February 28, 2012

Pick Your Wich!

Not in the mood for a greasy drive through menu? Yeah me either, so I decided to give you my take on the places around town that serve up some fresh and tasty sandwiches instead of a grease pile called a burger and fry value meal! I’m starting with my favorite and working down from there with two new guys you may have yet to hear about.

Jersey Mike’s
Easily my #1 place to grab a fresh sub sandwich! They currently have 2 shops within the metro located in St. Anthony Village & Blaine area with plans to start opening more of them around the metro so I can enjoy them when I want to and not just over my lunch break. As with other shops, you have 2 size selections; regular (perfect portion) and giant (if you’re really that hungry) to choose from along with a wrap option as well. Your sandwich is made fresh on the spot, actually so fresh they’re cutting the meat right in front of you, not taking it out of a wrapper and their hot sandwiches are actually cooked on a flat top and not a microwave. The bread is just the right amount and they are the ONLY shop that still cuts their loaf in half… I know I was surprised too! Make sure to you tell um’ you want it “Mike’s Way!”, which includes their fixins' and some yummy vinegar, oil and spice mixes. If you’ve made enough visits like myself, you can just say “Nick’s Way!” which is Mike’s without the matoes! :) Another great addition to Jersey Mikes is their generosity and willingness to give back to the community and they’re very outspoken about it. My favorite is the Italian, Nick’s Way! You can also make any sandwich into a salad.

Jason's Deli
Is it a deli? Is it a salad bar? How about both! With plenty of great selections on the menu, I'm looking forward to heading back to Jason's Deli on France Ave. in Edina for some more great tasting food between two slices of bread. For my first trip, I decided to go with the pastrami sandwich on fresh focaccia and it was simply delicious. They pride themselves in organic & fresh ingredients and the first restaurant to ban trans fats AND high fructose corn syrup in the U.S. On diet? try their smaller "lighter portions. Vegetarian? They have you covered! Need to watch your gluten intake? Well, they have a gluten-free menu just for you and if you want to build your own creation, yep you guessed it, they have that covered too! 

Which Wich?
With more than 50 different wiches and 60+ fresh toppings to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something that will satisfy your taste buds at this newbie to the metro. Upon arrival you’ll be greeted by a wich specialist who will give you directions on how to create your soon to be master piece and it all starts with a bag and a red marker. The bag gives you everything you need to start selecting from 12 standard meat, veggie and breakfast categories and you just mark down what else it is that you would like added to your wich. If you like bread, you might not want to stop here, because unlike some of their counterparts, this place gives you what you want between the slices and that’s what I like to see. Ever wonder what Elvis’ favorite lunch sandwich was? Well you can try it here and it’s a bit strange! Just stopped by for the first time on 02/27/2012 and I had the wicked and I would recommend it. You can aslo turn any combination into a salad.

Jimmy John’s
Well this was my #1 until the other two shops came along, but that’s ok, they’re still a tasty option when having to decide over a greasy meal or some of the guys below them. Even though they cut the bread like it's a hot dog, JJ’s is still providing tasty subs with just the right amount of bread and a good amount of fresh ingredients on the inside. If you like pickles, be certain to grab a giant pickle while you’re there! I tend to go with the Vito or the Country Club.

Those are my top 4 places to stop for a fresh alternative to the greasy fast foods joints. The others that are out there of course are; Subway (always an option), Erbert & Gerbert’s (seems to be more of a college campus shop), Potbelly’s (not big into the grilled seen), Cousins Subs (would eat a burger from McD's first)and Quizno’s (would eat a burger from McD’s first), respectfully.

February 25, 2012

Gimme' lotsa' Brasa!

What is Brasa? According to my Google search, Brasa (noun) is; hot or live coal, ember or smoldering piece of wood. I wonder what Brasa Premium Rotisserie uses to cook their food???? Well whatever it is, they’re doing something right! Priding them selves with using 100% natural, locally grown produce when available and organic products, Brasa is providing their patrons with some of the finest culinary dishes in town.

Typically when someone tells you they’ve had some amazing pulled pork or beef, they finish that sentence with some type of BBQ themed joint, but Brasa is no BBQ pit! In fact when you walk into one of their two locations, it looks more like someone took their garage and threw a kitchen in the back, added some tables & chairs and decided to serve up some comfort food. During my recent winter visit, I was wishing it was spring or summer so those darn doors could've been open while I was pleasing my tummy.

During my first and definitely not the last visit, I ordered their; pulled pork seasoned with garlic & lime, mac n’ cheese, rice and pigeon peas w/ ham sofrito and their cornbread w/honey glaze. My fiancé decided to go with their; smoked beef w/ sweet & spicy BBQ sauce, mashed potatoes & gravy and the romaine & mozzarella salad. Would we recommend these dishes? There is no question and the best part, unlike your BBQ pit stop; this is one place that leaves the grease in the kitchen! You’re probably thinking to yourself, “WOW! That’s a lot of food.” Yeah it sounds like it is, but it’s not. Brasa’s menu is designed to allow for sharing, sampling and for portion control as well. With three different portions sizes to choose from, you can either be selfish and feed yourself or maybe you’ll decide to share and order enough to feed the entire table and still have leftovers to bring home.

This may come as a surprise, but there are even health benefits Brasa can provide its customers, yes health benefits. In the past few years, it seems the talk of digestive disorders has risen and making it harder for persons with these disorders to find a good place to leave the house for. Celiac Disease is one of those being talked about in high numbers so Brasa is providing a nearly gluten free menu with recipes that adhere to the standards set forth by the Celiac Foundation. Now that’s health conscience!

Now you just have to ask yourself one thing… when should I go? Like I mentioned earlier, you have two locations to choose from; Saint Paul on Grand Ave. near Avon Street and the other is in the Northeast Minneapolis district on Hennepin near Central Avenue. With 14 side dishes alone to choose from and some excellent meat options, sharing is probably a good thing to consider so you have plenty to taste test. Plus, we’re taught to do so in kindergarten, so you might as well! :)

600 E. Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55414

Saint Paul
777 Grand Avenue
St. Paul, MN. 55105

February 19, 2012

Bucket's O' Dud!

Minnesota Nice? Not at Dick's Last Resort! Priding themselves with an atmosphere of being just that, a dick, but in more of a humorous way. Need some napkins? You better hope you're not by a fan, because napkins really take flight when they hit those things. Want to feel like a kid again? They may just put you in the grown up high chair. And if you want be completely humiliated... Let them place one of their home made hats on your head with a cleaver phrase, phrases I'll refrain from sharing here. SO! Now you have a feeling for what to expect when arriving, but it's about the food as well and that's where the fun stops for this patron.

Not quite sure where to start... The price of the food being to high? The lack of food, both limited menu items and meal size? Maybe the not so great tasting food? I think you get my drift... After the speech I received about how awesome their BBQ is and how awesome their food is in general, I thought I was going to be getting something that would satisfy my appetite. I got the complete opposite! I ordered the Dolly Chicken - 2 chicken breasts grilled and BBQ'd, rice and corn. Dry, salty and ok - respectfully. As I watched some of the other dishes come out, I was shocked by the meal sizes. One of my friends ordered ribs and wings, something he had once at another Dick's location where they filled a bucket full of wings and threw on some ribs for good measure. That's what he was expecting, but that's not what he got. Instead, he received 6 wings, 1 large riblet and an empty bucket! Price? $17.00 and I would have rather went to Hooters next door! "Bucket's O' Grub?" Not at this place!

If you want good food and good bang-for-your-buck, you won't find it at Dick's. Seriosuly, you're better off asking a friend who's never cooked before. I guarantee they'll do a better job just following some simple instructions and ingrediants. If you want to go for the experience and get a good laugh from reading some of the phrases on hats, fine, but expect to leave paying a pretty penny for very little food and nothing to brag about, except for the one liner you read. Maybe their slogan should be... Dick's Last Resort - "We really are your LAST resort for food!"

