MINNIES: Home of Good Food - Chicago IL

Small concept has big potential at Minnies

By Pat Bruno - Chicago Sun-Times - June 16, 2006

Talk about downsizing. The small plate craze appears to be devolving into mini-bite craziness. It seems like every restaurant with a hamburger on the menu now offers mini-burgers (P.J. Clarke's is but one example), and three seems to be the magic number for a serving.

No along comes Minnies. This is minis to the max. Minnies has gone beyond mini-burgers—way beyond. Just about everything on the menu is Lilliputian: Hot Minnies, cold Minnies, Minnies French bread pizza, Minnie soups and chilis, Minnie bottled beers.

Minnies is an interesting place, though. It's not a restaurant, but it does have cocktails, beer and wine. I'm not even sure I can call it a cafe because it doesn't seem to offer table service. It's not fast food; it's too nice a place for that category.

Here's the deal: Minnies serves all its sandwiches thusly: 3 for $7, six for $13, and twelve for $24. And you can mix or match. One day I chose a Minnie cheeseburger (certified Angus beef, American cheese, brioche bun), a Cuban (ham, slow roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles on a grilled baguette), and a BBQ pulled pork (slow cooked pulled pork with homemade BBQ sauce on a brioche bun). I added their "infamous frites," which was another three bucks. Add another two bucks for a soft drink. If my math is right, that totals $12.

Was it worth the money? Yes, because I had enough to eat (generous portion of excellent frites). No, because I believe the burger could have been better (not greasy enough), and the amount of pork on the barbecue pork Minnie was pretty skimpy.

Still, Minnies has the potential to be enjoyable. One major kink needs to be worked out first, and that is the ordering process. The menu is large and the concept is so new it has to be explained in some detail to most of the customers. The person at the register takes your order, you pay, you get a number and the food is delivered to your table. That's not so bad. But the ordering line came to a screeching halt with the arrival of four young women. There was a log of "Shall we get one of those and two of those?" Had I ended up at the back of that line, I would have turned around and walked away. The idea is good but the execution needs work.

Back to the food. Salads come either "half" or "full," and eight bucks for a full salad is not such a great deal. The Greek salad, for example, had most of the ingredients for a Greek salad right—lettuce, olives, feta, onion, cucumber, tomatoes—but the pizzaz just wasn't there, because the vinaigrette dressing just didn't have any.

On the other hand, a half Thai salad was excellent. Shingles of seared beef atop a mixture of young greens all tidied up by a sesame ginger dressing had me scraping the bowl.

I tried only one dessert, the mint-flavored chocolate chip cookies. Mini-cookies, of course. I believe there were five of them. I am OK with the $3 price. The cookies were gently warmed and pleasantly delicious.

Minnies has a retro (circa 1950s) look, counter seating, table seating, a take-out window right on the street, and it's as spiffy as a new three-dollar bill.

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