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24 Hours in St. Paul
By: | Posted: 01/10/2013
On 4th Street, between the main library and the First Avenue drinking district, sits the Belmore, and if you care anything about blintz—find it. Find it now!
Blintz, of course, are the Eastern European version of the crepe, typically served with some sort of dairy filling or topping . . . and the one at the Belmore? Holy frijoles. A home run, a knee-weakening triumph, an oh-my-God-tell-everyone-you-know moment. It’s a big, sunny, eggy crepe topped with brandy-caramelized buttered bananas and a generous dollop of ricotta-cream, and every bite is just so eggy, buttery, rich, and yet, plain and humble, that you just want to go crazy because if anything this simple could be this good, then everything should be.
[caption id="attachment_1419" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Banana brandy blintz"][/caption]
They do not have just crepes! They also have $2 bottomless cups of coffee, an $8 breakfast burrito as big as a child’s balloon, inflated not with air, but with house-made carne asada, black beans, eggs, plenty of cheese, and homemade salsa. Everyone who has complained to me about Minnesota lacking the breakfast burritos of California—go now! Go.
[caption id="attachment_1420" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Carne asada breakfast burrito"][/caption]
The pizza is the best thing to happen to downtown pizza for ages. It’s not like any other local pizza, with a crisp cornmeal crust, a sweet-and-spicy marinara, and good fresh mozzarella. Cook Doug Anderson—oh yes, that Doug Anderson, (more on that in a second) says he took inspiration from the New York City pizza phenomenon Two Boots, which is known for its Italo-Louisianian pizza (the two areas are both shaped like boots, thought the owners, hence the name.). I’d venture that this is actually a Minnesota original. Even though it isn’t cooked in a wood oven, it has a certain Neapolitan aspect to it, in the delicate, bready purity of the crust, which actually goes quite well with the zest of the sauce. But heck, don’t take my word for it, spend your own nine to 11 bucks and split one with a friend over a couple beers! This is food you can afford to have your own opinion about. Which is actually my favorite thing about the Belmore/New Skyway Lounge.
[caption id="attachment_1421" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Andouille sausage pizza"][/caption]
But before I can talk about the excellence of the price point, I feel I have to address the ridiculous insider-ness of the name. So, this new Skyway Lounge is not on the Skyway. And the old Skyway Lounge, that was the last of the bad old Hennepin Avenue strip joints, back before Block E and light rail and all the things that make Minneapolis so gosh-darn hygienic. Do you remember Minneapolis before light rail? Do you even remember the New French Bar? If you’re a hipster of a certain age, of course you remember the New French Bar, the Minneapolis warehouse-district destination that defined gallery-crawl life and inspired millions in gentrification. The Belmore reminds me of the New French Bar (not the fancy café) in basic ways: It’s good, it’s unique, it’s authentic, it’s affordable, it’s of-and-by the people here.
Are you now surprised to learn it’s staffed by New French Bar regular Doug Anderson? Anderson, best known from the late lamented Nick and Eddie, is in the kitchen, working for his sister who owns the spot. And they even have the famous Nick and Eddie butterscotch pudding! And a full bar, and serve continuously, from 7 a.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. on weekends, till 1 o’clock in the morning, in case you have a butterscotch pudding emergency at nearly any time of day.
[caption id="attachment_1422" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Butterscotch pudding"][/caption]
Not that there’s anything special about that. I say that because I asked Anderson, before he opened the spot, if there was going to be anything special about the new Belmore. “Absolutely not,” he said. “Under no circumstance will there be anything special. There will not be one eyedropper-carrying mixologist wearing a monocle. And no PBR anti-cool either. Honest to God, I want it to be as dazzling as a post-office. I want the food to be good, I want it to be a clubhouse for the neighborhood. If you see me doing anything special, shoot me. If people think we’re a good diner, that’s all I want.”
Well, it’s got a couple things that are a good sight better than a diner—like a banana blintz to make little cartoon hearts appear where your eyes used to be.
The Belmore / The New Skyway Lounge, 25 N. 4th St., Mpls., 239-300-6975, facebook.com/belmore.mpls
Hours: M-F 7 a.m.–1 a.m., Sa-Su 10 a.m.–1 a.m.
Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is a senior editor at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.See bio
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