FOOD & DRINK // The mystery of Rachels solved

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June 30, 2011
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss
For years, residents of Northeast have been asking, “What’s up with Rachel’s?” The signs went up on the building not long after the previous resident, Bobino, closed. But after the signage went up, the waiting began. So we Northeasters waited, as polite Minnesotans do. And waited. And waited. And waited.

We waited for years, and Rachel’s never opened. Until, one day, it did. With no fanfare or warning, the lights turned on in the restaurant that sat dark for roughly five years. We of course wondered what happened, what mysterious forces conspired to create this story of a restaurant’s comically long gestation period and enigmatic opening.

So we asked. The answer, it turns out, is pretty mundane.

After purchasing the space, owner John Rimarcik discovered issues that needed to be resolved. The repairs took time, and once completed, attention was required at some of his other restaurants, which include the Monte Carlo and Runyons. Other projects needed to be attended to. Then the recession hit. For several years, the timing just wasn’t right.

When Rachel’s opened this spring, the restaurant wasn’t perhaps what we expected after so long a wait. As Rimarcik puts it, it’s “just a neighborhood sandwich place.” That’s a fair assessment and, at the same time undersells it. Yes, Rachel’s is basically a burger joint. But it’s a pretty good one.

Although it says “temporary menu” at the top of the page, Rachel’s offerings are well defined. There are a handful of starters and larger plates, but the roster of burgers takes up the lion’s share of the menu. Our party of four each tried a different burger, and each of us was pleased at the sizable meals that were ultimately delivered. With thick patties, fresh buns and a generous helping of fries on each plate, we all felt that the $10 price of each burger was spot on, and the flavors were just as pleasing.

There is a burger for everyone at Rachel’s. Whether you want bacon and avocado atop your patty, sour cream and chopped onions, or even green olives, there is a unique recipe for all tastes. Despite the variety we tried, our table had a clear favorite by a mile: the “Black and Bleu” burger with bleu cheese on a pumpernickel bun. The juiciest, saltiest and most flavorful of all our burgers, we all agreed that it was the star of the meal and the one we’d choose on a return visit.

And return we will. Along with tasty burgers at a reasonable price, Rachel’s boasts a large, classy dining room that looks more upscale than you’d expect at “just a sandwich shop.”

Of course, during our visit, nearly all of the diners opted for the large, lovely patio that’s split with neighbor Punch Pizza. Any quibbles we had were minor. Choose not to order a side salad and you won’t have anything green on your plate — a shame, since all the dressings are made in-house and quite tasty. And while the staff is friendly and welcoming, things also felt a bit disorganized. But hey, considering that we waited five years for it to open, we’re willing to give Rachel’s a few months to streamline its operation.

Rachel’s // 222 E. Hennepin Ave. // 379-3345