09 March 2012

Minneapolis: Blackbird

Happy birthday, Mom!  Let's go to Blackbird!  It's so trendy and delicious!

3800 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN  55409
(612) 823-4790

How old is my mom, you ask?  None of your beeswax.  She's been that age for a long time, actually.  She looks really good for being none of your beeswax.

Sometimes, my friends, us vegans go to restaurants where there may only be one or two options for us, and even then we have to ask the server to please leave off the cheese, or would you mind putting the scallops on the side?  My mom'll eat 'em.  It's her birthday.

I love Blackbird, even though their main dishes are mostly meaty.  In this case, Blackbird's ambience and attention to detail in their cooking more than make up for any lack of vegetarian variety.  They've got a few things.  That's all I needed.

This was one of those nights where I was so enjoying chatting with Mom, Sister (who will heretofore be referred to as Seestor, which is how we answer the phone when calling each other), and Captain Adventure that I barely even looked at the menu by the time the server came.  So I ordered Matt a soy chai.

I'm beginning to discover that restaurants almost always have better chais than coffee shops.  I mean, sure, there are the independently owned places like Uncommon Grounds that make their own delicious chai mixes, but places like Starbucks and Caribou?  Meh.  Their chais are so full of sugar I can barely taste the spices.  (Although Seestor can do amazing things with an assortment of Starbucks ingredients and a steamer.)

This from-scratch chai at $3.25 was delightful.  I swear, I didn't drink more than a quarter.  It was Matt's, after all.  Maybe I drank a third.  But no more than half.  Do you see that little brown sugar cube on the teaspoon?  Not only adorable; also functional!  We felt so British when we stirred that in.  The soymilk they used in this drink was delicious and the chai was spicy, but in a unique way that we all had difficulty describing.  It hit the back of your throat in a majorly satisfying way.  Pretty amazing stuff.

Then there was this lamp.

I'm not sure what to tell ya.  Matt asked why the guy had a baguette, and Seestor said it wasn't a baguette, but a flute.  I figured it was probably a baguette-flute.  Right at our very own table.  What an honor.

You know, you should check out the website for this place just to look at the adorable graphic designing they do.  I'm such a sucker for pretty layouts and menus.  We also noticed this on the back of the menu about cell phones:


Anyway, let's get some food.  The server came again, and because we had so intently been discussing Stephen Colbert's heavy-handed genius, I still had no idea what to order.  So basically, I said, "I'm vegan.  What's good?"

Now, this method of ordering can backfire at the wrong place.  The server may look at you blankly and say, "So... what's vegan, again?"  Or, "Um... you could have the salad.  Without the chicken.  Oh, and the dressing.  And cheese."

But NOT SO at Blackbird!  Our server actually pulled out what she called a "cheat sheet" and read to me all the vegan and vegan-on-request options from the entire menu!  Wow!  So I ordered an $8.00 salad with the scallops on the side and the avocados fresh instead of breaded and fried.  Success!  And because that wasn't enough, the server told me, I also ordered handcut fries at $5.00.  To, you know, go with the salad.

The salad was actually a special last night.  It tasted SO fresh and yummy.  The arugula was perfectly crisp and spicy, and went especially well with the fresh crushed pepper.  The onions, cilantro, and tomato raisins (have you ever heard of such a thing?!  Me neither.  They're good, and not really like sun-dried tomatoes, but I'm not really sure how the mechanics of that difference work.) tasted lovely together.  And the avocado.  Was SO.  PERFECT.  I go bonkers for avocado.  This one was so perfectly creamy, without a single brown spot anywhere.  And the citrus dressing?  Also fantastic.  Only thing was, the salad was kind of tiny.  But that's okay.  I had fries!

It's hard to screw up fries.  These were lovely and earthy.  That ketchup?  Surprisingly good!  I'm not usually a fan of ketchup, just because ketchup is normally mostly made of corn syrup.  And maybe tomatoes.  Oh, and also high fructose corn syrup.  But Blackbird's ketchup held my attention.  It had a nice full-bodied flavor that had me wiping the bottom of the little cup with fry scraps until every crumb and red smear was gone.

If you're normal, you might be wondering what kind of entrée a vegan could order here.  Well, let me tell you!  You'll want the spicy peanut noodles, which'll run you $10.  I've had it before.  It's fantastic and full of tofu, spinach, and shiitakes.

I didn't make Captain Adventure take a picture of my dessert soy hot chocolate because it looked exactly the same as the chai.  Seestor suggested I use the same picture as above and color brown on the top of the drink with MS Paint.  Classy!  However, I trust you, reader, can imagine how that would've looked.  Mm.

The hot chocolate - $2.75 - was deceptively good!  At first sip, all I tasted was soymilky foam, and I was not impressed.  But as I got further into the liquid underneath, I realized there was something wonderful going on down there!  It had a sugar cube as well, which I plunked in, and you could go either way with that.  The chocolate is rich and dark, like somebody poured a bottle of really really high quality Hershey's chocolate syrup in, and would stand alone if you like that kind of thing.

Seestor got a soy mocha, as well, and immediately after her first sip declared that the espresso machine needed a good cleaning.  She plopped the sugar cube in to cut back on the bitterness and enjoyed the drink.

Know what's funny?  If you're not vegan, it definitely costs more to eat here.  Tee hee!  Oh, the irony.

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