Calhoun Beach Club, 2730 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-920-5000, myurbaneatery.com
If “location, location, location” were the true predictor for success, then the View Restaurant in the Calhoun Beach Club would have made it. But it didn’t. View was pretty (maybe a little too pretty) but didn’t carry much substance. As one of the first restaurants owned by the Talebi brothers, before CRAVE began its world domination, View was like the vapidly cute sister who got ignored when the new kid started competing in pageants and bringing home the bacon.
But no longer. The space that occupies a meeting ground between Calhoun and Isles life has attracted some serious and thoughtful attention. The CRAVE boys have learned their lessons and brought new life to the space in the form of Urban Eatery.
In the vein of the gastropub movement, the design has been urbanized with roughhewn planks, industrial lighting, and chalkboard walls. But it rides the line between gritty and pretty, with bright green topiary trees and crown molding around the bar.
The menu, created by Eli Wollenzien and Jim Kyndberg, follows suit. This is Kyndberg’s first real mark, the first indelible inking of his foodie credibility on a company menu. They are courting the edgier eating crowd, but they’re smart enough to keep it accessible and familiar, while playing with good ingredients and interesting flavors. The menu smacks of modern bar fare, which seems a wise bet these days.
For starters, the smoked duck nachos were a hit at my table. The duck added a nice bit of smoky girth to the chip. Off the happy hour menu, the house-made pretzel was worthy with a darkly smooth, salty crust and fluffy interior, but the accompanying fondue was a touch gummy. Onion rings, crusty bombs of beer batter that I couldn’t leave alone, came in a pretty cone. But the win goes to the Scotch eggs, which held a perfectly sun-bright yellow yolk surrounded by moist and zingy sausage. It was one of those beer-snack-nirvana moments.
The presentation of the fish and chips was lovely—the fish, with that same beery batter, came with a pile of gorgeous soft green peas and a tangy malt vinegar aioli. The Kadejan farms turkey burger was dense and nicely spiced, the pizzas crisp and freshly flavored. Sadly, the pork belly Reuben left a rather lukewarm impression as all the flavors became lost in each other.
So, getting down to brass tacks, here’s the big question: Can the company live up to the foodist ideals that come with Kyndberg? Do you hate them for co-opting the independent spirit of the gastropub? Or do you praise them for bringing innovative cooking more into the mainstream? I don’t really care what baggage you trudge in with; I rather hope you just lay it down and eat with a clean palate and an open mind. I was happily surprised with Urban Eatery—not amazingly overwhelmed, but definitely not underwhelmed. I don’t think I’ll be crowing to the moon, but I’ll find myself sitting on those barstools again, I’m sure of that.
3 Great Plates ...
1 Big Bowl of Noodle Soup The homemade ramen noodles and kimchi are top-notch in this humble dish.
2 Chicken Pot Pie Topped with a flaky crown of puff pastry, it strikes home.
3 Pepperoni Pizza The traditional is amped up with goat cheese, olives, and San Marzano tomatoes.
GETTING THERE, GETTING IN: Free valet after 5 pm! Additional parking in adjoining CBC ramp.
HOURS: M–W 4–11 pm, Th–Sa 11 am– 1 am, Su 11 am–11 pm
KIDS: Service is casual and friendly, and there’s a kids menu.
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate CARDS: Amex, Discover, MC, Visa
ENTRÉE PRICES: $14–$19