Saturday, May 8, 2010

Modern Café, Minneapolis

Thoroughly modern munching in the Northeast part of Town!
by Charlie Leck

My friends do not accuse me of being acutely aware of the dining scene in Minneapolis or the Twin Cities. One of those friends took me to the Modern Café yesterday for lunch. I had never been there before. My dining companion shook his head about that, in rather utter disbelief, and was a touch embarrassed when I went on and on about how fabulous it was. Those in the know are, I gathered, already aware of all this and, although new to me, the wonders of the little café are well known to most civilized people in this area.

The Modern,” as I understand the folks who love it call the place, looks, at first glance, like your neighborhood burger joint, originally laid out in the 40s or early 50s. It takes a few moments to allow your eyes to adjust and then you discover the entire establishment was done-up with a sense of humor and a flair for the unusual. What might be an ordinary diner’s fountain or dining counter is here a very neat, Deco wine bar. Photographs and art work hanging on the walls are tastefully and appropriately hung.

Then the menu arrives and you realize that a better than average experience lies ahead. Sure, right there are your normal, corner café options – a grilled hamburger or a hunk of meat-loaf. When I watched the two items served at a nearby table, however, I realized they were far from ordinary. This is no haphazard, short-order cook working the kitchen.

After carefully looking over the entire menu, I chose the Asparagus Risotto and ordered a glass of ice tea for a beverage. I’m off bread these days, so I couldn’t dabble in the fantastic looking plate of bread they put in the center of our small table. It was accompanied by a cup of fresh and appropriately soft butter. Yum! My friend dug in with a vengeance. I sipped on the spectacular ice tea while he munched.

Believe me, it was worth saving my appetite for the entré and it arrived with a very attractive presentation. I dug in and found the flavors to be yummy-tum-yummy and tantalizing. You could taste the earthy freshness of the green asparagus and the risotto and its sauce were flavored by a culinary artist. I just kept saying to my friend across the table that I couldn’t believe this meal came out of that kitchen – thinking, even yet, that it was just a little café’s short-order, greasy grilling room.

The Modern Café is the biggest dining surprise I have ever encountered – ever! I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my wife about it and I sent off text messages on my new iPhone to a number of people, raving about it. “Aren’t such surprises wonderful?” I asked friends in my message. Of course, they all texted me back, wondering where the heck I’ve been. They were all aware of the wonders of the Modern Café. As you read this, if a local, you are probably saying the same thing about me.

Phillip Becht is in charge of the kitchen at The Modern. He’s established an extraordinary reputation for himself in the time he’s been there. He talks about preparing food with which we are all familiar with a “funky twist.”

Watch this excellent video about The Modern. It's a really good clip and it will make y'all want to go there if you haven't already. I'm betting y'all will make immediate plans to do so.

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