Jfood returns to 112 Eatery (MSP)
Jfood was back in MSP and for his inaugural return dinner he decided on one of his favorite places, 112 Eatery. As he drove to downtown Minneapolis, he began to imagine the flavor of one of his favorite cheeseburgers. When Jfood arrived he was happy to see a couple of seats at the downstairs bar and he once again assumed the role of “Norm from Cheers”. The only choice he needed to make was which appetizer to enjoy before the main event. On this night he chose a new dish, the Sautéed Sweetbreads in Porcini & Clam Sauce instead of his normal Tagliatelle with Foie Gras Meatballs. And, of course, he ordered the great French Fries with the cheeseburger.
Sweetbread – The kitchen must have been slammed, as it was over 30 minutes before the dish was delivered, so when the dish arrived Jfood was both hungry and anxious. He first tasted a clam with the sauce. The clam was a bit chewy and the sauce was extremely pungent. Jfood was not sure how this was going to work in combination with the sweetbread. He cut a piece of the sweetbread that looked perfectly sautéed from the outside. Wanting to taste the delicate flavor of the sweetbread he decided not to try it in combination with the sauce. Although the outside was nicely sautéed, the texture of the sweetbreads was a little different from previous sweetbread dishes. It was a bit gelatinous and it was a little weird in texture but the flavor was delightful. Next he took a bite of both the sweetbread and the sauce. This combo just did not work for Jfood. The sauce overwhelmed the sweetbread’s delicate nature. Independently they were very good but together it was not a favorite for Jfood.
Cheeseburger and Fries – The cheeseburger arrived on its English Muffin with two slabs of brie on top of the burger. And the enormous cone of fries occupied significant real estate at the bar. Jfood first tasted one of the fries, c’est magnifique. He next cut the cheeseburger in half to help with the elevation process and the inside was cooked nicely, med-rare to medium. Jfood took the much-awaited first bite. The brie was not right for this burger and the burger was way too oniony, almost like biting into an onion burger. But Jfood continued through the first half. By this time the brie had melted into a gooey mess on the plate, on Jfood's hands and eating this burger was quite a challenge. Jfood lifted the muffin-top on the second half and all the cheese had melted onto the plate and the only thing remaining was the rind. One bite into the second half and again the onion overwhelmed this half to the point of Jfood placed it back on the plate. He pushed it aside and settled for eating those perfect French fries. Jfood will also mention that those little pickled cucumbers that they give you on the side are to die for.
Service – Jfood sat at the bar with his book, and he was able to read quite a bit by the time the appetizer arrived. No dish was delivered to anyone at the bar for over 30 minutes. If you are looking for a casual, slow meal, this would have been perfect for you, but you should be aware that it could be very slow. The server at the bar was great and was extremely helpful to the couple to Jfood's right when they had many questions on the menu and wines. He also saw Jfood was in a hurry between the appetizer and the entrée and was very smart to fire the burger early. Very nice job by the server.
When the server removed the half of the cheeseburger Jfood could not eat, Jfood asked him if the head chef was in the kitchen that night. He finally told Jfood that the head chef was not there on Mondays. So in fairness Jfood would also caution that Mondays might not be the best day to visit. The kitchen was slow and the food coming out was not as great as he has enjoyed in the past, but remember the standards that 112 has given to Jfood are quite high.
I had exactly the same reaction to the sweetbreads, that the sauce was too pungent for the dish. It also took 30 minutes to arrive. We went on a Saturday.
After hearing so much about the 112 Eatery, I finally checked it out. I took Papa and Mama Gutgrease (visiting from Milwaukee) and Mrs. Gutgrease out on Friday night. We got a nice table upstairs and perused the menu. Mama Gutgrease is adventurous, Papa is not, and Mrs. Gutgrease is somewhere in between. Everyone found something to their liking.
We started with an order of the Blue Prawns w/Rooster Mayo. These were very good. The prawns were perfectly fried and had some kick in the breading, while the Rooster Mayo provided the cool relief needed. Everyone enjoyed these.
Papa Gutgrease and Mrs. Gutgrease ordered cheeseburgers. They both enjoyed the burgers, with Mrs. Gutgrease adding that the side pickles help balance out the flavor of the brie cheese. I got to sample half of her burger and it to be outstanding. Mama Gutgrease ordered the Seafood Cutlets w/leek relish. For those like me, it was really much like ordering crab cakes, and very tasty ones at that. I ordered that Marinated Berkshire Pork Tenderloin, which everyone in the party labeled the best tasting entree. My favorite was the sauce.
For sides, the group enjoyed a cone of the 112's famous french fries. I appreciated the large grains of salt, which I assume were of the kosher variety. We definitely enjoyed the flavor of the Roasted Asparagus w/Crayfish Sauce, although were let down Ramps w/Soft Polenta. This was my first experience with ramps, even though I'm a huge garlic fan. Maybe I expected more garlic flavor, but there wasn't much of any flavor to it.
All in all, this restaurant was a 9 out of 10. Everyone enjoyed it from Papa Gutgrease and his lack of desire to eat anything exotic to Mama Gutgrease and her adventurous taste buds. I will highly recommend a visit by others.
For pricing comparisons, this dinner for four set me back $140 or so with the tip. That's definitely more spendy than I typically prefer, but well worth the money for what we got. Everyone was full by the evening's end.
Thanks GutG for a jfood-worthy review....I have to say for all the excitement over ramps, I'm not sure what the big thrill of them is. As you noticed, they don't have a super intense garlic flavor, more like a scallion. I think they are getting pickled in many restaurants for that very reason- they need a bit more kick. I think grilling them might be good, I"ve enjoyed asparagus and green onions done that way.