Lakes Area Dining: Day or night food still shines | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Lakes Area Dining: Day or night food still shines

Posted: July 3, 2012 - 11:20pm

There’s an eatery even Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde could agree upon in northeast Brainerd.

While the Sunshine Kitchen & Moonshine Lounge may suffer from multiple personality disorder, with its bright, sunny lunch theme mixed with a dark, devilish nighttime persona, one constant is the food.

Brash, bold and daring flavor combinations tied to bar and grill standards are what to expect when visiting Matt Taylor’s new location. Famed for his food and atmosphere at E Squared Cafe, Taylor relocated to the former Varsity Grill and Bar on the corner of Mill Avenue and H Street in Brainerd.

While the location may have changed, the food and unpretentious ambiance remain. Concerning the food, the basic vehicles are there, but customized. Take the appetizer menu, for instance. Chicken wings, strips and popcorn bites are given a facelift with an array of sauces ranging from a sassafras barbecue, a blazing berry buffalo, Thai peanut or garlic Parmesan.

Egg rolls with spicy apricot, chili cheese fries with vegetarian chili, sweet potato fries with that spicy apricot sauce again and three versions of nachos get the night started.

The dinner menu is burgers and sandwiches, but wraps, salads and pasta can be picked off the lunch menu.

The burgers even suffer from the day-night fraction. During the day you can order a Sunshine burger, which is a cheeseburger with a fried farm fresh egg on top with hollandaise to create a messy delight. Come nighttime that hollandaise sauce turns to a bearnaise sauce and the burger becomes a Moonshine burger.

There’s a bacon blue burger, a cobb burger, wild mushroom and onion burger and a plain Jane.

Feeling bold? The sugar & spice chipotle burger might be the ticket. Fire roasted jalapenos, chipotle caramelized onions, cheddar, provolone and grape jelly on top is what the menu says.

The sandwiches are mainly chicken based with a three cheese sandwich being the alternative. The cost is $5.95 to $6.95 for those.

Vegetables are like butter in a bakery, meaning they are used liberally throughout the menu.

The pasta choices range from a spinach artichoke and feta alfredo to a pepperoni penne. There is a Thai peanut dish that boasts fresh vegetables wok-flashed and tossed with fettuccine noodles in a spicy peanut sauce, topped with crushed peanuts. A vegetarian egg roll accompanies it for $6.25.

The dessert menu has one item and it’s unique and, in most cases, just right. Order a cupcake to finish off a fine meal. The options change daily. On this night it was a toasted almond. It was just the right size.

Taylor has his ears to the heartbeat of the lakes area. Namely the year-round population. UFC fighting has a large following in the area. Local musicians perform live on stage and sometimes transform into your server.

But where Taylor really gets Brainerd is his prices. $8.95 gets you anything on the menu. The food is well prepared and can be adventurous or simply filling, depending on your personality type.

JEREMY MILLSOP, sports writer, may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop