November 2, 2016

What A Wonderful WORLD!

I see taps with beers, inside coolers too. I see them getting cold - for me and you. I’m seeing food that looks yummy, a team of great cooks prepping for entry into my tummy and I think to myself… What a wonderful world! We truly are blessed to live in a world with delicious food and creative craft beers to enjoy from all over the world. This particular world I want to talk about happens to be a brick and mortar, not the mass floating through space Louie Armstrong was singing about.

That world I want to share with you is, World of Beer which sits in the lowertown neighborhood of downtown St. Paul. Before I begin, I absolutely understand that this happens to be a national chain, but I couldn’t say no! My wife and I, with some friends of ours were out on the town a few months ago when we came across World of Beer for the first time. Even though we were able to walk right in, it was only open for a private “soft opening” event. My eyes lit up when I saw all the beer, from all over the world and it was a must that we return.

Fast forward to October, tickets to NEEDTOBREATHE, Mat Kearney and Parachute at the Roy and a stop at World of Beer. It was time to check out the menu and check out some beers. It happened to be Happy Hour when we stopped in (3-7pm is pretty awesome) with $4 draughts and $5 Tavern Shares. Perfect!

My wife and I went for a local Tin Whiskers Wheat Stone Bridge to start and ordered 4 items from the Tavern Shares. We went for the Beef Barbacoa Tacos (described as street tacos), Chimichurri Meatballs, Southern Fried Pickles and a Margherita Flatbread. Let’s break these courses down for you.

The Tin Whiskers is an awesome wheat creation and a little later I had a Rogue Nectar which was oh so yummy. Definitely more to go back for to enjoy! As for the food, we’ll start with my least favorite item of the four… Who am I kidding, I didn’t really have one, but I will start with the tacos, not exactly as described. Ok, so the tacos aren’t exactly authentic street tacos, but damn were they good. Beef was very tender and juicy and the Sriracha Lime Aioli was outstanding.
Next up, the Southern Fired Pickles. An assortment of dill pickle chips, pickled peppadews, and spicy pickled green beans that are all hand battered and served with a local IPA dipping sauce that was also outstanding. I ‘m not a huge fan of fried pickles, but this was an awesome selection by my wife (who loves fried pickles).
Moving on to the Chimichurri Meatballs. A Latin-inspired beef and pork meatball (good size too) topped with fresh garlic and herb sauce and an exceptional chimichurri. Served with an arugula salad that I also, actually ate! Seriously, this is a must get! Anything that is meat related and served with chimichurri (quality chimichurri) sauce should never be overlooked and always consumed!
And finally, my wife’s other selection, the Margherita Pizza. Those who know me best, know I am not at all a big fan of this style of pizza, but always willing to try. To my surprise, I wanted to order another one. It even shocked my wife! Fresh tomatoes & mozz over a basil & pine nut pesto, drizzled with a sweet balsamic glaze & topped with fresh arugula. Seriously, It’s another must get!
Something I find fun about the cuisine at World of Beer is the beer pairing. Instead of a fine wine you should select, it’s a finely crafted brew which is a much better selection for us beer lovers. I didn’t see any rainbows so pretty in the sky, but plenty of friends shaking hands saying hi. World of Beers should be on your list to visit if you love unique food and beers.

World of Beer
356 Sibley Street
St. Paul, MN 55101

October 20, 2016

A Wild Boar Is Born

If you get your motor runnin’ and head out onto highway 694, looking for that adventure and whatever might come your way – well, that sounds like some fun. While you’re on your adventure and listening to some Steppenwolf tunes cruising down 694 through Oakdale, stop for some lunch or dinner at the Wild Boar.

Wild Boar is one of the newest editions to the Twin Cities culinary scene with the location I visited in Oakdale as well as a spot in Hopkins. This particular Wild Boar took over the space that was once occupied by the not so great Demori’s Pizza at the intersections of 694/10th Street and Helena Ave. So why stop? Delicious BBQ sandwiches, excellent boneless wings and sauces, cold beverages (always a plus) and friendly staff.

A friend of mine actually invited me to check this place out after becoming an employee of theirs. I couldn’t say no and lunch was on the calendar! I started looking over the menu and asking both my friend and our server what I should be checking out for my first visit. The recommendation from our server – “The Spicy Sow is must get!” The recommendation form my friend – “We’re getting the boneless wings, there not like other places!” Done deal!

So, we both ordered a Spicy Sow which is served with house pulled pork, thinly sliced and roasted jalapeƱos, topped with spicy orange marmalade and served on a toasted onion bun. The pork was tender, moist and full of flavor, but the best part to me was the edition of the marmalade. I’m all about being different and unique, separating yourself from the competition and that’s what the marmalade does. Take it away and you have another pulled pork sandwich, but I know they have no plans to do that! Your sandwich also comes with a side of slaw and fries or waffle fries.

Those who know me best, know I never order boneless wings, but if they’re recommended, I of course have to check them out. Thankfully, my friend was correct – they were nothing like everyone else. Everyone else has small, battered “chicken” that is always over cooked and unpleasant to eat. The Wild Boars’ boneless wings were giant pieces of chicken, with a light batter and very tasty. The sauces that he got for the side were a honey chipotle and mango habanero sauce (not as hot as you might think).  Both were very delicious!

I definitely have plans to go back to check out their traditional wings and of course extra crispy as I normally do to put them up against the competition. I also want to see how their burgers compare against my favorites as well. There is definitely something for everyone at the Wild Boar and different than what’s around.

Wild Boar Bar & Grill
Oakdale and Hopkins

September 5, 2016

Remember The Name - Lakeville Brewery!

It's ten percent luck, twenty percent skill, fifteen percent concentrated power of will, five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain and a hundred percent reason to remember the name! Ok, so I'm thinking that's not the actual percentages in making a successful business and I would think pleasure in your business would be much higher as well. But hey, what do I and Mike Shinoda (Fort Minor and Linkin Park) know about running a successful business anyways?

Well it doesn't matter because the owners at Lakeville Brewing Co. know exactly how to run a successful business and serving up some awesome brews and food, and they haven't been open very long. They have the perfect spot in downtown Lakeville where they're making their own story, making sure the kitchen and brewery stays up, which means when they put it down the towns' eatin' and drinkin' it up.

My wife and I stopped in briefly on a Friday night to pick up a donation from Lakeville Brewing for our Law Enforcement fundraiser we're hosting for Backing the Blue Line: Police Wives of Minnesota. While we were there, we decided to chat with one of the owners, Megan and have a quick flight of the new brews in town. There is nothing on their beer list not worth trying and their IPA is easily the best IPA in the entire Twin Cities area. So good!

Well, during our conversation with Megan and noticing all the food coming out around us, it was clear, by my drooling, that we had to come back and come back quickly. So quickly, that we were back 2 days later!

The menu has so many delicious things on it, but my wife and I settled on a couple of things that we chatted about just a couple days earlier with Megan. That was their House Burger and Tacos. Megan told us their fish tacos were insane, but I wanted to try all of their tacos and our server was kind enough to satisfy my taste buds and let me try one of each. Here's our thoughts on our cuisine.

The House Burger, topped with American, lettuce, tomato, greens, house made dill pickles and LBC sauce. A perfectly cooked, medium burger that was all-in-all a delicious burger. While my selfishness would like a bit more seasoning, there is nothing negative to say about their House Burger. You should definitely check this bad boy out and devour it like we did. Get the sweet tater tots to make your meal even better.
As for those tacos, if they were an authentic Mexican street style taco, these would have been near the top on our top ten taco list. As I stated, our server was kind enough to get me a taste of all 3 of their tacos - Fish, Steak and Pork. Lets break each of them down...
  • The Fish - fresh grilled flour tortillas with crispy cod fingers, fresh cilantro slaw, sweet chili sauce and queso fresco. Megan was right to brag about their fish tacos because the one I had wasn't enough.

