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Big E's Soul Food -- Minneapolis, and a short comment on Bar Lurcat

Brad Ballinger | Jun 23, 200309:25 AM

Saturday was a jam-packed day. Started off with the typical list of household chores. Then a matinee performance at the Jungle Theatre of Cloud Cuckooland. The show let out about 4:30, and we had three hours before the Iris Dement concert at the Guthrie. There were four of us, and my plan was to go to Big E's Soul Food. I had heard positive reviews from trusted individuals, and was looking forward to it.

Bottom line -- I will be back. The food is solidly prepared and the price is hard to beat. Bid E's is in a stipr mall-ish building south of 18th Street on Nicollet Avenue. I believe the address is 1831. The interior is quite small. Three four-top tables with charis, and two two-top higher tables with stools. It was not yet 5:15, and the place was full. But at least no one was waiting ahead of us. Our wait was only 15 minutes. The restaurant also does a take-out service. Others joined us in line, and there were people waiting when we left.

There are three signs along the dining room wall. One with a definition of "Neo." One with a definition of "Soul." And one with a definition of "Neo Soul." The cuisine was Neo Soul. This judgment was rendered by the other couple who have lived many years in Arkansas. The menu design is a little retro -- lamenated descriptions of the courses with low quality pictures of some of the dishes. If there is something not being offered, it is crossed out in blue marker.

There are a large number of dinner options -- from catfish to chicken, to a smothered pork chop. Then there are the specialities -- jambalaya, hoppin' john, shrimp etoufee, etc. I had heard about the buttermilk battered fried chicken, so I went with that. So did another of our party. The other two ordered jambalaya and hoppin' john. The dinners (not the specialities) come with THREE sides. I opted for mashed potatoes w/gravy, dirty rice, and spiced cabbage. Other options included collard greens, red beans and rice, okra poppers, cole slaw, and about ten other things. That evening there was also a meatloaf special. Two huge slabs of meatloaf on top of mashed potatoes served with green beans. This special was $11.95. Our four dinners were under $10 each. In fact, the total bill came to under $30.

If ordering the chicken, you can either get one breast or a leg and a thigh. I opted for the dark meat. The pieces were crispy with a flavorful batter -- and very hot. A little greasy on the batter (but not the meat), but what do you expect from soul food? The reason it was neo soul is that is wasn't greasy enough. The cabbage side was great. The dirty rice, a little dry.

Dessert was tempting (particularly the buttermilk pie), but I was too full from dinner. Plus, the desserts were very high priced compared to the rest of the menu. $6.95 for chicken and three sides but $4.95 for a slice of pie?

The decor is interesting. Some original artwork onthe walls, and some concert posters (Marvin Gaye, Ella Fitzgerald, B.B. King) on the ceiling. Water was served in retro aluminum mugs.

We got out in plenty of time for the concert, so we walked over to Bar Lurcat for a pre-concert drink. I had not been yet to the bar or cafe. Gone are the bohemian adornments and furniture. But the replacement furniture is still funky, and the bar seems to be a good place to hang out. We had our drinks outside on the airy patio. Big canvas umbrellas and molded chairs of sage and peach adorned the mason block "floor." The chairs have got to go. It was only about 80 degrees outside, and when I stood up I could feel some dampness on the seat of my pants. People are going to get tired of that.

We looked at (for curiosity's sake) the bar menu. There are a variety of options all approximately $12 or less, and the portion sizes appeared to be large enough for a meal in some instnaces. Solera could learn something here.

There are some intriguing drink options, including standards and creations of the bar. The wine by the glass list offeres 2 ounce and 5 ounce pours. There is a decent-sized half bottle selection for the solo diner. Draft beer pours are $4 or $5, which has become standard I guess.

It would be a fun place to come back to for happy hour -- as long as I sit inside.

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