HOME > Chowhound > Minneapolis-St. Paul >
Brewing beer, curing meat, or making cheese?
TELL US

Travail

Latinpig Apr 17, 2011 07:41 AM

I finally went to Travail last night. I re-read Jfoods post before setting out. It was very helpful. 3 couples. We showed up at 6:00 and waited until 7:45. We brought our own wine so we popped a bottle in the bar and hung out. Normally I do not like to wait ever but this was well worth it. Although we did not get the 10 course tasting menu for $60, we basically ordered the entire menu and then some. Our waiter was one of the two owners who had migrated from Victory 44. He sort of looked l;ike John Belushi and was very good natured. We shared some of the killer wine we brought with him. He ended up not charging us corkage. There were so many highlights. The figlets were amazing (wrapped in bacon) as were the tator tots (blue cheese). The oysters were also outstanding with some kind of creme fraiche. I did not like the sweetbread The beet salad was marginal

The cheeseburger, the steak, the lamb and the scallops all were fantastic. I really liked the fish and chips which was some kind of tempura recipe. The Italian hoagie was nice with some spicy peppers in side.

We ordered the dessert sampler and it kept coming with plate after plate. Some of it was good and some was so so.

Overall, I was really impressed. Sometimes people over rate a place (like Heartland) but this place deserved all the kudos it has received. I cannot wait to get back which is really saying something
.

-----
Victory 44
2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN

  1. e
    eastlakovore Mar 28, 2012 03:34 PM

    Wanted to share a recent story here. Went for "Date Night" last night. Arrived at 5:10PM, got seated 85 minutes later. First time I've ever stayed someplace despite the wait, I was that focused on wanting this meal.

    They were definitely hitting on high notes. I was impressed as this was the first time ordering their tasting menu. The food, which for appearances last night was a manufacturing line as it didn't look like they were making anything but the tasting menu, was impressive in it's consistently good flavors.

    The two best of the 10 plus amuses for us were the Agnolotti and the Rabbit courses. The agnolotti was a Myer's lemon and ricotta filled pasta that was just amazing. The rabbit had breast, a confit, and a rabbit 'oyster' that the waiter tried to slip by to us. The oyster is innocuous, more shock than anything, but kudos to them to get my wife, and the couples sitting next to us at the tasting bar to at least try it.

    Desserts were playful and fun, which is their goal, flavor is above average, but homemade dippin dots tableside elicits a smile, its fun, and thats why my wife and I dine. Others can pupu it, I don't care. Once seated it's a great time, and great food, and the chefs are really nice and don't mind interacting which adds to the fun.

    Based on my sitting and waiting, I can't understand why they don't set up a 'sitting' routine, if 95% of the people come in wanting/getting the tasting menu, why not go for it, and have seating's at 5, 6:30, etc...Dined at Beast in PDX and that seemed to work very well, and I had an amazing dinner and didn't have to sit and wait for my table. Clearly they have a good thing going, so they won't change, and I had a great time, I just don't consider waiting part of the experience I want to partake in again.

    12 Replies
    1. re: eastlakovore
      o
      Otoki Mar 29, 2012 09:29 AM

      That's an interesting idea about scheduled seatings.

      1. re: Otoki
        b
        BigE Mar 30, 2012 07:53 AM

        I think it's a great idea. Do 4 seatings a night (every 90 minutes, as described above) and leave a few tables + the bar open for walk ins.

        Obviously the restaurant is flying high, so they might well follow the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mantra, but it's worth considering. I haven't been there in a few months because of the assumed wait times.

        1. re: BigE
          d
          dahlsk Mar 30, 2012 08:16 AM

          I like that idea too, only because I have a hard time paying a babysitter while I wait in line to eat...that said I got my dad to babysit for us next week on my spring break so we can get there early and hopefully not have to wait. First time (finally!) and looking forward to it!

          1. re: dahlsk
            s
            semanticantics Mar 30, 2012 02:44 PM

            What day are you going? If it's Saturday, get there about 4:15. 45 minutes before open is better than 90 after.

            1. re: semanticantics
              f
              foreverhungry Mar 31, 2012 07:47 AM

              "If it's Saturday, get there about 4:15. 45 minutes before open is better than 90 after."

              Which is great if I'm wanting the early bird special.

