I like a good debate, sometimes. When people are willing to argue - assuming it isn't in caps lock and slurs - it means people care. I like hearing from people who care about things I care about, even if I wind up proven wrong.
Perhaps "debate" isn't the right word for this, but this month's Cheeseburger Power Rankings compelled a pair of readers to (politely) bash cymbals against my head over the absence of HauteDish. It's a young list, I explained. I just hadn't been there yet. I take tips seriously, however, and was there 24 hours later.
Barely 24 hours after that, I zipped my wife in for date night. The result was the same: Whether you're at the bar or in the dining room, HauteDish brings the flavor in a fashion few others can touch. Story settled.
The Basics: The HauteDish website has everything you need on the front page. Just scroll down and you'll find it. Happy hour runs 4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday. WARNING: The happy hour special is only good at the bar, and spacing is limited. What I'm saying is, if you're getting there at 5:30 on a Friday night, forget about it.
Flavor Country claimed the title of "Best Burger for Rare Eaters" this year by MSP Magazine, but got tripped in the first round of the Burger Bracket by eventual champion Victory 44. Call it bad luck of the draw.
The kitchen game is called by former bear wrestler (scroll down on the homepage) and consummate arm-crosser Landon Schoenfeld.
THURSDAY: So happy hour begins at 4 p.m. Know what else begins at 4 p.m.? Business hours. If you don't want to be phone-faced the whole time, bring a friend. The tender took care of me and the staff chummed when able, but the task of opening kept them from engaging as well as they do at, say, The Nook or Meister's. That's nobody's fault.
HauteDish, much like the 112 Eatery a few feet away, is a long and slender establishment. Its domed ceiling sections and plush leather booth lining the left side give the bar broad shoulders, but the wacky paintings in the entry and tattered bar cushions give it some chest hair. The earthen tones turn away a good deal of light and, also like 112, mirrors fill the walls and grow the room. If you're alone here, you're going to feel alone.
From my perch at that huge bar, a man was four or five seats down. He had a newsboy cap, and editor's gut, a photographer's beard, and no interest of anything beyond that stupid phone screen. I repeatedly set mine down in search of something not-phone to do, but all I could muster before the food arrived was 15 minutes of tics and Twitter checks.
A merry band of fries accompanies Flavor Country, and despite their small serving can grab your attention and hold it quite well. Imagine, if you will, a tequila shot with a potato chaser. That about sums up the fries. Even with Flavor Country tapping its bacon strips impatiently, I just about cleaned up the fries before lifting it.
I took one bite out of Flavor Country and KAPOW!
FRIDAY: The only way I was getting my wife here faster involved duct tape and the trunk of my car.
We arrived at around 5:40, and you already read what happened with happy hour. So, sitting about two feet from the bar, we drank our full-priced drinks and deliberated whether our dashed happy hour hopes had hocked up our appetites. Common sense prevailed - it wasn't like the next place's food was going to be THAT much cheaper, regardless of where it was. We probably made our server want to yank his ponytail out in the process, but we turned a pair of maybes into a Flavor Country and chicken liver shingles.
There is plenty to occupy you in the dining room. Say it with me now: Squash soup shooters.
These little glasses of soul-warmer started the meal. Bread came next; and, though the presence of my enemies (raisins) meant I wasn't touching them, my wife loved them. The entrees came shortly after.
I didn't make the connection until they came but the chicken liver shingles were none other than local legend shit on a shingle! The shingles were smeared with a smooth liver paste and came with grilled grapes to smush on top. They added a cool rush you don't expect from S.O.S. My wife was iffy on them, but I was "Iffy ... yer not eating them, I am!" Only two shingles survived the trip home. Zero survived beyond bedtime.
Now I will talk about Flavor Country.
Read the menu: "With everything, no temps or substitutions ever!"
Don't worry - you'll love this as is. The patty, cooked rare, is a cushion of wonder. The toppings all contribute without fighting back when you bite into them. It's juicy but not greasy. It's a classy mess that won't threaten your shirt. Its cut-in-half pic is the sexiest I've seen. LOOK AT IT! If HauteDish used that as its Twitter avatar, it'd probably get reported as inappropriate.
I haven't felt this way about a cheeseburger since my first time at Victory 44.
I haven't even told you the happy hour price, have I? A craft beer gets paired with this for $10.
If you haven't passed through Flavor Country, you need to change that. Today. Tell the babysitter you're running late. Dip out of that stupid meeting. With that price and this quality, you've got no good reason to miss it.
Trust me: This is a temptation you're better off not fighting.