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!