This establishment serves reasonably-priced superlative cuisine paired with excellent libations.
It’s a little too easy to fall for the Loring Kitchen and Bar at first sight. Sunlight streams into the handsome, sleek interior from Loring Park year-round, but as the weather continues to improve, al fresco dining is this restaurant’s forte. The staff is friendly and personable; the drinks are imaginative; and the menu focuses on that kind of comfort-food-with-a-twist every vibrant neighborhood desperately needs.
I was once a dedicated Loring neighborhood resident myself, but began avoiding the crowded area for years when I lost my resident parking privileges. That nasty little problem is solved at the Loring Kitchen and Bar with complimentary valet parking after 5 PM. It’s such a small perk, but if you’re looking to spend a relaxing, enjoyable evening, the last thing you want to do is start by hunting for parking around Loring. Plus, I’d rather spend that parking money on a truly fantastic cocktail—wouldn’t you?
Speaking of, my date for the evening was spectacularly late—you know, the kind of late where the servers suspect that he might, in fact, be imaginary. Therefore, I had the first drink all to myself: an unnamed and off-menu delight of champagne, lemon juice, and St. Germaine.
Before I got too far into my second libation—the breathtaking Ginger Sidecar ($10), with E & J Brandy, Stirrings Ginger Liqueur, housemade sweet and sour, fresh lime, and a cinnamon-sugar rim—my date materialized at last. I was very glad finally to have some company, but the Ginger Sidecar is one of those clever cocktails you don’t necessarily want to share. Ah well, the company was definitely worth it, and the food had started to arrive.
Beet and Arugula Salad ($7) is fairly standard, and a difficult dish to improve upon, but the Loring Kitchen and Bar’s treatment of tart champagne vinaigrette, shaved Parmesan, and whipped goat cheese was a nice touch that kept the salad feeling exceptionally light.
The large Crab Croquettes ($16) set a bolder tone with sriracha-spiked aioli, along with a bed of sliced avocado, mango, and cucumber. It’s always a bit of a dilemma to enjoy a dish a little too much a little too early in a food writer’s evening. That was my first thought, but on second thought, these are the kinds of problems one wants to have. We ate all the croquettes.
In between courses, we indulged in the bar’s second-tier champagne flight. At $15, it was an excellent value, especially considering that just one of the three flutes was listed at $12. Besides appreciating a great deal, I always relish the opportunity to explore different sparkling wines. Depending on the bottle, champagne can be quite serviceable at points throughout a meal, from aperitif through dessert. Plus, it’s fun and sexy, and always makes a meal more memorable.
And this meal in particular is one I’d like to remember. Truffle and Herb Risotto ($18) arrived almost as quickly as its aroma. Its grape tomatoes, baby arugula, corn shiitake mushrooms, coriander-infused oil, and Parmesan all were subdued, but pleasantly so, by the sensual scent of truffle. It’s not entirely rare that a foodie has a special kink for truffle oil, but over this one issue I won’t mind feeling conventional.
A glass of Lincourt “Steel” Chardonnay ($48/bottle) and crisp Hugel and Fils Gentil Alsace ($38/$10) made a very effective transition from the Risotto to the Arctic Char ($26). The night we dined there, the bar staff was very on the mark with pairings. When I go there again, I will make a point of putting myself entirely in their hands.
Our char, served over Israeli couscous, smoked grapes, cilantro, oven-dried cherry tomatoes, and oyster mushrooms, was fragrant with an exotic North African-style charmoula. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of this particular fish, Arctic char, fairly similar to salmon, often is praised by environmentalists for being more sustainable to farm. Additionally, the restaurant’s menu features so many upscale American staples that it was very satisfying also to be able to enjoy something more unique.
If your trip to the Loring Kitchen and Bar is geared more to dessert and drinks, the Triple Layered Chocolate Cake ($5) is as rich and decadent as a Belgian truffle. As the weather continues to warm, take your slice outside on the patio, gaze at the stars, and enjoy your cake as the good Lord intended—with a glass of fruity Steltzner Claret ($38/$10). Just like that, you’re relaxed and sated, feeling far, far away right in the middle of Loring.
Certainly, everyone is entitled to favorite special occasion places and guilty pleasure dives. But as far as reliable neighborhood restaurants go, it doesn’t get much better than this for the price.
Loring Kitchen and Bar
1359 Willow St., Mpls.