November 12, 2017

Just Another Sports Bar!

Living in the small community of Rosemount, with very little quality restaurants to choose from, has my family and I venturing out to other communities trying to find some quality cuisine. Our journey took us to near by Apple Valley (where the restaurant scene is similar to Rosemount), but a new sports bar has hit the scene and we had to check it out.

That new sports bar is PR's Sports Bar which took over the building that was once occupied by Valley Tap House who decided to close their doors. The Valley Tap House didn't have anything worth enjoying, so hopefully a new establishment could provide some much needed quality cuisine.

While it's only been a very short time that PR's has been open, I think I'll give it some time before making a second trip back. And, unfortunately, it's just another sports bar! Lots of burgers to choose from, decent selection of sandwiches and wraps, pizza's, entree's and a half way decent beer list. With 16 burgers to choose from, I had one thing on my mind - "Would they be worth adding to my Top 10 list?"

All their burgers are prepared with a house seasoning and served on a toasted egg bun. I decided to go with the Cheddar Bacon Burger and asked for it to be medium. Out came a burger that looked like it was purchased from Sams Club, far too well done and dry. I was able to stomach half my burger before pushing it aside and finishing my beer. What would I change? Start over with the burgers and make sure the cook in the kitchen knows how to prepare red meat properly.

It wasn't all bad though, my wife decided to order the Buffalo Chicken Wrap with the sauce on the side. The chicken was actually tender and moist and full of flavor. She was able to finish her entire meal and let me have a bite, the most enjoyable bite of the evening for me. Well, besides the cold brew!

Last, but not least, my little guys pizza. Pass!

While it's certainly a positive to have a new restaurant fill a vacant building, but PR's has a long ways to go before it's more than your typical sports bar with mediocre food. The south metro needs more quality and affordable food and I am hopeful more will open in the future.

PR's Sports Bar
14889 Florence Trail
Apple Valley, MN 55124

October 7, 2017

The Fast "Mexican" Restaurant Debate

The debate over which fast food or fast casual national chain (and one that is very similar) Mexican themed restaurant is the best continues! I've only been to and heard of 9 places that are setup in a similar fashion. This is just how I feel and, quite honestly, I think is a pretty solid and accurate ranking. 

Some of these have numerous locations while others are hard to find or you just sorta of run into them while you're out an about. They each are different in their own ways and some really should never be revisited ever again. While a couple of these I could keep eating, I would still much rather have something authentic going in my belly. So, lets stop blabbering and get to it! 

#1 - Chipotle
Should be no surprise to anyone, but Chipotle is definitely at the top of my list. Every single one of the meats is worth eating and it doesn't matter if you get a burrito or a bowl, everything always tastes good. That rice is one of the best things since sliced bread. And, while some Chipotles aren't as solid as others, all-in-all, Chipotle still rocks! Plus, they're very charitable! Oh, and we need to try that new queso they offer...

#2 - Zantigo
I think there are only 3 within the Twin Cities area, but this place has some of the best tortillas you can get. Meats are pretty decent, but nothing like Chipotle. What makes this place so awesome and sitting the #2 spot really is their cheeseritos. Absolutely love these things! 

#3 - Costa Vida (Wife's Pick)
This is the newest chain to hit the Twin Cities Market and the reason why I decided to write this blog in the first place. Their set up (meats and extras) is very similar to Chipotle or Qdoba, but they make their tortillas in house and warm them on a giant spinning hot wheel. If you order a burrito or bowl, they your rice, meat and cheese together first, melt it in their mini pizza oven, then have you put all your extra stuff on. My wife really enjoyed her meal, a bowl (similar to Chipotle's) with shredded beef and all her extras she decided to get and she really enjoyed it. I went for a burrito with their sweet pork and the extras I like and it was quite large. I actually brought it home. While the sweet pork had pretty good flavor, I wouldn't order it again. It is too close to something I would get at a BBQ joint, not a Mexican restaurant. Queso and chips were also solid as well. 

#4 - Qdoba
Basically a knock off of Chipotle (let's be honest) and still serving decent food. I've never really had a bad experience while visiting a Qdoba, but it's just not Chipotle. 

#5 - Literally, anything else but the next few that I'm about to list, but they need to be listed and shared. Is there anything else?

#6 -  Pancheros
Stopped in on a whim while in the Golden Valley area and the service is also, very similar to the setup like Chipotle. I went for a bowl with chicken which was pretty boring and their cilantro lime rice is just as boring. I know you have to be different from your competitors, but you still have to make it taste good.  Plus, for the money, you get a very small portion compared to my favorite place and others on the list. Looked like a child's portion...

#7 - Taco Libre
Not a chain, but it's already growing to a couple of locations in the Twin Cities and probably more. I gave this place 3 opportunities and each time I walked out unsatisfied and disappointed. Meats are really nothing to brag about and I tried each of them. Tortillas were always dry tasting (as was the meat) and the flavors weren't the best either. Everyone brags about the machete, but it's not all that exciting.

#8 - Cocina Mexicana inside Hy-Vee stores
Had it once, will never eat it again. The rice was gross, dry and cold. The meat wasn't as bad and the extras that you get to choose from really didn't much either. I'll stick to grocery shopping during some of their specials. 

#9 - Taco Johns
The only thing I can stomach here are their potato rounds. 

#10 - Taco Bell
Do I really need to say anything about this place? 

So, what are your thoughts on my rankings? Are they consistent with your taste buds? What would you change? Hopefully, it's not putting my bottom 2 at the top.......


