October 12, 2019

Small Town Burger Man


I was never brought up workin' on the land like my daddy's daddy before me and falling in love with a small town woman. However, I was brought up on delicious food prepared by my mother who learned from my mommy's mommy and I might just be a small town burger man.

Working in construction, I'm traveling all over the place and one of our foreman told me that our next destination has some pretty solid burgers. With him well aware of my top 10 list - I'm A Meat Eater (Best T.C. Burgers), he wanted to see if it had the potential to be added. 

I decided to go with a classic bacon cheese burger, double American cheese and comes on a standard bun (untoasted), with a side of tots. My pal Phil went for his favorite at the bar, the Curd Burger. A 1/2 lb. burger, lettuce, tomato, fried onions, fried curds and bbq sauce on a toasted bun. I didn't try the curd burger, but the toasted bun is of significance... 

My burger was a classic "diner style" burger, nothing more, nothing less. It definitely had some great potential and I would certainly go back for another one and a great start with their burgers being prepared on a flat top. I do have some suggestions.

First, add some additional seasoning (combination of salt, pepper and something additional that is unique to set you apart from the rest). Next, I would ball my chuck up with a small chunk of butter (about the size of a peanut M&M) and set aside for later. Then, I would smash the burgers on the flat top and get a nice crispy sear to retain those flavors, flipping and placing the cheese immediately on the burger. Finally, I would serve EVERY burger with a toasted bun.

I can see why the locals would like this place instead of going to Applebees (which you never need to go to). Decent burgers, plenty of burger creations, small town feel and I think even Alan Jackson himself would enjoy a burger. So, would their burgers make my top 10 list? Not quite! But, again, a decent burger and maybe with some changes for the better, the potential could be there...

Cambridge Bar & Grill
216 South Main St.
​Cambridge, Mn 55008



September 25, 2019

I'm A Meateater! (Best T.C. Burgers)

Oh-oh here I come, watch out cow, I'll chew you up! It's no secret that I love hamburgers and I especially enjoy them when they're prepared perfectly. I've been reading "top burger joints" from every news outlet and paper in the Twin Cities, so I figured I should share the places that I think 'Sota residents and visitors should consider trying even after they're done reading the top 5, 10 or 15 from other local outlets.

What's a good burger you ask? Well, I probably wouldn't go with anything in the super lean category or stop by a place known for great salads. In addition, If your burger looks perfectly round, symmetrical and like the one you buy from Sam's Club for the family grill out, chances are, it's exactly that and not worth eating.

If your burger has bits of morsels falling off, cooked to a perfect pink, nothing symmetrical about it with juices dripping off it and some outstanding flavor, then you have found yourself something worth biting into and devouring. And even more so, it needs to be on a flat top - period!

Whelp, here we go! Here are the top 10 places I think you should consider stopping by for a delicious burger to enjoy and each of these definitely brings something different to the table;

1. Parlour Bar Minneapolis
It has been a fun journey trying to find the best burgers being made in Minnesota and the best has been found. Their simple, yet perfect blend of ground chuck, ribeye and brisket is a burger that could be a last meal. So simple, yet phenomenal! Two perfectly prepared patties with two slices of white American. Some serious perfection and I've been craving more since enjoying my first one. Job well done Parlour! Ask for some house-made aioli, you'll thank me!

2. Revival
Known for having some of the most amazing chicken you will find in the Twin Cities, Revival has also received high praises for their simple, yet perfectly made Revival Burger. So, with all the hype, I had to check this place out and I'm glad I did. What a perfect burger! 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. Get it single, double or triple stacked - I guess it just depends on how hungry you are. I recommend a double with a side of their hush puppies. Always look forward to make returning visits.

3. Saint Dinette
A lot of hype saying that Saint Dinette's burger could take down Parlour's. And, while the Saint Dinette burger was a fantastic burger in its own right, it just wasn't the Parlour burger. Nothing to be upset about, I'd stop by Saint Dinette for another if I was in the Lowertown neighborhood of downtown St. Paul without thinking twice. Another perfectly prepared double stack, but with classic American cheese.

