During the coldest months of the year here in Minnesota, it’s important to stay warm and toasty. Whether it’s blankets and a fire, a warm drink or solid comfort food to fill your belly, there are many ways to stay cozy. In the food department, Maple Grove restaurants know what we like to eat in January and they are smart enough to keep it on the menu all year long.
Here are four area restaurants where you can reminisce about grandma’s famous comfort food or try a new twist on something familiar. Not only will the food satisfy, but all these locations encourage you to stick around so you can enjoy family and friends. Come enjoy, and stay a while.
POT ROAST SANDWICH
Malone’s Bar and Grill
Reminiscent of a post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich, this twist on a classic comfort food will bring guests back to holidays at grandma’s. Since the dish that inspired this new classic, the pot roast, was placed on sandwich bread and offered as a special, the guests couldn’t get enough. “We sold out right away, and then the servers kept ordering it afterwards,” says general manager AJ Stevens. Eventually the sandwich was offered more frequently, and became a staple on the menu. “Now the original isn’t even on our menu anymore,” Stevens says.
This slow-roasted pot roast is cooked to perfection and served with provolone cheese on a ciabatta bun, perfectly paired with a French dip sauce, and served with chips or coleslaw, with the option to upgrade to fries, fruit or veggies. And it’s even better than just putting leftovers between two pieces of sandwich bread; it’s all made fresh in-house. “It’s normally something Grandma made in a crock pot with veggies and mashed potatoes; now it’s on a bun,” Stevens says. “People like the uniqueness of it.” ($10.50)
Malone’s is here for when the comfort cravings come, and they serve craft beer that Stevens says goes perfectly with the pot roast sandwich. Try a Summit winter ale, a Surly furious IPA or a Fulton IPA with your meal. Craft beers are $1 off during happy hour.
CHICKEN AND WAFFLES
3 Squares Restaurant
A twist on an old favorite is waiting at 3 Squares Restaurant: chicken and waffles. While some Minnesotans might not have grown up eating this Southern favorite as a staple, many will recognize the individual elements in this classic combo. Malted golden waffles are topped with crispy chicken tenders, smooth and creamy white sausage gravy and Cajun spice. Served with warm syrup, these waffles can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner. “People typically order them all day long,” says general manager Heather Johnson. “It’s a little spicy, but a lot of comfort.”
Chef Phil Foster agrees, explaining that, even though not everyone grew up eating chicken and waffles, this dish is timeless and comforting. “You think of the words ‘yummy, savory, sweet,’ those recognizable flavors we’ve had our whole lives,” he says. “The nice textures, the warm comfort of velvety gravy, the crunch of the chicken… it just feels good to eat.” ($12.95)
Johnson suggests pairing the dish with the house-made bloody Mary ($7.50) to keep the comfort coming and to cut through the Cajun sauce on the dish. Come in for happy hour three times a day, and expect sophisticated comfort food with a twist.
Pittsburgh Blue Steakhouse
Get ready to get messy with a classic comforting favorite that will remind you of home cooked meals. Pittsburgh Blue Steakhouse offers barbecue baby back ribs on the happy hour menu and the dinner menu, proving that this fan favorite never gets old. Slow roasted for more than four hours at a low temperature, baked and seasoned, and brushed with barbecue sauce for each order, this dish is served with American-style, house-made coleslaw.
“Everyone is looking for something warm,” says executive chef Miguel Urrutia. “When it’s starting to get cooler, people are really craving it. Our ribs basically peel right off the bone. This is the stuff they’re looking for,” Urrutia says. ($31.95)
The atmosphere at Pittsburgh Blue Steakhouse lends itself to comfortable, easygoing crowds and regulars who come in looking for the same dish over and over again. According to Urrutia, another customer favorite is the pumpkin pie martini. Enjoy the blend of brandy, vanilla, cinnamon sugar, pumpkin puree and spices, topped with whipped cream. ($10)
(A pumpkin pie martini is the perfect accompaniment to the comfort of Pittsburgh Blue’s barbecue ribs.)
You can’t do comfort food without meatloaf; this classic dish brings back memories, while still adding the excitement of new flavors. Head chef Erik Swanson wanted something that was hearty, full and strong, “without going the route of mom’s ketchup meatloaf,” he says. “Which is still excellent; it’s what I grew up on.” But this hearty mix of flavors brings something new. Marinated in mushroom stock and corn, and layered with creamy pepper jack cheese, sliced pastrami and crispy bacon, the loaf is rolled up and baked to perfection. It is then cut into slices and seared on the flattop grill until crispy and golden brown. Served face up with mashed potatoes and caramelized mushroom gravy, this filling dish with hints of clove and anise will bring you back to your Minnesota roots. For something this hearty, Swanson suggests a pairing of dark beer, such as the Alaskan amber ale or the Goose Island honkers ale, served on tap at Maple Tavern.
“The biggest part about comfort food is…there’s the desire to share it,” Swanson explains. Wintertime draws people indoors and towards family and friends, and Maple Tavern welcomes the family atmosphere. Kids eat free every day, and nostalgic meals like the stuffed meatloaf make people gather like it’s the holidays. “When I think Minnesota, I think of families and that sharing aspect,” Swanson says. “You’re not only drawing comfort from the food, but also people, and the company that’s there.” ($12.95)