FLAVOR // Empty nesters no more

Blackbird’s back. Roosting even closer to my Uptown condo, in fact — one good thing to surface from the ashes of last winter’s fire that devastated the sweet café (along with Heidi’s, who’s also back; more later). Another is that the new digs nearly double the count of former seats, and all were filled on a recent Tuesday. 

Clearly I wasn’t alone in welcoming the renaissance. I mean, how long can a body go without those potstickers?

The new room blooms with a cleaner, more contemporary vibe: white walls stretching from blonde wood floor to a lofty ceiling striated with silvery HVAC snakes. But not to worry: The cache of gilded mirrors, the romantic wrought-iron chandeliers, the battalions of antlers, they’re all here, augmented by a herd of plastic Bambis on the plate rail and booths lit by figurine lamps of utmost kitsch.

Belly up to the counter to watch co-owner Chris Stevens cook while partner/wife Gail Mollner keeps guests humming; grab a plain-spoke table; or — best — plant yourself in a booth of Puritanical firmness, then yell to your server (there’s quite a din here) for those walleye-crayfish potstickers, pronto!

What else, what else? I go into dither mode every time I read Blackbird’s app list: the pork empanadas? The duck rolls? Oh, here’s a new one — the butternut squash/ricotta brulee? Yes!

Well, no. Turns out everyone else had the same idea and the kitchen had run out. No problem: the short ribs were (as horrified observers will testify) finger-lickin’ good: slim yet ultra-tender, assisted by a slew of satiny shiitakes and a little punch of chili pepper in the clinging sauce (apps $3–12).

Choosing entrees ($10–19) proved simpler, possibly because there are only seven. The pork confit was just what the doctor — psychiatrist, actually — ordered on this week of endless snowstorms. Meaty hunks of pork shoulder, cooked long and slowly till it cried uncle, came sided with a root-vegetable hash and — surprise — roasted grapes. Mighty tasty.

So was the chicken. I know, I know: nobody orders chicken in a nice café, but here’s the deal: Chris’s come with heaps of fried chicken livers, about as decadent as you can get. And, speaking of sinful eating, he doesn’t use the dumb old breast — instead, the dark and extra-juicy leg quarter. Its nestled on a bed of frisee dotted with walnuts and apple slivers, all livened with a mustard vinaigrette.

The dessert narration was a little less breathtaking: chocolate cake, coconut cake, chocolate bars and poached pear. We voted for the coconut number, picture-pretty under its snow-white curls. This is not the coconut cake of Miss Scarlett’s South, and that’s fine. The layers were of the dense, moist (and tasty) ilk rather than feather-light. And with it we finished the last of our Malbec. And smiled. Good to be back.


3800 Nicollet Ave. S.