George and the Dragon

Get me focused on a couple of tasks and I tear them apart with vigor you could only catch on Shark Week. Give me a few more and, albeit haphazardly, I’ll handle them. Give me a few more and plates start to drop. Give me a few more, my day slides into a “Laurel and Hardy” skit and I suffer a Philip Rivers Face (it’s safe). I’m a good multitasker; but, if there was a Multitasking Hall of Fame, I wouldn’t be voted in first ballot.

George & the Dragon on UrbanspoonAnd lucky me – I’ve had that face so lot lately, my forehead lines have begun swerving, so I was that much more ecstatic to take Mittens up on a happy hour offer. I sent us someplace I’d been trying to see for some time: George and the Dragon. With a name like that, how do you not?

And I’ll tell you, the stats of your hottest work day will shrivel in the shine of this public house. They’re holding a family-friendly atmosphere while gaining bar buzz. They’re executing a simultaneously British and Asian menu, and doing so fitly. If this restaurant was a football player, we’d be calling it “George ‘Slash’ the Dragon.”

The Basics: George and the Dragon has been in Minneapolis, holding down 50th and Bryant, since 2011. The website’s right here and easy to navigate. If you’re considering a trip from Roseville at rush hour, though, consider harder than I did. No regrets this time, but I’d bet Mittens backs her car over me the next time I suggest this at 4 p.m.

Look below: I snapped almost the whole place in one pic. As much as the name charges your imagination, the interior grounds it – not in a bad way, it just does. If that scene doesn’t scream “PUBLIC HOUSE!” the children rambling about might if provoked.

The gentleman in the aisle is the owner. Mittens noticed him several times making the rounds, chatting up diners, making calls, always smiling. He looks like an owner who cares.

I slid into my side of the booth and began scoping the menu. First, I noticed the number of items on their menu made with green beans. Second, I noticed female names on all of the salads. Finally, my eyes jumped to “Irish whiskey banger” printed in little italic under BANGERS AND MASH – which, of course, are mashed potatoes and … aaand

And you’re Irish, too, shit,” I grumbled. She gave me that sharp mini-laugh exhale. I shook my head. Philip Rivers was now defiant. “I’m not doing it.” I whipped out my smartphone, and waited … and waited … “I don’t care if this takes all day to load, I’m not asking you.” Finally, it did.

It’s a dish with sausages atop mashed potatoes. HEY LOOK, Philip Rivers Face has its own blog page!

When the server resurfaced, I ordered the BANGERS AND MASH. Mittens ordered banh mi. We were left with our beers – Steel Toe Rainmaker for her, Young’s Double Chocolate Irish Stout for me, both delicious – and time to ponder how so many damn kids fit in here.

There weren’t many booths without them; they almost outnumbered the humans. Back and forth to a nearby bookshelf they toddled, clutching books the way I’d carry a concrete mix bag. Someone without child, though, was noticed at the bar with his white pointy-toe shoes and grandfather’s naval ship hat. We expected a lot less children and a lot more of this guy.

His shoes are wretched,” said Mittens, “but … he’s kind of cute.”
I knew immediately. I rolled my eyes, and: “It’s the tat sleeve, isn’t it?”
Her shoulders wiggled up and a smile crept across her face. “I think so.”

Pardon me for sounding catty here, but I’ve seen wonderful sleeve tats and unfortunate sleeve tats, and this gentleman’s looked like it was drawn onto his arm after he passed out one night.

But forget about him: Our food was already here. Barely 10 minutes.

Mittens ordered beer-battered green beans on the side, and shared willingly. Now, if you aren’t a GREEN BEAN EXPERT like I am, you aren’t aware of how wide the gap is between a good green bean and a bad one. A good one is world-class greens, surpassed only by a well-done potato. A bad one feels and tastes like a McDonald’s “fit option.” I’m happy to say George and the Dragon does green beans right. They’re rich in color, crunchy, and fresh-to-death tasting.

On my plate, the bangers were laid out precisely atop an island of mash, and that structure perfectly seated the onion ring (GREAT onion ring, by the way). My little food mound was surrounded by an enticing gravy moat. Wait, though – Mittens had already fallen in love with her banh mi.

It’s an All-American hearty sandwich,” she would later explain to me. “It has mayo for the love of God, but gives you enough eclectic flavor that you feel like you’re sort of dating the high school quarterback who also has a WELL DONE sleeve and drives a Harley.”

The pork was tender and the spice was sweet and tangy. The coleslaw gives you almost a Memphis barbecue feel, but the green beans gave it an unexpected crunch I’ve never had in a banh mi. It was like an elevated version of putting french fries on your burger. The wasabi mayo gave it a little kick; the bread was crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. It anchored the sauce and the juicy contents well – I felt like I could eat it on a date and not look like a viking. It was also the perfect size. I didn’t feel like a hoss downing the whole thing.”

I then turned on my plate. Forget cutting the meat – I forked up a whole banger, ran that stump through the fortress, and chomped it in half. The sausage bit like there was no casing, almost as smooth as the mash. My buds detected that hint taste of whiskey, and the gravy was warm and thick.

That awful Tuesday and that ear-steaming drive through Minneapolis? I’d do it all again for a plate like this.

Service was great throughout. Wait times, even with nary an open table, were hardly existent. Our meals, an entree and a tall “good” beer each, stayed under $20 apiece.

The only thing George and the Dragon isn’t is an ideal place to get wasted — clientele aside, the only big-time business neighbor is Patina. If you’ve never been in a Patina, just know you could easily bankrupt yourself if you bumble on in there with blurry judgement. It’s that kind of store.

I doubt the owners care. Their were aiming for a neighborhood-knotting public house, and they blew the bulls-eye right out of the target. There are so many restaurants struggling to pull off even one mission, and here’s a restaurant handling four at once. Nobody felt uncomfortable, and we didn’t see a single unappealing plate.

Should I ever move over to this side of the Metro, George and his Dragon will be seeing plenty more of me.