September 1, 2014

Beigneating Beignets

You’re probably asking yourself right now, “What are Beignets and am I even saying it right?” Well, I’m going to tell you all about Beignets, but not quite yet. I have some other delicious dishes to tell you about first and you probably want to know how to say this goofy looking word as well. So, before we get started, it’s pronounced (ben-yeyz).

I’ve heard that the food found in N’Awlins is absolutely amazing and I’ve always wanted to spend some time down there as well. Until I can do so, a new place in town called Blue Stone Steak & Seafood will be my go to place. In fact, it’s one of my new favorites to boot! It just so happens that a young man I knew from high school, Chad J., is also one of the owners and it’s nice to see him be successful. What I liked hearing, was that his mom and dad are involved by ensuring the quality of food and testing their dishes on a daily basis. Why? If it’s not good enough for the family (who also is the inspiration behind the majority of the menu), then it’s not good enough for the patrons. To me, that’s awesome! 

We chatted briefly about some of the best dishes to try and of course we had to go with those options since one of them just so happens to be Mama’s Specialty, Ragin’ Cajun Red Beans & Rice. The other dishes we decided to go with were, the Voodoo Pasta and the Pork Rice Bowl, but we started our evening with, Black n’ Blue “Stones” and the Crab & Corn Chowder. 

It’s about time we dive into the food and we’re going to start with the “Stones” and the chowder. These little steak bights you get with chimichurri sauce and garlic aioli were awesome and I’m convinced that chimichurri sauce should be served with everything. I even started mixing the aioli and chimichurri sauce together and THAT was downright amazing. The chowder was also amazing and a must try while you’re at the Blue Stone. It had the perfect blend of corn, potatoes, crab meat and spices and my wife and I wanted seconds right away (but we didn’t). 

My wife went with the Voodoo Pasta which combined fettuccini, shrimp, Andouille sausage, trinity and an outstanding creamy Creole sauce. I like a little spice and I also like me some Creole cooking – this dish had the perfect balance of spice and everything mixed together had both of us hooked. We haven’t gotten to my dish yet and I wanted to devour my wife’s meal before she had a chance. If you like dishes like this, this one is also, a must try!

Owner Chad said that one of his favorites was the Pork Rice Bowl and after reading it prior to him saying that, I was already considering this as one of my options. When you combine, sweet bourbon glazed pork and trinity over red beans and rice, then throw in a fried egg, bacon relish pepper and some more yummy creamy Creole sauce – my friends, you have yourself one heck of a meal. Again, I was hooked!

While we didn’t order a full helping of the Ragin’ Cajun Red Beans & Rice, Chad was kind enough to let us try it and out came a soup bowl full of it. This secret recipe provided to the company by Chad’s mother should NEVER be removed and NEVER changed - Andouille sausage, smoked ham hock, kielbasa and trinity all included and I repeat, should NEVER be changed and NEVER overlooked on the menu. Simply outstanding!

Remember that goofy word (that yes, I even pronounced incorrectly at the restaurant), Beignets? Well, these world famous N’Awlins delicacies are made by deep frying dough and sprinkling powdered sugar all over them. I have no idea what the ingredients exactly are, but please keep making them – I would eat these before donuts. What makes them even better is when they’re served with a bourbon flavored caramel which is insane or the coffee flavored chocolate, which by the way tastes nothing like coffee and also tasty. 

To sum it all up, if you like a little spicy and traditional N’Awlins style cuisine, this place is a must try and is easily one of my new favorites. Plenty of additional things left on the menu I’m looking forward to trying and the prices are very reasonable as well for the amount of food you’re served as well. I had to chuckle…. As we left the restaurant, there were some families sitting outside eating their Jimmy John’s subs and all I could think was, “Those poor people, they could be eating something so much better than that sub, they're definitely missing out!” 

2864 Hwy 55
Eagan, MN 55121 

August 16, 2014

End Of The Road? Not So Fast!

It was about two years ago when my wife and I decided to stop into a new Mexican restaurant that had just opened up in Rosemount called Las Tortillas Mexican Restaurant. Everything they made was far too Americanized and they even served french fries with their meals. Maybe the owners were listening to Boys II Men when they opened the doors for the first time, because I had no time for them to be playing with my heart AND mind. 

Our first experience really was not a good one and decided to never step foot in the restaurant again. We could find better authentic Mexican food that we're always looking for elsewhere. After 2 years of saying no, we decided it was time to give them another try. What changed? It helps when your parents tell you,"We just had an amazing catered dinner from there and you might want to give it another try!" So, with a slight hesitation, we entered Las Tortillas for just the second time in a very long time. 

We sat down, received chips and salsa like every Mexican place offers and after the first bite, I wanted to drink the salsa, it was that good! So far so good, right? My wife and I both decided to order the Trio Taco Combo and between the two of us, we had; 2 beef tacos, 1 beef pastor, 1 pork, 1 chicken and 1 chorizo. As soon as we saw those tacos, we were already smiling knowing they looked completely different. We both went right for the pork and I am happy to say, they rock! Pushed those to the side (gotta' save the best for last) and started in on the chicken. Again, outstanding! Next was the chorizo and again, they were yummy. Started on the beef pastor and still had a smile on my face. Finally, like most places, plain beef is plain beef, often a little dry, but at last here they were edible with some fixings. 

Although we though we were going to come to the end of the road and we were ready to let go, I'm glad we decided to give them another shot. Now, I don't have to head north into St. Paul for my taco fix, I have a place right down the road. I just have one thing to say - don't order the fixings if you want an authentic meal and please Las Tortillas, don't change a thing. You've got us hooked with what you're serving your patrons now and we'll be back for more, especially that outstanding salsa!

