1918 1st Ave
Anoka, MN 55303
Neighborhood: Northern Suburbs, Historical Downtown Anoka
Cuisine: New American, Beer & Wine
Cost: $$$ = $50 and less – Higher priced
Four Forks = Defines excellence in local dining. Worth the investment
Monday – Friday, 7:00AM – 2:00PM Breakfast & Lunch
Thursday & Friday, 4:00PM – 9:00PM Fine dining
Saturday, 12:00PM – 9PM
SPECIAL FEATURES: From their website “The menu changes every week, so you never know what great dishes we have in store for you. If you are not interested with what we have to offer on our menu, not a problem. Try one of our Chefs Tastings! We have three, five, and seven-course meals complemented with great tasting wines or craft beers. For example, “we will ask you what you don’t like or are allergic to”, and our chef will prepare the tastings for you. At our restaurant, you get to enjoy an amazing meal without having to pay too much for it. We provide a fun, high-energy environment and a truly unique dining experience”
Handicap accessible: Yes
Parking: lot & street
Vegetarian options: Yes
Kid friendly: Yes
Liquor served: Wine & Craft Beer
Wine List: Bill says it’s “decent” for Anoka!
Outdoor seating: No
Corking fee: Not sure
We were somewhat apprehensive to try this new establishment, considering the numerous failures of the locations predecessors. We ate here on 12/13/13 at 6:30 pm. I’ve been involved with the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce and had heard prior to opening that the restaurant wasn’t promoting itself as a wine bar, but that they had gotten a wine/beer license from the city. It was explained that they intended to do “upscale dining at night” as well as being open for breakfast and lunch. We think this is an interesting concept and wasn’t really sure what to expect. Following our meal, I reached out to them via their “contact us” on the website explaining that I intended to blog them with a few questions, but got no response.
When we entered the newly renovated spot, we weren’t sure what to think. The building is located in historic downtown Anoka, so brick walls and uneven floors are not all that uncommon. The first thing you see when you make your way up the ramp is a pile of newspapers, some boxes and an old-time boom-box type of music machine playing something decent. Directly across the welcome table including a guest book sat a Black Box of wine on the galley way. With a tongue in cheek, we noticed the young lady who looked exactly as I had pictured in my mind after phoning to find out if they were open. A creative wine rack had been constructed in the dining room and the walls were freshly painted.
Overall, we had the feeling that they were “trying”, but there is definitely room for improvement on the ambiance side of things. We noticed only two guests; young ladies sharing a cheese plate over a glass of white wine that was being chilled in a huge metal bucket upon their table when we were greeted by a friendly “dude” (named Bob) who asked us if we had a reservation; after determining they indeed had room for Bill and me who were “walk in’s”, we were seated at a two topper table that slanted away from the wall. The beer cooler behind me could go though!
Many of the tables were pushed together and set up for what we could only assume would be larger parties with reservations to come and had been lined with (new) black table cloths. Unfortunately, someone forgot to have the creases pressed out.
After inquiring, we learned that the young lady was the daughter of Robert, who wasn’t quite confident enough to “give us the spiel” Unique: “From Ocean and Stream, From Farm and Field, To our Chefs, To your Table”
Per their website, they offer Craft Beers from brewers around the United States. The wines come from all over the world. These often change due to the seasons, but the quality remains the same. Ice wines are available.
Bob (photo compliments of the Cork – Anoka Facebook Page) was a friendly fellow with enthusiasm that was permeating through his pores. He just didn’t look like the typical server we’ve seen in fine dining restaurants. I took special note when he mentioned that they “got awesome new little gadgets (to open the wine bottle with)” and that “it’s just like being at Toy’s “R” Us!”
Once Bill had placed our order for a bottle of wine, some time passed before two small, spotted glasses (that had already been poured of wine) were delivered to the table. Following, Bob brought over the bottle and sat it in front of us. I think this link including tips on “how to open a bottle of wine tableside” might be helpful to improving an upscale experience. http://www.foodservicewarehouse.com/education/tips-for-delivering-professional-wine-service-in-the-restaurant/c27434.aspx
None the less, Bill was amused and remained kind and patient because the wine was pretty good. He chose the Alamos “Selection” Malbec, $34.
Complimentary: Bread and butter
We were offered water in tiny little short glasses that reminded me of antique punch cups from my grandmother’s collection. The complimentary bread and butter served in a lined basket was warm and fresh with a generous offering of replenishment should we desire. The plates were helpful, however, were spotted and needed to be scrubbed.
