Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Recession Saviors - The Bar Menu

I tend to cruise Twin Cities based food blogs and magazines quite frequently, and can't help but notice that just about every single one of them seem to layer in stories about restaurant closings, followed by stories about ways to enjoy meals in the Twin Cities on the cheap. It's hard to justify spending money on dining out these days, but whether you go the prix fixe route, hit a happy hour, or eat early bird/night owl, there are ways to enjoy good food, and enjoy it with friends and family without taking to big of a shot in the wallet. Although all the above are great strategies, my favorite way to enjoy good food and have a good time out on the town is still the Bar Menu. Yep, W.A. Frost has a mean one, ditto for Lurcat, and know, I can add Nick & Eddie to the list.

My brother was able to score tickets to a screening of the British Advertising Awards last night at the Walker, and I jumped at the venue's proximity as a chance for me to make good on a promise to head back to Nick and Eddie to enjoy their bar menu. The deal was even sweeter, with the recent news that J.P. Samuelson had taken a position there. Needless to say, I was excited.

I plopped down on a bar stool with my brother and our girlfriends and immediately looked over the menu, which was simply a formality as I had studied the menu online well before showing up. With a pint of Guinness on the way Jess and I went over our options and we settled on a menu well suited for the frigid bite in the air. What better way to beat the cold then to enjoy a meal of smoked chicken tacos, Swedish meatballs, and a good old fashioned hot dog with giardiniera and some nice salty fries?
Now many people think of bar food as simple, and cheap for a reason, but the thing about it, is that there are many places that do it very well, and you can place Nick and Eddie in that court. The tacos were very good and made with fresh ingredients. When people think cheap, they often believe the quality must fail, but that was not the case here. Flavorful corn tortillas (no flour, folks) proved the perfect vehicle for a marriage of smokey chicken, a luscious, spicy sauce, bright cilantro and fresh lime wedges to garnish. They were simple, fresh and flavorful. Not something you may expect from a bar.

The meatballs came out assembled in a circle surrounded by a rich and creamy sauce. No lumps, no chunks, just smooth rich flavors. The meatballs were obviously hand rolled, based on their texture and imperfect shape. The surface provided the perfect canvas for the sauce to adhere to, and each bite provided a wonderful wave of succulent pork and beef.

Lastly, came what I considered the crown jewel of the meal. The hot dog was perfect. A salty little treat with a good snap from the casing. Both good signs of authenticity. The house-baked bun was fantastic. It was sprinkled with Poppy seed and was far more substantial then the typical dog. The outside was a bit crisp and flaky - likely from a bit of egg wash or a smattering of butter for baking, yet remained pillowy and chewy beneath the surface. The dog tasted rich, and far from the over processed frankfurters of my youth. The explosive giardiniera added some serious heat, and flavor far beyond the aid a sport sport pepper provides to a classic Chicago style dog (no knock on the Chicago style - they are one of my favorite snacks). The stack of salty fries that accompanied the dog provided a perfect escape from the cold, and at the end of the day (night) what could be better the a good dog, some salty fries and a cold beer?

The fact that the dog and pile of fries only costs $4 is near comical, and I felt as if I was almost cheating the restaurant out of something. Nick and Eddie place a great emphasis on their scratch kitchen and commitment to superior ingredients and it plays out well at both the bar, and the table. I'll find a reason to be back there soon, because lord knows, I will find myself in need of good old dog far before the thaw here in SW Minneapolis, and I know a place where I can get a perfect summery treat.

If anyone out there has any suggestions on another good bar menu to try, please pass it along. As I noted above, I still think dining at the bar is a great way for a quick dinner, at a convenient price without sacrificing the pursuit of great food.
Happy Eating,



kat said...

Yeah, the bar menu is often the way to go. I want to go to Fifteen in London in the spring & I've been told the way to go is to sit at the bar.

Bhobbs said...


I think the pierogies at Nick and Eddies deserves a mention as well. The flash frying, light sauce and just near carmelized onions were a great combo!

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