Where to Eat in Minneapolis: The Grand Café
When Erik Anderson left Minnesota for the Catbird Seat in Nashville, he already had a national reputation as a chef to keep an eye on. With an insane resume, including stints at several of the world’s best restaurants, and years under his belt in Minnesota at La Belle Vie, everyone knew he was destined to create something special. Jamie Malone was the chef for several years at Sea Change, a sustainable seafood restaurant in Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater that opened to great reviews and maintained its position as one of our state’s great restaurants. A few years ago, Erik earned a Food & Wine Best New Chef award for his work in Nashville. Jamie won the accolade a year later for her efforts at Sea Change. Within a few years Erik and Jamie have opened a restaurant together, and it’s a game changer.
Personal and intimate in every way, the postage stamp-sized Grand Café sits on a quiet tree lined residential street in South Minneapolis. Anchored in the middle of the restaurant is an oversized antique deck oven and small bar. The wall décor and tabletops are more suited to a dinner party at a neighbor’s house than a chic eatery. The plates, flatware, glasses and silverware were collected by the young chefs in the year long run up to opening the restaurant. It all works.
The food that comes out of the kitchen is brilliant and smart. The menu offers a bespoke ham of the week, seasonal salads and vegetable plates, all as stylish and crave-able as any in the country. Malone’s oyster fantasies—mine came with a dollop of caviar perched on each briny bivalve—are spectacular, but her ‘slices of raw fish’ is an understated small taste not to be skipped. The aged, cured hamachi would be the envy of any Michelin-starred Japanese sushi bar in New York or L.A. Don’t skip the mustard accompanied jambonette of chicken, sent out to the table like a bite sized ham. I immediately wanted to order another one the moment it arrived. Foie gras royale comes in a small egg cup, the classic preparation requiring a skill set that simply makes it unservable in most restaurants; simply sublime. The tarte flambé and pork terrine are thrillers, deeply flavored and stunning to look at… haunting me even weeks after a visit.
The pair focus on perfecting the craft of many French classics, reimagined for a new generation of diners. The Escoffier-era meltingly tender pike quenelles with crayfish sauce arrive with a huge “#onlyinMN” sticker, the local lake fish and crayfish echoing two of our state’s finest ingredients that never get menu play anywhere else. The filet of sole Veronique in a creamy champagne wine sauce studded with grapes is so simple and classic that most kitchens shy away from it. You simply must order it just to see why they are called classics. Jamie’s expertise with seafood has birthed a new dish that I had to recreate at home for its sheer innovative brilliance and I never want to eat leeks again without her inspiring razor clam vinaigrette.
Important restaurants keep exploding all over the Twin Cities and Grand Café joins the list that includes Spoon & Stable, Heyday, Bellecour, Bachelor Farmer, Corner Table and a few others that are proof positive that Minnesota is ground zero for some of the best food in America.
Grand Café: 3804 Grand Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55409; 612-822-8260; www.grandcafemn.com