Maybe I'll forgive me Las Tortillas, hmm - Maybe you'll try - We should be happy together, Forever, you and I! :)

15051 Crestone Ave. 
Rosemount, MN 55068 

Somethin 'bout a FOOD truck'

There truly is something special about a food truck sittin' on Hennepin Ave. where there's no trespass signs and plenty of time to kill. Plus, unless you decide to eat far too much food, nobody's gonna get hurt. Yep, I spent some time recently at the 3rd Annual Uptown Food Truck Fair and tried a bunch of new stuff so I thought, it's time to share with the rest of you food loving creatures, what the best trucks that are out there on the roads. Now, these are simply the ones that I enjoy and think make the best food...

You know, that Kip Moore fella I bet loves food trucks just as much as I do and if he wasn't singing about cold brew, some girl in a red sun dress and trucks in a field, I bet he would have included food trucks in his recent hit... :) So, which trucks do I think you should pay a little extra attention to? Here ya go (and in no particular order);

Butcher Salt
This is one of the newest trucks to the growing fleet of food trucks and thanks to our friend Angie S. for telling us all about her friends' new truck. Their Butcher Salt Sliders are hands down some of the best sliders you'll find anywhere and we were told by one of their outgoing and friendly workers that our next visit, we should try the Butcher Salted Browns - hash browns, pepper jack, bacon and rosemary. They sound amazing and while we were standing by the truck enjoying our sliders, we saw people either getting the sliders or the Browns. Guess we'll have to find the truck again soon!

Twin City Fritter & Philly Company
The newest truck to the fleet of food trucks just launched a little more than a month ago and serving some delicious Philly's and fritters as well as some pretty tasty fries. Owner and friend, J.J. put his heart and sole into his newest venture and he's got a great future ahead of him. Had the opportunity to try both his chicken and beef Philly and both are tasty! As for the fritter, they're just as tasty and are a must try as well. If you see the T.C. Fritter & Philly truck around town and hungry, it wouldn't be a bad decision to pay them a visit. Check out On The Streets Of Phillasota! to see how they ranked among other great Philly's around town.

B52's Slider Squad
Another slider addition to the fleet and my pal Brandon with B52's Burgers & Brew have some amazing sliders that you simply will not find anywhere else. Prepared completely differently than Butcher Salt (that's a good thing), these bad boys are a must try as well and again, easily one of the best sliders you can find around town. They make them so darn perfectly with the awesome marinade they prep their burgers with which isn't a secret really, but I'll refrain from sharing.

Pimento Jamaican Kitchen
These guys have a store front in the Burnsville Mall and are working on putting together a food truck as well. For now, they pitch a tent, set up and fire up the grills and serve some of the very best Jamaican jerk cuisine you'll find anywhere in Minnesota, PERIOD! Their jerk pork and chicken is outstanding as is the red beans and rice. It helps to have one of the owners and master minds behind their creations be a Jamaican immigrant and I had the chance to meet two of the owners, Tomme and Yoni and these guys are amazing. If you're ever at their mall location, make sure you get some fried plantains for desert. AWESOME!

Hot Indian Food
This a new truck to the fleet (or at least my first time ever seeing it) and I ordered their Lamb Indurrito (awesome spin off name if I do-say-so-myself) and it was divine. All kinds of amazing Indian spices hit your taste buds as you start to enjoy this delicious meal. The lamb was tender and moist and house made roti had some awesome flavors as well and made this dish that much better. I like Indian food and this one's a keeper. We also tried a lemon lime Indian drink and if we ever find it around town, it's going to be a new addition to our home.

The Kitchen Window
You will only find these guys making food during the Uptown Food Truck Fair as well as the Uptown Art Fair and I wish they had a truck at all times and had this next dish permanently on the menu. What is so amazing? Paella! If someone asked me what my last meal would be before I perished from this planet would be, Paella would be on the menu as one of my options (You know it would be a feast!). Paella, if prepared correctly, is easily one of the best meals any one person will ever have. It's traditionally prepared with rice, chicken, pork/sausage, seafood of your choice (tends to be shrimp/prawns, scallops, calamari and/or a white fish), onions, peppers, a ton of delicious spices (garlic, saffron, paprika, sea salt, fresh pepper, parsley) and finally, some olive oil and stock. The Kitchen Window's was easily one of the best my wife and I have had while we weren't traveling.

Tot Boss
Tots, tots and more tots! Tots are awesome, just ask Napoleon Dynamite, he even keeps them in his pocket for a little snack later. If it can be prepared with tots, the Tot Boss will figure it out. They cook their tots just right; not completely rock hard, but not soggy either. We've had their poutine and loaded tots and they're both delicious.

I've had plenty of other food at some of the other trucks, but it wasn't jaw dropping and memorable. It's not to say you won't like them, but I just like these ones better and I think they're providing patrons with better quality food. A couple of trucks that I've walked by that I want to still try after reading their menu's are; the MidNord Empanada Truck, Gastrotruck, Wacky Wing Wagon and The Cave Cafe. All of these sound like keepers and worth checking out. There are some 60+ trucks in the food trucks fleet, it just depends on what you're hungry for, but one thing is certain... If you're craving a particular food, chances are high there's a truck for that!

July 24, 2014

A UNION Strike?

