March 4, 2020

The Debut Of Trax

Musicians dream of debuting their new hit single they just spent the last year writing and recording in the studio and hoping it lands on the Billboard Hot 100. Much like a musician, restaurants also want to land on a hot list and prove they have the dishes necessary to get patrons, not only through the front door, but to come back for more.

Restaurant Week just concluded in the Twin Cities and the list this past go-round wasn’t all that exciting or were places that have been visited already. One place did stand out with its connection to the all-new Fillmore that just opened up and that place is Trax Burgers & Bar. The Trax has a really cool design with old records scattered all throughout, nice long bar for those looking to pony up and a decent sized patio when mother nature shows us her enjoyable side. Both venues are owned by Live Nation, and while these music executives may have wanted to debut in the top 10, it needs a little refining.

The menu’s that get launched during Restaurant Week allow for guests to pick from; an app, main dish and sometimes even a dessert, all for one flat fee. For Trax, it was an app and a main dish. For this first visit, the following dishes were ordered; Brussel Sprouts and Scotch Eggs for starters and the Drunken Chicken Sandwich and Trax Burger as the main dishes. Let’s break it down.

If you’re a Brussel Sprout fan, you may want to order this side piece with your meal. Carolina mustard sauce, pomegranate, brown butter powder is used for this dish, don’t be surprised if you’re not completely excited that you did. You will certainly get plenty to share with the rest of the table, but they’re nothing all that special.
Scotch Eggs are awesome, or at least can be awesome when prepared correctly. The Scotch Eggs at Trax are brought out to the table with a gorgeous presentation – a soft boiled egg, house-made sausage, IPA whole grain mustard aioli, red Fresno chile, frisée and mustard vinaigrette create a pretty decent flavor, but the crust was far too overcooked. Careful if you have a delicate “grill”, because the crunch wasn’t a pleasant one.
The Trax Burger, a Brisket & short rib blend double patty with American cheese, little gem lettuce, tomato, red onion, IPA mustard aioli, Nueske’s bacon ketchup, bread & butter pickles sounded fantastic. Remove any of the items that you wish to and after the first couple of bites, it’s not a bad burger, but not something you’re going to crave. A side of house made BBQ chips accompanies this burger and they’re not half bad.
Last, but not least, the Drunk Chicken Sandwich. Crispy fried chicken breast, bourbon butter, coleslaw, bread & butter pickle chips and buffalo aioli. Decent flavor, but nothing like the expertise found in a Revival Chicken Sandwich. The crunch was good, the aioli is a must and the coleslaw isn’t really necessary. Like the burger, a side of BBQ chips for a side.
All-in-all, it’s an easy place to grab a meal if you have plans to catch a show at the Fillmore, but there are plenty of other options just blocks away, especially the burger masterpieces found at Parlour. Plenty of options on the menu and a return visit may just happen....

525 N, 5th Street
Minneapolis, MN55401

March 1, 2020

Not Your Office Potluck

Whether it's for a birthday, work anniversary or promotion, department party or the holidays, we've all experienced office potlucks. George brought his famous veggie tray, Janet brought her families secret fruit cake recipe, Susan is handling the fruit punch bowl while the boss, Kevin, wants everyone to enjoy his mothers cheese dip. And you, you bring the best chili anyone has ever made, because you spent hours perfecting it for your favorite co-workers. 

While most of us enjoy a good office potluck, the all new Potluck Mn Food Hall located at Rosedale Mall is now open after taking over the space once home to Revolution Hall. This potluck doesn't have any of those classic items previously mentioned, but it a better experience than your typical food court. There's something for everyone at the Potluck and while it is a better experience than your typical food court, it was also a little underwhelming. Except for one place! 

Let's start with some ramen from O Bāchan Noodles + Chicken. Ramen seems to be a rising trend lately and there is plenty of great options out there. Unfortunately for O Bāchan, it's not an option that will have you craving seconds. Well, unless you like high amounts of sodium and nothing, but soy sauce. If that's your jam, then Justin Sutherland has prepared the perfect, not so pleasant dish for you. Furthermore, the chicken was pretty bland, basically flavorless and it's suppose to be downright amazing. 
When you see a place known for their burgers, you of course have to grab one and check it out. Next up is the House Burger from Josh Thoma, Kevin Fitzgerald and Nick O’Leary's Burger Dive and while it's not a top 5 burger, you should definitely pick one up for yourself. Nice sear to the patties, decent flavor, however - a burger, basket of fries (if you don't want a bag of chips) and a pop is far to over-priced at just shy of $20 for the quality you're getting. 
OMB! (O' My Biscuits! as my wife said) It was Jason Matheson and pastry chef Adrienne Odom's Betty & Earl's that will absolutely have you craving more! Biscuits!? Really!? Yes, Biscuits! Grabbed a Sausage Gravy Biscuit - a large biscuit with their famous gravy infused into the biscuit, with a side of their famous sausage gravy. Ate that, then decided to go back for another AND a Cinnamon Roll Biscuit. You need dessert, right? Finished that off and went back a THIRD time for some biscuits to bring home - 2 more Cinnamon Rolls, 2 Apple Biscuits and a Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookie. What!? don't judge, you'll be addicted too! Best part - JUST $5 A BISCUIT! And, they're huge!
Lastly, our kiddo's shared a slice of cheese pizza from Grand Ole Creamery & Grand Pizzeria and while our kiddo's took that giant slice down, it's definitely not something to go back for seconds. You may find it enjoyable or you may just go for their famous ice cream instead. In fact, you should just go for the ice cream, everyone knows it's fantastic. 

