Food lovers rejoice. The Noble Lion will pounce onto the Victoria food scene next month, and it’s time to roll out the red carpet. The restaurant offers solid crowd pleasers from steak to mussels to frites with pleasant surprises in store for everyone. The menu is focused yet inclusive. Traditional diners and vegans will feel welcome here. The Noble Lion is a place people can come to and “escape their lives for an hour and a half and have a good meal,” owner Marc Huebner says.
True to its name, the restaurant has a definitively regal bent. The quaint, 50-seat eatery specializes in European and mid-American fare. Huebner’s childhood stint in Belgium guides the Noble Lion’s culinary vision. Extensive European travels opened his eyes to worlds far beyond his hometown of Hastings, Minn. For Huebner, trying new foods was an adventure that reinforced the need for a straight-forward approach. “Food can be simple. You don’t have to have many ingredients that look like art on the plate,” he explains. “Dining isn’t just about the food. It’s an experience.”
Huebner shares that wisdom in his cooking style. The Noble Lion showcases local, seasonal ingredients in scratch-made dishes. Features will change quarterly, and kitchen staff will collaborate to define the menu. Highlights for spring may include lamb, leaf lettuce, fiddlehead fern and ramps, plus a pasta or fish special.
No matter what the entrée, an elegant beverage makes an ideal dinner pairing. An extensive wine and beer list, plus a full cocktail repertoire, offers patrons a wide range of selections.
A dash of continental charm, a sprinkle of Midwestern whimsy and a big helping of quality add up to a first-rate dinning destination. “People have been waiting for this.” Huebner says. “I’ll have a long honeymoon.” Huebner wants to build a neighborhood following. “My goal is not only to provide good food and good service but to have regulars that come back again and again—a date night place, where four friends can go out for dinner.”
The Noble Lion was years in the making with extensive research guiding the way. Success on the Food Network as a fourth-place winner on America’s Best Cook broadened Huebner’s interest in the culinary arts. The Noble Lion began, in part, from his success on TV, along with a lifelong passion for cooking, extensive market research and a lot of hard work. “This restaurant has been a dream of mine for a very long time,” he says.
Restaurant work is a career transition for Huebner. “I’m phasing out of home technology to be hands on every day.” First, he catered as a sideline to his technology business. Clients liked his food, and that led to more referrals. A restaurant was a natural next step, and Victoria was ripe for a new creative, innovative dining option.
Cooking is in Huebner’s blood. He’s on a continuous quest to learn everything possible about different foods and preparation methods. “Wherever I go, I always ask to see the kitchen. I’m like a big kid,” he says. The Waconia resident has a passion for cooking, tempered only by his business sense. Opening a new restaurant brings out “a roller coaster of emotions,” he says.
Luckily, Huebner rode out the storm. Now, a long drive into Minneapolis isn’t needed for a casually upscale dinner. “I’m bringing in a little bit of the food scene in North Minneapolis to Victoria,” Huebner says.
The moniker The Noble Lion has figurative meaning with its European origins. Lions are symbolic of nobility and are on the crest of The Hague in South Holland. Huebner spent his formative years nearby in Brussels. “I actually have a lion crest logo tattoo,” he says.
After a long winter, the only thing sweeter than spring is dessert, which comes in all sizes and shapes.
THE RECTANGLE: Lemon Crumb Bar, Paragon Bakery
Behold the lemon crumb bar with its tidy sandwich layer sensibilities. An oatmeal-studded butter crumb coating surrounds a velvety, smooth lemon filling. A pleasant citrus pucker emerges from the charismatically creamy core. Made daily from scratch, lemon crumb bars are light as spring, yet hold their rank as bona fide comfort food. $2.75.
THE TRIANGLE: Pecan Pie, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
After a barbecue, super-sweet pecan pie is the default decadent dessert. Intense sweetness fades out strong, meaty flavors. Pecans, native to the U.S., are a Texas specialty. Dickey’s pays homage to its Lone Star State roots with the lip-smacking caramel goo of a pecan pie. Top off with a side of free ice cream for an extra dose of sultry sugar. $2 slice, $18 pie.
THE POLYGON PLUS: Strawberries and Cream Bundt Cake, Nothing Bundt Cakes
With their comfort food sensibilities and a bit of retro nostalgia, Bundt cakes are proven winners. The April flavor of the month celebrates spring. Indulge in an almost toothsome moist cake, laced with strawberry puree. The strawberries and cream cake returns with distinctive fruity essence. Champagne pink-colored cake is flecked with pieces of real strawberries. A thick piping of cream cheese vanilla frosting fans over every intricate angle of goodness. Bundtlet $4.25 other priced sizes available.
THE ELLIPSE: Vanilla Éclair, Rustica Bakery Eden Prairie
Odds are dessert means an éclair at Rustica. The French pastries rule as the top pick year-round. A laborious hand-controlled process renders a flawless oblong choux pastry. Steam-puffed dough retains a delicate bite. The crisp exterior surrounds a fluff of housemade vanilla pastry cream and fresh whipped cream. The icing features dark chocolate ganache. A quick dip in best-quality Belgium chocolate solidifies to resemble an edible beret. $4.25 and up.