Take me out AFTER the ballgame

Share this:
April 11, 2011
By: Carla Waldemar
Carla Waldemar
Everybody sing along: “Take me out to the ballgame ...” OK, hold it: Let’s update that “peanuts and crackerjack” part. How about “Buy me some mozza on micro greens” or “crab/truffle mac and cheese?” That’s more like it. So if you’re in the mood for something more major-league than a hot dog and a Budweiser, grab a seat at a cozy café within a pop shot of Target Field for a meal that’ll score a home run. Our picks:

Bar La Grassa
is the neighborhood food shelf for the Warehouse District’s condoscenti, serving Italian fare Chef Boyardee never dreamed of (bruschetta topped with scrambled eggs, lobster and truffle oil, anyone? Gnocchi festooned with roasted cauliflower and bitter orange?). Bonus: Pastas come in half-portions to mix and match. The cafe’s equivalent of the VIP box is a counter stool fronting the playing field, er, kitchen.

The spot ballplayers head for the ultimate steak after signing their contract is  Murray’s  who always delivers. No short cuts on aging the meat, which arrives so tender you can destroy it with your silver butter knife. Same “secret” salad dressing recipe for three generations, same idolized ice-box pie. Same servers, in fact, who have the tableside drill down to perfection. And the wine list is loaded with heavy hitters.

Saffron also hits ’em out of the park with Hall of Fame fare from the chef’s homeland in Palestine, like a BLT-gone-Mideastern with lamb bacon, arugula and tomato jam, kissed with tarragon aioli. Or a tagine (stew) saluting homemade lamb sausage, topped with a gently-poached egg. Build a meal from the smart and tasty small plates as you chew over the game.

Haute Dish is a dark and formerly smoky clubhouse where bookies would give you odds on the game, if only this weren’t Minnesota. Instead, chow down on the comfort dishes granny used to make — if she were into performance art, that is. Sure, mac and cheese, but tarted up with crab and truffle oil. Green peas on toast — no longer bedtime food, but reconstructed to include smoked sturgeon, morels and pecorino cheese. Tater Tot hot dish? You betcha, but far beyond Mom’s version in the hands of the punks that rock this kitchen.

112 Eatery is where local chefs hang after the final inning in their own kitchens and yes, it’s that good. It’s what they feel like eating when they’re off the clock — snazzy bites like the justly-famous lamb scottodini — baby riblets in a scorching sauce; spaghetti with foie gras meatballs; and a killer hangover-averting sandwich of bacon, egg and a splash of hot harissa. Again, small plates rule.

Sometimes, the same-old, same-old is just what you crave.   The Monte Carlo  morphed from a blue-collar bar to halfway house for urban professionals who can’t quite go cold turkey-tartare and abide by trendy menus. Come here for the “girls” of a certain age who act as servers, shouldering always-reliable Caesar burgers and the classic chicken soup.

But you insist on pizza? (Yeah, yeah: Blame it on your partner.) Well, have I got the ultimate pie for you, from the unique coal-fired oven at Black Sheep. Amid the Warehouse District’s condos, follow the crowd, and the aroma, to the source of all good things on a crispy crust. Bonus: You can order your pizza half-and-half, so relationships needn’t be put to the test over choice of toppings. These pies arrive, like object of worship (which, indeed, they are), atop a wire rack for all to genuflect. Then dig in.

It’s always Ladies Day at Sapor whose two femme owners cook from around the globe and from the heart. Jet your palate to Mexico for chicken in poblano-stout mole, or venture from paella to pierogi (this with a Korean accent) in these cool, intimate quarters that also boast a talent-studded wine list.

FireLake is the flagship kitchen of home-team hotelier, Radisson, and its claim to fame (and my devotion) is its dedication to food that’s not flown in. Local seasonal victuals are celebrated, so think corn, berries and sweet tomatoes all summer, veggies from the root cellar in winter, and year-round, a way with wild rice, walleye and other proto-Minnesota icons.