St. Paul has something new to offer from the capable hands of the Town Talk Diner dandies, Tim Nivers and Aaron Johnson: The Strip Club.
Boasting "meat & fish" on the windows, you can expect the delivery of said items over and over again inside.
Nivers greeted us warmly as we made our way in from the cold, and we were pleased to see bartender Dan, previously of the Longfellow Grill, behind the bar.
As we sipped wine and waited for our table, we sized up the dinner menu (click on the menu to view a larger JPG):
Aside from the offerings on the menu, each night features a specialty small plate and a specialty entree. The "grilled meat on a stick" changes nightly as well.
Gerg and I opted for 2 small plates, 2 entrees, tasty wine, and espresso.
The small plates:
If you know anything about gerg, you know we had to order the Ploughman’s Lunch - a good portion of port wine cheese and crackers, French olives, pickled scallions, and grapes. The highlight of this plate had to be the pickled scallions - tangy and salty with a little heat and crunch from the scallion itself. Although we skipped the brandy old fashioned, it would have been a perfect pairing with this plate.
We also ordered a fantastic fried oyster small plate, one of their nightly specials. 4 tantalizing fried oysters served on skewers over a crunchy bed of frisee and seaweed and a creamy pepper sauce. Plump and juicy, the oysters made my eyes grow wide with delight.
Gerg ordered the Thousand Hills Cattle Co. New York Strip with grilled lemon and carrots. For a sauce accompaniment he selected the “Bleu Movie” Northern Lights bleu cheese and scallion sauce. Are you familiar with the concept of destiny? When you think of slices of grilled steak steak nestled under a melty pile of Northern Lights bleu and scallions, think destiny. It was un-%$*#ing-believable.
Gerg paired his steak with a sensational glass of Dusted Valley “Stomp” Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla, WA. Our server, Bill, explained that Aaron Johnson's brother makes this wine out in Washington. It was oaky and dry...right up gerg's alley.
I ordered the Arctic Char, a cousin of trout and salmon. A thick slab of pink fish, similar to a piece of salmon in size, but with a much more delicate flavor than salmon. In my opinion, it is preferable to salmon. The fish was served over a generous portion of lentils, cabbage, spaetzle, and mustard broth. Just the perfect amount of salty and savoury, I thought this dish was interesting. I explained to co-owner Tim Nivers that I'd never tasted anything like that before....a truly unique dish for our neck of the non-woods. He asked if that meant that I didn't like it. I explained that I did like it...that it was a totally new flavor combo to me.
As for wine, I started with the Punto Final Malbec from Argentina - full bodied, but not fruity. I paired my dinner with the fruitier Rojo Mojo Shiraz from Spain, recommended by our amazing server, Bill. When that glass was gone, Nivers brought out some Wente Merlot from Sandstone, CA. I was suspicious, but the merlot came through for me.
Plenty of on-street parking and no actual strippers makes this place appealing for a weekend date. Fortunately for us, gerg made a reservation. Nivers told us the wait could be as much as 2 hours on a Friday or Saturday night without a reservation. Fortunately, they have a bar, and in the tradition of the Town Talk Diner, the bartenders are very good at what they do. The dimly lit dining room is perfect for a date, and the second floor dining area offers an impressive view of the skyline.
Chef J.D. Fratzke, previously of Muffuletta, greeted us as we wrapped up our meal, and we had the opportunity to talk about his passion for local foods and sustainable agriculture. He's pleased that all of their beef is grass fed and hormone-free, supplied by Thousand Hills Cattle Company. Fratzke was glowing as we talked about his new gig and what a more sustainable steak offering meant for the Twin Cities.
"The day this place opened was the happiest day of my life, next to the day when my daughter was born," said Fratzke. "I'm working with people here who are like family to me."
Sparkly skyline + amazing steak + red wine + low lights + hugs from Nivers + smiling chef= dining awesomeness.
The Strip Club
378 Maria Ave
Saint Paul, MN 55106
ps - the night couldn't have been complete without a nightcap at the Town Talk Diner. We stopped in to say howdy. If you haven't stopped in the Town Talk for cocktails lately, you ought to try their French mulled wine while it's still cold outside.
[where: Local Food, St. Paul, Twin Cities, Minnesota, The Strip Club]