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