We started off with Seared Sea Scallops – $10
These were fresh and flavorful though I’m not convinced that they had the scallop variety right. I believe that these were the smaller bay scallops (Argopecten irradians), that are and just as sweet and delicious as a sea scallop. The smaller scallops are usually served in soups, stews, or salads, but can certainly be served on their own.
Typically, the most popular on restaurant menus are the larger sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) that have been seared over high heat, but these were delicious none the less cooked perfectly in the center with fresh greens and a lemon butter sauce.
We also shared a Mixed Greens Salad – $8
Red onions, toasted pecans (it was almonds), strawberries, brie cheese (it was goat, but good!) with a house made balsamic vinaigrette. This was a very fresh and flavorful salad in a generous portion! The home-made dressing gave us raised eyebrows in pleasant surprise!
Entree’s: Bill chose the Seared Duck Breast – $24
Served with creamy risotto, winter vegetables, and rosemary demi. The duck breast was cooked perfectly rare with crispy skin. We could tell that the chef had experience because this dish is rare in this neck of the woods. It had rested before it was served; which equilibrates the temperature and spreads the moisture around. The risotto was a bit on the al dente’ side, and peeling fresh carrots rather than using bagged ones would have been a better touch.
I chose the Rosemary Crusted Rack of Lamb – $28
Served with Bacon hash, winter vegetables, and demi. A “rack” of lamb is a section of ribs, usually seven, sometimes eight lamb chops in one piece. A classic way to prepare a rack of lamb is with the bones “frenched” or exposed, which the chef had done a pretty good job with. I received a portion of four that were cooked perfectly medium rare.
The chops were coated in a light mustard sauce and served on a flavorful bed of hand cut potato hash with large pieces of juicy bacon. The winter vegetables were fresh and crisp, but my comments above regarding the carrots would go a long way.
Dessert: We didn’t opt for any, but were told that they are made in-house. What we saw on-line looked great!
We have not stopped for breakfast or lunch, but items look good:
“Pastrami and scrambled, crispy hash browns, wheat toast and a great cup of joe” sounds more like a diner, so confusion could be found in comparison to their website.
Friends have reported that the cheese platters are of quality and the lunch options including homemade soups and sandwiches look hearty. They serve a “Kentucky Hot Brown”, which is oven roasted fresh turkey, topped with parmesan cream sauce, bacon, and tomato.
One of the Chef’s Specialties includes the half or one pound “In-house corned and smoked Pastrami”, served on fresh rye bread. Sandwiches are served with house chips on the side and you can add a trip to the salad bar for a couple bucks.
Overall, we enjoyed the food so much that we’ll be back! Hopefully, the quality continues and that these locals receive the support from our community who patronize often enough to thrive! The small stuff can be overlooked when the food is fantastic!
6 Replies to “Cork, Anoka, MN”
Thank you so much for your honest and amusing review, Chris (and Bill)! We live in Anoka and have heard of Cork, but not much about it. We don’t go out much (and rarely around here) and were a bit skeptical hearing it was “fine dining,” but now we know what to expect if we do get out there. I’m so glad your review came up when I searched for the restaurant!
Cristyb, So glad that you saw the review! I hope it was helpful because though we wrote with cynicism, the food is worth the price we paid! We haven’t had a chance to revisit them, but intend to and have heard decent feed back from others regarding the cuisine. As empty nesters, we have the opportunity to eat out from time to time, but like you rarely choose “Anoka” unless we’re feeling like some of the best Chicken Wings you can find at Serums, or lunch at Billy’s. Give Cork a shot. Dress casual and enjoy a great meal; just don’t look for the ambiance of “fine dining” that they portray on their website. Then provide us with your feedback! Bon appetit!
~Chris & Bill, Andover, MN
My wife and I found out about this new restaurant in Anoka while reading the Anoka Shopper. We were excited and optomistic that there was a new “fine dining” restaurant in Anoka County, as we live in Andover and usually drive to Minneapolis for a “Quality” meal. We dined at Cork a couple weeks ago and have a mixed review of our experience. I would like to preface this entry by saying that we are hoping that our critique of Cork is more of a “Tip” for the owners to review. We were greeted by the host/server who seated us and told us of the specials. The music was from a boombox sitting atop a cabinet, set to a radio station, and was way too loud for what the ambience should be in a fine dining restaurant. There was a battery operated candle on the table, and the lighting was also way too bright (a real candle would really add to the ambience). We ordered a bottle of wine and it was brought to our table already opened. She set the bottle on the table and left to get 2 wine glasses for us. Chris and Bill, thanks for includung the website for “How to open a bottle of wine tableside”, I hope Cork will adopt that. While observing the wait staff it was clear that none of the 3 servers had any experience in serving in a fine dining establishment. The servers delivered the food with their thumbs on the eating surface of the plate, which is a no no in any food establishment. We also never really knew who our server was, as all 3 of them would stop by our table asking us how things were (which is good to ask, but not 5-6 times while we are eating). There are only about 12 tables in this restaurant, so I would suggest that each server be assigned specific tables. Now to the best part of our evening, the food! We both orderd a different fish plate, and they were both excellent, from the preparation, to the presentation, it was A+. The Isreali Couscous was some of the best I have ever had, and the vegetables were done perfectly. We will visit Cork again with the hope that some things are tweeked.
