I may have moved out of Minneapolis but that doesn't mean I won't be back filling my stomach at old favorites and new hot spots (course I'll be doing some Madison reviews as well in the near future). This past weekend I revisited a downtown Minneapolis classic, the Monte Carlo. Located on the edge of the Warehouse and Loop neighborhoods the Monte Carlo is an institution that always feels fresh thanks to the mix of patrons old and young. However, it had been a while since I had graced the dining room of this establishment so as I walked in last Saturday night I was a bit apprehensive. My concerns were quickly thrown out the door as I walked into a place as special and unique as any. The massive floor to ceiling mirror backed bar always takes my breath away and looks like a place I could barfly my life away. My companions remarked that the whole scene is something out of a David Lynch movie. From the bar, to the wallpaper you can get lost in, to the red leather booths, to the waiters in bow ties and waitresses in maid outfits the place is surreal without being nostalgic. My two companions and I made reservations which was a good call on a Saturday night as the deceptively large dining rooms were packed.
Again I can’t stress this enough the Monte Carlo is a throwback place living in the present and once again that is reflected in their menu that’s comprised of classic dishes from both their kitchen and others around the country. This was a place that until recently actually served up a rendition of Madison’s own Plaza Burger. This was a place that served Key Lime pie years before it became trendy. And of course this is the place that still serves Charlie’s Steak Sandwich from the long departed Charlie’s Café Exceptional. My partner enjoyed one of the best steak sandwiches around starts with two good slices of pumpernickel holding perfectly done slices of the most tender beef filet and onions and then is finished with a horseradish sauce that seems to be made of sour cream and…well…horseradish. Simple yes, but simply exquisite said my companion who enjoyed her Charlie’s to no end. One thing that has changed over the years is the fries the Monte Carlo serves with their sandwiches. My memories were filled with memories of rather drab frozen fries but those accompanying our meals this time around were thin, crisp fries with bits of skin still on them. Another steak option not to be missed is the whiskey peppercorn filet. Here the chef splits a good sized filet in two after it's been grilled to order. The two pieces are swimming in a subtle peppercorn sauce. While technically there might be too much sauce, I defy anyone not to use their bread, potatoes, or even fingers to sop up every last drop. The subtly in the peppercorn sauce enhances the flavor but on two dishes the subtlety of flavors hurt. The Caesar salad at the Monte Carlo has been a famous dish for years but in a day and age where anyone and everyone serves one I fear their time has passed. While the traditional dressing is good, the lack of garlic leaves the salad rather bland. A similar complaint was given by my other companion who tried the chicken pasta primavera. While the sauce wasn’t too heavy, it also had no character. The pasta, chicken and veggies where all fine but it took a mountain of S & P to bring out any flavor. Lastly I must mention the chicken soup that one of my companions enjoyed. Huge chunks of chicken surrounded by veggies and homemade noodles. Comfort food at its best and something that the Monte Carlo excels at.
Monte Carlo, 219 3rd Ave N Minneapolis, MN, 612-333-5900