  • The Steak - fresh grilled flour tortillas with blackened steak tips, fresh pico de gallo, queso fresco, crema and avocado. Perfectly seasoned, very tender steak and awesome!
  • The Pork - fresh grilled flour tortillas with crispy fried pulled pork, fresh cilantro slaw and sweet chili sauce. Some of the best pork found in a taco that I've had the opportunity to try and they're not found at a Mexican restaurant. They're found at a brewery! 
We ordered the fish sticks for our little guy and again, no one was disappointed, including our little guy. The tarter sauce that comes with is house made and absolutely delicious. So good, that I pushed the ketchup aside and used the tarter for my dipping sauce instead. Sadly for Mexican restaurants around town, this amazing brewery also serves better tortilla chips as well! Yummy! 
Lakeville Brewing is has become a definite go-to place for our family to go and enjoy some amazing brews and some outstanding food. I'm look forward to Friday fish fries in the Spring time and watching this place continue to be successful and grow. 
8790 Upper 208th Street West
Lakeville, MN

August 15, 2016

The Food You CRAVE?

Stop! Nanana! You'd better CRAVE it! Stop, stop, stop, you'd better CRAVE it! Ok, so, I wouldn't say you better crave our next spot, but I was actually, for once, impressed with my most recent visit to CRAVE - Mall of America location. I think the Jackson 5 would have been impressed as well.

My reasoning for my unexpected feeling of being impressed stems from a restaurant group that has had so many ups and downs. The last time I ate at CRAVE or similar atmosphere restaurant, Union Rooftop was several years ago because of how poor it was. However, my mother was able to talk me into checking it out (it's one of her go to establishments) and was indeed, impressed.

One of my reasons for my non-pleasurable experiences is, I for some sushi and couldn't stop laughing at how poorly they prepared their sushi. Could it be different now? Certainly, but I'm still hesitant! However, their new (limited time) Poke Bowls could get someone to come back to try. And that's where we'll start things off.

My mom loves these things and the reason for our visit. She couldn't stop bragging about these things. She ordered, as she says she typically would, the Tropical Poke Bowl. Prepared with Ahi tuna, mango & avocado in ginger honey soy over spring greens & sushi rice, topped with seaweed salad & pickled veggies. My mom then surprised me by asking for a side of Sriracha sauce and mixed a little in her ginger honey soy sauce before adding it to her dish. I took one bite and wanted to order it myself. It was awesome and I seriously want one as I write this.

My decided to go for the CRAVE burger which is prepared with certified angus beef, smoked cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion and their signature burger sauce. He went ahead and added some bacon (never a bad decision) and before you know it, it was gone. He's not as picky as I am, but certainly loves great tasting food like me and he said it was good.

I decided to go with their Bison Burger and this was one of the best bison burgers I've ever had. Prepared with caramelized onion, mushroom conserva, smoked cheddar, house burger sauce, fried onions, fried egg on an everything bun. I decided to keep the shrooms off and man was this thing tasty! Plenty of flavor, very lean and mouth watering. You definitely have to try one of these bad boys.

We can't forget about my little guy. He thoroughly enjoys noodles and anything with cheese on it. So, we got him some mac n' cheese with carrots. Like his papa, he devoured his bowl of mac and the carrots were gone. I had a chance to of course try it like a good parent would and it was some pretty darn good mac n' cheese.

Hopefully CRAVE can continue to maintain what I just experienced instead of the inconsistencies I was used to receiving. I do want to go back for a Poke Bowl before they go away and maybe, just maybe, I'll try another sushi roll.

CRAVE America
Several Locations to choose from

July 23, 2016

Eat It Like A Gypsy!

Oh shoot! shake that booty ma, now eat it like a gypsy? Wait, what!? Ok, so maybe gypsy's are more about the hips swinging and belly rolling than they are the eating. But, at the Mediterranean Cruise Cafe, not only will you get a chance to enjoy some amazing food, they also have a belly dancer, just no Savage playing in the background.

Walking into the Mediterranean Cruise Cafe, you are immediately aware that you're not in your typical restaurant. The space looks like a whole different world and well, it should! On weekend nights starting at 6 p.m. and going 15 minutes on the hour, guests enjoy their food with a belly dancer in the center of the room. While I could have gone without it, there was certainly plenty of people that were drawn to it.
My wife and I were ready to place our order, but before I get started, I have just one quick negative to talk about. Our server (who is on plenty of photos on their website, so I'm assuming a family member), didn't have the most positive and bubbly attitude. We wanted to place our order for apps and his response was, "Well, if you could provide your whole order now, that would be best." Um, OK, I guess so... Anyways, the food was great and here's the cuisine;

We shared everything and as a couple, we got to select 1 appetizer each, 1 main dish each and 1 dessert each. We decided to go with the Stuffed Grape Leaves and Shrimp Allaya for our apps. We went with the Lamb Shank and Lemon-Garlic Baked Salmon for our main courses. And, we planned to finish the evening with a Baklava Trio and Harrisa. Lets break everything down!

The Shrimp Alaya was like a Greek Shrimp Salsa and was crazy delicious. It was made with tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, jalapenos all simmered and mixed with shrimp. Went perfectly with the bread!
The Grape Leaves were insanely awesome. These bad boys were stuffed with rice, ground beef and Mediterranean spices. I really didn't know what to expect, but I could have ordered a dozen more for sure.
My wife decided on the Lemon-Garlic Baked Salmon and included a nicely seasoned filet with garlic and lemon, served with a cilantro-tomato salad, basmati rice and topped with pine nuts. Too many people massacre salmon which keeps me from eating it except in sushi form (yummy). I would order the salmon here no problem. It was delicious! (Forgot to take a darn picture too)

I went for the Lamb Shank which happens to be one of my favorite animals to eat. The most tender part of the lamb leg was seasoned perfectly & slowly, baked with green beans & carrots and served over a yellow rice. The meat just fell off the bone and Oh Shoot! Woah! This would make anyone's hips swing from enjoyment. So awesome, I even enjoyed some bone marrow!
Their Baklava was absolutely amazing and would eat the whole tray if it wasn't so unhealthy. As for the Harrisa, it had a real unique flavor, a little dry, but still good, I would just stick with the Baklava!

Look, the Mediterranean Cruise Cafe is going to give you some amazing delicacies from Jerusalem, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Italy, Turkey and Greece. You will enjoy your visit, you will see some belly dancers (if on the weekend), but you won't see anyone "bringing it up then back down" or "picking it up then dip it low". Enjoy the "cruise"!

Mediterranean Cruise Cafe
12500 Nicollet Avenue
Burnsville, MN 55337

July 18, 2016

Yum-beryard Pub

What's a Yum-beryard? I have no idea, but the man who made the suggestion to stop by and check out a new place he heard about, miss pronounced the actual places name and out came Yum-beryard! I thought, "Well, now we have to check it out, because that's the perfect title to my review if it's delicious." Thankfully, it was!

The Yum-beryard is actually the Lumberyard Pub which is located in the quaint little town of Afton. It's not a huge space, but they have plenty of patio real estate and if it's a beautiful day outside, why not enjoy the weather. We had been outside for most of the afternoon wondering the city and playing with our kiddos, so we were more interested in some air conditioning. If you do sit outside, you'll get a chance to enjoy some great acoustic music while you relax and enjoy the food and town.

Again, not a huge space inside, but the feeling of a cabin in a quaint little town is all your really need and the perfect historical resemblance of the properties former ownership, Interstate Lumber Co. One of the owners, Bill Mauer who is the older brother of Twins First Baseman Joe Mauer happened to be hanging out and I had a chance to meet him and share my experience immediately. That experience included some great food and some ice cold beverages. Time to share the cuisine!

We happened to be with our neighbors (a great weekend with this family), Dave, Jennifer and their twins and there was a bunch of items that grabbed our attention. After settling and ordering some ice cold brews for the adults and juice for the kiddos, we ordered our food.

Jennifer went for the Mandarin Chicken Salad - Tender chicken, baby savoy spinach blend, smoked almonds, mandarin oranges, wonton strips and roasted sesame dressing. She said it was delicious and would recommend it to other patrons.

Dave went for the BBQ Sandwich - Pulled pork, smoked provolone and the house-made lumberslaw. I'll talk a little bit more about the lumberslaw later, but I had a bite of Dave's sandwich and it was pretty darn tasty. The BBQ sauce they used was delicious and a nice smokey flavor as well. The addition of the lumberslaw was an excellent addition.

The kiddos went for the Mac N' Cheese and my little buddy had the Chicken Tenders and Mac. I thought the Mac was actually pretty tasty as simple as it was.

