Revival opened some years ago in Minneapolis. In a metro area devoid of much by the way of Southern cooking or barbecue it received strong reviews from the get-go. We wanted to go but between our then very young children and their no-reservations policy it never quite worked out—and then they dropped off our radar. But then friends suggested it for a pre-theater matinee lunch in St. Paul last weekend and I remembered that a year or three ago they’d opened a branch in St. Paul. (Since late last year there’s also the counter service Revival Smoked Meats at the Keg & Case complex.) Revival by the way is owned and run by Thomas Boemer and crew, who also operate Corner Table and In Bloom (the high-end anchor of Keg and Case). It’s quite the meaty mini-empire they have in the Cities.
I think I’ve heard that the St. Paul location is larger than the Minneapolis original. I’m not sure if that’s true but word on the street was that it wouldn’t be too difficult to get a table for four at noon on a Sunday. To be safe we decided to arrive a little earlier than that. As it turned out, they were far from empty but they were also far from full. This I’m guessing was probably due to the wet, windy and chilly weather on Sunday. However, by the time we were leaving at 1.40 they were close to being completely full. So were we, and we were quite happy as well.
Before I get to what we ate, however, a quick word about the space. It is indeed quite large and it’s very nicely appointed. On the left as you enter is a large bar—which I assume serves both food and drink. Facing the bar, alongside large windows are four tall two-tops. Between the bar and the main dining room, overlooking the pass, is an area that can accommodate larger groups. The main dining room is large and done in a nice, minimalist style that evokes an appropriate food hall’ish atmosphere without trying too hard. The tables are comfortably sized and reasonably well-spaced.
The menu is also more expansive than I’d expected. There’s a long’ish list of appetizers and salads as well as a number of sides. In the middle is the list of chicken and barbecue options. A number of people have mentioned to me over the years that their chicken is the reason to go there, with the barbecue selection less convincing. The friends we were dining with shared this opinion. Accordingly, we each got an order of their 2 pc chicken—this with a view towards trying all their heat settings: the regular and mild Southern fried, the hotter Tennessee hot and the hottest, the poltergeist (which presumably deploys ghost peppers). As one of our friends is allergic to wheat and has some corn sensitivity as well, she got an order of their “gluten friendly” fried chicken. To be safe we also ordered 1/2 lb of their pork shoulder. And as it would have been rude to not get any sides we also got an order each to share of their red rice and beans, their collard greens, their corn bread and their bourbon carrots.
The chicken was as billed, which is to say very good. Perfectly fried and properly juicy. The regular Southern fried and the gluten friendly were probably the picks on execution alone (I assume the hotter ones are more likely to be at risk of having the spices scorch in the fryer). But the flavour on the hotter ones was very good too. The Tennessee hot we didn’t find to be particularly hot, and while the poltergeist had palpable heat it wasn’t close to being unmanageable either. Those with more stereotypical Minnesotan palates may differ. The pork shoulder was fine but not as much better than the version I make in my crockpot as you or I would hope. The sides, however, were all very good. The collard greens in particular were excellent and I really liked the cornbread as well. To finish we got one order each of their banana cream pie and their blubarb (blueberry-rhubarb) pies. I’m not a fan of banana cream pies at the best of times so my opinion of Revival’s version is not very relevant. I did like the blubarb pie.
For pictures of the restaurant and the food launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for thoughts on service and value.
Service was friendly and efficient if not always good at predicting how things would go: we were told the “gluten friendly” chicken takes longer to prepare and asked if it would be okay if it came out after everything else. In reality it was the very first thing to be brought out. Everything else, however, our server was unobtrusively on top of. All of the above plus two beers, tax and tip came to about $126 or roughly $31.50/head. That’s pretty decent value for how much food we ordered. We’re certainly well-disposed to returning, especially with our brats who adore fried chicken. In fact, I think we might do some takeout fried chicken on our next trip to the Como zoo this summer.
Ah yes, the play. We watched The Brothers Paranormal at the Penumbra Theatre. The play had its moments, and was generally entertaining and well acted but the themes didn’t really come together very well in my opinion, aiming for a significance it couldn’t quite reach. For the price I’d rather eat at Revival again.
Coming up next from the Twin Cities: probably a review of dinner at Saint Dinette, where we are scheduled to eat this weekend. And in a couple of weeks we’ll be at the Handsome Hog and I’ll be very interested to see how the food there compares with that of Revival. Next up, however, another Los Angeles review.