Take Me Out After the Ballgame
Everybody, sing along: “Take me out to the ballgame … ” OK, hold it: Let’s update that “peanuts and crackerjack” part. How about “Buy me some mozza on micro greens” or “crab/truffle mac and cheese”?
That’s more like it. So if you’re in the mood for something more major-league than a hot dog and the beverage Wally’s hawking, skip those lines at the take-away counters, and grab a seat at a cozy café within a pop shot of Target Field for a meal that’ll score a home run. Our picks:
Bar La Grassa is the neighborhood food shelf for the Warehouse District’s condoscenti, serving Italian fare Chef Boyardee never dreamed of (bruschetta topped with scrambled eggs, lobster and truffle oil, anyone? Gnocchi festooned with roasted cauliflower and bitter orange?) Bonus: Pastas come in half-portions to mix and match. The cafe’s equivalent of the VIP box is a counter stool fronting the playing field, er, kitchen.
Haute Dish is a dark and formerly smoky clubhouse where bookies would give you odds on the game, if only this weren’t Minnesota. Instead, chow down on the comfort dishes granny used to make—if she were into performance art, that is. Sure, mac and cheese, but tarted up with crab and truffle oil. Green peas on toast—no longer bedtime food, but reconstructed to include smoked sturgeon, morels and pecorino cheese. Tater Tots? You betcha, but far beyond fast food in the hands of the punks that rock this kitchen.
Saffron also hits ’em out of the park with Hall of Fame fare from the young and dashing, James Beard Award-nominated chef’s homeland in Palestine, like a BLT-gone-Mideastern with lamb bacon, arugula and tomato jam, kissed with tarragon aioli. Or a tagine (stew) saluting homemade lamb sausage, topped with a gently-poached egg. Or simply build a meal from the menu’s smart and tasty small plates as you chew over the game.
112 Eatery is where local chefs hang after the final inning in their own kitchens and yes, it’s that good, fueled by another James Beard nominee. It’s what those pro chefs feel like eating when they’re off the clock—snazzy bites like the justly-famous lamb scottodini—baby riblets in a scorching sauce; spaghetti with foie gras meatballs; and a killer hangover-averting sandwich of bacon, egg and a splash of hot, hot harissa. Again, small plates rule.
It’s always Ladies Day at Sapor, whose two femme owners cook from around the globe and from the heart. Jet your palate to Mexico for chicken in poblano-stout mole, or travel from paella to pierogi (this with a Korean accent) in these cool, intimate quarters that also boast a talent-studded wine list.
Sometimes, the same-old, same-old is just what you crave, and that’s when to head to the Monte. The Monte Carlo morphed from a blue-collar bar to halfway house for urban professionals who can’t quite go cold turkey-tartare and abide by trendy menus. Come here for the “girls” of a certain (near-retirement) age who act as servers, shouldering always-reliable Caesar burgers and the classic chicken soup.
The spot ballplayers head for the ultimate steak after signing their contract is Murray’s, who always delivers. No short cuts on aging the meat, which arrives so tender you can destroy it with your silver butter knife. Same “secret” salad dressing recipe for three generations, same idolized ice-box pie. Same servers, in fact, who’ve got the tableside drill down to perfection. And the wine list is loaded with heavy hitters. Newly-updated décor, too.
FireLake is the flagship kitchen of home-team hotelier, Radisson, and its claim to fame (and my devotion) is its dedication to food that’s not flown in. Local, seasonal victuals are celebrated, so think corn, berries and sweet tomatoes all summer, veggies from the root cellar in winter, and year-round, a wicked way with wild rice, walleye and other proto-Minnesota icons.
But you insist on pizza? (Yeah, yeah: Blame it on your date.) Well, have I got the ultimate pie for you, from Black Sheep’s unique, coal-fired oven. Amid the Warehouse District’s condos, follow the crowd, and the aroma, to the source of all good things on a crispy crust. Bonus: You can order your pizza half-and-half, so relationships needn’t be put to the test over choice of toppings. These pies arrive, like objects of worship (which, indeed, they are), atop a wire rack for all to genuflect. Then dig in.
The Loon has been home plate for sports fans long before there was even a ballpark downtown, so if you swing in wearing your Twins cap, expect a gauntlet of high-fives. And if you’re arriving by light rail, it couldn’t be more convenient. The secret here is to belly up to whatever stool is empty and fill up on one, or all, of the kitchen’s rightly-famous chilis. (Ms. Manners suggests a sampler of all three in order not to bring on a meltdown when your bowl runs empty.)