My wife went for the Buffalo Chicken Wrap - Tender chicken, buffalo sauce, lettuce, celery, BBQ blue cheese dressing rolled in a soft tortilla. She wasn't all that impressed and though it could use some more chicken. She also said that she would order it again, if they used the chicken tenders from the kids menu and to ensure there was plenty added to the wrap. It wasn't terrible, just nothing to brag about.

Last and certainly not least, I went for the Philly - Thin sliced sirloin, onions, green peppers, melted provolone cheese, horseradish mayonnaise and served on a warm ciabatta square roll. I asked the server how it was prepped because too many places screw Philly's up, sometimes BADLY! Once I heard how they prepared theirs, I knew I had to try it. And, I'm glad I did. It's a must try and I added it to my Philly top 10 list - On The Streets Of Philasota!. Go check out the list to see how they did.

If you have plans to go check out Afton for an afternoon to do a little shopping or to enjoy some Ice Cream at Selma's and in need of some lunch or dinner, check the Lumberyard Pub out.

Lumberyard Pub
3121 St. Croix Trail S.
Afton, MN 55001

An Ale House Blues

When you venture out to open a new restaurant, you definitely have to "keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel", oh that's right, "your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel". Sure, there will be some growing pains, some bumps in the road, but your ultimate goal is to have a successful business and product to provide patrons. I'm not really sure what The Doors were singing about, but they might like our next stop and they may emphasize these lyrics to them as well. Because, there were a couple of bumps in the road, but thankfully, the food was exceptional!

The Ale House I'm talking about is the Ox Cart Ale House located near the all new CHS Field. A supreme location for any Saints game thanks to the addition of a rooftop patio with views of the stadium and the giant scoreboard. If it's a beautiful day, this is most definitely a place you want to be at, right? Well, unfortunately, this is where the bumps in the road have to be addressed.

My wife and I, along with our neighbors Dave and Jennifer, decided to keep the kids at home with sitters and go out on the town. Ox Cart Ale House was the pick for the evening and we were excited to check out the rooftop and enjoy the evening. But first, you have to try to get to the top! The elevator decided they didn't want to function properly, so it was 7 flights of stairs to the top, but the door was locked. Made a quick phone call and access granted. We found a table and this is where things went a little bumpy.

It appeared as though there was only about 3 or 4 servers for a completely packed and large rooftop patio as well as a full bar. It took quite a bit of time before we were addressed (which isn't a deal breaker and understandable when it is busy), but once our server came to take our drink order, she never placed it (I'll explain shortly). We also quickly ordered our meals for the evening as we checked our weather maps to see just how close the storms were - one rain drop, a dozen rain drops - I think it's time to head inside.

As we sat and contemplated our decision, our server continued to go take orders at other tables, eventually making her way to the kitchen. We ultimately decided to head downstairs and grab a table for a mad rush of everyone else deciding to do the same thing. I went to find our server and let her know to cancel or transfer our order while my party went downstairs to grab a table. Upon finding her (while running out some food to other guests), she informs me, "I never placed your order, so just head downstairs." Had we decided to stay on the rooftop, we would have never received our drinks and we would have been stuck in the rain before our food would have arrived.

Ok, some bumps in the road, whatever! It's the food we're after and it was outstanding! I briefly informed our new server of experience and I tried to keep her from feeling nervous. We placed our drinks order and they came quickly. Another quick bump in the road - the tap and menu selections differ between the main restaurant and the rooftop which was a little frustrating since there were beer selections we couldn't get. We then placed our food order and started our evening conversations (you had to be there!). Also, they have Red Stripe tall boys - TALL BOYS!! One of my faves...

Dave ordered the House Burger, His wife Jennifer ordered the Grilled Cheese, my wife ordered the Fried Chicken Sandwich and I went for the Lamb Burger. Time to let it roll, baby, roll!

My wife thought her Chicken Sandwich had some good flavor to it (it was the spice aioli), but didn't think she would really order it ever again. To be fair, when it comes to chicken, she tends to find it boring already, and likes it to be perfect (who can blame her?). I tried it and thought is was actually good, the aioli definitely helped and I would say give it a shot. Made with cornmeal batter, previously mentioned spicy aioli, dill pickles, lettuce and served on a milk bun.
Jennifer decided to add some bacon to her Grilled Cheese (smart decision - bacon makes everything awesome), made with caramelized onions, tomato, Emmentaler (a form of Swiss), mustard-dill sourdough.She had that thing gone pretty quickly! Her hubby tried it, liked it as well and while I didn't try it, I can't imagine it was terrible.
My Lamb Burger was an outstanding selection and one of my favorite, creative, non-traditional burgers I have had. I asked to have prepped to a medium and it's made with arugula, cucumber (which I removed), Aleppo pepper, Greek farmers cheese, mint and served on a milk bun. WOW! IF you like lamb, which I thoroughly do, you gotta try this one.
We saved the best for last! Dave's House Burger was the best meal of the night and will be included on my top 10 list - I'm A Meat Eater. Made with ground fresh daily and perfectly seasoned meat, caramelized onions, dill pickles, American cheese and served on a milk bun. Seriously, this was an awesome burger and I wanted seconds and even asked Dave if he wanted to trade. It was gone quickly!
We finished with some dessert adult beverages, watched a little domestic across the street, praised our server after speaking to the G.M. Dan and just enjoyed the rest of the evening. We may have gotten a little moist from the rain, made a poor decision to stop at a weird place called the Bedlam, but we had an awesome night making memories together! There was no Doors music heard during the evening, but there was some really bad elevator music at Bedlam!

Check this place out, but just keep an open mind if you venture to the rooftop!

Ox Cart Ale House
255 East 6th Street
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55101

June 20, 2016

Dixie's On Grand A Delight

My wife and I were rollin' out of our suburb, a Twin Cities highway and I had one arm on the wheel. I was holdin' my lover with the other and on our way to spend a little dollar for Father's Day as a family. I don't remember what was playing on the radio, but I don't recall it being Alabama. They would however, like the traditional southern food from our recent visit to Dixie's on Grand!

We may not be parking in the holler with mountains in the background, but this place has some really tasty southern cuisine worth consuming. When my wife and I first met, we used to stop by Dixie's every so often to enjoy one of our favorite soups in the metro with a side of darn good tasting wings. The soup was a Lobster Bisque and it was phenomenal! So, for this past Father's Day, my wife thought we should hot a spot that was one of our go-to's.

I happen to look at the menu before we headed out the door and noticed some changes with the biggest change being the soup. Our beloved Lobster Bisque was no longer on the menu! WHAT!? IN it's place was a Corn & Crab Bisque which was still very appealing to us. When we arrived, we had asked about the soup change and our server was fairly new, but stated that a menu update just occurred about a month ago. No biggy, I guess we're basically reviewing Dixie's for the first time all over!

So, without hesitation, we ordered a bowl of the new Corn & Crab Bisque and some Corn Bread for starters along with some adult beverages and started off the evening right. As we entertained out little guy with the train cho chooing around the bar, we waited for our soup and bread to arrive and placed our order for our main plates - Southern Fried Chicken and Mama's Fixins' Red Beans & Rice.

The Bisque and Bread arrived and we started to dig in. My wife looks at me with a huge smile and says, "I'm fine with this as my meal if you don't want to share it!" Well, I guess it's good then??? Oh, it was indeed awesome and I can see what she didn't want to. While we missed our Lobster Bisque, their new Corn & Crab Bisque creation was just as amazing and satisfying. Great flavor, fresh tasting crab and the corn added that delicate sweetness to the soup. It's a must get! As for the Corn Bread, it wasn't anything to get overly excited about, but it was good.

We waited about 20 minutes for our chicken to arrive which is standard prep for their chicken and the server with notify you as you place your order. This is great, because fare too many people would get all bent out of shape for having to wait too long for their meals to arrive. Mingle, chat, entertain your little ones - it's what dinner time is about. Plus, waiting for good food is worth it! Our Southern Fried Chicken and Red Beans & Rice arrived and we started to dig in.

The chicken is Dixie’s signature brined & marinated juicy half chicken served with smothered greens. I'm not a fan of greens which is why I ordered the Red Beans & Rice. This was by far my favorite fried chicken I've had in the metro and would go back for more. The chicken was perfectly cooked, juicy and definitely full of outstanding flavor. Perfect! The Red Beans & Rice was also very good and a must get as well. By the end of our meal there was nothing left on a single plate or in a single bowl - spotless! Our little guy is hit and miss with chicken and he even ate it!