4. Peppers and Fries
Had a few people tell me I should check this place out and telling me that a couple of their burgers have done well at the annual Burger Battle. I drive by it on a weekly basis with a construction project near by and thought to myself - "That place? Really!?" Well, I finally had a chance to stop by and ordered up the burger that won them 3rd place for both the people's choice and judge's choice. Just one problem with that... It should have been first! Which burger was it? Their Peppers PB&J. WOW! Tons of delicious bacon, a perfectly prepared burger, some melty cheese and PB and the best part - their house made pepper jam! Seriously, an insane burger and a must get!

5. McKinney Roe
Like my other favorite place for a burger, Brunson's Pub - Perfection! They entered their Big Stag burger into the 2017 Burger Battle and took home gold. I had to check it out for myself after all the hype and see if it really was worthy of 1st Place. Oh my word, yes, yes it is definitely worthy of the top spot! Check out my full review - Let McKinney Roe Go?

6. Kendall's/Bunker Hill Golf
Took a shot (no pun intended) on this place after a recommendation and told it was a must try. I'll try anything once and I'm glad I did. Constructed like an In and Out Burger, but with a ton more flavor and excitement. A double double, lettuce, tomato, onions and thousand island dressing and not from the grocery store. I was actually thinking I would be let down, but instead was actually very impressed by this creation. Think I'll go back for another soon enough...

7. Brunson's Pub
Their Classic Double and Schwietz Burger are some outstanding burger creations. You cannot pass this place up and you cannot say no to either of these burgers. This is the type of place that needs to be enjoyed, shared with everyone and appreciated! Check out the full review - May The Schwietz Be With You!.

8. Birch's Lowertown Taproom & Barrel
A visit based on a recommendation from a friend of ours and glad they did. A solid burger creation that has some similarities to the likes of Burger’s and Bottle, another favorite place of ours and ranked a little higher on the list. But the Birch Burger still has its own unique flavors and super delicious. Add a basket of skinny cut fries, glass of Birch’s Blood Orange or Double IPA and you have yourself a complete meal.

9. King's Place
With more burgers to choose from than any other place you'll ever visit, there is definitely a burger for everyone at King's Place. Cooked on a flat top like they should be, seasoned nicely, cooked to a solid pink on the inside and always tasty every time we stop in.

10. Burger Burger
If you're traveling out to the Mall of America for any reason at all, the only place worth eating a burger at is Burger Burger. Several creative options to choose from, but we recommend The Classic. May not hold on to this spot that long if another competitor is found, but still a solid burger option.

So there you have it! These are my top places to find a delicious burger and will always keep this list up-to-date as I journey out to find other places serving up some tasty red meat. Don't forget, if it's not pink, don't eat it!

Places that once made the cut, but couldn't hang on to that 10th spot... Some are still worth checking out while others aren't all that exciting.  

- 7th Street Social
- B-52 Burgers and Brew
- Burgers and Bottles
- Burger Moe's
- Burger Jone's
- Busted Nut
- Hazelwood Food & Drink
- Jersey's Bar & Grill
- JL Beers
- Muddy Cow
- Ox Cart Ale House
- Patty Wagon
- Red Cow
- St. Paul Tap
- Tamarack Tap Room


July 29, 2019

Flying Buffalo's? (Twin Cities Best Wings)

Thanks to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, we get to enjoy tasty deep fried, baked or grilled bird anatomy by the dozens. It seems as though every restaurant and bar across the country has these delicious morsels available for their patrons and when they're prepared well, they so enjoyable to eat.

Not all chicken wings are made equally and since this is one of our favorite items on the food pyramid,  it was a must that we set out to find the best "Sota has to offer. What's it take to make a solid buffalo wing? Well, if you ask us, it's the following;
  1. Preparation of wings (cooked or undercooked)
  2. How well the sauce adheres to the wings 
  3. Flavor quality and uniqueness (not just the use of Frank's)
We're always accepting suggestions, but here is our current top 10 list;

1. Hickory Hut
Why no one told me to check this place out any sooner is beyond me... It may not be in the most appealing and safest neighborhood in St. Paul, but if that doesn't bother you or you believe in your 2nd Amendment rights, than there is no reason why you should be passing this place up. Full wings, long standing house dry rub that they've been using since day 1 and fried absolutely perfectly! I'm not at all a fan of coleslaw, but there are a few places that just know how to make it taste great. Hickory Hut happens to be one of them. I even went back for a second one! I was ready to eat every last chicken wing in the back, but was kind enough to enjoy my meal and let others enjoy their dining experience as well. Seriously, I could just eat the dry rub and slaw, but the fried bird anatomy is just as superb.

