The huz and I have become frequent visitors to the Kitchen Window of late due to his recent obsession with knives. I realize that some wives would be disturbed by this, but I am grateful because his use of knives leads to delicious food! As we have driven to the Calhoun Square location in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, we have passed several restaurants that appeal to us. The Duplex is one of these restaurants, and last night – thanks to a CrowdCut – we finally tried it out. CrowdCut is one of the many money saving websites for food and fun that have become the marketing campaign for many a small business. Others include Groupon and LivingSocial.
The restaurant gets its name from the structure in which it resides. For most of its history, the building was an actual up-and-down duplex housing two families. Neither home would have been extravagant as the floor plan is modest and would support two bedrooms at the most. The second floor has been converted entirely to customer seating while about half of the main floor is seating and the rest the small kitchen and bar area. Artwork by local artists adorns the walls, and lighting is provided by a variety of hanging lights from various time periods. We were seated next to the bar; I would ask in making reservations in the future for a different location. Although it was entertaining to observe the happenings there as people who did not know each other at all ended up having a “great” time together, that is just not my cup of tea. I was about to write that I am too old for this, but I do not think that was ever my idea of a great time.
Our deal included a starter, two entrees, and two drinks. The menu is eclectic and seems to change often. I gather this because the menus themselves could have been printed that morning. In addition to the printed menu, specials change daily.
We started with poutine which (as the menu stated) is house cut fries topped with eichtin acres raw milk white cheddar cheese curds and brown gravy. Our server enthusiastically complimented us on our choice and said, “All those people in Quebec can’t be wrong.” I guess the dish originates in Canada. And they are not wrong at all. If the Canadians make poutine as well as the chef at The Duplex, I am up for a trip to Quebec! The portion size was amazing for the list price of $7.59. As a starter, poutine could easily support a sharing with four people. The ratio of fries to cheese to gravy was perfect, and the tastes blend in a way that I could not have imagined. In fact, we had originally asked for the gravy on the side, but we decided to go with it “as recommended.” In case you are wondering, there were a few great crispy fries (my favorites). My only critique of this dish: there were some fries that had clearly been in the frier for the previous ordered. Not a huge problem but somewhat surprising.
Although the special with ham and risotto enticed my husband, he chose the Dirty Rice and Shrimp instead. The homemade sausage allured him along with a list of many of his favorite ingredients: jasmine rice with house made sausage, sweet corn, diced tomato, green onion and cumin. Although the meal had great promise, it did not live up to his expectations as it was simply bland – lacking something that neither of us could put our finger on. The sausage was good enough but not anything that we would consider “signature” in the sense that one would expect when “homemade” is in the description. I was initially enticed by the buffalo chicken sandwich but went out on a limb and ordered the spaghetti amatriciana: bacon sauteed in onions, red pepper flake, garlic, and tomatoes tossed in homemade spaghetti and topped with parmesan. I had made the mistake of not asking if the tomatoes were made into a sauce; I had envisioned it being more of a noodle dish with the diced tomato rather than a sauce covering it all. This make a difference to me, so at first glance I was already unsure of the dish. The noodles were well made and lived up to the “homemade” label. It just was not what I had expected, and I could not get over that. We ended up switching our meals, and neither of us took our leftovers home.
About half way through our meal, a man seated alone near us ordered dessert. We decided that we should try that as well even though it was not part of our deal. We had asked if we could substitute one dessert for the two drinks because the drink part of the deal allowed for $7.50 of drink for each of us. We were told that the deal was specific. We ordered a coffee and a hot cider to go with our dessert.
To say that our meal ended well would be putting it mildly. We ordered an apple turnover with whipped cream and caramel sauce. I think we would call ahead for this and visit The Duplex for the fries and this dessert only. The crust was unlike any we had ever eaten. Light, flaky, and full of taste that complimented the apple perfectly – I could eat this crust by itself and be satisfied. The whipped cream and caramel sauce…oh yeah – and the apples… simply added to the goodness of the overall dessert experience. We found out that the desserts, along with most of the dishes, are made entirely from scratch at the time of the order due to the small kitchen. There is little storage space, and when the ingredients for a meal or dessert are gone, they are just gone.
Overall, this night out was fabulous. In addition to the excellent starter and even better dessert, the candlelight atmosphere was fun and I had the best company – the huz. While I would want to be sure that our seats were not next to the bar in the future, I could see myself going back to this restaurant. The servers are great, though busy at times, and make you feel like you are their only table when they are talking to you. The fact that it is a local business creating their own dishes and making excellent desserts makes The Duplex a restaurant that I would like to see stay open for years to come.