Dixie's on Grand definitely fits my life, is oh so right and I'm looking forward to going back for some more soup, Mama's Fixins' and southern fried chicken done the right way. With the newly launched menu, I'll have to check out some of the other dishes as well, but I'll never so no to the Bisque.

Dixie's on Grand
695 Grande Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105

June 17, 2016

Don't Worry, Be Hoppy

S' a little song I wrote about some brew, you might want to drink it before I do. But hey, Don't worry if I do, just be hoppy now! If you're a die hard fan of  locally developed craft brews, especially anything that has a significant amount of hops added, this next place is just for you. If you're a fan of Bobby McFerrin, you get extra points!

I'm not a huge fan of overly hopped up brews, but I'll pretty much try anything you would call a beer and the Nutmeg Brewhouse has some tasty creations. The newest addition to the south metro culinary scene is located in Burnsville right of County Road 42 and not only are their brews pretty darn tasty, their food is top notch. 

The space itself upon walking in is pretty cool. Writings on the ceiling describing basically the inspiration of establishing the brewhouse. Open kitchen towards the back. Bar and it's backdrop is very rustic looking and right behind the bar is where the, magic-happens. Not the biggest space, but over the last few years all the new, excellent and creative culinary cuisine inspired restaurants that have opened are smaller, more intimate environments and I dig it. 

It's a brewhouse, so of course we started the evening with some ice cold adult beverages. My wife, like me, isn't a huge hope fan and thankfully they had Fargo Breweries Wheat Hefe as a visiting tap that she was able to order. I went for a flight of their current brews on tap and I unfortunately am unable to tell you exactly what their names are as they're still very new and no beer list was available. But, have no fear, I can describe the picture below from left to right. Belgian blonde with mild hints of hops and hints of apricot - not bad. Next is a stout brew with hints of hops and more chocolate tasting than coffee. After that is a little more bland and mild hop brew and finishing with an extremely hopped up EPA.
As for the food, we started with some delicious wings and you can head over to Flying Buffalo's? to see how they ranked against the competition. We then ordered the Atlantic Cod and Chips as well as the Avocado BLT. The wings of course came out first and we ordered the Blackened Dry Rub with a side of mild (house made) buffalo sauce and ranch. They come out laying on top of a bed of napa slaw which was basically an awesome blue cheese slaw.
I added some lemon to the slaw and that immediately made it an even better treat to enjoy whole throwing back my brew flight and some insanely tasting wings (wink wink Nutmeg). The dryrub on these wings was awesome and I would recommend you order them, as always, extra crispy. Next, grab a wing, keep singing some Bobby McFerrin, dip in the ranch, dip in the buffalo sauce and enjoy! awesomesauce! 

My wife went for the BLT which was actually pretty darn good - it was the aioli that dominated this dish. Made with a bakery square of ciabatta bread layered with fresh avocado slices, roma tomatoes, romaine lettuce and four thick slices of smoked applewood bacon finished with our homemade spicy aioli spread. Served with sidewinder fries. Worth ordering if you love bacon (why would you not?) and avocado.
I went for the fish and chips and you can see how they did against the competition as well in our Friday Fish Fry Challenge, Time For Me To Fish Fry. Fresh Atlantic cod battered with their seasonal house beer. Served with sidewinder fries, a blistered lemon and our house made curry tartar sauce. The curry tarter was awesome and the fish was also awesome. You get two large fillets and it's more than enough food to satisfy the belly.
I'm definitely looking forward to heading back to check out some dishes and I already have my eye on a couple to check out; their Roasted Chicken and what I think might turn out to be my favorite dish here, New Zealand Lamb Chops. I. Love. Lamb! I'm not going to give you my number, but when you're worried, stop by the Nutmeg Brewhouse and they can make you hoppy! 

1905 County Road 42W
Burnsville, MN 55306

June 5, 2016

When A Man Loves His Animals

When a Maaaaaaaaaaan loves his animals, he can't keep his mind on nothing else, but if it's bad, he can easily see it and taste it! I love to eat tasty animals and I really like to try the ones considered to be exotic or abnormal - you know, the ones you won't find in a grocery store. It's also the type of animals Percy Sledge maybe wasn't consuming either?

Found a place that has started opening locations throughout the Twin Cities called New Bohemia Wurst+Bierhaus and the concept is very intriguing. You walk in and pre-order like you were visiting a Chipotle, but around the corner is more of a sports bar feel. No, pop machines, no liquor and mixed drinks, just ice cold craft beer from all over and wurst. Lots of wurst!

What caught my eye was the type of wurst being served, the type a lot of people would run from.
While this place has exactly what I am looking for in unique food to try, it has a long ways to go in actually serving delicious tasting wurst. So, just how exotic is this place? Here we go!

My wife and I had a night out with some of our neighbors who, like us, enjoy trying new foods. After reviewing the menu and seeing what this place had to offer, our wurst order looked something like this;

  • New Bohemia Bockwurst (Combination of White Veal & Pork)
  • Mac n' Cheese Stuffed Wurst
  • Chicken & Apple Wurst
  • The Jackalope (Combination of Antelope and Rabbit)
  • Smoked Duck and Cilantro Wurst
  • Basket of hand cut fries w/ jalapeno mayo, pepperjack cheese sauce, fresh herb ranch
  • Cold Brews

While this list of crazy combinations sounds amazing to me, the New Bohemia failed to deliver quality, delicious tasting wurst. Lets break each one of these dishes down a little further and give you, the reader, better options.

The Bockwurst was boring, bland and flavorless. The Mac n' Cheese was consumed by my neighbor and she said it was flavorless and had zero cheese in it - ZERO! The Chicken & Apple had absolutely no apple flavor. The Jackalope was boring, bland and a little tough. The Smoked Duck was consumed by neighbor, but he didn't seem pleased at all. The best part of our meal - the hand cut fries and dipping sauces.

Now, there are toppings that you can add to your wursts, 8 to be exact and even these couldn't help with how boring and flavorless these wurst options were. And, it's pretty sad that your hand cut fries are better than your staple menu item.

So, where can you go for something better? If you want an awesome veal sausage, check out the Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter in Stillwater for all your German inspired food needs. If you want an awesome animal combination sausage (any animal), check out Specialty Meats in Hudson. I guarantee their Rattle Snake & Rabbit sausage will put the New Bohemia's to shame. If you want an awesome Chicken & Apple sausage, check out Aamodt's Apple Orchard or Afton Apple Farm. Both of these places serve the very best Chicken and Apple sausage in the Twin Cities. And finally, if you want an awesome Mac N' Cheese sausage, grab a smoked Johnsinville, make some mac n' cheese, put a couple of spoon fulls right on top and enjoy!

I think this place has some potential to be awesome, but they have a long ways to go before that happens. It's a cool concept, lots of great bier options, a giant pretzel that is probably awesome, but the wurst needs help! Feel free to check this place out if you're the adventurous type and if you have a woman that is, hold on to her and never want another girl.

New Bohemia Wurst+BierHaus
Multiple Twin Cities Locations

May 28, 2016

Crafty And You Know It...

If you're crafty and you know it, clap your hands. If you're crafty and you know it, clap your hands. If you're crafty and you know it and your food can really show it, if you're crafty and you know it clap your hands. Clap. Clap!

Well, now that I have that wonderful tune stuck in your head and you're at, stomping your feet, I'll try to help get it out by thinking about some food to check out. Our most recent visit at a place place that is indeed crafty (it's in the name), has some delicious food. That place is, Celts Craft House located in the Grandstay Hotel in Apple Valley.

If you've ever been to any of the other Celts Pubs in the south metro and left thinking to yourself, "Why did I just eat that terrible food" like I have every time. Well, the Craft House may just be the place to help you change your mind about eating at a Celts. I was very hesitant to check this place out, but glad I gave it a shot. The burger that I had and the sandwich my wife had were both delicious and I want to go back to get the sandwich again.

