O’Brien’s Decoy Pub & Smokehouse
815 East Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55414
|Sun||11 am – 10 pm|
|Fri – Sat||11 am – midnight|
|Mon – Thurs||11 am – 11 pm|
GPS coordinates–N 44º59.472′ W093º14.851′
by Kevin Wynn
It’s barely been above zero degrees for most of the past two weeks. The nearly snow-free winter we’ve had so far had left me with the lingering hope that we’d have an early spring. But the wind is howling, the windows rattling. Ice is thick on the side streets and even worse in the alley between my garage and the main road. The bikes are all tucked in for the winter. I don’t yet have a “winter” bike I can take out in this weather without worrying about salt and crash damage, yet. This is no time to be riding, I’ll grant you that. But that doesn’t change the craving to ride somewhere to eat. When ribs beckon to me, I heed the call. If time, or weather, doesn’t allow a trip somewhere, the answer is clear- O’Brien’s Decoy, Pub & Smokehouse in Minneapolis.
I’ve been raving about O’Brien’s for years, bringing my family and friends here, bringing home takeout. When my wife, Denise, and I are planning a night out for dinner, O’Brien’s is always one of our top choices. Up until now I’d just enjoyed “my rib joint” for its own sake. Now it’s time to share.
Owner and chef Kevin O’Brien has had an impact on fine local barbeque in some way for a long time. I learned that he started working for a Rudolph’s Barbeque as a line cook while still in high school. His employer sent him to school including the Culinary Institute of America, to become a professional chef. Kevin later became the corporate chef for all of Rudolph’s Barbeque, which at one time included locations as far away as Japan. After more than 20 years with one company, O’Brien decided he wanted to own and operate his own place. His employer offered to sell him the East Hennepin restaurant and the deal was done.
The menu here includes what you would expect–an outstanding selection of ribs, from prodigious country style pork and two varieties of baby back ribs and spareribs, to charbroiled beef ribs that will have you licking your fingers for every last bit of flavor. The sweet and tangy sauces are everything you could want in a fine barbeque sauce. Every time I eat here I am torn between the ribs I love so much and trying one of the other fine and unique entrées on the menu. Oh yes, there’s more, much more than just ribs here…
On this visit, in the interest of research, I tried a couple of selections I’d never had before. One was the signature Decoy Burger, a monstrous large thing, heaped with sauteed mushrooms and onions, bacon and cheeses–practically a meal for two with the included jo-jo fries. And then for something on the lighter side, I ordered a Strawberry Kiwi Chicken salad, which comes replete with broiled chicken breast, the obvious fresh fruit as well as grapes and walnuts, topped with a vinaigrette dressing. This salad alone is more than a meal for most appetites, and the fresh fruit gave me a little more longing for spring.
Over the years I’ve also had the pleasure of trying the Smoked Salmon Pizza and the BBQ Pork sandwich. Both were very good, although I prefer pulled pork over the thin sliced served here. The Broiled Walleye, the Sirloin Steak and the BBQ Buffalo Burger have also crossed my path over the years and are highly recommended. Denise has nothing but praise for the Center Cut Pork Chops and the Basil Garlic Chicken.
Still to sample are interesting plates like BBQ Duck and Broiled Salmon, but there’s plenty of time for that, when I can resist the ribs. Most of the menu items are in the $12-$16.00 range, and with sides of the excellent homemade coleslaw or O’Brien’s Pub Mashed Potatoes, always result in leftovers for the next days lunch.
Kevin O’Brien is an avid hunter and fisherman, so the décor reflects his interest. Whether or not you are of like mind, you’ll appreciate the extensive collection of antique and hand carved decoys and fishing lures, some even carved by O’Brien himself.
If you can’t wait for the roads to clear to try this place, that’s all right, but bikers are welcome here anytime. A couple of local clubs even have regular meetings here. In the summer there is outdoor seating as well.
O’Brien’s Decoy Pub & Smokehouse is located in one of Minneapolis’ hottest neighborhoods, just across the river from downtown Minneapolis. From the south or west take the East Hennepin Avenue exit off I-35W and go west. From the north, exit 35W at Stinson, go south to East Hennepin, then west.
Now that I’ve told you about “my rib joint”, behave yourself when you go there. I know you’ll enjoy O’Brien’s Decoy as much as I do.
Eat well. Ride well.