December 13, 2018

I’ll Take One Of Everything!

I had the opportunity to spend some time at place that has been a staple for the community in which it resides. Currently under new ownership, the Cherokee Tavern is providing their guests with an exceptional culinary experience. We were invited out to check it out and be served a new concept that Owner and Executive Chef Brian has been working on and we think it’s a keeper.

A sampler platter with some of his best menu items included on the platter and while it’s not one of everything, it’s certainly an exceptional culinary sampling that advertises Brian’s exceptional craft. It’s a sampler platter that should be consumed slowly and enjoyed thoroughly. It’s a sampler platter that you simply will not find anywhere else and I’m absolutely honored to have had the opportunity to sample this feast. 

So, what was included in this masterpiece? Nothing, but joy! Seven different dishes on one plate and included the following; 

1. A Filet with demi shrooms. Perfectly prepared filet with delicious, buttery, demi shrooms. 
2. Lightly batter fried shrimp. Excellent flavor and well prepared – not greasy at all. 
3. Horseradish mash with lamb chops. Perfect flavor in the mash with perfectly prepared, mustard rubbed lamb chops. I decided to give them a hint of lemon and received a high-five by the chef himself. Finished off with thinly sliced potatoes with a basil leaf and orchid petal between the slices.
4. Fresh garlic and buttered linguine. As simple as this addition was, super delicious and the fresh garlic made it that much better – not overly powerful.
5. Lobster tail. Cooked. Perfectly! At this was no tiny little 8oz from the grocery store… 
6. Grilled asparagus. You’ll have to ask my wife if she liked them, I’m not a fan… Wait, they were gone, so they must have been delicious. 
Seriously, why would anyone want to get a “super sampler “ or “sampler combo” at some chain, when you can get this? This is what food is all about! This is what I am constantly searching for in my culinary journey. Finding the very best of what Minnesota has to offer and Brian, not only met that, he exceeded it. This is what I strive for when I am in my home kitchen preparing dishes for my family. Why? Because quality, freshly prepared, homemade dishes are important to me. 

Cherokee Tavern is a keeper! It’s absolutely a place that I would continue to visit and recommend to anyone looking for a quality culinary experience. There is something for everyone off the menu and in a wide range of prices points as well. No need to cross the high bridge into St. Paul! 

886 Smith Avenue South
West Saint Paul, MN 55118

December 6, 2018

Famous Dave’s – Take 2

It was over 10 year’s ago when Dave Anderson left his creation in the dust to go work for President Bush, but he didn’t stay away from the BBQ business after getting out of politics. In fact, he was brought back on-board with the Famous Dave’s organization, and, all while expanding his new venture. Yes, Dave may have left his beloved creation, but it wasn’t long before he was creating something “new” – Old Southern BBQ.

But, is it a completely new concept or just an opportunity to take what was known to Dave for so many years and just giving it a new name? Right off the bat, the décor is very similar to that of his Famous Dave’s days, just a smaller, more fast convenience feel. As for the grub and sauces? Well, that too is basically Famous Dave’s-ish as well. Honestly, besides a couple minor differences in 2 of the sauces, it’s Famous Dave’s – Take 2. 

I went with a sample platter so I could try a couple of meats – brisket and pulled pork. For a side, I decided on their mac n’ cheese and all platters come with a piece of corn bread or muffin top as they’re called. I placed my order, took my number, sat down and waited for my platter to arrive and started to look through the sauces. 

Out came my platter and the gal who delivered it ran through the sauces with me… I took a couple of quick bites of my meat selections and at first taste, not a whole lot of smokiness and not a whole lot of flavor either. Maybe the sauces will help out… Five sauces to choose from – mild to hot-ish.  Southern Gals – heavy on the brown sugar, very mild (FD’s – Naturally Sweet), Dixie Red – Just a tad more than mild, thicker and bolder sauce and slight tang (FD’s – Rich & Sassy), Chicago Blue – Not much more heat than Dixie, little more sweeter (FD’s – Sweet and Zesty), Southern Son Apple Cider and Mustard – Not a whole lot of heat, good zingy apple flavor and finally, Diablo Batch – super watery and vinegary, 3-pepper, pretty tame hot sauce (just a thicker version of FD’s – Devil’s Spit). While I did actually enjoy the last couple of sauces, you will want the sauces if you want some flavorful meat. 

As for that mac n’ cheese side… Just another mac n’ cheese side… It certainly was not terrible – I ate the whole serving, but I would take some Velveeta Shells and Cheese over what I was given any day of the week. The cornbread… Again, certainly nothing terrible, but just another piece of cornbread.

In general, certainly not a visit that I wish never happened, but you really are just getting Famous Dave’s Take 2. You won’t have a “blow your socks off” meal, but I think I’ll stick to some of the local favorites around town like; Northbound Smokehouse, Rooster’s, Bourbon Butcher or Rooster’s. Where will this place rank on my BBQ list? Check it out over at – Smoking In The Back Room!

3 Twin Cities Locations to Choose From


December 3, 2018

Build A Burger, Drink Beer, Be A Kid Again...


Take an old bar that was honestly ready for something new, some delicious burgers, some local craft brews, a bunch of games for adults looking to bring out their inner-youth and give it a new name. That’s exactly what restauranteur, Mike Tupa did to the old Tavern on The Ave.

The St. Paul Tap is the new name and if you’ve been to Mike’s other establishments, Wild Bill’s or The Smilin’ Moose, it has a very similar feel to it. Like walking into a reclaimed wood store (not a dig, love the look). On top of that, he brought in a bunch of awesome arcade games, old and new pinball games (including a rare gem you’ll have to see for yourself), TV’s for playing today’s hot console game systems (Xbox, PS whatever number they’re on and Nintendo), plus a bunch of other fun games and pool tables. A place where families could certainly show up together and a place that will be packed on weekend nights where mom and dad can get away for a date night.

Add to this fun environment, a menu that has a similar feel to Mike’s other establishments and a half-way decent local and non-local tap and beer list. You also have plenty of TV’s throughout the entire place to watch whatever team you cheer for that might be playing or the sport of your choice.

But enough about all that fun stuff for us youthful feeling adults, let’s talk about some grub. I had a few folks tell me that I had to get to the St. Paul Tap to check out their burgers and to do it at lunch time. Why lunch time, Build Your Own Burgers for just $7 bucks and you get a side of fries as well ($10 bucks at dinner time). You can’t beat that! But, for $7 bucks, was I about to receive a burger that would stereotypically fit that price point – pretty straight forward, nothing too exciting or would my experience be something completely different?

I went ahead and put my order in, using their paper checklist pad system and created the following; pink prepared burger, smoked gouda cheese, smoked bacon, chipotle aioli on a pub bun. So, was it a $7 buck burger? It was worth more than that! Burger was perfectly pink the way I wanted it, the smokiness of the cheese and bacon were super tasty, just the right amount of heat with the aioli and a grilled buttery pub bun. As for those fries, your typical pub skin-on-fries with a little seasoning – not overly exciting nor were they terrible.

Burgers aren’t your thing? Check out a pizza, some Mac N’ Cheese creations, maybe you just want an app or two, or maybe it’s a salad and soup that suits your fancy. I say go for the BYOB and maybe your creation will be a permanent menu item (I have no idea if that’s a thing they do, but hey, you never know). And, while you’re enjoying your burger, be a kid again! Play some video games and try to take down the top score on one of the pinball machines. Or, head upstairs and play some giant jenga and tic-tac-toe.