It was a family dinner; my wife and I, along with my parents and our little guy. We ordered some adult beverages and gave my little guy his typical bottle of almond milk. Shortly there after, we ordered our dinner. My mother - All-You-Can-Eat Fish, my dad - Braeden Burger, my wife - Craft House Club and I - Craft House Burger.

We'll get my dads burger out of the way. An 8oz. burger with applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, onion straws and house made bbq sauce. I didn't try it, but there was nothing on his plate except maybe a crumb. My moms fish was pretty good and worth eating and getting some extra (if you're there on a Friday night), but I wouldn't add it to my top ten list. As for my burger and my wife's sandwich - not we're talking!

We'll start with my burger! The Craft House Burger starts with an 8oz. burger seasoned just right and made completed by adding a fried egg, hand-cut fries, pepper jack and American cheeses and house made roasted garlic aioli. The aioli and egg made this thing insanely awesome. This is definitely a burger worth checking out if you stop by the Craft House.

On to the best meal of the evening, my wife's sandwich. Her Craft House Club consisted of - Smoked turkey, house made corned beef, applewood smoked bacon, Swiss and American cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion on sourdough bread with house made roasted garlic aioli. I was happy and my family knew it! This is a must get sandwich while at the Craft House and will be my go to dish if we're ever visiting. It made me, clap my hands, stomp my feet and shout hurray.

Celts Craft House certainly has some dishes worth checking out if you're ever in the area. Ownership is priding themselves in authentic Irish cuisine and while I didn't try the Bangers or Shepherd's Pie yet, I'm thinking at some point and time, I know I will be.

Celts Craft House
7083 153rd Street West
Apple Valley, MN 55124

April 25, 2016

I Don't Love This Pasta Bar

There are a lot of great places in the Twin Cities to stuff yourself with pasta. We got winners, we got losers. You might even see a cowboy, trucker, broken-hearted fools and suckers at one of these places as well. Unfortunately for my wife and I, and on our 4 year anniversary, we found a place that we didn't love. Toby might love it though since his own restaurants seem to be failing anyways.

My wife planned the whole evening for us to celebrate and even surprised me with an awesome gift - tickets to see one of my favorite comedians, Chris D'elia who was performing at the Varsity Theater. But, before we could go enjoy that, we had to have some dinner and we checked out it's neighbor, The Loring Pasta Bar. Plenty of hype for this place, so it was definitely time to check it out.

You walk into a place that has some really cool decor and simply a cool space to enjoy dinner in. We ordered some adult beverages, heard the special for the evening and ordered an appetizer. We just didn't think the app was going to be the best part of our meal though... The app that we enjoyed was an order of their Wings of Desire. Simple, but delicious - boneless chicken wings, Ethiopian-spiced bbq sauce, bleu cheese crumbles and some ranch. An very good starter!

On to those main plates of ours. We're at a pasta bar, so of course we need to check out the pasta dishes and one should be their take on a classic dish - spaghetti. So, we went with sgeds' and decided to order something from the pasta section and recommendation from our server, Beef Short Rib Risotto. I wanted this meal to be one of the most amazing meals my wife and I ever had, especially on our anniversary. But, it was short of that (no pun intended) and we both left pretty disappointed.

The Sgeds' came out and the meatball was huge, but in a small bowl and looking like it belonged on the children's menu. The meatball and the sauce were lacking flavor and very bland. I've made better at home and my high school sgeds' is even better (SSP Alumni know what I'm talking about). There really isn't much else to tell you about this dish...
As for the Short Rib Risotto, it was actually pretty good. The meat was very moist and had really good flavor while the risotto was cheesy and gone quickly. But lets face it, risotto may be made like pasts, but in reality, it's just large rice! I certainly wouldn't pout it under the pasta portion of the menu. Instead, I would place it under the mains.
You won't find any thirsty hitchhikers, hustlers and fighters (well maybe fighters, college students get drunk), but I don't think you're going to love this pasta bar. I think we'll be sticking to our favorite spots - I Nonni and Giuseppe's. These places are simply insane! But, if you want to give this place a try, you certainly can, it's certainly not the worst food, we've just experienced much better.

Loring Pasta Bar
Dinkytown, Minneapolis

February 26, 2016

How To Get To 7th Street Social?

On a very sunny day with no clouds to be found and I was on my way to find a place where the air was sweet. An by sweet, I mean some delicious food to consume! I'm not sure if this next establishment would allow a giant yellow bird, cookie monster or green creature living in a garbage can to dine, but we were more than welcome to enjoy a nice family dinner.

First off, I can tell you exactly how to get to this great new establishment, 7th Street Social. It's just off highway 35E and West 7th Street in St. Paul and it was on my radar for Friday Fish Fry after seeing some of the pictures they were posting on their social media page. We're always trying to find new places to add to the Friday Fish Fry list, Time For Me To Fish Fry, places we have visited for fish during lent.

I honestly didn't know what to expect prior to visiting 7th Street, but I always try to keep an open mind. Prior to ordering our fish, my brother in-law decided to order some donuts, I mean onion rings and man am I glad he did. Seriously, they came out looking like donuts, but they were giant onions rings and easily some of my all-time faves. I'm not a huge onion ring fan, but these were awesome!
We of course had some adult beverages and everything on tap is provided by a local brewery which is pretty cool. I went for the Bauhaus Uber Duber which was a twist of some fruitiness with a light pale ale finish and was tasty. My sweetie went for a wheat beer from Tin Whiskers and again, a delicious and tangy wheat brew, while my in-laws went for something a little more laid back, Corona and a Grain Belt. I'll stick with the craft! :)

To the fish... For 8 bucks, you get 3 large fillets, hand cut fries and some homemade tartar sauce. Just how good is it? It took down my champion on my Friday Fish Fry list after several years of being at the top! That's how good it was! Their batter was absolutely insane and made with something I wasn't expecting... Vodka. Yes, Vodka! That was just one of the ingredients... It was also prepared with local icon brew, Summit and together, this is a fish fry you don't want to pass up. As for the homemade tartar, damn! Nuff'. Said.
I wasn't expecting to be blown away like I was and I'm certainly not disappointed that I was either. As we ate our meals, we kept drooling over all of the burgers we were witnessing leave the kitchen and looking forward to a returning visit to try some additional dishes. So come and eat, because everything is A-OK at the 7th Street Social.

7th Street Social
2176 7th St W.
Saint Paul, MN 55116

February 24, 2016

Happy Trails

With very little to enjoy in my little town of Rosemount, my wife and I, and most of my neighbors, venture out to find tasty food that is enjoyable and worth eating. The newest edition is a quick drive north on a trail to a happy place, the type of happy place Roy Rodgers himself might be signing about? Maybe? Probably not, but if he was alive he would enjoy the burgers coming from this place!

The trail is Robert Trail and the new establishment is Trail Stop Tavern. And yes, as I just alluded to, is serving some very delicious burgers, burgers the previous occupants couldn't deliver, that's for sure. After a co-worker told me I needed to check this place out, I took a look at the menu to see what types of food they would be serving. Burgers and Juicy's caught my eye and on Wednesday nights, you can make your own burger for seven bucks (up to two toppings and choice of tater).

I went for a spicy little number - jalapenos and cheddar cheese; served medium with a side of fries. I'll be honest, I was expecting to receive a traditional crappy fry from a giant frozen brown bag like you'll find at most places comparable to the Trail Stop. Instead, out came a fry that could potentially compete with the State Fair French Fry. Always a positive to receive quality fries with your meal, but this is about burgers! 

My creation could easily take down the competition within the Eagan, IGH, Rosemount, Apple Valley area and I think I've finally found a burger joint I can travel 5 minutes to instead of the longer commutes we typically have to, to enjoy some of our favorites. My wife on the other hand decided to go for a traditional California setup and she too enjoyed her burger. Her side was tots and lets face it, tots are tots unless you make them homemade like Lucky's 13. 

Will I be going back to try their juicy's? Of course! I gotta see if they can out perform the competition in the juicy department as well. As for other dishes I'm interested in checking out; I wouldn't mind taking a stab at their wings - I was told all their sauces are homemade instead of just sing something from a bottle. Also, I think they should remove the steak sandwich and take a stab at Philly's. I haven't had the sandwich, I just think they have the potential (with their kitchen staff) to nail it!

I suppose you would like to know how they did against the competition? Check out I'm A Meateater (Best T.C. Burgers) to find out how the Trail Stop did! 

