Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dinner in the Far North

Spot on 53
1801 2nd Avenue, East
International Falls, Minnesota
(U.S. 53, south of 17th Street)

Even at the height of the summer tourist season, the choices available to the would-be diner in International Falls on a Monday night are limited. We almost passed this place by, because from the outside it looked for all the world like a dive. Stepping inside, we were not immediately reassured, as the dining room was dark. There were, though, some respectable-looking people at tables in the bar, so we joined them in what proved to be a comfortable, well-lit and well-decorated room, with a quiet murmur of conversation providing the background.

What does that mean?
Monday nights are pasta nights at the Spot: of the six pasta dishes selling for fourteen to eighteen dollars on the regular menu, four are available on an all-you-can-eat basis, for eleven dollars; and patrons can mix and match. One of the four offerings was unavailable, a pasta dish made with butternut squash. Since it was so early in the evening when we arrived, I have to  think they didn't get their squash shipment in. But that wasn't a problem, since the other three choices were all higher on my list of preferences anyway. My friend chose the white wine chicken over penne; I picked a tomato-based sauce (I forget what it was called) with chicken, over capellini.

If I were only rating the place on the white wine pasta, I'd have to give it a higher rating by half a chili pepper. That dish was superior, with a discernible wine flavour in a smooth cream sauce that was neither too thin nor too thick. The strips of chicken breast were obviously out of a bag, no doubt delivered frozen, but otherwise the dish was well-made and thoroughly enjoyable.

But the other dish was ordinary in every way. The angel hair pasta was overcooked and the same frozen chicken strips were used; but worse, the sauce was both watery and bland. When it came time to re-up, I asked for a half-order of the white wine chicken pasta.

Both dishes were served with breadsticks that varied from warm and soft to stale and hard.
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