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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.

Thanks!

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Victory 44
2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN

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  1. Travail.

    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.

    Happy Hour:
    3:00pm-6:00pm
    Monday-Friday
    $3 Draft Beer - $3 House Wine

    TravailKitchen@live.com

    4154 West Broadway
    Robbinsdale, MN, 55422
    Phone:
    763-535-1131
    Mon:
    5:00 pm - 12:00 am
    Tues - Sat:
    12:00 pm - 12:00 am

    3 Replies
    1. re: semanticantics

      Thanks for the thorough reply and for including the menu. It's really helpful. I haven't read anything else so negative about Victory 44. I'll be curious to see if other people have had similar experiences there.

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      Victory 44
      2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN

      1. re: semanticantics

        Victory 44.

        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.

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        Victory 44
        2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN

        1. re: nnute

          To be fair, your early NYE was probably done by the crew now at Travail. They can be seen in the background of the nice video V44 has on their website.

      2. 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.

        1. 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.

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          Victory 44
          2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN

          1 Reply
          1. re: maauwi

            I did too, it's posted on their facebook!

            And if asked "Restaurant X or Travail", in almost all circumstances for a fun, casual, foodie evening (y'know, not Meritage or something), the answer still would've been Travail.

          2. 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.

            5 Replies
            1. re: kevin47

              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.

              1. re: kevin47

                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?

                1. re: meljohns

                  I don't know the specifics of the exodus, who did what, when, and where, etc. In general, the majority of a brigade leaving one place for another points to issues at the former.

                  1. re: semanticantics

                    But it just seems like they copied the entire concept. Which is just weird. And rude. Unless it was your idea in the first place. But even then....

                    1. re: meljohns

                      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.

              2. And as if on cue, the Travail facebook page has a picture of the current menu today.

                1. hey guys. jfood has not been in MSP for almost two months and back next week. is travail a must-do for jfood?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: jfood

                    Yes. It's staff that left V44, similar concept of chef-ervers, smaller fancy plates, etc. I think they've taken it a step further. They have been playing with liquid nitrogen, an anti-griddle (so I heard), and for the Vikings season opened, they did a closed reservation all-pig tasting, I believe it was 5 or 7 courses.

                    You should hit up both and share your thoughts with the changes.

                    1. re: jfood

                      Yes. It's especially fun for solo diners, since they have a small bar that allows you to sit right up to the kitchen (a la sushi places). It's a great restaurant, and there is nothing else like it in the cities.

                      I just don't want anyone to get the impression that V-44 is suddenly a culinary dead-zone.

                      1. re: jfood

                        I've been to both places as a solo diner and I would say Travail is the better bet. The chefs are much more social than the crew at V44. My recent experiences (2 or 3 times since the Travail guys split) at V44 have been pretty stale. Both places are putting out great food, FWIW.

                        1. re: BigE

                          I see nothing wrong with someone 'copying' a great concept like this. Bring on the copycats!!!
                          And never thought I'd see Danny raving about tofu 3 ways, we are in interesting times...

                      2. 2 "celebrity" sightings
                        During my visit last week one of the chefs calls out "Bye Dara!" to a leaving customers - so much for Twin Cities food critics being undercover. (and yes, I asked)
                        This week on a table behind us - Doug Flicker of Piccolo - the guys were rather giddy at having him there.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: maauwi

                          Dara stopped being "undercover" a long time ago. She does appearances to promote her book on wine, has a Facebook page, etc. etc.

                          1. re: MSPD

                            Dara wears "disguise" in public appearances, but not when visiting restaurants to review them. She also went on the radio and said she was at Travail's Pig Skin Kickoff event.

                        2. LONG ON TRAVAIL

                          After all the glowing reviews of Travail, how could Jfood resist taking a short drive up route 100 to this new, highly praised restaurant, and he did so twice this week. These two visits gave him a chance to try many of the differing interpretations of some really inventive food. Jfood liked the space and how the customers felt at ease as they entered a very relaxing environment, yet there was a nice buzz to the interior space. Jfood chose a seat at the bar overlooking the kitchen and started to read the wall mounted chalkboard menu.

                          On his first visit Jfood chose three dishes, the octopus and melon , the rabbit cassoulet and the hamburger with fries.

