The drive over to the new Chatterbox location was unpleasant and sluggish. It had started raining, and the rain turned to snow. Anyone with an SUV seemed to turn into Mario Andretti or Jeff Gordon. That’s why it was such a relief to walk into the latest Chatterbox, in Linden Hills in Minneapolis, and literally feel the tensions of the roadways slipping from one’s shoulders.
My usual crowd was busy, so joining me was Lavender photographer and my good friend, Mike Hnida; my personal assistant and good friend, Mike Rosenow; and my partner, Chad Olson.
The minute we arrived, Manager Michael Deranek greeted us. My middle name is Michael, so we now had four Mikes and a hanging Chad. Deranek and Chef Todd Tomanek are like your favorite friends who run a funhouse of food. We got right down to business, as the two decided on the food to be photographed and sampled by this writer and his posse.
A platter of Beer Cheese Fondue ($7.50) was set on our table. The odor from the creamy blend of melted cheddar cheese, smoked onions, spices, and Chatterbox Lager was enthralling. It was served with crispy tortilla chips, celery, and bell pepper spears for dipping. For Mike Rosenow, this was a perfect dish, as he is a vegetarian. But I, the carnivore, loved it, too.
Soon, a beautiful Strawberry Lemonade Mimosa ($4.50) was delivered to wet our whistles. What an incredible mix of fresh strawberry lemonade and bubbly! Despite the ugly weather outside, this Chatterbox specialty drink brought a smile to my face.
I looked around the new space. It’s a smaller and more intimate Chatterbox, seeming a bit warmer and cozier, yet still lively, with everyone having a good time.
Next came a platter of Lemon Pepper Chicken Hash ($8.75). It was remarkable and beautifully designed—lemon pepper chicken topped by bacon, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers and onions, and hash browns, topped with two eggs, and drizzled with smoked paprika hollandaise sauce. If that were not enough, a choice of toast, buttermilk biscuit, old-fashioned corn muffin, or focaccia was served on the side.
We sampled the Breakfast BLT Sandwich, which consisted of two eggs, bacon, lettuce, and sliced tomato with basil pine nut pesto on toasted ciabatta. On the side was a pile of sweet potato fries with homemade cinnamon honey dipping sauce.
Deranek remarked, “All our sauces are homemade.”
Both the Lemon Pepper Chicken Hash and the Breakfast BLT Sandwich—served all day, every day—were executed wonderfully by the chef and kitchen team. The unique mixture of flavors was at the same time satisfying and inspirational. My posse and I were in heaven. Our table was filled with laughter and chatter. We were holding Chatterbox’s own Microbrew Drafts, Strongbow Hard Cider, and Cheshire Cat Old Fashioned Root Beer.
Mike Rosenow looked at me, and commented, “Rough life.”
We were presented with Cinco de Mayo Dip ($8.95), an interesting combination of cumin black bean spread, cheddar cheese, chunky guacamole, roasted red pepper sour cream, pickled jalapeños, and pico de gallo, served with crispy tortilla chips. Chad devoured the jalapeños, while the rest of us cleaned up the platter. This appetizer has something for everyone.
The end of our sampling was near, and Deranek had the Mocha Rum Cake ($4.95) set before us. It’s made up of two layers filled with chunks of chocolate, separated and topped by a velvety mocha cream frosting.
We also tried the Famous Blueberry Coffee Cake ($2.50). Deranek introduced me to this fabulous piece of food art last summer. He began by telling me it was more addictive than crack. It’s served with honey butter. You’ll be hooked for life. Quick, get me the telephone number of the food rehab!
“A mysterious woman named Inga prepares Chatterbox’s breads and desserts at our Highland Park location,” Deranek shared.
Just one more thing that makes Chatterbox so delightful. Offering free WiFi, it has become my second office away from my home.
Sitting back, looking at my posse, and enjoying and sharing what was brought to our table, I thought about the state of the nation’s economy, and how eating out is becoming a luxury.
As if tuning in on my thought, Deranek commented, “Chatterbox is a perfect place to bring friends and family. You enjoy a fantastic meal at really great prices. You can stay all night, and play board games and video games [for a nominal fee]. And it’s all cheaper than going to the movies.”
Lucky for us, Chatterbox now has three locations to pick from.
4501 France Ave. S., Mpls.
John Michael Lerma is a local chef, author, and Food Network personality. His company Garden County Cooking offers cookbooks, cooking classes, consulting, private events, and culinary vacations to Italy and the Caribbean. Visit www.GardenCountyCooking.com. Check out his “Word of Mouth” Blog under Extras at LavenderMagazine.com.