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 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


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