Honestly, I haven’t been a super huge fan of Mike’s other establishments (the culinary side), but I would definitely make return visits to the St. Paul Tap for more BYOB creations. There are several burger joints and 6 cities that separate myself from the Tap and for most of those, I would drive right past them. I dig the St. Paul Tap after just 5 days of being open and I hope they are successful and always busy. Well, not too busy, I’d like to selfishly be able to get a table without waiting too long!

St. Paul Tap
825 Jefferson Ave.
St. Paul, MN


November 30, 2018

Are You Cheering for This Kaposia?

At every South St. Paul Packers sporting event, you’ll hear the student body and band singing the school rouser proud and loud – “Stand up and cheer, stand up and cheer for our Kaposia…” Recently, the residents of South St. Paul were cheering for a new Kaposia, a new restaurant called, the Kaposia Club.

My wife and I, along with our boys, decided to check out the Kaposia Club for their grand opening and while the town may be cheering for this new addition, I’m not quite there yet. A benchmark has been set and after our first visit, I’m hoping that they will only become better and provide a high-quality culinary experience. Not just for the locals, but neighboring communities as well.
As you first walk in, you’re greeted by an awesome mural of what made South St. Paul famous, the world’s largest stockyards. The rich history of South St. Paul continues into the entire restaurant with old pictures and relics all over the walls. The overall layout and feel of the restaurant is warm, comforting and inviting. A large fire place splits up the dining room from the large over-sized bar area. And, a party room for up to 32 people finishes off the establishment.

How about that food!? The menu is pretty typical for a sports bar, casual dining restaurant. Apps, soups and salads, dinner (the usual steaks, pasta, ribs, etc), sandwiches, burgers, pizzas and small plates for your little ones. Nothing really stands out as a must try! The tap list is somewhat decent with a variety of local brews and out of state brews – I would say a better selection than nearby competitors. But, I do have some immediate suggestions for changes to the menu - set yourself apart from your nearby competitors;

Change Considerations:  French Dip, Torta, Traditional Club, Burgers

Replace with (in order): A solid Philly. This part of the world needs a solid Philly. Anything else, but a Torta. I can’t imagine this will be a big seller? Consider a wrap with something other than your typical white or wheat – I would look into Rosemary, Spinach, Sun Dried Tomato. A quality club with a chicken breast, bacon, aioli, arugula on anything other than white or wheat bread (perfecting the current chicken sandwich so-to-speak). Burger options are far too typical. Create a signature Kaposia burger that isn’t comparable to an eating challenge (Bobby’s Ultimate). Think like a real chef and create an exceptional burger. Find a new bun and get creative! Consider a flat top option. Once you go flat top, you won’t go back.

So, what did we order for our first trip? Our little guy went for the mini corn dogs, my sweetie went with a Reuben and I built my own burger (something most people I feel will be doing with the current menu options). Quickly, the mini corn dogs are what you would expect – out of a frozen bag. This isn’t a dig on them. We’ve only come across a very small handful of establishments that have done homemade ones.
As for the Reuben and Burger; my wife’s Reuben was a tad on the dry side, however it had potential with a nice flavor to it. The pumpernickel had a decent grilled crisp to it which was nice instead of being soggy bread that we have come across from time-to-time. As for my burger, well, it was just a burger. I built my own medium prepared 1/3 lb. with cheddar, pepper jack and bacon, with a side of mayo to make my own personal concoction. It arrived without bacon which was fine, the server was kind enough to remove it from our bill. While I would eat this burger over some of their immediate competitors, it’s still nothing that would draw me back for a second nor make my top 10 list. A quick hit on the fries – love that they decided to go with crinkle cut fries, but I would bring White Castles or McD’s fries with me.
I want so badly to stand up and cheer for the Kaposia Club, a new restaurant is badly needed in the northern Dakota County area. Yes, they have just opened their doors and they have some growing pains to go through like any new restaurant goes through. But, again, a benchmark has now been set and time will tell if they only become better and evolve or stay right where they’re at. And, are they perfectly fine with that? One thing they will need to work on immediately, service time from once you’re sat to being greeted by a server. Much too long….

I’ll give the Kaposia Club a few months and make a return visit to see if anything has changed for the better and if they’re setting themselves apart from the competition. Maybe I'll even check out their Friday Fish Fry special and see if that's something worth adding to my top 10 list....

Kaposia Club
456 Concord Exchange
South St. Paul, MN


November 12, 2018

Holy Moly Woolley’s!

If Captain Marvel was in the mood for steaks, because super hero’s love red meat (maybe that’s made up), I think he would want to go somewhere that is serving only the finest steaks and that place that I am thinking of just had its grand re-opening over the weekend and didn’t disappoint.

Woolley’s Kitchen & Bar (formerly Woolley’s Steakhouse) just happens to be the place I would send Captain Marvel to and I would encourage him to bring his fellow super hero buddies with him. Woolley’s went through an extensive remodel over the summer and fall and the new look is wonderful looking. Everything has been updated, it looks a lot more modern and sleeker, the bar area has a more open layout and they even reserved a spot for nightly music to be played while dining. A huge improvement from the previous décor. 

But, while the restaurant was completely remodeled, they kept the same quality and attention to detail with regards to their menu. My wife and I absolutely love Woolley’s and it’s my favorite spot to get a filet. Every time I order their filet, it’s made perfectly – super tender, juicy and full of flavor in every last bite. And, this visit during their re-opening celebration was no different.  

So, I ordered just that, the 10 oz. Filet with a side of loaded hash browns. Why would anyone order hash browns with such an amazing steak? When Chef Frank Loprete is the master mind behind the menu, you don’t second guess, you just order and enjoy. They were the type of hash browns that I would prepare at home over and over again - loaded with bleu cheese, bacon and scallions. Simple, yet fantastic!
My wife went for their Red-Eye Ribeye with a side of grilled glazed carrots. Again, another steak that you could cut with a fork from how tender their steaks always are. It was super juicy and full of flavor just like my filet. The carrots were glazed and grilled with rosemary and olive oil and enjoyable as well.
And, to wash all of this delicious food down, we enjoyed a bottle of Kendall-Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve Red Blend out of California’s wine country. I’m just starting to enjoy good wine’s and gain a better understanding of just how complex they can be, and this wine paired perfectly with our meal. 

Woolley’s is definitely my go-to place when my wife and I want well prepared steaks served to us. The entire team at Woolley’s has done an exceptional job on the remodel and their menu continues to impress. But, again, it’s to be expected by such a culinary super hero. The next time you’re in the mood for a high-quality meal, look no further than Woolley’s Kitchen & Bar and bring your super hero sized appetite with you! 

7901 34th Ave So.
Bloomington, MN 55425

October 23, 2018

Mas Tequila, Por Favor! (Twin Cities Best Tacos)

Sing it with me - I say (One shot... Hey!) Mas tequila, Two shots... Okay I won't make you sing the entire song, but I will say this, it would take a couple more in order to enjoy some of the Mexican food being prepared in this state. Question - is anyone else getting sick of the Americanization of cultural food? I sure am!

At every corner, it seems you can find a restaurant that claims to be "Authentic Mexican Food", but is it really? My wife and I have traveled to Mexico several times and walked the streets of some of the smallest and poorest villages and towns in the world. Most people wouldn't even come close to considering eating the food at some of the little hole-in-the-walls that we have been to, but that's exactly what I'm looking for when we travel. I don't want Senior Frogs, Margaritaville or some other restaurant owned by a millionaire American when I'm traveling!

