Would we go back:
750 S. 2nd St.
• Shrimp and Mussels $9.50 (shared)
• Beet Ravioli $16.00
• Bete noir - flourless chocolate cake $10.00
Spoonriver has a great location in near the new Guthrie and it takes good advantage of that fact.
Our appetizer was good tasting and good quality as would be expected from a restaurant ran by Brenda Langton. I think it was a bit small to justify the price, but I know she sources only the best and you get what you pay for.
My beet ravioli was very nice, but I love beets and I love ravioli so putting them together will almost always be a winner. This was very well done. The dessert was excellent, but a little high priced. I think this is where they are taking advantage of their location in that they know people on their way to the Guthrie will stop for a quick bite (appetizer) and/or on their way home from the Guthrie for a quick dessert. So I think while the entrees are appropriately priced the appetizers and desserts seemed a bit high to me. But if I had that location, I would do the same thing.
• Beef Spare Ribs (special) with scallion mashed potatoes, braised kale, and green beans $20.00
• Ginger spiced cake with ice cream $10.00
I really wanted to love Spoonriver, but ended up only respecting it. I also appreciate Brenda Langton’s business savvy more and more each time I visit Café Brenda or Spoonriver. I have been to each for lunch a few times, and Brenda is always there. She seems like some superhero who is everywhere at once. She’s setting up tables, seating customers, checking on diners, watching food leave the kitchen. In short, she’s amazing.
She also prices her product well. Looking over her Spoonriver menu, you can readily see higher priced appetizers and desserts, but moderately priced entrees. “What the heck is she thinking?” you might ask yourself. Isn’t she discouraging people from ordering appetizers or dessert? No, Spoonriver is right across the street from the hopping new Guthrie Theatre. Spoonriver is capitalizing on the before and after theatre crowd to maximize revenue. People naturally look to stop in Spoonriver before or after a show because of the location and because it’s good. So they may only order a drink and an appetizer before the show (so they don’t fall asleep) or a drink and a dessert after the show (so they can talk about the show and make goo-goo eyes at each other). With diners also often sharing an appetizer or dessert, a higher priced item makes up for the lost revenue of sharing. To offset these relatively higher prices, the entrees are relatively less expensive, so our total bill was in line with what we expected to spend for a meal. In short, she knows her clientele and prices accordingly.
So enough MBA talk, can the kitchen bring it? Yes. We would have rated Spoonriver excellent but for the dessert. The shrimp and mussels were high quality. Don’t let anyone tell you differently, head-on shrimp are much better than headless shrimp (even though I still get spooked when I see their beady little eyes). As mentioned above, they price accordingly. The broth was average, nothing out-of-this world, but fully adequate.
The real star was the beef spare ribs, which were tender, juicy, and flavorful. The spare ribs were cooked perfectly so they maintained their juices. They were a little harder to cut, but the effort was worth it. The scallion mashed potatoes were delicious. The braised kale was a fresh, cleansing accompaniment. The green beans completed the plate.
The ginger spiced cake with ice cream was okay, but overpriced for the after-theatre crowd. It’s priced better if you’re sharing it, especially considering the larger size.
Several subtle, strange things happened at Spoonriver when we were there. First, a man opened up a laptop at the table behind us. Really, was this guy that bored with the other three guys he was with? Was this a Saturday night business dinner? It didn’t look like it based on what he was doing. It was inexplicable. But maybe along the lines of cell phones, anything goes.
Second, after the theatre crowd was dying out, Brenda made a long exit from the restaurant, presumably to shake across downtown to Café Brenda. About that time, I could hear one server saying to another, “Murder.” Now, maybe he wanted to kill the guy with the laptop or another customer. But maybe he was signaling a code word that Brenda was about to leave. Or maybe he was just trying to crack a joke to get a laugh on a stressful Saturday night. It’s one of those things you would like to know, but may never find out.
Along with Saffron, Spoonriver flirts with an excellent rating. I’ll probably go back to Spoonriver for lunch and probably for dinner. I’ll go back for some fabulous, imaginative, well-prepared food. I’ll go back to see Brenda, who has all of the presence of Michael Morse and most of the flamboyance. She is a treasure to have in the Twin Cities, a true restaurateur.
December 15, 2007
1" glass shaker