Do restaurant employees have a union that represents them? If so, I’m pretty sure that this next destination for the Gnaw was experiencing a strike. If not, then the Union Rooftop Restaurant in Minneapolis has A LOT of educating to do. According to their website, “Our seasoned team of chefs has traveled the globe pursuing their passion for cooking, studying and working with some of the most talented chefs in forward thinking kitchens around the world. Union is their statement: a declaration of their skills and carefully cultivated interpretation of what food should be.” Lets read on to see if this is an accurate statement.

It just happened to be Restaurant Week and the Aquatennial Torch Light Parade was also taking place on a beautiful Minnesota evening. My wife thought this would be the perfect time to check out the Union Rooftop and enjoy the parade from the rooftop. Unfortunately, the phrase, “You only get one chance at making a good first impression” decided to rear its ugly side. The downward spiral to our beautiful evening took only five minutes of being at Union.

We made reservations months in advance knowing Restaurant Week can be crazy busy. Upon our arrival, they were about 20 minutes behind schedule, which is fine and understandably so. We had also requested in our reservations to be seated near the perimeter of the restaurant so we could enjoy the parade while we ate. As tables opened up near the edge, they quickly went into “who cares about reservations mode”, not the end of the world, so moving on…

We made our way to the bar to grab a quick drink while we waited for our table to be ready. We stood there for about ten minutes while all three bartenders refused to make eye contact with us while looked confused as to what they were doing. They had puzzled looks on their faces trying to figure out how to make the drinks they were being asked to make by guests. Not the guests at the bar, just the two ticket windows at either end of the bar. I decided to go to the first floor bar instead to grab a whole two drinks. I asked for a beer (tough to make, I know) and a Palmer for my wife (since she can’t have alcohol). I got my beer, but she said, they only had iced tea at the upstairs bar and I replied, “I’ll pass then, because no one up there knows what they’re doing or even asked us if we wanted anything, I’ll just take a Sprite.”

Off to a good start, right? We started to second guess our decision to even go to Union at this point and hopeful that the cuisine would turn it the night around. Also found on the restaurant’s website, “Our chefs hold themselves to high standards, following self-imposed rules to ensure every dish is special, surprising, and cohesive.” This statement was about become false as well.

Their Restaurant Week menu wasn’t really anything special – couple of apps (Asian style wings and seafood ceviche) and entrées (rigatoni and seared salmon) to choose from and a desert. My wife decided to stick with the Restaurant Week menu and ordered the wings, salmon and a strawberry pavlova. The server quickly stopped my wife and stated, “Sorry, but we’re all out of the wings.” Um, what!? How does a restaurant run out of something that they planned to have a special and not be prepared for people to order? Either people know their seafood ceviche is downright terrible and refused to order it OR, they simply weren’t prepared, especially when they had months in advance to plan. Instead of the wings, which I really wanted to try, we got donut holes. That’s right, we got donut holes to replace the wings.

I decided to not go with the Restaurant week menu and ordered the Lamb Shank. A couple next to us ordered it and it looked absolutely amazing. My meal came with mint infused Israeli cous cous, cilantro sauce, red beet shoestrings kale, fingerling potato broth and shallots. My wife’s meal came with coconut broth, jasmine rice, bok choy and caramelized carrots. I was hoping to be blown away, but instead I was very much let down. I was starving at this point in the evening and devoured it, but not once did I taste mint or cilantro, but whatever their sauce was, was very much overpowering. The meat was tender; I will give them that, but was nothing to brag about.

As for my wife’s salmon, well, do you remember the scene from Christmas Vacation when Clark is cutting into the turkey? If you do, it was similar to that! Very dry, not a whole lot of flavor and my wife said it was fatty compared to other filets she’s had. I took a bite and would completely agree. As for the rest of her small portioned meal, it was nothing to brag about, but she did say the carrots were delicious. At least their world renowned team of chefs can cook carrots, oh boy.

Preparing a dessert isn’t very difficult, or is it? We waited over 20 minutes to get nothing more than some kind of a cookie, whipped cream and strawberry slivers. WHAT!? CHECK PLEASE! The check arrived as our dessert hit the table, took a few bites, paid for our overpriced meal and bolted. Like their sister restaurant, Crave, the Union is also a place where you will get VERY mediocre food (at best) at high prices. If you want outstanding fish, head to a place called VIVO Kitchen in Apple Valley, their chef(s) will outperform the team at Union any day of the week. If you want good lamb, find a German restaurant, nothing compares to the lamb you’ll get at a German restaurant, specifically, the Gasthaus in Stillwater. I've been to higher capacity restaurants with better service and quality as well as to smaller places where the gauging of prices isn't found and serving better food.

Finally, if you’re going to have an open air dining only restaurant (as long as it’s nice outside), you should consider this. Those of us who are non-smokers, are not for a reason and we don’t want to sit in a cloud of smoke while we’re trying to enjoy food (as poor quality as it was). When the roof is closed, can you smoke? No! So why would you do anything differently just because the roof is open? If restaurants do indeed have unions, the “A-Team” must have been striking, including those famous chefs they brag about on their website. What was even better, I was up for quite a while trying to hold back from seeing my food for the second time (sorry for the graphic nature), but thankfully that beautiful pink pill helped me get some sleep. Yep, the Union food is that good! I would not recommend this place to anyone and I’ll go back when Jimmy Hoffa is found alive. 

I thought about adding pictures of our meals, but it really wasn't worth it to be perfectly honest. Looks can be deceiving! :)

July 19, 2014

VIVO Las Apple Valley

Bright light city gonna feed my soul, gonna feed my soul with some food. That bright light city isn’t quite the lit up city that Vegas might be and the soul pleasuring food I found could give some the finest restaurants in Vegas a run for their money as well. That place my friends is VIVO Kitchen where I had one of the best meals ever.