2. Icehouse Minneapolis 
These wings were hands down one of the best wings we've had thus far in our journey to find the best. Bleu cheese mousse, red chile, curried pickled veggies and some chipotle aioli accompanying some down right perfect wings. Cooked perfectly with a nice crispy outside (without having to ask) and an outstanding dry rub to boot. Really!? Bleu cheese mousse? Awesome! You can learn more about our full experience by visiting, Ice Ice Icehouse.

3. Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub
If you like anything smoked you'll like these. If you like a heavy smoked flavor with some awesome spices as well, you'll love these! The one thing I talked to one of their managers about, Ryan was that they needed to make their buffalo sauce unique and I know they have a talented team that can easily pull it off. As for their BBQ, something completely different and delicious. Heavy smoked flavor meats aren't for everyone, but for me, these were easy to rank in this position. I would have gave them the third spot, but Lone Oak's sauce is awesome. You can see the full Northbound review at Smoking In The Back Room.

4. Nutmeg Brewhouse
This place is legit and sitting towards the top of my prestigious wing list. What? It is! Because of their preppy process. The wings are the perfect size and they soak 24 hours in their EPA brew and then you get to enjoy them. Homemade sauces set this place apart form other establishments and order the following for an awesome experience; Blackened Dry Rub, side of buffalo (any heat you like), side of ranch, extra crispy. Dip your wing in buffalo, then the ranch and enjoy! Check out my full review of the Nutmeg - Don't Worry, Be Hoppy.

5. Bennett's Chop House
Always enjoy going to Bennett's for their awesome dinner side salad or chop salad among a number of other great dishes they prepare. After a dozen trips, I finally took a shot at their dry rub wings and I am sure glad I did. Perfect size, cooked perfectly and they had amazing flavor. Need an app prior to your meal? Make sure you grab some wings.

6. Trail Stop Tavern
Since this place opened, we've been devouring the wings at Trail Stop. Their Trail Stop Dry Rub is absolutely delicious and their house made dressings make their wings even better. I never have to ask for extra crispy to ensure they're thoroughly cooked and they never hold back from the dry rub. If you're in the Eagan/IGH/Rosemount area and you're craving wings, this is the place to check out.

7. Tamarack Tap Room 
The Tap Room is serving some outstanding wings. They're a good size wing, not these tiny little guys you'll find elsewhere and they cook them perfectly and as always, I order them extra crispy. They're prepped with a great tasting dry rub that just adds to the perfectly cooked wing and while their buffalo sauce is a traditional buffalo, the whole packaged easily beats out some of the competition. Check out my full restaurant reviews of Tamarack Tap Room by visiting; Locavore Hear Me Roar & We're Jammin', Bacon Jammin'

8. Harry's Cafe
My wife and I were out-and-about enjoying the day and decided to stop by Harry's to grab a quick bite to eat before hitting up an antique shop in the area. Wasn't really sure what to order so I asked the server how the wings were. "You gotta try 'um!" Okay, why not! I'm hesitant to order wings because far too many places just open up a bottle of Frank's Red Hot and that's just not my cup of tea. Thankfully, Harry's buffalo wing sauce was not that at all. I got my wings extra crispy as I normally do and they were awesome. They had a nice salty flavor, cooked perfectly and the extra crispy outside just makes the wings that much better. Harry's wings are the full wing you have to break apart yourself and you get plenty with your order. To top it all off, the buffalo sauce was delicious as well. It had it's own unique flavor and I would definitely go back for more. IF you have an appetite, try one of their burger challenges and I'll say this... GOOD LUCK! 

