, red beans and rice, hush puppies and coleslaw, for $13.95. The kitchen's beer-battered walleye, served with a mountain of crisp fries, slaw and caper-dill tartar sauce ($10.95, a single serving), is another option.
"We triple dog dare you to come out" says the promo from the Blue Plate Restaurant Co, which hopes you're hungry after shoveling snow. At any of their eight restaurants, until 3 p.m. today, you will get $1 off for every inch of snow that fell, according to the calculations at the MSP airport.
That was 9.9 inches.
Restaurants include Edina Grill, Highland Grill, Longfellow Grill, Groveland Tap, Freehouse, 3 Squares, The Lowry and Scusi.
While plenty of Twin Cities restaurants staying closed through the cold spell, others are spending today offering deals to lure diners out into the sub-zero weather. Here's a list.
The Sample Room (pictured, above) is watching its thermometer closely, offering a percent-off deal that matches below-zero temps. For example: -21 degrees means 21 percent off the tab.
All cupcakes at Nadia Cakes are $2.
Punch Pizza is knocking 25 percent off the price of all pizzas: Dine-in, takeout and par-baked.
Sebastian Joe's is offering 25 percent off all ice cream, whether it's scoops, pints, quarts or sandwiches.
It's a 20-percent-off-everything day at Chez Arnaud. You'll need to say the pass code: "Beat the cold."
D'Amico & Sons is noting the statewide school closings by extending a kids-eat-free deal (for children 10 and under) all day, when an adult buys an entree.
Rye Deli & Bar is offering 20 percent off after 5 p.m.
The burger: The Minnesota State Fair and Burger Friday, a match made in Internet heaven, right? But rather than focus on a deep-fried monstrosity or some other gustatory fairgrounds nightmare, today's emphasis is on the humble $2 burger at the Midway Men's Club.
That's correct: Two bucks. While the fairgrounds seemed designed to separate fairgoers from their cash, it's surprising -- and refreshing -- to stumble upon a vendor that leans towards affordability.
Is it a remarkable burger? No. The modestly-scaled patties come right out of a freezer truck, and they're grilled on a flat-top stove, with little -- ok, no -- embellishment. Plain is the most generous way to describe the bun. This is a zero-frills burger best experienced by leaning heavy on the (free) condiments: plenty of grilled onions, a few layers of pickles and lots of ketchup and mustard. A gooey slice of American cheese helps, too.
But each paper-wrapped burger is hot, filling and astonishingly affordable. What they recall, more than anything else, are the low-budget burgers that my parents used to pick up by the bag on Friday nights when I was a kid in the early 1970s, stopping at the nearby McDonald's on their way home from work. Since the state fair experience is soaked in nostalgia, this flashback burger fits right in.
Price: I mentioned the $2 price tag, right? Low prices are a theme. A double burger goes for $3, and adding cheese pushes up the tab another 50 cents. Try finding that anywhere else on the fairgrounds.
Fries: Nope, making the MMC one of the fair's few deep-fryer-free zones. Another reason to love.
Bonus round: The stand is also known for its value-priced beer, starting at $3 for a 12-ounce pour (and $5 for 20 oz.) of Bud, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Grain Belt Premium and others. Get this: Hot dogs are just $2.
The stand also earns full marks for sheer niceness. It dates to 1963, back when the fairgrounds were once covered with similar diner-style vendors; today, the genre has become something of an endangered species. Everyone working on the premises is a volunteer -- most of the service club's 160-plus members clock at least one eight-hour shift over the course of the fair's 12-day run -- and they pitch in to raise money for St. Paul youth activity programs, primarily in the city's Midway area.
It's a total win-win situation: Fairgoers eat for less, and their patronage helps kids.
Address book: Underwood St. at Dan Patch Av.
Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at email@example.com.
The burger: The Modern Cafe is pushing 20 -- in restaurant years, that's practically septuagenarian territory -- and we should all age so well. It feels as fresh and energetic as the day it opened in the mid-1990s.
For most of its busy lifetime, the northeast Minneapolis restaurant has not had a burger on its menu. Until a few years ago, anyway.
"It felt like the neighborhood was changing a bit, and people didn't seem to want to invest in a full-on meal as much as they used to," explained co-owner Jim Grell. "And we're willing to give people what they want."
Clearly. It's fitting that one of the city's great casual restaurants is the place for one of the city's great burgers. So many -- too many -- burgers have an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink quality, but not the Modern's. Each well-selected component feels like an integral part of a team effort.
For starters, there's the patty, a generous double-grind of top-shelf chuck and brisket -- not too lean, not too fatty -- brought to a mouth-watering char on the grill. A crinkly lettuce leaf adds color and crunch, but more importantly acts as a protective layer, preventing the patty's considerable juices from wreaking havoc on the bottom half of a toasted New French Bakery bun.
Meanwhile, the top towers with a sympathetic riot of flavors and textures: a robust, teetering-towards-gooey slab of aged Cheddar (from Widmer's, Wisconsin's Cheddar go-to), a splash of a fermented garlic-infused barbecue sauce and a delicate tiara of crispy fried onions.
Oh, I almost forgot the piece de resistance: a pudgy wedge of house-cured pork belly, its outer shell nudged to bacon-like crispiness on the tiny kitchen's cast-iron griddle, its insides a paragon of mouth-melting pork-fat excess. For good measure, Grell and sous chef Ella Wessenberg garnish the plate with a few of their fabulous bread-and-butter pickle slices.
Price: The dinner-only burger goes for $12, although Grell knocks it down to $8 after 9 p.m., a bargain of major proportions (the kitchen is open to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, and to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday). There's a burger at lunch ($10.50), but it's a straight-up affair, just lettuce, pickles, an herb mayo and cheese (a $2 upcharge).
Fries: Included, and outstanding. "They're a Sysco product," said Grell, totally kidding. Each expertly seasoned, please-don't-let-this-be-the-last-one fry reveals the careful care and feeding that go into making them, a three-day process that includes a vinegar-sea salt brine, a low-temperature blanch and then a quick return to the fryer just prior to serving.
Bonus round: The Modern is justifiably famous for its pot roast and meat loaf, and it's difficult to ignore their allure; trust me, they're better than any version your mom -- or any mom in your acquaintance -- has ever prepared. But here's a tip: Check out the daily soup, because Grell & Co. have a flair for creative soup-making.
Freebie: The bright, geometric work of painter Ellen Richman currently adorn the walls of the Modern's 1940s-era dining room, and they're worth a look.
Address book: 337 13th Av. NE., Mpls., 612-378-9882.
Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Restaurant Bargains (5)||Holidays (47)|
|Deals (3)||Farmers markets (67)|
|Baking (71)||Chefs (118)|
|Cookbooks (46)||Cooking at the cabin (5)|
|Farmers and foraging (32)||Healthy eating (35)|
|Locally-produced food (76)||Minnesota newsmakers (145)|
|On the national scene (116)||Openings + closings (34)|
|Recipes (126)||Restaurant news (280)|
|Restaurant reviews (80)||Beer (2)|
|Food, beer, wine events (33)||TV food shows (28)|