Saturday, December 29, 2007

Good Intentions...

Nick and Eddie Restaurant and Bar
1612 Harmon Place
Minneapolis, MN 55403

It is December in Minneapolis, which apparently means that people are not allowed to see the sun. There is also a constant assault of a strange white substance falling from the sky. This is especially disconcerting to members of the club that had spent the last 11 days in the tropical sun of St. John (a honeymoon much deserved and long overdue). Oddly enough, these complaints were not well received. Strange.

Despite the inclement weather, breakfast club convened on Saturday morning for the traditional morning meal. It was a rare collection of people thanks to the winter school holiday. Almost complete attendance; the only missing member was dear Fern who was off enjoying the wonders of the Steel City. In a complete surprise the destination was decided upon in mere minutes. Big Al was off attending a secret writing meeting from 9-11. She informed the rest of the group the previous night that she would be calling at 10 am and expected a location to be chosen when she called. This was discussed in the morning over coffee and despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that everyone was on the verge of death by starvation, the first suggestion was accepted. Jimmy and Judy had enjoyed a lunch and a dinner at Nick and Eddie's previously. They recently began a brunch service on the weekend, so we decided to give it a shot.

The first thing we noticed when entering Nick and Eddie's the swanky appearance. The decor was elegant, great lighting, and overall atmosphere. The plates even had the restaurant name etched on to them. It had a bit of a hard/film noiry (funny word) edge to it and I half expected to be seated next to Humphrey Bogart. We were very impressed.

The second thing we noticed was that we were the only customers. Seeing as how they'd just began their brunch service, we didn't hold it against them. In fact, our group rather prefers to be the only people in the restaurant. We are both high maintenance and prone to guilt. We often feel bad about the 9,000 special requests we make during the meal, especially when the server has a lot of other customers. As the only diners in the place, we were free to ask for the moon.

As we were driving over here, I though to myself, I bet I will be able to predict 90% of what they will have. I think there are strict rules when it comes to what can be offered. According to "The Fancy Restaurant Brunch Gestapo", there will be the following items:

1) French toast with some sort of flair (like a banana compote)
2) Eggs Benedict with or without flair (spinach or some such thing)
3) Omelet(s) with flair (fancy cheese, strange veggie)
4) Some sort of baked eggy flairy thing (like eggs en cocotte)
5) Scrambled eggs with flair (often not actually called scrambled)
6) Fruit and granola

One thing that is often not included in the "Fancy Restaurant Brunch" is any form of the standard American breakfast of two eggs, meat, toast, and potatoes. Sometimes they will throw you a bone by placing those three items in the "sides" list. Is the standard American breakfast too low-brow for the fancy restaurant brunch? Do they intentionally leave it off the menu because it is too difficult to add flair to it? This menu limitation has caused me to sour a bit on the "brunch" concept.

But I digress, back to Nick and Eddie's. As I suspected, the standard brunch list was most of their menu. To their credit, Nick and Eddie's had some additional, interesting options, like grilled spicy sausages with polenta. In what might be a first, almost everyone one at the table tried something different. Usually at these brunches, our table will be made up of 80% eggs benedict.

I had an omelet with sausage, cheese and apples. There were two omelet options, but I was confused by the menu. When I ordered my omelet, I mistakenly thought I was getting an omelet with sausage, cheese, apple, bacon, and avocado. When I was informed that it was actually two omelet options, I reconsidered my choice. The waitress, who was very eager to please offered to put anything in the omelet that I desired. I ordered an omelet with sausage, cheese, apple, and avocado. I was terribly excited by this interesting concoction. I guess the waitress over-promised and my choice was apparently vetoed in favor of what was on the menu. No avocado for me. Oh well.

Jimmy had the eggs benedict. When he ordered it, he was informed that they were out of Canadian bacon and it would be replaced with regular bacon. This lead to a curious discussion after the waitress departed. Since we were the only people in the restaurant, who was eating all of their Canadian bacon? Where did it all go? Hopefully there isn't some sort of worldwide Canadian bacon shortage. That would be tragic.

Alex ordered the "shirred" eggs. This was a tiny, creme brulee sized dish of baked eggs and cheese. It looked very good, but Alex still looked hungry after the meal was over.

Rachael went crazy and ordered the spicy sausage and polenta. She loved her meal and gave the highest grade of the group. We all decided though that in vanilla Minneapolis, those spicy sausages should have come with a warning label. They were H-O-T HOT!

Judy and Perley ordered the "Family Platter", which consisted of brioche and a danish, followed by scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, and toast. The name of the dish would cause one to think that they would receive a large plate of food to be shared family-stye. It was actually just a regular plate of food. This was not a problem however, because it ensured Judy received a fair amount of food. A shared platter between Perley and Judy would probably end up breaking out to be about 90/10.

The potatoes were a component of most of the meals, but were unfortunately a bust. They were very well flavored, but not the least bit crispy. We're not sure how they were cooked because there were some faint vestiges of crispiness, but were mostly mushy. It's like they fried the potatoes and then scraped off all of the delicious crispy outside.

The letter grades were as follows:
Rachael-sausage and polenta: A-
Jimmy-eggs benedict: B+
Beau-omelet: B-
Judy-fam plat: B-
Perley-fam plat: B-
Alex-shirred eggs: B-

Nick and Eddie's is a pretty sweet place. It looks great and they have very good intentions with the food. I think though, if you are going to eat there, you will want to stick to dinner or lunch. Their brunch is still very much a work in progress.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Bar Next Door

Busters on 28th
4204 28th Avenue

Sometimes you travel the Cities, searching for the perfect breakfast. You even go out to the 'burbs in hopes of a good meal. Sometimes you try a sub-standard restaurant more than once on the off-chance that you caught them on a bad day and the hash browns really will be crispy this time. And then there are times when you notice an unobtrusive sign in a newish bar in your neighborhood that says "Now serving brunch," and you think, "Well, wouldn't it be nice if there were good food right here in my neighborhood. Even though it is a bar, and there's almost no possible way for a bar to measure up to the exacting standards of six very picky eaters..." So, you go, not even expecting anything wonderful, thinking only of the convenience (and of your secret hope that you can finally become a regular at a local haunt).

You walk in the door after 9:30, and the place is quiet and deserted, but for one other table of diners. You wonder what you've conned your friends into eating, and you dread the panning this place is about to receive.

And then, somehow, the food arrives, and everyone is happy. This is Busters, the quiet, unassuming new little bar next door who might just be the new love of your life.

The menu is heavy on the traditional food, with a bit more emphasis on lunch-style food than most brunch places (as befits a bar). There is an acceptable Eggs Benedict (rated a "solid B" by Jimmy who has sampled the Eggs Benedict at most places in the metro area) , as well as a tasty and fresh perfectly-cooked scramble (which, not to brag or anything, the waiter said I was the first person to order) with broccolini and bell peppers and Parmesan. Judy and Fern both had the BLT. All of us got breakfast potatoes on the side.

It was when Judy first tasted the breakfast potatoes and declared them "perfect" that I stopped worrying and learned to love Busters. Or maybe it was when my side of toast (fresh bread from the Baker's Wife) arrived with four little containers of two kinds of delicious jam, homemade peanut butter, and good butter. At any rate, at the conclusion of the meal our little club handed out A's like they were going out of style. The only complaints I heard were that we had eaten too many of the "perfect" potatoes, and that the coffee wasn't all that good. Jimmy, true to form, gave out the harshest grade, possibly because making Hollandaise is a bit of an art, and it just wasn't his kind of Hollandaise. Our rarest form of praise came when we all agreed that we shall return. Maybe I'll finally be a regular after all.