9. Shamrock's
Mostly known for their outstanding juicy lucy's, Shamrock's should start being known for their wings as well. Stopped by with a group of friends and they all know I'm a foodie so of course they were curious what I was getting. We simply wanted an app after having a small lunch elsewhere and my wife and I tend to go for wings to try new places. What caught our attention was the MN Wild Wings. They sat high on the heat index, but no description as what they were. After asking and being told they were a dry rub and full of flavor, we had to try them. OUTSTANDING! They're lucky they were so good, because they were far too small. They were cooked perfectly and again, full of amazing flavor. I may have to go back for their wing challenge - 20 wings in their habanero sauce in a short amount of time without anything to drink. Doesn't sound that difficult after eating ghost peppers and scotch bonnets!

10. Jake's City Grill
The wings' at Jake's are delicious, prepared well and their Jake's Sauce and Dry Rub are super tasty. Whenever my wife and I make a trip to Jake's the wings are usually what I order along with a big bowl of their insane Shrimp and Sausage Chowder. You really can't go wrong with these bad boys. 

Wings that once held a spot on the top 10 list, but couldn't quite hang on to that 10th spot...

B52 Burgers and Brew
Barker's
Blue Door
Buffalo Tap
D-Spot
Doolittle's
Jersey's Bar & Grill
Ray J's
Runyon's
Smalley's
Spring Street Tavern (City Pages says they're the best - Nope)

July 27, 2019

Life At The Northern Taphouse

Ah hey ma ma mommy doo-dine-in-ya, ah hey ma ma ma hey-y-yah, life in the Northern Taphouse… So what is life actually like in this new place called the Northern Taphouse? While you continue to sing Dream Academy, I will gladly share that information with you.

After taking over one of the many Applebee’s locations to close down in Lakeville, Lincoln Hospitality stepped in to revitalize one of those closed down “Neighborhood Grills” and turn it into one of their taphouses. They also own Milwaukee Burger Co, a couple of Grizzly’s and a few other taphouses throughout the region. An environment for the sports minded, beer drinking, burger eating, pizza loving type of person! We really wish they would have made the decision to enter Rosemount instead, but it’s not too far away…

But, there are still questions to be answered. Is the food good? Is the beer list good? Are there enough TV’s with sports coverage? Will the Salvation Army band play? Will the children drink lemonade? I’m not so sure about the last couple of questions, but I have answers for you on the first 3!
First, there are plenty of TV’s with every type of sporting event on for all to enjoy; no matter the sport you enjoy watching the most. Secondly, the food is pretty decent, but nothing that will knock your socks off - still better than Applebee's. Finally, as a former consumer of alcohol, the beer list can hold its own and 99% locally raised beers.

For our first visit to Northern Taphouse, my family and I went for the Garbage Pizza and a Maple Butter Burger, while the kiddos enjoyed some cheese pizza. Their pizzas are stone fired ‘zzas and, had they entered the Rosemount market, would have been the best pizza in town. The Garbage Pizza we had was prepared with; pepperoni, red sauce, mozzarella, cob smoked ham, house fennel sausage, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and black olives. My wife and I absolutely loved the fennel sausage and the smaller pepperoni slices are an awesome addition as well. Not too spicy for either protein, but definitely full of flavor.
As for that burger, not terrible, but some minor adjustments would make it a better burger. All their burgers are prepared with two fresh Midwest raised Certified Hereford Beef patties and smashed on the flat top. When preparing doubles using thin patties, the process shouldn’t’ take any longer than 3 minutes a patty. Smash, flip, add cheese immediately, remove and construct burger. I would encourage the staff to shave about 30-40 seconds of the cooking time to keep the patties pink and still juiced up.
The Maple Butter Burger was prepared with sweet maple butter, Muenster cheese, thick-cut bacon and a sunny-side up egg which we decided to leave off. All the flavors together made for a pretty decent creation, but a tad dry for being a flat top made burger. None the less, it had some positive burger vibes. The question my readers are probably asking themselves, “Would it make your top 10 list?” Probably not, even if they made the minor timing changes I mentioned above.

But, I would still go back to order up another ‘zza, definitely try the wings next time because every order that went by our table looked darn tasty and yes, I would even order another burger. I would just build my own next time. I would encourage you to check this place out for yourself. It hasn’t been open very long, but if they remain packed like it was while were there, they have a bright future ahead of them.

