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The Bark on Burch

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SarahInMinneapolis Mar 17, 2013 05:58 AM

Really?

The steak. After some fun, consternation and extended conversation with our and pleasant and well-versed server, our party of three split the $110 prime porterhouse.

What we got was a medium-to-small sized porterhouse on a wood slab, with sides of an unremarkable Bearnaise, an odd-tasting house dark steak sauce and a pile of cold mushrooms seasoned with hot peppers. Steak was garnished with a whole lemon cut in half. When is the last time you had a steak and wished there was a squeeze of lemon to go with that? Exactly. Lemons are for fish.

The steak was good, but worth $5 a bite? No. Our conversation quickly turned to what we could have done on our home grills with the most expensive cuts of “name brand” steak we could have bought at local markets. Not exactly the conversation Burch was hoping we would have.

Strike conversation. Insert shout-fest. Enough already on the trendy acoustics designed to make you feel like there’s energy in the room. As in other intentionally acoustically challenged places, we just wondered why were spending a $100 a person to shout at each other.

The sides. Twice-fried thick cut French fries. Good with the ketchup but what was that bland mayo ramekin thing? Some smashed potato dish. Cauliflower. Kale. Small portions of each heavily seasoned, overdressed dish. The place bills itself for dumplings. But when is the last time you set out to have a great steak and wanted dumplings with that? Exactly. Dumplings are for chicken.

Each of us started with the Brussels sprouts salad. Mostly because it was the only salad on the menu that whispered, “try me.” Ok, we did.

Apparently meals at Burch are served with bread. Ours was not. House offered free deserts and coffee to rectify that. We declined. Without asking, the house then bought our first round of drinks. House did the right thing. [Because, really. You just ordered a $110 steak. You don’t want to appear cheap by having to ask for the free bread.]

Will any of us go back to Burch? Probably not.

But we will wonder in amazement as the professional critic crowd will now weigh in on how wonderful the place is, Big name local chef. Big money spent on renovating the local pharmacy. This place will get great reviews, and we’ll wonder why and yet know why.

It will be like The Bachelor Farmer. Big last name kids. Mediocre, overpriced food. But big money was spent on the space. And that must be recognized.

One has to wonder if Big Name Chef at Burch would ever have the guts to do the right thing and toss the entire menu? Give us a reasonably priced steak, potatoes and salad steakhouse worthy of a once-a-month visit?

As opposed to what we got. A one-time adventure in yet-another too loud dining room where the food generated questions but not satisfying answers.

Best value on the menu was a $26 Malbec. But I’m sure I can find a better Malbec at a third of that price when I’m out shopping for those great steaks to grill at home.

Back to Burch and where I started.

Really?

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  1. s
    SmartCookie RE: SarahInMinneapolis Mar 17, 2013 07:25 AM

    There's already a thread on Burch:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/891127

    1. j
      jeff55432 RE: SarahInMinneapolis Mar 17, 2013 11:38 AM

      Their pizza is also way overpriced and underwhelming.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jeff55432
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        brlattim RE: jeff55432 Mar 18, 2013 08:05 AM

        Agree on the pizza (at least the piece I tasted on my friends plate). My steak was delicious though (and cooked medium rare which often I find to be medium). I didn't get a lemon on mine, which I am very glad I didnt...I agree it had no place on a steak. Personally, I just like the option to get a steak that doesn't have to serve like 20 people or cost $60.

        New restaurants often have flaws though, per your evening. Sorry you had a bad experience. That sucks.

      2. j
        jaycooke RE: SarahInMinneapolis Mar 17, 2013 01:23 PM

        It does seem like you had your mind made up before the place even opened. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/849012

        1 Reply
        1. re: jaycooke
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          SarahInMinneapolis RE: jaycooke Mar 17, 2013 03:00 PM

          Read what I wrote, again. As a long-time resident of the neighborhood, I want anyplace new to work.

          Burch solved the parking problem with valet. [And parking is not an issue for me, anyway.]