Not My Kind Of Rainforest

Ecosystems that are so complex, they're like a place out of time. Rainforests all across the globe provide some of the most amazing sites most humans have not seen and will never see. Just the small tribes that live within these lush environments, those with a little extra money to venture into them and scientists from all over the world studying a whole new world.

Sounds like a magical place that should be added to my bucket list of places to visit some day, but I've got a rainforest that should go extinct and should never be on anyone's bucket list. The Rainforest Cafe is the place I'm referring to and the one at the Mall of America, should have just stayed closed when it closed its first floor location a couple of years back.

It was our little guys' birthday and he spent the day at the zoo with mommy. We figured, why not eat at a place that's like a zoo, he would love it. All kinds of things to look at and the food can't be that terrible. I mean, it was about our little guy having some fun...

Boy, were we wrong! After I ordered my $11 Summit Oktoberfest (I just about fell over when I saw the bill), our little guy went for a cheese pizza, my wife went with their chicken salad croissant sandwich and I decide to go with their "house favorite" BBQ bacon cheeseburger and I left out the BBQ.

As our food arrived at our table, it appeared to look pretty delicious. Looks are deceiving! My wife's chicken salad sandwich was bland and flavorless with dryer than dry chicken inside a croissant that was just as bad. She struggled through even half her sandwich and pushed her plate off to the side.

As for my burger, I've had A LOT of cheese burgers from all over the place and this one was definitely not something I would send my enemy to go check out. For starters, when you ask for your red meat to be prepared a certain way, a good chef can pull it off perfectly. Not here! They overcooked a burger that was asked to be prepared to medium and they simply threw a couple of slices of cheeses on it, just before the lettuce, onions and 'mato. It wasn't even melted! REALLY!

I would have rather ate my sons pizza (which was still blah), but I looked at my wife and said, "I need another beer to wash what I just ate down!" Something I wouldn't have said once I saw the bill. The mall really doesn't have the greatest options for solid cuisine experiences and often times way over priced as well. If you're curious where to get a solid burger - check out Burger Burger. The only place in the entire mall worth getting a burger at!


August 14, 2017

To Beer or Not To Beer?

It's a really good question that you have to ask yourself when visiting Red Wing Brewery after talking to some friends of yours that have visited already and know what I'm looking for in beer and food. So, do I beer it up, I do I not? I decided to check this place out, but was it a regrettable decision?

I haven't been made aware of anything exciting in Red Wing to check out and I had to ask around to see if anything was worth checking out. Some friends of mine told us we had to try the pizza at Red Wing Brewery before mentioning anything about the brews. I thought to myself, "Really, the pizza?" They get all of their ingredients locally to make their pizzas and they looked amazing as they were bringing out pizza after pizza. One of my friends said it's the crust that makes their pizzas so awesome. Ok, lets give it a whirl!

You can order up your own personal pizza or a full size to share. I decided to order up a personal meat lovers pizza while my wife decided to build her own. My wife went for pepperoni, green olives and onions while my meat lovers was prepared with garlic white sauce, mozzarella, cheddar, pepperoni, ham and sausage. When they arrived, they definitely looked enjoyable. But, after taking a quick bite of a sausage, I asked my wife, "What does this taste like to you?"
I asked that question, because the first thing that came to my mind was a sausage from Pizza Hut or Domino's. No, seriously, that's exactly what we both thought of after trying their sausage. As for the rest of the flavor and the crust, well if they didn't have the crust they had, this really would just be a glorified Pizza Hut with a brewery attached to it.
As for their beer that I know you've been dying to know about, well, I wouldn't go out of my way to check this place out. I went for a flight of everything they had on tap and their wheat's had too similar of flavors as did their full body brews, but there was a single beer that I did actually enjoy and that was their Ski Jump Special. All in all though, their brews were very bland, boring and not all that creative. Something about the beers being made in this state that just aren't exciting EXCEPT for places like; Lakeville Brewery, Modist Brewery, Insight Brewery and Castle Danger.

So, the questions remains for you... Are you going to beer it up at Red Wing Brewery or pass? The decision is up to you and everyone has a liking for different beers, but I guess I'm just used to exceptionally made beer from Oregon and my few favorites previously mentioned. The decision is yours! But, just know, there ins't much else to choose from in Red Wing if you have the same feelings as I did....

Red Wing Brewery
1411 Old West Main Street
Red Wing, MN

August 13, 2017

Jam on 'cause LoLo's got it!

I've been waiting for so long for some excellent restaurants to hit the market and I just can't hold back my excitement for this latest gem we found thanks to a recommendation from our pal Taco (which by the way, is a fitting nickname which you'll understand a little later on). Whelp, It's time for me to stop listening to the Backstreet Boys and let it all go! Let you all know about this amazing new place. 

With three locations to choose from, one in Stillwater and their original, one in downtown Hudson and the other in the MSP airport for all you following the Boys on tour, Lolo American Kitchen & Craft Bar is not a place you can pass up. My wife and I were looking for something new to try (as always) and we're glad Taco mentioned this place to us. We decide don the Hudson location, which hasn't been opened very long right on the main drag of Downtown Hudson. 

I started to review the menu just before we headed out and items were catching my attention, left and right. A coupe of items really caught my attention and they all were coming from their tacos and dogs menu. Now, for those who know me best, I'm a huge stickler when it comes to tacos. So many places try to make tacos, but the large majority simply fail. And, not just the authentic version, but failing with the Americanized versions as well. But, there was something about LoLo's creations that was catching my attention and telling my belly to go for it. 

