I usually avoid pre-opening parties and opening night events, but on July 6 I stumbled into one by accident. Riding down Bryant Ave.in south Minneapolis, I saw that the Opening Soon facade had been torn away from the former Caribou Coffee storefront at 815 W. 50th, so I parked my bike and entered. The host informed me that the Blackbird Cafe wasn’t really open yet – the crowd that filled the dining room and bar was invited guests for a trial run tasting dinner. The cafe would officially open to the public tomorrow – i.e., Saturday, July 7.
815 W. 50th St., Minneapolis,612.823.4790
But then he thought for a moment and said that I would be welcome to stay, and order anything from the menu at half-price, provided I was willing to be a guinea pig – I could sit at the bar and give the bartenders a chance to practice food service.
The menu offers a bit of everything: cold tidbits of spring rolls, shrimp cocktail, or duck rillettes with blue cheese and fig chutney,
hot starters ranging from curried lamb meatballs to green beans in black bean sauce, plus soups and salads. The entree list ($10.95-$19.95) ranges from polenta topped with ratatouille and griddled trout with preserved lemon, to paprika roast chicken with sherry gravy, and London broil with bearnaise sauce and fries.
The sandwich menu is equally eclectic – everything from egg salad, and a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich to a Southwestern black bean burger.
So far, I am quite impressed – the lamb meatballs in curry sauce were big and juicy and full of lamb flavor, and the crisp, thin crust pizza topped with pecans, cherries, sweet onion and three cheeses, was a combination that sounded odd but worked very well. Only the knife-and fork Caesar – (half a head of romaine with dressing on top) was a disappointment – the dressing gets distributed more evenly when you make a Caesar the old-fashioned way. And besides, they forgot the anchovies I requested.
Everybody was in high spirits, with lots of friends of owners Chris and Ann Stevens wishing them well. I think it’s going to be a fun place. They’ll open for breakfast and lunch within the next week or two.
I forgot to steal a wine list, so I can’t give you the details, but the selection of wines by the bottle or glass is interesting and affordable. Only one beer is available on tap – Bell’s Oberon, but the short list of bottles includes some interesting oddities, like Hitachino Nest Ale from Japan.