Last night The Wife and I headed out to Burnsville’s long awaited and much anticipated new restaurant from the owners of the Doolittle’s chain, Porter Creek Hardwood Grill. Located off of CR-42 and in the spot which previously held a Baker’s Square, Porter Creek is a completely new building built from scratch and looks more like something you would find at a Disney theme park than Burnsville Center.
Back in October an article appeared in Thisweek which mentioned the new restaurant would, “be contemporary American with ‘California-Mediterranean influences,’” something which I honestly gagged while reading. As mentioned below this is nothing more than, “a completely meaningless piece of marketing-speak mumbo jumbo.” While Porter Creek Hardwood Grill’s website is still useless, they posted their menu sans prices on their Facebook page. I have to admit before entering the restaurant I thought their “California-Mediterranean” theme was still a load of crap.
I called at 12:30 PM on the day we were intending to go to see if I could get reservations for that evening. I was informed, ever so politely and as if the hostess was reading from a script, that they are a “first come, first serve” restaurant and I will not be needing reservations. If there is a wait the kind woman on the other end of the line suggested that I enjoy either their bar or lounges and have a cocktail before dinner. Thanks but no thanks. How about you take reservations, like most restaurants of your caliber, so that those of us who have a babysitter can know we’ll be home at a reasonable hour? That sounds like a much better idea don’t you think? Unfortunately the push for alcoholic drinks didn’t stop on the phone. It was mentioned as soon as we were seated, twice more while the waitress took our orders, and once again after dinner while we were contemplating desserts. When I said no all the other times it meant no. Yes, I realize you make your money there but this is not telemarketing 101, consider this consent. No means no. Ok?
We arrived just after 6:30 PM on a Thursday. A pretty busy time for any restaurant, especially one that just opened and especially one with such a high profile and high traffic location in the South Metro. While there were cars parked on the street, ignoring the Burnsville Police Department signs suggesting they not park there, there were plenty of spaces available in the actual lot. We walked inside and waited our turn at the hostess stand and observed plenty of open seats around the restaurant. We were quickly seated in what I considered the worst area of the restaurant–right near the front door, in the corner, and one that really reminded me of a Perkins. The rest of the restaurant was gorgeous. Lots of wood, stone, and dark but warm colors. It was a lot like Doolittle’s in Eagan but roomier–much more so. The area I liked best was right next to us and looked like a stone covered porch. Those lucky diners could almost envision themselves sitting at their cabin enjoying the view of the lake while eating dinner.
Now that we have that out of the way here is what I thought:
Beautiful, aside from the Perkins area, and designed well–right down to the bathrooms. I loved being able to see the kitchen, had we been permitted to sit over there, the outdoor area, and the covered porch sections. I did not, however, care for the five or six flies buzzing around my table and landing on my food as I ate.
Friendly, knowledgeable enough for day four, and prompt. When I asked where the fish was sourced from the answer, “The Fish Guy,” got a chuckle out of my wife until I informed her that “The Fish Guys” were a real local distributer and while not Coastal, they could have done worse in that department. Our waitress was completely and totally understanding when we informed her that our child was hysterical with the babysitter and we needed to leave quickly. The sitter thanks you.
The prices were appropriate for the portion sizes and quality of food. Porter Creek clearly understands Chianti Grill is their main competition and their menu is priced to beat them–not that I would ever suggest anything is on par with Chianti Grill except perhaps Chipotle and you all know what I think of that rat hole.
Food (the most important part):
1. We ordered the Sesame Ahi Tuna which is listed as including Japanese slaw, crispy wontons, and wasabi cream for $8.95.
The Japanese slaw was forgettable as were the crispy wontons and wasabi cream (more wasabi please) and at first I wasn’t really pleased with the ahi as the sesame overpowered it. But as I ate more the fish flavor began to win out over the sesame and by the end I enjoyed the dish. Next time I could do without the rest–just more tuna please.
2. My wife ordered the French Bone-in Pork Chop with Apricot Chutney. It was described as a 12 oz smoked prime rib of pork, apricot-ginger glaze, asparagus, and mashed potatoes. It was priced at $17.50.
The pork was delicious. It was cooked perfectly, it was juicy, it had just the right amount of char and just the right smoke taste. It went very well with the apricot-ginger glaze which was entirely too sweet to eat on its own. The asparagus was crunchy and tasty and a delight to eat. The only problem, and this extended to my dish as well, were the mashed potatoes. Surprising as it was they were over-seasoned with black pepper and while I love pepper this completely ruined the side.
I highly recommend the pork. While I was at first apprehensive about what the 12 ounce pork would look like, as you can see from the photo they are not skimping out here. This was definitely worth the $17.50 and on a future visit it will likely be what I’d choose.
3. I ordered the Salmon with Roasted Corn Sauce. Figuring that I should at least give a comparison to what I had at the inferior Chianti Grill this would be the best way to do so. Described on the menu as being served with bacon-scallion whipped potatoes, balsamic red onion marmalade, and crisp shoestring potatoes it was listed at $15.95.
The fish was cooked perfectly. Unlike my cold-in-the-middle slab at Chianti Grill, this was cooked all the way through with a slightly crisp exterior. The fish could have carried more flavor but it went nicely with the red onion marmalade. The shoestring potatoes were almost as useless as the peppery bacon-scallion potatoes which were identical to my wife’s mashed potatoes aside from a couple of fresh scallions and maybe five or six bacon bits which I couldn’t taste anyway. The roasted corn sauce tasted more like a curry to me and did little to help the dish. While it wasn’t drizzled over the fish I still don’t think it added much to the overall experience and I would have been just as happy without it.
Overall I probably wouldn’t order it again just because there are plenty of other options I could try but mainly because that pork chop was so very tasty.
The dessert menu is inexpensive and includes several items including flights of Scotches for $8.50. The desserts themselves went for $4.50 for all but one which was priced at $5.50. My wife ordered the Orange Marmalade Cake ($4.50) and had to have it boxed to take home. It was described as having a whiskey creme anglaise and pecans. I tasted one of the pecans and found the creme anglaise to be more like a simple syrup than what I am accustomed to and certainly much sweeter. Did they forget the egg yolks perhaps? My wife said it was ok but not something she’d order in the future.
An excellent meal and one we’d like to have again in the future. The final bill came out to be about $59 (this included one beer, one coffee, and one dessert) and was certainly worth it.
Have you eaten at Porter Creek Hardwood Grill in Burnsville? If so what did you think? What was your favorite dish? Where did you get to sit? Do you agree that it is better than Chianti Grill? Whatever you have to say about Porter Creek in Burnsville go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Porter Creek Hardwood Grill
14201 Burngarten Dr
Burnsville, MN 55306
See all the photos from Porter Creek Hardwood Grill in Burnsville on Flickr here.