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 b├ęchamel, 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