Unfortunately, we didn't get anything from Smack Shack and honestly, it was far too overpriced for a "food court" experience - $18 for a tiny lobster roll (that's it) that didn't look all that exciting anyways. We also passed on Nordic Waffles, nothing really looked appealing or interesting. And finally, hummus is a side dish or app, not a complete meal turned into a salad, so we passed on Justin Sutherland's other concept, Chickpea. Maybe that's your thing, but 5 or 6 pita chips with some hummus is enough for most potluck guests. 

So, are you sticking with your office potluck dishes or planning on visiting the all new Potluck at Rosedale Mall? You won't find Kevin's mom's cheese dip or Susan's fruit punch, but those biscuits are fantastic and you may just enjoy the other dishes you'll find here. 

Potluck MN Food Hall 
Rosedale Mall - South End
Rosedale, MN 

February 22, 2020

Tortillas and Protein (Best Tacos)

No matter where you are in the Twin Cities, there is a taco shop or Mexican restaurant that claims to be serving "Authentic Mexican Food". Unfortunately, most of what is out there is far too Americanized and hardly worth enjoying. One of our favorite, yet simple dishes found all over Mexico is a perfectly made Street Taco. Warm corn tortillas, flavorful protein of your choice, onions, cilantro and a little salsa. That's it! Nothing more, nothing less!

It's the little hole-in-the-wall spots in Mexico that always caught our attention when traveling, not the chain establishments scattered throughout Mexico and the Caribbean. You know, like Senior Frogs, Margaritaville or some other millionaire who decided to open a restaurant. Thankfully, there are places right here in good ol' Minnesota that are putting in the effort to provide authentic food, especially some downright amazing street tacos. 

We've set out to find some of the best the Twin Cities has to offer and thus far, we would recommend our readers check these 5 places out first and in no particular order;

Head over to Richfield and enjoy not only the street tacos, but all the grub at Andale Taqueria & Mercado. Their carnitas and pollo are some of the most flavorful protein creations we've come across in our travels and cravings for more are always present when traveling through that area. This place is a must try, but just know that the parking lot fills up quickly and you may be parking across the street at Menards. Yes, it does get that busy, because it's that good! 

If you're ever in the Rosemount area, Las Tortillas is yet another place to never drive past. This is the place where you will find the best tasting carnitas in the Twin Cities, period! Their Elote is killer and the burritos can be shared by 2 people or 1 if you're super hungry. Chef Ricardo, one of our favorite chef's is doing things right at Las Tortillas. If tacos and burritos aren't your thing, Chef Ricardo's other creations will certainly satisfy your taste buds. 

With multiple locations to choose from, Taqueria La Hacienda is our next spot worth checking out. Because of this, it's easy to fulfill those taco cravings throughout the week, especially on a taco Tuesday. You simply can't go wrong with any of their protein options, but my favorite tends to be their carnitas.

Spending some time in the west metro? Somewhere around New Hope and surrounding cities? Then you need to stop into AZ (Arizona) Taco Co. I'm a huge fan of perfectly made carnitas, but at AZ, it's the Carne Asada that is to die for. Wow is that some fantastic cow anatomy. Nothing bad to say about their other protein options, it's just that the Carne is that darn good! And the salsa creations? Yes, please!

Next up is El Taco Riendo located in the Nordeast neighborhood and serving up some super tasty authentic tacos and some of the best salsa in the Twin Cities. There isn't a protein on the menu not worth ordering and the the salsa is drinkable. 

If none of those seem to make your mouth water or you're not close to one of them, you could consider these spots as well;
  • Nico's Taco Bar with 2 locations has some outstanding tacos, especially their barbacoa, tynga and fish tacos. However, the salsa needs a little work, the steak was too dry and the margaritas aren't worth the money (according to my wife).  
  • Catrinas has a couple of locations and serving some outstanding tacos and their salsa creations are exceptional as well. 
  • Casa Lupita in White Bear Lake has some pretty tasty tacos.
  • La Palma in St. Paul's Eastside is doing things right. 
  • La Costa Mexican Sports Bar in St. Paul's Westside kills it with their carnitas, but has been inconsistent.  
  • El Super Taco in Burnsville can hold their own, it's their salsa that you will want to go back for the most. 
  • El Tequito Taco House in West St. Paul used to be a top favorite of ours and still producing some decent street tacos.
While we would much rather be in Mexico eating street tacos from the little cart on the corner, these places will have to do. Well, at least until we plan another vacation....