Offers Great Comfort Food with Superlative Service
I have to confess that the first time I dined at Kings, I was off the clock. A friend endorsed it as a place where we could grab a no-fuss but decent bite to eat, and I simply went along for the ride. Immediately upon entering, however, I thought it would be a perfect fit for my column. Despite its small kitchen, the from-scratch menu makes smart use of local produce, and it’s a little out of the way at its home in South Minneapolis. However, the single biggest reason I fell in love with the place is this: When I walked in, as an ordinary customer on a busy Saturday night, I was greeted like family.
Hospitality goes a long way in my book. If I am forced to choose between good food and good service, I—a food writer, mind you—frequently choose the latter. That ho-hum sandwich tastes much better when you want to be there eating it, but even filet mignon suffers when paired with abrasive service. Fortunately, at Kings, you don’t have to choose. If you’re in the mood for simple, honest comfort food, it really doesn’t get much better.
Kings bills itself as a wine bar, and its owners, sisters Samantha Loesch and Molly Hanson, maintain the list at a varied but sensible two pages. If you’re looking for a mourvedre or a valpolicella, you won’t be disappointed, and some very nice selections are available by the glass as well. We were treated to Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel ($10/30), which smells of raspberries and pepper; and Eugenie Etiquette Noir Cahors ($9/27), which is smooth and dry, with a nose of darker fruits and, at least to me, chocolate. If you’re a fan of big, mouthy reds, either one would please, although the zinfandel seemed especially adaptable to Chef Peter Maccaroni’s fare.
Our first bite of the evening was the housemade Tater Tots ($6.95). Big, for tots, they offer a beautifully browned exterior with a lovely smooth middle. Their accompanying gruyere and bacon sauce is an absolute must—it not only gives these filling beauties a boost toward the gourmet, but also helps cool them down from their bask in the deep fryer. True, one could wait a minute or two, and accomplish the same task, but they prove an almost irresistible temptation.
If you’re white-knuckling it through this snowy February, Maccaroni’s winter menu entreés are your new best friend. If you haven’t had the from-scratch Chicken Pot Pie ($14.95), you haven’t had chicken pot pie. With braised chicken, potatoes, green beans, carrots, and Wisconsin cheddar, it avoids that hollow, tinny aftertaste that ruins its prefabricated cousins. Braised Beef Short Ribs ($15.95), which are my favorite menu item, seem to be a Kings staple. Cooked until fork-tender, doused in a rich red wine demi glaze, and topped with fried shallots, they are served over either fries or mashed potatoes.
Feeling plucky, I asked about the small plate portion of Pan Seared Sea Scallops ($9.95). Ask a question, get an answer—and then some. Three large scallops soon arrived, slathered in sun-dried tomato pesto, and garnished with fried basil. The scallops were not overcooked, and pesto offers a good introduction to the delicate shellfish if you are trying it for the first time.
With our scallops, we sampled a selection of white wines: light and frisky by-the-glass Pinot Grigio ($7/21); New Age blend ($6/18), which is effervescent, fruity, and lightly sweet; and slightly more assertive Von Schleinitz Dry Riesling ($8/24). I never have been a fan of rieslings, as I find them to be too sweet, but this one is definitely worth the gamble if you are a bit more flexible. The by-the-glass selections rotate monthly, so if you don’t find a favorite immediately, give it another try in a few weeks.
Desserts at Kings have made significant strides since the restaurant opened: All are made in-house, and offer much more than the typical kitchen afterthought. Along with Noval Tawny Port ($7/30), which is rich and velvety—the perfect cordial for good reason—we tried the silky Flourless Chocolate Cake ($5.95) and the texture-happy Apple Crisp ($5.95). I never have had much of a sweet tooth, but both are fantastic, and absolutely worth the price. The crisp is served with everyone’s favorite—Sebastian Joe’s vanilla ice cream—which slowly melts into the ooey gooey center of the dish.
No part of Kings tries to reinvent the culinary wheel, but the establisment takes special pride in transforming the humble into the wonderful, and that’s precisely what will make it a new neighborhood favorite.
4555 Grand Ave, S., Mpls.