2nd Annual Fancy Dinner Club Awards

There are a lot of things outsiders don’t know about Minneapolis. Some of these things are basic. Like, where it is, for example. Have you ever asked someone from the East or West Coast label all the states in the U.S.? Might be the only thing sadder than a Sarah McLachlan-sponsored sick dog commercial. Other fun facts: We have the world’s longest continuous skyway system. We have the second most theatre seats per capita in the U.S. outside New York (a fact that we are obsessed with here). We have the most golfers per capita in the country (or in other words, our white people do quite well – zing!). We have the first ever therapeutic salt cave. We have-

The number of evens that I can't is astronomical.
Wait, what? Who didn’t tell me about this!?!? The number of evens that I can’t is astronomical.

I could go on. What I really wish Minneapolis would get some more credit for nationally is its food. The chefs here are redonk. They’re creative. They’re passionate. They make really really amazing stuff in the kitchen.

And not whatever R. Kelly was making.
And not whatever R. Kelly was making.

There’s undeniable talent in the Twin Cities. It was really tough for the four of us to narrow down our top choices (and in some cases we straight up couldn’t). Here are some of the highlights from FDC Year 2:

Best meal – Lyn 65

Drew’s take: A lot of things go into a great meal, and many of them are obvious. There is one thing, however, that can unify them all and make a meal truly exceptional, and that is having an owner who is absolutely jacked to share their restaurant with you. With all due respect to the other restaurant owners and chefs in Minneapolis, but no one was more pumped to share his creation than Lyn 65’s Ben Rients. Knowing we would be coming in to try his restaurant for the first time, Ben and his staff brought out extra dishes constantly so we truly experienced all Lyn 65 had to offer. Did it help that we got a lot of things for free? Sure it did. But it helped more that all of those extras were delicious. It also really demonstrated how proud they all were of where they worked, and as someone who works for The Man with a capital The, that was truly a joy to watch. As for the obvious stuff, Ben & Co. are killin’ it on that front, too.

Best restaurant – Spoon and Stable

Drew’s Take: Some might think picking Spoon and Stable is taking the easy way out. “You picked the hyped-beyond-belief restaurant with the five month wait and critically acclaimed New York chef? Puhleez.” You know what though? Some things are just facts. Lebron James is the best basketball player. Donald Trump is a psychopath. Jellyfish are the scariest animal. These are universal truths. Add Spoon and Stable is the best restaurant in Minneapolis to that list, and then get your ass on that absurd reservation wait list and pray to Food God that Spaghetti Nero is still on the menu when you get there.

The great thing about the internet is that you can search for "Food God" and not be disappointed.
The great thing about the internet is that you can search for “Food God” and not be disappointed.

 

Best service – Lyn 65 / Spoon & Stable

Bradley’s take: Lyn 65 and Spoon & Stable were the clear highlights of an incredible year of eating, so we felt it was only fitting to award a tie in the category that got them there. Yes, how the food tastes is important, but after two years of eating amazing food at all of our FDC meals, the restaurants that stick in our memory are the ones that go the extra mile on service. As Drew mentioned above, Lyn 65 rolled out the red carpet and made us four dumdums feel like rockstars. More than just the free food, every staff person at the restaurant–most of whom probably didn’t understand who we were and wouldn’t have cared if they did–went all in for us, because it seems that that’s just, well, what they do. Nothing was rushed, everyone was friendly–Lyn 65’s concept of craft food in a casual, neighborhood astmosphere really shone through. As for Spoon & Stable, you can read more in our original writeup. Basically, they knew all about us before we even walked in the door. Not just the fact that Matt, our social media guru, tweeted at them about FDC’s impending arrival; but they used the email address I used to make the reservation to learn as much as they could about ME before we arrived. That might freak out some as being a little too Big Brother-ish, but it didn’t come across that way. As our server said, “If you have a chance to learn more about and better serve the people coming to your restaurant, why wouldn’t you?” Add that to the fact that the whole staff was always attentive, never hovering–and that’s some top class service.