February 15, 2012

No Creme Brulee Here!

Although "Burnt Cream", yes that's what it means, is still delicious, this one's all about cucina Italiana and a professional Italian tour guide is not needed for this experience. With a plentiful selection of great Italian food to choose from right here in the Twin Cities, I’m positive you’ll find something that will satisfy your cravings. Recently a reader asked me where they could find a good pizza or Italian cuisine around town that is not from a chain. Knowing a handful of great places in her area, I started to list them off one after the other and she was pleasantly surprised that there was plenty to choose from.

This got me thinking of some of the other eccellente Italian shops around town that serves more than just tasty pizza and some places that my fiancé and I have already paid visits to and have been very impressed with our selezioni. As more suggestions come in we will certainly try to check them out, but here is a good starter list that I promise you will NOT be disappointed with.

These are not listed in any particular order…

1. Old World Pizza (formally – Pizza Factory) moved out of their small quaint spot in South St. Paul a few years back and in to a brand new space that now sits on the corner of Upper 55th and Blaine Avenue in Inver Grove Heights. Owner, Brian, has been satisfying the communities’ taste buds for over 30 years and this resident hopes it goes another 30. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone that can make a pizza pie this good! Need a good lunch spot? Try their lunch buffet! To learn more, visit > Old World Pizza.

2. Our next destination takes us to a cozy corner of Rice Street and Front Avenue in Saint Paul. Mama’s Pizza and current owner Tony have been serving delicious Italian dishes for generations and on any given day, you could be waiting for a seat at one of very few tables and the residents will do just that, because they know it’s worth the wait. Of course you can always grab take out, but sometimes it’s about the atmosphere… There isn’t anything on the menu NOT worth trying and as the saying goes… “My Heart Belongs To Mama’s!” To learn more, visit > Mama’s Pizza Parlor.

3. We’re off to Mendota Heights where a place called I Nonni Osteria & Buon Giorno is serving some fantastic Italian cuisine. I Nonni may be on the higher end of the price list and if that’s a deal breaker for you, then stop for lunch and let Buon Giorno, their pasta bar and fresh Italian market make something delicious for you. There is plenty to choose from and you can even take some of it home with you from their fresh market. If you’re eating at I Nonni, I recommend their house special spaghetti and sausage and I guarantee that you WILL NOT find a better dish anywhere else that shares similar ingredients, period! To learn more, visit > I Nonni Osteria & Buon Giorno.

4. Situated in Downtown Saint Paul sits our next tour stop. Trattoria Da Vinci and owner Diane has been providing some of the finest Italian cuisine since 1999 and is doing an outstanding job. During a recent visit, my fiancé and I had the opportunity to try something that MUST BE added to the daily menu. Their Gnocchi al Sapore di Aragosta or gnocchi and lobster in a brandy-cream and arugula sauce, is to die for! SERIOUSLY, not sure why they haven’t added it to the daily menu, but they really should and our server agreed! Want to play it safe? Go for the pasta bar experience and you can add whatever your heart desires. To learn more, visit > Trattoria Da Vinci.

5. This next one is an awesome place that everyone should swing by at least once in their lifetime. Cal’s Pizza Factory in North St. Paul  has been a staple in the community for generations and is one of my all time favorites. My meal at Cal’s consists of “The Charlie” and a basket of their famous potatoes! Are you asking why they’re famous? I challenge you to stop in, try them and find something better, that’s why! Cal has been a long time friend and has always treated me like one of his own kids. Cal’s currently does not have a website, but if you would like to stop by – He’s located on the corner of Century and 40th St/South Ave. in North Saint Paul at the end of the strip mall from Holiday gas.

6. Scattered throughout the Twin Cities are, you'll find Red's Savoy Pizza which is another great tasting pie and always a great choice if you have one near by and far superior than any chain that is near by as well. If you're going to eat pizza, you might as well enjoy it, right?

We can’t forget about places like; The Little Venetian or Ronnally’s Pizza and if there is a place you think we should stop to check out, please comment below and we’ll do our best to pay a visit to your recommended destination.