My wife and I decided to share their Korean BBQ Hanger Steak Tacos and their Fish Tacos. Now before I share the ingredients in creating these two masterpieces, I have to just say it right away, easily two of the best Americanized tacos I've ever had (I hope LoLo's ownership isn't offended by that, because they shouldn't be!). 
Lets start with the Korean Tacos. Made obviously with a Korean BBQ and Hanger Steak, but also prepared with napa (cabbage), pickle (definitely house prepared) and this insanely awesome aioli. So good, it would make you want to get out of your chair and start dancing like the Boys do. Seriously, So dang delicious! As for those Fish Tacos, well, just as insane. Perfectly prepared fish fillets, lightly battered and prepared with a creamy chimichurri sauce, salsa, avocado and cabbage. Their creamy chimichurri sauce was the best chimichurri I've ever had and I wanted more. Thankfully, their awesome smoked salt fries comes with a side of it that didn't last long. 
We can't forget about the little guys' burger or this new craft brew I tried. My little guys' simple cheese burger, might of been simple, but it was an awesome burger! Even he ate most of it! And the brew that I had, well it was something I've never had before and I hope I can find it in liquor stores. New Holland's - Lost Dune, a coriander and blueberry golden ale that had a really nice color and and even better flavor. 

Jam on 'cause LoLo's DEFINITELY got it goin' on and I can't wait to head back for some delicious food. And, if you decide to visit the Hudson location ask to sit in Zack Morris' section, yes the same Zack from Saved By The Bell. No, not really, but that's what he told us because there's two Zack's, but this real life Zack did an exceptional job and a great server.

LoLo American Kitchen & Craft Bar
Stillwater, Hudson, MSP Airport

July 24, 2017

Menu of Confusion

I must have dreamed a thousand dreams about food over my years and been haunted by some of the things we’ve come across. Okay, maybe not haunted, but we’ve definitely seen the good, the bad and the ugly throughout our dining experiences. We’ve also come across some of the most “unique” menu’s that have been created for patrons to browse through and we’ve come across another with our most recent visit to a place that hasn't been open too long.

That new place that had me rockin’ out to Genesis is called Lock and Dam Eatery and yes, the menu is very unique. They have a really great location in the heart of historic downtown Hastings right on the river, with an outdoor patio to boost. The inside is very sleek, modern and just the right size for this small community. From our understanding and talking to some locals, it’s the same ownership as some of the previous tenants, but with some re-branding taking place.

That re-branding however, may not be the best? After sitting down and grabbing some cold beverages, my wife and started to look over the menu, a very unique menu. Hungry for a burger or wrap? Maybe you’re in the mood for some Mexican? How about some Italian? Well, the Lock and Dam offers all of that and not just a plate or two, but a full page of options for each area of interest. And, for our first visit, what do we try? Well, we decided to test the Mexican menu…

We started with some chips and salsa and placed our order. My wife went with the Super Burrito, I went for the Street Tacos and our little guy wanted the Chicken Tenders. As we thoroughly enjoyed the house made chips and salsa (which we would recommend if you decide to stop in), we enjoyed the half decent scenery out on the patio and waited for our meals to arrive.

As are meals arrived, my eyes got large when this enormous burrito shows up. They have a burrito challenge and I would hate to see how big it is compared to what arrived at our table!  Any who… The Super Burrito is a 14” tortilla filled with your choice of meat (beef, chicken or carnitas), rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes sour cream and topped with your choice of sauce and melted cheese. My wife went with the carnitas and I think she got through about a quarter of it… maybe. My Street Tacos were 4, mini corn tortillas, filled with either carnitas or carne asada, onions and cilantro.

Not quite sure what the meat is marinated in, but it wasn’t the best combination of flavors. It was a little sweet, something more in line with the start of a BBQ sandwich and was rather dry as well. I would have rather had an Americanized burrito from Chipotle and the tacos wouldn’t be added to my list of places to grab some authentic tacos – Mas Tequila, Por Favor! 

I’ve heard from locals that we should go back for the Italian and could pass on the burgers as well. I personally wouldn’t return for the Mexican and we have some favorite locations for Italian already and I’m going to guess the Lock and Dam Italian cuisine isn’t even close to our favorites. With that said, it looks as though we won’t be returning anytime soon. Definitely some room for improvement and hopefully some are made so this small community continues to have options to pick from.

Lock and Dam Eatery
101 2nd Street East
Hastings, Minnesota, MN 55033

July 19, 2017

32 Problems But The Beer Ain't One

If you’re having hunger problems, I feel bad for you son, I got 32 problems, but the beer ain’t one! Okay… so maybe it’s not quite 32 problems, but the hunger problem was definitely an issue for my wife after a stop by the newest restaurant to hit the Twin Cities food scene.

That new place that had me singing Jay-Z on the way out the door was Union 32 Craft House in Eagan at the intersection of Hwy 55 and Dodd Road. This place hasn’t even been open a month and there are definitely plenty of growing pains to get through, at least from our perspective and I hope some changes I’m about to suggest will help keep this place open.

They have two unique concepts that sets them apart from anyone else – one is called The Wall and their kitchen has been dubbed an Indoor Food Truck. The Wall is a wall with 32 taps, all from Minnesota breweries and you use a card to unlock the flow of suds that you pour yourself and keep a running tab going. They also have their own inhouse brewery and 4 beers to soon be released and added to the wall. As for the Indoor Food Truck, this is what needs some major overhauling and I wouldn’t describe it as “upscale pub fare” as their website suggests.

