The Skeptical Diner: The Red Stag

In any given restaurant, the front of the house rises and falls on a number of different factors. Consider the following scenario:

1. You call a restaurant on a Friday night, looking for a reservation for two. You know this may be impossible, but what the heck.

2. You’re told that it’s not so busy; in fact, you’re not even allowed to make a reservation. You’re asked to turn up in the next 20-30 minutes and to expect practically immediate seating.

3. You turn up in 20 minutes. Suddenly, there’s a 15-20-minute wait.

4. Make that a 45-minute wait.

5. Despite the presence of three or four hostesses, who repeatedly update you with optimistic reports regarding the status of the remaining “two-tops.”

6. Meanwhile, throughout the process, a vast and desolate tundra of large empty tables stretches majestically across the front of the restaurant.

So it went at The Red Stag, the new environmentally sound eatery by the same folks who brought us the marvelous Barbette in Uptown.

The service quirks continued through the meal. We were informed that the Friday night fish fry featured bluegill, perch and — rather than the typical walleye — a substitution of haddock.

BECCA: Between the bluegill and perch, what would you recommend…?

WAITRESS: Don’t you like haddock?

BECCA: Uh… well… I was looking for something more local, maybe a lake fish…

WAITRESS: Oh, I guess I could ask the chef.

So. The food. Terrific. A duck flatbread served with dried cherries and Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese was warm, properly charred, and perfectly flavor-balanced between the musky cheese, brighter fruit and delicious shredded duck.

The red deer stroganoff with sour cream noodles and crimini mushrooms was a revelation. Stroganoff, even at its best, tends hit like a steel mallet. The Red Stag version was largely deconstructed, featuring individual medallions of venison draped over egg noodles accompanied a rich yet reasonably light sour cream sauce. Sprinkled amidst the noodles: tiny slices of what seemed to be sweet yet richly spiced pickled cucumbers. The brightness of the pickles played beautifully with the creamy noodles and red meat without upsetting the balance; the overall impact was delightful.

For dessert, we had a pumpkin bread pudding with dried cherries and — memory fails here — some manner of agreeable nut. Overall, a solid hit. Mild, light, elegant, tasty: homely looking, but sophisticated.

With food like this, The Red Stag will bring in diners regardless of its level of service. That said, it’ll be nice to return when the kinks have been worked out.

8 Comments so far

  1. Brian (unregistered) on December 15th, 2007 @ 8:47 am

    I went on a Saturday night with no reservation and we were seated right away — after some confusion on the hostess’ part they also offered a couple in front of us seats at a large empty table community style. I like that they they reserve half of the dining room for reservations and the other half for first come first serve, as reservations would seemingly fill up fast. I wouldn’t even have complained if we had to wait a half an hour or even a hour because the bar space is excellent, and you can finally get a properly poured brandy old fashioned in Minneapolis.

  2. James Norton (unregistered) on December 15th, 2007 @ 11:43 am

    Ugh. Excellent or not, the bar was swamped while we were there. It’s not that I’m opposed to waiting 45 minutes for good food at a good restaurant on a Saturday. I’m just not a fan of poorly managed expectations.

  3. Hannah V. (unregistered) on December 15th, 2007 @ 11:52 am

    Red Stag is very high on my list of places to go to soon. The food you mentioned, and the rest of the menu, just sound so delicious! I’m glad you had the stroganoff–I had a feeling it’d be really good.

  4. Seb (unregistered) on December 17th, 2007 @ 3:51 pm


    I hate it when you asked a waitress and she doesn’t even know what the heck she’s selling!

    The best comment i have ever gotten from Oceanair was

    “It’s Fish, it’s from the Ocean, it’s suppose to be salty, ‘cuz the ocean is salty”

  5. chris (unregistered) on December 19th, 2007 @ 1:04 pm

    Why do people marvel at the fact that a brand new (what’s it been, 1 month?) restaurant is having service issues?

  6. James Norton (unregistered) on December 19th, 2007 @ 1:08 pm

    Why? Because I paid a lot of money to go out to dinner, that’s why. I didn’t say: “Don’t go to the Red Stag.” I didn’t say: “These problems are insurmountable.” I described the service issues as they were, for your edification, and so that I could get them off my chest. Half of the restaurant business is hospitality; if that’s broken, it’s worth talking about, and worth fixing.

  7. fkaJames (unregistered) on December 27th, 2007 @ 11:33 am

    I’m in complete agreement that service issues are inexcusable in any restaurant that doesn’t have a drive-through window. In a place that bills itself as a “supper club,” it shouldn’t matter if it is day one or day 14,437 of its existence — service issues like those noted in the review are indicative that the management has not properly trained its service staff. There are only a few things a restaurant manager has to do to ensure a good experience for all guests: source quality ingredients, hire and train good staff, and create and maintain a pleasing environment for customers. Sounds like Red Stag has accomplished 2 of those 3 requirements, but a failure in one suggests the possibility for a failure in any of the 3.

    Maybe other diners are fabulously wealthy, but I am of limited resources. There are many, many very good restaurants in the Twin Cities. Why spend scarce resources for a subpar dining experience?

  8. Erica M (unregistered) on December 27th, 2007 @ 2:31 pm

    Maybe other diners are fabulously wealthy, but I am of limited resources. There are many, many very good restaurants in the Twin Cities. Why spend scarce resources for a subpar dining experience?

    Amen to that.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.