My final post on the Minneapolis theme is for the most stand-out and unique experience the Twin Cities has to offer. I have yet to find anything elsewhere that is like it. Travail originally was located in the current Pig Ate My Pizza spot. They shut down in April 2013, before I was able to make it to check them out, in order to expand their location and offerings. After enjoying one of their pop-up dinners and their pop-up restaurant (the subject of an earlier post) while I waited for the Travail/Rookery duo to open, I got wind of their kickstarter campaign, which ended up beating their goal of $75,000, raising over double in the first day, and ending up racking in over $250,000. That level of local support is for a reason – they are by far one of the most fun and delicious food experiences I have had – in their own category which stands apart from the Michelin stars like Joel Robuchon. The closest I’ve come to is Lazy Bear in San Francisco – likely the subject of a future post (started as a pop-up dinner party and recently opened up a brick and mortar location in The Mission). But back to Travail – they are beyond words. I made it to their new location as soon as I could after they reopened in February 2014. My impression of their style is that they are able to take their incredible capacity for creativity and inventiveness combined with their passion and knowledge of the mechanics/physics of food and translate that into a fascinatingly fun adventure that is accessible to anyone from an experienced gastronome to the average (but maybe open-minded) diner. I think the restaurant is really about being invited into the Travail crew’s interactive creative lab and discovering the playful side of gastronomy.
The new location is down the road from the original spot and is much larger, featuring the fixed tasting menu side (Travail) and the small plates side (Rookery). The kitchen is wide open, so anyone can see the major production that is their dinner for the night. The tables are communal-style, so if you have a smaller group, you’ll be sharing with neighbors. It’s hipster and laid back, but you’re in for some serious eats/drinks.
I tried my best to follow and remember the specifics about the dishes, but I’m sad to say that I failed miserably. Taking notes on each dish would have been impractical and completely taken away from the experience of it all. Getting pictures of each course was a challenge in and of itself. As you can see from the pictures, there were 17 courses including the amuse bouches and intermezzos, and many of the courses were staged with assembly (waves of servers coming around to add a touch to the dish – garnish, broth, dusting, and even injection) or part-way through eating (e.g. the popcorn added to the final drops of the soup). There was even one item they called a “hand job” where they had you close your eyes and hold out your hand and proceeded to pile morsels on the back of your hand. They finished the evening with a final bite and a parting gift (some muffins and a thank you card). Good luck to anyone trying to keep track of all of that and still be able to take everything in.
As a side note, the drinks don’t disappoint either. The smokey one is the Ron Burgundy (bourbon, cherry, smoke). The second was the Kentucky Bull Run (bourbon, sherry, cucumber).
We split a 2-person tasting menu 3-ways. including drinks, the total bill for me came to only $76. This was a little on the light side for my appetite, but I think most people could get away with this, especially considering that most of the intermezzos were given to all three of us. Still, this is by far an incredibly reasonable deal considering what you get and a definite DO NOT MISS if you are ever in the Minneapolis area.