A Saturday night is not the night one can usually just wander into the 112 Eatery, Minneapolis’ latest hotspot, and find a couple seats. But that’s exactly what the lady friend and I were able to do a little while back. After escaping some sort of work-related holiday get-together, we decided to give the 112 a shot, and parked the car near the side entrance of Sex World at about 7:30, and walked to the restaurant. No tables were available—that woulda been about a two-hour wait—but two seats at the bar were about to open in 20 minutes, we were told. So, I ordered up a bottle of wine (the bartender kept the bottle back there for us) and we sipped away and tried staring at the couple we thought was about to leave. And, eventually, they did. Oh, and if you need quarters for a parking meter (Minneapolis will ticket up to 10 p.m., the bastards), it’s not un-cool to ask here for change.
It’s quite a remarkable spot, the 112, owned by the chef, Isaac Becker (formerly of the D’Amico empire, most recently the top toque at Café Lurcat), and his wife (who runs the front of the house) Nancy St. Pierre. Maybe 50 people can be seated in this tiny bistro, but the vibe is comfortable and classy. It’s a tad loud when it’s full, but not because people are competing with a televised sporting event or loud music. No, people are CONVERSING. The vibe in this tiny place reminds me a bit of A Rebours in St. Paul—both are places you go for great food and conversation with those at your table.
Or, in our case, at the bar.
And the food? Our experience matched the rave reviews scribbled by every publication in town and a few national ones: It’s great. I started with the duck and radicchio salad, the flavors of the shredded duck and the radicchio evenly matched, and the light sauce (I can’t remember what the bartender said it was, but I can make a note here that the service from her was great; she knew the menu well and her descriptions were flawless). We also ordered some fries, which were only decent; I think we got the last of the batch—you know when it happens, after some nice long crisp fries, you hit the pile of broken shorties, some overcooked, others soaked with oil.
We then went on to the stringozzi with lamb sugo and the country style pork rib. The stringozzi must be tried by someone at the table so everyone can sample that home-made noodle. It’s meaty and filling without being heavy, if that makes sense (and they held up really well the next day in the microwave), and the lamb sauce, with plenty of bits of lamb, was light and flavorful. And the country pork rib forever changed my view of country pork ribs, cracking through memories of horrifying family get-together-grill-a-thons. I wish I could remember what all was in the salsa on the rib, too—I really didn’t expect to be eating there, thus I was somewhat unprepared to write things down, that and I was just plain enjoying myself. But the sauce was not spicy just to be hot, mind you—which it was—but spicy to be delicious. The lady friend, who is not big on spicy foods, loved it.
And the tab? Well, let’s take the run-through. An appetizer, a side dish, three entrées, a bottle of wine and a 20 percent tip came to 80 bucks. The only reason we didn’t get dessert, which looked great, was because we were stuffed. For this caliber of food, the price is cheap, cheap, cheap.
The 112’s eclectic menu has been well-documented, but the things that I’m aiming to try in my next visits are the lamb scottadito with goats milk yogurt; roast grouper with bacon butter sauce; the bacon, egg and harissa sandwich, the…well, you get the idea. I think it’s rare anything misses the mark.