May 22, 2018

Conjunction JUNCTION 70

While I’m hooking up words and phrases and clauses, people are flocking to Junction 70 over in Cottage Grove to check out how they function and now I’m going to have you singing this little ditty all day long! But in all seriousness, why is this place so popular? Is it because it’s one of VERY VERY few restaurants the city has? Or, is it because it actually has some delicious food to enjoy? Maybe it’s the large selection of brews on tap?

We had the chance to check this place out during their soft opening and really weren’t all that impressed so we let the place fully open, work out the kinks and then head back to check out the full menu. I think we have some more visiting to do (eventually), but round number two wasn’t all that spectacular either. Round number two had my wife ordering the cobb salad while I went with their “Philly” and we started the evening with some chips and queso and a couple of adult beverages.

I really don’t have anything to say about the chips and queso…. It was chips and queso…. It was something to hold us over until our meals came and it filled a void. Oh look, here comes our meals! My wife’s cobb was your typical, straight forward cobb - romaine, ranch dressing, ham, mixed cheese, double smoked bacon, tomatoes, smoked chicken and red onion with a side of her favorite dressing choices. She ate most of it, so I’m guessing she enjoyed it????

As for my “Philly” (yes I’m using quotes) - 12 hour pecan smoked prime rib, cheese sauce, mushrooms, onions, Anaheim peppers on a hoagie bun. I asked for no mushrooms because they’re just an additive like “this or that”, but my sandwich arrived with them on anyways. Ok, fine, I can just pick them off… Looked good, but it was just a glorified roast beef sandwich, not a Philly! It wasn’t terrible, but it was nothing even remotely close to a Philly! Beef was lacking that 12 hour pecan smoked flavor, actually pretty tame and there was very little cheese. But, I kept the leftover queso which helped a little bit. Win for me!
We can’t forget our little guy… He wanted the cheese pizza and he was definitely enjoying it. However, this foodie didn’t get a chance to try it so I can’t really tell you if you should order it for your little(s). I hear their wings are pretty stellar, so I’m sure I’ll be back to see if they’re worth adding to the wing challenge top 10 list or not. However, the Philly won’t be making it on my top 10 list though. I think I’ll have another beer and sing some more conjunction junction…

Junction 70 Grill
6933 Pine Arbor Dr. So.
Cottage Grove, MN 55016

May 21, 2018

All About That Beef!

You know I’m all about that beef, ‘bout that beef, no veggies! Yeah, it’s definitely clear that I’m no size two, but when there’s tasty food in sight, I’m going to eat it, eat it like I’m supposed to do. It’s no surprise that I like food and for the first time since its inception, I had the opportunity to attend the Twin Cities Burger Battle. 25 local burger joints vying for the top spot with the judges AND people’s choice with the right to say they make the best burger in the Twin Cities. Well, at least for a year.

That’s right, 25 places trying to stuff you full of red meat and all of them serving something different than the rest of the competition. But, were they all worth trying? While waiting in line and reading through the list of competitors and what they were serving up, the answer was no. Some sounded boring and already found on the food scene while others didn’t even sound all that appealing to begin with.

Of the 25 options, I was able to get through 13 of them and some of them I actually threw away after just one bite. Yes, they were that bad! Those were;

  • Rock Elm Tavern and their Vat 17 Burger. Not a whole lot of flavor for some of the ingredients they threw in – Deer Creek Vat 17 Cheddar, candied bacon, roasted garlic aioli and arugula on a SUPER dry Emma Krumbee’s bun (not surprised by Emma’s dryness – not a fan of this place). 
  • Jellybean & Julia’s and their The Chubber Nutter. Literally took one bite and threw it! No flavor at all even with bacon onion jalapeno compote, roasted garlic mayo, peanut butter and a fried egg on Texas toast. All sounds good, but wow was it bad.  
  • Citizen and their Redhead Burger. Redhead garlic cheddar, sherried onions and pancetta jam on a super boring and dry burger. While this burger wasn't making me all that happy, I've heard some good things about the restaurant as a whole. So, I'll have to go check it out!

