Well, it once was modern, way back when. Today The Modern, 337 13th Ave. NE, is a showcase of scrumptious, un-fancy cooking, delivered to the puritanically unpadded booths under the gaze of the stuffed swordfish (don’t ask) by moms-in-aprons who beam when you clean your plate. No problem when it’s the signature pot roast with horseradish-spiked mashed potatoes. The wine list proves as offbeat and appealing as the avenue’s art.
The Sample Room, 2124 Marshall St. NE, began life as a bar-cum-rooming house for traveling salesmen, who laid out their samples. Transfering that tradition to the tap room’s kitchen, today’s menu showcases samples, tapas-style, ideal for sharing. Mix and match a meal from categories like cheese, meat (don’t miss the husky house-made sausages), fish and veggies, each delivered with its own piquant garnish. Samplers of adults beverages, too.
Its near neighbor, the Northeast Social Club, 359 13th Ave. NE, is ebulliently anti-modern, too, and that’s its charm. Belly up to the substantial bar under the vintage pressed-tin ceiling, or grab a table near the uber-mural of epic proportions; then let your waiter guide you through the drill. He’ll recommend the ribs (he always does, and for good reason) and maybe the fish of the day. Then he’s likely to offer a tutorial on the art on loan from neighbor Rogue Buddha Gallery as you drain your beer.
“I can resist anything except temptation,” Oscar Wilde professed, and that’s what’s front-and-center on his namesake’s menu at Wilde Roast, 518 E. Hennepin Ave. (soon moving to the riverfront). Just peek at the baked-goods counter and you’ll get the drift. The bête noire, star of the lineup, has been featured in glossy food mags, and for good (no, make that ‘fantastic’) reason. Grand with a cup from the coffee menu, or preceded by a mighty tuna melt. Relax amid the comfy, Grandma’s-attic Victoriana, alongside the neighborhood’s artists, whose works liven the walls.
Head the opposite direction down gallery-rich 13th Avenue and you’ll smell it coming: fish and chips. That’s the forte (and just about the only thing on the menu) of The Anchor,
302 13th Ave. NE, a hole in the wall from the Emerald Isle. Grab a stool at the counter to watch the lads feed the fryer the gently-battered cod and thick-cut potatoes, er, chips, that’ll soon land on your plate, just begging for a side of Guinness from the active tap. The only thing missing from a Dublin pub is a tune from a fiddle.
There’s pork, and then there’s Alex Roberts’ pork. He’s such a believer in it that it constitutes 50 percent of his menu (along with chicken) at Brasa, 600 E. Hennepin Ave., his rotisserie. The chicken’s good — god-almighty good, don’t get me wrong — but it’s the slow-roasted glazed pork shoulder that draws destination diners to the converted garage setting — up to 400 customers a day (“and only a single stove!” as Roberts declares with a mix of joy and panic). His side dishes — choose two — represent the soul food of the South, from Mobile to San Juan. Hint: collard greens, cheddar grits.