                          The octopus arrived and included several nicely, grilled pieces of baby octopus, some canary melon, a few slices of prosciutto, a few orange sections, some sliced olives and a little bit of greens. A small amount of dressing was drizzled over the dish. This was a great dish with lots of flavors. The octopus was perfectly cooked, still tender and far from the rubbery texture so many restaurants fall prey to. The canary melon and the prosciutto worked well together and the orange sections added a bit of sweetness. Jfood's only comment was that he did not understand the inclusion of the orange sections. They were very good, but he just did not understand why it was included since the other flavors worked so well and this did not add a tremendous amount to an already great dish.

                          Next to arrive were the hamburger and fries. This was definitely the star of the first evening. The woman sitting next to Jfood said, “that looks like a greasy mess.” Well it was not a mess at all but one of the best burger Jfood has ever had the pleasure of eating. It was also not greasy at all, but a wonderful piece (probably 8oz) of beautiful meat. Although the meat was cooked slightly more than medium, the taste and juiciness were perfect. Sitting atop the burger were bacon, caramelized onions and a soft melted cheese. These were all encased in a wonderful tall bun. The bacon was nicely cooked, the cheese perfectly melted but the star of the three were the caramelized onions. They were excellent. Jfood thinks a wider bun would be well received by the customers as the burger extended well outside the bun’s circumference and probably led to the woman’s comments. The fries were perfectly cooked, crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. They were coated with a small amount of salt and a little cheese and parsley. They were great as well.

                          The cassoulet arrived next and included a piece of rabbit thigh, some meatballs and beans. The rabbit looked dry on the outside but a quick bite allayed any fear of overcooking, it was nice and moist. Then Jfood moved onto the beans and the meatballs and on this first visit, they were extremely salty and not to Jfood's liking. That dish needed a little TLC on the sodium as they refine the dish. The restaurant delivered on the second visit (see below). A sudden interruption caused Jfood to leave at this point but he spoke with one of the owners, James, apologized and told him that he would return since the first two dishes were so good.

                          On the next night Jfood found himself driving to Travail for round two and he decided to leave his choices in James’ hands, ordering a tasting menu, and he was glad he did. Over the next 90 minutes Travail brought eight separate dishes that created an incredible eating frenzy.

                          The first dish was two Palm Cove Oysters with two garnishes; sriracha and canary melon. These seemed strange to Jfood but he scooped a little sriracha and a little melon, placed them on an oyster and slurped away. This west coast oysters were extremely creamy and flavorful and then the spiciness of the sriracha and the sweetness of the melon kicked in. Jfood was an instant fan of this combination.

                          The second dish was the beet salad, which arrived with a few versions of red beets, picked beets, sliced jalapeños, a little preserved lemon, a few small slices of mozzarella some beet juice and beet powder. Jfood is a newly converted beet lover so these different styles were well received. The chef really showed how to take a simple beet and serve it several ways on one plate and still keep the integrity of the main ingredient. The heat in the jalapeños combined with the sourness of the pickling and the sweetness of the beets were great. The night was now 2 for 2.

                          When dish #3 arrived Jfood stared at what was described as a miniature version of the Travail Charcuterie plate. It contained five different meats plus swags of mustard and mousse, a few gherkins, some olives and a plate of crispy flat crackers. It was described quickly but Jfood only remembered a few key words, fried headcheese. Jfood has NEVER eaten headcheese in his life and his legs started to shake. There was another thread recently that asked what you would not eat for any amount of money. Headcheese would be on Jfood's list. The first bite was a piece of the cube of fried meats and vegetables. This was delightful, a smooth interior with a crispy outside and a deep rich flavor. Jfood stared at the headcheese. Then Jfood cut a piece of what is best described in the style of torchon with a little mustard and this was almost as good as the fried cube. Jfood stared at the headcheese. Next Jfood tasted a piece of the bacon-wrapped meat with a little of the whole grain mustard. This was also very good. Jfood stared at the headcheese. Next Jfood moved to the pate and with a few gherkins, this again had some great flavors. The moment of truth arrived and Jfood took a little of the fried headcheese, placed it on the flat cracker, closed his eyes and ate it. Wow! It was the best of the five meats that were on the plate. Dish #3 was a big hit and maybe Jfood would eat headcheese again, but fried may be the only preparation that would work.