Northern Taphouse
18404 Kenrick Ave
Lakeville, MN 55044



February 1, 2019

A Worthy Dinner Pairing Indeed

When you combine exceptional culinary expertise with a brewer’s expertise, you will get something pretty amazing. Now, let those same geniuses use their creative minds to put together a five-course meal pairing for their guests, you will undoubtedly receive nothing, but the very best.

Well, that’s exactly what took place when Chef Frank with Woolley’s Kitchen & Bar sat down with the Indeed Brewing guru’s and creating one of the finest five-course dinner pairings my wife and I have ever experienced. To our followers, family and friends, it’s no surprise to them how much we thoroughly enjoy dining at Woolley’s. And, it’s also no surprise to anyone how much we both love beer. Combine both loves and we weren’t passing this up and super glad we didn’t!

Let’s jump right into it and break the menu down:
First Course: Dish – Crab Frisee Salad, Beverage – Lucy Session Sour, 4.2% ABV
A very simply dish with fresh crab, frisee, green asparagus sticks with pureed white asparagus, speck (the prosciutto family) and fresh slices of avocado. An excellent combination of fresh; salty, sweet, bitter, buttery ingredients with a well-balanced session to cleanse the palate. I would eat this every single day, minus the traditional asparagus. Not a fan, but certainly am of the white asparagus – completely different and enjoyable flavor.
Second Course: Dish – Scallops, Beverage – Brandy Barrel-Aged Mexican Honey Imperial Lager, 8% ABV
Expertly prepared scallops sitting on an insanely made puree with roasted corn, Mexican white corn, black berries and finished off with the most amazing Mexican inspired seasoned bacon. WOW! Bacon, that every person should be enjoying and something I will be working with in the future with regards to a burger creation. Stay tuned for that! The addition of this specific lager was a perfect match and a beer I could see in my fridge on a regular basis. It was a super easy drinker and excellent flavors.
Third Course: Dish – Duck & Butternut Squash, Beverage – Wooden Soul: Wood-Aged Saison, 7.5% ABV
Perfectly prepared duck breasts sitting in a butternut squash (bisque consistency), with wild mushrooms, cipollini onions and cherry. Great flavors working well together and the addition of the Wood-Aged Fruit Saison, with the subtle notes from aging in the wine barrels was spot on for this dish.
Fourth Course: Dish – Short Ribs and Dauphine Potatoes, Beverage – Day Tripper Pale Ale, 5.4% ABV
“Fall off the bone” short ribs with heirloom carrots, dauphine potatoes that should replace French fries on every menu, Humboldt fog and a rosemary jus. Humboldt fog is a super, rich and creamy goat cheese with similar notes to the likes of the best blue cheese you can find. I was enjoying bite after bite after bite and didn’t want this dish to be gone. With the explosion of flavors taking place, the simplicity of Indeed’s flagship pale ale was the perfect selection for this dish.
Fifth and Final Course: Dish РChocolate Pot De Cr̬me, Beverage РRum King Imperial Stout, 10.5% ABV
A dessert that all should have the opportunity of enjoying! This perfectly prepared chocolate cup of custard (it’s literal translation) with Himalayan sea salt and hazelnut was easily one of the most amazing desserts I’ve consumed and yet, it seems so simple. The perfect beer to pair with it? Of course, a heavy imperial stout! But not just any stout, a stout made with orange peel and cacao and sat in barrels for a lengthy period of time until the perfect stout for Indeed was born. Super bold with a quick upfront sweetness from the orange and finishing with the cacao and rum notes.

It was the perfect way to end such an amazing line-up of dishes and beverage pairings and great conversation with table guests sitting with us and having the opportunity to speak to both Chef Frank as well Tina, a brewer with Indeed. My wife and I are never disappointed when we get the opportunity to enjoy the culinary experience Chef Frank provides guests at Woolley’s. And, after speaking with the Chef, as well as management, there might just be a new burger creation that may make the menu and inspired by the evening’s ingredients and my own creative juices. We shall see! In the meantime, make sure to check out Woolley’s for dinner and Indeed for some delicious beverages.