Unfortunately, most Mexican Restaurants around the Twin Cities are just that, Americanized renditions of Mexican food. Places like; Teresa's Mexican Restaurant, El Loro/El Toro, Acapulco Restaurante Mexicano and many others - but what for? You're making it taste terrible, not better! So, the search is on for the best and AUTHENTIC Mexican Restaurants in the Twin Cities. We'll keep this list to a top 10 places that you should check out. The list may change as recommendations come our way, so stay alert...

1. Andale Taqueria & Mercado
I want to continue to seek out places that are truly authentic, but if I'm ever in the Richfield/Bloomington area, this will most definitely be the place that I'm stopping at. The carnitas is spot on perfection and the pollo Mexicana was easily one of the best, if not the best pollo I've had. Too many places over-cook their chicken and dry it out or forget to put some seasoning into their meat. Not here! Do not pass this place without stopping if you're hungry or in the mood for some authentic cuisine. Can't wait to go back and try some other items off the menu!

2. Las Tortillas
If you're looking for one of the most authentic street tacos typically found in little hole-in-the-walls or a little cart on the streets of Mexico, look no further than Las Tortillas. Their taco's are insane and this place could be teaching some of the other restaurants around town how to cook a taco worth eating! Their burritos are just as amazing (yes, just a tad Americanized), but 10 times better than any burrito even at Chipotle!

3. El Taco Riendo
Decided to check this place out by doing a little searching on the old Google map and being in the area. Read a few reviews and decided to stop in and I'm glad I did! So I could get a good grasp of what they had to offer and explore some flavors, I ordered their Tinga, Asada and of course, some Carnitas. Some of the best Tinga I've had in the Cities - most places dry it out. The Asada was flavorful and tender - often times it's tough. And, the Carnitas was awesome! Salsas are very good and spot on. Mild provides just a tiny amount of heat while their hot can bring it for the faint of heart. If you're ever in the Nordeast neighborhood, this is the place you should be stopping by.

4. Taqueria La Hacienda
With three locations to choose from, this place should be on your list of places to try. Sure they may not be int he top spot, but the food is authentic and delicious. I went with my typical carnitas and their meat is cooked really nicely. Some really good flavor and the salsa is definitely a must add toy our tacos. I'm thinking my next trip with my brother in Christ, I'll try some of their other meaty offerings.

5. Catrinas Grill
With three locations to choose from throughout the Twin Cities, there's definitely a Catrinas near by and should be on your list to check out. Delicious street tacos, great tasting burritos and the salsas are excellent. I'm a big carnitas guy (as my blog probably reflects), but you can't go wrong with any of their meat options.If you see a Catrinas, don't pass it by for the next guy...

6. Taco Loco
This one is a bit of a drive for most people I know, but if you're in the area, you should check it out for sure. I love the carnitas and steak tacos and the salsa is a great addition. Not too spicy for the mild, while the hot can bring it! So, if you're heading through Shakopee and you're starting to feel hungry, stop by Taco Loco for a quick fix!

7. Casa Lupita
A small little hole-in-the-wall serving up some half way decent tacos and Mexican food. Went for the carnitas, pollo and asada and enjoyed each of them. While certainly not my favorite pick, decent spot for the north metro. Not a whole lot of other options worth stopping at in White Bear Lake and nearby communities besides Casa.

8. La Palma
This was one of my first places to visit when I wanted to start this whole top 10 list based on a recommendation. I went with some carnitas and tinga tacos and they were absolutely delicious. I still by from time-to-time and also get some delicious fried plantains while I'm there. Easily one of my favorite things to eat!

9. La Costa Mexican Sports Bar + Grill
Situated in the heart of the West Side food scene sits this sports bar themed spot. Their tacos and fajitas are tasty. We tried the Tinga, Carnitas and Asada tacos and all were a hit with my tummy and the fajitas won't be found anywhere else. Try a Tacos La Costa (Tacos De Discada), tacos that you won't find anywhere else in the state (well maybe in a home) and a traditional meal found throughout the northern state of Chihuahua. However, this once top spot location has been struggling with consistency as of late and nacho cheese sauce out of the can isn't what I crave when I'm at a Mexican restaurant.

10. El Super Taco
Taking over an old Jimmy John's location sits this new favorite of mine! This place is serving up some tasty authentic street tacos. While the meat was pretty tender, it was the salsa that was amazing and I could have just sat there and drank it. This is a must try place for anyone who loves a decent street taco, but they took the carnitas off the menu so I probably won't be making too many returning trips...

Places that couldn't make the cut that we've visited:

- El Tequito Taco House
- Los Ocampo's
- Machete Cocina Mexicana
- Pinada Tacos

I would much rather be enjoying my Mexican food way down south where the big blue agave grows, but unlike Sammy, I'm just a blue collard worker and can't afford to go whenever I want to. If you know of a place that is serving up some amazing authentic Mexican - truly authentic, please let us know, we would love to check them out!

October 19, 2018

Bugs’ Cousin, Red Rabbit!

Since hearing about the opening of a new restaurant by the same ownership as Red Cow, I’ve been very much interested in wanting to check this new venture of theirs out. And, while I was hoping that this place would be a little slice of heaven, I felt more like Bugs Bunny when he said, “Don't think it hasn't been a little slice of heaven...'cause it hasn't!”

Red Rabbit, a nice spin off from their Red Cow movement, opened its first location in the North Loop district in 2016 with a focus on delivering “craveable authentic Italian” dishes and thin crust, wood fired pizzas. And, just a short time ago, the addition of their St. Paul location. Unfortunately for this huge fan of the “Red” movement, I did not leave Red Rabbit craving more. No, for my first trip, I was instead craving other Italian dishes and pizzas found elsewhere. 

The evening didn’t start off the best way… A 30-minute wait turned into about an hour wait and with 2 littles that were getting antsy and hungry. To top it off, a group of “dressed to the nines” elders came in and immediately requested to speak to a manager about a table not being ready for their group of 6. So, a manager, feeling the pressure, made every effort to seat this group and overlooking the rest of us on the wait list. Unacceptable. 

Once we were finally sat, we quickly made our decision on what we wanted to order since we had plenty of time to review it. We wanted to share a couple of items and make sure out 4-year-old could eat as well. The Red Rabbit has no children’s menu. We went with a cheese pizza; a classic spaghetti & meatballs and a pizza dubbed, the Family Favorite. And, for our troubles of waiting, an appetizer arrived called Burrata which by the way, is nothing to really brag about and we’ll start there…

The Burrata, a mozz. ball on the outside with stracciatella and cream on the inside. This was accompanied by heirloom tomato, broccoli pesto, lemon and evo. Again, nothing really to brag about, but certainly edible. And, out came our meals and this is where I started to feel just a little like Bugs Bunny… 

We’ll start with our pizzas. The cheese pizza was a cheese pizza. You can find it anywhere! As for that Family Favorite, prepared with pepperoni, house sausage and green olive. I’m not at all an olive guy so those went on half the pizza so my wife could enjoy them. If you can’t handle any spices, you won’t like the sausage here. I love spice, but it’s a bit much if you want to market to a broad group of people. As for my overall thought, I have plenty of Neapolitan style/wood fired pizzas in my day and I often find the centers to be nothing, but a soggy mess!  However, I have had some that I crave and craving even while I write this, unfortunately, Red Rabbit’s isn’t one of them. Not even close! 
Moving on to the spaghetti that came out looking like a kid’s meal in a large bowl. No, seriously! Where did the rest of it go before it made it to our table? My wife took a bite, shrugs her shoulders and says, “It’s not the best!” As I started to take some bites, my thoughts were the same. Pretty bland and I was thinking about other dishes I would have much rather had. Again, not inedible, but nothing I would consider “craveable”. What am I craving right now? Young Joni, Boomers for some pizza or Inonni and Buon Giorno for my pasta fix.
All-in-all, not the best experience for what I have known from ownership and Red Cow. However, this was location number 2. Typically, in my experience, the flagship location is usually more superior until the kinks are worked out and all staff are on the same page at all locations, delivering consistency. So, I’ll have to check out the North Loop spot and see if I will indeed, crave Red Rabbit. 

