December 23, 2012

Not A Cuban Missile Crisis, But........

I'm pretty certain that while J.F.K. was trying to protect the U.S. from a possible nuclear attack from Russia after they placed Nuclear weapons in Cuba, There probably wasn't a chef in their kitchen trying to come up with a delicious tasting burger that encompasses the ingredients found in a Cuban Sandwich... Yes I just gave you a history lesson while preparing to talk about food!

One of mine and my wife's favorite places to go eat some great food is at the Lone Oak Grill in Eagan and there's nothing on the menu that I won't eat, until now. Just had their Cubano Juicy which was just launched on the new menu and after talking to the manager and chef not too long ago about this new addition, they told me I had to try it. I would probably just tell you to stay away from this place if the rest of their menu was terrible, but this was the first time I wasn't all that pleased, because everything else on the menu is amazing! Instead, I'm going to break this juicy down and provide a possible change that could make it better.

So here's how it's currently made... A Pork Sausage Patty that is stuffed with Swiss and topped with Pulled Pork, Pickles, Mustard and a Slice of Ham on the bottom. Sounds just like a delicious Cuban sandwich right? While I wouldn't completely discredit their attempt, I would say... it could be better! The Mustard Pulled Pork was, as I would expect, awesome, but I would do the following to the patty's. I would do a 50/50 blend of hamburger and pork which to me, would keep it in the realm of a "burger/juicy". 

Should you go and try the Cubano? Yes, you should! It by all means wasn't the worst burger we've had, but like I just mentioned, there was some good parts to it, but I think the 50/50 blend could really make this thing a top notch addition to the menu. I hope the team at Lone Oak Grill keeps up the awesome work it's doing to serve great food, keeping the taps flowing with craft beers and hiring awesome staff!

3010 Eagandale Place
Eagan, MN 55121 

December 21, 2012

Lindey's Rigging For Steaks?

Time to go fishing for a sirloin that looks like a small football and I hear the anglers tend to flock to a place called Lindey’s Prime Steak House located in Arden Hills. While you won’t need the famous Lindy Rig used for catching Wally’s, you will need the Lindey’s Rig which consists of a fork and knife!

This place isn’t the largest fishing hole for steak anglers, but if you find it, make sure to bring an empty “tackle box” which is a metaphor for an empty stomach if you didn’t catch that... Upon arrival to Lindey’s, one of their trusted “guides” will seat you at a table where a depth finder won’t be needed, just your eyes for reading the large menu/sign with just four selections and an appetite for some great steak. 

While you’re “trolling” and waiting for your first bite and enjoying an adult beverage, look at the old time photos of when the first anglers found this little gem and when you see your steak coming towards your table, prepare to set your fork! One of their other “specialized guides”(or servers if you haven’t caught on to my clever metaphors) will help filet your steak into smaller, more manageable cuts of beef while it sits in some delicious juices and continues to cook from a hot plate. 

Now, all that’s left to do is sit back and enjoy your ”prized catch” that was cooked to perfection and seasoned just right. Your meal is served family style and is always a heaping pile of delicious fried taters to accompany your steak, a tradition that started 50 years ago by Lindey himself. The best times to catch the Lindey’s steak beast starts at 5 p.m., but if you’re an angler that likes to get out a little earlier, check out their lunch specials starting at 11 a.m. and available until 3 p.m. 

Leave the leeches, worms, tackle and boat at home, well… unless you’re actually going to go out fishing before or after than go ahead and bring all that with you, but you won’t need it for Lindey’s Prime Steak House. 

Lindey's Prime Steak House
3600 Snelling Ave N.
Arden Hills, MN 55112 

December 20, 2012

A Lucid "Honey" Badger!

The Honey Badger might not give a BLEEP if his food is delicious or not, but my wife and I certainly do and we just had an amazing four course meal and craft brew pairing at the Lyndale Tap house. They have had a few of these the last few months and I was lucky enough to win 2 passes for my wife and I to go and enjoy one of their pairings and this one included local craft brew makers; Badger Hill Brewing Co. & Lucid Brewing Co., both from Minnetonka.

My wife and I are not huge IPA and extremely hoppy brew drinkers which Lucid was, but we will enjoy a good Ale or Stout which is what Badger Hill was and the food that went with these brews was by far some of the best meals we’ve ever had and one of them took the top spot of one of my all-time favorites and you might be surprised what it is… A little side note too… This meal was better than any meal I had while my wife and I were in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and Executive Chef, Phil agreed with me after he and his wife traveled there as well. 

Course #1 was a Blackened Catfish, served with a Cheesy Corn Grit creation and some spicy Collard Greens and paired with Lucid’s VERY hoppy Lucid Foto. Some of the best fish I’ve ever ate anywhere and I don’t think I’ve ever had cheesy corn grits, but I want more! I wasn’t big on the collard greens, but my wife cleaned her plate… I think she liked it! 

Course #2 was a House Made Spaghetti with Beer Braised Sausage and Peppers in a Mustard Cream Sauce………… My favorite spaghetti was at I nonni in Mendota until I had this one! Absolutely fantastic and I told Chef Phil he needed to add it to the menu for good and his response was, “It will be an option at our new store opening in Eden Prairie.” Guess I know where my wife and I are heading! This meal was paired with Lucid Dyno which to me was a hoppy Coors Light or a watered down hoppy beer.

Course #3 was a Pork Carnitas that was served with some Orange Zest on some Peppered Chips with some Jalapeno Guac that was deeeeeeeelicious! I don’t eat much guac, but this stuff was good. This meal was paired with Badger Hill’s, Three Tree Rye Ale which wasn’t all that bad and a full body brew that was less hoppy and more enjoyable.

Course #4 and one of my all time favorite deserts ever was a Turtle Popcorn: Kettle Cooked Corn with Chocolate, Caramel, Bacon and Pecans… “Did you just say bacon?” Y-E-S I D-I-D! Wow is all I can say and the chef was even kind enough to bring an extra one out for my wife and I, it was that good. Its accompanying brew was Badger Hill’s, Foundation Stout and our favorite brew of the evening as well.
I mentioned that the spaghetti was going to be added to the menu for their new location in Eden Prairie which is awesome news, but the rest of these outstanding meals currently are not offered, BUT I did tell Chef Phil that he should include them so maybe he’ll take my advice. If you want to try the cheesy corn grits, those are currently a side and I would recommend you try them for sure!

The Honey Badger can continue to be the most fearless creature in the world and eat its snakes, mice and larva, but I think my wife and I will stick to amazing meals like the one we just experienced at the Lyndale Tap House instead! :) 

2937 Lyndale Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408 

December 8, 2012

Is Mancini's "Unforgettable"?

Nat King Cole might think Mancini's is "Unforgettable in every way" and maybe because the inside still looks like it's from his era, but I'm sorry darling, it's not that incredible! Sure there's a ton of nostalgia and history about this place and sure it's always packed, but I just don't understand what all the hype is about.

Is it the worse place I've ever been to? Not really, but I also think I honestly could cook a better steak right at home and/or choose to go elsewhere like; Porterhouse Steak & Seafood or Woolley's Steak House before considering Mancini's. It had been a year sense the last visit to Mancini's with my wife and her family and I really couldn't remember if it was delicious or not. Seeing how   it wasn't memorable, I wasn't able to compare that meal with our most recent visit and that's not really a good thing...

When we go to restaurants specializing in steaks, we tend to go with filet's because, if cooked right, are moist, full of flavor and cut like butter. That's IF they're cooked and prepared right. A Mancini's steak in my eyes; bland and dry and a knife is needed instead of just a fork (not like butter)! Again, it's not the worse place, but I would definitely take their 1950's approach and modernize it a little bit. 

This is one of my wife's favorite places and I'm sure we'll back for some more old school decor and mediocre food, but "like a song of love that clings to me", Mancini's food does not! While Mancini's wasn't unforgettable for me, I'm willing to maintain what seems to be a yearly visiting routine for her. :) 

531 West Seventh Street 
St. Paul, MN 

November 25, 2012

Did Someone Get The Best Of JAKE'S?

"I need somewhere to hang my head" after mine and my wife's latest trip Jake's City Grill which was one of our favorites, but I think someone got the best of Jake's and changed some things and it wasn't for the better. Not sure if they swapped out their executive chef for one that isn't the greatest, but they definitely changed one of the best things they had on their menu and that was their fries.

You're not really upset about the fries are you? Yes, yes I am! Jake's used to serve these yummy skinny fries, but now they're serving these typical fires found everywhere. Dear Executive Chef... You set yourself apart from everyone else, why would you change that? You should consider making changes for the better! I'm sure you're still getting people coming in, but on the Saturday night that my wife and I stopped in during the prime time of evening dining, it wasn't that busy. It was even strange when our server walked by and said our drinks would be coming shortly, the bartender is a little preoccupied. How? No one is here!

Well, lets talk about the dishes my wife and I had. As we were getting sat, my wife saw something that looked good and wanted to get. That was their handmade Pizza Rolls with a Caesar salad in the middle of the plate. By the looks of the picture I took, would you eat it? Of course you would! However, if you want an awesome handmade pizza roll, you should consider stopping by Lucky's 13 or Old Chicago. While Jake's version had some delicious sausage, it had very little sauce and almost no cheese. IT'S A PIZZA ROLL! 

