This week, the concession stand dining scene – the Sea Salt Eatery in Minnehaha Park, Bread & Pickle at the Lake Harriet bandshell, and a return visit to an old favorite, Tin Fish at the Lake Calhoun Pavilion.
“They should have warned us,” Carol said, when our lunch order at Sea Salt was delivered to our table. As soon as the crawfish po boy ($10.95) was delivered, along with the shrimp and crab stuffed avocado ($7.95), the cup of seafood gumbo ($6.95) and the seafood gazpacho ($6.95), it was obvious that we had ordered too much food. Way too much. The po boy alone would have been a hearty lunch for two.
But what was most impressive about our meal at Sea Salt was not the portion size, but the quality – which may explain why there was a long line out the door at 2 p.m. on a weekday afternoon. The shrimp were large and had an intense fresh shrimp flavor. And the cook’s seafood gazpacho and stuffed avocado both contained generous quantities of chunk crab meat. The gumbo was terrific, too – shrimp, oyster, andouille sausage and veggies in a savory roux-based stock.
The list of specials changes daily, so the gumbo may not be available when you visit – to check current offerings, check the Sea Salt home page.
Sea Salt Eatery, in the Minnehaha Park Pavilion, 4801 Minnehaha Ave. S., MInneapolis, 612-721-8990. Sea Salt is open daily through the end of October.
There’s some overlap in menus between The Tin Fish and Sea Salt, but Tin Fish keeps things a lot simpler – a nice assortment of very fresh fish and seafood, including walleye, cod, tilapia, ponga, shrimp, calamari and oysters, served grilled or deep-fried, in tacos, sandwiches or platters. As with Sea Salt, prices are very reasonable, though they have crept up over the years. And just like at Sea Salt, the line to place an order can be long – especially on a sunny day, but the kitchen is fast and efficient, and the food is well worth the wait.
On this most recent visit, we only ordered a couple of items – a shrimp taco, topped with lots of plump grilled shrimp, shredded cabbage, grated cheddar and a spicy salsa ($4.95), and a fish platter ($11.95) – seven or eight strips of very fresh moist cod deep-fried in a light cornmeal crust, with wafer-cut fried potatoes and a side of white pepper cabbage slaw. A short list of wines is available by the glass ($6), and a couple of beers on tap ($5).
Tin Fish, in the Lake Calhoun Pavilion, 3000 Calhoun Parkway East, Minneapolis, 823-5840. Tin Fish is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Labor Day, with shorter hours through mid-October.
Gastronomically, Bread & Pickle at the Lake Harriet bandshell is a lot less interesting than Sea Salt or Tin Fish: mostly burgers, sandwiches, and a few breakfast items plus traditional concession stand favorites like hot dogs, cheese curds, pop corn and ice cream.
But environmentally, it’s on the cutting edge. Bread & Pickle is owned by Kim Bartmann, who also owns Barbette, the Bryant Lake Bowl, Red Stag Supperclub and Gigi’s. Many of the ingredients come from local, sustainable farmers and growers. And while Sea Salt and Tin Fish generate a lot of paper and plastic waste, all of the packaging at Bread & Pickle is compostable, right down to the coffee cup lids.
On a lunchtime visit, a California burger ($6.75) was disappointing charred and dry, and appeared to have been pre-cooked and reheated. I fared much better at breakfast – the yogurt topped with a homemade pistachio and raisin granola (made at Gigi’s Cafe, $4) was terrific. The organic egg and cheddar sandwich on an English muffin ($4) might have been a little greasy (or more precisely buttery) for some tastes, but I liked it just fine. No wine or beer, but cappucino, espresso and other specialty coffees and teas, plus free wifi.
Bread & Pickle, next to the Lake Harriet Bandshell, 4135 W. Lake Harriet Parkway. Open seasonally, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.