October 18, 2018

Everything That Glitters Is Not Gold

The attractive external appearance of something is not a reliable indication of its true nature. And, when it comes to food, that can definitely be the case. That was absolutely the truth with our most recent visit to a place called the Citizen which is located inside the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown St. Paul.

Restaurant Week was in full swing and my wife and I always enjoy trying new things. After having a pretty mediocre experience at this year’s Burger Battle with Citizen’s creation, they were hoping I would make a trip to their restaurant to see if they could redeem themselves. This was the perfect time to see if they could do, just that!

For $20, Restaurant Week patrons could choose from 3 courses; starter, entree and a dessert. As to better provide us with a wide range of dishes, my wife and I picked different items from each list so we could have a broader sampling of Citizen’s dishes. Just one problem to start this lunch date…. Super slow service especially with only about 7 or 8 tables sat…. And, it goes downhill from here and they were unable to redeem themselves.

For our starters, we went with their Tomato Bisque and Deviled Eggs. Entrees were the Citizen Burger and Walleye Tacos and our dessert was a Carrot Cake Verrine and an Apple Buckwheat Cake. All sounds delicious, does it not? Yeah, we thought so too, but that whole glitter is not gold thing presented itself quickly…

Out came our apps, about 20 minutes or so from placing our order and my wife and I looked at each other with grins. While my wife enjoyed her bisque, I thought about the tomato bisque my my mom makes and craving that instead. As for those deviled eggs, that great aunt on your moms side that you only see once a year at Christmas, yeah, she can make them better! Seriously, it looked like a high school student in home-ec. class was in the kitchen preparing dishes. Not something I would order again - ever!
Now the service starts to get exceptional (insert sarcasm). Before we could even finish our apps, like literally just minutes later, our entrees were arriving to our table. My wife wasn’t even half way through her bisque! My wife took a bite of her burger and says, “I already know what you’ll say about the burger.” That’s not a good thing… I took a bite of my tacos first though. While they were certainly edible, they were just another fish taco. Nothing special! Nothing to brag about! As for that burger - although it was too well done, it wasn’t dried out. But, ZERO flavor! I looked at my wife and said, “Well, I know why they didn’t win the Burger Battle!” Then I said, “Be honest, my burger is better?” She again chuckles and agrees.
So, now my wife has an appetizer and an entree in front of her and oh look, here comes dessert! It’s like they were trying to rush us out of there - because it was so packed! Seriously, let us finish one course at a time… What my wife was hoping was an actual carrot cake was not so much. This was the best thing I consumed the whole time. Definitely unique to say the least, but super delicious. I kind of felt like it had subtle hints of rice pudding meeting carrot cake ingredients meeting a mousse. As for that apple thing we got, I sure am glad they put that nice gold flake on my dessert, but the title speaks volumes. Make it look as nice as you want, if it’s not good, it has no value.

No, the Citizen definitely did not redeem themselves and no, I wouldn’t recommend this place nor return again. I have to agree with my wife when she said, “I am not satisfied!” and as we’re walking to our vehicles and walking by a Subway, “Should have just gotten a sub!” HAHAHAHA! 

The Citizen
11 Kellogg Blvd East
St. Paul, MN 55101

October 16, 2018

More Cheese Please!

Some people like it on a string, some folks prefer it grilled - pass me some Gouda, I'm always in the mood-a, I can never get my fill - talkin' 'bout (cheese, please) that's what I love to eat (Cheese, please) the taste that can't be beat! Yep! We’re talking about cheese and we thank Chris Stapleton for his inspiring cheese song which you might find on Ratatouille, but I’m not confirming nor denying.

I like all of that right there and I definitely like my cheese on a solid burger creation as well. And, thanks to our friend at Jersey’s Bar & Grill, you can have the all new Cheesiest Burger in Minnesota! Jersey’s Bar and Grill has been known for making monthly Juicy Lucy creations, evolving their menu to meet the needs of their patrons and providing live music all weekend long as well. Heck, they even won the Red Bull Flugtag Title back in 2010 with a flight of 207 ft. and was the world record distance for several years. They’ve gone through some very nicely done remodels over their 10+ years of being in the community and their latest is probably my favorite. But, what’s even more awesome was this latest addition to their menu.

A photo of this cheesy creation was posted on their social media pages and I immediately had to try it. All I saw was cheese, cheese and more cheese. Maybe that scares some of you, but not this guy.  So, how’s this bad boy created? Oh, my cheese loving foodie friends, it goes like this; 2 quarter pound patties topped with American, swiss, pepper jack and cheddar jack, then smothered in queso, then served between rosemary sliced Tuscan flatbread. 
Seriously! This thing was awesome! I’ll be honest though, the Tuscan flatbread kind of threw me for a loop, but after taking this thing down, it’s an awesome and unique addition to this burger creation. You see, I’m into taking something pretty traditional and finding ways of making it different and unique without compromising on the integrity of the dish and this was a perfect example.

The next time you’re heading down to Jersey’s to check out one of the local bands and needing something to eat, make sure one of you orders the Cheesiest Burger in Minnesota. You won’t regret it! 

6449 Concord Blvd.
Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076

October 15, 2018

I’m Going Back To My Roots!

Another day, another door, another high, another low. Kind of seems like a battle cry for a lot of restaurants no matter what you’re attempting to deliver to the masses and sometimes you even hit rock bottom, rock bottom, rock bottom! And, while I would love to have dinner with the fellas of Imagine Dragons, I’m really glad that one of my favorite places didn’t hit rock bottom.

Back in 2009, a couple of pals decided that it was time to enter the culinary scene in White Bear Lake and I thank them for that decision. They called it Manitou Station and they offered some delicious Irish pub grub and even offered what I consider to be the most important and best created appetizer item to ever be created – Scotch Eggs! 

When I first went to this place with a native Laker and co-worker of mine at the time, I immediately fell in love with the food, especially those darn Scotch Eggs. Sausage wrapped around a hardboiled egg, baked and deep fried to perfection and served with some spicy mustard. Seriously, who thinks of amazing things like this? 

Then, some identity changes came. They decided to re-brand under The Station and to be more of a white linen restaurant, but dropped several of their key menu items. And, while I understand that you have to keep it fresh and new, they removed too many comfort food items, including the Scotch Eggs and customers weren’t returning. Items that made them who they were. Items that drew people back for seconds, thirds, fourths… But, it all came to an end finally when new owner Brian took over and deciding to go back to some of the roots of what made Manitou what so many of us enjoyed about it. The all new Manitou Grill and Event Center was born and today, they’re doing fantastic. 

They brought back all those great comfort food items that were enjoyed by the community. They brought back the Scotch Eggs that I love so dearly. They added some new items and even added something that is a MUST TRY! Brian took a trip out east and during his travels came across a little street food vendor serving Lobster Rolls. He decided to grab a sack and immediately fell in love and wanted to make it a feature on his menu at the Manitou. 
Today, his Lobster Roll, the same one he fell in love with walking down the streets of New York is now one of the best selling items on the menu and is definitely a must try if you’re a seafood fan like myself. Seriously, it’s one of those items that will definitely have you returning for seconds, thirds or fourths. And, on Wednesdays, they run a dinner special on their Lobster Rolls. 

