With all the discouraging news coming out of north Minneapolis – the foreclosure crisis, the tornado – the opening of three new restaurants on the north side – Louisiana Famous Fried Chicken, the Lowry Cafe, and the Avenue Eatery – is something to cheer.
At the Louisiana Famous Fried Chicken store at 904 West Broadway, it isn’t just about the food. The restaurant’s motto is “Bringing change to the neighborhood,” and at least one Facebook fan has picked up on the message: “I am so proud to have a nice, clean soul food restaurant in the hood with great service and delicious food. And they don’t allow the hustla’s off the block to come in, hiding for the police, making people uncomfortable while they eat. If you haven’t been there u missing out. :).”
Louisiana Famous Fried is a locally-owned licensee of a national chain, so it offers the usual attractions of chain restaurants: standardization and consistency, efficiency and low prices. The menu has a distinct resemblance to Popeye’s: fried chicken, catfish fillets, fries, mashed potatoes, red beans and rice, etc. But Louisiana Famous Fried Chicken does offer a few items that you won’t find at Popeye’s, including macaroni and cheese, yams, collard greens and gumbo (available at Popeye’s only as a seasonal special. )
And Louisiana Fried Chicken has a much more attractive ambience than the usual fast-food restaurant, with an earth-tone color scheme, New Orleans jazz- themed art on the walls, and comfortable seating. You order at the counter, but a runner delivers the food to your table.
I only sampled a few items, but the fried chicken was on a par with KFC, and the fried catfish was done exactly right – moist fresh fish fillets deep-fried in a crisp, ungreasy cornmeal crust. The gumbo was also quite decent – shrimp, celery, peppers and rice in a rich dark and savory base. Prices range from $2.99 for a one-piece chicken snack pac (with a small side and a soft drink) to $6.99 for a 10 piece shrimp combo with roll, fries and a soft drink), and $27.99 for a 20 piece Big Easy chicken combo with 10 rolls, fries or rice, and two large sides. Dessert options include cake or pie ($2.50) and Sebastian Joe’s ice cream.
A couple of blocks away, at 1101 W. Broadway (at Emerson) the former Bean Scene Too reopened recently as the Avenue Eatery. They offer a pretty standard selection of coffee specialty drinks, teas and smoothies, and free wifi. At this point, it isn’t really much of an eatery – the food selection is limited to a few muffins and sandwiches, and a soup of the day, all prepared elsewhere. But they plan to offer sandwiches made from scratch starting this Friday, and may add homemade soups and salads as well.
Meanwhile, up at Lowry and Penn, the new Lowry Cafe offers a very standard American family casual menu – burgers, wraps, salads, sandwiches, pastas and a few dinner entrees – in an attractive neighborhood cafe setting. The cafe is also offers a full breakfast menu, served until 11 a.m. daily, that includes omelets, pancakes, biscuits and gravy and more.
I have only tried a couple of dishes – a fiesta salad made with mixed greens, shredded chicken, bacon, cheese, tossed with ranch dressing and topped with fried tortilla chips ($8.95); and the jambalaya pasta, a very big portion of penne pasta tossed with Italian sausage, roast chicken, peppers, sliced black olives and onions in a lively marinara sauce ($12.95) – both satisfactory and served in generous portions. Nothing on the menu seems very gastronomically ambitious, but everything is under $14, and you can get a glass of very drinkable Barefoot Cellars chardonnay, merlot or cabernet for only $4.
Friday nights, the Lowry Cafe offers an all-you-can-eat fish fry for $10.95, and on Wednesday nights, it’s live music and all the tacos you can eat for $9.75.