              I love Travail. There's no doubting the food is fantastic, and the tasting menu is a phenomenal deal. But the primary reason I haven't gone back in a year is because of the wait. I won't begrudge them their success, and in a day when we see lots of good restaurants closing, it's great to see one kicking butt. But at the same time, having to get there at 4:15 to eat at 5, or having to wait 90 minutes to eat at a normal time just isn't my idea of how to spend a relaxing weekend night.

              For what it's worth, while I like the idea of seatings, I'm not sure how it would work when some folks come in for the tasting menu, which takes longer, and some come in for a burger, which can be much shorter. I'm guessing it would carve into their profit margin to some extent.

              1. re: foreverhungry
                g
                gildeddawn Apr 1, 2012 08:48 AM

                Does anyone know how it is on a weeknight at a more sane dining time? Say, if you arrived at 6:30 on a Thursday?

                1. re: gildeddawn
                  Foureyes137 Apr 2, 2012 12:40 PM

                  Depends on the size of your party, but typically the blackboard has far fewer names on it on a Wednesday...If you arrive at 6:30, expect at least a 30 minute wait for a party of two.

                  Sit in the back, throw bean bags at the wall and eat cheese.

                2. re: foreverhungry
                  b
                  Bobannon Apr 2, 2012 01:46 PM

                  2 saturdays ago, I got there at 4:30, got seated at 8:20. We were a party of 6 and were expecting the wait so we were ok with it, but that is a bit much. The meal was great, but I won't go back unless it's a weeknight and a small party. Good fun and a great experience, but there are lots of great places to go.

                  1. re: Bobannon
                    s
                    semanticantics Apr 2, 2012 06:21 PM

                    I think they seat the first 51. Time doesn't matter if you roll up and you're 45th in line, you're likely not sitting first because the line absorbs about a dozen people during the wait.

                    1. re: Bobannon
                      b
                      BigE Apr 3, 2012 07:41 AM

                      I never go with anyone, which is kind of sad, considering how much I love the place. I'll go midweek by myself0, at 8:30-9ish, and try to grab a seat at the bar.

                      1. re: BigE
                        b
                        Bobannon Apr 3, 2012 01:18 PM

                        Will they let you get the tasting menu for one?

                        I eat alone fairly frequently myself. Normally I don't mind, especially if there is a bar I can belly up to. Except Friday or Saturday evenings. Then it's just sad and pathetic.

                        1. re: Bobannon
                          d
                          dahlsk Apr 7, 2012 02:57 PM

                          Got there at 4:55 on Tuesday, line was long but we were at the end of those who were seated when the doors opened. Certainly a sacrifice in terms of planning your night around an early dinner but the vibe and the food was great. Shared the tasting for 2 and still had time for a movie afterwards. For people with a babysitter, it was great. Still, I like the idea of seatings as it took a number of months to arrange this dinner and I would definitely like to eat at Travail more often!

        2. h
          homeihead Oct 28, 2011 07:06 PM

          Went there tonight. Best food for the money hands down. Desserts the only iffy (tasting menu). Squash soup, beet salad, short ribs, duck; felt for a moment I was back at Komi in DC, until the bill came. My half was $41 before tip. ( 2 glasses wine.) C'mon. Will be back as often as I can.

          1. b
            BigE Oct 19, 2011 01:35 PM

            As much as I love the place, I hardly ever recommend it to friends and family because of the wait. When I go, its by myself at 8:30-9 on a weeknight. I grab a spot at the bar, eat a few things, and get out of there.

            One of the things I loved about the guys when they were at V-44 (and the crew still at Victory) was the casual nature, being able to talk to them, etc. Now, they're full bore from open to close and the social aspect (serving aside) is gone.

            1. g
              GutGrease Oct 19, 2011 10:27 AM

              I know, I know...another Travail post. Most of the posts are kinda old and I finally went, so you all get another opinion.

              I'll comment on the wait because, well it's part of the experience. The wait is certainly a negative just because of the time 2+hours for us, and the real lack of space to wait when the weather gets colder. After an hour I was thinking that the McDonalds next door did not, in fact, have a wait! I realize that it's a popular place and why change anything when there is that much demand, but the difference is that I will never go to Travail again specifically for this reason.

              On to the food....it was pretty spectacular I have to say. We all did the 10 course tasting menu and were not disappointed. There were certainly items that pushed our boundaries and some that were just plain good. The wait staff was great and very accommodating. My only criticism is that most of us could never hear or understand what they were telling us about each dish. Sometimes they spoke down into their t-shirts, other times the spoke too fast, and other times the overall crowd noise made it tough to hear. After several requests to repeat what they said, we just gave up and smiled. For some of the things like sweet bread (thyroid glands) or pork bellies, it was better for most of us to NOT know what we were eating.

              I'll comment about the portions too because on one of the Travail threads, someone said that the tasting menu is almost enough food for 3. That may be the case sometimes, but it was an ideal amount for everyone in our group. You certainly get $35 of value IMO.

              Overall the food was outstanding and we appreciated the experience. However, due to the overall price and the wait, we considered this a great experience that we'll likely never try again.

              4 Replies
              1. re: GutGrease
                s
                shadowfax Oct 19, 2011 11:06 AM

                The wait is why I don't go unless I can be there at (by which I mean slightly before) 5. Then the wait, if any, isn't any more than any other restaurant. If you get there any time after 5, there's a wait. I agree about the frustration, but in considering the alternatives, I'd rather wait - if they start taking reservations, they'll quickly find themselves in trouble because eating there is more of an experience than just shoving food down your gullet, which means some people are going to spend an hour, and some are going to be there for 2 or 3. Especially since it's hard to predict whether someone is going to just grab a burger or go for the tasting menu.

                The other option would be to expand, which would then require greater output from the kitchen, which would mean that either they have to cut corners, or hire more chefs and hope those chefs share the vision of the founding chefs. Alternately they could hire actual waiters (your waiter was your chef), but I think the interaction with the chef is a good thing, and would hate to see them replaced by waitstaff who are more excited about tips than the food (and the price of the food would increase significantly since they would now have to pay a bunch of waiters)

                1. re: shadowfax
                  s
                  semanticantics Oct 19, 2011 11:32 AM

                  This is my favorite restaurant, but I feel the current operating procedures will eventually hurt them. I don't know what the solution is because anything traditional will be the antithesis to what they are, and also raise prices. I personally think scrapping Lunch service, especially on Saturday, has increased the Dinner crush, making the long wait even longer and making waiting for the open basically required.

                  They've started taking reservations for "opening" for parties of 10 or more. It is also implied that after you are done eating, you may be encouraged to vacate the table for the next wave.

                  As for the price, it is what you make of it, the 10 course isn't required. I've had $4 Tots and a $7 entree and been totally happy.

                  I personally won't stop going, but after recently having to do The Wait, I won't make that mistake again. It's either arrive early or not at all for me.

                  1. re: semanticantics
                    s
                    shadowfax Oct 19, 2011 12:40 PM

                    I do wish they hadn't gone to dinner-only. I work in the general area and wish they were still an option for lunch.

                    1. re: shadowfax
                      s
                      semanticantics Oct 19, 2011 12:45 PM

                      Lunch would fill up, but it was rarely insta-slammed. It was a great opportunity to actually have a conversation with the guys.

              2. b
                BigE May 26, 2011 08:06 AM

                Went to Travail last night for the first time in a few months. Got there a little after 8...place was full, with 2 spots open at the end of the bar, right where I normally sit. Perfect.

                My favorite chef came up and asked if I wanted to start with tartar, like usual. I did and away we went. The tartar came as a 'tartar' pizza...if you're on their FB feed, they posted a picture of it last night. Little chunks of tartar with olive, mushroom, pickled ramps, and an awesome cheese (didn't catch the description, unfortunately) on one side of the plate, the same on a piece of crispy flatbread on the other. I'm really not an olive fan, but whatever they did here worked for me. The dish may have been a little too salty for some, but I loved it.

                From there, I got my usual order of tots (awesome, as usual), then moved on to the steak. Steak was topped with hollandaise, served with a potato (I think) puree, green beans, mushrooms, and lightly grilled broccoli. Perfectly cooked meat with a nice char on the outside, rich hollandaise and nicely done vegetables all around. The puree had a maple-y hint to it that I was going to ask about, but didn't. The beans were forgettable, but I'm not really a fan to begin with.

                I don't normally get dessert, but I've heard so many good things about their work, I thought I'd give it a try. The desert amuse was three little pastry squares: banana bread, lemon bar, and brownie. Nothing that knocked my socks off, but solid offerings all around; the banana bread was probably my favorite. Also on the plate was a raspberry slush topped with creme anglaise. This was a nice, bright shot of flavor.

                Main dessert was their riff on cookies and cream. The dish consisted of two sugar cookies stacked, cheesecake under the first and vanilla ice cream (?) in between, topped with orange segments and slivered almonds. Orange soda was added from a seltzer bottle upon presentation. I wasn't exactly sure how to eat this one. I tried to cut through the cookies with my fork and after some serious effort (enough to squeeze out nearly all the cheesecake underneath, I broke through. After my next bite, I just took the whole thing apart and ate it one cookie at a time. I think the dish would have done fine without the orange soda, or maybe with the orange soda as a shooter on the side. Still, good flavors.

                Another successful trip to one of my favorite joints in town.

                1 Reply
                1. re: BigE
                  s
                  sandylc Jun 27, 2011 08:23 PM

                  Finally went. Overall, very good and a great experience.

                  Started with the bleu cheese tator tots and the figlets and the french fries.

                  I don't care for bleu cheese, but I tasted the tots and the figlets anyway. Hubby and son thought they were okay. The fries were no better than I could have carelessly made at home (meaning: I can do better).

                  Next we had the agnolotti and the potato-leek soup. Wow. Both were totally amazing. The black pepper foam on the agnolotti was shockingly good.

                  Our entrees were the house-made deep-fried brat, the pork (tenderloin?), and the sirloin steak. The brat was only so-so. The pork and the steak were very good, although one of the sweet potatoes done two ways was undercooked - not a big thing.

                  The pre-dessert was a fun thing. The banana milkshakes were very good, and the grapefruit on the white cake bits with the creme anglaise was interesting mostly due to the grapefruit and its fresh taste, but the little puff pastry bits with chocolate sauce fell flat.

                  We did order the dessert tasting and, honestly, I can't remember every component of the three desserts. The nitrogen with the squirt bottle of whatever was a lot of fun; however, the last dessert was supposed to be cheesecake-flavored and the stuff that they froze in the nitrogen for this one tasted like plain cream when it should have been at least flavored with lemon or vanilla or both, or maybe actually have cream cheese in it. The key lime phase of the dessert series was probably the best - the tiny tart lime sections in the sweetness were lovely.

                  One caveat: Nearly all of the plates, flatware, and glassware were, bluntly, greasy and dirty. When the waitperson brought the little plates for our appetizers, the sun coming in the front window revealed greasy streaks on the top plate. A finger run across the plate indicated grease and particles. I grabbed the waiter and told him these plates must have missed the washer - nicely. He grimaced and took them away without comment. He replaced them with equally dirty plates and I gave up, hoping not to be poisoned. The wineglasses were also grimy. We didn't get sick and I am glad, but they SERIOUSLY need to clean up their act.

                  Overall, we had a great experience and I support these young, creative chefs. That said, not everything was exactly right and maybe these youngsters need someone to whip them into shape and sort of corral their creativity.

                2. w
                  wineglas1 Apr 18, 2011 12:29 PM

                  Latinpig,

                  Sounds great but what where the wines which is what I am more interested in? It always helps to share your wines to waive a corkage fee or two!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: wineglas1
                    Latinpig Apr 19, 2011 07:00 AM

                    I would be glad to talk about the wines. In the bar, we first had 2007 Domaine Grand Veneur Côtes du Rhône Reserve. I have reallly enjoyed all the 2007 Southern Rhones so far. It was an amazing vintage and most of the wines have been really outstanding. We then moved on to the 2003 Domaine Pontifical Châteauneuf-du-pape. It was a little funky with a barnyard profile. I still liked it very much. When we sat down, we opened the 2005 Saxum Cuvée Rocket Block James Berry Vineyard.. This was a truly profound wine. We shared a little with our server. It was interesting to compare the old and new world Grenache styles. We then followed up with a 2002 Lafite. Very good wine in a challenging vintage. finally, we had a 1/2 of 2003 Fonseca Port. I like this one young and it was great to sip with a lll the many desserts.

                  2. s
                    shadowfax Apr 18, 2011 10:54 AM

                    I work in the R-dale area and hear lots of good stuff about that restaurant. I'm chomping at the bit to try it, but timing just hasn't worked out so far. Hopefully soon.

                    Show Hidden Posts