It appears that Manitou Station had to lose its way to know which road to take and Brian and his talented chef, Andrew are definitely on the road to success! I applaud them for what they are currently presenting to us patrons. 

2171 4th Street 
White Bear Lake, MN 55110

September 13, 2018

Juicy Lucy Challange

Juicy lucy's are becoming a huge hit with burger joints and sports bars. I have set out to taste those juicy lucy's in and around the metro who have claimed the status of "The Original", but also tasting what others have deemed yummyness, yes yummyness!

Follow me as I set out on a journey to discover a juicy that has superior taste and something I could tell everyone to check out and not just base their opinions off a TV Show with a famous person thinking it's the best based on history and not actually tasting ALL the juicy's in the area... I think you all know what I'm talking about! :)

Stay tuned for more information on my take of the Twin Cities "BEST" Juicy Lucy! If you think there is a spot I should hit, Please let me know... The List below are the restaurants that I have visited thus far. Restaurants will be listed in order from the most enjoyable to the least enjoyable and taste testing is based on the establishments CLASSIC juicy lucy. Here are the top 10!

1. Burgers & Bottles
They're known for having some of the very best burgers in town and they're nothing like the rest of the burgers around town. I like to call them - open-faced juicy's. 2 thin patties with lots of gooey cheese between the patties. And now they've created a true juicy masterpiece! Outstanding flavor, cooked perfectly, grilled bun and molten hot cheese with every last bite. Every. last. Bite! Matt's Bar? Never heard of it! :)

2. Blue Door
The most famous for their original Blucy, nicely prepared juicy with blue cheese, garlic and pickles, but it's their classic that I was after. Most places simply do not put enough cheese in the middle so I asked for a slice of cheese on my classic. And, I'm glad I did just that. While there was definitely a good heaping of cheese on the inside, that extra piece just made it that  much better. On top of that, the burger was nicely seasoned as well.

3. The Nook
Well..... there was definitely plenty of hype surrounding The Nook's juicy and it was worth the visit. Like most of my places, not enough cheese - by the time you got half way through, there wasn't any cheese left in the burger. I like cheese with my burger, especially when it comes to a juicy! It was lacking a little meat flavoring, but their version was still a fantastic juicy and still put a smile on my face. Be certain to get their fries and if I ever do a fries challenge, I found a competitor!

4. Jersey's Bar & Grill
Jersey's juicy is one of the best and there's no shame being knocked off the top after spending quite a bit of time there... Filled with a generous portion of cheese and a must try for anyone looking to satisfy their appetite for a juicy. They also have a couple different varieties of juicy's to choose from and every month, they create a one-of-a-kind juicy that is the special for that month.

5. Rudy's Redeye Grill - Rosemount Location
More and more friends of mine kept bugging me to check this place out saying the food was outstanding. I wasn't expecting to see a juicy on the menu at a place like this (nicer restaurant), but there was and I was set on trying it. Too many places overcook their juicy's, but Rudy's cooked it perfectly. Not only that, it was seasoned perfectly. Making it even better, there was plenty of cheese and a buttery and grilled bun to top it all off!

6. Crooked Pint Ale House - Maplewood Location Only
I've been to other locations of theirs, several times alone at the Apple Valley location and was always disappointed and unsatisfied, every visit. But, the Maplewood location actually surprised me! Yes, even I can get surprised from time-to-time. Their traditional juicy was prepared perfectly - still some pink in the burger, seasoned nicely and filled with cheese down to the last bite.

7. Trail Stop Tavern
This place has quickly become one of our go to places for a quick bite to eat and never having a bad experience in the first place. Food is always cooked and prepared per our requests and always delicious. We've had lots of items off the menu, but we typically go for a burger since it's the closest place that is doing it right. As for their juicy's, they're just as delicious and prepared just right. Worth checking one out the next time you're in the area. 

8. Tin Cup
All around good burger and worth stopping by to try.It's a great straight forward juicy with mild seasoning and I could use a little extra cheese! This little hole-in-the-wall place can compete, but it definitely has some room for growth.

9. Fireside Lounge & Supper Club
After a friend told me to stop by, I have to admit, I was expecting somewhat of a mediocre juicy compared to others. To my surprise it was easily the largest juicy that I've come across and the cheese never stopped flowing from the inside, even up to the last bite. It received the 4 spot because the burger itself needed a little bit more flavoring. As for the cheese, it's the first juicy to have nothing but Velveeta cheese and nothing combined with it. Not bad at all, but maybe a little "something" added would have really made this a superb juicy. Would I recommend it? YEP!

10. Buffalo Tap
Decided it was time to check out the Buffalo for some grub and right on the sign... "Famous Burgers & Wings". Decision made I guess! :) Wings and a Juicy it was and they were pretty darn good, for the most part. The burger needed to be seasoned a little better or more consistently, because several of my bites hit me "Mmm, that was a good one!". The other thing I would do to make this a better Juicy, add more cheese! If you think it's enough, it's not! If you want to see how their wings ranked, checked out my Flying Buffalo's? blog.

Wait hold up... Where is Matt's on this list? Yeah, no! That place is terrible!

Matt's Bar 

Trip #1:
No flavor even with the amount of cheese inside. I've heard from others through discussion that it's a so called "hockey puck". If you order it with onions, you'll simply be receiving a gourmet or glorified White Castle version of a juicy. I think they're relying on the age of the flat top to cook flavoring into their juicy's, but it's not working...

Trip #2:
I dubbed my second trip, Second Chance Saturday (it was of course a Saturday) and thankfully, it's cheap to eat here! Awards all over the place from MSP Mag for best burger and best juicy lucy and I just have one question.... How? Who ever is voting for this place for these awards needs to spend some time exploring more than just 1 place, because it was still nothing to brag about! People wait in a line out the door for these things and I could think of plenty of other places I would rather eat at over this place. Oh wait, the 10 places I previously listed...

Do we go back for a trip #3?

August 29, 2018

A Dull Machete!

A Dull Machete

Typically, a machete is a sharp, broad knife that can be used to cut trees and plants, the type of tool that could be used to chop away at agave plants and making some delicious tequila. Or, it could be a dull object that isn’t really worth using at all. And, like that dull object, this next place should have “sharpened” up on their food preparation before opening.

That dull place we’re talking about is Machete Cucina Mexicana locate din Woodbury and taking over the space that was once home to one of my favorite places for tacos, Cien Taco. Why they closed, I’m not so sure, but I kind of feel like residents of Woodbury don’t appreciate Mexican Food???? Anyways, let’s fill you in on our thoughts on the latest addition to Woodbury and why it’s not really a keep for us.

I’ve heard both good and bad things about this place and when a friend of mine asked for my recommendation, it was time to pay this place a visit and see for ourselves. After being seated, and, like most Mexican restaurants, chips and salsa was arriving to our table shortly after being seated. Chips were tasty and the salsa was different. Not bad, but different for sure. We grabbed a margarita and cerveza’s as our server explained that Machete is providing authentic Mexican food with a modern twist. Not sure what that meant, but I saw “American style tacos” and laughed out loud.

We went ahead and ordered a Carnitas Burrito, a variety of street tacos so we could try several protein options and queso dip. The queso arrived first and was your typical queso, certainly not something you’ll crave and demand more immediately. As for our other food, that’s where things really went south.

The burrito, a combination of your choice of meat or veggie, rice, beans, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, guac and pico. It came out looking like something I could have made at home and after biting into it, I told my wife, “I’d take a Chipotle burrito over that one!” It certainly wasn’t gross or inedible by all means, but really boring.
For our taco meats, I went with carnitas, tinga, barbacoa and cochinita pibil (pork shoulder marinated in a sauce that is close to a mole sauce). Like the burrito, the carnitas was super boring, the tinga was just a step above that, the cochinita wasn’t too exciting either and the barbacoa had the most flavor, but pretty typical in comparison to other Mexican restaurants. Head on over to our Twin Cities Best Tacos list to see how this place did against the competition.