They have a lunch and dinner menu (not sure it’s necessary) with sandwiches, wraps, A burger, A salad, some apps and no menu for the kiddos. It comes across as more of a happy hour/after work kind of place with an excellent selection of brews and some grub to go with your brews. After grabbing a flight of some brews to try, it was time to try the food! And this is where things quickly went south and if I was the owner, I would overhaul the entire menu and start over.

We ordered; the Pork Tacos, Chicken Tenders Basket, Sausage and Pepperoni Flat Bread and the Pretzel Sticks. Sounds like a ton of food, but the portions are just fine for sharing. Started to nibble on the pretzel sticks and they were actually pretty good, but a pleasing meal was short lived. The style of pork that they put in their tacos belongs on a sandwich with some BBQ sauce which they should just do. A taco option could stay on the menu, but the pork needs to fit in the picture correctly.

The chicken tenders were completely flavorless, but if you add a little ranch, that should help. Certainly, keep an option like this on the menu, but then find a chicken tender that has some flavor and something you would be excited about serving up. As for the flat bread, take it right off the menu and don’t look back. It looked and tasted like something that came out of bulk packaging you can buy at Costco or Sam’s for a lunch at work. My wife even said, “I would take the pizza they serve at Sam’s at their food counter over this flat bread” and I would have to agree.

As for the rest of the menu, well after reading everything else, nothing really is exciting. Nothing jumps out screaming, try me, try me, try me! As I mentioned earlier, my wife was feeling a little hungry and that’s because she didn’t eat much of anything that was at our table and neither did I really… We both joked, “Think they would get offended if we went next door to grab a Jimmy John’s and bring it back?” I would certainly have been a better option. Keep it simple - a well prepared burger or two with side options to add on, maybe an extreme grilled cheese sandwich or a Philly...

There is plenty of room for growth and definitely some needed changes to the menu and I hope changes are made because I really like the beer wall and indoor food truck concepts and the fact that everything on the wall is from Minnesota. But, It’s going to be quite a while before we make another trip and hopefully it gets better.

Union 32 Craft House
2864 Highway 55
Eagan, MN, 55121

July 12, 2017

Girl Look At Them Tacos

You won’t catch me dead walking the streets in a new lafreak (whatever that is) or walking the beach in a speedo trying to tan my cheeks (ok, maybe just to be funny), but I will walk the streets in search of some truly authentic Mexican food in Minnesota. A search that has become a passion of mine (in my belly not my pants).

It’s a search that has finally taken me to a new spot that recently opened in the West Side neighborhood off Cesar Chavez (Old Concord) Street that is indeed, providing its customers with truly authentic Mexican food to enjoy while I listen to some LMFAO. That place is called La Costa Mexican Sports Bar + Grill. A fun, rustic meets sporty, garage style, make you feel like you’re on the streets of a small Mexican town, right here in St. Paul, restaurant that I want to keep going back to. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few spots around town that are worth checking out and I have some of those places (including La Costa) ranked on my places worth checking out over at - Mas Tequila, Por Favor!

The family decided to do Taco Tuesday Night and after driving by La Costa several times now, it was time to check this place out. I was definitely hungry for some authentic and delicious Mexican food, but wasn’t sure what to expect. After ordering our food, there is no reason why anyone should overlook this place and no doubt they’ll be around for the long haul.

We ordered three different types of tacos, the fajitas and for starters, some guac, salsa and chips. For under 4 bucks, a giant bowl of freshly made guac came out and more than enough to serve an entire table. A bowl you will not find anywhere else! I won’t eat guac here in the states too often, but I found myself enjoying this batch.

The Fajitas could have served an entire table as well and my wife went for the Fajita Trio which included Chicken, Steak and Shrimp. Most of the time when I’ve ordered fajitas, the meat comes out like jerkey and the shrimp is nothing to brag about. At La Costa, the meat is tender and juicy and the shrimp are huge. Best part, it’s seasoned and prepared perfectly with warm corn tortillas. And, again, an entire table could be fed. As for those tacos, I went for the Carnitas, Tinga and the Asada (which was only a buck a taco the night we were there). The Asada and Tinga were very tender and seasoned just right and the Carnitas was seasoned and cooked to perfection as well. The Carnitas wasn’t over bearing with too many flavors to overload your taste buds and not a pile of greasy meat either. But it was the taco I didn’t initially order that got my attention and easily the best taco I’ve ever had.

After talking to one of the owners (the wife) about our experience and getting to know a little more about the restaurant concept, the family and chatting about our thoughts on the so called “Authentic” Restaurants around town (cough, Teresa’s), she had asked if I tried the La Costa Tacos (Tacos de Discada). They certainly caught my attention while I was reviewing the menu, but I told her no. “You have to try one!”, she says.

As she places an order for one taco with our server, she explained to us the roots of their formal name - Tacos de Discada. Traditional tacos found in the northern state of Chihuahua and something you will not find anywhere else. Made with a mixture of grilled meats - beef, pork, ham, bacon, chorizo, frank, ranchero sauce, onions and cilantro, after just one bite, I was wishing I ordered these instead.

The food truly is as good as I am making it sound! If you want to dress like LMFAO in some animal print pants, that’s cool or if you want to wear a Lucha Libre Mask and do a little wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle as you walk into La Costa, I suppose that’s cool too. Just make sure you get to La Costa to enjoy some truly authentic Mexican food. I can't wait to get back to try some more items off the menu.

