Photographs by Caitlin Abrams
It’s easy to score with a beautifully cooked steak at Nanne’s.
Suddenly, Edina is ground zero for a suburban steak house war. In one corner we have Pittsburgh Blue, Parasole’s longstanding Galleria champion that pairs a bit of cheekiness with a splash of working-class bravado in a dark and clubby setting that feels both accessible and special occasion–worthy. In the other corner, we have the new contender, Lou Nanne’s, owned by Michael McDermott of Kona Grill and Rojo success. The newbie sports a clean-looking, if not suburban-bland, room with a buzzing open kitchen. For the record, Nanne’s bills itself as a “restaurant”—NOT a steak house. But I’m calling the game as I see it, hear it, and feel it. Plus, I can’t tell you how many eaters have written to ask me which is better. Can the young gun trounce the solid veteran?
Well, it does have a few things going for it. First and foremost, the place is named for Lou Nanne, the local North Stars hockey legend and Hall of Famer whose commentary is my favorite part of the high school hockey tournament (Nanne also has a small ownership stake in the restaurant, though he’s not involved in operations). While he’s not hanging out at the bar every night, just having him as the shop mascot with the idea that he might stop by is a pretty cool thing for the Edina hockey fiends, and for many it’s a solid reason to visit. Secondly, Nanne’s has chef Josh Hill, who for many years was the reigning chef at my uber-favorite steak house, Manny’s at the Foshay. This is a sneaky secret weapon in the fight with PB, because Parasole also owns Manny’s, which means Hill has been a soldier in that ownership group’s camp and knows all its tricks. The most significant of these tricks is that he knows where to get the good meat, the Manny’s-grade meat. They are currently using Niman Ranch for their steaks.
Now, when you’re battling steak to steak, the first yardstick is quality, the second is cooking. Given that the meat at both places is from high-quality producers, it comes down to doneness. Lou Nanne’s has thus far never faltered on a steak temp for my companions or me. Every piece of meat that has graced a plate has been cooked to the perfect doneness requested by the eater. That is no small feat, my friends. Now PB has cooked me a lot more steaks in my past, and so they would have a higher percentage of failure, but all in all, I’ve been happy with their prowess of pink. I will note, the reason I’ve been absent from their dining room of late is largely due to a night with my family when I ordered a rib-eye. What was placed in front of me was a New York, which I sent back to the kitchen assuming someone else had received my steak and was missing theirs. A sheepish server returned the same plate to my table and, while he himself was confused, said the chef assured him it was indeed a rib-eye. Mama knows her rib-eye and that was no rib-eye. I ate the New York, it was tasty, but I was not happy.
photo by Caitlin Abrams
Lou Nanne's restaurant
If we take it down to punches, it can go either way. I like the wine list and drinks at PB better, but I didn’t dislike my drinks at Nanne’s—though when they ran out of ingredients for a light, low-alcohol cocktail, they instead brought me a Negroni, which is on the other end of the spectrum as far as booziness and flavor. The crab cake at Nanne’s is a perfectly executed baseball-sized portion with the right amount of lump meat that isn’t overmixed or overbreaded. This is surprisingly hard to find in the metro. But its version of the bacon side dish, which is a Parasole signature bit, is kind of flabby and underwhelming, not delivering on that unctuous promise. Mashed cauliflower was rich and decadent, the mac ’n’ cheese a steaming and creamy pot of comfort, and the loaded wedge with blue cheese and bacon was perfectly sized and easy to eat (sometimes those suckers get unwieldy on the plate). Nanne’s biggest crime was serving me a burger brought to the table cut in half, for no reason that the server could explain. Poor little burger half, getting cold and dried out sitting there—if that was a test for doneness, I say test on your own damn burger.
In the end, I like each spot for different reasons. I love the wink and smartness of PB, but I also like the casual and quiet elegance you can find at Nanne’s. I’ve loved the bar staff and snacks at PB, but the dining room servers at Nanne’s have all been friendly and efficient, offering great levels of service without being either too stuffy or too cheeky. And like a perfectly cooked steak, that can be a rare thing these days. So while there’s no knockout here, I can say that by decision I’d still give PB the win, with the caveat that, like a weathered fighter, it’s had time to know who and what it is while Nanne’s is just getting warmed up. But the fact that a months-old restaurant like Nanne’s can step in the ring and hold its own against a place with such an ingrained culture shows that it’s a true contender that should not be dismissed. I look forward to Lou Nanne’s coming into its own.
7651 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-658-7800, lounannes.com