Opinions on The Norton's, Red Wing, MN?
I'll be visiting the Twin Cities area in about 6 weeks and am considering driving to Red Wing to check out The Norton's — for the food, of course, but also because I'm a huge, longtime fan of owner/chef Greg Norton's former band, Hüsker Dü (no time for a history lesson on 80s hardcore and indie music for you younguns — look them up on wikipedia). The online menu and wine list look promising ... any CH reviews? And does anyone know if Greg is generally amenable to signing memorabilia, having photos taken, sharing a glass of wine with customers, etc.?
I ate there more than a year ago and had a good meal, for what it's worth. The food was solid upscale fresh/local American fare (somewhat but not wildly overpriced), and the cheese plate was very nicely sourced and balanced, and consequently excellent. Norton (no relation) was in public circulation at the restaurant, mustache and all. We didn't try to hit him up for autographs / memories / etc., though, so I have no clue how responsive he'd be. Overall, a positive experience. I'd eat there again were I in Red Wing, but I wouldn't make a special trip.
I live near Red Wing. I've eaten at their restaurant both at their old location in WI and in their new location in Red Wing (4 separate visits over the past 2 years). My overall impression is that their food is not up to their prices, and neither is the service.
I ate there for the last time this past weekend, our most disappointing experience. We had an appetizer (the tapas plate) which was uninspired. When I asked about one of their by-the-glass wines, the server had no idea about it. They make a huge deal about their wines, and one of their servers can't tell a customer anything about the wine. Not a good sign.
My husband ordered the rib eye, medium-rare. When the server (another person) brought out our entrees, he asked who had the sirloin. We said that my husband had the "rib eye". The server then went - "Oh, yeah, the rib eye." and sat the plate down in front of my husband. The meat was grisly, over done, unseasoned, and the sauce on top actually detracted from the taste instead of added to it. Neither of us were certain it was in fact a rib eye. The side carrots looked like they had been stewing all afternoon.
The Cuban Roasted Pork I had was lukewarm, the meat barely seasoned, the rice looked and tasted like minute rice. All of it was swimming a what tasted like water.
It is sad, because we really wanted this place to succeed and live up to the potential we think it has. Unfortunately, it hasn't risen to the occasion.
The positives: the new interior looks nice, the bar has a good beer list.
The negatives: overpriced, poor food quality, staff that needs training.
Our September 27th visit to Norton's was much different than jre1578's...the staff was inobtrusive and helpful; the prices were great, especially for the 'small' entrees, and the food was mighty fine.....the Vietnamese meatballs and chicken wing apps were good, both served with some kind of red hot sause in a swirl on the plate; my Williamette(sp) salad was great, and the jamabalya, and pork dishes were pretty darn good.
I wonder if the inevitable problems of a much bigger enterprise starting up have been corrected?
For the those gobsmacked by the sight of Mr. Norton, he was nowhere in sight on a busy Saturday night, maybe a weekday visit would be rewarded.
Had dinner at Norton's October 7 in the company of a long-time friend. Our experience was much in line with DaKing's report (above). The new venue is much larger, and the tables are more widely spaced. There are booths along the side walls, but the seats are so high that shorter persons have to dangle their feet. Our waiter was prompt and knowledgeable; he bordered on rushing us once. The menu is great; we both liked the Willamette salad. The entrees are available in two sizes - medium and large - which makes one peruse the side dishes with more interest than usual. I wish other restaurants would do this. My friend had salmon; I had halibut; both were quite good. On balance it was a pleasant experience. To quote Schwartzenegger, "I'll be back."
My wife and I had dinner at Nortons last night (Saturday). It was our 6th time there and at the end of the meal I looked at my bill; $95.00 and said to her "We're done with this place." It is such a shame because they have obviously poured a ton of money into the operation but the food is so inconsistent / bad it's just not worth it. Our salads were great but the mussels were delivered at exactly the same time and were lukewarm. I ordered the Jambalaya and I hate to use this word but it sucked! For 22 bucks I got what appeared to be a bowl of mushy Zatarins rice( but without the flavor), a few slivers of sausage and a few very small pieces of chicken. Allegedly, there were crawdad tails amongst the slop but I could not identify them. It had no flavor whatsover and I would compare it to hospital food! My wife had the halibut, also $22 I believe, and it appeared to be a leftover from the Friday fish-fry at the supper club up the street. It was less the 3/4 of an inch thick and was presented with some mushy carrots. I do most of the cooking at home and I commented to my wife that I wouldn't even serve this to my children!
My in-laws live up the road, so we end up eating at the Norton's pretty often (not many other decent options in the area). While I loved the intimacy of the old space, I also like the look and feel of the new space. Seating is definitely more spaced out and gives a more private vibe to the meal. The service has been a bit inconsistent over the last couple of years, but never really bad enough to merit whining about. The wine list is pretty extensive and amazingly well priced, not much of a mark-up. The beers are interesting too. We always enjoy the food. We were last there a couple weeks ago for lunch with some friends. My burger (lamb with goat cheese and sirachi, at Mr. Norton's suggestion) was delicious. Everyone else liked their food too; even my 2-year-old with his baked mac-and-cheese. We usually get a cheese plate. Cheeses seem to vary and are always interesting. The Vietnamese meatballs are always awesome. And we have never had a pork dish that we did not love.
As to Mr. Norton's accessibility; he always seems to be around and really enjoy talking to guests. I think he understands that people do actually make the pilgrimage to Red Wing more to meet him than eat his food, and is pretty accommodating. I would agree with the above posts that it would probably be better to try to catch him during the week or during lunch than on a busy weekend night.
And I think with any restaurant owner, if you want them to share a glass of wine with you, offer to buy it for them. . .