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Minnesota's First Vermouth
By: Jason DeRusha | Posted: 07/28/2014
Some brunches are light and elegant and a delightful start to a Sunday. Others are greasy and heavy and a way to sop up the good times you had on Saturday night. Is one version better than the other? Depends on what you're looking for and what you're expecting.
World Street Kitchen is the restaurant outpost of the very popular EatWSK food truck from Chef Sameh Wadi, who also owns Saffron. I love Sameh, I love his cooking, but I didn’t really love brunch at World Street Kitchen.
I brought my wife, my in-laws, and my 6-year-old to WSK on Lyndale, and we ordered at the counter, as we do when we enjoy lunch or dinner at this fast-casual Uptown outpost.
I certainly didn't expect giant plates of cheesy hash browns from the chef who's known for his intricate spice interplay, but that's exactly what we got. The servings are huge. The flavors had moments of greatness on each dish, but the dominant taste of each dish was that of cheesy hash browns.
Take the Southside. It's a giant plate of cheesy hash browns topped with about a dozen glorious chunks of carmelized lamb belly. That belly was crispy and meaty and way better than chunks of regular bacon ($9 without eggs, $11.50 with two basted). The belly was awesome: did it need to be served on that giant platter of hash? Could there have been a vegetable mixed in or some spices or half the potatoes and a side of lettuce?
Boring Breakfast, as it is advertised, is $6 with 2 eggs and the cheesy covered hash browns. Definitely spend the $4 to add homemade mirqaz sausage, a spicy mixture of beef and lamb—I absolutely loved that sausage.
The mushroom/miso gravy on the biscuits and gravy dish had a wonderful flavor, complexity, and depth to it, but it completely overwhelmed the biscuit, which wasn’t thick enough to give a counterpunch to the gravy ($8 without eggs, $10.50 with two eggs).
The Mexican Steak & Egg’wich was pretty tasty, and for $8.50 one of the better values on the brunch menu. Steak and avocado and fried egg and cheese—it easily could have fed two.
Chicken and waffles is the dish of 2014 - it's showing up everywhere, and the WSK version is worthy, though expensive. At $12 for a waffle with two strips of Moroccan-spiced chicken, with little plastic tubs of cumin honey (delicious cumin honey) and whipped butter, it just seems crazy to me.
The whole brunch cost about $80 (with one $7 Michelada and a couple other non-alcoholic brunch drinks). Is that too much? It's about $15 a person, and I think for a counter-service place that serves on paper plates with plastic forks and knives, it's too much money.
But let's be honest: this is hangover food. Super heavy, cheesy, overwhelming flavor. And maybe the neighborhood knows that and loves it. Virtually no one was in the restaurant when we showed up at 10:30am, but there was a line closer to noon (they also serve the regular menu during brunch).
Is this the kind of food I'd expect from Sameh Wadi, the incredibly talented chef who's a master with delicate, creative spices? Absolutely not. The main star is cheesy hash browns, which obscures some of the really smart and tasty things happening here.
But is this the kind of food from smart businessman Sameh Wadi, serving a young neighborhood where their Saturdays are a little more hard-core than mine? Maybe it is.
Jason DeRusha anchors WCCO-TV’s morning and noon news. His column "DeRusha Eats" appears in Mpls.St.Paul Magazine monthly. See bio
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