                          Dish #4 arrived and it was a bowl of butternut squash agnolotti in a butter sauce with sliced jalapeños, cubes of butternut squash with orange foam. After one bite Jfood had a big smile on his face. The butternut squash interiors of the agnolotti were not as rich in flavor as Jfood expected and he thinks it was mixed with a mild, creamy cheese, it was a great texture and a mild flavor. The butter sauce added, well great butter flavor (how can that be anything but good), the jalapeño added a nice little kick and the little cubes of squash were an interesting addition. The orange foam added an interesting background, but Jfood again wondered what the attraction of orange flavor is at Travail. Overall this might have been Jfood’s favorite dish of the second night.

                          After a deep breath Jfood was ready for #5 and the server arrived with a bowl and a metal water pitcher in his hands. He placed the dish in front of Jfood and he saw some small chunks of cheese, some parsnip chips and a mound of parsnip mousse. The server poured the warm parsnip soup into the dish. Since this was not on the menu Jfood was a little confused but the server told him they did not have time to update the chalkboards. The mousse was good but the best combination was the soup with a bit of the cheese, plus a few parsnip chips. The cheese gave a nice balance to the creamy soup and the chips added a crunchiness and deep parsnip flavor to the presentation. As good as this was, it followed the agnolotti, and Jfood's impression probably suffered from following the best dish of the evening.

                          Since Jfood thought he was only receiving 6 dishes he prepared himself for dessert as the last dish. When the chef brought the Blue Herring with sweet potato puree, slices of yellow and green squash, enormous julienned and locally grown mushrooms he was pleasantly surprised. After all the great flavors that Jfood had already enjoyed, this dish would have benefitted with a few additional flavors. The herring was a little on the bland side and Jfood would have preferred a little salt or vinegar to enhance the flavors. The highlight of this dish were the sweet potatoes, they were outstanding.

                          Now he definitely thought dessert was next and he took a deep breath, happy as a clam but wanting more. The chef brought another plate and Jfood stared at a different version of the rabbit cassoulet than presented the previous night. The chef told him that he tasted it first and that he thought the salt was just right this time. The differences included a lighter rendition of the beans and with one forkful, Jfood knew the chef had taken the previous night’s comment to heart. They were delicious. Likewise the rabbit meatballs were very good, with just a touch of saltiness. Instead of a whole rabbit thigh, this night’s version contained pieces of rabbit plus a little rib cage. Many might think this last item was strange, but Jfood really liked nibbling on this mini-rack of spare ribs and the meat pieces were also very good. So dish #7, the rabbit cassoulet redux was a big hit on night number 2.

                          Now Jfood felt like a contestant on Man vs. Food. James approached Jfood and said that the next was the last and some dessert was in the works. It arrived and the server described two of Jfood's favorite flavor combinations, s’mores and Reese’s peanut butter cups. A marshmallowy meringue was placed in the bottom of a v-shaped glass, a thin piece of chocolate was wedged into the meringue and peanut butter and peanuts added the other flavors. This was a very pleasant way to end the evening.

                          Jfood was extremely glad he returned to Travail for night number two after a little shakiness on the first night. The staff was extremely friendly, engaged and you can see how much they enjoyed cooking and delivering high quality, inventive dishes to the customers. On both visits, all of the tables and most of the bar seats were occupied and there was a nice buzz in the air. Music was 80’s rock hits and remained at a low enough volume that did not intrude on any conversation.

                          Jfood is a fan of Travail and he would recommend it to others.

                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jfood

                            So glad you finally made it up there.

                            These guys are doing some of the absolute best work in town right now and the value is outstanding.

                          2. Travail!!! Went there last night - amazing.
                            Great food, great service - a dining experience.

                            1. I think Victory has the edge right now. The people a Travail seem to be basking in the limelight and not concentrating on food. Tonight the food at Victory reminded me of La Belle Vie at a fraction of the cost.

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                              La Belle Vie
                              510 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55405

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: ibew292

                                All things considered, I'll second the recommendation of V44 right now. Travail is too much of a madhouse and I think their food is suffering, if only slightly.

