Perhaps it is the destination of all modern cities to forget aspects of their heritage—a necessary sacrifice on the road to modernization. If this is so, then the Twin Cities may have had to turn away from its lovely river—and the bustling industry it generated—so that both metropolitan centers could come into their own. However, when you look out onto that majestic Mississippi, its slow and steady waters winding their way from these northern lights down to the Big Easy, you feel a tremendous sense of nostalgia.
It is a feeling that I have yet to put into words, as I sit on Vic’s lovely patio on St. Anthony Main, which offers one of the best river views in town. Our server follows my gaze outward, and articulates my thoughts perfectly.
“I think people have forgotten about this area,” she says with a sigh, as she opens a bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio ($16.97).
It’s not as if Vic’s lacks a healthy patronage, but the sidewalk traffic is scant. Even the dolled-up carriage horse looks like she’s itching for a customer.
I, too, had neglected St. Anthony Main, and I can’t for the life of me explain why. Its contemplative cobblestones and river breezes are such a welcome respite.
Vic’s patio is the perfect way to enjoy it all, with its rustic wood and Prussian blue rails, along with the compelling smells emanating from the kitchen. But if that’s not enough to entice the Downtown throng, Vic’s has decided to take things a step further: Bottled wine now is sold at cost. I blink when I am told this, as the hefty markup on wine keeps most restaurants in the black. But after eating at Vic’s, I know that this is a brilliant move. The wine will bring you to its patio, and the food will remind you to return.
My dining partner and I simply can’t resist Executive Chef Doug Pittman’s recommendation of the Flatbread Blue appetizer ($11). Its crisp crust is spread with fresh basil and toasted pine nut pesto, rotisserie chicken, Roma tomatoes and Amish blue cheese. I expected the cheese to stick out, but it was a very happy marriage, and one of the standout tastes of the evening.
Next, the Calamari, which are lightly breaded, and sautéed with marinated peppers ($11). The peppers give the dish a welcoming and uncommonly bright flavor. I don’t quite understand my own love affair with calamari, but love is not a rational act. I’ve eaten calamari almost every way one can have it, and I think I have a new favorite. Only a few forkfuls were left when it came time to clear plates, but we insisted on taking it home anyway. If you are a foodie, and boxing calamari sounds like a clear sign of derangement, have some at Vic’s, and then come join me in my padded cell.
We sucked down a few oysters ($2.50 each). My dining partner and I are members of the horseradish oyster cult, but it was very interesting to taste the difference in flavor between the James River and Blue Point oysters, as these are served au naturel.
Pittman also recommends the soup du jour ($5), which is beer cheese, and the house salad ($13). The soup is simply spectacular—buttery, dreamy, and decadent, topped with popcorn and black pepper. The salad is an eclectic combination of fruits, cheeses and greens, all tied together with a mango-pineapple vinaigrette that makes a perfect harmony of the lot.
We sampled the seafood platter special ($34.75)—a generous platter of oysters, breaded conch, Cajun grilled shrimp, calamari, sea bass, salmon, and two snow crab claws, with a choice of potato and fresh sautéed vegetables. Overall, the specials at Vic’s are absolutely fantastic, and this platter is no exception.
The 16-ounce T-bone ($28), however, is newer on the regular entrée list, and it may need a bit of time to perfect. Its mushroom and red wine sauce is absolutely delectable, but by the time it arrived at our table, the meat, ordered medium rare, was more medium well. Whether that was because of a miscommunication, or the science of cooking the thinner-cut T-bone so precisely and then running it out to the patio, I don’t know, but I do have faith that Pittman will make the necessary adjustment.
Our server surprised us with one last taste of loveliness: the Key Lime Meringue. Another bit of business-minded brilliance is the size options on Vic’s dessert list. For just $1, you can get a few spoonfuls of key lime decadence served atop a graham, walnut, and pecan crumble; or for $6, have a dessert large enough to split.
After our sweet little amuse bouche, as I was sitting there, looking out on this forgotten view, I had one final thought. I can’t place our cities’ progress on an abstract timeline. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t know what developmental phase we’re in, or where we’re headed. But I do think it’s time that we rediscover our lovely river, and I know of no nicer way to do so than right here at Vic’s.
201 Main St. SE, mpls.