Blink and you may have missed it: North Loop standby Borough closed for a week earlier this month for a revamp. The space now features a remodeled back bar, cozy banquette seating, and a bread station positioned in the middle of the dining room so patrons can appreciate those lovely housemade loaves before they’re sliced.
But while the restaurant’s physical changes might be the first thing diners notice, there’s also a new menu—and the changes go deeper than a format shift emphasizing small plates.
“If we’re refreshing the dining room and doing a big overhaul, why not overhaul everything?” says executive chef Mike DeCamp. “We wanted to come back with real changes, not just the same stuff presented differently.”
“I think the best way to describe the [new] à la carte menu is that we got a little more ingredient focused. Not that we weren’t [already] using quality ingredients, but we were overdoing what was on the plate before. We’ve gotten more focused on simplification.”
On a recent visit, that focus on simplicity was most evident in the whitefish, pan-seared and added to a bowl of vichyssoise drizzled with garlic scape-infused oil. At first taste, it seemed almost too minimal. But upon second bite, we realized everything—the soothing background of potato soup, the piece of fish, the notes of garlic—came together in a perfect harmony. That’s actually pretty hard to pull off, and it’s the sort of thing that will leave a dish lingering on your palate.
We were also delighted with the clams and snapper, served in a briny Parmesan broth that warms your whole body with a chile-enhanced heat. And yes, when we ran out of charred sourdough, we reached for a piece of baguette languishing in the bread basket to soak up every last drop.
The octopus, served with a soy glaze, creamy yam sauce, and a dusting of peanuts and cilantro, didn’t exactly evoke simplicity. However, it had such a delightfully supple texture that we wouldn’t have believed it was octopus if it hadn’t been presented in tentacle form.
On the dessert menu, pastry chef Jo Garrison’s mole ice cream is a distant relation of the fried ice cream at your neighborhood Mexican restaurant—but it’s encrusted with housemade cinnamon toast crunch and served in a pool of caramel and butternut cream. The ice cream’s careful balance of sweet and savory persisted to the very last bite, and we wish we could’ve brought home a pint.
In addition to the new approach to the à la carte menu, Borough’s reboot also includes a whole animal butchery program.
“With the whole animal menu, we can have more fun and be more spontaneous,” DeCamp explains. “We’ll be changing it once, if not twice a week. All of the chefs get to be more creative that way.”
For now, they’re focusing on pigs—space constraints would make it tricky to break down a steer. “We’ll make our own ham, stuff like that, using all the parts,” DeCamp says. “Maybe we’ll do lamb in spring.”
The butcher's menu on the evening we visited featured small plates—pork belly, sausage, a roasted picnic shoulder with hummus—as well as an entree-sized pork chop. We opted for the smoked pork belly, served with a snappy plum barbecue sauce that tempered the heaviness of the thick ribbon of fat.
Another new innovation at Borough is a trolley that roams the dining room on Fridays and Saturdays, staffed by a chef offering up inventive small plates.
“It will be their own little thing; they get to develop the menu,” DeCamp says. “[Then] they’ll be pushing the trolley around and talking about their food to guests. When I was a young cook, I wanted to talk about what I did. I can only hope the same thing holds true, and I hope they’re just as excited to talk about their food.”
During our visit, the trolley circulated around the dining room at the top of the hour, stocked with elegant bites going for a similar price point to the “snack” section of the à la carte menu. The evening’s options included a Chinese-inspired dumpling stuffed with lamb and carrots, cauliflower carpaccio, and pork fat brioche toast topped with whipped lardo.
Besides the roaming trolley, diners will soon have a chance to interact with Borough’s chefs via a multi-course tasting menu at the chef’s counter. Tickets will be available for pre-purchase via their website, and DeCamp anticipates that the tasting menu will launch before the holidays, possibly late October.
“It will be nice [for guests] to interact with chefs—it will be another option at that location. Borough will really run the gamut of all the stuff, from a burger and fries at Parlour in the basement all the way up to the chef’s tasting menu.”
“That’s the best part of restaurants—I like to see them turn into what they’re supposed to be,” DeCamp continues. “It’s a new space, new things on the menu, some wine menu changes, new cocktails. It’s like a new restaurant that’s already been there.”
730 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis