Along with the end of Prohibition, 1933 brought sweeping changes across the country. It definitely changed the building at 1928 University Avenue NE in Minneapolis, which had been functioning as a hardware and furniture store for nearly a quarter-century. Proprietor Stanley Kozlak immediately went out and obtained a liquor license, transforming his retail shop into a bar and restaurant.
It would prove to be a smart decision?more than 80 years and two generations of Kozlaks later, Jax Cafe stands as a Minneapolis institution whose reputation has spread throughout the Midwest. This is thanks in part to singular touches such as reserved tables set with personalized matchbooks for expected guests and a stream on the lush covered patio from which diners can net their own rainbow trout for dinner. It?s no wonder Travel Channel foodie Andrew Zimmern has gushed that this restaurant is ?dripping with character.?
Part of that character comes from a certain adherence to traditions. Jax is furnished with patterned carpet, white linens, a grand piano, and a phone booth?yes, a phone booth?and the menu has the classic supper-club meals to match. Fresh Maine lobsters are kept in a saltwater tank said to be the first of its kind in the state, and the selection of award-winning Angus beef includes an 8-ounce filet the restaurant calls ?the steak that made Jax famous.? That?s not to say Jax is stuffy or old-fashioned?the menu also includes beer-can chicken, kids' meals, and craft beers served fresh from the tap, bottle, or keg-sized water balloon.
Amid scenic views of the Mississippi River, the two-tiered patio and all-glass-enclosed dining room treat diners to breathtaking vistas of North America's largest river system and its mermaid inhabitants basking on the shore. Not just about the scenery, at Mississippi Pub, the cooks maintain a strong passion for the food they dish out. Plating traditional pub grub and fresh seafood entrees like fish tacos and shrimp po' boys, they take a fresh approach with their menu. A full bar, boasting bottled and draft beers, shots, and cocktails, complements hearty American fare, including burgers, sandwiches, salads, and weekend breakfast options.
Fresh ingredients from local suppliers abound at Crave, where patrons can create their ideal plates by hand-selecting from an array of all-natural and organic eats. The buffet table sports an elaborate ensemble of tongue tempters, with items such as fresh baked goods, seasonal fruit, applewood-smoked bacon, and egg strata orbiting a chef's selection of fish. Toppings of maple syrup, whipped cream, and berry compote eagerly adorn freshly-toasted checkerboards at the gourmet waffle station, and the chef's carving station showcases a selection of fine meats whittled to look like bars of soap. Champagne, mimosas, and bellinis give brunch a cosmopolitan flair, and Crave's low-lit ambience provides an intimate backdrop for shadow-puppet Civil War reenactments.
At Sam’s Grill, formerly known as Oak City, the menu's bounty of sizzling and hearty dishes reflects the best of American cuisine by incorporating a variety of our country's ever-present international influences. Though stir-fries and pastas abound, the Mediterranean is clearly the restaurant's greatest inspiration—dishes such as filet mignon kebobs and pizzas topped with gyro meat create a fusion of local and overseas flavors, and more traditional American dishes, such as the Cajun burger or baby back ribs keep palates firmly at home. Meanwhile, wine-savvy waiters educate clients on the wines available by the glass. Sam's Grill also adds a splash of nightlife to the mix by bringing in DJs with Thursday nights dedicated to Latin music and Friday and Saturday nights focusing on Top 40.
With three generations of restaurant-owning experience, the Kozlak family puts forward high-quality American fare with an emphasis on excellent service in a comfortable neighborhood setting. Only certified-Angus-beef steaks and prime rib, as well as fresh seafood, are found on the extensive menu. House cuts include the Bone-In Steer Tenderloin ($41.95), which is considered the finest steak available, fusing the flavor of the bone with the tenderness of the filet. The Filet Oscar ($42.95) is topped with crab meat and crisp asparagus and finished with smooth béarnaise sauce. For all non–beef eaters, the pinnacle of comfort food is found in the creamy abyss of the chicken pot pie ($12.95). There are many other chicken, lamb, pasta, pork, and seafood choices, including a dish that consists of watching neighboring diners feast.