Café Maude (Minneapolis, MN)

By Bruce Schneier and Karen Cooper
The Mix
July/August 2008

We're waiting at the bar for our table, which would have been impossible to get without a reservation. Both the restaurant and the bar are noisy and crowded. With people sipping $9 cocktails. At 8:00 PM. On a Tuesday. At 54th and Penn, in South Minneapolis! What in the world is going on here?

Café Maude is going on here, a delightfully good neighborhood bistro that's worth driving to.

There's plenty to like here. We recommend almost everything on the "Small Plates" part of the menu, from the delicate and crunchy cumin chicken wings to the baked escargot with brioche to the seared ahi tuna with tomato, avocado, and tangy citrus. The lamb skewers were also tasty, but the couscous adds nothing to the plate.

Across the menu, try the hummus flatbread, served with cucumber, tomato, garlic, mint, and cilantro. Or the duck confit flatbread, served with blue cheese and frisée. If you like bitter greens order the dandelion salad, the prettiest salad we've seen in these Twin Cities. And order their house-made French fries, served with truffle mahon (a richly flavored Spanish cow's milk cheese)fondue. These fries are as good as you'll find anywhere. And any of the other sides: braised mixed greens with parmesan, grilled onions, and lemon; grilled aspargus with parmesan and parsley almond sauce; or the homey perfection of mashed potatoes and garlic. These are such flavorsome choices you can make a great meal out of choosing two or three of these.

If you're still hungry after all that, there are mains. We liked the roasted half a chicken prepared Moroccan style. Also the roasted duck, served with pear, turnip puree, escarole, grapes, and – the best part – crystallized ginger.

The jambalaya is spicy and good, although the chicken wings didn't contribute to this dish. And you might prefer ordering something that won't clash with your wine.

And we do want you to order wine. Café Maude has an interesting and food-friendly list, both by the glass and by the bottle, with tasting notes to help you choose a wine you'd like. If you simply must spend more than $40 on a bottle, you'll have to ask for their special reserve list.

Or stick to their great list of house cocktails. We liked the blackberry cosmo, and split on their figs of paradise: fig infused vodka, espresso, and sherry. An extensive non-alcoholic cocktail list makes this a great place to bring the family.

And, oddly, it is. Café Maude isn't downtown, nor a business destination. It's an exquisite neighborhood place, which means that you'll find families ordering the mac 'n' cheese for the kids while their folks have snails and crab cakes.

It's not inexpensive. With a couple of drinks, a few small plates each and dessert, dinner for two may come close to $100. You can eat lightly and spend less, too, but all the food is so good you'll want to try a lot of dishes. The restaurant has a nice brunch menu, including an array of elegant breakfast favorites and lunch sandwiches. And while we didn't save room to talk about desserts, you should save room for some.

Café Maude
5411 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis
(612) 822-5411
http://www.cafemaude.com/

Cuisine type: American Eclectic
Reservations: Essential
Diet choices: Varied

earlier review: Red Stag Supperclub (Minneapolis, MN)
later review: Marla's Caribbean Cuisine (Minneapolis, MN)
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Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

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