I decided to take a stab at their Philly Style - Prime Rib Dip. Where do I start? Again, by the picture, anyone would want to devour this thing just by it's pure size, but its look is deceiving. I hope it wasn't their best attempt at making a prime rib dip and/or Philly, but if it was, I've had far better! Add some flavor to your meat, trust me, it goes a long ways and it's good thing there was au jus, because it was a little dry as well. Remember our fries dilemma? Well... I probably had three fries and left the rest!

I do have a confession to make and I'm hoping the Executive Chef doesn't get his or her hands on it and ruin it and that's their Shrimp & Sausage Chowder. One of the best soups any restaurant has offered and really the reason why I wanted to stop by in the first place. DON'T screw it up Jake's! My wife and I are and have definitely "moved on to someone new..." and I think the Foo Fighters would agree with me as well. If it's not broken, don't fix it! 

5 Minnesota locations to choose from 

November 24, 2012

Just Say ZEST!

While you're trying to figure out what restaurant you're going to eat at, Just say Zest and "just say there's nothing holding you back" from trying something new in town. "It's not a test" my food loving followers, it's just me saying that you should consider stopping by Zest Bar & Grill in Eagan.

When you arrive to Zest, you'll notice the beautiful patio for outdoor dining and when you walk in for the first time, you'll probably be a little surprised at the size of the restaurant with a rather large bar for said size. Zest is more of almost a boutique or cafe style restaurant instead of a much larger traditional size restaurant. My wife and I felt that some of the smaller tables were a little crammed in, but that again comes down to the size. My recommendation... write a letter to their neighbor asking them nicely to leave so they can expand their restaurant, because we really don't need a nail salon at every corner like it's a gas station.

Lets talk about the food now! My wife went with the Parmesan Crusted Sirloin with Yukon Herb Mashed and Grilled Veggies. I'm not a big veggie eater when carrots, peas, green beans or corn are involved, but the mashed taters and the sirloin were really good. Steak was nice and tender, full of juices and flavors while the taters were nice and creamy and full of flavor as well. 

I decided to go with the Zest Mac & Cheese. Yes my friends, another place to get made from scratch mac and I for one think more places should offer a variation of mac at all times. It all starts with; Cavatappi noodles, a three-cheese blend then topped with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Sounds tasty already, but you can add to your mac even more by adding one of the following (for an extra cost); crab (NOT imitation), shrimp, scallops, chicken, short ribs, bacon, carmelized onions or portabella mushrooms. I of course went with the crab and it was very creamy and cheesy as well. I enjoyed every bite, but I would suggest a few things be added that I guarantee would make it an even better mac and that would be, add a little salt & pepper, maybe a little garlic and I took some of my wife's red peppers from her veggies that were full of all of those flavors making my mac awesome! 

Another great thing about Zest is their craft beer selection on tap at all times. Sorry, if you want a Mich. Golden, you'll have to settle for a bottle and I'm OK with that. As a craft beer connoisseur, I enjoy seeing more restaurants offering craft beers from all over the U.S. because there are a lot of great breweries making some really good beers. 

My wife and I are looking forward to heading back to Zest to try some other menu options that caught our attention and if you've been to Zest and tried something else on the menu that we of course haven't, feel free to comment about what you think we should be trying during our next visit. If you haven't been to Zest, "What do I have to say to you" besides what I and Snow Patrol have shared with you to get you to go to Zest? "For god sake..." Stop by Zest already! :)

525 Diffley Rd. 
Eagan, MN 55123 

November 17, 2012

Island In The Sun...

Just spent some time on an island in the sun and that tropical and wondrous place was Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and for this review, I've decided to bring mine and my wife's love for food and our overall trip experience together just for you. Why? Because they go hand-in-hand this time around.

So while my wife and I were wishing it was a place we could call our own... playing and having fun... feeling so fine... and singing along to Weezer, we also made sure to take note of the food that we ate as well. For most people the food that we got to experience while in Punta Cana at the Majestic Elegance Resort, Golf and Casino would be some of the best food they've ever had if they're not big travelers and don't pay attention to the food as close as we do, however we do pay attention to food as well as all the amenities and aesthetics of our resort!

We've had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places like; Jamaica (Sandals Resorts), Mexico (Dreams Resorts) and all over the U.S. During those trips we've of course had to eat and we've had some amazing food during our travels and sometimes they're dishes you just can't get here in Minnesota. We figured that this would be no different traveling to Punta Cana and second in line to the beach life that we love so much, we're always looking forward to having the opportunity to try things prepared by the master chef and their culinary team. Unfortunately, this trip was lack luster when it comes to food and honestly, we've ate better food right here in Minnesota!

I have to start with my biggest no-no right away and that's..... imitation crab meat. Yes, they served imitation crab meat... NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, serve imitation crab meat to your guests visiting you in the tropics of all places! I couldn't believe it when it came out in soup form and after one bite, the bowl was pushed aside. Just a couple days later we tried these deep fried crab puff balls that again were made using imitation crab meat. What was more interesting is that they actually inserted a small and real crab claw into it... WHAT!? They may have tricked someone that doesn't pay attention to what they're eating, but they didn't trick my wife and I!

On to Majestics take on making a steak. Ask yourself this simple question... Is making a steak hard to do? If you answered yes, than you could work for the Asadito Steak House at the Majestic Elegance. If you said no, than you could teach the culinary team there what they're doing wrong and that's serving dry and really tough steak to guests. My wife ordered a top sirloin which is typically pretty tender and delicious, but was far from that and I went for a New York strip that was tough and really dry which is usually full of flavor. To sum it up... I guarantee, my wife and I could have served the guests a better steak with some of our own special marinades and recipes. OR, just take a trip to Woolley's Steakhouse, Lindey's Prime Steakhouse or Porterhouse Steaks & Seafood. As for the decor and plating presentation of food at Asadito... An elegance (pun intended) overhaul is needed and it almost seemed like they were just serving food from buffet warmers.

Not every cut of beef was bad though and we found some delicious cuts at the french restaurant, Limited Gourmand. They actually prepared their steak the right way and the flavor was excellent as well. As for the rest of their cuisine, they definitely were preparing some great food and our favorites were the; Red Snapper wrapped in bacon, Lamb Chops and their soups. The elegance and plating of their food was much better and the team here seemed to know what they were doing.

Lets move on to the Italian restaurant, Il Botaccio. Not really sure where to start and that's because I wasn't impressed with anything at all! While my wife was digging her meals, I was wishing I was eating something from my favorite place back home, I Nonni Italian Restaurant in Lilydale/Mendota. My wife tried their Spaghetti with Lobster Medallion that she really enjoyed while I tried their Gnocchi which was in this really bad tasting gravy and a beef dish that I pushed to the side as well. Meh!

Before embarking on our journey, my wife likes to read as many reviews as she can and one that stood out for me was in regards to the seafood at Sea & Sea. This restaurant sits just off the beach with the sound of the ocean at all times which is amazing. The reviews were 50/50 regarding their ability to prepare a good lobster tail and I would be on the fence. We've had seafood from all over and when traveling to the Caribbean, they should have it mastered. It wasn't terrible by all means which some people stated, but I could see where some of the others who wrote reviews were coming from in that it was juts missing something and not completely prepared right.

The next restaurant 9 Doors is their sushi and teppanyaki restaurant and is the last of the restaurants before we hit the buffet and wrap things up with our overall review. From the Majestic Passport Book - "You will be delighted by the excellent variety of sushi in our sushi bar..." Um, no! First, your culinary team better be able to tell me exactly what fish I'm eating which they couldn't. Second, you need to be able to use more than two species of fish and tempura shrimp which is cooked and imitation crab doesn't count. Third, chicken isn't sushi either, but it was a funny attempt and not that bad with their sweet & sour sauce. We sat at one of 9 teppanyaki tables with our new friends we met from Nashville, Jill and Jenn along with another small group traveling together. Not much to say really, because honestly, as the old saying goes... "If you've seen one, you've seen them all...", but it was good.

Finishing up with the food is the buffet, The Flavors. With something new every night to choose from that includes food from all over the world, but it is just a buffet. The Sea & Sea also serves as a buffet for breakfast and lunch, but isn't as broad of a selection as the main buffet. It does however have the better omelet cook! :) Flavors had some really good dishes as well as some really bad ones and I'm going to focus on the good ones. I'll just list the ones that my wife and I liked. Mangu which is mashed plantains, Chicken Mole, Fajita Steak, the full Turkey that I was allowed to dig into myself, the Pig Cheeks the chef let me take off the head myself, the entire Spanish night and these cinnamon sugar covered custard filled pastries that were similar to a pop over were all awesome!

I honestly believe between my uncle Al, mother Linda and myself, we easily could've served some dishes to the guest that would have been memorable. My wife and I typically take pictures of these dishes when we travel to tropical destinations, but this time around, that wasn't the case. There just wasn't much to brag about at Majestic in terms of food. As for the rest of the resort in my eyes, I think the rooms were pretty nice and the pools were plentiful. If you have a butler room, don't expect to see your butler much once he drops you off at your room. You have no way of contacting him to have him do something for you unless you're in your room, but who is ever in their room? I would say of all the places we've been to, it's the best beach with no rocks and the only time you see seaweed (sometimes a problem for people) is in the morning during a brief high tide time and it's cleaned up immediately by staff as the tide subsides during the morning hours. 