          I walked through the basement last night and it's fine. Although on a beautiful MN evening, I won't be going to the basement for a drink and a pizza..at least not until it's hot and humid in July when then it will be the perfect thing to do!

          If Burch wants to stick with a high end steak concept, they have a lot of work to do, given what I wrote above.

        2. j
          justalex RE: SarahInMinneapolis Mar 17, 2013 08:11 PM

          I appreciate your review. I'm always skeptical of thoroughly glowing reviews of a new place. Thank you.

          1. Foureyes137 RE: SarahInMinneapolis Mar 18, 2013 10:33 AM

            "When is the last time you had a steak and wished there was a squeeze of lemon to go with that? Exactly. Lemons are for fish."

            Me, I have. This is the Florentine style of steak service. Go to Florence and order and steak and you will get chianina beef porterhouse cooked rare and served with a lemon. It tastes good when you do it at home as well, fat and acid go well together...like wine...and steak.

            1. k
              kuan RE: SarahInMinneapolis Mar 18, 2013 02:16 PM

              A bad review is often the case of not meeting your expectations. From reading the menu on their website, I would not expect a Porterhouse to feed three people. A large Porterhouse is a strip near the sirloin side and a filet with the chain intact and is about 1.5" thick. Properly trimmed, the strip would be about 18oz and the filet about 6oz. That's being generous because both these cuts will consist of two muscles each and some may find the connective tissue unappetizing.

              And I wouldn't argue about the Malbec, the rest of your quibble I get.

              Anyway seriously, from reading your review, why would you even go to a steakhouse? Irrational optimism?

              2 Replies
              1. re: kuan
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                SarahInMinneapolis RE: kuan Mar 18, 2013 02:56 PM

                The porterhouse was highly recommended by our server to split three ways.

                A couple of decades of generous expense accounts means I've been to the top steak houses in town numerous times.

                You go to get a cut of steak beautifully prepared that you cannot make at home. You go to socialize, whether for business or fun with friends.

                Regarding the Florentine preparation with lemon, a quick Google shows I'm wrong. I stand corrected. Apologies. Perhaps the server should have explained what that lemon was for. But maybe she was damned if she did, damned if she didn't because maybe that would have come across as insulting our intelligence.

                Last time I was in Florence I had a pack on my back and a $20-a-day food budget.

                1. re: SarahInMinneapolis
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                  kuan RE: SarahInMinneapolis Mar 18, 2013 06:20 PM

                  The server got it wrong. A few times it sounds like.

              2. Db Cooper RE: SarahInMinneapolis Apr 4, 2013 03:33 PM

                Andrew Z loved it for takeout and proclaims that Issac Becker has another winner on his hands.

                13 Replies
                1. re: Db Cooper
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                  american_idle RE: Db Cooper Apr 4, 2013 04:28 PM

                  Andrew Z pretends to enjoy eating bugs too. It's a worthless endorsement.

                  1. re: american_idle
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                    SarahInMinneapolis RE: american_idle Apr 5, 2013 10:31 AM

                    Agreed. Andrew Z is completely conflicted out, given he's got his own little ventures at the airport and now at the Twins stadium. Put another way, AZ will not criticize others because he doesn't want to be criticized, himself.

                    And "takeout" from Burch? That could only come from someone who hit the jackpot in faux celebrity food world.

                    1. re: SarahInMinneapolis
                      Db Cooper RE: SarahInMinneapolis Apr 5, 2013 10:50 AM

                      My point in mentioning AZ was not his review, but rather the fact he enjoyed it. I've read all the reviews here and they are mixed at best. In fact, most people are saying it is overrated. Anyone who is considered a "professional" reviewer has had nothing but positive things to say. The only somewhat critical review I saw came from The Heavy Table and was focused more on the pizza downstairs than the steak upstairs. There seems to be a disconnect between the experiences the recognized food media is having and that of the average diner.

                      It's also easy to hate on AZ. He makes himself an easy target. But if you think his endorsements are worthless, you're foolish. There are A LOT of consumers in this market who take his word as gospel. You can argue why they are wrong to do so until you are blue in the face. But to deny his influence is an exercise in futility and reflects a bias instead of a true understanding of the business. I tend to agree with the minority that is influence is greater than it ever should be, but we're definitely in the minority on that.

