The historic buildings of Lowertown in St. Paul, Minnesota, are filled with indie art galleries, hip restaurants and the people who love them. But Dark Horse Bar & Eatery stands out even in this vibrant crowd with its wide-ranging menu and warm, welcoming vibe. Sous Chef Quentin Christopher tells us how Dark Horse keeps diners coming back for more.
If you had to describe Dark Horse in a few words, what would they be?
It’s an industrial-style restaurant with an eclectic menu, good whiskey and a great beer selection.
How does Dark Horse fit into the Twin Cities restaurant scene?
Lowertown has developed a booming restaurant scene in the past two to three years. We’ve had about six or seven restaurants pop up, including ourselves three years ago. We have a new influx of people moving from the suburbs back into the city. We keep up with that, and keep them coming back, by maintaining an evolving menu and offering dishes you can only find here.
What are the dishes that you think everyone should try? And what’s your favorite thing on the menu?
One of the main dishes that has never left the menu is the Coconut Lime Rice. People also love whatever curry dish we have on offer. And then our salmon dish is pretty popular as well. Our signature pizzas are The Triple Crown and The Stallion meatball pizza. My favorite is the Dark Horse burger. It’s a really nice brisket blend patty with smoked Gouda cheese, fabulous smoked applewood bacon, homemade Thousand Island, pickles and lettuce. It’s kind of a fancy bar burger.
What inspired such an eclectic menu?
(In Lowertown), there’s a Southern restaurant, a Mexican-inspired restaurant—we have a bunch of restaurants down here that try to focus on one type of cuisine and do that well. From our standpoint, why not do a little bit of everything and do it well?
What about the offerings at the bar?
At all times, we have 120 whiskeys: bourbon, rye, single malts, single barrels. It’s a really in-depth selection that our bar manager and owners took a lot of time to curate, and they’re always looking to expand on that. We have 40 taps, 30 rotating at all times. And then we do weekly beer specials with local breweries, such as Lift Bridge and Indeed.
Tell us a little about the building you’re in.
The building has a rich history. It used to be part of the St. Paul Foundry company (the oldest manufacturer in Minnesota). Then it was turned into the Twin Cities Magic & Costume shop. That was a staple down here for two decades. And when they decided to relocate, it was a prime location.
What’s the significance of the name Dark Horse?
Our sister restaurant in Minneapolis is called Muddy Waters. It’s in that same dark, mysterious theme. Coming into Lowertown, we were the dark-horse restaurant. No one really knew about us on this side of the river. We came in and took them by surprise. We were early adopters in using social media to promote the restaurant, and that helped us get noticed.
What items do you usually source from Sysco?
We get a lot of our produce, cheeses and center-of-plate proteins from Sysco. Plus, they introduce us to new seasonal items that will help get us ahead of the competition. We were working on a new menu, and Sysco showed us Roy Choi’s Kogi LA Street Sauce line. Now we serve street tacos that use the sauce.
How has Sysco been a partner in the restaurant’s growth and success?
About three to four times a year, we visit Sysco’s test kitchen and they help us focus our ideas and bring them to life. Sysco has been a really big help for both the front and back of the house.