It was a nice Friday evening and my wife and I were trying to think of a new place to try in town and she mentioned VIVO. I would have invited Elvis, but well, we all know that’s not possible. We’ve been wanting to check it out since we heard of its opening, so my wife, parents and I made some reservations. VIVO Kitchen is quite large and the patios, yes plural, are large and the scenery is wonderful. The inside is very modern with an open kitchen and as I mentioned, large! And now, it’s time for the food.

My mother and I decided on the Halibut which just so happens to be my favorite fish when it’s prepared correctly. My wife went with the Salmon and my dad decided on a Filet. We’ll start with the Filet. My dad isn’t a huge Filet guy, but he went for it and he was happy he did. He said it was prepared perfectly and while I didn’t take a bite, it really did look awesome and was definitely juicy looking.

I wasn’t a big salmon eater for the longest time and I think it’s because I was given some really bad salmon many years ago. This Wood Grilled Copper River Salmon that my wife ordered was easily the best salmon I’ve ever had and the accompanying whole grain red pepper risotto was insane. I almost wanted to devour my wife’s meal, but I was busy enjoying mine as well and that’s where we’re heading next.

The first time I had the opportunity to try halibut was in high school and I was hooked. I’ve had bad halibut and I’ve had really good halibut. VIVO’s Alaskan Halibut was easily the best halibut I’ve ever had and when it comes to a seafood meal, this was the very best. A very generous filet atop some outstanding red pepper mashed potato with some delicious olive oil around the outside of the plate for dipping. WOW! My mother chose to replace her taters with asparagus which you will never see me doing!

We finished off the evening with some Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta with caramel, crushed Butterfingers and whipped cream for all of us to share. While I was hesitant to dig in with the soul/mouth pleasuring that was going on from my meal, I had to try it. Good decision? YES! If you plan to get a desert following dinner, this is a must!

One of the most unique things about VIVO Kitchen is that everything is made from scratch, in house and everything comes from local farms and businesses. They’re ensuring that they are providing the very freshest ingredients to their customers and it definitely shows. They serve what’s in season and because of that, the menu is always evolving and changing which helps with the freshness. How I wish that there were more than the twenty-four hours in the day… And I had a whole lot of money that was ready to burn. I would spend a lot of evenings at VIVO, it really is that good! 

VIVO Kitchen
15435 Founders Ln
Apple Valley, MN 55124 

July 16, 2014

So Good, Coney Coney

I said eat, eat, eat, eat, eat (Eat, eat, eat, eat, eat), 'Cause you make me feel, like eating Coney's, they're so good, eating Coney's. What place can make me feel like eating Coney's? A tiny little hole-in-the-wall called the Gopher Bar in downtown St. Paul and a place not for the faint of heart. 

You will need some thick skin to enter the Gopher Bar and if you're easily offended, the Gopher Bar should be on your skip list. For instance, their shirt has a saying on the back that I will refrain from posting here and the menu provides you with instructions on how to order your Coney; Sit Down! Shut Up & Wait Your Turn!. Well, that's exactly what my wife and I did as we were laughing at all the funny signs they have hanging up that yes, would offend some people. 

It's definitely a place you would find Billy Idol in and if you can get past their unique (to say the least) marketing, they are serving an outstanding Coney Island hot dog that you should try yourself. Two ways to order them up, with cheese and without - pretty simple and straight forward. I went with cheese while my wife went without and they pile on the chili and onions and pile on they indeed do! I love hot sauce and noticed a bottle of delicious Sriracha just looking at me and telling me to put it on my Coney, so I obliged. I used to eat Coney's growing up doing youth hockey fundraisers and they were never this good!  The chili was awesome, as you bite into the dogs, they had a nice snap to them (as they should) and the buns were grilled nicely as well. 

All-in-all, these things were awesome and I would recommend adding a little Sriracha to it, it makes everything that much better. The Gopher Bar is a simple place, they only accept cash and they don't take crap from anyone and they're not afraid to let you have it if you're acting out of line. They have some other items on the menu, 11 to be exact, but the Coney is what you should be going here for any ways. While you're there, you might as well stay and have a few adult beverages as well. Just be nice to your bartender, even toilets can only handle one _____ at a time! Yes, that's actually a sign behind the bar!

Gopher Bar
241 7th St E
St Paul, MN 55101

June 27, 2014

Mr. Burger Jones

Pass me a bottle or maybe a pint of delicious draft brew Mr. Burger Jones and I’ll believe in you. Heck, I’ll help you believe in anything you want including believing in the outstanding food being served at you guessed, Burger Jones. I wanted to be someone who believes that this place had delicious food after our friends Jake and Teresa told us all about Burger Jones, we had to try it for ourselves.

You won’t get to see them Spanish dances unless someone maybe had a few too many cold ones, but that’s ok. We’ll just leave the dancing with the Counting Crows for now and dig into what makes this place so awesome. For starters, they have some of my favorite brews on tap that you simply won’t find anywhere else. Those brews happen to be, Traveler Beer Co. out of Vermont and Horny Goat Brewing Co. out of Milwaukee, WI. They just taste so delicious!

