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First Bite: The Dirty Bird
A Wine Tasting to Blow Your Mind
By: Jason DeRusha | Posted: 06/12/2014
When’s the last time you drank a Tom Collins? Oh man, that was my go-to wedding drink back when I was 22 years old. It was the only cocktail I knew, outside of a vodka tonic or a 7-and-7. So when I saw a Tom Collins at the bottom of a giant cocktail list at St. Paul’s Ward 6 for just $6, I couldn’t resist. And it was perfect. One of the owners, Bob Parker, thinks cocktails don’t always need to be so fancy. Take a nice gin, mix it with a house-made sweet and sour mix—and that’s enough. He’s right. So Ward 6 already meets one of my qualifications for a kid-friendly place that mom and dad will love: it’s got a great bar. The food is perfect for kids, too.
Sliced Bread ($3)
Health Food ($6)
Ward 6 Rueben ($11)
Anything from the Kids Menu
There are lots of small plates at Ward 6, labeled as “Food For Drinking.” But on a Sunday night, it’s food for sharing with your kids. Our strategy was to get some small plates, a salad, and share a sandwich.
The sliced bread is, as the menu says, “the greatest thing since…” It’s so simple, but there’s something great about the little bowl of olive oil/garlic/cracked pepper/sea salt to dip that nice warm sliced bread in. The Health Food is also terrific, not that battered and fried vegetables are really health food, but the batter is so light on the cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms and sweet potato, you can convince yourself it’s healthy. The harissa Hollandaise is emblematic of the Ward 6 approach: elevated bar food, not fussy bar food. One or two touches makes this better than it should be. The Rueben bears the Ward 6 name and it earned it: House-braised corned beef, just the right amount of sauerkraut, with a decedent amount of Swiss cheese. For $11 with the freshly-cut French fries, this is amazing.
Normally I’m all about getting the kids off the “Kids Menu,” but Ward 6 has a really great burger, that Seth had in kids’ size, but then topped it with Camembert cheese. They had about a half-dozen choices of cheese, but it’s fun to branch out. Sammy had buttered noodles. I can’t win in all of these stories, people. I did get him to try some beets! The kids menu does have a $4 option for a kid to have another portion of an adult entrée, which could be really fun for kids who want to try what mom or dad are eating.
Beet Salad ($7)
Whipped Brie ($9)
If you’re in the mood for a beet salad, this is a solid one with roasted beets, blue cheese, walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette. Even Buttered Noodles Sammy liked this. And the whipped brie was a huge hit with my boys. For me it was so cream cheese-like it took away some of the Brie quality that I enjoy, but when you add a little of that fig chutney and those addictive spiced walnuts, and it’s all good.
I love how Ward 6 organizes its cocktails: simple drinks for $6, slightly more advanced for $7, and even more advanced for $8. Sometimes you just want a $6 Gimlet, right? Or a $6 bourbon sour? The house-made sweet & sour is quality. And sometimes you want an $8 Don Draper Says “What”: Canadian whiskey, vermouth, bitters and a hint of smoke. It was boozy and layered and delicious.
Ward 6 is about 40 minutes from my home in Maple Grove. We visited on a Sunday when we were in St. Paul, but quite frankly, I enjoyed the vibe and the people and the food so much I wouldn’t hesitate to make the drive. We had three cocktails and the four of us ate for about $70 before tip! It does get extremely busy on Friday and Saturday nights, and they don’t take reservations, but they are open for lunch and the Sunday night crowd was light. We had no problem walking in, and I can’t wait to do it again.
Ward 6 Eastside
858 Payne Ave., St. Paul
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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