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.
Chorizo, chihuahua cheese, lemongrass, and bamboo shoots are equally at home in Se?or Wong?s kitchen, where the executive chef fills the menu with Asian Mexican fusion plates. Tacos topped with barbacoa or smoky black beans join entrees such as szechwan steak stir-fry served with jasmine rice. Se?or Wong also pairs more traditional bar bites, such as what the Star Tribune thinks ?might be the best sweet potato fries in town,? with 18 draft craft beers from breweries such as Surly Brewing Co. and Summit Brewing Company. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available. Weekly special events such as trivia and karaoke further foster the laid-back pub vibe, as patrons can sample sakes or sing lullabies to the Paloma En Fuego cocktail, which mixes Hornitos Reposado tequila, serrano pepper, grapefruit soda, hopped grapefruit bitters, limeade, and smoked salt rim. Friday and Saturday nights also feature live music from various local musicians.
• For $10, you get $20 worth of French-American cuisine at brunch or lunch. • For $20, you get $40 worth of French-American cuisine and drinks after 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The Restaurant's blend of fine French recipes with hardy American ingredients increases gustatory alliances at tables sprinkled throughout its homey dining rooms. In a contemporary take on the timeless roasted duck a l’orange, Grand Marnier and seasonal fruit accompaniments simmer next to a crispy quarter of tender duck ($16). After being pan seared and flambéed with cognac, the steak au poivre's black-peppercorn-encrusted fillet bathes in delicious blend of crème fraîche and bordelaise sauce next to a potato, pasta, or vegetables ($20). The salmon mosaic weaves strips of wild Alaskan salmon and fresh Canadian walleye into a replica of Starry Night before a light poaching and drizzle of lemon beurre blanc and dill ($18). Capturing the essences of classic French cuisine, the chicken coq au vin slow cooks locally raised chicken with bacon, pearl onions, and mushrooms in a red-wine sauce ($19 for dinner, $13 for lunch).
The chefs at Hot Wok Delivery stir-fry Chinese and Cambodian dishes before whisking them to diners' tables or homes. During lunch and dinner rushes, they man flaming stovetops, sautéing chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, and vegetables to thread into noodle entrees and combination plates. Before meals fly from the kitchen, the chefs finish them with a quick splash of sauce, adding either sweet or savory notes or imbuing them with a fiery sauce spicier than a jalapeño's memoirs.
Although the red-walled dining room includes three booths at which customers can sit, the staff also delivers orders, shuttling food to family dinners or lengthy daguerreotype posing sessions.
bd's Mongolian Grill combines do-it-yourself dining with the communal experience of collaboratively yanking out a giant radish that’s blocking the town's water supply. Guests can create their own stir-fry meal in one bowl for lunch ($7.99 for vegetarian, $8.99 for meat and seafood, $9.99 for stir-fry with soup and salad, and $12.99 for unlimited stir-fry with soup and salad) or dinner ($10.99 for vegetarian, $12.99 for meat and seafood, and $14.99 for unlimited stir-fry; all stir-fry dinners include complimentary access to the soup and salad bar). Choose from myriad meats, a variety of vegetables, a smorgasbord of sauces, and a slew of spices. Pair chicken with bean sprouts and pineapple in a stir-fry you'll deem the "Chicken with Bean Sprouts and Pineapple," or combine calamari with egg, peppers, peanut sauce, and chili powder for a meal you'll name after yourself—the "Peter Fonda." With ingredients assembled, guests will pass their stir-fry bowls on to bd's Mongolian Grill's expert grillers, who will give the appetizing assortment a trial by fire on the restaurant's large, flat grill. After the sustenance ceases to sizzle, diners are free to take their customized cuisine back to the table, where they can determine their prowess in patchworking together palate-pleasers and inflating their own egos with compliments to themselves.
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.