This past weekend I returned back to the Twin Cities to celebrate my mother’s birthday and in doing so enjoyed a meal that stirred my culinary soul. Yes, I know I am setting a high bar with that statement but I cannot begin to truly articulate my thoughts about The Strip Club. Located in the Dayton’s Bluff area of St. Paul this relative newcomer is instantly in my top five Twin Cities restaurants. Of course, with a pedigree that includes partners in Town Talk Diner and a former Muffaletta’s chef it should come as less of a surprise. Speaking of surprises, imagine mine, when we checked the card our “waiter” gave us and realized it that Tim Niver, the general manager and partner, who delivered excellent service to us all night. It should be noted that from the tables around us, the high level of service we experienced was a consistent theme. The narrow space in a former grocers shop is an experience all to its own. From the iron spiral staircase to the exposed brick, you truly feel the history of the building as you dine. Speaking of dine, let’s get to the meat of this story and that’s the food.
When you hear the name Strip Club, you think of flesh, either naked human or cooked cattle. In this case, the cow wins out along with the company of other top-notch choices. My mom and I started out with a couple of daily specials. The soup of the day was pumpkin and to say it had a kick would be an understatement. The mix of flavors here was certainly an indication of what the night held, as the fiery heat never overpowered, while the pumpkin was so subtle you just felt a faint hint at the back of your palette. The other rotating special we tried was their Meat on a Stick. This ode to State Fair features a different carnivores dream every day. Much to our delight the selection on Saturday was a house-cured pancetta paired with seared venison. The meats were lightly dusted in curry powder and served with a kohlrabi salad that also had a nice heat. Two slices of organic yellow watermelon accompanied the dish and shortly after we finished we were treated to a palette cleanser featuring the same watermelon. This time around, the watermelon was infused with ginger, lemongrass and rum. Once again, this hit the mark and none of the flavors lingered long enough to interfere with our next course, the Minnesota Market salad. This salad had the unusual combination of raspberries, sage, cashews, and mixed greens topped with a sweet corn vinaigrette. Stop me if I’m becoming repetitive but here again the flavors came in wave after subtle wave. I believe we were both sliding under the table in culinary joy at this point. However, we weren’t done as next we split the special of the day, a 10 oz. rib eye topped with avocado butter and leeks with roasted pumpkin. If I could bathe in avocado butter, I would. As the butter melted over the sliced rib eye, cooked to perfect temperature, the pumpkin and leeks absorbed the juices of the dish. I’m not usually a fan of leeks but I’d eat these every day if possible. Afraid over the lack of starch we also ordered the French fries and once again, a meal that we thought had peaked once again excelled. The homemade bacon ketchup was as thick as tomato paste and the bacon flavor ran through every pasty inch. If I could have one wish it would be that the good folks at the Strip Club bottle this foodie crack. Alas we ran short on time and had to dash without desert but the non-run of the mill cheesecake looked like a winner, as did the apple pie for one. The wine list was short but comprehensive. Both my mother and I enjoyed a Mojo Rojo Shiraz.
The Strip Club is also open for weekend brunch and lunch Tuesday through Friday. If you’re a Twin Cities resident I implore you as an ex-pat to get thee to the Strip Club on the quick. This place deserves everyone’s attention and believe me you will be rewarded with a meal that wash over you long after you’ve left their doorway.
The Strip Club, 378 Maria Avenue St Paul, MN 651-793-6247