Note: I have to apologize for the photos. The lighting was terrible and the color scheme in the restaurant didn’t do much to help. I tried my best to reverse the poor photo effects but I just couldn’t pull it off. My bad.
Last night The Wife and I took The Rooster and a sleeping Koala up to South Minneapolis’ new brewpub, Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub located only a few blocks off of Hiawatha. We arrived before 6 PM on a Sunday and found the place fairly busy with people drinking beer, eating food, and watching football. We took a seat at the back of the restaurant along the windows and looked over the menu.
The menu is pretty small, it’s clear this brewpub is more about the beer than the food (and rightfully so) but I have to admit many of the items were intriguing and coupled with the great smell of woodsmoke both outside and inside the restaurant were making my mouth water as I read through the names. While smoked egg salad ($6.25) and smoked wings ($8.50) caught my eye, I zeroed in almost immediately on the Smoked Porketta ($7.95). The Wife went with the Fried Chicken Sandwich ($7.25) and since their items all come ala carte we ordered their Cajun Northbound Fries ($4.25) to go along with them.
While I was told by several that I should have tried the beer, we didn’t but I have to admit I really wanted to try their 90+ IBU IPA. With happy hour prices (7 days a week) at $3/pint, this seemed like quite a steal. Their house beers are numerous and they have plenty of others to whet your whistle as well.
The food was out fairly quickly and we dug in. The Northbound Fries which are handcut were mostly limp and soggy and all of the seasoning settled to the bottom leaving the majority of the fries a below mediocre disappointment. We weren’t there for the fries and being that I don’t much care about fries anyway, aside from being annoyed that we blew $4.25 on something I could have pulled out of a bag and undercooked myself in my own oven, I wasn’t about to blow off the place for this one indiscretion.
The Wife’s Fried Chicken Sandwich was something I simply didn’t get. I didn’t get why it was on the menu in a place which smokes most everything else and I certainly didn’t understand why she wanted to order it but there it was on our table looking terrible with its mostly orange tomatoes and very blackened batter. Supposedly dipped in waffle batter and pan-fried in a cast iron skillet, this sandwich was simply overdone and dry. The waffle batter added nothing and if I hadn’t been told it was waffle batter I would have been none the wiser. The Wife wasn’t impressed at all and I was even less so.
Growing up we had porketta on a fairly regular basis. I remember the flavorful meat coming with a crisp outer layer and melting in my mouth. While Iron Range porketta is a little different from the versions I had growing up, Northbound’s version was a disaster on a plate. First of all it didn’t come with the promised fried onions and the Swiss cheese was utterly tasteless. I really don’t know what it is about Minnesotans and Swiss but I routinely have Swiss that simply doesn’t carry any flavor at all. Yeah, I get it, bland rules the day but seriously, choose something else if you want to have a bland cheese so that those of us who know what Swiss should taste like aren’t disappointed when we have melted air on our sandwiches.
Now the star of the show, the porketta itself, was moist and tender. Unfortunately that’s all that can be said about this one. If that porketta didn’t come straight out of a crockpot I would be shocked. There was absolutely no smoke flavor and the coloring was all wrong–in fact, it was almost white. Pork may be the other white meat but I have only seen it come out looking like that when it’s in a crockpot for too long. Aside from its terrible lack of color and smoke, the meat was too wet and aside from an unhealthy amount of salt, it just didn’t taste like anything. That’s right, there was no fennel, no garlic, and no pepper. The house-made BBQ should have been able to save this huge disappointment but sadly only added to it. Seriously, after tasting that porketta and its lack of smoke and flavor, they should be forced to remove the “Smokehouse” from their name. So sad.
The server later came around to ask how everything was. After clarifying whether she was asking to be nice or if she really wanted to know what I thought, I laid it all out for her: overdone fried chicken, tasteless porketta, and soggy fries. She was apologetic and soon one of the owners came to our table to also apologize. They later took 50% off our tab which I promptly returned to the waitress in full as a tip. While I appreciated their great service here, I did not appreciate the dirty look I got from the chef who came out of the kitchen to see what jerks said their food wasn’t all that great. Next time come over to my table and give me that dirty look so I can tell you to your face that your food sucks and you should be polishing up that resume to find a new job at a place where your services would be appreciated–like Burger King–where they use liquid smoke.
Overall I was completely and utterly unimpressed with the two sandwiches and the fries we had. While Northbound apparently has excellent beer, I highly suggest you stick to that and not be lured in by their admittedly interesting menu because it’s likely you’ll end up just as sorely disappointed as we were last evening. I really wanted to like this place; it had everything I could ask for: great beer list, interesting sounding items, and great waitstaff and ownership. Unfortunately I simply cannot ignore the horrendously executed food nor the dirty look from the kitchen staff; it gives me the creeps.
Have you ever eaten at Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub in South Minneapolis? If so what did you think? What did you order and have you noticed, as one person on Twitter has, that the food has gotten progressively worse since its opening? What is your favorite beer from the place and which others do you recommend? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub
2716 E 38th St
Minneapolis, MN 55406
See all the photos from Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub in Minneapolis on Flickr here.