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.
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.
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.
Cuisine Type: Seafood/American
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Number of Tables: 25–50
Parking: Parking lot
Most popular offering: Lobster roll, bone-in ribeye, jambalaya
Alcohol: Full bar
Delivery/Takeout Available: Yes
Outdoor Seating: Yes
Pro Tip: [We have] live music most weekends, check our website for details.
What is one of your most popular offerings? How is it prepared?
Pecan-crusted walleye topped with a Cajun cream sauce and candied pecans and served with a baked sweet potato and cinnamon butter, [as well as] sautéed fresh green beans. We pan fry the walleye and finish it in the oven.
In your own words, how would you describe your menu?
A little of a southern twist with jambalaya, shrimp and grits, and great dishes from the South, East, and West coast. [We also have] Kansas City barbecue ribs (where I grew up). We bring flavors from all over America. Our chef is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
Is there anything else you want to add that we didn't cover?
Boat docking is available.
The Afton House Inn sits on the banks of the St. Croix River, just 30 miles east of downtown Minneapolis. There, city-dwellers will discover a homey bed and breakfast retreat, with plenty of river views and unique guest rooms decorated with antiques. The inn has earned awards from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast for its fine-dining restaurant, which, in addition to its extensive wine list, serves a classic American menu of steaks and seafood. Their Steak Diane, beef tenderloin medallions flamed with brandy and finished with a demi-glace, is prepared table-side. During the day, guests can build up an appetite at the Afton Alps Ski Area, just 10 minutes away, or take a river cruise on the St. Croix (between April and October).