Restaurant Guide 2013: Block and Tackle

3113 SE Division St., 236-0205,

[A FISHHOUSE DIVIDED] On the one hand, newly opened Block and Tackle is the mild-mannered River Queen fish house of chef Trent Pierce's youth. The airy, buttery vodka-beer batter on the cod sandwich and the fish and chips is a family heirloom, and half-shell oysters are served with cocktail sauce and the simplest of mignonettes. But Pierce is also the guy behind avant-seafood restaurants Roe and Fin. Alongside the staid fruits of the English wharf, half the menu is seasoned adventurously with French, Arabic and Mediterranean accents: mackerel and watermelon with dried olives, a currant-dotted cauliflower dish with fennel and pecorino, a salad of tender octopus with chickpeas crisped to the texture of candied walnuts. Avoid over-oiled, preserve-jar charcuterie—with the exception of the terrific marlin rillettes—but dear lord, if anything else looks new or unfamiliar you should put it in your mouth immediately. You will be rewarded. If your auntly neighbor opts for the halibut and a boat of french fries, she'll be happy enough. But she will merely be out to dinner, while you have scaled the high seas.

Ideal meal: Split between two: a couple oysters, a Nicoise salad, the cauliflower and the mackerel. $18 a person total. You're welcome.

Best deal: Happy hour (4-6 pm) offers $1.50 half-shell oysters, $1 shooters and a $5 steal of a specialty cocktail.

Pro tip: Mix the familiar happy-hour fare with wilder dishes and share among two or three.

4 pm-close Wednesday-Sunday. $$.


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