Victory 44 or Travail?
I have family coming to town this week and want to take them to Victory 44 or Travail for lunch. Which one do you recommend? Is one doing something manifestly better than the other? I can't find a recent menu from Travail online, so it's difficult to compare them. I'm also wondering about the ambiance of both places.
2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN
I haven't been to V44 since Travail opened. I liked V44 my first two visits, but I quickly ran out of vegetarian options (2 out of 15 dishes), one dish I thought was insultingly small on portion, and another extremely heavy-handed on salt (I should've sent it back). About 40% of Travail's menu is vegetarian friendly, I find the portions, overall, are larger, and I haven't had a seasoning issue yet.
Currently, off the top of my head off what you can't find on Travail's facebook page (was there Saturday):
Kohlrabi soup $7 (with truffled egg ravioli)
Skate $8 (roulade with summer sausage in a fennel broth with Israeli couscous)
Other things change regularly, like Agnolotti's stuffing (stuffed pasta) can change each week, and Tofu can be completely different as well.
Travail has gone from a dessert platter to a dessert tasting, it's 5 courses which typically involves an amuse shooter, a "fire and ice" presentation (blow torch and liquid nitrogen). At $9, it's an incredible value (fit for 2).
The Travail gang is happy to be there, happy to be interacting, and happy to be cooking. Of my visits to V44, I never got that feeling. One chef-erver in particular I found to be a complete dope, I think he is permanently baked. Everyone at Travail is super friendly, almost all of them know my name now (could be the 7 visits). Travail has bean bag toss, shuffleboard, and a weird spinning-top-bowling game in the back for fun. The ambiance is laid back, it's not fussy at all. There are high-fives in the kitchen. Saturday they were making spheres of dessert items in balloons rolled in liquid nitrogen and tossing them across the kitchen to get them into the freezer asap.
A friend of mine had a large party go to V44 for an important life-event outing, gave them ample arning, and received horrendous service and ended up calling off the meal in the middle because it was taking too long, and still managed to drop $300. I still keep an eye on the goings-on over there, but it will take quite a turn around to get me back in. Why go with a gamble when just a mile away I can get a lot more options and a lot more bang for my buck.
Edit: if you can't find a menu at all, this is a good approximation:
Figlets (blue cheese stuffed figs, I believe wrapped in bacon) $4
Beet salad $5
Octopus with melon $5
Blue cheese tater tots (with truffled ketchup) $4
Fries $4 (not even the fries at V44 are veg-friendly, they are cooked in bacon)
Oysters 6 for $10
Tofu $7 (house made tofu, I've had it 3 different ways)
Agnolotti $7 (I've seen pea, sweet corn, turnip, chanterelle and mushroom)
Italian Sausage Pate' Melt $10 (with fries, one of the bigger dishes)
Broadway Butter Burger (with fries) $10
Fish and Chips $13
Charcuterie Plate (I believe serves 2) $14
There are probably 6 - 8 more. A quick call might help. Also warn them of a large party if you're more than 6 would probably help.
$3 Draft Beer - $3 House Wine
4154 West Broadway
Robbinsdale, MN, 55422
5:00 pm - 12:00 am
Tues - Sat:
12:00 pm - 12:00 am
I have never had a bad meal the dozen times I have been there and I am a picky eater! I drive 45 minutes to get there and it is worth the drive every time. The decor is fun and the chefs make the place an inviting, friendly atmosphere. I celebrated New Year's Eve there a day early and had an experience that will go down in the memory books. Thinking about my visit there a week and half ago makes my mouth water! I had the Chefwich.
2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN
And although I haven't had it, Travail offers a 10 course tasting for 2 for $60. V44 has 6 courses for $35 I believe. Travail also said they could do a veg tasting of 4 - 6 courses for $30.
Not something you can really base a review on, but I happened to take Travail several pounds of swiss chard, just to be nice and non-wasteful. They made me a dish on the fly out of it without being asked or hinting at it. It was awesome.
Victory 44 is a perfectly fine gastro pub that exceeds most of what's available in the Twin Cities. That said, Travail takes everything Victory 44 does up a notch......
The menu is more varied and creative. The quality is always outstanding. I have been numerous times since they opened and have not had a dish that I would describe as "ok". The pasta dishes are outstanding, their soups sublime and I actually ended up capturing the "Fire & Ice" desert presentation on video.
2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN
Yikes. I have been to V-44 a few times since the switch, and I don't think the chef in question is permanently baked, but I do think he's overworked. They are short-staffed, which will kinda happen when your entire kitchen staff bails simultaneously.
That said, the food there remains excellent, and remains a bargain. By my lights, the two restaurants offer similar stuff. The guys at Travail are, at the moment, better staffed to deliver, and the guys are pretty fun.
Personally, I love both. For dinner service, I'd choose the latter. For lunch, it's outdoor dining versus the gastronomic circus.
The "chef" I referenced seemed on perma-bake before the Travail was even announced, I was waited on twice by him and both times found him barely competent. He is not the owner / chef guy Erick. This guy actually had difficulty answering questions about the dishes. Of the three times I went to V44, at no time were they busy.
I checked out V44's recent reviews on a reviewing website, of the most recent 4, two are 1-star and two are 4-star. And that is kind of the problem, to me, it's currently a complete gamble. This thread has even kind of made me want to give it another go to either eat my words or eat something tasty. Plus my opinion has to be tempered with the fact I'm a vegetarian, and there are approximately twice the options at Travail for me than V44.
To your point; am I wrong or did Travail just basically take the concept of V44- down to chef servers, writing on a chalkboard and the dessert plate- and do it themselves? It seems a little unethical. I mean, it's not like they opened a sushi place when there are a million other sushi places. It seems to be exactly the same (although I haven't been to Travail yet, I'm going off everything I've read). Not the food, just the concept. Am I wrong about that? Does anyone know why the chefs left V44 in the first place?
Erick opened a restaurant in Stillwater within a month or two of opening V44. From most accounts, once The Kitchen opened in Stillwater, Erick made few appearances at V44. Things were cut back... in a big way. The restaurant hours were reduced, weekend brunch went away (only to return recently), etc.
To this day, it seems like Erick doesn't spend much time at V44. Once the guys who are now at Travail left, V44 took a BIG step down in quality and service.
The Travail crew is absolutely amazing. They're having so much fun, and creating great food. The menu changes constantly, even if the words on the chalkboard don't. TCL has had the Tofu 3 or 4 times, and I don't think we've seen anything close to the same preparation twice.