You know what, I almost forgot my little guys quesadilla… Well, ok, maybe I didn’t forget it, I just wasn’t going to share it. I make better quesadillas at home! All in all, the food isn’t terrible, maybe worth a try for someone that is more into the blandness of foods. Let’s face it, Mexican food can at times, be spicy and not everyone is a fan of spice. But, you still have to have flavor! I have other places I would recommend, but you’re more than welcome to check this place out for yourself.

Machete Cocina Mexicana
803 Bielenberg Dr
Woodbury, MN 55125

August 4, 2018

Hot Soup! The Soup Battle Is Going Down Down Baby.

You can find me throughout the Twin Cities rolling on cooper tires (because dubs aren't my thing), sipping on a brew and and chowing on some food... Ok, fine I'll leave the rapping to Nelly and his Lunatics and stick to what I'm good at..... Eating and writing about food.

But, it's true, we have ourselves a friendly little battle over who has the best soups (and sandwiches) to offer from the fast convenience world, especially with the addition of a new restaurant that is set to open August 6th. That new restaurant, which we had an opportunity to check out during a VIP sneak peak, is Zoup! Located in Eagan, this new addition has joined the soup battle alongside the likes of Cafe Zupas and Panera Bread.

The real question now is - does Zoup! have what it takes to compete with these already established establishments? If you ask me, the answer is - ABSOLUTELY! And, after taking a little time to speak to the owners and a corporate representative about the concept and their products, they're super eager to prove their worth. So, let's brake it all down from our first visit and share with you how we think they compare against their competition.

Everyone knows Panera, they've been around for what seems like, forever. On any given day of the week, patrons are flooding this place during breakfast, lunch AND dinner. However, if you're going to ask me to share my perspective on the offers at Panera, they only have 2 things going for them. The first is their insanely awesome cinnamon scrunch bagel and the second is their famous broccoli cheddar soup. The crunch is pretty much the greatest bagel ever created while the broccoli cheddar is just as amazing, and I don't even like broccoli!

Cafe Zupas, which was new to the Twin Cities within the last couple of years and more and more locations are starting to pop up. This place is more in line with Zoup! - soups, salads and sandwiches. The main differences I see between these two businesses is preparation and the fresh made teas that Zupas has. We love the teas and the open kitchen concept allows patrons to see them preparing their fresh salads and soups being prepared from scratch daily.

As for the new guy, well they definitely have their own spin on things. What I enjoyed about Zoup! compared to the competition are their sandwiches for starters. I personally would order a sandwich from Zoup! before the other two locations. As for the soup options, you can't go wrong with their offerings and they rotate 12 daily.  During our VIP sneak peak, we sampled all of their soups and found none of them to be unpleasant, but we ended up ordering the lobster bisque and maple bacon ham and swiss. I chose a combination that was as close to "apples-to-apples" with what I've ordered with the other locations.
Their sandwich was easily better than anything I've had at Panera or Cafe Zupas and would keep ordering it during my future visits. As for that lobster bisque. Panera doesn't offer this, but Cafe Zupas does. Comparing the two of them side-by-side would have been best, like them equally. I like the flavor itself better at Cafe Zupas, but I love the huge lobster chunks and thickness of  Zoup's. My wife had the bisque as well and went with a simple chicken and bacon cobb. While the salads are not quite like those found at Cafe Zupa, it was still tasty and it's simplicity may resonate with some individuals.
There are certainly similarities between all three restaurants, but they each also have their own uniqueness as well. I enjoyed the food at Zoup!, I also enjoy some of the offerings at Cafe Zoupa and I can never say no to a warm cinnamon crunch no matter what time of day it is. I want to try more items on the menu at Zoup's after I was intrigued by other soups during my sampling. I would encourage you to get the bisque (and the sandwich I had), but if seafood isn't your thing, I enjoyed these other options as well; the mac n' cheese, pot pie, Jamaican gumbo and chicken tortilla.

While you're there, feel free to join in on the fun when they're swapping out soups when the entire staff yells out - "HOT SOUP!" We wouldn't want anyone getting doused with hot soup. Well, there you have it. The soup, salad and sandwich battle is on. I know you'll enjoy your experience at Zoup!, we certainly did. We wish Tony and his wife Julie the best of luck and encourage you to go check this place out.

1348 Town Centre Dr.
Eagan, MN 55123

July 30, 2018

Hungry Vikings Fans?

This is going to be tough to say, but the Minnesota Vikings are in full training camp mode along with the rest of the league. Go Pack Go! With all the visitors making their way to camp headquarters and the all new T.C.O Training Facility, visitors need some food to hold them over while they watch their (hard swallow) favorite team practice.

A fellow foodie who is for more or less, exclusive to neighboring community to the TCO, Inver Grove Heights, has provided their top 5 places to eat at near the training complex. Unfortunately, it’s not truly the top 5 places within a 5-10 minute drive without dealing with a whole lot of traffic either. It’s just restaurants from Inver Grove Heights. So, I would like to shed some light on that and provide you Vikings fans with 5 of the best restaurants to grab some grub at.

Burgers and Bottles – Eagan 
Easily some of the best burgers you’ll consume in the Twin Cities. Their burgers are on my top 10 list of Twin Cities Best Burgers and you can’t go wrong with any of their selections. Want something a little messier? Check out their juicy rendition and currently the #1 juicy on my top 10 Juicy Lucy Challenge list. They have plenty of cold beverages to enjoy as well to wash your burgers down and get you back to the action.                                        
Located at: 1278 Lone Oak Rd, Eagan, MN 55121

Las Tortillas - Rosemount
I love a solid authentic Mexican meal, especially some insanely made street tacos. And, Las Tortillas is that place that you should be checking out if you’re craving some delicious Mexican during your visit to training camp. Doesn’t matter what you order off the menu, you’ll be getting some outstanding food to consume and satisfy those hunger pains. And, to wash those tacos down, you can never go wrong with a cold cerveza or margarita.
Located at: 15051 Crestone Ave, Rosemount, MN 55068

Buon Giorno – Lilydale/Mendota
Looking for some excellent pasta? And by excellent, I mean some of the most amazing Italian cuisine you’ll ever enjoy? Look no further than Buon Giorno’s. Seriously, this place is serving up some crazy good pasta dishes and if you’re lucky, you might just spot former NFL great Matt Birk or maybe even a Mauer siting. Shoot, now I’m hungry for some Buon Giorno’s grub. Heck, you might just find yourself going back for dinner and checking out their dinner restaurant, iNonni which is right next door.
Located at: 981 Sibley Memorial Hwy, St Paul, MN 55118

ZZQ – Eagan
Maybe it’s some delicious BBQ that you’re craving while you’re watching your favorite team. If it’s BBQ that you’re craving, check out ZZQ BBQ. Very reasonably priced goodness and I recommend getting their sampler platter where you get to pick 3 of their offerings with a side as well. I personally think you can even skip the sauces and just enjoy the meat! Still want a beer to wash that brisket down, don’t worry, they have that too. Definitely get the chicken, easily the most moist and tender smoked chicken we’ve come across in the Twin Cities.
Located at:  3390 Coachman Rd, 204, Eagan, MN 55121

Old World Pizza – Inver Grove Heights
There are a lot of things that make America great and one of those just happens to be pizza, football and beer. And, Old World just happens to be the best pizza option close to the action. While I think there are some other options out there, this place is the easiest to get into, has a sit-down option (while others are just take out or delivery) and a buffet. Yes, a buffet and it’s all-you-can-eat for just $8 bucks! Definitely a place we like to visit as a family and we know you’ll enjoy it as well.
Located at: 5660 Bishop Ave, Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076

There you have it folks, truly 5 of the best restaurants around the (still hard to say) Vikings Training Camp and their new facilities. There is something for everyone on the list and you can’t go wrong with your selection. Really, it’s just deciding what you’re in the mood for besides hoping for a super bowl ring. What? I had to throw another last dig in there, at least the Packers have them to show off! 😊


July 26, 2018

You’ve Got Me On My Knees Lela

If you’re looking for a place that will satisfy your hunger pains and worried mind, I may just have a place for you. If you’re looking for a place that will have you feeling like a fool and falling in love with the food, I may just have a place for you. And, if you’re looking for a place that might just have you on your knees and begging for more, I may just have a place for you.

