Being that my dining out budget is somewhat less than it was when I was reviewing for the Star Tribune, I have gotten pickier about where I eat, and how much I spend. Seems like I am not the only one who feels that way – with the economy going south and food prices going up, restaurants have had to hustle to get customers to come through their doors. The happy hour special is the time-honored way to fill the seats, always with the hope that after a drink or two, you’ll decide to stick around for dinner and a few more drinks.
My latest happy hour adventure was at the Sample Room in Northeast Minneapolis, where they are currently offering a choice of half a dozen starters for two bucks apiece. We ordered them all, which added up to a light dinner for two for $12. Highlights included a jumbo scallop in a Bloody Mary and horseradish sauce – the menu described it as “large,” and this truly might have been the biggest scallop I have ever seen; and a trio of meatloaf crostini, topped with a bourbon barbecue sauce and a dollop of mashed potatoes.
The meatloaf was terrific, and here too, the portion was generous. Everything else was at least enjoyable – the little baked Yukon Gold potato with sour cream and bacon; the flatbread with roasted garlic and olive oil, and the zucchini rolls stuffed with goat cheese. The shrimp ceviche was light on shrimp, but had lots of avocado, and what do you expect for two bucks?
Befitting the sampling theme, the wine list offers a nice selection of flights, such as Crispy Whites ($10) or Nomadic Reds ($11), giving what looks like two-ounce pours of three different wines. Happy Hour drink specials include $2 off of cocktails, tap beers, house wines by the glass, and wine flights.
The Sample Room, 2124 Marshall St. NE, Minneapolis, 612-789-0333.
Happy Hour: Monday to Friday, 3-6 pm; Saturday, 11:30 am till 4 pm.