                      1. re: Db Cooper
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                        SarahInMinneapolis RE: Db Cooper Apr 5, 2013 04:43 PM

                        "There seems to be a disconnect between the experiences the recognized food media is having and that of the average diner."

                        Let me take that insightful statement to different places. One. The "recognizable food media" may be having the same same experiences. But those food media are too beholden to the idea of rah-rahing the Big Name Chefs and the money they spend (or the OPM they spend) on new places.

                        Two. The "recognizable food media" are just that: Recognizable. Meaning, they are enjoying better experiences than the rest of us.

                        Three. The "recognizable food media" are running on fumes. Those writing for MN Monthly, MSP Mag and City Pages are very aware of who is advertising in their pages (and who is buying booths at their for-profit food events). As I originally wrote, respect for that must be paid.

                        All this has gotten exponentially worse as print ad revenues have dramatically declined. Their current revenue model is not sustainable, in the near long-term.

                        Finally, what's happening in food writing replicates what's been happening in other subject writing since the supremacy of the internet became clear: There's just a lot of good thinking and writing by people who are not getting paid. That makes the jobs of the "recognizables" so much more difficult.

                        Quick notes on media not yet mentioned. Strib. IMHO, Rick Nelson is generally pretty good but the last few years he has been succumbing to the "respect must be paid" factor. Heavy Table. Does anyone know what they are paying for a post? Last time I heard it was $50. To Heavy Table's credit, they are better about criticism, but I still get a strong sense they hold back as they figure out how they are going to monetize their site.

                        Agreed with what you wrote about AZ. But I hate it!

                        1. re: SarahInMinneapolis
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                          foreverhungry RE: SarahInMinneapolis Apr 5, 2013 07:06 PM

                          "But those food media are too beholden to the idea of rah-rahing the Big Name Chefs and the money they spend (or the OPM they spend) on new places."

                          I don't understand the reasoning behind this. I'm not saying it might not be happening, but that logic makes no sense to me. What's the point of a bunch of people all saying the same thing, especially if they know it's wrong. What's the logic behind a food reporter saying something was good, and then another food reporter feeling they need to do the same. Wouldn't reporters think that A) if I write something knowingly false, sooner or later people will figure out that I don't know what I'm talking about, and B) if I'm saying the same thing every other reporter is saying (falsely), then why would anyone read me?

                          My point is that people (reporters, scientists, musicians, whatever) don't get recognized for saying the same thing everyone else does. Especially if it's false. So it's hard for me to imagine that all local food reporters are going to say Burch is great if it's not because they feel they need to somehow support all big restaurants.

                          The analogous situation is with sports reporters. They work for the same newspapers. They get the ad revenue from the teams they report on. They host celebrity events. Yet they can be brutal on athletes, coaches, and teams. Because they are professional reporters that have ethics. I find it very difficult to believe that food reporters don't have ethics, and are reporting falsely for the sake of a buck. Maybe I'm wearing rose colored glasses, but I don't think our food reporters are that unethical.

                          1. re: foreverhungry
                            d
                            DeRushaJ RE: foreverhungry Apr 6, 2013 06:03 AM

                            As a border-line food writer here, I can tell you that the major places that get written about are generally not advertisers. Look through MSP Mag, Minnesota Monthly, the Strib and Pi Press. Where do you see the Burch ads? LBV? You just don't see it. The biggest advertisers almost never get written about.

                            I think two things happen: Sometimes writers decide on a narrative (local is hot! LynLake is back! Small plates!) and they unintentionally (or intentionally) make good places sound great to fit the narrative. And most magazines believe that readers want to know WHERE to go rather than where NOT to go. So places that stink just don't get written about, generally.

                            I will admit, I'm surprised that City Pages doesn't become the alternative voice - just skewering places week after week. That's not very useful to readers, but it sure would be fun!

