Restaurant: Travail, Robbinsdale, Minnesota

Travail dessert | KaleAndAle.com

One of four desserts I had at Travail. This kouign amann with maple syrup crème fraiche, chocolate, blueberry and wild rice granola was my favorite.

A few months ago I went to the Rookery bar in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. It’s in the back of a building that also houses Travail Kitchen & Amusements, a chef-driven restaurant known for its, well, amusing takes on food in presentation, taste and flavor.

Travail Ron Burgundy | KaleAndAle.com

The Ron Burgundy drink from Travail was fantastic.

I often use going to the bar of a restaurant as a way to check out either how vegetarian-friendly a place is or if its worth my time and money. I was surprised and eager to learn that Travail can accommodate a number of dietary restrictions, including both vegetarian and vegan meals. I was told that the tasting menu is usually 15 to 20 plates, and I might have to sit a few out that that can’t be made vegetarian. That didn’t deter me and I decided right then and there that’s what I wanted to do for my birthday earlier this month, and Aaron made reservations and got tickets for our seating.

Travail prep from seat | KaleAndAle.com

Great seats in the action!

We were seated at the end of a table-height bar, which I thought was kind of an afterthought seat at first, but I’ve decided is probably a really good view in the action compared to other seats. We were put on the end (tables are family style seating) probably to keep track of the vegetarians. I couldn’t confirm visually that the first plate was vegetarian so I asked. I felt bad doubting they didn’t have their stuff in order, but you just have to be sure! They did and I was quickly put at ease that I would be taken care of.

Travail soup | KaleAndAle.com

My favorite course: Red pepper soup with baguette and topping.

The courses were incredible, every one of them. And I could, in fact, have every one that night, so that made me excited and feel great on my birthday. Every dish was a wonderful sensory journey for taste, smell and sight, and sometimes sound and touch. It was incredible, interactive, entertaining and great to watch each dish be prepared, presented and explained.

Travail interactive potatoes | KaleAndAle.com

Walking the potato bar stations at Travail, so fun and tasty a course.

Our  meal included 18 courses; we got a photocopy of the handwritten menu for the day at the end of the meal. The courses ranged from three different soups, pasta, a course where we walked through the kitchen to different stations and were explained what different foods were, a point where we shoot a raw egg (this was the most difficult part but they assured us it was OK and they have to convince a lot of people) and four—yes, four—desserts, including root beer float pop rocks. Needless to say, I was full and happy when I left. And don’t get me started on that whiskey drink I had. It might not be for a while, be I would love to go back and experience it all again, especially during a different season.lSns8u

Another wonderful note is as we were leaving the person at the host stand (but not the host, maybe the manager?) stopped us and asked how the vegetarian meal was, if we would offer suggestions or come back, that type of thing. It was great to know that he cared and wanted to make sure we were satisfied.

Amusements at The Rookery

Rookery Violet Pilot | KaleAndAle.com

Violet Pilot at The Rookery

I went to The Rookery in Robbinsdale yesterday for the first time. It’s such a shame it took me that long to get there. In my defense, I stopped by one night this winter but they were closed for a private event.

The Rookery, for those not in the know, is the “bar program” (their words) of Travail Kitchen & Amusements, a chef-driven restaurant with a tasting menu of 14-20 plates. I had not tried too hard to visit either place because I knew it was hard to get in and I wasn’t sure of the vegetarian options. This assumption, in the words of Julia Roberts’ character on “Pretty Woman,” Vivian Ward, was a “big mistake. Big. HUGE.”

So I went to The Rookery. I knew it was near Travail, so I walked in, unsure, and realized the bar is to the right, the restaurant to the left in one big room. And if there is still any confusion, the chalkboard at the door has arrows.

As I said, it is one large room. I didn’t take pictures because I didn’t expect to have such a great time I would write about it, but viewing this album gets to the gist of the restaurant. It’s all open air, with different food and drink stations, so it’s an entire experience. Reservations are needed for the entire tasting experience at Travail, but at The Rookery you can belly to the bar, talk to the bartenders and cooks (they love it—they are like actors themselves) and watch the show. They slide you a paper sheet “menu” with the small plates offered that day, which are ordered by the piece, and they answered all questions about my food needs and explained what to expect with each item. And during this, they explained the entire tasting menu can be made vegetarian (or vegan, or gluten free or whatever your specific needs may be).

Rookery Pickled Plate | KaleAndAle.com

Pickles (fruit and veg, spicy, savory and sweet) at the Rookery.

I had a Violet Pilot drink (gin, lavender and lemon). Food was pickle plate (pictured), fries with a mustard emulsion, fried green tomatoes with an amazing homemade dill ranch sauce, and spring rolls. I was so impressed and excited by all this, I plan to get tickets for the Travail experience soon.

And if you are in the area and it’s open, I must suggest Golden Age Design, a mid-century furniture shop. The owner is nice and the furniture quality is impressive. It’s where I got the sideboard for my living room.

Have you checked out Travail or The Rookery? What was your experience there like?