Earlier I mentioned visiting some other resorts in Jamaica and Mexico and I wanted to make sure to briefly rank and provide the entire list of the places we've visited. If you, my reader is ever thinking of visiting one of these countries, hopefully this will help. Starting with our favorite, we would send you to Mexico to stay at the Dreams - Riviera Maya. This place was absolutely phenomenal, the perfect size resort for our liking and the food was amazing. It's also the place where my wife and I got married. If Jamaica is on your wish list, our second and third can be found here. Check out Sandals - Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay. Easily some of my favorite food I've ever had, the perfect size resort and the staff is awesome and personable. The other and third place resort is Sandals - Ocho Rios. This resort is a little larger and is actually separated into two wings, the beach front area and the hills. While the food is still the same amazing Jamaican food, the beach is much smaller and limited. Finally and yes you guessed it, the last place would be the Majestic Elegance. Although the beaches were amazing and our favorite, the overall experience, condition and food just didn't cut it for us and we often found ourselves saying we were spoiled at the other places. 

We even took a trip up to the Hard Rock - Punta Cana which was far too large for our liking, but was very cool and their Brazilian restaurant, Ipanema was outstanding so we know the food isn't bad everywhere... We would consider going back to a resort in Punta Cana, it just wouldn't be one of the Majestic resorts. So, where are you planning your next trip to? Where ever it might be, hopefully the food is amazing and you enjoy yourself as well. My wife and I like great food and amenities when we travel and "will never feel bad..." sharing our truthful and hopefully helpful experiences. You should get to experience the very best as well! :)

November 3, 2012

If I Close My Eyes Forever...

If I do close my eyes forever, will the taste go away? That's how I felt after eating the disgusting sushi my wife and I decided to eat at Kami Japanese Steakhouse and I'm thinking Ozzy Osbourne himself would think so as well. I would even guess that someone like Ozzy would "stick a dagger in it!"

Lets start with the name... I mean really, Japanese steakhouse? It should read, Kami Swamp Water Sushi & Some Other Food! My wife and I really do enjoy sushi and we've had sushi literally all over the Twin Cities. We've found some great places, good places and down right disgusting places. Kami just so happens to be one of those disgusting places. When our sushi rolls arrived to our table, the first thing we both thought was something was smelling a little too fishy and after my first bite, it was apparent that this place decided to shop for their fish from some supplier that gets its product from the bottom of a swamp in the backwoods of some forest in Minnesota.

For those of you who enjoy sushi, does it bother you when you order sushi and when you pick it up, it falls apart? Yeah? Me too! Seriously, who taught some of the sushi chefs out there, particularly Kami's how to do sushi rolls? Time to find a new career if you can't roll a simple sushi roll correctly...

As for the rest of their food... Well, if you like your steak to be a little more like chewing gum, you'll enjoy their steak, so how they think they're a steakhouse is beyond me! The chicken however wasn't all that bad with a lighter batter and you can never go wrong with a little edamame.

If you want some decent sushi, stick to places like; Saji Ya on Grand Ave., Asia Bistro in Woodbury, Kyoto Sushi in Eagan or Seven Sushi & Steakhouse in downtown Minneapolis. If rotten fish is your thing, have fun at Kami and maybe you'll want to try a place like Sushi Tango in Woodbury and elsewhere or Osaka Sushi in Richfield.

I know I've been so hard on you, and these are definitely not lies and I don't need any wishes to wipe the tears from eyes for how terrible this place really was! :) I have a feeling this place is going to remain unchanged, so I'm just going to take Ozzy's advice and close my eyes and forget about this place...

October 28, 2012

Take Me To The River...

"...Drop me in the water." Wait - wait - wait! I would prefer to not be dropped in the water, but I would like to be dropped off at a front door and not just any front door, the front door of a place called Copper River Fish & Chop House. Oh, and it's a pretty nice front door too!

Settled in the heart of the vast expanding Lakeville, MN lies one of the most uniquely designed restaurants I've had the privilege of visiting and the food they're serving is just as unique. I'm all about the food, but I have to mention how amazing this place looked first, because it's not too often that a restaurant actually takes the time to make their establishment look as amazing as Copper River's was. Beautiful wood walls, wood structural beams, wall of windows leading out to an enormous patio with fire pit and simply gorgeous!

On to the food... We started our evening with an order of Crab & Bacon Hush Puppies that are served with a jalapeno, honey and a hint of cilantro aioli sauce that was easily the best I've ever had and our server Jessica was kind enough to send some home with my wife and I. Yep, it was that good! I asked her what they served with their fish items and she replied, "a standard tarted sauce" and my response... "Throw it away and use this instead!"

Copper River's menu has plenty to offer all walks of life, but two stood out to my wife and I the most. My wife went with a Pumpkin Seed Crusted Sockeye Salmon with Butternut Squash Bisque and Granny Smith Apple Slaw. WOW! Easily one of the best meals either of us have ever had, period. I even made the comment that it compared to some of the outstanding food creations we've had traveling to resorts out of the country and my wife said, "It's better!" and I would have to agree.  I'm not big on slaw, but this was some awesome slaw and the same can be said for butternut squash. I tend to stay away from it, but the combination of the entire dish was ridiculous and thankfully it's not a crime to have food this good.

I decided to go with the Lobster Pot Pie that also included; bacon, onions, celery, carrot, peas with lobster cream and puffed pastry. This thing measured about 6 to 7 inches wide by about 4 inches high and man was this pot pie delicious! Perfect golden brown pastry crust with an amazing tasty filling that you have to try. Think I finished it? If your answer was yes, you'd be right!

Copper River Fish & Chop House is doing it right and my wife and I will be adding this to our list of favorites and will definitely be stopping back for some more. You need to plan to make a trip to Copper River, trust me, you'll thank me when you're finished with your meal. Copper River priced themselves to please pretty much everyone and I as the old saying goes, "You get what you pay for." So if you wanna make plans to go to Red Lobster for a "good meal", well...... I think you get my drift! :)

Did I get that annoying dancing fish song stuck in your head now? Well, you can thank the Talking Heads and As Seen On TV for that mistake of a song. There's just one last thing you need to do and that's to grab that dancing fish you wasted your money on, throw it in the garbage and head down to Copper River Fish & Chop House and spend your money the right way. Take Me To The River! :)

Copper River Fish & Chop House
17516 Dodd Blvd.
Lakeville, Minnesota 55044

October 21, 2012

Grease is in the heart, Ah-ah-ah-ah

"... No I wouldn't ask for another - I,I,I,I,I,I, No I wouldn't ask for another..." Oh Dee-Lite... while you might be enjoyable to listen to and having people busting out their dancing shoes, Dugarel's Burger's & Wings wasn't much of a delight and man was the food greasy.

Granted, this place is a sports bar and you should expect just that, but your food shouldn't be swimming in grease! While my wife and I have been to what is better known as Duggie's for beers and apps with friends and family before, this was our first time actually sitting down to have one of their actual entree's.

My wife decided to tackle their Baked Ziti with the typical ingredients of onions, peppers, marinara, mozz and sausage than baked. Sounds good and it wasn't half bad, however we both agreed that is was a little greasy for pasta. I decided to go with their Philly and when it arrived, it actually looked like it was going to be really enjoyable and then I picked up a half. What did I find? A sandwich that had been swimming in grease and although I ate my sandwich because the meat actually was pretty tasty, I could hear myself getting fatter and ready for the gym.

Sometimes I feel like sports bars just don't care about serving quality food and it's not that hard, you just have to find quality ingredients and learn how to actually cook properly. I'll even help you out... you don't have to use large quantities of fatty oils and butter with everything you plan on cooking on a flat top or in a pan and sometimes a little can go a long way. Screw it, I'll give you another helpful tip... If you're using a deep frier, let the food sit in the basket and let all that oil drip off before just plopping whatever it is into a basket. I want to taste the food, not the grease!

Not everything is terrible at Duggie's... They actually have some pretty good tasting wings and their onion rings are a nice sweet onion with a light batter, but again need to sit in the basket a little longer. If you want to see more about those items, visit my Flying Buffalo's? blog. No "I wouldn't ask for another" entree at Dugarel's and definitely had "Satisfaction when we were done...". Better bring your favorite heartburn and indigestion medicine with you if you plan on stopping by for a grease pie!

I Love You Woolley's Wo-Wo-Woolley's!

Make it, serve it Woolley's Woolley's... Don't stop cookin' 'cause I feel alright now... Wait a second, how did Billy Idol get involved with food? Well, the answer my friends is because I'm just that clever and I thank this 80's rock star for his catchy tune and inspiration.

Please don't stop cookin', because it's places like these that I tell everyone they need to try at least once in their lifetime. What is that exactly? A fine dining restaurant, that yes is on the expensive side, but worth it. You're actually getting what you're paying for and that's some of the finest, well made and elegantly presented food that you won't find at some chain restaurant made by a line cook, but rather an experienced chef. In fact, I would even say some chefs need to be reeducated on how to make food after going to places like Crave, which also has a higher priced menu, but nothing like Woolley's!

