Tim Niver and J.D. Fratzke: You know these guys. If you don’t, you know someone who does—a neighbor who went on a great date, a friend who went on a bad date or perhaps a co-worker who had a killer night out with friends. This is because Fratzke and Niver own The Strip Club Meat & Fish on Dayton’s Bluff in Saint Paul, a popular spot for great surf and turf, along with custom drinks.
If you’re lucky enough to be a regular, Niver greets you as only he can—he yells to you from the bar, or from the back of the restaurant, or from the table he is currently serving. A night out is meant to be fun, and dining at The Strip Club is like getting together with all the quirky relatives you actually like to see.
“We have a good time,” Niver says. “If you’re cranky, we’ll give you a little ’tude.”
Niver and the front-of-house staff see to it that you have a drink—a stiff one, if you’re in the mood. Remember, a night out is meant to be fun. The food arrives: A steak or fish, perhaps, or one of the seasonal specials executive chef Fratzke creates, inspired by his Minnesota roots.
Born in Winona, Minn., Fratzke says his food is earthy. “I grew up in a family that told each other we love each other with good food,” he says. “It’s a German family, so there wasn’t a lot of hugging and kissing, but whenever we got together there was good food on the table.”
Most ingredients are locally sourced, and his specialty is, yes, meat, but this isn’t a traditional meat-and-potatoes steakhouse. Fratzke has relatives who hunt and fish, and you see that on the menu, but he also works with fresh produce. “I want people to see the wonderful things that come out of the earth,” Fratzke says. “The proteins are adorning the vegetables, rather than just being big slices of meat.”
Although their website is domeats.com, and Fratzke and Niver joke about vegetarians, they will gladly serve a gluten-free vegan.
The food is fine dining in a casual steakhouse environment. Fratzke brings his personality to the dishes, each with a story to tell, he says, but it’s mixed with classic culinary training. His career started at a hot dog stand when he was 15. He eventually graduated to a sandwich shop, then to a nightclub, where he truly fell in love with the art of cooking. Fratzke and Niver, also a restaurant lifer who has worked everywhere from McDonald’s to the Bellagio in Las Vegas, met while working at Pronto Ristorante in 1996. (A former Parasole restaurant, Pronto Ristorante closed in 1998.)
Before joining forces to open The Strip Club in 2008, Niver owned Town Talk Diner in Minneapolis and Fratzke was the executive chef at Saint Paul’s Muffuletta Café. Their venture easily settles into the old-town charm of Saint Paul. The building, dating back to 1885, is old charm. “It’s seen the rise of Saint Paul,” Fratzke says. “Literally,” Niver adds. “If it had eyes, it would literally see the rise of Saint Paul” from its locale atop the bluff.
Is it perfect? Hardly. “We have an old building,” Niver says. “And the old building is drafty. And the old building is heated weird. In the summer, it’s hot. In the winter, it’s hot. It’s always hot in here. You can either find charm in its quirks, or you don’t like it.”
The building could be considered a metaphor for the restaurant and the service inside—what you see is what you get. Service is honest. Polite. Service is good, but it’s Niver and Fratzke’s version of good. They’ll poke fun. They’ll bust chops. And they expect you to tell your friends all about it.
It’s Niver and Fratzke’s personalities that have made The Strip Club what it is, and there’s no better example than the restaurant’s name. It’s provocative, but that’s become an afterthought by now. Mention The Strip Club to many St. Paulites, and their minds no longer wander to pole dancing—instead, they think of steak. When Niver selected the name, it was after eating at a place called Strip House in New York. “I kept thinking they had stopped short,” he says. “Just call it The Strip Club.”
So Niver and Fratzke did. They found the perfect building. They injected some personality. And they created a place you and your friends want to go every Saturday night. But, of course, you already knew that.
The Strip Club Meat & Fish
378 Maria Ave.