Thank you for reading our blog! We sincerely appreciate your comments! I will tell you that we shared our blog with the Cork via their FaceBook Page on January 3rd. Robert Daniel Martin responded “Thanks for your thoughts….i believe that we will never be a 5 star dining location….we want to share our version of great food and great times… “5 star food, 4 star price, 3 star attitude” thanks again”,
We have noticed a fair amount of content feedback posts from fellow patrons within their page. (https://www.facebook.com/CorkAnoka) Following numerous conversations with spearheads within the fine dining industry, it’s likely that quality service is not a very high priority here. A bit of training and education is readily available, but it is also apparent that folks in this community have less expectation of eminent service. It is confusing as to why the cork advertises as such, but perhaps it’s to justify their menu prices compared to the other Anoka options?
The fact is the food is good! We’ve been told that the chef was formerly with Grecco’s On The St Croix. If you want to grab a bite locally and simply can’t swallow the chain restaurant options, or just don’t feel like chicken wings… the cork does dish up great food! Just know it’s not fine dining and one should be prepared for the lack of ambiance. Gear up to tolerate the “3 star attitudes” with numerous annoying interruptions as we really believe they mean well.
~Chris & Bill
I do feel you were more than a little caustic about the Cork. One would you’re writing for an interior design magazine instead of a restaurant review. Granted they are a little rough around the edges. The same can be said for a diamond before it’s polished. It seems like you’re trying to shut this place down before it gets going. FYI the desserts are AWESOME ! Any place worth going to will experience growing pains. P.S. if the lamb shank is on the menu the next time you visit, try it and re-discover what comfort food should be. This place is a badly needed injection for downtown Anoka so give it a chance to breathe.
Thank you for sharing your feelings regarding the blog. The drawback to reviews are that they are susceptible to misinterpretation. Caustic is a pretty harsh word considering the comments were in no way scathing or bitter. Others have expressed that they appreciated the sincerity within our informative and amusing revelation that the food was actually fantastic!
We would like to be clear that we welcome any alternative dining options to this town! Perhaps you didn’t read the blog in it’s entirety because it concludes with “Overall, we enjoyed the food so much that we’ll be back! Hopefully the quality continues and that these locals receive the support from our community who will patronize often enough to thrive! The small stuff can be overlooked when the food is fantastic!”
We believe Bob and his team are doing well based solely on the plethora of activity and attention that our blog has provided. They are an up and coming eatery who we simply could use some coaching pertaining to their own description (on the website that no longer seems to be found) that they are a “Fine Dining” establishment. The term “Fine Dining” brings to mind a variety of images, from crisp white table cloths to wait staff in pressed sharp attire, including suits or tuxedos. Fine dining, just as the name suggests, offers patrons the finest in food, service and atmosphere. You might consider that it is also the highest priced type of restaurant that operates so perhaps the description initially was to justify the higher than average priced menu in comparison to competing resturants in Anoka. As local supporters who frequently dine out, I should be clear that we are not apposed to paying for food that is worth the investment. Time will tell whether the prices will be vindicated based soley on the high quality food offered with mediocre service and ambiance.
We sincerely hope they thrive and learn. Just like Keith, another local who shared his experience said that he hoped his “critique of Cork is more of a “Tip”for the owners to review.” We are not trying to shut the place down and never said there was anything wrong with The Cork being run more like casual restaurant, similar to a diner or cafe than an upscale restaurant. If you are going to offer wine, it is expected that server is trained. Whether or not patrons are educated wine aficionados, people usually appreciate professional wine service from their server. We recognize that casual restaurants may not focus on this aspect of service as much, but any restaurant environment can benefit from improved wine service. It makes a statement, demonstrating to the guest that the servers know what they are doing, are knowledgeable about what they are serving, and know how to care for the customer in the appropriate manner.
Regardless of what type of establishment they are trying to portray, guests will always recognize when they receive great service and it is what will keep people coming back.
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