When I spoke with Eddie Wu a couple of months back, he looked back on long days working the front and back of his East St. Paul business. He named it “Cook,” because, in his words, “It’s like, I’m just the cook.” In East St. Paul, he didn’t try to woo the masses with fancy accents and kitschy pop-cuisine: he earned his way into the community with good ol’ hard work, sturdy mugs of Joe, and dishes like the Skip’s Choice.
I don’t have a brunch metric for quality versus value, but I don’t need one after Skip’s Choice. It’s an unbelievable bang, at a price-point that will make you seriously consider just having this everyday, and the experience of eating this brings a height of satisfaction I couldn’t adequately articulate. I mean, just look at it.
Don’t you want to?
The Basics: Cook St. Paul sits on Payne Ave., between Jessamine and Germanium Avenues. Cook is the modern, theatre-looking front face between True Spirit Ministries and Wilbur’s Auto Services. Cook’s space was previously occupied by Serlin’s, and one of the old Serlin’s crew currently works for Cook. Another fun fact: Wu’s wife runs a baking operation in the same place.
Cook is constantly brought up in conversations of best brunches, restaurants and pop-up events. You can find them online here. Most recently, it was announced their head chef was moving out to Oregon to raise goats.
I’ve sat to the left of a cranky mother and her two kids, to the right of gossipy grandmothers, in front of neck tats, and behind grumpy old men with big hands and deep wrinkles. Everyone is welcome, and everyone comes. The brunch gals come out and can literally even. Their footsteps make the same sound on that old hardwood floor.
Eddie Wu is probably in the kitchen, or upstairs, wearing that sweet snapback with “WU” in big pink letters across the front panels. His name is written in sign language on the bottles of house-made hot sauce. There’s a drink – half lemonade, half chai tea – called the Eddie Wu. It’s delicious, by the way. I’ve heard there’s a drunken version that shows up at special events. So far, I’ve only had the original, and the coffee coffee coffee.
Skip’s Choice hauls the big lumber, though. The block of hashed browns breaks apart nicely, and becomes dreamy when slathered in the sign-language hot sauce. My steak was perfectly seared, seasoned, and right in the sweet spot between Rare and Medium Rare. Every bite is just (moans quietly) … and when was the last time your steak and eggs came with Texas toast? That’s what you’re dealing with, here. Even the two-headed egg white. How?! Hot sauce on those, too, by the way.
This meal defies class, expectations, and everything. Before having Skip’s, I’d only have steak and eggs at one place. It’s called Sportsman’s Restaurant and Taverna (not Tavern – TavernA), and it’s in downtown Hibbing. They’ve a mostly-functional website, and a steak and eggs for like $8. Every time I have it, I hoot and hollar to my dining mates about how this meal would be at least 25 bucks in the Cities.
Not on Eddie Wu’s watch: at Cook St. Paul, this is $15.
That’s the most expensive thing on the menu, too. Everything is within reach. The delightful, fun-to-say Bi Bim Bop starts at under $10. Heck, you could make a functional meal here with the sides menu and a $5 bill. It’s a versatile menu, meant to unite as much as it’s meant to satiate. It does both incredibly well.