So what would I recommend? That's simple... EVERYTHING! No I didn't try everything on the menu, but the few things that my wife and I did were amazing and I have no doubt the rest of the menu would follow suit. This was our first time at Woolley's and it's definitely a place that we would return to for a special occasion or anniversary. Lets face it, we're just a modest living couple and unfortunately, we're unable to eat out at these excellent places all the time, but when we do, we go all in!

Okey okey, I'll get to the food... :) My wife went with the Woolley's Filet which she Oscared and included your choice of potato(she went with fingerlings) and asparagus. If you can use a fork to cut through you filet like it was butter and it melts in your mouth just the same, than you have yourself one amazing cut of beef. To make things that much better, their creamy crab Oscar was the "icing on the ca... - beef".

I decide to go with their Top Sirloin and chose their scalloped potatoes which were very creamy with just the right amount of crispy edges. Not quite as tender as a fillet, I could still cut this thing like it was and their onion and mushroom medley topping that came with my steak was the perfect combination. Lucky for me, it was also lobster tail night and of course I had to add a tail on to my dinner and it was cooked exactly how it should be, flaky and delicious, not rubbery and fishy!

We're not done yet! You have to try their salad bar... Really, the salad bar? Yes, the salad bar! But they're all the same... No, no they're not! Too many places have disgusting looking lettuce that's brown and looks like it had been out all day and the bar itself looks like a bomb went off and a complete mess. A lot of places also provide some kind of bland and boring cold pasta of some kind as well... Not here! Everything looked fresh and well maintained the way it should be and while I would have added a little more seasoning to their minestrone, it was still really good. The thing that surprised me the most was their potato salad. I've had so many variations of potato salad with plenty of them needing to be thrown away that after tasting Woolley's creation, I had to ask the server if I could get the recipe. There was just something about it that my wife and I couldn't figure out, but damn was it good and I even told my wife it was easily my favorite.

We finished the night off with their Berry Crisp that was a combination of fresh berries, ice cream and their homemade whip which was of course was creamy and yummy. I'm not big on dishes like these, but my wife is and she sure liked it and yes, I did have a few bites and I would recommend it for sure. Woolley's isn't going to have you "feel like a pony", but they may have you "feeling alright" and singing ... Hey, hey what do ya' say, I got STUFFED! :)

Woolley's Steakhouse & American Eatery
(Inside Embassy Suites)
7901 34th Ave. So.
Bloomington, MN 55425

October 14, 2012

Che - e - e-e-e-e-ry Berry!

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons didn't sing those lyrics... Wait did they? No, no they didn't, but I enjoy changing song lyrics for my food blogging pleasure. So what is Frankie helping me with? It's Cherry Berry, the new yogurt bar craze and they're popping up all over the Twin Cities.

It all starts when you walk through the front door and you see a wall of yogurt machines like a row of tap handles behind your favorite local drinking hole, but this liquid won't inebriate you and require a sober cab to get home. Instead, you'll be enjoying some delicious yogurt with the majority of their flavors being fat-free or low-fat with some others being reduces fat.

With well over 30 flavors to choose from and changing periodically, there are plenty of choices, it's just a matter of what you're in the mood for. It was mine and my wife's first visit and we went with a combination of flavors and toppings reaching over 30 different options as well. I went with chilly vanilly, chocolate and cookie monster and added one of my favorite toppings, Reece's peanut butter cup. My wife went with sea salt carmel pretzel and cookie monster and her toppings were assorted nuts, Butterfingers and these things called strawberry popping bobas which are little balls of flavor explosion popping in your mouth and they're really good.

So you're all done picking your flavors and choosing your options, time to enjoy. First you have to pay for your yogurt creation and that's where it gets interesting... You simply pay per oz. and at the Eagan location, that's $0.45/oz. and you can easily fill your cup for around $4.00 - $4.50 and I'd say that's a pretty inexpensive and healthy option.

So kids, as Frankie would say, "You-oo-ooh better ask your mama..." and "Tell her everything is all right..." because you're asking for a healthy snack this time and not some junk food she wished you never found! :)

Visit Cherry Berry Yogurt Bar to find a location near you.

Casper is a friendly ghost, but...

Casper might be the "friendliest ghost you know", but I think he may have an evil twin lurking around the Lone Oak Grill that isn't as friendly, unless of course you enjoy setting your insides on fire for fun. We'll get to that in a moment, but first as you may have figured out, the Lone Oak Grill is quickly becoming my go-to place for great food, beer choices and some of the best service you'll ever experience.

After my wife and I stopped by the first time and loving every last bite and enjoying the awesome service, we knew we wanted to go back to try some more items on the menu and of course, we did! In fact we stopped back twice since our last experience so there's plenty to share with you and explain why Casper has anything to do with eating delicious food.

As I mentioned we made a couple of visits, so lets start with trip number two. My wife and I ordered their Custom Mac N' Cheese and added in their house smoked chicken and onions along with the Slider Flight that included their smoked chicken, pulled pork and brisket. We also had some adult beverages to accompany our dinner and tried a new brew blend of New Belgium Tart Lychee and Angry Orchard Cider... D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!

So how was the mac and sliders? Amazing! The mac was cheesy and loaded with flavor from the smoked chicken and the onions were a nice and mild sweet flavor. Add a little salt and pepper and it was an awesome dish and worth trying. You also have other options for your mac creation like; crab, bacon, pulled pork, brisket, lobster, house made chili, wild mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, asparagus, roasted red peppers and jalapenos. If you're willing to go for it ask your server for the money mac (not on the menu), but is their Custom Mac N' Cheese with EVERYTHING added... Yes please!

On to the sliders... Although not marketed as a BBQ pit, their smoked meats could easily take down some of those BBQ establishments around town with ease. The meat has some great flavor and very moist and tender, something even some BBQ pits have a hard time mastering and that's just wrong. Best part of visit number two, our food was delivered by one of the head chefs and he was very thankful for the kind words my wife and I had for their staff our first visit, What's your favorite tree?.

Visit number three came just a day later when my wife and I met up with some friends and their family after finishing a cancer walk for the National Kidney Foundation. Quick background for you, our friend we were meeting received a kidney from his amazing brother so he could continue living his life to the fullest. Yep, truly amazing! Everyone in our group was asking what to order and we of course shared our favorites. Not one person was unhappy and a couple of them were hooked themselves and looking forward to making another trip back to try something else on the menu.

Here's where Casper decided to show his unfriendly side. One of our guests decided he was going to attempt to take down the Ghost Pepper Juicy and knew nothing about one of the worlds hottest peppers that can hit 1 million units on the Scoville scale. As the waitress drops it off, she says, "who's the brave one attempting this thing?" You had to be there to see his face and response, "Is there something I need to know before eating this thing?", while he's already starting to take bites and the sweat starts to bead on his forehead. After explaining to him what he has just ordered, he continued with caution and only taking down half his juicy. "Well, now you know!" I said as everyone continues to laugh... :)

I thought lunch was over... NOPE! "Hey Nick, you should try it so you can blog about it." A smart person would have said no, server, please take this thing away... Not this guy! "Yeah, sure, why not!" So I was an idiot and took a nice big bite and I gotta say, a ghost peppers raw flavor is actually really good like a lot of other peppers that don't cause harm to your insides. However, the enjoyment of flavor only lasts a couple of seconds before Casper rears his ugly face, stops playing with kids and sets your lips, mouth and internal organs on fire. MILK PLEASE! Then, out of no where, my wife takes a stab at it which surprised me and like me, went for the milk immediately.

Thanks Casper for being so nice to kids all these years, but did you really have to possess a pepper? If you're brave enough, take a stab at it, the flavor before the heat like I mention earlier is actual really good and I think a glass of milk should come with every order, just in case... Think that's the hottest thing out there? You're wrong and hopefully the talented chefs at Lone Oak don't get their hands on the Trinidad Scorpion chili pepper which can reach 2 million units on the Scoville scale. There are actually people who enjoy the heat and if that's not hot enough for you, the new police issued defense spray hits the Scoville scale at a whopping 5.3 million units...I dare you to put something so close to pure capsaicin on your food, but I think I'll pass!

To wrap things up, the Lone Oak Grill is doing things right even with it's resident ghost. Keep an eye out for their new menu set to be released next month with a couple of new items on it and a couple taken off. One that caught my attention, a ground-pulled pork juicy... I mean really, doesn't that just sound delicious? I think so too! :)

Lone Oak Grill
3010 Eagandale Place
Eagan, MN 55121

October 12, 2012

Me encanta papas fritas francés!

A Spanish title.... it has to be about Mexican food.... You're on to me! Question now is, have you Google Translated the title yet? It’s true, I love French fries (you Google searcher) and my point is, should a Mexican restaurant have French fries on their menu? I say no! That would be like your favorite sports bar serving empanadas instead of fries, chips or the new trend in sides, tots.

While running errands, my wife and I decided to use one of our Metro Dining Club Cards and take a stab at a new Mexican restaurant, Las Tortillas located in Rosemount which opened its doors in May of 2011 and priding themselves in serving fresh house-made tortillas, seasonal Mexican fair and true classics. This was our first time stopping by and while waiting to be sat, we were told by a couple at the bar, “Don’t get the nachos!” Not the best way to start our new dining experience…

Curious, we asked if this was their first time and they replied with a quick, “YES!” and continued with, “We’ve been spoiled by one of our favorite places near our camping grounds in Waseca, El Molino’s.” Looking at the plate, I was thinking they looked pretty good, but then spotted the ultimate no-no when making a great restaurant quality nacho… You NEVER use nacho cheese from your favorite sporting event dispenser – PERIOD! You’re a Mexican restaurant with chiwawa or queso cheese and you’re using the dispenser style nacho cheese? No thanks!

For such a small place, we didn’t have to wait long at all and enjoyed a beverage while we waited as well, you kind of have to…  Once we were sat, we were greeted with chips and salsa and the salsa was pretty darn good and my wife pointed out a nice corn flavor that hits you at first bite and I really liked it and the chips were pretty good as well, but not our favorite. En las comidas!

I decided to go with the jumbo burrito filled with; cilantro lime rice (which had very little lime and not a lot of cilantro), black beans, sour cream (didn’t really taste it), Pico de Gallo and Oaxaca cheese with your option of dispenser nacho cheese or queso cheese melted on the top… Really? Of course I went with queso! It was quite large and pretty good, but más sabor por favor! My wife decided to go with the taco trio combo that included one of each; braised chicken, carnita pork and beef pastor. Her meal also came with cilantro lime rice or Mexican rice (she chose cilantro lime rice), refried or black beans (she chose refried) and all the usual taco fixings. The rice again had zero lime and cilantro flavor and the beef pastor was not the greatest and neither of us really wanted to eat it. The chicken and pork on the other hand had pretty good flavor, but the house made tortillas were nothing to brag about.

September 29, 2012

What's Your Favorite Tree?

"Why am I being asked what my favorite tree is when I'm suppose to be reading about food?" Was that a question running through your head? Don't worry, I'm leading you down a path to some delicious food...... Just through a forest first, that's all!

So what is your favorite tree? Birch, pine, maple? Maybe it's an apple, orange or peach tree... Whatever it might be, I think I may have found my new favorite and quite possibly could be yours, however that's if you're willing to give it a try!

While you're wondering through said forest, a.k.a. 35E in Eagan, you'll come across the Lone Oak Grill. Yep, your new favorite tree just might be a lone oak that sits just off the highway and it's not just there to be watered daily, it's there to serve you some delicious food and indeed it is! Taking over what was formerly the defunct Joe Senser's, the Lone Oak Grill opened a little more than a month ago with a brand new remodel of the entire space and the place looks amazing. In fact they had to overhaul the entire kitchen thanks to the lack of cleaning by Joe Senser's and the patio is enormous with fire pits to keep you warm on those cool seasonal nights. Oh! How bout' some bocce ball while you're there? 2 full size bocce fields for your pleasure!

Time to talk about the food! After ordering up my favorite brew, House of Shandy - Curious Traveler (already a positive experience), my wife and I took to the menu to figure out what we would like to have for dinner. The exceptional service from the wait staff was explaining how they make things in house, fresh daily and explained to us what some of his favorites were, starting with their smoked meats. My mouth started to water and than I saw it... A list of juicy's! :) What to order?

We started with an order of their wings, extra crispy with their homemade tangy sauce which was amazing and if you want to see how it compared to the others we've blogged about, visit Flying Buffalo'? to see how Lone Oak Grill's ranked. Wondering what we ordered yet? I'm sure you can guess it... Yes, I went with a juicy, but I had to and it had everything that I'm looking for in a juicy. You can see it's ranking at the Juicy Lucy Challenge, lets just say it was awesome for now.

My wife went with the special for the night which was the pesto chicken pasta. Most places have no idea how to make something so simple, but the Lone Oak Grill sure did and they should because the owners also own Trattoria Da Vinci in St. Paul which is one of our favorite Italian restaurants and a must try. It was the perfect combo of garlic, basil, spices and the chicken was from their smoker. Pesto chicken pasta with smoked chicken? Oh yes and if you see it as a special and you like pastas, order it!

The Lone Oak Grill is definitely a place to stop by and we'll be back soon to try their smoked treats, custom mac n' cheese and sandwiches. Exceptional service, management, space, food and value! With that combination, their bound to be successful and I have no doubt they will be. They did an amazing job on the renovations, mixing elegance and modern that will make you feel comfortable and if you get a little chilly, take a seat on the couch in front their custom made fire place.

While you're there, say hi to their management team, specifically Paul and ask to be seated in server Brian's section and if you want some guests for the evening, my wife and I would be happy to join you! :)

Lone Oak Grill
3010 Eagandale Place
Eagan, MN 55121

September 12, 2012

No "Redneck Yacht Club" at this lake!

Sure there might be a place on the lake that only a few folks know and if you ask country singer, Craig Morgan, he may actually let you know about said place, but odds are you and Craig aren’t friends. Instead, I’m going to send you to a place that lots of folks know and there are no; "bass-trackers, Bayliners or a party barge" that is serving up some delicious food.

The Lakes Tavern & Grill in Woodbury, MN may not have a place for you to anchor your gem of a boat, but this no-wake zone has plenty of room for your automobile and I recommend you make a trip to this Woodbury oasis for some food that will satisfy everyone’s appetite. It was my wife and I’s first trip to the Lakes Tavern & Grill and after reading over the menu a few things caught our attention and were a must order.

The first thing that caught our attention was a dish that we can thank our friends to the north for called poutine. We’ve always wanted to try it and figure it was a good time to take a stab at it. For those of you who have no clue what this delicacy is, I’m about to let you know! Start off with some French fries, season them and add in some cheese curds and delicious gravy pored all over, forming this fantastic, delicious, yummy, whatever you want to describe it as dish we know as poutine. Dear Canada (Quebec to be exact)… Thank you for providing the world with something so ridiculous and yet so AWESOME!

Lets move on to some of the other items we chose to try, flatbread pizza and their take on a comfort food classic, mac n’ cheese. My wife wanted to try the Lakes flatbread which consists of roasted garlic olive oil, artichoke hearts, prosciutto ham, mozzarella, Roma tomatoes and topped with fresh basil. If that sounds like the worst thing you’ve ever heard of, it’s time for you to broaden your horizons because this stuff is fantastic. My wife and I were comparing it some of the other places we tend to get our flatbreads from like Punch Pizza. While I thought the Lakes flatbread was a better product, she leaned more towards Punch being better. They’re completely different and BOTH excellent options.

We’re on to my favorite comfort food, mac n’ cheese! Made with a white wine sauce and loaded with cheese, tossed with cavatappi noodles and finished off with toasted bread crumbs. WHAT!? It sounds good and even better… it tastes great! You can add shrimp or blackened shrimp for an additional three bucks or a number of other ingredients for just a dollar more and we decided to add in some chicken. Go ahead and add whatever you want and make this classic mac n’ cheese your very own creation.

There may not be "astroturf, lawn chairs and tiki torches", but everyone is welcome, not just the regular Joes and I’m on board for stopping back to try some of their other tasty sounding treats like; the Lakes nachos with their signature wanton chips (are you kidding me? :) ), crab cake sliders, their other flatbreads, braised short ribs in a maple beer sauce (making my mouth water just thinking about it), rotisserie chicken with a cool cilantro mint crème sauce and maybe a burger or two. So…. What are you waiting for? Get off the real lake you’re on and head to Lakes Tavern & Grill…. Your SPF15 can wait for another sunny day!

Lakes Tavern & Grill 
9240 Hudson Road
Woodbury MN 55125

August 26, 2012

Let Me See That Sushi Roll!

...I don't know what you've been told It ain't the butterfly it's the "Sushi" roll..., so grab a partner and get to Kyoto... 

Did I just reference a song from the 69 Boys? I sure did! There might not be any cotton candy and sweet and low, but there's plenty of sushi, maki and a hand roll. I mean really, rapping isn't that hard, I just made a rhyme out of an Asian delicacy that my wife and I thoroughly enjoy and we found a place that is serving some amazing and delicious treats.

Located in Eagan, Kyoto Sushi & Hibachi is that said place! Okay so consuming raw fish isn't every ones cup of saki, but it's oh so yummy and I'll let you know about their cooked food menu as well, but I'm starting with the the delicacy first. It all starts with having great sushi chefs that know what they're doing behind the counter and there are plenty of chefs out there that DON'T, thankfully, Kyoto did their homework and found the good ones! To me, it's an art form that takes time to perfect, because it's the cutting of the fillet that makes a difference.

Alight... It's time to share with you some of my favorites and recommendations and for your current sushi lovers, maybe you'll be trying something new. As for you novice or on the fence folks, what I'm about to describe may help you out with being more adventurist with your selections or get you to go for it and try some delicious raw fish.

For you novice and starters:
NOTE: These rolls have NO raw fish.
  • Kyoto Roll
  • Crazy Roll
  • Snow Mountain Roll
  • California Roll
  • Cucumber Roll
  • Crab Roll
  • and some additional options as well...
If you want to get a little more daring, these would be the BEST to start with as they have VERY little to zero fishy taste which can scare some folks away:
  • Rolls that include salmon
  • Rolls that include white tuna
  • Spicy salmon roll
  • Spicy tuna roll
  • Sushi(slice of fish atop rice); white tuna, yellow tail and salmon. Your best bet is white tuna, it's like butter! A very soft fish that just melts in your mouth like butter...
For the rest of you who have had sushi, but tend to stick to a couple rolls because you feel safe with them, it's time to step out of your comfort zone and just start trying it all. What I would stay away from is; anything roe(tobiko), mackerel, eel(unagi) and squid or octopus. Other than those few not so good cuts from sea life, I'd say just go for it and try something different!

If you're one of those who just says, "No way!" to eating raw fish, don't worry, their cooked food is tremendous as well. Their fried rice is really good in all the different options they have to offer as well as their udon noodle options. If you like fried things; go for their shrimp tempura, items from their deep fried list and their teriyaki items. They also have the Hibachi live grill cooking which is always an exciting experience and the food of course is cooked.

I hope you'll be able to enjoy sushi as much as I do and I hope that these few tips will help you either, get over your second guessing or provide you with some additional options. If when you finish eating you fell like a "whoop is coming on"? You can blame the 69 Boys for their "brand new dance for the 1991" one-hit-wonder. For you old timers that have no clue who the 69 boys are, enjoy this wonderful video to educate you. :)

Kyoto Sushi & Hibachi
1250 Town Centre Dr.
Eagan, MN 55123

August 22, 2012

Hey "Mickey's" You're So Fine, You're So Fine......

The rest of that title should be "....You Blow my Mind!", however I wasn't completely blown away by Mickey's Diner, the stapled 24 hour diner car in downtown St. Paul. My wife and I stopped by the morning after our wedding reception after always wanting to stop by and try things for ourselves AND because so many people tell you, "you have to go, it's amazing."

I wouldn't use the word "amazing", but I would use the phrase, "it's okay!" We split a ham n' cheese omelet, hash browns, toast and some bacon. The omelet wasn't the worst thing, but I'll stick with my little hole-in-the-wall, T & T Galley in South St. Paul for my omelets. I mean, where's the cheese Mickey's? The hash browns were cut fresh, but if you really want some "Amazing!" hash browns, check out the New Louisiana Cafe on Selby & Dale Street. Easily the best hash browns in the Twin Cities hands down.

Everything else is just filler and lets just be honest here... do we really have to talk about toast and bacon? Bacon is bacon and toast is toast! Staple it may be, I must say... If you're going to hype something up folks, you gotta have something to back it. So if you're hoping to please your heart and tummy with an "amazing" meal from Mickey's Diner, you might be finishing the same way Tony Basil did... "...Ooh what you do "Mickey's", do "Mickey's", Don't break my heart,"Mickey's!"

Thank you Tony basil for that inspirational song and thank you to everyone who told me, you have to stop by Mickey's Diner... Now I know where I WON'T go to get a good breakfast.

July 27, 2012

I just Wanna "Banger" On Your Drum All Day!

I don't want no candy, I don't need no toy, I took a stick and an old coffee can, I bang on that thing 'til I got blisters on my hand... Oh Todd Rundgren, you may not be Irish and this song has nothing to do with the Irish culture, but you inspired me to do it any ways...

Irish pubs are all over the Twin Cities and I've been to a good chunk of them, however I found one that is easily my favorite and I'm sure glad that former Mn. Twin Jamie Ogden and his brothers were kind enough to open the Manitou Station in White Bear Lake. A solid restaurant starts with a good kitchen, friendly staff and management that everyone likes, respects and keeps things running and that is exactly what Manitou Station has! It also starts with having some good friends that keep telling you to try it and finally do. Now the question is..... Where to start?

Lets start with my clever word replacement "Bangers". A traditional Irish dish of chargrilled banger sausage over mashed taters and a ladle, yes ladle of delicious onion gravy. Sounds really simple, but it's ooooooh so good! My wife ordered up the beef & Guinness stew, served around a pile of mashed taters. For those of you who think beef stew is amazing somewhere else, you haven't had the opportunity of trying Manitou's and it's easily at the top of my lifetime meals list. 

Our friends ordered up an avocado cheddar ranch chicken sandwich which looked awesome, but I didn't get to try it and the Scotch egg burger. What the heck is a Scotch egg burger? Simply THE very best burger you'll ever have! Starts with a 50/50 blend of Manitou's very own recipe of beef and pork (which alone is enough to make it the best), some sauteed onions, spicy mustard and topped with a fried egg (get it over easy). Manitou's very own words.... "One of a kind and delicious". What an understatement!

You can't leave Manitou Station without starting your meal off with some Scotch eggs for an appetizer or if you'd like, make it a dessert. Again, what the heck are Scotch eggs? Take hard boiled eggs and coat it with a secret blend of Manitou Station amazingness (made up words are fun) that starts with pork sausage and spices of course, deep fry them and serve! WHAT!? If it sounds bad, that's fine, but throw it aside and visit Manitou Station and try them for yourself. Easily the BEST appetizer I've ever had and if I was ever on a diet, I would always say yes to anyone offering up these bad boys...

Great company! Great service! OUTSTANDING FOOD and I really wish I didn't have to go to work Mr. Rundgren because I can't wait to try some of the other items on the menu. Just listen to the names of these dishes... Authentic Shepherds Pie with lamb, Killybegs Fish Pie (mix of shrimp, salmon, whitefish and mashed taters in a sherry white sauce and topped with cheddar cheese than baked)... I mean really, how does that not sound delicious?

What are you waiting for? Stop banging your drum and head to Manitou Station!

Manitou Station
2171 4th Street
White Bear Lake, MN 55110

July 21, 2012

For Whoever Is Lonely There Is A Tavern!

...And apparently the east metro was very lonely on a Friday night when my wife and I chose to meet up with some good friends for dinner and drinks and looking to try something new. That new place was The Tavern Grill in Woodbury and the place was packed which is a good thing compared to the establishment that stood before them...

Taking over the defunct Aperitif, I have a feeling that The Tavern Grill is sticking around with the volume of people that they had on just one night. Can the food really be that good? That my friends is about to be answered....

YES, yes it is that good and so good that I'm looking forward to heading back there to try something new on the menu. Our group of four adults and two children ordered the following meals; Our friends ordered the fish tacos and meat loaf while my wife and I ordered the baked sgetti and Philly. Lets break each meal down shall we...

Home Style Grilled Meatloaf - Full of flavor, tender and moist! I would however shy away from adding so much ketchup as the meatloaf itself is good enough by itself.

Baked Spaghetti - A large portion of sgetti with pepperoni, sausage and loads of mozz that had better flavor than some of the local Italian restaurants and it's coming from a place call the Tavern Grill.

Philly - While I personally love my Philly to have shredded red meat, this was still a Philly packed with deliciousness! Most places make their Philly with grilled onions and red or green peppers, but at the Tavern Grill, their doing something different and adding sweet banana peppers instead. The addition of their special cheese sauce and a grilled baguette made this one heck of a Philly!

Fish Tacos - While I didn't taste these, they did look delicious. BIG chunks of cod fillets, shredded cabbage, chili lime sour cream (yum) and citrus salsa, yeah I would try those...

The Tavern Grill is definitely serving up some delicious grub and I can't wait to head back to try some of the other dishes on the menu. You may be wondering about the sides, well my friends, I'll just say this... Make sure you get the loaded mashed, yes mashed, not a baked tater! Usually I take a bite of something for the first time and if it's good, I'll let you know immediately, but this time it came from my wife after she tried the loaded mashed... "Those are awesome!" Yes honey they are and they're alllllll mine..... I shared! :)

The Tavern Grill (3 locations)

July 7, 2012

A Safari In The City?

There is no need for a base camp with this safari or a large truck protecting you from a bunch of wild animals that want to have you for dinner, but this safari WILL provide you with some amazing African cuisine that will have you coming back for more and maybe even getting a chance to have an animal one takes pictures of on a real safari...

Safari Restaurant & Banquet Center and owner Sade (pronounced - saw dee) is an immigrant turned entrepreneur and providing said amazing African cuisine to a growing demand for ethnic food in the midtown neighborhood of Minneapolis. A good friend and food lover himself asked my wife and I to join him and his gal for our first time after trying to explain to me all about the amazing food he had from one of his clients, Safari's owner and that we needed to try it. We're always up for trying something new and exciting, so why not!?

After sitting down and getting an opportunity to meet Sade, he briefly described all the things he wanted us to try and as he explained everything in detail, my mouth started to water and I promptly said, "yes please!" With a giggle, he was heading back to the kitchen for our first dish and appetizer, Sambuza's. Small pastries filled with some of the best ground beef you'll ever get a chance of tasting and it was just the beginning dish...

What could possibly be better than what I just ate? Oh my Gnaw Blog friends, I'll provide you with the full details... How about a platter the size of your thanksgiving turkey platter that's piled high with delicious seasoned basmati rice than throw some curry chicken, roasted goat and seasoned beef in with it. Throw in some additional spices and veggies and you have yourself heaven on a platter... Sound good yet? It should! It's goat for heaven sakes...

One would think it's over after devouring such a delicious meal, but there was more. Yet another large dish piled high with a completely different seasoned basmati concoction which was probably the best rice I've ever had with an aroma of cloves, all-spice and cinnamon with curry roasted goat and marinated basbaas tilapia. How does it sound now?

As we prepared to head out, Sade came by to say thank you for stopping by and to let us know he would have served us camel had he had any in stock.... Did he just say camel? Yep! We were invited back to not only try the camel, but also to experiment in the test kitchen and make an African juicy. What would an African juicy involve, well... that my friends is; lean camel meat filled with goat cheese and cilantro! I found a new friend as did Sade and I can't wait to try his camel and play chef.

The Safari is simply divine and serving some of the finest food I've ever had the pleasure of eating. I'm extremely excited about going back for more and glad my friend had us join him and his gal for an awesome African lunch date, a three hour lunch date at that and well worth it. I know some of you may have a closed mind and won't even consider trying this great food, that's fine, more for me, but for those who are open to trying new foods, I'll meet you at 4th Ave. and Lake street anytime!

Safari Restaurant & Banquet Center
3010 4th Ave. South
Minneapolis, MN 55408

July 1, 2012

Stop By, I Say Stop By Rooster's Boy!

Thank you Foghat Leghorn for all those years of great one liners, but your cousin just became one heck of a delicious meal and I say, I say it was delicious! Owner Richard G., a fellow South St. Paulite is cooking up some excellent BBQ fair along with some great broasted chicken and as I was told, is the very best fried chicken you'll find. Is it the best? I'm not so certain quite yet and I'll explain why in a moment...

I'm leading off with their pulled pork and man was it good. Moist? Yep! Tender? Yep! Going back for more? YEP! I can't quite figure out how these chain places are staying in business, because they got nothing on places like Rooster's. The sauce alone is worth the trip; a little sweet, a little heat and a little smokey flavor makes this one of the top sauces I've ever had. At one point time I even told my wife I was going to drink it. "Just finish it off with your fries" she said, so I did!

"The best fried chicken!" Something I heard by several people, but I'm not so sure about that quite yet... It's been a few years sense I've had the broasted fried chicken at the North St. Paul Pizza Factory, but at one point time I was having it every week or weekend because it was simply that good. So to make this a fair match, I plan on stopping back to visit owner and friend, Cal Ahlquist and having a piece of the family recipe and THAN deciding on who's the best.

I've had BBQ all over the Twin Cities and all over the country and I can honestly say that Rooster's is a legit player and easily worth the stop. With only a couple tables available to eat at in house, I recommend just calling in your order and picking it up on your way home from work some weeknight. I'm looking forward to heading back for the ribs and wings, and stay tuned to find out who really has the best broasted fried chicken. :) Even if the North St. Paul Pizza Factory is exactly what I remember, Rooster's, I say Rooster's should be damn proud to take 2nd place! :)

Trip to Cal's completed and I have made my conclusion... In first place is the broasted chicken from Cal's Pizza Factory and in 1.1 place (yes that's a place) is Rooster's! They each bring something awesome to the table for their patrons and it was a close one. Basically, you won't go wrong with either one of these great options...

June 24, 2012

"The Best Part Of Waking Up..."

The best part of waking up is suppose to be Folgers in your cup, but I'm not a coffee drinker and a lot of us are not. The best part of my morning is a hearty breakfast which usually comes on the weekends because there's just not enough time during the weekdays before heading out to work. I do however get a healthy bowl of peanut butter Captain Crunch in me during the week instead and yes that's a kids cereal, and yes, that's me being a big kid!

Since my weekends tend to be the time when I can get out with my wife to try a hardy and well made breakfast, I'm going to guess it's probably the same for the majority of us and often times follow Sunday worship or a way to cure the hangover... Which one do you fall under? :) My wife and I have ate at great places all over the metro serving delicious breakfast food and I'm about to share with you some places doing it best.

We're going to start with a local favorite of mine, T & T Galley. For as long as I can remember, I've been stopping by periodically and having my favorite morning meal; a ham & cheese omelet with hash browns and toast. Their omelet is one of my all-time favorites and filled with just the right amount of ham and loaded with cheese and the hash browns are a good side. This little hole-in-the-wall in the heart of So. St. Paul is a staple and always packed on any given weekend morning.

Lets head north a few miles to the corner of Selby Ave. & Dale St. You'll find the #1 place for hash browns at The New Louisiana Cafe and some other delicious meals as well, but it's the hash browns that draw my wife and I there. I have been told that I have to stop back just to try the Tex-Mex and after reading the description... I'm game! I can't stress it enough though... The hash browns are the best!

Lets move west into downtown Minneapolis to a place called, Hell's Kitchen. Easily one of the greatest meals I've ever had and that includes all three meals of the day and it's called, the Huevos Rancheros. A crisp flour tortilla with buttery hash browns, spicy black beans, soft-scrambled eggs and a 3-cheese topping, all baked to a golden brown. Topped with hand-chopped salsa and a dollop of sour cream. Sounds a little bit like the Tex-Mex at Louisiana, but it may have a hard time competing with this one, it was simply awesome! While you're there, try their home made mustard, ketchup and everything else they make!

We're going to finish at a place we've visited for deli sandwiches and serving us lucky ones quite possibly the best pastrami and corned beef in the Twin Cities. You may remember my DelicaYESsen! post, but Cecils Deli is also serving some delicious breakfast. Their pastrami omelet was amazing and the corned beef and hash was darn good as well. I'm not going to say it's the best quite yet, because I've seen homemade hash plenty of other places and I need to taste those as well. Plus, their hash browns have no chance against Louisiana Cafe's hash browns.

So which place are you going to be stopping by first? If I could, I would make it easy for you and open a place called, The T&TLouiHellsDeli and have just the things that make my tummy happy. One king size meal special that gives you; half a ham & cheese omelet from T&T, Louisiana's hash browns, Hell's Kitchens Huevos Rancheros and half of Cecils pastrami omelet. I would of course add a side of toast and blackberry jelly, because it's my favorite, but you can ask for another flavor if you'd like to! When a cup of coffee won't do the trick, go a head and try one of these great places for an awesome breakfast.

June 5, 2012

What's in your garage?

To answer the question, what's in your garage? Most people will say things like; a car, my boat, the lawn mower, tools and a bunch of junk you would probably like to throw away... At Joe's Garage in the Loring Park neighborhood, you'll find the exact opposite, even though the flower boxes are made from recycled pickup truck tool boxes surrounding the quite large roof top patio with a scenic view of the Basilica of St. Mary and the downtown skyline.

Founder, Joe Kaplan, is out to "recreate American food!" and it sounds like he's doing a great job at it. Take one look at his menu and you'll see all sorts of weird combinations of typical American food. Burgers with ingredient combinations not found on a burger, Entree's that can make your mouth water just reading about them, Pastas you haven't seen before and App choices like; blue cheese nachos, smoked liver pate, lamb meatballs... Lamb meatballs? Yes please!

My wife and I stopped by for the first time and ordered the mac n' cheese with aged cheddar, asiago & blue cheese with Mn. apple smoked bacon & sun dried tomato's along with the beef short ribs with garlic mashed and sauteed spinach (which my wife ate). Sound delicious to you so far? I saved the best for last and I can't wait to go back to try it.

How many places do you know in the Twin Cities serving up a mashed potato bar with all the fixings you would want to top your mashed potatoes with? One or two scoops to start, followed by a selection of veggies, sauces and finally meats. Sounds like the beginnings of a great meal that can be customized any way you'd like. Have you made your mind up about going to Joe's Garage yet? There's no custom hot rod, custom Harley or fansy cars and boats (well maybe at his personal garage), but you will find some great food.
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May 25, 2012

No Women, No about this BBQ!

The late Bob Marley really did have it right with one of his most famous hits and when you make a stop by Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque & Pirate Bar in Stillwater, MN, the only thing you'll be crying over is the moment when you've cleaned your plate spotless!

I've always wondered about places such as Smalley's who are serving up native culinary delights from other parts of the world. If someone has never been there, are you really just suppose to take the restaurants word? I've traveled to Jamaica twice in my life and yes my friends, this is one of those places where their word is definitely their bond. To get things rolling in the right direction owners, Tim M. & Josh T. are importing pimento wood straight from Jamaica which is key to the authenticity of their creations.

There isn't one thing on the menu that isn't worth trying, but if you really want the full Jamaican experience, be certain to order the grilled jerk chicken and rice. These boys are even creating their own sauces that reminded me as if I was back down in Montego Bay saying, "Ya Mon!" What else do you need to make your meal complete? A bunch of great side options that are mouthwatering down to the last bite, that's what. A side to keep in mind are their mashed sweet potatoes and come thanksgiving time I run from sweet potatoes like a lot of others do, but I wanted to, as our server also mentioned, is to take a bath in them. There THAT good!

IS that all? Not even close... How about we add in a great selection of beers, a dozen plus varieties of rum punch and finally, a rum menu that includes over 100 different varieties to choose from. I'll leave you with this my soon to be Jamaican food lovin' friends... Irie! (Look it up) :)

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Summertime Brews for Summertime Blues

Country singer Alan Jackson once said, "there ain't no cure for the summertime blues." Well he's somewhat right about that, but I may have a cure for you. In the last 5 or so years, we've seen a number of brewing companies fermenting beers and hitting store shelves that are all about summertime and quenching your thirst for a good brew. Okay fine... maybe Gatorade was the original thirst quencher, but we're talking about beer right now people!

I've decided to find 15 brews(but had to delete one after finding out it was to be a year-round brew) that are all about summertime and their only available during the summer season. What this means to a guy that enjoys a good summertime brew, is that I only have a short period of time to enjoy these hand crafted delights as do the rest of you. My point to all of this is to provide you, the reader, with enough info to make a decision on which brews you would like to try and come up with your favorites as well.

The top five beers will be stated first followed by the middle five brews I would suggest you take a stab at and finally the rest of the bunch. Every one's taste buds are completely different based on how non-hoppy or hoppy you like your beer, but the top five are really the ones that I feel you should approach first. Most of you will have probably had some of these and that's great, but for the rest of you, use this as a good guide to the summertime craft brew scene. If some of these are new to you, go ahead and attempt those brews first.... why not?

OKAY! Ready? Here we go... 

1. Leinenkugal Brewing Co., Summer Shandy - Easily one of the best beers produced by the Leinie's family, this summertime brew is by far one of my all time favorite beers in general. I even tend to buy this beer early and late in the season, it's THAT GOOD! It's the perfect refreshing brew for hot summer days, cool summer nights and always a good option when grilling. 

2. Bell's Brewing Co., Oberon - Like the brew from The House of Shandy, I was stopping by a pub to try a specific brew that was suppose to be on tap according to the companies website, but ended up tasting something else and was glad I had the chance to do so. Great aroma, great taste and the perfect wheaty-fruity-ale for the summer months and honestly for any month if you can find it past the season.

3. Blue Moon Brewing Co., Summer Honey Wheat - You're probably wondering why this honey brew made it and Leinie's Honey Weiss didn't, well that's because; 1. this is better and 2. This one is only available during summer. This brew has excellent aroma and great honey taste with a touch of citrus to top it all off.

4. 21st Century Amendment Brewery, Hell or High Watermelon - "Summer in a can!" Four words that describes this brew perfectly. This wheat beer is brewed with watermelon, yes watermelon. Did the watermelon catch you off guard? Yeah, me too! But this brew is a great option to have around for your summer grilling and tailgating gatherings.

5. Goose Island Brewery, Summertime -I think the folks at Goose Island said it best, "Color of sunshine,with fruity aroma and fruity acidity..." This Kolsch style summer brew is really a nice refreshing brew for the season.

6. Stevens Point Brewery, Nude Beach Summer Ale - Point Brewery is a newer brew for me, but they're making some excellent brews full of flavor. Nude Beach, besides it's cleaver name, is a great summer wheat brew with some nice zest, but also with a hint of berry. Nude Beach is definitely one to try. 

7. Sam Adams, Summer Ale - Like the typical ales being produced by the Sam Adams family, this brew has a hint of their traditional taste, but with some great lemon and wheat flavors as well. Although still refreshing, not one that I tend to order too many of.

8. New Belgium Brewing, Sunshine Wheat - Typically known for their ever so popular Fat Tire and other lines of pale ales, this wheat inspired beer has subtle flavors of coriander and orange peel, thus making it a pretty good refreshing brew for the summer. 

9. Deschutes Brewing Co., Twilight Summer Ale - Their website would suggest that this brew is perfect for the back porch for the long summer days, but one or two is all I need. It's lacking the citrus zing and aroma that I would expect for a summer brew, but is a lighter, full body brew with too many similarities to a pale ale.

10. Shocktop, Lemon Shandy - I'm sorry, but could you have been any less unoriginal? My wife seems to think that if she put this brew and Leinie's Summer Shandy in front of me and blind folded me, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference, however, I thought otherwise! Ever have a lemonade cookie from the Girl Scouts? The comparison for those who haven't, is that the sugary lemon frosting on the bottom tastes just like a Shocktop Lemon Shandy. Too sugary and to me, a failed attempt to try and copy Leinie's great brew.

11. Alaskan Brewing Co., Summer Ale - Unlike Sierra Nevada's attempt, this kolsch-style ale has a small hint of zest, but is still a hop filled ale that needs a little more refining. It's worth a try though...

12. Brooklyn Brewing Co., Summer Ale - If you would like a pale ale that tastes like the rest of the pale ales out there, then buy this one! A failed attempt at making a refreshing summer ale and not really worth buying a six pack, but I will give it a little credit... it does have a different taste compared to their other brews unlike the brews below...

13. Summit Brewery, Summer Ale - I had higher hopes for this one, but this one is another flop. I don't mind a pale ale on occasion and something Summit is known for, but this was no summer ale. To quote their site, "...The refreshing fruity and floral hop aroma is a pleasant reminder to savor the season while you can." Well... I wasn't reminded of that at all!

14. Sierra Nevada, Summerfest - Known to be more of a hoppier brew, this summertime pilsner-style lager really was just another pilsner-style lager. Nothing about the flavor screams summertime even when I added a lemon and lime.

Honorable mention:

The House of Shandy, Curious Traveler - Was looking to actually try a different brew that was to be on tap at The Happy Gnome, but instead had the privilege of trying this fantastic brew. A very nice aroma with a flavor that cannot be compared to any other shandy out there. With a hint of some Belgiumish/Hefeweizen flavors that I cannot get enough of by themselves, simply makes this my favorite summer brew and I can thank the founders of Magic Hat Brewing Co. for wanting to make top of the line shandy's and I can't wait for them to start bottling this amazing brew. Why? Because right now it's only available in keg form and ONLY found at The Happy Gnome AND... It's AWESOME! NOTE: This one should be in the #1 spot, but I received word that it will be a year-round brew later this season when they start bottling it up which is good news for me because it's easily one of the best brews ever made and SHOULD be enjoyed year-round!

Bud Lite Lime, Miller Chill, Breckenridge Brewery - Summer Bright Ale and the all new Bud Lite Lime-A-Rita

May 24, 2012

It's PITastic!

PITastic! Is that even a word? No, it's not, but that's okay, because making up words is just as fun as trying new and delicious tasting foods like this next place I'm about to tell you about!

My wife and I like to save money like every other person out there and sometimes on a whim we'll just buy a Groupon, LivingSocial or some other dining deal certificate/discount for some random place. This time around, we bought one for a place called The Lyndale Tap House that is serving up some of the finest pit grilled meats you can find right here in the Twin Cities. What makes this place so PITastic? Specializing in Baltimore style pit meat with preparation that involves rubbing a high-quality piece of meat with a special house made spice mixture and allowing it to marinate for three days is a good start.

This was our first time and we simply ordered items that caught our attention and that included; The wings(See my wing challenge - Flying Buffalo's? for more info), the Philly, the Latin Pig, the Haggerty Potatoes and the Shells & Cheese. Does any of this sound good to you? Your answer should be yes! :) This was the fist Philly I've had that was on a Kaiser roll and was your typical Philly with standard ingredients. Great flavor, but maybe just a hair more spices to really make it awesome. The Latin Pig was a sandwich with pit pork drenched in mandarin/habanero sauce, avocado, fresh cilantro and mayo. Wow!

On to the sides, which were probably the best part of the meal next to the wings. Haggerty Potatoes were made by sauteing golden taters with; bacon, garlic, onions and cheddar cheese. The shells & cheese may sound simple, but when tell me their simple after you've tried this dish. Made with large shells, Wisconsin cheddar, smoked Gouda, scallions, bacon and peas. Did he just say peas? I sure did! Than baked with buttery bread crumbs.

Two words describe my first meal at The Lyndale Tap House.... MOUTHWATERING & PITASTIC! Go for the food and while you're there, enjoy 1 of over 50 different beers in house and enjoy your meal.

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April 10, 2012

niente di speciale

niente di speciale is Italian for nothing special and for those of us in the metro area who include Hudson as a little piece of the metro area, non vale l'unità can be translated to, not Worth the drive. The Gnaw Blog paid a visit to Mama Maria's in North Hudson after several readers asked us to do so. I'm going to be perfectly honest with my readers... It's not that great!

The first thing I noticed was that the place looked identical inside to an Olive Garden, not so original if you ask me. It wasn't a complete duplicate, but too many similarities. As I started to read through the menu, it was apparent that there wasn't much thought put into the menu. There just wasn't a lot of things that popped out at me to make me think, "man do I want to try that!" I did find something that I thought may taste good called, Canneloni Classico - fresh pasta sheets rolled around seasoned pork, spinach, ham, ricotta and mozzarella cheese then baked and topped with our rich tomato meat sauce or our parmesan cream sauce (I mixed the two sauces). To my surprise, it was actually pretty good, but here comes another complaint...

For the money, the portions are far too small and I've been to plenty of Italian restaurants and have never left without leftovers, but for the first time, I did! For some people that's not a big deal, but for me it is, because leaving and feeling unsatisfied and still hungry isn't always a good thing. My wife ordered their Spaghetti Salsicci - spaghetti topped with our rich meat sauce, onions, mushrooms, mild Italian sausage, basil and garlic then baked with mozzarella cheese. I'm sorry, but I've made better sauce myself at home and I'm not even a chef at a restaurant and describing your sauce as a rich tomato meat sauce is not even close! I however would describe it as a, bland and water downed meatless flavored sauce. Thankfully, they put some seasoned pork into the dish, otherwise I would have probably told her to send it back and to please find a bottle of Classico or Trader Joe's Rustico Sauce instead!

I think I'll wait for August and September to roll around to get the all-you-can-eat special at Olive Garden or make a trip to Inonni so I can have one of the, if not the best spaghetti dishes I've had. Maybe make a trip to my Alma mater for their famous sgedd's... That's right, my old stomping grounds made some of the best spaghetti known to man kind and anyone who has had the privilege of eating this stuff knows just how good it really is.

Address not needed on this one, sorry! :)