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.
Restaurant establishment is a Kozlak family tradition. Back in 1943, Joseph and Gertrude Kozlak purchased what would eventually become the well-known Jax Café. In 1977, their son Jax Kozlak and family embarked on a massive restoration project to beautify and expand a new large space that would become Kozlak's Royal Oak Restaurant, which has since been voted Best Ambiance, Best Service, and Neighborhood Gem by OpenTable diners.
Well known for its steaks, Kozlak's serves top-shelf cuts such as bone-in tenderloin, roasted prime rib, and tenderloin filet crowned with add-ons of rich blue cheese, Cajun spices, or fresh sauteed mushrooms. Single tails of steamed African lobster recline on plates with drawn butter, and Australian sea bass receives a stuffing of spinach and crab before being topped with a butter-tarragon sauce. Kozlak's Royal Oak Restaurant boasts a screened-in patio with a canopy.
When the first Sarku Japan location opened its doors more than 25 years ago, few people were conscious about the benefits of eating foods without trans fat, MSG, or Play-Doh. With strict standards that call for fresh ingredients and eschew potentially harmful unsaturated fats and additives, the chain has since expanded to more than 200 locations throughout the United States and South America.
The trick to the franchise's rapid success may lie in its ability to prepare traditional teppanyaki grilled seafood and meat without sacrificing nutrition and quality. Cooks prep everything made-to-order, using fresh vegetables and vegetable oil, even in their tempura breaded shrimp. Some locations feature a sushi bar, where chefs hand-roll sushi.
At Osaka Sushi and Hibachi Steakhouse, teppanyaki chefs preside over sweltering tableside hibachi grills, entertaining diners as they slice and dice succulent cuts of filet mignon, chicken, and swordfish. A customer can wrap a partner's lips around the hibachi lover's dinner for two, which lets scallops, shrimp, lobster, and filet mignon rendezvous on a romantically arranged platter that is perpetually serenaded by a thumb-size accordion player. Alternatively, a slate of dishes that comes to life away from the hibachi grill includes proteins slathered in teriyaki sauce, hidden in tempura batter, or mixed with stir-fried noodles. Special sushi rolls—such as the Dancing roll with tuna, salmon, and yellowtail—also cha-cha from table to mouth.
Mad Jacks Sports Cafe serves a spread of eclectic eats amid rustic décor marked by high-tech accents. Diners dig into a regular or gluten-free menu of steaks, cedar-plank-grilled fish, and sandwiches under the glow of LCD screens and individual TVs stationed within every high backed booth. These flickering devices cast light across the log-cabin-themed space and tables filled with freshly spun pizzas and grill-kissed entrees. As they eat, diners can watch flames dance inside the fireplace, lament a dropped pass or an ill-purchased vowel on one of the looming TV screens, or drink in the fresh air on an outdoor patio.