La Costa Mexican Sports Bar + Grill
194 Cesar Chavez St.
West Side Neighborhood - St. Paul, MN 55107

July 11, 2017

Forever Young Joni

When you find the type of food that makes you want to dance in style and for a while, you start to think, heaven can wait. This next place that was a recommendation by our friend Angie makes me want to live forever and not die young. 

So what place could I be talking about that made me think of Alphaville (a group that would love this place by the way)? That unique, eclectic and amazing food serving place is called Young Joni which is located in the "Nordeast" neighborhood. One of the coolest places to enjoy a good meal at, Young Joni first confuses you with their goofy door handles. Not only did it take me a few times to figure the door out, but while we enjoyed our food, we watched several others try to figure out how to enter. Very funny Young Joni, very funny...

But, hey, once you're in, all you can do is enjoy! And enjoy we did! Lots of great menu options, mostly wood fire pizza, but even their apps and other delights looked amazing and definitely worth trying (when we go back again). But, we were there for the pizza and our friends Hayward and Ceallaigh came with us to check it out for the first time as well. 

We all ordered our own 12" wood fired pizza and they went as follows; my wife and Ceallaigh went for the Old Reliable with some of their own additions added while Hayward and I went for the YOLO. The Old Reliable starts with house red sauce, mozzarella, pecorino and as mentioned, the ladies added a couple of their own ingredients (lots of extras to choose from). 

As for that thing called the YOLO, well it was basically the best pizza I've had and the entire pizza was gone very quickly. This bad boy is basically their version of a meat lovers - house red sauce, mozzarella, fennel sausage, Nueske’s bacon, natural casing pepperoni AND cooked to perfection. Seriously, this thing was amazing. 
I've been to several other wood fired pizza spots throughout the state and Young Joni tops the competition hands down! I mean, I really loved the pizza from Boomer's in Baxter, Minnesota and was my favorite, but I can't get to Baxter as easily as I can Nordeast. So, hats off to Young Joni for making such a superior zza' and please, please don't change a thing on the YOLO and you'll have a customer for life. 

Young Joni
165 13th Ave. NE,
Minneapolis, MN 55413 

July 5, 2017

Three Little Piggy's

A little piggy named ham laid on the bottom of a sandwich, his brother bacon jumped on top of him while another little piggy named pulled pork finished this sandwich off before adding some extra ingredients. And, this big bad foodie was about to enjoy some little piggy’s without huffin’ and puffin’ and blowing a house in.

This pork filled sandwich named the, Smokey Three Pigs and Cheese is found at a new place in downtown Hudson called Mallory’s and will be added to our favorites list. My wife and I had an extra day off for the 4th of July holiday and we decided to have a Monday-Funday and just enjoy the day. We wanted a rooftop and great food, and my wife’s friend made the recommendation to check Mallory’s out.

Their space is a very cool and nicely remodeled typical downtown Hudson brownstone, but with a very nice rooftop to enjoy a view of the St. Croix. While there are a couple other rooftop/patios in downtown Hudson, nothing compares to Mallory’s. As we started to look over the menu, we were greeted by one of their very friendly servers to grab our adult beverage order. I went for a Spotted Cow (because that’s what you do when you’re in Wisconsin) and my sweetie went for their fresh made Cucumber Mojito.

As we sat and enjoyed the day, we ordered up some lunch – the previously mentioned Smokey Three Pigs and Cheese and their Loaded Philly Cheesesteak. You already got a little taste of what the Smokey Three Pigs includes, but let me make it a little clearer and let you know how darn good this thing was. Pork carnitas, smoked ham, Wisconsin cherrywood smoked bacon, hickory smoked cheddar, tomato and onion with BBQ sauce on a brioche bun. You will hard press to find another pork carnitas mad as well as Mallory’s was and when you add all the other pork family to this giant sandwich and fixins’, you have yourself a masterpiece!
As for the Philly, it’s their traditional Philly Cheesesteak, but then they add carmelized onions, wild mushrooms and mixed bell peppers. They cooked their Premium USDA Angus to a tender, juicy and seasoned just right, perfection. Add all the extra deliciousness and you have yourselves a Philly worthy of making the Food Gnawledge – On The Streets of Philasota, Philly top 10 list. One of the sides that you can upgrade to is a House Made Tot they’ve created. Shredded potato, cheese and sour cream hand-rolled. Served with their house buttermilk ranch. Man were these things delicious!
This may have been our first visit to Mallory’s, but it’s certainly not going to be our last and we will definitely be adding it to our favorites list. You will not be disappointed and you should definitely make a special trip to downtown Hudson to check out Mallory’s.

Mallory's Restaurant & Rooftop
609 2nd Street
Hudson, WI 54016

May 30, 2017

Purple Grapes, Purple Graaapes....

I only wanted to see you drinking all the purple grapes, purple grapes, purple grapes…. Drinking purple grapes? Yeah, you know, fermented grapes, wine, vino and while I’m not a wine guy myself, the ladies in my life (my mums and wifey) sure are. There also happens to be a place that my mom and dad thoroughly enjoy going to that has plenty of vino for your enjoyment as well as some delicious food. That purple grape consuming world is called Vino in the Valley.

Located just east of Ellsworth, WI sits a beautiful property with amazing scenery to gaze at while you’re enjoying a plethora of wine options, some amazing Italian cuisine and beer for those who aren’t in to the grape thing, like me. With something for everyone, this is a place even the family can enjoy. Plenty of space for blankets and family time and letting the kiddos run, bag toss, yard yahtzee, 2 fire pits going, cheese and crackers, live acoustic music, rides on the tractor down to Brush Creek to learn some history about the property, walking trails and more.
My parents finally got us to join them and it was well worth it for our first visit and definitely not the last. While we waited for our table, we enjoyed some beverages and took in some of the offerings previously mentioned. Our little guy was having a blast, us adults were enjoying ourselves and before you know it, your table is ready.

We enjoyed some simple, but delicious bread and olive oil with parmesan cheese blend, reviewed the menu and continued to enjoy the scenery and company. My mom decided on the Portabella Mushroom Ravioli, my dad went for the Garlic Shrimp Linguini, my sweetie was eyeing up the Pesto Caprese, I couldn’t say no to the Spicy Shrimp and Andouille Linguini and our little guy was all about the pizza.

Let’s get my little guys pizza out of the way. Pretty much the best tasting little’s pizza your youngster will ever enjoy and they don’t even know it, yet. It tasted freshly made, because it was with quality ingredients. Our little guys’ pizza was a pepperoni and even I wanted to eat it.

On to the selections by the ‘rents. While I didn’t taste these plates, they smelled good and definitely looked enjoyable. My mom’s Ravioli, prepared with leeks, mushrooms, dried cherries and spinach in a vodka cream sauce, then finished with white truffle oil. Mmmm, truffle oil! My dad’s linguini, prepared with sautéed shrimp in a garlic white butter sauce with mushrooms, peppers, spinach, onions, tomatoes and topped with parmesan cheese. I mentioned to my dad, that it looked like a lighter healthier meal plate than the rest of us and it was gone!
As for those meals of ours… My sweeties caprese, prepared with rotini pasta, sun dried tomatoes and fresh ‘mozz, tossed with a basil pesto and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. You can add a protein for a few bucks more and my sweetie went for some shrimp. I did taste this one and while not the biggest fan of pesto, I would have ordered this plate – awesome! And finally, my linguini, prepared with spicy shrimp and andouille sausage, then tossed in a spicy garlic tomato cream sauce. It definitely had a spicy kick to it, probably at a level most people may not be able to handle. However, for those who enjoy some fire, you will indeed enjoy it. I certainly did, I left nothing on my plate!
I never meant to cause you any hunger pains while reading this, but if you’re looking to reach out for something new, yes you, then look at taking a little day trip out to Vino in the Valley. You will enjoy yourself and you might even get to see the owner get the whole crowd singing a little That’s Amore. Sorry, no group singing of a Prince classic!

Vino in the Valley
W3826 450th Ave
Maiden Rock, Wisconsin

May 10, 2017

May The Schwietz Be With You!

"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." a young man named Thomas has a dream to build the perfect neighborhood bar with his princess Molly.... Ok, so maybe it wasn't a long time ago and in some other galaxy, but it was definitely a dream (which indeed came true), Thomas and Molly are two real people and the food and beverage is outstanding! 

This dream come true I'm referring to is Brunson's Pub, located in the Railroad Island neighborhood of St. Paul on Payne Ave. A beautiful old school brownstone that has been refurbished was formerly known as Schwietz's Saloon and a staple in the community for many years. Thomas and his wife wanted to bring another staple back to the neighborhood and I think they nailed it with Brunson's. 

I happen to be great friends with Thomas' cousin, Erik, who had been bugging me to check Brunson's out and I sure am glad I finally made it. It's not a very large menu (actually the perfect size), which will change with the season and created by their culinary mastermind, Chef Beavers. It's the burgers on the menu that I want to talk about and it's the burgers that will keep you going back for more and more. 

My wife went for their Classic Double, 2 CAB patties, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, fancy sauce on a milk bun. Sounds like a typical burger you can find anywhere, right!? On the contrary! This perfectly prepared burger, was just that - perfection! Perfectly seasoned, perfectly prepared, morsels of meat falling off and a perfectly grilled bun. I want another one now, just sitting here writing about it! 

The burger I decided to go with was just as insanely amazing and perfect! The Schwietz Burger, 1 beef patty, 1 sausage patty, Swiss cheese, onion, kraut, ale mustard on a pretzel bun. I asked for the kraut to be on the side and added just enough for flavor and again, just a perfectly made and prepared burger. I hate kraut and I devoured my burger. Wait, you didn't think I was going to forget about the meat combo, did you? That's right, 1 beef patty and 1 sausage patty were used in the creation of the Schwietz and if you don't get this burger, you're simply missing out! 

One of the best things that I love about places like Brunson's, is when a chef knows how to use their creativity and create things in house that you can't buy from a store. Their ketchup and sauces are exactly that - custom creations that others just can't complete with and man was that ketchup good. 

We can't forget about our little guy. He wanted Mac n' Cheese and this was no box made Mac found almost EVERYWHERE. No, this was house made Mac that this dad was enjoying just as much as his little buddy was, if not a little more. Our little buddy wanted to eat more of mommy's burger because of how delish it was. 

I've had so many burgers from all over Minnesota and this was easily my new favorite place to get two of the most amazing burgers. If you want see how they ranked in my Top 10 T.C. Burgers, head over to - I'm A Meateater! (Best T.C. Burgers). Can't wait to go back to enjoy some more delicious food, made by one very talented chef and his team! George Lucas would love this place! 

