-written and photographed by Susan Powers
This casual corner restaurant with a funky vintage feel creates a stunning contradiction. Kick back, relax and prepare to eat plate after plate of some of the Twin Cities most exquisitely prepared food. Exceptional fine dining meets casual neighborhood cool, and the prices can’t be beat.
The vibe in Victory 44 immediately puts you at ease. The colors are soothing, large windows bring in lots of light and the architecture of the old structure creates a warm, inviting feeling with a vintage groove.
The chef-servers and baristas flow from one space to another. Coffee and Provisions lie to the east, the bar with tables and the tiny kitchen are in the middle and the dining room completes the west side. Huge chalkboards announce the evening menu and Victory 44’s slogan “Praise the Lard”. Outdoor dining is available seasonally.
“We set out to make an approachable restaurant where people in the neighborhood would enjoy coming to eat” states Chef Erick Harcey. He gets his neighborhood folk interlaced with the cities most discriminating diners, who stop in regularly to experience his amazing food.
Wearing a t-shirt, baseball hat, jeans and an apron, Chef Erick Harcey appears to be a pretty laid back guy, that is, until he starts talking about food. It is impossible for him to contain his enthusiasm. It hits like a hurricane and you are immediately swept away by the excitement and joy he has for creating amazing food.
Chef Harcey comes by it naturally. One grandfather was a chef and the other a farmer. Chef Harcey’s childhood memories are all about food, growing it, preparing it, and eating it. A perfect environment for a budding chef.
Chef Harcey studied and trained at Le Cordon Bleu right out of high school. He excelled there and landed at Hotel Sofitel in the pastry division just out of school. He was then hired at the Nicollet Island Inn as head pastry chef. Through hard work, talent and dedication he migrated up through the ranks to the top position, Executive Chef, where he developed his style, technique and skills.
At Victory 44, as a chef/owner, Chef Harcey has complete freedom to let his genius run wild. Working out of one of the smallest kitchens in town, he weaves flavor and texture together and, with one bite, leaves you speechless.
Deconstructed food is his speciality. He lets every ingredient speak for itself. A carrot finds its full expression by being presented three different ways (ex. poached, caramelized, and pureéd) in a dish bringing a depth of flavor that is intense. He likes to call his food controlled chaos on a plate. I would just call it eye-rolling delicious. Chef Harcey pushes the envelop, actually shreds it, in the best way possible.
This excellence and excitement for food permeates every aspect of the restaurant. Many of the servers are actually chefs. So, the person serving you dinner was doing the prep earlier in the day. The benefit is having a server that intimately knows every detail of the food they are serving along with a huge dose of enthusiasm and pride having helped prepare what you are eating.
Even the baristas amaze with their chef-inspired infusions. It is wonderful to have someone come to your table and put as much attention into your blueberry infused laté as the chefs did with your meal. Be warned, you will dream of this food and coffee.
The kitchen at Victory 44 is small. To make dishes like this, everyone has to be in sync, with their talents highly tuned. Chef Harcey leads the charge but his chefs must be up to the challenge. This is where the magic comes in. It has to be magic. One look at the space and you will understand why. Seriously, a well tuned team with mad skills make it happen.
Chef Harcey places his heart and vision into every dish. He see’s an ingredient and the wheels start turning. It is an artful evolution that requires him to be constantly honing his skills.
The beets in this salad are presented three ways. Fresh, puréed and dehydrated. The essence of the beets is expressed three fold, bursting forth with flavor.
Menus change as the seasons change, or a special ingredient inspires Chef Harcey. Over the top, delicious.
Did I mention they are open for breakfast and lunch, too?
For Your Kitchen
Chef Harcey graciously welcomed me into his home to prepare Mussels with Chicken Sausage. Shooting with his wife and four little boys was beyond fun. For the recipe and pictures of Eric and his four little sous chefs preparing the dish, click here: Mussles with Chicken Sausage
All images ©SusanPowersPhotography 2010-2013
Victory 44 | 2203 44th Ave N | Minneapolis, MN | 55412 | Ph: 612.588.2228