As we look to the very near future while sipping on some cold brew, I asked our server what the #1 selling burger was. He replied with, “The BYOB is probably our best, but after that, the Bacon Cheese Burger.” You can get a bacon cheese burger anywhere and I was in the mood for something different. I asked him about the Green Chili Burger and his take on their Juicy. He said the Green Chili is another hot seller and what I was about to hear pertaining to the juicy, was unexpected actually, but I agreed with him. He said, “We have awesome 80/20 beef here and burgers should be pink, I want to taste my burger (so true). We cook our juicy too long, so it gets well done to ensure we cook it thoroughly and the cheese is melted correctly.” It is indeed a science and serving a juicy pink with melted cheese can be attainable, but they just didn’t get it yet.

The Green Chili with pepper jack cheese and an onion ring was “Standin’ in the spotlight” and I really like spicy things these days, so I went with it. That was an awesome decision on my part! Probably one of the better burgers I’ve ever had and the green chili salsa they made was just the right amount of heat. I would have never considered salsa on my burger years ago, but it’s a must try.

My wife decided to do a BYOB and make a custom Turkey Burger. She added the traditional fixins’ of lettuce, tomato and pickles along with pepper jack cheese and Chipotle Aioli. To most restaurants, a turkey burger is just another frozen patty pulled from the freezer, thrown on the flat top and cooked to a specified temp. At Burger Jones, it’s divine! It had great flavor and the addition of the aioli made it that much better. Again, it’s a must try!

Finally, and definitely not even close to least, Burger Jones is providing their patrons with the very best fries you’ll find in the Twin Cities, period! Hand-cut russet fries, but the kicker, they’re the skinny fries. That’s right, hand-cut skinny fires! My wife and I love these things and they're hard to find with just a few places we know of serving them. I don’t wanna just be about as happy as I can be, I really want to be happy when I eat food. At Burger Jones, you’ll be happy and I have a feeling they’re going to be big stars.

I think when we return for seconds, I might have to try the Happy Pooch - a bacon wrapped hot dog or maybe the Santa Fe - chorizo burger with fried egg, sliced avocado, pepperjack and house-made guajillo salsa.

Burger Jones - 2 Locations To Serve You
Burnsville & Uptown

June 21, 2014

It's A Long Way To The Top!

The boys of AC/DC truly said it best, it is indeed a long way to the top and this next place we stopped by doesn't stand a chance against the competition. I was hoping for an authentic Mexican place to open up, but unfortunately, got the complete opposite. And by complete opposite, I mean Taco Bell is a better option and I cannot stand that place. 

The newest place to open and joining the Mexican Restaurant forces is TC Taco located in Inver Grove Heights. Just a small little spot on the end of a strip mall, TC Taco is, according to their website, "South of the boarder flavor, with a Minnesota twist." Not sure where the south of the boarder flavor was and the Minnesota twist must be the????????? I can understand that, not even being open for a full weekend can be a struggle, but I have to assume that they've been doing some testing in the kitchen to figure out what they want to actually serve and place on the menu. So, if that is indeed the case, they didn't do enough testing! 

We ordered 2 beef tacos, one with a hard shell and the other with a corn tortilla, as well as a chicken taco on a corn tortilla and a steak taco in a flour tortilla. The beef had absolutely zero flavor, the steak was something like a flavorless No Name Steak (I love No Name Steak, just not in Mexican food) and the chicken was just chicken. Every taco comes with your choice of meat, onions, lettuce, cheese and green and red bell peppers cut the long way. Together, it just doesn't work! I would get rid of the steak and replace it with a pork option (hopefully the chef can cook it correctly), I would learn how to make delicious tasting beef and take out the peppers, lettuce and cheese and replace with cilantro. 

As for the prices, well, if it was worth eating the prices wouldn't be bad. However, paying $3.99 for 1 steak taco that isn't even good doesn't make sense and it feels like you're getting' ripped off. I can go to one of my favorite places, La Palma Supermercado and spend $4.99 for 3 insanely delicious pork (or another meat option of your choice) tacos that are prepared perfectly. 

So, where should you go to find outstanding Mexican food? Check out my review, Mas Tequila, Por Favor! (Head over to my blog) which will provide you with some amazing places to get some of the very best AUTHENTIC Mexican food around the Twin Cities. I just don't understand why people continue to Americanize foods from around the world, it doesn't make sense to me at all. The likely hood that TC Taco will serve better quality food in 6 months, a year or even longer is probably slim. I will stick to my hot spots which also includes making my own tacos at home which is a far better option.

June 20, 2014

Mason Jartender

Walking into a cool space with mason jars dangling from the ceiling, some of them lit up and some of them I wouldn’t mind putting a double shot of Crown and diet in. I didn’t have to slip on my favorite dress and sky high leather boots or checking all the messages on my phone from the girls blowing it up like Lady Antebellum would have been doing. I just showed up to a place that I was told served delicious food and owned by the talented owners of Cupcake.

That place just so happens to be called The Mason Jar and is attached to one of Cupcakes’ newest stores in Eagan. This very cool and unique restaurant is serving some off the wall creations and yes, your server has now been titled, from yours truly, a Jartender. They of course serve ice cold drinks in mason jars and the menu is filled with items you won’t really find anywhere else. Before we go any further, I’m telling you right now – I’m going to be critical on an item we ate, but it’s in no way deterring my wife and from ever going back, in fact I can’t wait to go back to try some of the other dishes.