956 Payne Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55130

March 30, 2017

One Bourbon, One Butcher, One Beer

I want to tell you a little story about this place with a plentiful amount of bourbon and whiskey (well over a hundred), butchered meats and enough beers on tap to satisfy anyone’s taste buds. It’s the type of place that even George Thorogood could consider stopping by if he saw the back wall of the bar just once after telling his landlady he lost his job and singing about his hard times…

This outstanding restaurant I speak of is bringing people by the truck loads to the little town of Farmington, Mn. It has quickly become a popular place for all walks of life, often a bit of a wait during dinner time (especially on weekends) and serving some of the best tasting smoked meats and delicious cuisine the town has ever experienced. That restaurant happens to be the Bourbon Butcher Kitchen + Bar! The same master mind behind Burgers and Bottles in Eagan has created yet another insanely awesome dining and drinking experience.

We’ve been wanting to check this place out since first hearing from the owner that it was even going to be built. However, with a two year old and the longer waits from its popularity, we kept missing out. Finally, we had the opportunity and made arrangements with some friends of ours, Dave and Jennifer. All of us were excited to check this place out and this place did not disappoint one bit.

With so many awesome options to choose from, our server having to stop back a half dozen times to see if we were ready yet, we finally made our selections. The wives decided to split the Wisconsin Cheese Curd Burger and Sliced Brisket Smokehouse Sandwich. Our little man loves mac n’ cheese. Dave went for the Bacon Brisket Burger, while I went for the Butcher’s Plate. Might as well try a variety! And of course…. I tried EVERYTHING!

We’ll start with the curd burger… “You don’t have to be a cheesehead to enjoy this burger!” Yep, that’s what you’ll read first followed by; we put battered white cheddar cheese curds and thick cut house smoked bacon between two grilled patties. Topped with chipotle ranch sauce. No surprise from their experience in burger making – this was insane! Don’t be scared by the two grilled patties, I’ve described their burgers as open faced juicy’s. And better than anything most juicy creating places could ever make.
On to the Sliced Brisket Smokehouse. Slow roasted prime beef brisket rubbed just the right way, smoked and topped with fried onions and served with a side of BBQ and house slaw. Again, another awesome creation that is full of flavor and yumminess. They definitely piled on the brisket with this sandwich, so if you’re a light eater, you’ll have leftovers. Jennifer did mention though, “The slaw isn’t much to brag about…”
We’re moving onto Dave’s Bacon Brisket Burger. Cheddar cheese between one Angus steak burger and a pile of thick sliced smoked beef brisket. Topped with fried onions, house made BBQ sauce and house smoked bacon. This was the first bite I took to sample, even before my own meal and I already wanted to change my mind. I'm not a fan of sweet potatoes at all, but their crinkled cut sweet potato fries were awesome! Just another masterpiece of a burger and it just might cause you to have a flavor-gasm.
Is your mouth watering yet? Thinking you’ll be stopping by yourself? We’re not even done yet! We still have to discuss the mac n’ cheese and Butcher’s Plate, so stick with me… Our little guy sure does love his mac n’ cheese. While most places are giving you a bowl of Kraft (I could of just made it at home), the Bourbon Butcher is providing your little a housemade creation. And the spoon full I had was delish!

Finally, my meal, the Butcher’s Plate. A “sampler of everything the butcher has to offer.” Chopped brisket, smoked chicken thigh, 1/3 rack of ribs and a house made sausage. Served with a corn bread muffin and 2 sides of your choice. My sides included their garlic mashed taters and a side salad with one of the most amazing vinaigrettes I’ve ever had. The sausage, filled with a little cheese action was awesome and make sure you use the mustard they provide. I pulled the bones right off the ribs and they were perfection – blowing away a lot of the BBQ joints around town. The brisket was very tender, just a tad over cooked for my liking, but still absolutely yummy. The chicken fell off the bone as well and again, moist and full of flavor. There was nothing left on my plate!
Dave and Jennifer finished off the night with some dessert – Carrot Cake for Jennifer and Deconstructed S’more for Dave. The bite of Carrot Cake I got from Jennifer had me wanting more and Dave decided to devour his dessert before we could sample, but I’m guessing it was awesome. We sat and waited for some live music that started at 7 pm, let our belly’s rest a little and I was simply thinking about when the next time we would be back. Back to try some more of the delicious items on the menu. The Jambalaya! The Pulled Pork! The Crab Mac N’ Cheese! The Sunnies and Chips! The Sausage Board! The Burgers! The Wings! The Duck Wantons! So much to look forward too!

If you’re a food lover like me, this is a place to check out. If you’re a bourbon and whiskey lover, this is definitely a place to check out. And if you just need to escape the landlady, boss or anything else bringing you down, then get to the Bourbon Butcher, sit back and enjoy. But, enjoy responsibly!

Bourbon Butcher Kitchen + Bar
20700 Chippendale Ave.
Farmington, MN 55024

March 15, 2017

Playing Ketchup!

It's been a couple of months since your favorite foodie has posted anything and I've been a few new places as well as some spots during some business travels of mine. I typically don't share my experiences out of state on the Food Gnawledge blog, but figured, why not! Maybe some of my readers will be spending some time in Portland, Oregon in their lifetime and will need a place to consider!

We'll start with a place here in Minnesota, Stein Haus in Vermillion where they have a Friday Fish Fry that I was to check out to see if it would make my top ten list - Time For Me To Fish Fry! You can find my review of this place over on my Yelp page, but lets just say.... No top ten list, not even close!

The others happen to be during my travels out to Portland, Oregon and a place I wish I could live because of all the amazing breweries and food this place has to offer (besides one of these places)...

The first and the place you can consider overlooking is the Sideline Restaurant and Sports Bar. Check out my review on my Yelp page.

