No lack of respect for New York, Chicago or Los Angeles– but for me, the biggest American city is New Orleans. It is the birthplace of jazz, the Sazerac cocktail and the po’boy sandwich. There is an energy, an ambience, a sense of adventure lurking behind every golden wrought iron balcony. Opening a New Orleans-inspired restaurant outside of Louisiana is fraught with danger, however; it would be easy to turn this into a cartoonish, kitschy French Quarter ripoff with a carousel bar.
Mr. Paul’s Supper Club isn’t that, and that electric New Orleans feel is his biggest hit. It’s strong. It’s unpredictable. And it’s so much fun that you can’t wait to come back. How did chef Tommy Begnaud and cocktail magician Nick Kosevich do it? Begnaud channeled childhood visits to his grandfather, (M.) Paul, in Louisiana. You’ll see pieces from the elder Begnaud’s collection cleverly integrated into a design that will somehow make you forget you’re at 50th & France in Edina.
Even on a Wednesday evening, we could feel the energy created by the combination of experienced staff clearly allowed to show their personalities and a room designed for conversation and excitement. Surrounding the round tables with banquettes open to the rest of the room rather than closing the groups is a subtle touch that makes the difference and sends a message. You are not just at Mr. Paul’s to eat. You are part of the design; you are part of the fun.
The food is a crazy mix of Cajun and Creole classics and Minnesota supper club favorites. Get a sirloin steak or a filet mignon, because you are in Edina, after all. Our $49 filet was incredibly tender and meaty with the perfect amount of char on the crust. It has to be, at this price.
It would be easy to compose a meal to share just from the starters. The relish platter is a tribute to your grandma’s favorite small-town dive, with a collection of pickled veggies and spreads, but it’s the impossibly light, eggy and airy popovers that launch this decadent treat on the top. On paper, pairing this with a platter of fried Boudin meatballs with chicken might seem odd, but it all happens at M. Paul. This Cajun treat is made with rice, pork and cheese, served with a tangy remoulade sauce. This is one of the great bar snacks in the Twin Cities right now and only $14.
The duck and andouille okra ($14) is truly fantastic with its rich, hearty, bold and spicy burst of flavor. And yes, it’s a dollop of potato salad on top, which perfectly cuts through the meaty flavors below. We loved the crawfish gratin ($15) with its sweet Louisiana shellfish that tastes somewhere between a shrimp and a crab, tossed in an overdone celebration of Gruyere and Parmesan cheese with heavy cream and butter.
The sweet flavor of halibut is an ideal companion for a Creole bourride: a classic French soup with lots of saffron and fennel. Here, the bourride is a thin layer with a touch of heat and a bouquet of seafood – prawns, mussels and halibut fillet. It’s a surprisingly elegant, light and hearty dish ($43).
As for drinks: Fasten your seatbelt. Much like New Orleans bartenders who pioneered drinks such as Ramos Gin Fizz and Hurricane, Kosevich has been a pioneer of craft cocktails since his days at the Town Talk Diner, where he and Begnaud worked together. . The Hurricane and the Supper Club Sazerac are both essential; a glitter-dipped cherry tops the first, and “Mr. Paul’s Miracle Cocktail Enhancer” is the mysterious magic inside it.
Lunch brings the same fun vibe at a po’ boy store with a separate entrance at the back of Mr. Paul’s, offering huge fried oyster and shrimp sandwiches with extremely friendly service. The po’ boy shop turns into a cocktail lab for Kosevich’s periodic seven-course “cocktail circus” and wine pairings for 10 (reservations required).
A spritz of this, a dash of that, a bartender shouting greetings to some regulars, and an owner bringing a handful of helium balloons to a random table — that’s what outings are meant to be. I wouldn’t have guessed that 50th & France would be the epicenter of unexpected joy at a Cajun-inspired supper club, but I’m thrilled.
Mr. Paul’s Supper Club
3917 Market Street, Edina,
Recommended for dinner, bar dates as well as Po’ Boys and Jams
Po’ Boys and Jams: Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.