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