Cuisine: American, Pasta, Fish
Restaurant Features: Beer, Wine
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Address: 5607 Chicago Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55417 (612)825-6900
Hours: Sun-Thurs 5pm-9pm Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm
Links: First Course Website * First Course on Facebook * Google Map
Atmosphere: First Course is a small but lovely restaurant snuggled between Mike’s Corner Store and Kowalskis Market on Chicago Ave at E 56th St. The restaurant isn’t very big but it sure is cute! The bar at the back is really the focal point of the restaurant.
Another part of the the dining room has just a handful of tables widely spaced apart and big, colorful stripes of color on the walls. There is also a small, basic patio area in the front of the building.
Menu: Tapas (small plates) at First Course include Honey Garlic Baby Back Ribs, Fried Green Olives Stuffed with Blue Cheese, Three Salami’s, Grilled Asparagus with Onion Straws, Calamari, Goat Cheese, First Course Shrimp, Warm Almond Manchego Cheese, and Beef Skewers.
Other Appetizers include Seared Ahi Tuna, Bruschetta, Mediterranean Mussels, Antipasti Platter, and a Pizza of the Day.
Salads offered at First Course include Caesar, Grilled Portabella and Asparagus, Mixed Green, and the Bistro Salad (with bacon, egg, tomato).
Sandwiches offered are the Croque Monsieur, Bison Blue Burger, Mini Burgers with Cheddar.
First Course Pasta selections include Penne Alfredo, Butternut Squash Ravioli, Linguine with Prosciutto, Lamb Ragu with Pappardelle, Gnocchi in Gorgonzola Cream, and Risotto.
Entrees at First Course include Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia, Halibut, Chicken Roulade, Bone-In Pork Chops, New York Strip, and Duck Breast.
Desserts include Flourless Chocolate Cake, Tres Leches Cake, Creme Brulee, German Chocolate Cake, and Ice Cream or Sorbet.
Price guide: Tapas $4-8 Apps $6-14 Pasta $14-18 Entrees $17-29
What we ordered: A large heaping plate of bread arrived shortly after we ordered drinks. Soft, crusty, and still warm.
There are many different Small Plates (Tapas) and since we had a very large party, we ordered several items. We tried the Calamari, which was excellent! It was breaded and fried, then served with some kind of smokey mayo. Seriously good calamari.
We also ordered the Manchego Cheese, which was baked until slightly crispy and golden, then served on baguette and topped with sliced almonds. The order came with four little slices slightly soaking in a mix of oil, vinegar, and sherry. These were pretty awesome, full of both flavor and texture.
We also ordered the ribs. I did not try these but they came highly recommended by one of the servers. They looked and smelled great. The menu describes them as “Honey garlic baby back pork ribs with soy, ginger & chili oil”.
Another tapa we tried was the Bleu Cheese Stuffed Fried Olives. Not being a fan of olives, I did not try these either but the others raved about them.
We also tried the Asparagus with Onion Straws. The asparagus was cooked with balsamic vinegar which sweetened it up slightly, then was topped with a pile of thin onion straws. I like asparagus quite a bit and this was good, but I think I enjoyed the onion straws the most :)
We ordered two large dishes of the Coconut Red Curry Mussels. OMG, these were wonderful!! The menu actually called these Mediterranean Mussels which I believe is a misnomer as they actually had more Asian influence than Mediterranean. No matter what you call them, these mussels were very tender and soaked in a bath of coconut milk with red curry. This is my favorite style of mussels and these ranked up there in my TCRB Editor’s Picks: Mussels (stay tuned for that post in the future!)
We also ordered the First Course Shrimp. These giant Tiger Shrimp were served in a hot butter with fresh herbs and spices, very similar to shrimp scampi. Excellent!
We also ordered Entrees. I wasn’t sure what to get, the menu had several items that sounded really good to me. I wanted to try something that noone else in our group was going to order, so I ended up getting the Papperdelle Pasta with Lamb Ragu. This was pretty good; it had big chunks of tomato, rosemary and several pieces of tender lamb meat on top of a bed of pappardelle pasta. It was topped with grated pecorino cheese and parsley. I liked this but it was almost too mild for my taste. I’d personally like a little spice to it.
One of my companions ordered the Alaskan Halibut, which came with a roasted red pepper vinaigrette puree and fingerling potatoes.
Another companion ordered the New York Strip, a nice 16 oz cut cooked a perfect medium rare. It was well seasoned, served with fingerling potatoes and red onions over a red wine jus.
One of my companions ordered the Butternut Squash Ravioli in Gorgonzola Cream Sauce. I nearly ordered this myself because it sounded so intriguing. I was lucky to try a bit of this and I thought it was very good. The ravioli were handmade little pockets stuffed with sweet butternut squash that contrasted the sharpness of the gorgonzola and brandy cream sauce. It was garnished with cooked carrot, pepper and swiss chard.
One of the specials of the evening was a King Ivory Salom with fresh salsa. I didn’t try this but it looked wonderful. There were two filets of the light colored salmon, covered with fresh salsa made with corn, tomatillo and radish.
Another companion ordered the Chicken Roulade. This dish had little chicken roll-ups with gorgonzola in a salty shallot sauce. It was topped with julienne veggies.
Two of my companions split the Risotto with Shrimp; pictured here is half the order. The risotto was creamy and the shrimp was well seasoned and tender.
One of my companions was celebrating a birthday and received this complimentary Tres Leches Cake. The piece was large enough to share with several and was very tasty. It was moist as it should be but one of the best features of this dessert was the passion fruit lime syrup drizzled on the plate. The tartness curbed the sweetness of the cake and really made this dessert stand out.
Service: We had excellent service at First Course. We had advance reservations for a large party on a Saturday night and a server almost all to ourselves. Wine was poured with frequency and the tapas and entrees were brought out in waves.
Overall Impression: First Course is a fabulous little restaurant in South Minneapolis with great food and a relaxed atmosphere. The prices are very reasonable for chef crafted dishes and the service is very good; First Course is a great place to visit for many different occasions. Beer and Wine only.