Best atmosphere – Parlour (and Borough) 

Drew’s take: This one’s a little tough to describe. You know how a lot of TV shows and movies use the trope of the mysterious, cool older brother that can do no wrong in the eyes of his naïve little sibling? Well, Parlour basically bottled that up and decorated their bar with it. You just felt at home there. But like, at the home of the alternative universe, Dos Equis man version of yourself. Dim lighting. An assortment of couches and small tables. Pleasant…ceiling…height? I don’t know, basically what I’m trying to say is that the place with the best atmosphere is the place where they max out the swagger while seeming to not try too hard at doing so. Parlour is that place. The fact that I haven’t been back for another drink is criminal (or that burger…THAT BURGER OMG). Add in the fact that you’ve got the exquisitely decorated Borough upstairs, and you’ve got yourself one special place to eat and drink.

Best veggie dish – Third Bird Asparagus

Chris’ take: Let’s start with me saying this: I don’t like asparagus.  I don’t really like vegetables all that much.  But one of the great things about Fancy Dinner club is getting to try all these vegetables prepared to the absolute best they could possibly be done.  We have had many an amazing Brussels sprout in our time at FDC, and have you had Brussels sprouts at a non-spectacular restaurant?  They’re gross.

But anyways.  We had a lot of good veggies this year, but the asparagus at The Third Bird blew my mind.  As mentioned above, I don’t even like asparagus.  However, basically everything is better when it’s slathered in cheese, and this asparagus was no exception.  The veggies themselves were prepared perfectly, but they were drowned in an amazing gooey creamy delicious heavy cheese sauce that made the dish go from 0-60 faster than a car that goes from 0-60 very fast.  Props to The Third Bird for an amazing dish, and for forever making asparagus disappointing for me unless I get it from their restaurant.  Thanks a lot, jerks.

Best guest star – Ben Reints

Matt’s take: Fancy Dinner Club has seen its share of guests over our first two years, they were all friends of ours, but stars (depends who you ask)? After our fantastic experience at Lyn65, which had its share of guest stars (Hulk Hogan, Tom Selleck) courtesy of the head chef and owner, we decided it was time a formal invite to an official meeting. Ben joined us for one of our more epic meals at Revival, where the waitress actually talked us down from ordering more food and we still had leftovers. Not only is Ben an awesome guy to hang out with who makes fantastic food, but he gave us industry and cooking insights throughout the meal. Ben has a standing invitation to Fancy Dinner Club and truly embodies what this prestigious award is all about.

Best Worst bread related moment Victory 44 Cavé Vin

Matt’s take: Drew’s take: Matt has taken forever to write this up, so I’ll just say that no one has outshined Cavé Vin’s infamous moment.

WE NEVER FORGET

Best dessert – Bread pudding at Kenwood

Chris’ take: Desserts are my forte.  I am typically the one pushing for desserts at the end of the meal.  What can I say, I have a sweet tooth?  Although we would be remiss not to mention the tasty confections we sampled at Spoon & Stable (or the free root beer flavored ice cream that topped off our meal at Lyn65), the hands down winner of this category was the Bread Pudding at Kenwood.

Maybe it was because we were curious – we were told that they put this dessert back on the menu after being asked over and over by their customers that had tasted the sweet perfection before.  Maybe it was because they gave us an extra scoop of the mocha ice cream on top.  Whatever.  The bread pudding was warm and sweet and hit that perfect medium between light and heavy, decadent and airy.  It’s not often that a dessert is the highlight of a FDC meal, but this one really took the cake.  Took the pudding?  Took the cake.

Keep it on the menu, Kenwood.  Don’t ever take it off.  EVER.

Best drinks – Surly

Bradley’s take: Beer. Parlour had a mezcal-based cocktail that Drew and I both loved. The Third Bird had a “wacky gin/citrus/basil/pepper drink” that just… wow. But beer. Surly was always going to win this award, and frankly, it wasn’t close. They have beers that you can only get at their brewery (or possibly at an increasingly common “tap takeover” at your local watering hole). They have a menu designed for pairing their beers with their food. They have half-pint and smaller pours so that you can try almost all of their offerings without getting supes shwastey. I mean… Beer. If you’re a brewery, you don’t create a restaurant–one that’s really really good–if your beer doesn’t also hold up. The winner is clear (sometimes cloudy, or dark). Beer.