So, until we meet again Trail Stop - Happy trails to you, I'll keep smilin' until then! Happy trails to the rest of you, maybe you'll run into your favorite foodie and we can chat about our love for foods. Check out the Trail Stop Tavern, I don;t think you'll be disappointed. 

525 Diffley Road
Eagan, MN 55123

February 15, 2016

Barley and Vine On My Breath

I woke up with delicious food on my breath from a new place in town, Barley + Vine. So I guess you could say I had beer and wine on my breath! I also had some steak, fish, lobster bisque, brussels sprouts, scallops and ice cream on my breath as well. Don't worry, I brushed my teeth before I left the house!

Alright, I need to pull myself together, stop singing Love and Theft and get down to the nitty gritty and tell you all about our recent visit to Barley + Vine. Ownership is young, inspired to serve only the best food to enjoy and using unique flavors and ingredients with their plates. This combination makes for a great recipe and I'm already a fan of some of their other establishments. In case you're wondering, those would be, Woolley's  Steakhouse (best steak in the T.C. area), Cien Taco (some of the best Mexican you'll find) and Tamarack Tap Room (Some of the very best burgers, sandwiches, salads, wings and beer selection you'll find in the T.C. area).

I really loved the ambiance, decor and atmosphere of Barley + Vine which recently took over the space once occupied by Copper River Fish and Chops in Lakeville. Such a cool space and the food from Chef Smith wraps everything up nicely. Okey, I'll get to the food...

My wife and I decided to stop here for dinner on Valentine's Day and have a family dinner (good tradition to start as a family). We pondered ordering off the evening's V-Day special menu vs. traditional menu items and it was hard to pass on the selections off the special menu so we went for it. What do you think?

We both went for the lobster bisque, chose both main courses (gotta sample both of them!) and a bottle of sparkling to wash it all down. But first, we started with some cooked brussels sprouts with pecorino, bacon and caramelized onions. Wife insisted, while I'm not a fan, to compare them to ones that I did actually enjoy at Cedar + Stone inside the Marriott Hotel - MOA. Only one ingredient missing to make Barley + Vine's just as delicious - Brown. Sugar! That's just me, but if you like sprouts no matter how they're prepared, I'm guessing these will hit the spot for you. 

We of course had to have some adult beverages to start our evening with the sprouts we ordered. My wife went with a glass of house riesling while I of course went with a cold brew. Plenty of great craft beer choices and I selected an outstanding Belgian Triple Malt by a brewery out of Quebec, CA - Unibroue. Awesome! That's all I need to say about that... 

As we enjoyed our beginnings, quickly arriving at our table was our Lobster Bisque and Scallop. A butter basted scallop atop a tarragon creme and fried leek - Very good! I really enjoyed the flavor combo the chef created. I would have loved to have some chunks of lobster with my bisque (like we get at Dixie's On Grand), but that's ok because it was still delicious and nothing was left in either of our bowls! Our little buddy even enjoyed the soup and scallop. Yes, he is spoiled if you're wondering!
Before you we could finish our first courses, our main courses were hitting our tables. It looked like we were ordering everything on the menu, but things were just coming out a tad too quickly (no biggy really). My wife went for the Sea Bass, which was actually a surprise to me when it wasn't salmon (one of her favorites) and after a couple of bites, wasn't having it. I however was digging it. Needless to say we switched plates (we'll get to the steak soon enough). The fish was cooked perfectly, very flaky and the blood orange gastrique and spiced tuile was awesome. What I would change about this dish (if it went on the menu since this was a special selection for the evening) would be the addition of a whipped carrot concoction.
On to the red meat... I actually thought the Au Poive Ribeye had a very unique, different, but tasty flavor to it. I thought the bearnaise and cheddar hashcake that accompanied their ribeye was very tasty as well.I asked for it to come out medium, but was a little more on the well done side. Not going to keep me from going back for some of the other plates on the menu that caught our eye. Of course like the fish, I would change it a little bit and what I would change with this dish, would be the addition of maybe a whipped mash - garlic or sweet in nature. Even though we switched plates, my wife still wasn't doing jumping jacks.
Sure, we've had better meals, but Barley + Vine has only been open for 3 weeks and none of the negatives (if you even want to call them that), are deal breakers. Instead, I think as they look at their dishes, consider reviews from people like myself who understand the culinary arts, they'll perfect everything. Minor alterations (like I provided), won't even cross peoples' minds nor will it be needed! 

 No, this isn't the most amazing meal my wife and I have shared with each other. Yes, this is a place you should be checking out! My wife and I are looking forward to another visit. I wonder if Love and Theft would be willing to bring us next time???? :)

17516 Dodd Blvd.
Lakeville, MN 55024

February 6, 2016

Baby Got Craft (Beer)

Oh my god, look at that beer, it is so crafty. It looks like one of those, yeah I don't know what it really looks like, but I do like craft beers and certainly can not lie. If fact I'l try almost anything that is labeled as a beer and variety is key. What's the perfect addition to any delicious ice cold craft brew? Food of course!

You're singing about big butts right now, aren't you? Any ways, the latest place to get my attention is sitting in the former Sunsets location and priding themselves in serving craft brews and great tasting food. Craft Beer & Kitchen is that place and they completely revamped the former Sunsets and it looks great inside with a much needed overhaul.

They certainly have an impressive list of local, regional and national craft brews, but you better like IPA's and heavy body stouts, because their beer guy must think that's all there is to enjoy. Their tap list is heavy on these with very few of the other delicious varieties; Sour's, Cream's, Brown's, Shandy's, Belgian's, Dunkel's, Hefe's, Blonde's - I could go on and on and on... You have to get some better variety. I'm just tryin' to warn you, that the beer they got is way to hoppy!

As for the food... I was just recently getting back from a trip to the west coast (Portland to be exact) and all I could think about was comparing the amazing food I had during my travels to my live for food back home. Fair? maybe, maybe not... My family and I started our evening with some wings tossed in house made buffalo sauce cooked extra crispy (surprise, right!?). These were very tasty and definitely worth ordering if you're stopping by Craft.

As for our main courses, those went as follows; my wife and mother went with their Ribeye Grilled Cheese, my pops went for the BBQ Cheddar & Bacon and while my wife tried to talk me out of it after my recent travels, I decided to check out their Lobster Mac n' Cheese. Lets help Mix-A-lot (and you) decide what you should order.

The Ribeye Grilled Cheese had some decent flavor, but the meat was more on the roast beef side than it was cuts of Ribeye. So lets call it what it really is - Beef Grilled Cheese. The menu states it as; slow roasted prime-rib, cheddar cheese, swiss cheese, caramelized onions, horseradish sauce, toasted sourdough. The radish' sauce isn't overpowering the sandwich and looked delicious. Just wasn't anything to do summer-salts over...

My pops' BBQ Cheddar & Bacon Burger looked delicious and by the time he was done, there was nothing on his plate - guess it was good? He said it was! 1/2 lb. burger, BBQ sauce, bacon and all the traditional fixins' and served with steak fries, which is always my option to go with. Yeah... I really don't have much more to say...

As for my Lobster Mac n' Cheese, I should have listened to my wife... It by all means wasn't bad, actually worth ordering, but it was nothing like the Mac n' Cheese I had during my recent trip to Portland. It was easily the best mac I've ever had and was a Crab & Lobster mac that was just insane. In fact, I've had some other options around the Twin Cities that were better as well. Again, it's worth checking out!

Yeah, when it comes to craft beers, this place has nothin' to do with my kind of selection. IPA - IPA - IPA, only if you like hops... Baby got Craft! As for the food, Craft Beer & Kitchen is worth checking out. I dig their Turkey Burger and Shrimp Tacos along with their wings and I'm guessing some of their other dishes are delicious as well.

Craft Beer & Kitchen
700 Commons Drive
Woodbury, MN 55125

January 28, 2016

Heaven Isn't Too Far Away!

No matter what your friends might say, one of the newest editions to the food scene located in Lakeville is serving up some outstanding food. Their motto is even, "Food That Rocks" and it indeed does! Now you just need to find your way and while you're at it, throw on a little Warrant on your way to get you in the mood for this hair band themed establishment.