Now, before you go insane, that place I am speaking of is a place called Lela and it’s located inside the Bloomington Sheraton off Hwy 100. I was invited to Lela’s for a special event to recognize those of us who have been Yelp Elite Members for 5 years or more thanks to our awesome Community Manager, Kara. The culinary team at Lela provided us with a 4-course meal where they showcased their talents from the kitchen as well as their talents from the bar. And, while our pairings are not yet on their regular lunch/dinner menu, I personally think they should be!
Let’s start this thing off with a fantastic appetizer. Blackened Shrimp Skewers, that were seasoned perfectly and sitting atop a delicious chipotle aioli. Hints of light smoke from the chipotle aioli combined with the perfectly seasoned and cooked shrimp had me wanting more. Alongside that was the La Fleur – a hibiscus wild flower infused champagne that was perfect for this first dish.
Course number one followed shortly after with a showcase of their house made pasta that is prepared and cooked on a daily basis. Pasta Primavera was our first course that was prepared with a light, yet full of flavor, buttery and creamy sauce. This dish was made with artichokes and while I’m not a huge fan of this veggie, It worked for this dish. To help was it down, we enjoyed a sampling of The Greenway – a gin, cucumber, lime and mint refresher drink. Again, not a big fan of this veggie, until now.
Conversations had started about our favorite spots around town when course number two arrived. A braised Bison Short Rib over Garlic Potato Puree. WOW, just WOW! Fall off the bone, perfectly prepared and seasoned bison with some of the most amazing potato puree one can enjoy. I was even lucky enough to get a little marrow out of my bone – bonus for me! This dish was paired with the Smokey Rouge – a sage, watermelon, Mezcal, tequila and agave martini that was delish. A nice smoky hit at first sip with a refreshing finish on the backside.
Finally, after an enjoyable night of culinary expertise, fun conversations and meeting new Yelpers, our dessert arrived to the table. Salted Caramel Tiramisu with a house made whipping. I tend to go for other desserts not being a coffee guy, but this might have been the only Tiramisu I’ll eat again. And, to tap off the night, some Tawney 10yr Port. Sweet with just a hint of dryness for this VERY occasional wine drinker.
This truly was a wonderful culinary experience and I tip my chef hat to the team at Lela, Kara our awesome Community Manager and all of the great company around me. This is definitely a place I would love to listen to Clapton acoustically at while I enjoy some culinary perfection!

5601 W 78th St
Bloomington MN 55439


July 17, 2018

A Revival In Need Of Spreading

There is definitely a Revival in the Twin Cities, a Revival that needs to spread like a wildfire to cure everyone’s hunger pains and cravings for delicious food. It’s the type of food that will leave a lasting impression all week long on your taste buds after consumption. There definitely is a Revival and you can find it in Minneapolis on Nicollet Ave. or in St. Paul on Selby Ave.

Revival, A southern infused, small, quaint restaurant, providing their patrons with a culinary experience that will indeed leave a lasting impression and having you wanting more. I’ve had a number of friends say it’s a must that I check this place out and that I try their Revival burger. While it’s not necessarily a “burger place”, Revival is serving the best burger you can find in the Twin Cities, period! As simple is this burger is, it’s prepared perfectly! Full of seasoning with salty bites from start to finish. Melty, gooey American cheese covering the whole thing. Just the right touch of mayo, two HUGE, thick cuts of bacon on a perfectly grilled bun and morsels of this deliciousness falling off. After one bite, you will try catching those little morsels… Get it single, double or triple stacked - I guess it just depends on how hungry you are. You will want to go back for another and another and another…
The Revival Burger!
What I did learn about Revival and what they’re more known for, is their fried chicken. Doesn’t matter what review site you read, local newspaper outlets, magazines, etc., Revival’s fried chicken comes out on top. I have yet to find anything better and I’m doubtful that I will. Every single bite is full of flavor and moist – even the white meat which ALWAYS dry’s out. You can fry it up southern style, Tennessee hot, poultrygeist or (cough) gluten free and for our first visit, we went with southern style with their house made sauces on the side and it was insane! I want more now from just sitting here writing about it…

Lots of other great items on the menu that I need to go back to try; dry rubbed wings, pimento cheese and meat plate, johnnycakes appetizer, Chicken and waffles, more southern fried chicken and another Revival burger. They also have plenty of sides to choose from and I encourage you to order the mac n’ cheese, hush puppies or sorghum glazed carrots. Mac n’ cheese is some of the best you’ll eat. The puppies, while simple, are served with an amazing dip. And, the carrots, well, they’re easily the best carrots I’ve ever consumed and my sister would be proud. She’s always harping on me to eat more veggies…

Revival definitely needs to spread like a wildfire and I personally would love to see a location in the south metro, Apple Valley/Rosemount area, maybe even my backyard. Seriously though, we need something like this all across the metro for ALL to enjoy, it’s simply that good.

Revival (2 Locations)
Minneapolis & St. Paul


July 10, 2018

Smoking In The Back Room!

Smoking in the back room? Well, yeah, because everyone knows that smoking aint allowed in school especially the boys room. So where are they smoking? The back room of a restaurant of course, well to be more specific, a kitchen. And this type of smoking inside of restaurants is legal in the state of Minnesota.

The smoking that I'm referring to is a large structure that houses delicious meats that are cooked for several hours until it decides to fall off the bone. These structures, known scientifically as a smoker are found all over Kansas City, St. Louis, across the south and now right here in Minnesota. I'm positive that Vince, Nikki, Mick and Tommy, yeah that's right, The Crue (Motley Crue people) have even enjoyed some delicious smoked goodies (And I'm referring to food folks!). These boys would even appreciate the outstanding smoked goods found throughout Minnesota.

We're out to find the best smokehouses and BBQ joints the Twin Cities has to offer and below are the places we've been to thus far. Unlike some of our other lists, this list is truly a mix of straightforward BBQ and smokehouses putting a twist on their menu with pit creations.

1. Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub
A friend of ours told us he just had some amazing wings and porchetta sandwich and he was recently at Northbound. His next comment was, "when you stopping by?" We ended up going that same day we chatted. And, we ordered their 18-hour Porchetta Sandwich and an order of wings. Yeah, it's a must try! Porchetta is bar far one of my all-time favorite meals and anytime I get a chance to have it, I most certainly will. The full description is; The "Iron Range" classic, house-smoked shredded porchetta topped with Swiss cheese and sauteed onions on an egg bun, then served with with their house-made BBQ sauce. We also added a side of their hand-cut fries to our order and I've said this time and time again... We need more places serving hand-cut fries. They're simply better! Is your mouth watering yet? As for those timely smoked wings... An amazing smoked chicken wing with the meat just falling off the bone. 

