Last Saturday, at the quiet hour of 5:30, I went to Cafe Maude in South Minneapolis with Lisa. Lisa is like a quirky aunt you love to have in town because she keeps you apprised of the city’s cultural events that other people might take for granted. This time, she asked me to join her in volunteering to usher at The Jungle for Hedwig and the Angry Inch. After our meal, we darted to the theater to hand programs and ear plugs to a full house both happy and gay. In return, we enjoyed the show for free. And what a show it was!
My job for the evening was to pick the restaurant, show up, and eat. And eat we did. I was eager for this one. My antenna went up numerous times when I reviewed this restaurant online. Great graphic design, a creative concept, and an effortlessly cool motto. “Civilized Leisure.”
I’m a self-proclaimed detail junkie when it comes to food. I might feast on a shoe if it was listed on the menu alongside irresistible and slightly exotic sides. At Cafe Maude, the attention to detail is obvious in everything they do: the colorful decor, the wide variety of thoughtful food, the stellar drink and cocktail list,the musical acts, and the absolutely creative way in which it all is presented. These people think outside the box, and I love them for it. I wondered if Maude Armatage, who the restaurant was named after, was as flirtatious as this. The Rubber Ducky lemonade? Served with a candy Peep on top. A cocktail called This Charming Man? Served with an English cigarette. The check? Delivered in a vintage hardcover library book tucked into a relic of changing times: the due date pocket. Did I say love? Yes. I did.
The service was friendly and authentic. The food was beautifully presented and consistent. We didn’t experience any Rachel Ray-style meltdowns upon tasting any of our items. But Lisa and I both agreed. We recommend it for dates and any casual night out where you might be inclined to linger over a glass of wine and the company you are with. But if you really want to knock a foodie’s socks off, you might consider going elsewhere.
Grilled halloumi, a Greek goat and sheep’s milk cheese with apricot pistachio marmalade. Halloumi is one of my favorite cheeses, and since it is so unrepresented at restaurants, we had to try it. Not great. It was overgrilled, and the cold cheese tasted like it was taken off the grill an hour ago. If it had been slightly warm and did not taste like the skin of a charred Minnesota bratwurst in July, the flavors would have been delightful.
Lightly fried tempura squash blossoms filled with goat cheese and served with a side of citrus honey. One of the specials, and delicious. Just don’t overdo the citrus honey dip, and you’ll be happy with this curious mix of texture and flavor.
Knife and fork Caesar. Baby romaine, Parmesan, lemon, white anchovy, tempura fried egg, and garlic croutons. A deconstruct-it-yourself Caesar salad! I adore a tangy, sharp Caesar, and this did not disappoint. Once I brought everything together, I enjoyed fresh white anchovy with every bite. This is the Caesar for me. It even came with a warning from the server. May Cafe Maude put wimpy Caesars out of business for good.
Baby spinach salad with blue cheese, bacon, grilled onions, apple, and a soft-boiled egg. Pretty. With the promise of the soft-boiled egg, we hoped it would be hiding underneath this lovely nest of a salad, waiting to be pierced. Alas. It was tossed throughout in small pieces. Still. The sweet and savory combination put a smile on our faces.
There seems to be no way you could go wrong with Cafe Maude. You leave having experienced a convivial meal in an exceptionally creative setting. Now I just have to go back when the music is in full swing, an entirely new element sure to turn me from a Cafe Maude coquette to a civilized habitué.