Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rye Deli (Poutine Crawl) – Minneapolis, MN

As I mentioned some time back, I’m part of a Twin Cities Poutine Crawl. Our group doesn’t hit up all of the poutine restaurants in the area in one night, but we pick one and set a date and head there en masse to enjoy and discuss what we liked and would have changed. I missed the night when the group went to Rye Deli and Lowry’s (the restaurants are a block apart, so why WOULDN’T you hit them both?). So, A-Wow and I decided to do a make-up session on our own to get caught up.

I had driven by Rye a bunch of times - it’s in the Lowry Hill area in north Uptown. I say I’ve driven by because due to the traffic configuration, there isn’t a lot of parking near the building, despite it being on a main thoroughfare (Hennepin Ave.). You’ve got to be a bike person, a walking person, or get creative if you’re driving.

The inside of the place has a variety of seating and ordering options. You can choose counter service and order off the large menu boards behind the counter, or if you sit down, the lovely staff come over and take your order and chat you up. Very casual, but also very fast turnaround on everything. We saw quite a few people coming through the doors to order and grab food and none of them waited very long at the counter for their food. Others would come in and sidle up to the full bar or grab a table and were eating within minutes. There’s also a nice outdoor patio with lots of seating if that’s your thing. It was a bit hot outside for a long-haired guy, so we ate inside at a table.

The news articles mention Rye is not a New York-style deli, but a Montreal-style deli. What does that mean, you ask? They have some specialties made with a version of pastrami they call “smoked meat”. It’s more of what they refer to as a “fast-casual” restaurant. Very comfortable places to sit and relax, or grab food quickly and keep walking to wherever you’re going. While it doesn’t advertise itself as a Jewish deli, they have all the delicious standards we love at our delis. A-Wow may or may not have referred to it as a fun Jewish deli for hipsters. Believe me that’s a compliment.
A-Wow and I knew what we wanted – Poutine, obviously. But fortunately for us, Rye’s happy hour goes until 7pm – SCORE. That means a bunch of food (including poutine) was extra cheap, as were beer, wine, and cocktails (they’ve got a full bar and have a lot of fancy craft brews I’ve heard my beer snob friends discussing). We ordered the poutine, with smoked meat, of course. We also ordered Fried Kreplach – little crisp wonton skins fried with brisket inside and served with a seasoned sour cream. We were heading to Lowry’s immediately after eating here, so we didn’t want to fill up.

The food came out really quickly and we dug into the poutine first. We could easily tell the kreplach was going to molten on the inside since they just came out of the fryer. The poutine had small cubes of the smoked meat through the dish. It was delicious. I was worried it was going to have the consistency of Spam (not that I don’t love Spam, but Spam ISN’T pastrami), but it was more firm, smoky, and pastrami flavored. Quite good. The cheese looked like melty curds unlike the cheese we had at Tom Reids on our last trip. The curds had a really mild flavor to them and I expected them to taste more like cheese. Fortunately, they had a great texture to them and you knew you were eating cheese – your brain can fill in the gaps. The fries themselves were better than average. Some still had bits of the skin on them, which I really like, and they were fried crispy enough to hold some crunch for the first part of the dish. They obviously get a little mushy towards the end, but that’s part of the allure of poutine. That’s how the scientists in Canada intended it to be made.

There was about the perfect amount of gravy on the dish – enough that you had some on each bite, but not enough that the fries were swimming in it. I only wish the gravy had a bit more flavor, however. I assumed it was beef gravy (mainly due to the coloring), but honestly couldn’t taste any beef flavor that I recognized. The salt level was about right (for me), but I wish the gravy was a tad more flavorful. As it stood, the poutine was pretty darn good. Head and shoulders above Tom Reid's (I don’t think we’re really comparing or ranking all of these different poutines, but how can you not do that?). The portion was about right for two people to share as an appetizer, or one person to get decently filled with starchy goodness. It appears small in the serving dish, but a little poutine goes a long was, as some of the group found out the first event we had.

The Kreplach was actually much better than I expected. The brisket on the inside had a great flavor and seasoning. It was almost ground up, but still had a firm texture. A-Wow and I both thought the meat could have been a tad more moist, but that was only us looking for something to complain about – there wasn’t anything. I really could have eaten a bucketful of these things. I keep finding all these delicious finger foods that I want buckets full of. This is pretty close to the top of the list right now. I’m going to pretend this is the deli version of pizza rolls. You know you shouldn’t like them as much as you do, but you’ll absolutely eat every one of them in sight, given the chance. So good.

I would order the poutine every time, especially if that every time includes happy hour prices. It was a solid showing. And all of the other food we saw them serving to people looked delicious, as well. I was intrigued by some of the breakfast offerings, so I might have to invent some random reason to make it over here for breakfast sometime.

Really a good restaurant that sounds like it’s doing well in Minneapolis. I’m glad to hear it. I’m looking forward to going back!


Anonymous said...

Nice, thoughtful review. I appreciate your take on things.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Darn, no top 5/bottom 5 list. Nice review, I've been meaning to get there and now I will make sure I do.

Chao said...

I tend not to do a top/bottom 5 when I go to a restaurant on a specific mission. I'm not sure how it sways it, but I'm sure it does. hahaha. I hope you get to go to Rye. It's great.