                                I had a late dinner (arrived a little after 8) at Victory last night. I tried two dishes I haven't had before:

                                1) Fried ham hocks (not sure of the menu name) - 3 pieces served with house made hot sauce gel (?), blue cheese powder and a house made cheese whiz. The hock pieces were on top of a celery salad. All the components were good. The salad was a nice cooling touch the heat of the meat and hot sauce.

                                2) Rabbit mortadella with house made penne-ish pasta, tossed with butter, ground mustard, lardons and pistachios. The rabbit sausage was incredible...one of the best dishes I've had in a long while. The pasta was a little toothy for me, but otherwise I really enjoyed this.

                                Two really nice dishes plus two pints of Lake Superior Oatmeal Stout for $20 (Wednesday is all day Happy Hour, which includes half price taps). Not bad.

                                1. re: BigE

                                  Hubby and I FINALLY made it to Victory 44 this weekend. Still haven't made it to Travail, but it's on the list. The fried ham hocks BigE mentions above has morphed into ham hocks and eggs. OMG.. so good, but I'll start from the beginning.

                                  We had a challenging time deciding what to order. We wanted the tasting menu, but really didn't feel like we had the time to devote to it, so we'll have to give that a try another time. It turns out we ended up eating a ridiculous amount of food anyway. :)

                                  First up - Hubby ordered Devils on Horseback. Bacon wrapped dates served with apricot puree and some pearls of some sort and I don't even know what else. All I knew is that my mother has tried to put dates in cookies and a million other things since my childhood to get me to eat them and I refused. Dates - yuck! But, everything is better with bacon, right? So I gave them a try. Wow - they were really good. My mom would be proud of you, Victory 44!

                                  Next - I ordered the ham hocks and eggs. I had no idea what to expect with the ham hocks, but they came out as croquettes. With the red pepper sauce at the bottom and a tallegio fondue and a yummy fried egg. Wowsa! Super liked this one.

                                  Then I ordered the hanger steak and hubby ordered the chefwich which came with duck fat fries. My hanger steak came out first - hanger steak cooked perfectly medium rare with pureed cauliflower, picked caulifower, grilled leeks and black truffle oil. It was fine, but not as flavorful as the other dishes we'd had.

                                  And then... the Chefwich came out. Slow roasted pork with carmelized onions, chives and preserved lemon on the butteriest, yummiest hoagie roll ever. I have to admit, the lemon made me think this was going to be disgusting, but it was SOOOO good. I sort of wanted to steal the whole thing from Hubby. Luckily he's a really good sharer. :) Chefwich was definitely the star of the day for me. Hubby said it was a toss up for him between that and the ham hocks.

                                  Service was a little slow. There seemed to be only 1 chef doing the serving and 1 perhaps cooking. That was a bit of a bummer, but the food was really good. We'll definitely go back, but it'll have to be at a time where we literally have absolutely nothing else going on and we just want to eat with no time constraints.

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                                  Victory 44
                                  2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN

                                  1. re: Seige

                                    Welcome to the club - I for one am rather grateful to have 2 such excellent restaurant close to whee I live. I usually end up at one or the other at least once a week.

                              2. Lunch here is great! The burger is the best in town, but my favorite is the Ruben I highly recommend it, my husband would say the Chefwich is his favorite. Yes the fries have a little bit of bacon added to them but as they say a little bacon makes everything great! Hope you choose them and have a wonderful lunch.

                                1. I finally got to try Victory44 and loved it. I love the Devils on Horseback. The sugar sweet caramelized figs with the crisp bacon and spicy mustard, omg fantastic. I enjoyed the fried ricotta, but could have used a touch more flavor in the cheese its self, but the sauces it came with were delicious. Personally would have loved a little more sauce on the side. My daughter got the bacon burger, meat was moist and flavorful but we both thought it was a little salty. The fries were great. We loved the pre desert-desert (peanut butter cookie, with a bacon icing, lol.) We enjoyed the chocolate cake - the layers that separated each section of chocolates had a gelatin feel, so we ate around it. My mom is a baker and she LOVED everything (especially all the cookies on the pre desert tray). Loved our waiter and the atmosphere, had a lot fun and would to try more of options on the menu.

                                  1. Victory 44 has the worst service in the cities.

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                                    Victory 44
                                    2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN