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What's the big deal with Red Stag?

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Am I just unlucky? I hear a lot of good things about the place, but both times I've been there I've left unimpressed.

The first time was at RW last year. I remember the duck confit was excellent, but the scallops were terrible - overcooked and old - and the cake wasn't any better than the pre-made ones at Cub. I wrote that off, thinking maybe they were slammed, or their RW menu wasn't their normal menu. Turns out, the confit isn't on the normal menu, but the scallops are.

Last week we went for a second try. The cheese curds were really nice, but the New York strip was more like New York beef jerky (I literally could not get my knife through it), so they took it back and said they'd replace it with a tenderloin. This was much better on the tenderness side, but they emptied a salt mine on it before it got to the table.

Were I running a restaurant and served something that's obviously my fault (tough steak is easy to verify unlike "this just doesn't taste good") I'd at least take some money off of the bill or. . Something. . To make up for the awkwardness of one person having their food and the other not.

Instead, they charged me full price for the tenderloin, which I didn't want in the first place and only accepted because what I did want was leather, and which was more expensive than what I had ordered. I couldn't believe it. I actually got charged extra for a mistake.

Service was also lousy - no one refilled drinks until finally making a tepid offer to refill mine at the very end, while setting the bill down.

Some of their food has been pretty good, but at the prices they charge, ALL of it should be good, and if it's not, there should be some form of compensation. I don't see myself going back.

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  1. I went for their fish fry a couple of months ago, and my experience was very hit and miss. I liked the mussels and truffle kettle corn at the start of our meal, and was therefore hopeful that the fish fry would be good. No such luck...my walleye tasted old and fishy. The tilapia was actually much much better. I would be more inclined to go to the Strip Club for a similar sort of restaurant with much better food.

    1. I believe I had the New York Strip also and my feelings about redstag are the same. I've talked to some other people that liked it and they said they lived in the area so it was a good place for a nightcap but they wouldn't get dinner there. To me its too hit or miss to justify the price, there is other places I can go for the same or less and enjoy all the dishes on the menu.

      1. I think it's fallen significantly in the last couple of years. The appeal used to be that it was really nice, thoughtful, well prepared ever so slightly outside the box comfort food and good service in whatever you want to call their /hipster lodge atmosphere. It used to be hard to have anything bad there, and the kind of place where we would routinely spend $80 or $100 on dinner for two on a weeknight and not give it a second thought.

        I had them on my banned list for a while after a terrible service experience followed by another visit where I had to send send my (leathery, beyond overcooked fish) entree back combined with-again-terrible and extremely slow service.
        I went again a few months ago. It was good, maybe even a notch above good but we sat at the bar so the service couldn't be compared.
        My answer to your question is that A. Kim Bartman has chosen to spread herself pretty thin since opening RS, and B. They suffer from what cripples a lot of restaurants-no one keeping a strict eye on front or back of the house quality control which turns into a huge mess when it's busy, which is almost all of the time. Or just retaining good people. IME the front of house attitude has seemed way less than gracious on all of my recent visits.

        I still appreciate that they do pastured meats and local sourcing, and that smoked ketchup with the cheese curds is still obsession-worthy.

        1. I guess I'll just add to the consensus...hit or miss food and consistently slow service for me, on three separate visits.

          1. Well, I'm kinda glad you guys had similar experiences. Makes me feel maybe I'm not crazy after all ;)

            I'm kind of surprised that they're so busy all the time. With all the consistently good options, even just in their neighborhood, you'd think they'd be struggling by now.

            4 Replies
            1. re: shadowfax

              Ah the mindless masses. Or more politely: some people have priorities other than good food and service when they go out to eat. Or else they remember how great it used to be and always hope it to be so again.
              Part of why RS is successful, and what Kim B is great at, IMO, is a tight concept that really sings to a certain strain of popular culture. It a hipper, fresher version of what NE is all about--kitsch, working class, glam-free up north culture. When it first opened, it was really the only player, but that is no longer true...NE Social, The Anchor, Hazels, etc. all since RS, so we shall see.
              FWIW, The Sample Room was doing this long before RS, but their food is less "normal", so IMO it automatically caters to a more foodie audience.

              1. re: splatgirl

                I've stayed out of this one because I've never been to RS. but I've been to Bartman's other restaurants, and they all have the same problem: Concept before food. Hipster bowling alley? Not so cool if the food sucks. Hipster dive bar with dressed up pub food? Same thing. Fortunately for her there are enough people in this town (mindless masses, if you will) that will overpay for crappy food if you put the word "local" on the menu in a big font.

                There are just too many places to get great food in this town to eat somewhere because you like the idea of what the owner is trying to make it.

                1. re: keithinmpls

                  YEs. Except I think that the mindless masses care more that they are swimming in the IT pond with their certain style of kin. But such as it is with all popular restaurants, I guess.
                  IMO what made RS so popular and what makes it so disappointing at present is that it used to be a great marriage of concept AND really good food and service . There didn't used to be much of that in the non-fine dining genre in this town and had never been much or any of it in NE.
                  Personally I could care less about concept if the food is great (says she who is excited to have a rez. at Moto this weekend, doh!) especially one that caters to cliche pop culture, but for a resto to be really successful, it needs both.

                  FWIW, I was severely underwhelmed with the food at both Bread and Pickle and Pat's Tap. I wouldn't go back to either.

                  1. re: splatgirl

                    I agree. For myself when considering places like what I experienced at Red Stag, if the food isn't at least consistently good, but I'm paying more for it than the tasting menu at Travail, it's pretty much a no brainer that I'd rather go to Travail. Not that I think they should be the bar of comparison for every other joint in town, but once you get into the >$50 for 2 not counting drinks territory, you should give me a reason to pay that much. I can get lousy food much cheaper at Perkins, after all.

            2. I was a little underwhelmed by the dinner I had at Red Stag, but have found it to be a very solid brunch option. The menu has a decent variety of interesting items, and they've had some good specials. The full bar is great for those Sundays when you need a bloody, and they serve legitimately good coffee (unlike 98% of the brunch joints in town).