                            1. re: DeRushaJ
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                              kuan RE: DeRushaJ Apr 6, 2013 07:37 AM

                              A short paragraph on Burch where he never even says what he ate doesn't say much. I'd be more interested in his spouse's experience than his second hand recount of what he heard from her.

                              1. re: DeRushaJ
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                                SarahInMinneapolis RE: DeRushaJ Apr 6, 2013 01:52 PM

                                A quick note here on advertisers. Many times, it's subtle and not clear to readers. Suppliers. Financiers. Other places run by the same owners. Famous last names (on both restaurants and mag mastheads).

                            2. re: SarahInMinneapolis
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                              sandylc RE: SarahInMinneapolis Apr 6, 2013 09:51 AM

                              I think what makes a great critic is that they have a good store of food knowledge and they tell it like it really is without being too mean.

                              I don't think Rick Nelson QUITE meets the criteria.

                              1. re: sandylc
                                k
                                kuan RE: sandylc Apr 6, 2013 12:00 PM

                                Totally. Understanding standard benchmarks is crucial to a good honest critique and a reviewer's credibility.

                                1. re: kuan
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                                  foreverhungry RE: kuan Apr 6, 2013 03:21 PM

                                  Yes, obviously reviewer - of anything - needs a base knowledge of the topic. That goes for music reviewers, movie reviewers, sports commentators, and food reviewers.

                                  If the claim is that many of MN's food reviewers aren't competent because they don't have a deep knowledge of food, that's one thing. Claiming that that they are making decision in part based on financial motives - either their own personal or those of their employers - is something very different. Again, that's implying that these reviewers are being unethical and are not living up to a basic journalistic standard. And that's a big charge.

                                  There's been plenty of movies, restaurants, etc. that some reviewers have fawned over that I didn't like. C'est la vie. In general, there's critics in MN that I have found to have similar tastes to mine. Those I read. There's others that have differing views than mine. Those I tend to not read.

                                  A key with Burch is that reviews have been mixed. Not universally bad. Maybe those reviewers have legitimately been good - as have meals of other folks. And on the flip side, some folks have had bad meals. Reviewers can only write on what their meal experiences are (and those of their companions). Maybe AZ got better service and everything else because he's recognizable, though I'd be surprised if food quality can be dialed up for a reviewer on demand. Service yes, but quality of steak? Attention to detail yes, but sourcing of ingredients?

                                  In the end, maybe Burch just isn't for some folks. There's plenty of places that get praise that I'm not a fan of. C'est la vie.

                                  1. re: foreverhungry
                                    k
                                    kuan RE: foreverhungry Apr 10, 2013 06:43 PM

                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/2013/04/...

                                    1. re: foreverhungry
                                      The Chowhound Team RE: foreverhungry Apr 11, 2013 07:36 AM

                                      Folks, we appreciate you bringing this back around to Burch -- we hope people will focus on the restaurant and their experiences there, rather than whether professional reviewers are reliable in general -- that's a much bigger topic than a thread about a single restaurant is really suited to contain.

                      2. j
                        JimGrinsfelder RE: SarahInMinneapolis Apr 22, 2013 05:48 AM

                        It sounds like Burch is to be avoided. And $110 for a modest porterhouse sounds like a restaurant concept designed to fail.

                        <rant>

                        However, I get a bit confused when people complain about $26 bottles of wine that they can buy in a liquor store for $8.33. The restaurant has to pay for space. Build the cost of your house into your $8.33 bottle of wine at home. The restaurant has to pay property taxes and utilities (as do you on your house), so you can build those into your bottle of wine as well. And someone comes to your table to ask you what you want to eat and drink and then they tell someone else who cooks it for your or opens the bottle for you and then they bring it back to your table for you and when you're all done, they do your dishes. All those people need to make some money for the service they provide you.

                        If you want to do your own dishes and make your own food and take out your garbage and recycle your bottles and pay for your space, here's $16.66, go for it....

