Blackbird Cafe Re-Opens- Review 11/08/10

November 9, 2010 at 4:20 am (Gastro-Nominal) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Blackbird Cafe didn’t decide to change its name to Phoenix Cafe, though that may be more fitting.  A victim of a fire that destroyed the old building, the restaurant has emerged from the ashes and been reborn in a new location on the corner of 38th St. and Nicollet in the Kingfield neighborhood.

I decided to stop by tonight to see the new place because I had heard some good things about the original restaurant. 

The restaurant has an interesting look: clean white tile behind the 12-seat bar, white and olive walls, and a copper counter.  From the ceiling hang both large industrial ducts and some ornate cast-iron light fixtures.  Five large plateglass windows look out onto the street corner.  It’s got that ‘trendy urban’ feel to it. 

The Birth of the Booths

There were several of the 14 tables open as well as least one of the 5 booths (that dredge up unpleasant images of austere country churches in this writer’s mind), but I sat at the shiny copper bar. 

They killed Bambi! Or was it Thumper?

The first thing I noticed, that most patrons will probably notice also was the collection of no less than 47 racks of antlers taken from animals of various sizes- in fact, I’m almost certain there was at least one jackalope rack.

Of course, this macabre display could be unsettling enough, in and of itself, for many diners.  However, the owners have decided they do not want any spectrophobes visiting their restaurant either- the opposite wall is covered with an assortment of 26 different-sized mirrors.  Together, the upper half of the restaurant begins to take on the vibe of a German expressionist film.

The crowd seemed to mostly be fairly young professionals- hip and with some discretionary funds.  I am quite sure I was the worst-looking, worst-dressed person in the establishment.

The beer list is not particularly large, however, it is fairly unique.  There are no Budweiser/MGD/Miller types on tap, though they do have some in the bottle.  The tap includes a couple of Bell’s, including Two-Hearted Ale, and some others that seem to lean heavily to the ‘hop-py’ side of the spectrum.  I narrowed it down to the Furthermore Knot Stock from Wisconsin and the 21st Amendment Back in Black from San Francisco, both in bottles/cans.  The server had to ask someone else about the Back in Black but when she relayed that it was malt-intensive, I ordered one.  Black as night, but full-bodied and smooth, the choice was a wise one.

The menu is a hodge-podge of familiar dishes with some unique twists.  Appetizers include crispy duck rolls, empanadas with green olives, walleye & crawfish potstickers, lamb skewers or nachos, and a butternut & ricotta brulee.  Entrees on the menu included london broil, arctic char, spicy peanut noodles, fried rice with winter squash and thai basil, and roast chicken with fried livers.  There’s also a dish called ‘Tuna Casserole’- made of ahi tuna, cavatappi, spinach and garlic cream sauce- and a pork confit served with root vegetable hash and roasted grapes. 

There is also a sandwich section that includes a black bean ‘burger’, a side pork and taleggio on pumpernickel, and a po’ boy.  I considered ordering the banh mi, but the inclusion of pate scared me away.  The Longhorn, which I selected, featured braised beef brisket, roasted tomatoes, carmelized onions and horsey mayo.  The sandwiches are all served with fries or a green salad, with the option to substitute soup for $1 more or a caesar or butterhead salad for $2.50 more.

A View of the Interior Before Tables and Booths

The food came very quickly- maybe too quickly.  While the sandwich was quite good, with juicy shredded brisket and melted white cheese (I forgot to ask which kind) on a nice ciabatta roll, the fries were less impressive.  They were handcut, which is always a bonus, but they were still fairly soggy and limp-  maybe a little longer in the frier…

All in all, it’s easy to see why this place is popular- it’s hip and trendy, adventurous but not outrageous.

The restaurant is only open from 5-9 each night this week, their first in their new location.  However, breakfast and lunch should begin being served very soon.

Hopefully they are able to work out all the kinks of opening a new restaurant- when I got home and looked at my receipt, I realized I had been charged for the wrong meal [Author’s note: who would order a white wine, a tap beer and an order of french fries?  $7 french fries, no less…].  I called back and the lady on the phone was nice enough to discount my meal. 

They do say that the key to building customers is not to never make mistakes, but rather to promptly and satisfactorily resolve the mistakes you do make.  With that said, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Blackbird Cafe.

Official website– the source of all pictures of Blackbird Cafe


  1. Teddy Hobbins said,

    Vitajex – embrace the pate. Don’t fear the banh mi. If you need me, I’ll be making one my bitch on Thursday night at Blackbird. Diggin’ your blog.

    • vitajex said,

      You’re adventurous spirit is admirable. I just can’t do pate- in fact, nothing that mushy is ever appealing to me. Remember our discussion of different kinds of salad sandwiches.

      Of course, with any liver, it’s a little bit different because I don’t want to eat that even when it is a solid chunk. It is one of the very few things that I will not eat… ever. Tried it many times, many ways, and still turn into a petulant child scowling at my plate.

      Thanks for stopping by. (P.S. Haven’t seen your stuff for a while- glad to hear from you) I won’t be able to get back to Blackbird until their breakfast/brunch starts though- I’ll be unavailable nights for the next month or so. But make sure to let me know what you think of the banh mi, or have you had it before at the old location?

  2. Teddy Hobbins said,

    vitajex – forgot about the mushiness thing. I think pate is one of those things where it’s better that the consumer not to know the origin/process, but it is crucial to the banh mi.

    I had to hold off on the sandwich thing for a while, some more important things came up, but hope to get back on my personal blog in the near future.

    I was a regular at the old Blackbird space. Never did lunch there, but am hoping to now that they are closer to my office. Brunch and dinner were usually good. Next time I’m there I’ll look for someone ordering the Angry French Canadian.

    • vitajex said,

      “Next time I’m there I’ll look for someone ordering the Angry French Canadian.”

      Oh, if only such a thing existed in the wild…

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