Does the Twin Cities really need another take on crudo and craft cocktails? If we’re talking about Uptown’s new Scena Tavern, you’ll be happy to learn the answer is undoubtedly yes.
Right on the corner of Lake Street and Girard, nestled in the heart of a neighborhood already crowded with options, Scena is setting itself apart with one creative craft cocktail and plate of scratch-made Italian food at a time.
I learned this firsthand a few weeks back when a couple friends and I had the chance to nibble and beverage our way across the menu.
Before the nibbling, a few words on the beverages. The team from Bittercube and their artisanal bitters are the brains (as well as the brawn) behind the bar at Scena and it shows. During our visit, Bittercube’s Marco Zappia slung a noteworthy series of cocktails for our happy hour indulgence. As the dry one in the bunch, I was particularly delighted to learn their nonalcoholic creations were equally libationary. Ask for the Beetlejuice. Then ask why it’s called the Beetlejuice. After you drink it.
A few sips in and we were onto the crudo. I know you’ve eaten a lot of crudo lately. Much of it good, but decidedly routine. Rest assured that Scena’s giving you more than just a few delicious bites to go with a great cocktail. They’ve elevated the trend to near artform. If you can get your hands on the trout roe with uni panna cotta, do so. The salty pop of fresh roe was a perfect counterpoint to the rich and earthy uni. And just look at that presentation.
From the crudo we sauntered over to the appetizer end of things and sampled the chicken liver terrine. I’m a sucker for chicken liver in all its unctuous glory. Scena tops theirs with house-pickled apples for a dish perfectly balanced with oil, vinegar, salt, and sweet. The scratch-made crackers are the perfect vehicle for stuffing as much terrine into your piehole as politely possible.
When the piadini arrived at the table, I thought it was a pizza. Better to think Italian flatbread. A crispier, denser flatbread with a crunch that will startle, yet satisfy. I couldn’t keep my hands off it. Honestly, I think I ate most of it myself. The wild mushroom piadini with honey and taleggio was as much an aromatic opera for the nose as it was symphony for the mouth.
What Italian meal would be complete without pasta? We settled on the mortadella carbonara, an adventurous twist on a staid classic. Scena’s carbonara subs the traditional bacon or pancetta for cubes of mortadella, made of pork and pork fat. The finished dish is topped with ground amaretti cookies, which might be a little too adventurous for some. Regardless, the fresh made pasta and mortadella were, however, divine.
Our only foray onto the entrée menu involved what I can wholeheartedly describe as the absolute best meatballs I’ve ever had. Strong, but sincere words. These dry-aged beef meatballs slathered in Sunday gravy and polenta will wreck you for meatballs to come. Warm and comforting, they’re perfect for an icy winter’s afternoon. Alone. Because you don’t want to share these.
Speaking of things you don’t want to share, get the burger. You know I’m a burger nut. Scena’s burger (even if it’s not on the menu, ask for it and it’s yours) is based on the Big Mac. That is, if a Big Mac were actually big and macdaddylicious. I inhaled it before anyone could get their hands on it. I really did eat a lot more this time than I thought.
No meal is complete without dessert and we capped off our night with vanilla gelato stuffed in a fresh made brioche bun. Ice cream in a bun, you say? How very Italian. And yummy to boot.
See! I told you. There really is room for another crudo-loving craft cocktail hideout in Uptown. Especially one that stands out so superbly as Scena. Chefs Jamie Malone and Erik Anderson and their team have successfully delivered a worthy spot for anyone hoping to have a deliciously adventurous night out.
2943 Girard Avenue S