                        In some respects, this "i hate wine markups in restaurants" attitude is self-defeating insomuch as it leads restaurants (especially value-oriented chains) to buy restaurant-only wines so we can't make direct comparisons to liquor store prices. In my limited experience, restaurant-only wines are often inferior in value to what can be purchased in liquor stores.

                        </rant>

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: JimGrinsfelder
                          ibew292 RE: JimGrinsfelder Apr 22, 2013 06:20 AM

                          The Porterhouse is advertised on their menu as for two and is now priced at $95 and is Grass Fed not Prime, perhaps they have changed the menu. That seems comparable to steaks for two that I have seen. If indeed it wasn't good that is a different story. Seems like quite a few positive reviews out there.

                          1. re: ibew292
                            The Chowhound Team RE: ibew292 Apr 24, 2013 03:03 AM

                            We've split a digression about prime meat in general to our General Topics board, here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/899514 .

                          2. re: JimGrinsfelder
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                            SarahInMinneapolis RE: JimGrinsfelder Apr 25, 2013 11:16 AM

                            Just to be clear. I was not complaining about the price of that wine. I understand the pricing. I thought the $26 Malbec was a great deal!

                          3. ibew292 RE: SarahInMinneapolis Apr 23, 2013 10:37 AM

                            $5 a bite doesn't seem that expensive to me. Depends on how big the bites were. that steak if I remember right was listed at 32oz. Why didn't you ask about the size?

                            1. m
                              misterpatrick RE: SarahInMinneapolis Apr 24, 2013 12:55 PM

                              I had a lovely pizza in the basement bar last month. Mushrooms with gorgonzola I believe. Went last Saturday and had a disappointing experience. The room is far too loud - and I like lively rooms. The have some acoustical panels on the ceiling but could really work on that space a bit more.

                              We had the semolina dumplings which were very nice, though for the price could have been a bit more generous. I make dumplings quite a bit and when you have .15 worth of semolina and some butter... $4 would have been better. We had the cauliflower and I couldn't help but compare it to the similar bagna cauda preparation at Bar La Grasa that is so far superior. This was far too salty to really enjoy. It seemed like they added salt in addition to the anchovy which they really didn't need to do. My wife loves salt as do I. We have a collection of various finishing salts and add them on everything including salads but this was over the top.

                              I don't eat beef (yes, I know we're at a steakhouse) and my wife doesn't like steak so she got the pork shoulder. I got the fish special. The pork shoulder was fine but my wife could only talk longingly about the port at Butcher and the Boar. She was pretty underwhelmed.

                              The fish on the other hand was beyond underwhelming. I should have thought more about it when I heard the description. I should have tried the monk fish. It was a rainbow trout filet stuffed with crab and wrapped in speck.

                              It was a dry over-salted mess. They really over-thought this whole dish. Why-oh-why would you pan fry a filet of fish wrapped in a cured pork product that is already extremely dry? What do you think you're going to get? Why a dried out piece of leather is what you are going to get. If you're going to use speck, use it to finish something not as a cooking medium. The filet was completely dried out and the crab stuffing was indistinguishable from the trout. Also, the crab was mixed with what I believe were chives which was a complete departure flavor-wise from everything else going on and was very off-putting. I couldn't finish it. It was served on a yoghurt sauce of some sort. I don't know what it was because there was so little of it under the fish it was impossible to tell.

                              Yes, I know, fish in a steak house but I was really expecting more. We won't be going back except maybe to be bar for a pizza after the Walker or similar.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: misterpatrick
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                                Seige RE: misterpatrick Apr 25, 2013 12:16 PM

                                I've still not made it to Burch, but the trout entree sounds interesting as I've had something similar (trout wrapped in speck sans the crab filler) at BLG - and it was delicious! Maybe the problem is more in the execution than the ideas?

                                1. re: Seige
                                  m
                                  misterpatrick RE: Seige Apr 26, 2013 08:25 AM

                                  I was almost all execution. If you're going to pan-fry something it needs to have some fat in it and speck is really lean. If they wanted the flavor profile they should have wrapped it after it was cooked, or just used a fattier prosciutto or something. The crab was just superfluous. I went to BLG last night and once again had a wonderful meal. I know people will complain that BLG is nothing special, but they are consistent, much more reasonably priced and pretty innovative with a lot of their dishes.

