Restaurant review: Skål serves up some surprisesFlavor pairings bring pub food to new level
VERGAS, Minn. – Beer, burgers, summer sunshine and the lakes of northwest Minnesota have gone together for decades. Skål hasn’t been in Vergas that long, but the restaurant draws on this town’s middle-American traditions.
By: Eric Daeuber, special to The Forum, INFORUM
Skål Bar and Grill
219 E. Frazee Ave.
- Food: three stars
- Service: two and a half stars
- Ambiance: two and a half stars
VERGAS, Minn. – Beer, burgers, summer sunshine and the lakes of northwest Minnesota have gone together for decades.
Skål hasn’t been in Vergas that long, but the restaurant draws on this town’s middle-American traditions.
It’s decorated with reminders of past summers. There’s an enormous baseball team photo featuring the grand-relatives of the owner of Skål after (or before) some great victory (or loss) having to do with Frazee. The server can tell you the story. It’s reminiscence with a rationale.
The menu at Skål adds another wrinkle: the Scandinavian heritage of its very American baseball patriarchs. The chef has crafted some unique items that bring together traditional flavors in new ways, turning burgers and beer into something far less parochial.
The signature Skål Burger ($6.50) takes what could have been a burger with fried onions and turns it into an international culinary statement. The onions are caramelized, rather than tossed, on a grill, bringing out a rich sweetness. Potato sausages are halved and added to the burger, and that mild-mannered Nordic poverty staple is paired with a house sauce that puts mayo to shame.
It’s hard to do something new with a burger. But this is new.
Sides and condiments are thoughtful. Onion rings are battered on site. Their Skål Slaw is freshly made with the common heavy doses of sugar replaced by pineapple and the Southwest hinted at with some chopped cilantro. There are a host of dipping sauces that can take sweet potato fries anywhere in the world. Cinnamon teriyaki? Near genius.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the effort that has gone into these combinations.
The atmosphere inside Skål is pleasant enough, but it’s not in a historic building near Yankee Stadium or at the center of a multi-ethnic part of a Chicago. Its outdoor seating looks out over the parking lot. All the real atmosphere has to be suggested by the menu and the combinations of flavors that each item brings together. Sweet marinara and pepperoni on lahvosh ($9)? Italy hasn’t met Norway like this since motorcyclist Giuseppe Guzzi rode the GT Norge from Italy to the Artic Circle in 1928.
To round out a burger and fries with all the international implications – and beer purists mock me for this – nothing brings together the great American burger, unique international flavors and the great north woods together like a Leinenkugel ($4) served cold in a glass, not a tulip. This is Minnesota.
Burgers have grown bland over the years, and the lakes area is full of examples of basic burgers and faux-gourmet dinners. But Skål offers combinations of flavors that make sense yet are put together in ways that surprise. Grease is kept to a minimum, flavors are fresh and authentic, and the portions are well balanced.
Skål is worth the trip.
- Phone: (218) 342-7525
- Hours: 11 a.m. to closing, daily
- Reservations accepted: No
- Alcohol: Full bar
- Dress: As you like
- Credit cards accepted: Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at email@example.com.