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First Bite: District Fresh Kitchen + Bar
By: Stephanie March | Posted: 06/10/2014
via Libertine Facebook
Really, what makes a steakhouse a steakhouse? Or a bistro a bistro for that matter? Isn't it getting more difficult to categorize the changing landscape of dining into well-meaning and useful categories so that JoeBob who just wants a steak knows where to get a steak? It's getting harder for me.
You see Manny's and you say: steakhouse. You see FujiYa and you say: Japanese/Sushi. You see Tilia and you say . . . what. Not really a café, but smallish. Though it has one of the best beer lists in town, not really a beer bar. Chef-driven? Well, if not driven by a chef, then by what? A unicorn? A New American bistro in which there are simultaneously a bacon cheeseburger, escargot, and a dead-on paté BLT. That seems about right, unless you balk at bistro meaning something definitively French, which JoeBob might.
So, when Tim McKee chatted about his new Libertine going into the Uptown Cafeteria space and the word steakhouse got bandied about, it set a certain tone. I'm not sure it was the right tone. I've walked through the space, I've seen the plans, the menus for both dinner and brunch, and I gotta tell you: Not feeling steakhouse. I think what Libertine will be is more of a gastropub (a loaded and yet vague term on its own) in that there really is a lot of bar/lounge space and feel, but with really interesting and modern food, some of which is steak, much of which is not. If people used to only find meat at steakhouses, that is the past. The next generation of eaters is used to finding porky treats and boards of meat in many, many places.
So, ok yes, there are steaks, but let's call out the interesting cuts under BEEF: onglet is a hanger, there's a flank, and a feather steak, which is a lesser-known cut from the shoulder blade (and damn tasty when properly cooked). But no ribeye, no filet. Check out the PIG section and let me call attention to something called the Bacon Chop. McKee and I both agree that people who trim too much fat off of pork chops are insane, so that chop will be thick and lovingly fatty. Also a whole LAMB section with a rarely featured saddle chop which is the double loin chops. Also lamb ribs. And lamb and brie lucy. And you may not even get there for awhile, but there's a spatchcocked chicken which is awesome to eat and fun to say.
But then OYSTERS in a ton of ways, not just chilled and shucked, but fried and in shots. And PLANTS that are more than sides to steaky meat, each plate seems to have a definition and clear sense of self on it's own. You'll find lots of seafood mixed in under other sections, not just SWIM, and some NOT ANIMAL points for good measure, but there is a lot of meat.
Brunch looks intriguing with salmon pastrami Benedict, plus banana bread French toast, and a Dutch baby! Chicken and waffles, which is the calling card of 2014, and bone marrow toast as a side, good morning.
As for what this place is and how it all tastes, I guess we'll see soon.
Stephanie March is Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s food and dining editor. See bio
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