So who has the "Food That Rocks"? It's the brick and mortar version of one of the better known food trucks, Heavy Metal Grill. That's right, another food truck found their way into the brick and mortar scene and this one is an excellent edition. I'll be honest, I was a little nervous to check this place out and was certain it wasn't going to be worth eating. To my surprise, I'm definitely going to be one of their - biggest faaaaans!

Known for having some of the best Philly's, it was a must try for this guy and his wife to see if they were worth adding to the Philly challenge.They just became the the king of the world with their "Almost Famous" original Philly. The meat was cooked perfectly, moist and full of outstanding flavor, the bread was nice and soft - not hard and stale, it had just the right amount of peppers and onions and the perfect amount of cheese. Just one thing that we changed for the better... We removed the cheese-wiz. "Almost Famous"? No, no, no - famous! How did it fair against the competition? Check out - On The Streets Of Philasota! to see for yourself.

That was what my wife ordered and boy am I glad she did. I decided to test out their burgers and as soon as I saw a juicy on the menu - I knew what I was checking out. Known as the Iron Maiden, this thing was cooked perfectly. They stuffed it with so much cheese, it seemed as if it would never stop oozing from this perfectly prepared juicy. It had some great flavor and the only things I changed was asked for an extra slice of American on top. The only thing I would change to make this even better than it already is; butter and grill the bin and add just a little more seasoning. How good is it? The "originals" have nothing on this place! That's right, 5-8, Nook, Matt's (which is disgusting) and others could learn from this place! Check out the Juicy Lucy Challenge to see how they ranked!

I really do love the way they cook, it brings a sparkle to my eye and I just want to wrap my hands around this tasty food and enjoy what I'm about to eat. I'm really looking forward to heading back to get another Philly and try some wings as well. You never know where they'll end up, but I have a feeling they may fair very well if the they prepare them as well as their Philly's and burgers. So crank up some Crue, Poison and of course Warrant and head to the Heavy Metal Grill for some downright delicious food. Hit this place up on a Thursday and enjoy some $3 Captain diets in a pint glass, not a pansy low ball like other places...

Heavy Metal Grill
20851 Holyoke Ave So.
Lakeville MN 55044

January 22, 2016

Burger Burger State of Mind

I'm definitely out of the Brooklyn and now I'm down in Rosemount. Right next to some good neighbors where we can be Greystone hood forever. Ha! Jay-Z's got nothing on my mad skills! But in all seriousness, while he's being pulled back to his McDonald's and attempting pastry's with the Simmons', I'ma' be up in Bloooomington, checkin' out a new burger joint.

That new place, which has only been open for a month, is Burger Burger. Located on the newly designed 3rd floor - south food district at the Mall of America and priding themselves in fresh ingredients in order to make only quality burgers. How fresh? Check out their beef processing room while you wait in line to order! Quality indeed and after only a short month of being open, we've managed to stop here 3 times already. Why? It's good, food courts are gross and no other restaurant is worth eating at. Especially if you want a burger!

Some unique burger options to choose from, a classic option, as well as a chicken, turkey and bison burger. First trip, I was checking out a burger made with a combination of chorizo and ground beef with some yummy spice, aioli and spicy cheese (appears to have been removed according to their website menu). If it is indeed gone, I wouldn't be devastated as it was ok, but not a top pick for me.

The next trip, I was checking out the B.A.M.F. burger, which stands for - Big And Meaty Fun! All beef patty, sharp cheddar, all the fixins' along with mayo crispy french fry ends and bacon. Everything you need in a burger to make it delicious including your fries. B.A.M.F!

The most recent stop to Burger Burger, I was checking out the Mac Daddy after it was suggested I do so by one of the servers during a previous visit. Beef patty with white American cheese, pepper jack mac n' cheese bites, lettuce, onion and house bbq sauce. Again, another tasty treat for my tummy to enjoy! My wife, for each visit, went with their Gobble Gobble. a fresh ground turkey burger that was one of the better turkey burgers in the Twin Cities. According to their website, this too has been removed and if so, you've just lost one of your favorite customers.

There is no other burger worth eating while at the mall and I hope the website is just behind on being updated, but if it is indeed up-to-date, they've made a terrible decision. I did some research about the ownership and Burger Burger is owned by the same group who owns places like Crave, Union Roof Top, Zio and other mediocre restaurants. So if it's true, I wouldn't be surprised by the poor decision to remove the turkey burger. Let's hope I'm wrong!

All in all, this is a good addition to the food scene at the mall with so many choices, but not enough quality. There's only a very small handful of restaurants worth eating at while shopping or playing and as long as the turkey burger is still available, Burger Burger is one of them. What are the others? Both hotel restaurants - That's it! Oh, and maybe Hooters, you can't go wrong with a good wing and some cold brews... Jay-Z even likes Hooters, he sings about having the bust out! ;) The staff are also very friendly and helpful which is a plus for any restaurant.

Burger Burger
3rd Floor - South End Food District
Mall of America

January 21, 2016

Four Rounds With Cantina Laredo

Over the years, the Mall of America has had many changes. Some good, some great, some bad, some - making you think, "what were they thinking?" They have been lacking for a very long time in the food department with plenty of room for improvement, but can the latest opening help end this drought?

The latest entry into the food scene describes themselves as, Modern Mexican. I've heard traditional, authentic and whatever you want to call Americanized Mexican food, but Modern? Modern gets me intrigued. Thanks to my Elite Yelper status, I had the opportunity to sit down at the all new Modern Mexican joint, Cantina Laredo for a four course meal with fellow Elite Yelpers. 

The evening started with tastings of a variety of specialty martinis made with Patron Tequila and the Patron Rep. telling us all about the product and how it's made. A friendly couple, Chris and Sabrina sat at our table and awkward first greeting turned into a great night of conversation with some very nice people. We got to know each other, talked about our love for food and what our favorite places were around the Twin Cities. But you don't want to know about our conversations, you want to know how the food was, right!?

The menu that was provided to us had some amazing sounding dishes on it and we were definitely ready to get the night of food started of quickly. After one sip of our first traditional margarita, our appetizers started arriving. As our servers started to create a fresh table-side guac and chips, additional servers were delivering Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Shrimp. Had we not had guests sitting with us, I would have ate the whole plate myself. As for the guac and chips... You simply, cannot beat, what you get in Mexico. However, it was gone!

Onto another specialty drink - the Sunset Tini', which was of course made with another Patron product along with a soup. Pablano Soup was the creation and it came out looking like a potato soup of some kind and after the first spoon full, so so so much more tasty. More of a bisque and full of wonderful flavor, this soup is a must try with just the right amount of heat as well. How good? My wife says, "I hope you don't like it!"

Oh look, yet another tini' creation and yes, it was made with yet another delicious Patron ingredient. At this point, you're probably asking yourself, "Are these people drunk?" The answer is no, no we were not! We're all adults, it was about trying. So after that tasty treat,, our main courses were about to make their way out to us. A choice between; Filet w/ Chile de Arbol Sauce or a Red fish w/ Langostino Corn Cream Sauce. Both couples decided to go with one of each and share.

We'll start with the filet. We will always recommend that steak be served medium, never well done which our serve also suggested. We of course ordered as we normally would and Chris followed suit. Unfortunately, one steak came out well done (although we were told it was medium), while the other was very rare. The Chile Sauce had exceptional flavor, but the group collectively thought it was over powering the meat. Lots of great potential with this dish, but I would perfect the steak preparation and to balance out the flavors to make this a superior dish, I would serve it with half the sauce currently being used (which is quite a bit). A side of skin on sliced taters and grilled asparagus completed the dish.

After another... No just kidding, we had a break from the alcohol and enjoyed some water. Who am I kidding, we got to try some more tini' goodness and goodness it was. About that Red fish... The best part of this dish was the Langostino Corn Cream Sauce. Absolutely delicious! The fish was a tad overcooked and while it doesn't scare me or anyone at our table, Cantina Laredo serves their fish with the skin on. It's used to keep the moisture in, but again, a tad overcooked this time around. No fishy taste to it either, but I wouldn't mind seeing a grouper or snapper instead. A side of cilantro-lime rice and asparagus completed the dish, but the rice was also a tad dry. 

