FDC #52: Park Tavern

Our latest meeting took us to Park Tavern, a neighborhood bar that promises you’ll be able to “eat, drink, bowl, party.” ALL IN ONE PLACE?!?!

Granted, Park Tavern isn’t the fanciest place in the Cities. Any place that sponsors softball teams so long as they promise to come eat and drink after games, sweat and dirt included, doesn’t exactly scream haute cuisine. But if you go to our new WTF is FDC? page, you might understand that this has become slightly less about “fancy” dinners and slightly more about four friends meeting once a month to stay in touch. Yes. Yes, that’s why we went there. Matt had just had a baby (A BABY), and this was close to his house, so we made May’s meeting super convenient for Matt. It was definitely not because Park Tavern’s new chef, Eli Renn, personally invited us in to try the new menu items he’s developing. We would never sell out our journalistic integrity just to get free food. We are above that.

Wait.

No we’re not.

We don’t have “journalistic integrity.” We’ll go anywhere for free food. Why else do you think we’re doing this? To stay in touch as our lives increasingly diverge, and it becomes harder and harder to do so? Pshh. BO-RING. Listen, I didn’t begrudgingly start using hashtags on Instagram for nothing. WE DESERVE THIS. #followus #friyay #YOLO

Anyway, the night was great. It started when I met Matt, his wife Kate, and their new baby out front. THEIR NEW BABY! SO CUTE. Guhhhhh. She’s adorable. Usually wives/girlfriends aren’t invited to FDC meetings, but I assume Kate was there because Matt felt bad about having fun while leaving her at home. This is the only explanation for why she and the baby have gone with Matt to MULTIPLE press events recently and not me. I’M NOT BITTER. WHY DO YOU THINK I’M BITTER?

The night continued when, inside, we ran into Matt’s grandma playing bingo — I’m not kidding — who told us to order the chicken sandwich. COOL IT, GRANDMA. We’re VIPs, we’ll get… what we’re told we’re getting.

Which, first up, was an artichoke flatbread and a strawberry poppyseed salad. That flatbread was goooooood. It had some roasted red pepps, too — it was hearty without being heavy, and not too greasy either. I don’t know where the line between pizza and flatbread rests, but I remember wondering about that as I ate it. Because it definitely wasn’t pizza — but I don’t exactly know why it wasn’t pizza. The crust? The shape? How will I ever be able to find an answer to this quandary?

The strawberry poppyseed salad was OHMYGOD LOOK AT THAT BABY!!!!!!

Next came fish and chips and two different cheeseburgers. Followed finally by dry rub chicken wings and mac and cheese. Listen, none of this food is going to blow you away. (It may blow your arteries away, but shhhh. Just… shhhh.) Before this, Chef Renn worked at the Gold Nugget in Minnetonka, so his background is in bar and grill food. And I mean… Park Tavern is a bowling alley. But nonetheless, we were all impressed with what we ate. Matt and Kate, who, for them, Park Tavern is their neighborhood restaurant, said they would come for this food because of the food itself, rather than just the convenient location. (The baby had some surprisingly sophisticated criticism about the meal progression, which, wow.) I don’t disagree. The rub on the wings was excellent: brown sugar and paprika (among others) is a winning combo.

And coming from the Gold Nugget, if there’s one thing Renn can do well, it’s burgers. In fact, I don’t remember the logic behind this, but “Eat Burgers. Lose Weight,” became the running theme of the night (as well as our #quoteofthenight #QOTNnominee), so he’s working some black magic in that kitchen. The table liked the bison burger with bacon, gorgonzola and roasted red onions (because how could you not), but I was actually partial to the beef burger on a pretzel bun, with a side of pimento dipping cheese. I loved the bready sourness of the bun, and the patty was super juicy and tender.

This is the bison burger. You can see the pretzel burg creepin in the background.

However, I wanted to bathe in that mac and cheese. With toasted breadcrumbs on top, it was… mmm — crunchy, chewy, cheesy, creamy, dewey, huey louie and the news.

In all, while Park Tavern may not be the fanciest meal FDC has ever had, it hit possibly a more important benchmark: nothing was bad, or even OK. Everything was rock solid. That’s hard to do, and major props to Renn and his team for leaving us feeling great about our choice to hold our May meeting at a burger and fries place. “My favorite part of cooking is making people happy,” says Renn. He certainly did that.