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.
The culinary team at Common Roots Cafe believes that the best way to create a welcoming restaurant is to fully embrace local flavor in every sense of the word. Even the interior speaks to this mission?reclaimed barn wood makes up the dining room's floorboards and tabletops, the counter is composed of recycled cardboard, and the air is one-hundred percent Minnesotan. The overall effect is one of casual warmth, an atmosphere that makes the cafe an ideal spot for guests to chew on eclectic, yet accessible, cuisine and relax with a choice of 10 local craft beers.
The menu itself also bursts with hometown pride, highlighting local organic and sustainable ingredients. As much as half of the restaurant's food comes from farms located within 250 miles of Minneapolis, while some produce is picked right outside the door at the cafe's urban garden. And since the selection of ingredients alters with the seasons, the chefs adapt their dishes each month to showcase their fresh flavors. Previous offerings have included redfish tacos with jicama slaw, mac 'n' cheese with local cheddar, and house-made tagliatelle pasta topped with a hearty bison bolognese sauce. Bites are complemented with sips from a drink list featuring wines?many made from organic grapes?and local beers. And, in the unlikely event that diners leave any food on their plates, the scraps are carefully composted to continue the cafe's green production cycle.
C&G’s Smoking Barbecue's owner and head chef Greg Alford has spent 40 years perfecting smoked barbecue ribs, tender beef-brisket sandwiches, and crispy, in-season perch that Heavy Table writer Jason Walker called, "the best I've had in a while". Rather than adhering to contemporary trends, the restaurateur dazzles Minnesota mouths with his unique blend of traditional cooking techniques borrowed from both Louisiana, where his family hails from, and Detroit, where he was raised. His ribs––which attracted Minnesota Monthly's July 2010 feature on the best barbecue spots in Minneapolis––are the joint's most popular item and arrive with an even tenderness that is the result of a three-hour smoking and heat-distributing process. Barbecue sauce is served on the side, according to the preference of both Greg and his regular customers, who believe that the best meat should be seasoned and balanced enough to perform alone or with the subtle accompaniment of doo-wop-singing french fries.
Beyond its bricked entryway, Sarna’s harbors a cornucopia of comfort cuisine, from succulent steak and seafood dishes to home-cooked meals seemingly plucked from Grandma’s stovetop. Smothered in house-made beef gravy, slabs of pot roast temper carnivorous cravings alongside prime rib platters slow roasted in herbs and garlic, which, like an elementary school dance group, may only be served on Friday and Saturday nights. Tuned to local and national sports, a quartet of big screen TVs glint off a full-service bar cast in the lambent glow of the dining room’s flickering fireplaces. Tufted-back booths overlook an outdoor patio, where diners can clink Bloody Marys and enjoy a Sunday brunch as a burbling waterfall trickles to the tune of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Verdant foliage peeks over the stone wall encircling the courtyard, and in the evenings, a crackling fire pit creates a romantic atmosphere for those sipping on any number of daily specials.