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Tastemakers: Vitamin Joy
By: Jason DeRusha | Posted: 06/02/2014
Nightingale is known for being one of the latest kitchens open in the city. It serves food until 1 a.m. daily, and it has become a fairly popular spot for restaurant industry people to grab a bite and a drink when they’re off work. That late-night reputation is both why I hadn’t brought my kids there, and why I thought it would be fun to bring them for the blog.
So my wife and two sons joined another couple and their two kids for dinner at 6 p.m. on a Monday night. The place was fairly empty, not shocking on a Monday. There was another family with a young kid there, which made me happy. I’m trying to spread the word that it’s OK to take your kids to real restaurants.
WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER:
Pickle plate $10
Bruschetta with fava beans and chorizo $7.50
Nightingale Burger $12
My 8-year-old asked for oysters. He’s had them twice before (once at Sea Change, once somewhere else) and pretended to like them. But holy moly, the Nightingale oysters! They were enormous West Coast oysters, so big you could cut them into three pieces and share them. But Seth took his down with one gulp and loved it. Why not? These were sweeter than the briny East Coast oysters he’s had before. Very fun.
The pickle plate is perfect for sharing, with pickled green beans, onions, beets, and this wonderful house-cultured butter and crackers. The kids loved it, as did I. The bruschetta is a highlight of Nightingale’s menu, and the giant, bright beans with thin slices of chorizo and a puree of ramps was really perfect, snacky, sharing food.
The burger is another worthy Minnesota burger: the two 6-year-olds in our group shared it and loved it. It’s a nice quarter-pounder, chuck and brisket mix with 4-year cheddar and a great bun.
INTERESTING AND PRETTY GOOD:
Seared Scallops $14
Roast Chicken $22
I liked the scallops as they sat on this amazing almond gazpacho spread. The flavor and texture was marvelous—I found myself sopping that up. The roast chicken was prepared as a sausage: served in a green garlic broth and topped with snap peas and radishes. It was a really cool preparation, and easy to share.
WHAT I’D SKIP:
Grilled Prawns $12
Steak Tartare $13
Honestly, the prawns were boring, slightly over-grilled, and the addition of tiny little pork rinds (chicarrones) didn’t add much flavor. Steak tartare was fashioned on top of a bed of celery root, which I thought detracted rather than added to the flavor of the tartare. It also was a bit of a mush texturally.
NITS TO PICK:
The service was a bit off. We ordered olives & nuts and never got them. The server asked if we wanted her to course out the meal, which we let her do, but everything still took quite a long time. Perhaps that’s because we were chatty and having fun, but a two-hour dinner with the kids is pushing your luck, even when they have friends to chat with.
If I lived close to Nightingale, I would be glad it was in the neighborhood: clever dishes, nice room, good cocktails. They have a nice happy hour from 4-6 p.m. and late night from 11 p.m.-1 a.m. (many things discounted $2 or $3). Is it worth piling in the kids and driving from Maple Grove or Eagan for? Not for me. But they describe themselves as a “neighborhood food and cocktail lounge” and they are exactly that. If I lived within a mile or two, I would not hesitate to bring my kids here for sharing plates and lots of both adventurous and safe flavors.
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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