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  Queen of Cuisine  

Pigging Out

They call it the Belmore—but I call it The House of Pork. Oh, there’s also beef Bourguignon and duck ragu (but they were out of it) and even a roasted veggie pizza, but otherwise, the menu celebrates pigging out on pig.

That menu is an eclectic one in the first place, rocketing from Asian to Mexican and Italian, on to—what’s this?—pirogi. What’s this guy smokin’?

The guy in question is Doug Anderson, and the Belmore is the newborn of a fellow who should know what he’s doing. Anderson has hosted, then owned, many a Minneapolis restaurant—the latest (now shuttered) being Loring Park’s Nick & Eddie (upon whose so-inscribed plates The Belmore’s food arrives. Go figure.)

Not only is the kitchen schizophrenic (not bad, if it works), but the waiters (well, the lone server aboard on a recent Friday night) have no clue. The new club, complete with a stage for live music, was nearly empty, too, looking like that forlorn diner in the famous Hopper painting.

Could we see a wine list? Wasn’t one, but our waiter would be glad to pour us a glass. Of what? He didn’t know, exactly, but finally produced a bottle so we could peruse the label. Oh-ka-a-y …

We started with the pork taco, built upon a thick and chewy, house-made tortilla—different indeed, but admittedly satisfying, laden with husky strips of meat, then livened with salsa verde, guacamole and queso fresco. Routine, and tasty ($3.50).

Next, across the globe for moo shu pork: same gutsy, meaty strips along with Asian fixings to top the thick, unwieldy pie-section pancakes. (Why? The usual crepe-like foundation makes for easy rolling, and eating, which this did not, as my laundry bill will testify.) The pancake proved dry, too—clearly made long, long ahead: altogether a frustrating and unsatisfying dish.

OK, then, we’ll go for the bao bun: fairly spongy, as it should be, loaded with yet more pork—as was the barbecued pork sandwich, served with fennel slaw and mashed potatoes, $8. And those fried pirogi, bundled up with onions and potatoes. And the andouille pizza, $11, all untasted.

Well, how about the pasta carbonara, then? As my companion declared, after one tentative bite, “Your recipe is better.” Darn right. I use actual pancetta, for one thing, although it’s promised here, too. In reality, it’s simply—ugh!—diced ham, tumbling amid strands of spaghetti tossed with egg yolk, pepper and Parmesan ($11). The offhand presentation was in line with its preparation, and taste.

Well, there’s always dessert, right? We went for the butterscotch pudding ($6), an icon of the former Nick & Eddie’s. That lovely, scratch-made parfait remained as good as ever—real grandma quality.

But the blintz! And I know from blintzes. This was not. This was an overweight puff of a pancake—rather than crepe-like and paper-thin—left flat as, well, a pancake, rather than wrapping its filling of lemon ricotta cream and brandied bananas. Another mistake, unleavened by the dreary setting and inept staff.
Would I go back? Sure, if Anderson were minding the store. I was told by a fellow foodie that breakfasts are terrific, but I don’t do windows and I don’t do breakfasts (downtown, anyway), but I’d love to do that duck ragu.

P.S. As a footnote, the next night we dined at Ike’s—that tiny “diner” tucked aside Murray’s on Sixth Street—packed to the rafters, yet, honoring our reservation, we snagged a premier window table and made a splendid meal by sharing an order of assemble-your-own fish tacos. They arrived camera-ready, with appealing little hillocks of salsa, guac and sour cream to slather on the stylish seafood-veggie stir fry you’re to spoon into the table’s cache of warm, supple, flour tortillas. Grand intro.
Next we split a tuna sandwich—a thick cut, pink as a springtime peony, pulsing with fresh and juicy texture. Also, one of Ike’s justly-famous litany of burgers: the “kitchen” number, fabricated of prime Angus beef, rare as the health police allow, and topped with crumbles of rich, just-salty-enough blue cheese, along with husky, applewood-smoked bacon crowning the usual fixings, all supported by a butter-toasted onion bun of character. Pencil-thin fries and a bite of mainstream coleslaw also crowded the hearty platter (burgers $15 range). An affable but not intrusive waiter, clearly trained for the long haul, also poured my well-made martini like the professional he was. I’ll be back for more (think: prime rib and steaks, but minus the stroke-inducing price tag next door). Oh, BTW: Ike’s serves breakfast, too.




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