Café Maude has expanded. The cozy Armatage neighborhood eatery has opened a branch on Loring Park, in the old Nick and Eddie space, with a more upscale air and more North African flavors on the menu.
The interior is luxe, headed toward louche, with deep cushions on long banquettes and a golden-orange glow in the lights. Abstract oil paintings reach up toward impossibly high ceilings, and everything seems touched with an air of infinite leisure. Even though Bar Lurçat took over the old Loring Café’s building further down the block years ago, Maude might be the true successor to that particular Minneapolis legacy.
The best way to start a meal is more Niçoise or Italian than North African: with chickpea fries—fat bricks of a polenta-like chickpea purée, set until firm, sliced, and fried. Or you could enjoy your chickpeas in a Tunisian-style lablabi, a refined soup of a buttery-smooth purée with a swirl of chili-scented oil on top.
Ubiquitous brick chicken is a feat of culinary engineering here—one in which the showboating is entirely justified. Deboned cuts of white and dark meat are layered, pressed together, and cooked into a succulent whole. It’s all flavored with duqqa, the Egyptian mixture of ground hazelnuts, fennel, coriander, and cumin, with a light farro pilaf and a swirl of apricot purée on the side.
A lamb shank, on the other hand, is a feat of old-fashioned slow-cooking. The meaty flesh falls in shreds from the bone before it even makes it to the table. This dish gets the spice it needs from merguez, a Moroccan lamb sausage coated in a rich marsala reduction.
Maude’s original macaroni and cheese—more penne tossed in an opulent fondue—has made the journey north. And the flavor of the moment—bacon—finds its highest, best use in a bowl of popcorn tossed with bacon fat and chili powder.
All this marks an improvement on a neighborhood restaurant that was already pretty good. We predict even some South Minneapolitans will prefer the new Maude to the old.
The atmosphere is divine. Even if the food weren’t as good as it is, it would be worth spending an evening here.
Skip dessert. What we tried was oversized, over-rich, over-baked. Have one of the excellent cocktails instead. (You get the leftovers from the shaker in a little pitcher.)
Café Maude at Loring
1612 Harmon Pl., Mpls.