Our two meals of choice were the 10,000 Lakes Pot Pie and a recommendation from our friends Heidi and Rob, Tater Tot Hot Dish. We’re going to start with the 10,000 Lakes. All pot pies on the menu come prepared with carrots, onions and celery, it’s up to you what the extra stuff is going to be based on 1 of 4 delicious sounding options. The 10,000 Lakes added roasted chicken, mushrooms, potato, wild rice, corn and topped with melted cheddar cheese. Sounds delicious, but to some it might sound like just another pot pie. Unlike the other pot pies you might find, the 10,000 Lakes has some very unique spices that got me intrigued right away and all I wanted to do was continue to devour it, but it was the meal my wife chose and I had to share. This one is a must try!
Photo Courtesy Of: Honeybee Photography

It’s time to get critical, critical, lets get critical… What? It’s the Lady A’/Olivia Newton-John remix! :) The Tater Tot Hot Dish was made with ground beef, corn, house made cream of mushroom, tots and topped with melted cheddar cheese. Since I already knew going in that this place was all about unique, I was already expecting something different. That’s a good thing, because I like unique, but I guess I was hoping for something more along the lines of an actual hot dish. This was more like an appetizer, an order of deep fried tots with the ingredients I just mentioned atop the tots with melted cheese. Almost like ordering chili fries or nacho fries. Now, it wasn’t BAD, but I would much rather have my mom’s tater tot hot dish hands down. She’s a master at it and while I’ve had other family, friends and even restaurants making their versions, they just don’t compare. Should you stop by and try The Mason Jars’ version for yourself? Of course!
Photo Courtesy Of: Honeybee Photography

You finished your meals and you’re looking for some desert, right? I mean, who doesn’t? No problem! Like I mentioned before, The Mason Jar is connected to a Cupcake and you just walk right over to the cupcake counter and order what you want, they’ll just add your cupcake total to your final table bill – easy peasy! So the Tater Tot Hot Dish wasn’t my favorite, but the 10,000 Lakes was awesome and like I mentioned, I can’t wait to go back. I mean really, Porky Pig Pot Pie; served with spiced béchamel, pulled pork and bacon. Or The Oxen pizza; served with braised beef, caramelized onions, bleu cheese crumbles & dressing and balsamic syrup. Maybe it’s a sandwich you’re after. How about the Prosciutto Panini; served with thinly sliced prosciutto, fig jam, spinach and brie on a grilled sourdough…

Whatever it is you’re craving, The Mason Jar has something for everyone and it’s all made, well, differently! And if different is your “mason jar of tea” than The Mason Jar should be on your list of restaurants to visit the next time you feel like going out to dinner.

The Mason Jar                                                
1565 Cliff Road                                                                          
Eagan, MN 55122

June 7, 2014

Crooked Pint F(Ale) House

Mine and my wife’s latest adventure to find delicious food brought us back to a place we already tested, but additional items on the menu caught our attention the first time around. With that, we had to return for a second go round to see if those items that caught our attention were worthy of our return. Sadly, they were not!

With two locations and two different owners as well, the Crooked Pint F(Ale) House had some promising hopes after reading the menu and seeing all kinds of delicious sounding dishes that my wife and I wanted to try. Our first go round, we ordered their Fish Taco’s, their Beer Cheese Juicy and an order of their French Onion Soup. We all know what I settled on, so we'll tackle the 2 meals that my wife settled on first. 

French onion soup, it’s a simple soup to make; broth of your choice (tends to be beef or vegetable), some garlic, S&P, a little thyme and/or bay leaves, onions, maybe a little wine, some bread crumbs or day old bread toasted, some butter and a little flour. Lastly and the most important ingredient if you ask my wife or I – MELTED CHEESE ATOP THE BOWL! It’s oh so delicious and my hand usually gets slapped when I try to steal the cheese off my wife’s bowl. If this is what you want, you won’t get it at the F(Ale) House. Why would you not include cheese with your French Onion Soup? I always push for people to make their foods stand out, but you should never remove something so important to a meal. 

As our meals arrived to the table, our eyes had that “that looks tasty” look, but it was short lived. My wife started to take bites of her fish taco, prepared with deep-fried cod, cabbage slaw, pico, avocado, cholula mayo, and fresh cilantro. She quickly realized she wasn’t happy with her decision and finished just one taco. Not the best tasting fish and really not much for flavor either. 

I started to dig into my juicy and was really looking forward to tasting this thing. Prepared by stuffing it with creamy beer cheese and served on a pretzel bun, topped with bacon, bistro sauce, haystack onions, and a slice of pepper jack. Sounds good, right? It had potential, but like their French Onion Soup, ZERO CHEESE to be found inside. Essentially, I had a large bacon & pepper jack cheese burger with an air pocket in the middle. Check out the Juicy Lucy Challenge to see how they did against the competition. Hint, not so good!

So, not the best first experience, but hey, we should give them another shot. Round two! My wife ordered their Buffalo Chicken Wrap which is prepared with melted bleu cheese, wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla and served with celery. No frills, no holy cows and nothing to brag about. "Hey honey, how is it?" She replied with a shoulder shrug and a "Meh, it is what it is!" So far, so good...

I went with their Lobster Grilled Cheese. The name alone will catch anyone's attention if you like seafood and grilled cheeses. I myself love seafood and thoroughly enjoy the grilled cheeses my wife and I create at home. There's just something about my wife's grilled cheeses that I love and we usually use a couple different cheeses and sometimes will through down a little parmesan to crust the outside. The F(Ale) Houses rendition included lobster, monterey jack, parmesan, garlic pepper sauce, avocado, and tomato on sourdough. What could go wrong?