                              2. f
                                foreverhungry RE: SarahInMinneapolis Sep 11, 2013 07:25 PM

                                Went to Burch tonight for the first time. Downstairs for pizza.

                                I started with the French martini - gin and St. Germain -, and fiancee had their version of a cosmo. Mine was excellent, she liked hers. We moved to the sweetbreads starter - two balls of bundled sweetbreads, battered and deep-fried, served with sauteed mushrooms. The menu says oven fried and served with bacon and capers, but they must have changed the prep. They were great. Creamy yet still holding their shape, the sweetbreads held their on in the batter and fry.

                                For pizzas, fiancee went with the pulpo - octopus, olives and Fresno peppers - and I with the Coppa Cotta - pork shoulder, roasted red peppers, mozzarella, and hazelnuts. Wow. First, hers. I've never been to Sicily or Sardinia, but the pulpo is what I imagine it tastes like. Hills and ocean all rolled into one. Great flavor profile. Mine - I never tasted a pizza like this. In a good way. The flavors were fantastic, but the hazelnuts were a touch that I didn't expect. The visual element, the texture difference, and the flavor of the hazelnuts on the pork was fantastic. The crust on the pizza was comparable to Black Sheep - maybe not quite all the way there, but close.

                                Most remarkable, I've never had two pizzas taste so completely different, to the point that you wouldn't know you're eating the same foodgroup, yet both be so fantastic.

                                For desert, we shared the caneles, with Taleggio honey. I'm not a canale expert, but these were very good. Nice exterior crunch and a soft, moist, cakey interior. The Taleggio honey was excellent.

                                Oh, and with the pizzas fiancee had a glass of Prosecco, and I had a Claret which was very good, a great pairing for that pizza. Service was prompt, helpful, and non-intrusive.

                                If I could only have four pizzas in MN, it would be the Coppa Cotta, the Pulpo, Black Sheep's #5, and Punch's Milanese. Overall, Burch may be my new favorite pizza place.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: foreverhungry
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                                  SarahInMinneapolis RE: foreverhungry Sep 15, 2013 10:04 AM

                                  Agreed on the pizzas. They are great. My favorite is the margherita with added prosciutto. The mussels are ok but not outstanding. Great bartenders, too, in the pizza place.

                                  Laughed out loud when I read Rick Nelson's review. As I predicted, big name chef plus big bucks guaranteed a great review.

                                  Drive by there all the time at night. Dining room looks empty at what should be peak hours.

                                  Going to assume they will revise the menu, soon. May I suggest a reasonably priced steak frites? That side dish portions be expanded to include more than a few bites?

                                  1. re: SarahInMinneapolis
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                                    foreverhungry RE: SarahInMinneapolis Sep 15, 2013 11:45 AM

                                    The Wednesday night we went, the upstairs living room was pretty full, and the valet parking guys were busy. This was around 6:00. Still busy when we left around 7:30.

                                    I'm not sure why you're insisting that the review is somehow "bought".

                                    You had a bad experience there. I had a great experience with the pizza. Reading some of the comments from Nelson's review, seems others had very good experience there. And judging by the crowd on a Wednesday night, they seem to be doing something right.

                                    But hey, Minneapolis has tons of other restaurants for you to choose from!

                                    1. re: foreverhungry
                                      Foureyes137 RE: foreverhungry Sep 16, 2013 06:05 AM

                                      We've been twice in the last two weeks, once in the pizza bar, once in the dining room both at around 630pm and both mid-week and on both occasions the upstairs dining area was packed, though on one night the pizza bar was empty, (we marked this up to the weather being superb and people wanting to see outside).

                                      I love that in the world of possibilities for Sarah, it's more likely that there is a grand food-writing conspiracy bent on giving false reviews for places they actually dislike in order to garner...something (Isaac's restaurants don't advertise) than that people just happen to disagree and like the place.

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