I also had some so-so picks that made a valiant effort, but they fell short of being more enjoyable than they were. Sadly, one of them even took home the Judge’s top spot, but I’m not really sure how. Those places were;

  • Kendall’s Tavern and their Sassy Samoan. Chuck and pork belly patty with dark rum steak sauce, muenster cheese, pickled red onions, roasted jalapeno and sriracha pineapple aioli on a fresno pepper honey Hawaiian roll. Not a terrible burger, but nothing exciting either. 
  • The Happy Gnome and their Gnome Burger. Aged cheddar, Surly Coffee Bender braised short ribs (Surly ruins everything), house made pickles and garlic aioli. 
  • 7th Street Social and their Drunk as Duck. A chuck and short-rib patty seared in duck fat with a port wine reduction on a brioche bun. I was hoping this was going to be amazing like the rest of their amazing food, but it wasn’t anything all that special. 
  • Wild Boar and their Diablo Burger. Angus beef with roasted jalapenos, banana peppers, pepper jack cheese and topped with habanero snort sauce on a smokey strawberry jam brushed brioche bun. The jam was good, but nothing else was enjoyable at all. 
  • The Suburban and their Chimi my Churri. Angus beef with mango cilantro chimichurri, sweet chili sauce, American cheese, bacon and raw onion. I absolutely love chimichurri sauce, but this just didn’t do it for me and somehow took 2nd place for People’s Choice and 1st with the Judge’s. 

But, what is more important was my top 5 places that I enjoyed and if I was the judge (which I think I should be one of these year’s), this is how things would have turned out;

First Place – Muddy Cow and their Flamin’ Bleu-Berry Burger. A blend of sirloin, chuck and brisket topped with smoked gouda, applewood bacon, blueberry habanero aioli and a blue cheese crisp. What a perfect burger this was! They provided you with the perfect balance of salty, sweet and spice all in one burger and the ingredients went together perfectly. I even had seconds and thirds… I heard someone say that blueberries belong in muffins and bagels, but man was this thing amazing! Better be on the menu full-time and I’ll be coming to say hi soon!

Second Place – B-52 Burger’s and Brew and their Carlton Burger. Fresh Hereford beef patty with gruyere cheese, arugula, jalapeno bacon jam and herb mayo. Again, something that provided you with something salty, sweet and a little heat on the back side. The gruyere was nice and melty and everything was working well together. Hey, they took 1st place for People’s Choice! Yeah, I had a second one…

Third Place – Jersey’s Bar & Grill and their Banana Foster Burger. Cinnamon and fried bananas, candied bacon with toasted pecans and a Jack Daniels whisky caramel sauce. Sound like a burger you want to try? Should be! As goofy as it sounds, there was something that had me wanting more and I actually went back for seconds. I think it would work best if it was delivered how it was at the battle – as sliders and on the app menu and not a full-size burger. Yes, no, maybe???? Either way, it was actually very good.

Fourth Place – Brunson’s Pub and their Jerk Burger. Jerk marinated angus, coconut slaw, sweet potato chips and a curry aioli on a milk bun. I’m a huge fan of anything Jamaican made or inspired and this was the very first burger I wanted to try. Absolutely delicious blend of once again that theme we’re seeing repeat itself – the perfect blend of salty, sweet and heat. Hoping this one gets added to the menu for good so I can go get a whole burger to enjoy.

Fifth Place – McKinney Roe and their Grand Brie Burger. 50% brisket, 25% chuck and 25% short-rib patty laced with grilled onions, jalapenos, whipped brie cheese, crispy pepper bacon and served on a pineapple infused grilled Hawaiian style bun. Another all-around delicious creation, but just not quite the pizzazz that the first 4 had.

And, to wrap everything up, I had a new Day Sipper brewed by Summit which surprisingly caught my attention (as I’m typically not a Summit fan) and begged the creator to make it a full-time beer at Summit which he told me was coming sometime next year. While I enjoyed that I took down some dessert prepared by Sweet Chow Desserts – a coconut rice and pineapple creation that I had about 6 of because it was so amazing and because it helps with digestion. Want to try it for yourself? It’s served full-time at their restaurant in the north loop. In fact it was better than some of the burgers I put in my yapper!