On the way to Erin's birthday dinner at Cafe Maude we were trying to find a bar to kill some time at before our reservations with Erin's family. Unfortunately, that area of south Minneapolis is seemingly devoid of bars, so instead we crashed at Jake and Allison's house, who luckily live about six blocks from Cafe Maude, for a drink before dinner.
We got to Cafe Maude around 7:30 on a Monday night. I had barely been able to get reservations, even on a Monday. Jake and Allison told us that it was very busy there, nearly all the time, and it was indeed full when we arrived. Erin's family had already been seated towards the back right of the restaurant. The inside of Cafe Maude was very contemporary looking, I think they've done a great job of designing and decorating. I was really amazed at how full this place was on a Monday night, when all you are hearing about is the dire economy, clearly people are still willing to spend money at popular restaurants.
It was a little loud that night, I don't know if it's normally like that, but I found it a little difficult to hear the conversation and the server misheard my beer order (they have Bell's Two Hearted on tap, nice). There are several items on the menu that looked good, especially the Grilled Hangar Steak (Erin's sister Liz got that), but I went with just a grilled hamburger with mozzarella cheese, they didn't have cheddar that night, (which seemed really strange), and garlic aoili on the side. The burger was $9 to begin with and they ding you for each topping, even $1 for onions and the garlic aoili. Since the burger is a la carte I also got an order of the house fries to share with the table.
My burger was really good, and the fries were OK. With the fries there were certainly enough to share, we didn't even finish them all. While the burger was good, and they cooked it medium as requested, I almost liked Erin's mac & cheese better. In hindsight, I probably should have tried something that was a little more exotic than a burger - I mean, you can get a burger anyplace and now that I look at the menu again, the roasted chicken or the green curry would have been interesting dishes to try. Oh well, maybe we'll be back sometime.
- Service: Our service was good, our server knew how to make sure everyone was taken care of, in spite of how busy it was.
- Food: Excellent food and a diverse menu has something for everyone.
- Drinks: They have a full bar at Cafe Maude and a big list of specialty martinis and cocktails. Small tap beer list but they have Bell's and Surly.
- Ambiance: There was a loud ambiance when we were there and the place definitely has a buzz to it. Almost all the media I read say it's very popular and it feels that way when you are there.
- Price: Prices are a little on the high side - not that it's a bad deal, but it's going to cost a little more than a casual restaurant.
- Convenience: Located on Penn & 54th St., there must be buses on Penn and they have a small parking lot.
We always go out for dinner with my family for birthdays, and this year I was kind of agonizing about the choice of restaurant. Last year at this time, we weren't doing the blog yet, but now I felt a lot of pressure to pick a good place and make sure it would be enjoyed by everyone. Since I had read so many rave reviews of Cafe Maude all over the internet, I figured it was a pretty safe bet. Because December was such a busy month, I didn't end up making a final decision until the day we went - luckily we were able to get a table.
When driving by Cafe Maude, you would never expect it to be such a nice place. It is in a tiny strip mall next to a hardware store on 54th and Penn. Once you walk in, it is nicely decorated and bustling with modern art on the walls. Our table was a booth behind the bar. The tables are packed in pretty close together, but I didn't feel like we were listening in on our neighbor's conversations or anything.
Since we had just stopped for a drink at Jake and Allison's, we heard a little bit about what they liked about the place. Allison recommended the Blackberry Martini (called the Natasha on their menu) so I went ahead and ordered that. It came out quickly and was delicious. Delicious to me means that it didn't taste like alcohol, so for people who enjoy stiff drinks, don't order this one.
I had spent a good amount of time reading reviews, and I was intrigued by a few of the dishes that I had read about. I knew that I for sure wanted to try the Tuscan Rice and Parmasean Croquettes, and decided I also wanted the Mac and Cheese. My mom agreed to split these two items with me. I thought both of these were fantastic! The mac and cheese was perfectly creamy with just a few breadcrumbs and wasn't grainy at all. The croquettes were creamy as well and had a nice crusty shell. I also had several of the fries and I loved them - I thought they were perfectly crispy without being too crunchy, and I loved the fontina fondue they came with.
Everyone else seemed to enjoy their meals as well. My dad probably the least of everyone, he had the sauteed blue prawns and thought they were just okay. Liz had the steak and mashers and rings which looked great. Jono had the nicoise olive chicken, which I tried and thought was pretty good. It had a ton of stuff on the top of it which made it difficult to eat - it looked more like a salad than flatbread.
Being my birthday, I decided I deserved a dessert. None of the desserts actually were sounding that awesome to me, but I ended up choosing the lemon cheesecake which was good. Nothing that blew me away, but good. It could just be that I wasn't in a dessert mood that night.
I loved Cafe Maude and really want to come back during the day to try breakfast or brunch. The food that I had was great, and the ambiance of the restaurant was perfect for a small group or a date.
5411 Penn Ave South