Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bennett's on West 7th

When we were moving in, Matt pointed out this place Mitch's to me. Looked like yet another dive bar to compete with the myriad of dive bars in the vicinity of the new house. Later, when we were moving in, I noticed that there had been a big change. The building was now a friendly shade of yellow there was a beckoning sign with jazzy little martini on it. It looked, dare I say, classy. Do they do classy on West 7th? Seemed suspicious.
Andy was our first official visitor to the house. Unfortunately for her, by the time she showed up, I was so sick of moving and packing and shuffling boxes that we needed to escape. Matt suggested that we go check this Bennett's place out. He said that he'd heard that the people were originally from Duluth, but had no connection to Bennett's on the Lake in the Fitger's Complex. (Everyone knows everything about everbody in this neighborhood!)
We drove the block and a half over, because it's been way too damn cold out for me to consider hoofing it anywhere. It had a really cute supper club appearance on the outside, but inside there's defintely an identity crisis brewing. The tables are covered with white linens, but there are TV's playing in every corner of the room. The prices on the menu are all over $11 per entree, but there's a bar with a bunch of dudes in racing jackets. What the hey? Matt pointed at a cluster of nearby tables, "That's where the pool table was."
So, we took our seat at a booth near where the pool table most recently was. Matt explained that the place has been sold and bought back at least four times in recent history. Mitch keeps getting stuck with the place. Apparently, he's gotten on in years and would really like to retire, but each time he sells it, the new owners drink themselves out of a business by treating the joint like their own personal clubhouse.
This time Mitch sold it to a guy, Joe Bennett, who has experience in the food business. Apparently, he's worked for the company that owns Pazzaluna and the St. Paul Grill. Joe was there that night, shaking everyone's hands and making them feel welcome. Of course, this made me feel weird and akward. I wasn't entirely sure that I was going to like the place and I didn't want to feel bad on top of not enjoying my over-priced dinner, if that was the way things were going to work out. They had a great, long list of martinis, but I was so cold, all I wanted was a glass of wine. The wine list leaves a lot to be desired. I got a glass of cabernet for $6.50 that was doable, but not very good. I was cold and when the going gets chilly, the chilly muscle down cheap, red wine.
Our salads arrived and looked like your usual fare of iceburg and winter tomato, but the dressing!! Oh, it was lovely! Hands down, that's the best ranch dressing I've ever had! And when I dipped my still steamy warm from the oven bread stick in the dressing food alchemy was acheived! I even ate most of the tasteless lettuce just as a vessle for the dressing.
When our food arrived I kept sneaking fries from Matt to dunk in the dressing. Yummy!! And they were really good French Fries, too. They tasted fresh and homemade, not like they were delivered via freezer bag from Sysco. Matt had ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger (one of the cheapest things on the menu. I think it was $8 -- so I lied about the entree thing. Except, that's a sandwich, so really, that doesn't count. So, I didn't lie after all. Neener neener neener.) I had ordered the Cajun Chicken Pasta at $12 and Andy had half rack of ribs with gratin potatoes. My pasta dish would have been wonderful, if only they'd called it something else. It didn't taste very Cajun at all. It was served with a mushroom cream sauce and there were some misplaced andioullie sausage in the bottom of the bowl. I'd say that was their only stumbling point. If they'd said Chicken Fettecini served with a creamy mushroom sauce I would have been sold and called the dish a huge success. It took me a while to readjust my expectations for it to taste okay. Nothing was bad about it. I was jut a victim of false menu advertising. That was the only stumble when it came to the food, though.
Matt's bacon cheese burger was cooked to perfection. The cheddar cheese had melted nicely, under a couple of strips of thick cut smokey bacon. All of this was piled onto a moon sized kaiser roll. This thing was massive! No wonder my pasta was left to languish, this was one of the best burgers that I've had in town, I am not kidding. There was plenty there. We could have split this and both been full. (Well, actually we kind of did.) If you go and order a burger, make sure you ask for a side of ranch for those fries!
Andy marveled at her ribs. I didn't taste them, even though she offered many times. I couldn't keep my hands off of Matt's burger. (He has to share. It was in the vows.) I did try a bit of the potatoes gratin, Idaho taters cooked in a boat and topped with ooey gooey cheddar cheese. They were a little under seasoned, but who's going to argue with a cheesey potato? Not me, my friends. Andy had every intention of only eating a coulple of ribs, but couldn't help herself and finished the impressive half rack. I'll have to try them again.
They are slowly working up to make the complete over haul on Mitch's, but it's getting there. I've seen a sign that they now serve breakfast. We're going to have to check it out this weekend. It won't be a replacement for Barbette and my favorite breakfast waitress Danielle, but it might just do.


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