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



On The Streets Of Philasota!

What!? So it's a made up word, but it describes something so perfect... We may not be in Philadelphia (and I would rather be anywhere else, but there), but we have some great Philly's being made right here in Minnesota. My wife and I have had some of the best throughout the Metro and we're always looking for a place to add to our top 10 list.

I have learned that the only way to enjoy a truly authentic Philly is to have it with whiz. Nope! That is truly just a myth and I've come across several articles defending this. I would much rather have my Philly's with either American or Provolone because I like things to taste good. Putting Whiz on a Philly is like putting ketchup on the perfectly prepared filet. It should never be done!

So, who's got the best Philly's in 'Sota? Let's get on with this madness of a challenge and start the search.

1. Goody's Hot City Pizza - St. Paul
A friend of mine was on me to check this place out as it’s the only Philly he enjoys eating. Really, that good? I had to check this place out and I finally did. I just wish I would have gone years ago when he first told me about Goody’s. Um yeah..... The Philly here is top notch and should be consumed by all! Meat was perfectly cooked and seasoned, topped with LOTS of melted pepper jack cheese, onions and green peppers and it was oh so delicious. You'll want another one!

2. O'Malley's Irish Pub - Woodbury
Absolutely amazing and made perfectly! Get the chicken or the beef, they're both outstanding and one of my go to places when I'm in the mood for a Philly! My wife and I keep going back to this place, because it's just that darn good. Seriously!

3. T.O.P.S. - Rosemount
The Philly here is different than most places and very unique. You know it's an awesome Philly, when you're craving it for breakfast, actually eat it for breakfast and want it again for dinner that night, after just eating there the night before. Check out the full review, Rosemountphilly's Back Again.

4. Jersey Mike's Subs - Any Location
Yes this is a chain, but man is their Philly awesome! Check out any of their locations throughout the Twin Cities, but if you want the very best example, their St. Anthony Village location is king! Give me a local spot that can serve better and maybe, but highly unlikely, I'll remove the chain...

5. Pappys Chicago Style Eatery
They typically make their Philly's with swiss, but I asked to have American added to my Philly instead and they were kind enough to do so. Their Philly is definitely a solid one, great flavor, plenty of meat, good mix of onions and peppers and the cheese was plentiful. I would certainly go back for a second or third. And for under $6 bucks, ya can't go wrong.

6. Saint Paul Saints - CHS Field
A baseball team? Really!? Yes, Really! They have a Philly booth near the section of 112 that is serving up some down right amazing Philly's and the line that was there for the ENTIRE ball game simply proves how good they really are.

7. Mallory's Restaurant & Rooftop
Stopped by after a recommendation and sure glad we did. Lots of great menu options to choose from and one of our selections was their Loaded Philly. Their meat was seasoned like no one else's and it was very tender as well. Mushrooms were huge, onions and peppers were grilled just right and served on a soft roll. Check out my full review, Three Little Piggy's.

8. Lumberyard Pub - Afton
Not your typical looking Philly, but sometimes it's the unique places showing the rest of the Philly makers how to make something worth eating. They serve their Philly's on a ciabatta roll which I enjoyed and everything that went into making this bad boy was tasty. Lots of cheese, nicely seasoned and sliced sirloin.

9. Domonick's Pizza - Inver Grove Heights
Plenty of people were telling me I had to experience the Philly's found at Dominick's, but I wasn't completely convinced they were worth trying. Pictures (Including the one on their website) that I have seen, make their Philly's look like a large hoagie with some dried out roast beef and cheese inside. Change that picture, because this Philly is actually pretty darn good!

10. Tavern Grill - Woodbury
I would recommend their Philly for sure and would go back and order it again in a heart beat. If Philly's aren't your thing, check out the rest of their menu, it's fantastic! You can see what I had to say about this great restaurant by visiting, For Whoever Is Lonely There is A Tavern!.

Places that once sat in the top 10 rankings or couldn't cut it in the first place;

B-52 Burgers & Brew
Frank From Philly
Jersey's Bar & Grill
Joseph's Grill
Uncle Franky's
Wild Boar

If you think you have a place with a good Philly that I should be checking out, let me know! 

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 d├ęcor 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

#knowbeforeyougo

December 3, 2018

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

Logo-Stroke.png


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

#knowbeforeyougo