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