2. Roosters BBQ
This little hole-in-the-wall is serving up some straight forward BBQ and all of their cuts of meat were absolutely delicious. Fall off the bone ribs, super moist and flavorful chicken, smokey delicious brisket and pork. Rooster's BBQ sauces were also very tasty as well and definitely get both mild and hot to compare the differences in flavor with each type of meat and we encourage ordering more than just one meat option. It's definitely a no non-sense type of place, just the way we like it!

3. Bourbon Butcher
This smokehouse/BBQ/burger joint is one of our favorite places to eat because it's so close to us. We've had tons of things off their menu and have never left the restaurant unsatisfied and our belly's happily full. The BBQ and all their smoked goods are exceptional and if that's not your immediate craving, you'll never go wrong with a solid made burger. I prefer to eat like a dying carnivore, so I would suggest someone gets the Butcher's Plate to try all of their smoked goodness or have the table go for the Butcher's Feast that can serve 2-3 people. I also love the deviled eggs, duck wantons, bacon bourbon burger and their mac n' cheese.

Another straight forward, no frills BBQ joint serving up some of the most delicious BBQ. We got their sampler to try all of their meats, except for the ribs and definitely left happy. Easily the most moist chicken that we've come across and the smoked flavor was all you needed to enjoy this place. They have a few different sauces to choose from, but in my own personal opinion, a tad too heavy on the vinegar side for my liking. But that's fine, The meat is perfect without the added sauce. However, if you get fries, you have to get the house made mustard. Completely different than any mustard you'll ever have and very delicious. A solid place for your BBQ cravings!

5. Rack Shack BBQ
Another great BBQ addition to the Twin Cities area. Straight forward BBQ with some simple and straight forward, great tasting sauces to enjoy as well. Doesn't matter which cut of meat you get, it's all delicious. Plus, they offer some outstanding turkey as well, something other's aren't offering. You really will enjoy the BBQ at Rack Shack.

6. Lone Oak Grill / Junction 70
These two sister restaurants are pretty straight forward sports bars that just happens to be serving up a few pit offerings for patrons to try enjoying. Not our go to places and as we check out some more places that we haven't been to yet, these two will get lower on the list. Certainly not terrible food, just not our favorite places for anything BBQ, Smoked or even some of their standard menu items. You may like either of these place even better than the places above it,  just not the most enjoyable.

7. Old Southern BBQ
A creation by Famous Dave himself, Dave Anderson with 4 locations in the area to choose from. Was never a fan of Famous Dave's Restaurants and this is far off from that. Basically, a Famous Dave's - Take 2. Meat was pretty smokeless tasting and lacking flavor in general. The sauces were much too similar to the original sauces Dave created for his first restaurant.

8. Baldy's BBQ
Our first visit to Baldy's wasn't the best. We thought the meat offerings were a bit on the dry side and the sauces weren't much to brag about either. However, a trusted friend of ours swears by this place and we are certainly willing to go back for seconds to see if just experienced an off night for some reason. Stay tuned for this place to possibly surprise us or stay where they're at on the list.

Other places that we have yet to try, but continue to hear solid things about from those who have checked them out;

- Handsome Hog in St. Paul.
- Big Daddy's BBQ in St. Paul.
- Firebox Deli in Minneapolis.
- Smoke In The Pit in St. Paul.
- Ted Cook's 19th hole BBQ in Minneapolis.
- Q Fanatics BBQ in Minneapolis

If you think there is another BBQ or Smokehouse joint we should be checking out, please let us know and we'll get there as soon as we can.


June 18, 2018

Wyatt’s Has Me Twisted

I’m twisted and all torn up, there’s nothing I won’t do for delicious food, ok, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but I just love food. Good food! What gets me twisted all up is when a restaurant can’t maintain some kind of consistency. I completely understand that you will have good days and bad days, but it can’t be a roller coaster ride. Unfortunately, as they say, when it rains it pours. And, that’s what happened to a place we’ve been visiting quite often as of late – Wyatt’s Twisted Americana.

Known for their extensive list of burgers and with 2 locations to choose from, Eagan and Hastings, Wyatt’s started to grab my attention after just one visit and wanting to try several burgers on their menu. However, I’m not man vs. food unhealthy, so I have to spread my visits out! 

Our first visit had us eating the wrong burger, but that was my fault. I ordered the Jalapeno Bacon and Havarti. Zesty jalapeno bacon, creamy Havarti & chipotle ranch on a ½ lb burger. I got the Herb Butter Cheese Burger instead and completely blitzed. Not a bad burger at all and cooked to a perfect pink - Basted in garlic herb butter & cooked on a bed of caramelized onions with Havarti, but I really wanted what I ordered. Our server and I chatted about and laughed and we told her we’d be back for seconds. My wife ordered a classic California Burger and ate the whole thing. I guess it was good! 

During this first visit of ours, I also wanted to try one of their specialty sliders. These are sausage and fun animal combinations and I recommend EVERYONE trying something from this menu. I went for the Venison with Merlot with Blueberries - A fabulous blend of Merlot wine, blueberries & select herbs complements the richness of Canadian red deer. WOW! 

Visit number two had me checking out their classic juicy with American inside and double American outside. Cooked perfectly, and with some pretty solid flavor, but it could definitely use some more cheese on the inside and the cheese on the outside wasn’t even melted. It was as if the kitchen said, “Wait, I forgot something, but they won’t notice!” And, while I would have appreciated more cheese and melty cheese, their classic juicy has plenty of potential. I believe my wife went again for a classic California and again, enjoyed it. 

Our most recent visit is the type of visit that would scare most people away for life if it was their very first visit. They were struggling since the day before when they had a water pipe break in the men’s bathroom and refused to fix it in a timely manner, then the A/C went out and it was 80+ degrees inside on a stormy and muggy Father’s Day evening, then when we tried to change our soon to be 3 month old, we had to do so in the back of our vehicle because they had no changing stations, then it took over 1.5 hours to get our food and that is not in any way a stretch, it literally took that long from sitting down to first bite and to finish this superb evening off, only 2 people out of our 8 in the party ate their food, my 3.5 year old ate his cheese pizza and my sister ate her burger. 

Our burgers were road kill dead, dryer than a desert and mostly unappetizing. My sister went for my original eye catcher, the Jalapeno Bacon and Havarti and while the flavors were decent, it was much too done for me and the bacon was just bacon. Mom went for the Shroom-N-Swiss and she said the mushrooms were never cooked and you couldn’t kill the burger any more than it was. Dad went for the Mn Tots and Bacon and this was even worse than my mom’s burger for being too done. I’ve never seen my dad pass on a burger and he took maybe 3 bites and pushed it aside. My sister’s kiddos each ordered something, but I don’t recall exactly what that was and finally, my burger – Peanut Butter Bacon Melt. NEVER PUT A BURGER ON SOUR DOUGH TOAST! BUNS – BUNS – BUNS – BUNS AND ONLY BUNS!  I fought my way through as much as I could, but didn’t even get half way through until I had to call it quits. Easily one of the worst burgers I’ve ever consumed, I would eat an Applebee’s burger it was so bad. 

A lot of restaurants would have told us, “tough, the food you received was top notch, deal with it!” But, the G.M. wasn’t impressed at all himself. He made it right and he was very apologetic after speaking to him about our entire experience. This was one of those nights they would probably like to forget and I know they can provide a better experience, because we’ve experienced a higher level of customer service from Wyatt’s. We won’t necessarily stay away, but will be a tad on the hesitant side.  

Eagan and Hastings