None of our meals were not worth eating and there is great potential for Cantina Laredo. While I maybe wouldn't order these dishes again without the suggested changes, we're definitely looking forward to going back to try other menu selections. Our evening concluded with a dessert that should never be made again - Avocado Ice Cream. It tastes exactly as described and I had to push it aside. Thankfully, you guessed it, I had a something to mask the unpleasant taste in my mouth - a Coconut Tini' which was scrumptious.

So after one round of Patron, or was it two, maybe it was five or was it four? I don't know! Anyways, we had a great time, great people to meet and sit with and Cantina Laredo really does have the potential to be a top restaurant at the Mall. Lets face it, it's needed! I would recommend 4 places to eat at while shopping (including the Cantina), when there's 3-times that to actually choose from, I just wouldn't recommend those places.

Here's to Patron, Cantina Laredo, Yelp, Tracy Byrd for singing about Jose Cuervo and good food!


Mall of America - 3rd Floor next to Macy's

** Disclaimer ** After further research, it was discovered that Cantina Laredo
is an international chain. 

January 16, 2016

Zio Is No Primo

The Mall of America continues to expand in every direction it possibly can. New stores (some of which only the elitists can afford), two new hotels, but more importantly, some more food options. While I think the mall is completely missing the mark except for a very small handful, at least they're trying?????

During a recent visit to the mall, my wife and I found ourselves trying to think of something to eat, with nothing sounding all that interesting. Sure there are a couple of places definitely worth eating at (Cedar + Stone and Burger Burger), but we like trying new places. We ended up settling for a place called Zio Modern Italian. They pride themselves in providing only fresh ingredients, nothing from a jar, can or frozen. 

Nice architecture. Elegant appearance. Very modern, but after you review the menu, you quickly notice overpricing taking place for what you receive. I did a little research prior to dining at Zio and I found out that it's ownership, Kaskaid Hospitality, is the parent company for Crave Restaurants and Union Rooftop. If you know me, you know I'm not at all a fan! All you're going to receive while dining at one of these places is very mediocre cuisine and extremely overpriced for that same mediocre food. 

Back to Zio and our first meal with hopes of a positive good first impression. As we sat down, the server started to pour out a little extra virgin olive oil on a plate and cracked some fresh black pepper into the oil. Nothing to get too excited about and a pretty lame attempt for "finer dining". Do yourself a favor and swing by Giuseppe's Restaurant in Rosemount and see what it takes to impress your patrons! 

My wife wasn't all that hungry and settled on a Caesar Salad. Sitting in this restaurant, you would think they would bring out this amazing looking salad, amazing dressing, fresh - homemade croutons and would be downright amazing. Well my friends, we thought exactly that, but got the complete opposite! See for yourself - anyone for a side Caesar from some crappy chain? I couldn't stop laughing! At least the lettuce was cut perfectly...

I decided to go with one of their pizzas, the Fennel Sausage Pizza. Spice sausage, caramelized fennel, house made sauce and provolone. Sounds delicious, but provolone doesn't belong on a pizza, so I asked for them to put mozzarella on it instead. To my surprise, I was asked if a $2 charge for swapping cheese was OK. We wouldn't want to put any extra pressure by having the pizza cook put his hand in the mozzarella bin and not the provolone bin, would we? I find it comical that they prepare their pizzas in a wannabe wood fired oven as well.

It wasn't by all means disgusting, actually not bad. I would however drive to Punch Pizza, Black Sheep or some other place out there over Zio to enjoy more superior wood fired pizza before going back. As for the other cuisine on the menu, I took the time to wonder around the restaurant on my way to the little boys room and perused dishes and wasn't at all impressed with what I was seeing. Again, not surprised coming from the people behind Crave and Union. 

No, Zio is definitely not all that primo, they missed the mark on first impressions, but I would really need to dig into their other dishes to really see what they're all about. I'm just not in a hurry to do so! Look, if you want an amazing zza, check out the places I mentioned earlier. If you want an amazing Caesar or Italian in general, check out Giuseppe's Restaurant, I Nonni or make your own - that would still be better. If you are at the mall, check out a place called Burger Burger (another Kaskaid owned business that will hopefully not be ruined because it's awesome), the hotel restaurants or even Hooters. You can't go wrong with awesome chicken wings and cold beer! 

Zio Modern Italian
Mall of America - 3rd Floor - South End

January 5, 2016

Cedar + Stone Cold Believer

Everyone knows that I speak my mind, I don’t hold back, it’s just how I am, I lay it on the line… When it comes to food, let’s face it, that’s how it should be! Our next exceptional restaurant made me a, "Stone Cold Believer" and I think the fellas of 38 Special would agree. They even sang about it!

The newest addition to the Twin Cities food scene is indeed exceptional and providing a fine dining experience like none other. Cedar + Stone Urban Table, located inside the all new J.W. Marriott at the Mall of America is priding themselves in providing the very best to its consumers. That means that all the ingredients come from local farms right here in Minnesota and the hand crafted dishes are “inspired by Minnesota’s natural roots & local culture.”

My wife and I joined neighbors of ours for a New Year’s dinner, away from the kiddos and just enjoyed each-others company and some wonderful food and adult beverages. This place is so new that a website doesn’t even exist yet to provide you with a menu or the names of our dishes. Do not fear the Food Gnawledge master is here to help! Our dishes consisted of the following and I will, of course, break them down for you; Fresh Scallops and Pork Belly, Halibut Steak, Braised Short Rib and Skirt Steak.

For once, I’ll start with my meal. I went with the Scallops and Pork Belly. Four large and perfectly prepared scallops served with some very tender pork belly and served over a delicious cappers and couscous medley, fresh corn and lemon grass. These scallops were seriously cooked perfectly and the entire dish together was something I’ve really never experienced, but very delicious and worth a consideration.

My wife decided to go with the Halibut Steak and I’m glad she did. A large halibut steak served over a fresh sweet cabbage, fresh spinach, carrot puree and olive oil. After just one bite, I wanted to trade dishes! While I have seen a bit larger halibut steaks on some of my other favorite restaurants, theirs was still cooked to perfection and very delicious. What made this dish so amazing was actually the carrot puree. Whatever they did to doctor this up should never be changed and will most likely never be duplicated. The sight of spinach and cabbage makes me gag (not completely), but this was something “Special”. See what I did there?

We didn’t get a chance to try our neighbor’s plates and why would we? It’s their food! While they’re very open to trying new things, they had plenty of questions for us on the menu. Being as Gnawledgable as my wife and I are about food, it was easy to assist and it was great to see the excitement in trying a new place. The conversation even helped with the re-branding of the Gnaw Blog and forming Food Gnawledge. Thanks Dave!

Ok, back to the good stuff… Our neighbor Dave decided to go with the Braised Short Rib served atop mashed Yukon Gold Fingerlings and Au Jus. Slow cooked for 12 hours, sounds like the type of meat I want to enjoy! Again, while we didn’t have an opportunity to test out the plate ourselves, there wasn’t a morsel left on his plate and he had nothing but positive things to say about it. I’d say he made the right decision.

His wife Jennifer made a very smart decision and going with the Skirt Steak. Most butchers my wife and I have chatted with, say they serve this cut of meat for their own families and secret in the industry. It’s rarely found at restaurants and it’s one of the most tender and delicious cuts off the animal. It came served with the same delicious mashed Yukon Gold Fingerlings and some leafy greens. The only thing I would say Jennifer did wrong with this dish...... Ordering it well done! So we all gave her a little razzing, but again, nothing was left on her plate. Yet another, great choice!

Wait, wait, wait, wait… “Didn’t you get any appetizers?” Why yes, yes we did! In fact, we have a first for this foodie. I absolutely refuse to eat Brussels sprouts and no matter how they’re prepared, they always taste like cardboard. However, I would have to agree with Jennifer when she said, “I would come here for lunch while shopping, just for these!” Yes, they were that damn good! Prepared with an enjoyable amount of pancetta chunks and a sweet glaze, I would indeed go back for these in a heartbeat!

If you wanna climb that ladder, you wanna make it to the top and become a Cedar + Stone Cold Believer like myself, it takes just one thing according to 38 Special… “Gotta give it all y’ got!” Executive Chef, Everton Clarke and his staff are doing just that and I applaud them.

Cedar + Stone Urban Table
J.W. Marriott Hotel
Mall of America's North End