Pandemic Takeout 11: Tenant (Minneapolis)

Last week I had a review of takeout barbecue from a restaurant in South Minneapolis. Today I have a review for you of takeout barbecue from another restaurant in South Minneapolis. The two restaurants could not, however, be more different. Ted Cook’s 19th Hole is a 51 yo Black-owned restaurant that is takeout-only and which serves no-nonsense barbecued meats and sides. Tenant, on the other hand, is a 3 yo hard-to-get-into, cheffy prix fixe restaurant in what I call the Global Cosmopolitan school. That’s in normal times. The pandemic has caused a temporary convergence as Tenant, like most other local fine dining restaurants, has pivoted to a takeout model to keep its doors open and its staff employed. The restaurant’s bare bones structure—very few people in the kitchen, doing all the jobs—has perhaps allowed it to be more flexible in this regard than most of its fine dining peers. They’ve not, however, been serving the food people normally book six weeks in advance to eat. For the first couple of months of the pandemic they were selling takeout soup and sandwich packages; as of about a month ago they’ve pivoted to barbecue.

There’s a rotating menu of meats available for pickup from Thursdays through Sundays, with the selections usually announced the day before on Instagram. No matter what the selection is, this is the deal: $35 gets you a pack that serves two. It includes your choice of one of the two meat specials they have on the day, two smoked house-made wursts, buns, pickles and a couple of sides. Each pack is indeed large enough to feed two people. When we picked ours up the choices were a smoked half-chicken for two or a half-rack of pork ribs for two. As we were getting two packs for ourselves we got one of each. (I also picked up a third pack for friends we ate another socially-distanced dinner with on our deck.) When you pick up the food you get instructions on how to heat up the meats—basically pop them in a 300º oven for 15 minutes or so in the covered foil box they come in. And, oh yes, you can also purchase “Tenant wursts” on a walk-up basis if you’re in the neighbourhood.

Speaking of picking up the food, you have to select a time for your pickup when you make a reservation using their normal reservation system from their website. You commit to the purchase online and select your pickup time up to two days before. You then pay by Venmo or cash when you arrive at your selected time to pick up your food. If you don’t show up and they can’t sell the food you committed to to someone else then your card gets charged. The only hassle is that the reservation system only allows you to make a reservation for a party of two—so if you want more than just one pack for two you’ll have to either make a note with your reservation or email the restaurant. They will in any case call you to confirm your order the day before and you can confirm a larger order then.

The food in our packs was very good. The ribs were meatier and more moist than the ones from Ted Cook’s and the chicken may have been even better. The vinegary barbecue sauce was top-notch as well. The wursts were also excellent as were the potato salad and the pickled veg that were in the pack that day. Everyone’s favourite, however, may have been the relish with olives etc. The one thing none of us was crazy about was the second side dish: the chili-mac. I think we would all have preferred either regular mac and cheese or a side of chili. Then again, the Instagram reviews indicate that these are a popular favourite—we are probably outliers.

Take a look and scroll down to see what’s coming next.

You might be wondering if I would recommend Tenant’s barbecue over Ted Cook’s. Well, in the abstract, on a one-to-one basis, everything from Tenant was superior. But these are really not comparable restaurants and they’re not catering to the same audience. Tenant’s clientele is entirely white collar and upscale; Ted Cook’s serves a far more mixed neighbourhood market in terms of class (and also race). Unsurprisingly, they’re much cheaper: you could get a half chicken, a hot link and two sides at Ted Cook’s for just over $20. They’re also putting our a far larger volume of food—with a much larger set menu—every single day. When the pandemic is over Tenant will be back to their normal cheffy fare—and I’ll be at their counter once again once every few months to photograph it—but Ted Cook’s will continue as they are now, serving solid barbecue without flourishes. You wouldn’t choose between the two at normal times and you shouldn’t now.

Coming up next: probably another South Minneapolis barbecue report, probably from Smoke in the Pit. After that I might head out next week to Kabob’s in Bloomington—I’ve recently realized that they’ve opened back up for takeout. The time is also approaching when I will drive to University Avenue in St. Paul for some good Thai food, probably to Bangkok Thai Deli.


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