Would we go back:
2124 NE Marshall St
• Meatloaf Sample Plate $3.50
• Walleye Fingers Sample Plate $6.25
• Crab Cake Sample Plate $4.75
The Sample Room is the old Polish Palace for those familiar with landmarks in Northeast Minneapolis. I never did go to the Polish Palace so I cannot compare decor, but it was a nice bar restaurant decor. Do not be fooled however, this is more a bar than a restaurant. It is a very small place and has good ventilation, but there is still a ton a smoke.
You have two options you can order a bunch of sample sized portions or an entree portion of their offerings. This is my mecca, I always want to order more than one appetizer for my entree, but feel like they look at me funny when I do. There have been a couple of exceptions to the rule, mostly not in this state, that offer you that option on their menu. The sample portions are fairly generous so two or three seems to be more than plenty.
The meatloaf was actually very good. It was four thin slices with a little homemade ketchup like sauce on it. The walleye fingers were pretty good. I thought the sauce accompanying could have a bit more zing to it. The crab cake was amazing and perhaps the best deal in town. It was two small crab cakes with a red pepper sauce. However the two small cakes easily equalled the size of one normal sized cake that you would expect to pay $8 or more for at every other restaurant in town. Plus they actually tasted good and had lots of crab and very little filler.
Steve's samples were all pretty good as well, I will however only comment on the hashbrowns which were absolutely breathtaking. They were light and crunchy and spicy and filled with carmelized onion. I don't think I have ever commented on hashbrowns before, because I am usually so unimpressed, but wow!
Would we go back? I don't know. I really liked the food, but it was like a bar and I am not a big fan of eating in a lot of smoke. Perhaps I will try a different time of day or something, because the crab cakes were pretty darn good.
• Warm camembert w/ caramelized onions $2.95
• Grilled Grain Belt steamed bratwurst $4.95
• Seared tuna w/ wasabi aioli $6.95
• 1/2 Skillet hash browned potatoes $3.95
The food at The Sample Room is very good, but the ambience is enough to keep me away except for off-hours or mid-week. The restaurant is small, extremely loud, dimly lit, and smoky. The noise level was high enough that it was difficult to hold a conversation during the meal. The lighting was low enough to make it difficult to read the menu. The cigarette smoke that wafts from the bar didn’t bother me at first, but midway through the meal, it made my stomach turn.
Each of the ‘samples’ I ordered were very good. The only complaint I had was that there was a strange dichotomy between the wasabi aioli that was not hot/spicy and the horseradish served with bratwurst that was extra hot. Otherwise, I kept saying to myself, these are reasonably priced dishes. Even though it was an end piece, where else are you going to get seared tuna with wasabi aioli for $6.95? The hash browned potatoes are some of the best in the Twin Cities.
It’s almost surreal to order camembert, bratwurst, tuna, and hash browns in the same meal. But at the same time, why not? The Sample Room is a decent restaurant that could use a better space.
March 9, 2003