The next is a place during a recent visit called 10 Barrel Brewing Co. and this is a place you don't want to overlook at all. Especially if you're a beer connoisseur like myself! Check out my full (5 star review) over on my Yelp page.

Another place to consider stopping by during a visit is Alameda Brewing Co. Awesome beer and an awesome Mac n' Cheese! Seriously! Awesome! No Really! Check out my full review over on my Yelp page.

And finally, for some recommendations (plenty of others you should look at, but I would be writing all night) that you may want to consider is if you have time while waiting for your flight. That place is the Rogue Ales Public House where you can enjoy some delicious brews and awesome wings! Read more about my thoughts by checking out my Yelp page.

I enjoy my readers' support! Let me know where else I should be going to check out so I can share my fun and honest thoughts. Keep enjoying what the world has to offer us and #knowbeforeyougo.

January 11, 2017

No Partying At This Bonfire

When the bonfire is lit, the ice cold adult beverages are flowing, the company around the fire is great, some tunes playing in the back ground, some s'mores being prepared and everyone is happy, you know it's going to be a good night. Unfortunately, the bonfire we were just at wasn't anything like the one in your backyard or up at the cabin.

That bonfire I speak of happens to be the metro's Bonfire Wood Fire Cooking and we happened to be at the Eagan location. Many year's ago when this place first opened its doors, I remember thinking this was the place for a fine dining experience - the prices certainly reflected that! My typical order was the Surf n' Turf, which back then was a steak and walleye fillet. Today, that has changed and so has the menu. It wasn't the best place to eat, but it was good!

My wife and I hadn't been there in well over 6 or 7 years and decided it was a good time to check out that new menu and see if things were better or worse. For us and the dishes we ordered - definitely for the worse! After ordering some cold adult beverages, we settled on the special for Friday nights - Prime Rib as well as their Drunk n' Dirty sirloin. Each came with our selection of 2 sides.

While I would have rather had a plate full of s'mores to enjoy straight off a nice warm bonfire in the backyard, we tried our best to "enjoy" our meal. I went for the prime rib and what came out didn't look anything like the prime ribs I've had throughout the Twin Cities. Basically, it looked like a piece of barely cooked piece of meat with lame attempt at seasoning. I decided to cut everything into manageable pieces and throw in my bowl of au jus which helped a little. My sides were a loaded baked potato and their fiesta corn. My baked potato was a baked potato and the rice was quickly pushed aside. I felt like I was eating feed corn with some kind of poorly created spices added to it. 

As for that Drunk n' Dirty my wife decided to order - Remove. From. The. Menu! That was easily the worst steak I've ever tried to consume and I can make better steaks at home! It was prepared with a whiskey-marinade of some kind, but should never be served. I've played around with dozens upon dozens of marinades at home including whiskey and a 1000% times better than this attempt. As for her sides, my wife went with some garlic mashed (can't mess those up) and green beans (also something that you can't really mess up). She didn't eat much...

Everyone has different taste buds though, but would we go back? probably not! Unless of course they had another complete overhaul of their menu because I can't imagine it gets much better... Ok, maybe if they just added s'mores to the menu??? Yeah, still probably not, they would be overpriced! Just glad there was a Cupcake near by

Several Twin Cities Locations

January 3, 2017

An Italian Chipotle Option?

You're probably trying to answer that question at this very moment and potentially this question as well, "how could that even be possible?" Well, it is indeed possible, just change the ingredients and an establishment does indeed exist. This clever new place that no one should ever overlook is called Piada Italian Street Food and there are three locations in the Twin Cities to check out with more on the way.

Now you're probably trying to figure out how the two even compare and again, I'm here to help. Like Chipotle, Piada is a convenient, quick style establishment with quality, fresh and a healthier option than that of fast food options. Your food is made right in front of you and the options are similar as well. Wraps or Piada's in place of a Burrito and Tacos while Salads and Pasta Bowls replace Burrito and Salad Bowls. Finally, simply stand in line, looking of a piece of glass and telling the person on the other side of the counter what you want included in your selection. Sound familiar?

During my families first visit to this exceptional new delight, we went with the following items; the Fall Steak Avocado Piada off their seasonal menu and the Basel Pesto Pasta. We also went for a street side, a Parmigiano Reggiano Piada Stick. All of which, was absolutely amazing! But of course, I'll break the meals down for you.

Lets begin with the Piada that I decided to order. Prepared with Steak, arugula, pancetta, fresh avocado, spicy balsamic aioli, fresh mozzarella, pepitas & roasted butternut squash. I held off from the avacado and after just one bite, I was definitely happy with my selection. My Piada came with a side of a creamy parmesan dipping sauce that was insane and I was willing to drink it! I know it's on the seasonal menu, but if you see it on the menu, it's a must get!
My wife went for the pasta and typically I'm not a fan of anything pesto. However, Piada's version isn't just any pesto! Prepared with parmesan alfredo, fresh basil pesto, sundried tomatoes, freshly grated parmesan. Best with crispy chicken or grilled chicken which we of course added. WOW! Talk about a pleasurable eating experience! As for that Piada Stick.... Well, if you decide to not get one, you'll be missing out because these bad boys are awesome!
I'm definitely going to be making this place a go-to when I'm out and about and I think my wife will be as well. The food is fresh tasting and amazing! If you see a Piada Italian Street Food, don't go next store to the "grease bucket", you'll just regret it!

Piada Italian Street Food
Several Twin Cities Locations

** Images are from Piada's website, not by anyone associated with Food Gnawledge **