I have always loved an old fashioned supper club. I used to visit a place in Wisconsin called Simpsons. They had the best relish tray. The tray came with olives, radishes, carrots, celery, pickled briny herring and they had a bread basket with crackers, breadsticks, butter and a cheese spread. I want to start a movement to bring back a decent relish tray. In fact I encourage relish tray conversation and emails at email@example.com on my continuing quest to try all the remaining relish trays in the Twin Cities so feel free to weigh in.
In the 651, we are lucky to have a few great historic classic steakhouses with Mancinnis and the Lexington. More recently we were treated to the homey and delicious Joan’s in the Park. My latest stop is a place that has been around for a while, but it had been awhile since I visited, so I went for a refresher course at Bennett’s Rail and Chop House at 1305 W 7th Street.
At first glance it’s hard to tell what to expect from the non-descript small yellow building on W. 7th in the middle of a neighborhood. I could not decide if Bennett’s is a neighborhood bar or a steakhouse and I decided it is decidedly both. The bar takes up about half the space in the place but the restaurant has white tablecloths. The tiny ladies room had pink tile throughout and reminded me of my own 1940’s St. Paul bathroom. We noticed lots of tables chatting each other up. It seemed like they truly were neighbors or regulars back for another visit. Our server was outstanding. She told us about the house favorites including many of the staples you would find in steak houses like the tenderloin tips served with either béarnaise or a horseradish cream sauce or the crab cakes with lemon aioli and the classic “chop” chef salad. Also on the menu were favorites you might find in your neighborhood bar like braised short rib sandwich piled high on a French roll or the juicy Lucy or the juicy Juanita with spicy pepper jack cheese.
For Cocktails you will find a straightforward wine list and a “his” and “hers” cocktail menu. His list included the Manhattan, the Rob Roy and the Rusty Nail while hers featured the Cosmopolitan, the Appletini and the Lemon Drop. Sexist maybe, but I thought it was cute. They even had a classic cocktail on the menu named after our own Prince. The drink is the “Purple Rain” with Bombay gin, Absolut vodka, Bacardi Rum and Jose Quervo tequila with Chambord and sweet and sour – if that doesn’t make you feel like being chatting and neighborly perhaps nothing will.
Our server helped us select a few menu items that we really enjoyed. We started with the pan seared Asian scallops off the appetizer menu and they were seared perfectly and served atop some mixed greens with an Asian pan sauce that was light, salty and sweet. There were 4 big scallops for $13 which I thought was also a good value. We moved onto the dinner salad which was perfect for a steak house side. Thick blue cheese dressing atop a dinner salad with bacon and black olives and a fluffy potato roll with butter pats on the side. My husband had the Little Charlie’s grilled tenderloin sandwiches that I am sure are named after the famous Minneapolis steak house Charlie’s Café Exceptionale classic steak sandwich. This was really a nice sandwich. The tenderloin morsels were well… tender and smothered in caramelized onions that were buttery, silky and salty and the petit buns they came with were just right. I was also pleasantly surprised by their crispy fries. I think you can tell the mark of a chef that cares by the fries they serve and these looked hand cut and were delicious crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and salty. I had a filet topped with a horseradish crust which was also really tasty. The meat was a tender cut and the horseradish crust was spicy, crispy and browned and very generous in proportion to the meat.
Throughout our meal I couldn’t help but notice the ladies at the table next to us. They were partaking in the $32.95 per person all you can eat crab legs that is a huge special at Bennett’s on Friday nights. This table of ladies look like they had a lot of catching up to do and they were there when we sat down with a plate of crab legs and they were there when we left with more crab legs and a pile of spent crab carcasses. They were clearly having a great time.
The service was efficient, helpful and friendly and much unexpected. I really feel like the service in restaurants in general in the Twin Cities is very average. We were treated great at Bennett’s. Our experience at Bennett’s was made better by the service. Our server offered menu suggestions, promptly had water and drinks refilled, checked back on the temp of our meat before the meal was over and offered desserts – I know it seems simple but many places miss the easy things and our server hit it out of the park. A bad server can make a good meal bad. A good server can make a mediocre meal better. If you can hit it out of the park with service and the food is better than to be expected, as I felt it was at Bennett’s, then it’s a home run for everyone!
Bennett’s Rail and Chop House
W. 7th Street
St. Paul, MN