It looked delicious, but not the best tasting at all. The lobster was far too fishy tasting and I mean the bad fishy taste, like bad fishy tasting sushi. I'm not sure where the cheese was on the inside and thankfully, the garlic pepper sauce I could sort of taste was actually pretty good. Here's my 2 cents for the Crooked Pint... Preparing lobster isn't a mystery, so tackle that first and foremost and put some cheese in the darn thing. It IS a grilled cheese by the way. Now that I think about it, I think the F(Ale) House has something against cheese! :) It was lacking in every meal they prepared that was SUPPOSE to have cheese included.

If you're fine with mediocre food, feel free to stop by and take a stab at their cuisine. They have plenty of brews on tap to satisfy anyone and they even have wine on tap. As I mentioned earlier, ownership is different for the two locations. Maybe (that’s a big maybe) the Minneapolis location has a better culinary team. I have my doubts and will probably refrain from visiting the other location, but then again, I have a certificate for there to use up which by the way is not accepted by the owner in Apple Valley. Never really understood why the same company would have different “rules”, but oh well. Sorry F(Ale) House, but there are better spots to hit for food and we’ll stick to those. 

Crooked Pint Ale House - 2 Locations to F(Ale) you
Minneapolis (off Washington) & Apple Valley

May 30, 2014

Meat Runs Dry

If you would have been with me during this next Gnaw adventure, you may have actually been able to see the tears in my eye. I would have even tried to hide the pain that was lying deep in my heart and it’s definitely not a pain I can’t hide. I was torn apart and all I wanted was some delicious smoked and juicy meat.

You would have thought I was checking out the newest place with the East Coast Family, that’s right Boys 2 Men, but I couldn’t resist the classic Water Runs Dry for this place. What place might that be? A place called Baldy’s BBQ. I was hearing great things about this place and when I arrived home from work one day, my wife had asked if I was in the mood for some BBQ and I thought of the perfect place to check out. After having all kinds of high hopes, we were nothing but, disappointed! Before I go any further, I will say one thing… It was edible and the pulled pork wasn’t too bad. With that said, the meat at Baldy’s was as dry as the dessert. 

After looking over the menu and determining what we were going to order, my wife had just one quick question for our server. “Can you tell me what the potato salad is made with, is it made with eggs?” With a slight hesitation, the server replied with, “I don’t know how it’s made, we just buy it!” WHAT!? Here’s a better response young man, “mam, I’m not positive how it’s prepared, but I can check for you.” So far so good, right? 

We wanted to try as much smoked meat as we could and decided to go with The Right Combination, a half slab of Baldy's Ribs and your choice of one smoked meat - pork, chicken, brisket, turkey, Baldy's sausage and choice of 2 sides, cornbread and a pickle spear. We went with the pulled pork and our sides were cheesy corn bake and coleslaw. The other meal that we went with was the Brisket Platter, 8 ounces of brisket layered on top of Texas Toast, with 2 sides, corn bread and a pickle spear. The sides we went with were the cheesy corn bake (it sounded good enough to get another order) and the baked beans. 

At this point, I would be describing how I was drooling over the smells and the flavors were to die for, but like I mentioned before, everything was Mojave dry! I will save you a trip and help you with other places to go to for better food including some cheesy corn bake if my mom is willing to make a giant batch for all my readers. For some delicious meats, check out one of these fine establishments; Rack Shack, Lone Oak Grill, Roosters and even Dicky's BBQ Pit. Like my mother and her cheesy corn bake, my uncle whips up some amazing food and his tiny little smoker he just picked up is whipping out some of the best food I have ever had. My wife even said she liked my ribs better! 

Some restaurants will work things out, but some just don’t know how to change. A simple Google search will describe this place as "Premier BBQ House", not EVEN close! You might be making the biggest mistake of your life, so don’t do it baby. Or shall I say, don’t eat it baby! :)

May 13, 2014

Burgers & Beer (Burgers & Beer)

Gosh darn it I love a mouthwatering burger and beer, but not just any burger and beer. It has to be a nice juicy, full of flavor and delicious burger and a nice cold beer to wash it down. The kind of burger and beer that comedian Rodney Carrington would want to sing about instead of the lyrics he was singing which I will refrain from including… :)

Was looking for a quick bite to eat and was heading to the “Nordeast” part of Minneapolis. If you want to know where to eat, ask a “Nordeaster “ for recommendations and you’ll be taken care of. The problem was, now what? No really, the selection was that good! I ultimately decided I wanted a burger and went to a place that has only been open for the last couple of weeks. JL Beers was my decision and it was an excellent decision if I do say so myself. 

Sat at the bar by my lonesome self and lucky for me, an employee who happened to be off that day was sitting next to me and supplied me with all kinds of recommendations. I ultimately decided to go with the Philly Cheese Burger – grilled peppers & onions, provolone cheese atop their famous burgers and between their signature bun. If you want “just a burger”, you won’t be happy here. If you want an outstanding burger and easily one of the best burgers you’ll have, then JL’s is a place you need to visit. Outstanding flavor and easily one of my all-time favorite burgers! 

They also made hand cut fries and fresh cut chips right in front of you. While I didn’t order any during this first visit of mine, I will be paying them another visit or 2 or 3 or more and trying some of these fries and chips as well as some additional burgers. They also have plenty of beers on tap to choose from with an excellent selection of local brews as well. 

There’s one thing daddy likes and that’s burgers and beer and I thank god all mighty for those burgers and beer (big ol’ burgers and beer). I’m looking forward to my return to JL’s and this time with my wife so she can experience the awesome burgers JL’s is pumping out! 

24 University Ave, Suite 100
Minneapolis, MN 55413

April 23, 2014

Pittsburgh Blue Persuasion

If you look over yonder, what do you see? Besides the sun rising, it’s me about to persuade you to go check out a place that won’t be found in Tommy James’ classic hit from the 60’s. While Tommy may very well enjoy the cuisine here, he was signing about something completely different. It wasn’t drugs either!

The place I’m talking about is a place called Pittsburgh Blue Steakhouse. What exactly is a Pittsburgh Blue? According to their menu’s and website, “It’s the way steelworkers used to eat their steak: charred black on the outside, cold and raw on the inside. Some say the men cooked the steaks themselves, throwing slabs of meat directly onto the steelworks’ soot-blackened furnaces. Others claim that the laborers, fresh off a grueling 12-hour shift, would head to the bars for their favorite food, but were so hungry they didn’t have the patience to wait for the steaks to be cooked through.” 

Well, there’s your history lesson for the day, on to the food! Heidi, a friends of ours, had been to Pittsburgh Blue already and had recommended that we order an appetizer, but not just any appetizer. According to her, this was the best appetizer at Pittsburgh Blue and a must try. That app, my friends was the Sea Scallops ‘Benedict’. Sea Scallops, Applewood Smoked Bacon and Hollandaise over, what appeared to be a giant crouton. Melt. In. Your. Mouth! If you like seafood as much as my wife and I do, this IS a must try for sure! We also had a giant loaf of bread come out that was pretty delicious, and just because I’m selfish, I would have liked to have the garlic seasoning they put on it to be all over the top, sides, inside, in the butter, wherever they could put it and not just in small area. That’s just my selfishness talking… 

The specialty at Pittsburgh Blue is the Filet and man oh man is it tasty. They have 7 to choose from and we decided it would be best to go with the Filet ‘Oscar’. For you rookies, Oscar simply means the filet is topped with a lump crab cake and a Bearnaise sauce. This Oscar also had asparagus that my wife ate for me as I am not an asparagus fan. Just. Like. Butter! Again, if you like seafood, get the Oscar and thoroughly enjoy your meal. 

The other cut of meat we decided to go with was their prime rib, a 16 oz. King’s Cut Prime Rib to be exact. Aged for twenty-two days and slow roasted with sea salt and herbs. It was probably one of the best prime ribs, if not the best, that we’ve had. This thing had the perfect balance of flavors and I wanted another one. Most places either severely over cook or under cook a prime rib, but when you say medium, it comes out perfect!
Pittsburgh Blue doesn’t provide you with sides unless you’re getting a burger or sandwich. Instead, they like to serve their sides family style and when they say family, they mean it. There’s plenty to choose from, but we decided to go with the Loaded Mashed Potatoes. These come with everything you would expect them to – Applewood Smoked Bacon, Sour Cream, Cheddar Cheese and Green Onions. If that’s not going to cut it for you, check out their Grown-Up Mac & Cheese. It looked awesome!

If meats not your thing, that’s just fine. They also have a great selection of seafood and a couple of selections that caught my eye were the; Swordfish, Halibut (probably my favorite fish to eat) and Pistachio Crusted Walleye. I read a review and in it, the person described this place as a glorified Perkins. I was just thinking… Man it’s been a long time since I last ate at Perkins… I really do love their tender, hand-selected filet mignon’s, King Crab Legs and other delicious cuisine NEVER found at a Perkins… I chuckled! J So, was I able to Pittsburgh Blue Persuade you? Enjoy! 

Edina (Galleria) & Maple Grove 

February 17, 2014

Burger State of Mind

Yeah I'm out that Brooklyn, now I'm down in Edina, Right next to Drew Ave., and I'll be a foodie forever... That's right, I'm in a burger state of mind (which is nothing like an Empire State of mind) thanks to a downright outstanding burger called the Manhattan 2.0 and found at one of my favorite places, Red Cow.

Jay-Z has no clue what Red Cow is or even where Edina is located and most likely, neither does the world famous butcher Pat Lafrieda. That's find and dandy, because I know where it is and so do plenty of others based on how packed this place is every time my wife and I pay them a visit. So, what's this whole Manhattan 2.0 all about? Well, here ya go! Starts with 7oz.'s of angus by New York's world famous butcher Pat Lafrieda, follow that up with bacon confit, top it with gruyere cheese and arugula, add their amazing dried cherry-red wine reduction and place all of the deliciousness between a pretzel bun. Really!?

This burger will make you feel brand new and in fact it's my favorit burger so far on the entire menu at Red Cow and my second favorite burger hands down. That's not even a bad thing either, but competing with my favorite, the Icehouse Burger from Icehouse Minneapolis which is prepared with seared foie gras and truffle bordelaise is hard to compete with.

My wife decided to go with the Chicken Sandwich, prepared with pulled slow-roasted chicken, avocado cream, bacon, lettuce, tomato and cilantro lime aioli on a french baguette. I've had plenty of chicken sandwiches in my time, but this one is a keeper! I don't like tomatoes and not the biggest fan of anything to do with avocado, and if my wife wasn't hungry, I would have devoured both meals! What an awesome chicken sandwich and a must try.

I've been in contact with Luke, Red Cow's owner on several occainsons to discuss my blogs and we finally got to meet each other during this last trip which was on Valentine's Day. He was kind enough to buy us our first round and thanked me for my reviews and thanked both of us for our continued support of his culinary adventure. Lets hear it for Red Cow, Red Cow, Red Cow...

As always, start you dinner off with their home made chips and onion dip, you can thank me later!

Red Cow
3624 W 50th St
Minneapolis, MN 55410