November 17, 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 sure are 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/dry rub 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. Inver Grove Brewing Co. (Lakeville Brewing Co.)
Maybe it was just my visit or something, but I left wanting more wings and was completely full. Both locations are fantastic, but what I find more interesting is, their IGH location hasn't been open very long and it's packed every night! But, how about those wings???? Absolutely insane! Their house dry rub wings were perfect. Nice size, perfectly cooked with a nice crispy outside and the dry rub was lights out. A mix of salty, subtle sweet, well balanced heat and spice and your taste buds will be thanking you for consuming these bird parts.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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'

9. 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! 

10. 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!

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
Blue Door
Buffalo Tap
Jake's City Grill
Jersey's Bar & Grill
Ray J's
Spring Street Tavern (City Pages says they're the best - Nope)

November 11, 2019

You Know I Like my Chicken Fried

There is something special about fried chicken, especially if the jeans fit just right after you enjoy some delicious fried bird. While I will always choose a local ma & pa shop first, when you need something fast and it's readily available, we unfortunately turn to fast food to fill the void.

There has been a lot of hype lately about the new chicken sandwich found at Popeye's. Reports of people being assaulted for their chicken sandwich, A CHICKEN SANDWICH! People willing to do anything to get their hands on this chicken sandwich. Calm down people, there's plenty of fried birds to go around for everyone. Just have a little patience when they run out... 

Any who... It was time to try one for myself and I was able to purchase said chicken sandwich without myself or anyone else being hurt. In fact, I walked into my local Popeye's, was greeted very nicely and walked out with my sandwich in hand for 3.99.  But, is the Popeye's chicken sandwich legit? Is it worth assaulting someone to get it? No to the assault charges, but I think it's time to reveal the rankings for fast food chicken sandwich and coming in at number 1 - Popeye's!

1. Popeye's
I've heard the good, the bad and the ugly about this sandwich and in my opinion, it's a solid sandwich. Well, at least the classic sami that I received. That great flaky and tasty exterior Popeye's is known for, the chicken was super juicy on the inside, grilled brioche bun and a mild helping of mayo. I've always liked Popeye's after first experiencing it in a Texas airport during some traveling with my wife. Was hooked, but had to wait a couple of year's until Popeye's appeared in the Twin Cities. 

2. Chick-Fil-A
A place that I thoroughly respect for their beliefs, closing on Sunday's for a day of rest and serving some delicious chicken sandwiches and nuggets. Seriously, their nuggets are killer. But, this is about the chicken sami's and they're certainly delicious, but just not quite that flaky crust that I enjoy so much from Popeye's. Definitely not as big as Popeye's as well... 

3. KFC
Seeing more and more of these close down it seems like, but their chicken has always been tasty, greasy, but tasty. It's fried chicken, it's going to be unhealthy for you! Pretty simple sandwich, smaller than the previously mentioned sami's, but worth the try. 

4. Burger King
A pretty decent fried chicken sandwich that has some similarities to their classic oblong chicken sandwich that they're known for (besides the obvious whopper). Not an overly large sami like some of the others, but a nice helping for lunch. 

5. Culver's
Known for their delicious "better brand of beef, makes a butter burger better" and yes, they are tasty, the chicken sandwich is pretty solid as well. I prefer their chicken tenders myself, but if you're craving a chicken sandwich and the above mentioned isn't available for purchase in your area, then check out a Culver's Chicken Sandwich. 

6. Wendy's
While I'd rather get a junior bacon cheeseburger, nuggets or a chocolate frosty, their chicken sandwich isn't half bad. Decent flavor in the breading and the chicken isn't dry either. Nothing special for a bun like the rest of the options you have to choose from here. 

7. Raising Cane's
Their big thing is their chicken tenders, but yes, you can get a chicken sandwich if you're really craving the extra carbs and need that bun. It's just a couple of tenders in a bun. Not terrible, but I'm sot sure anything else really needs to be said... 

8. McD's
Big Mac's. Chicken Nuggets. The Quarter Pounder. The Happy Meal, gotta have that toy... Yes, McD's is known for these things first and foremost and they've steadily been trying to make their food more appealing and making changes to the menu. The old chicken patty has a competitor in their buttermilk crispy chicken sandwich. It's what you would expect from McD's. 

9. Arby's
I would simply say, stick to making roast beef's and shouting out, "We Have The Meats!" 

There you have it. The fried chicken sandwiches found at our local fast food joints throughout the Twin Cities. But, everyone knows that if you truly want an amazing fried chicken sandwich, you bypass every single one of these places and head straight to Revival! 

November 3, 2019

Duck Duck Gray Duck

Duck.... duck... duck... duck... GOOSE! Just kidding, everyone knows it's duck duck gray duck. And, while everyone continues to debate this, let's talk about the Gray Duck found in downtown St. Paul. Gray Duck Tavern is settled right in the heart of downtown St. Paul and providing patrons with comfort food they say is "inspired by the north star state."

It's been open for the last couple of year's now and we've been wanting to check this place out and just not got around to it. Changes in the kitchen and the menu now has Gray Duck Tavern what it is today. We recently read an article that the Pioneer Press published on burgers; In 2019, the burgers in these cities are better than ever. And, while some of the burgers on this list are absolutely worth trying and on our top 10 list, there is plenty on the list worth staying away from and others we hadn't tried. Gray Duck's was one of them.

What really got us wanting to check Gray Duck Tavern out was the fact that Chef Sutherland, a very well-known chef throughout the Twin Cities Culinary Scene is running the team behind the scenes. But, while Chef Sutherland may very well be a top notch chef, his burger game needs some help.

I give you, the Animal Burger. Double chuck patties, american, caramelized onion, bibb lettuce, tomato, special sauce, pickle, mustard on a thick and dried out bun. Upon arrival to the table, the patties came across as the ones that are typically pre-made and stored for a later date (even a much later date), not very fresh and the cheese was just barely melted. I removed the bibb, tomatoes and pickles and started getting my hands dirty.
At first bite, I immediately knew, that even though we like to try variations of burgers, it wasn't going to even compete for a spot in the top 10 list. The meat was flavorless and all you really tasted was the dry bun, mustard and onions. Absolutely nothing to brag about or include in the Pioneer Press.

Not all was bad though... We also ordered the Gray Duck Tator Tot Hotdish. Prepared with a red wine braised short rib, carrot, pea, wild mushrooms, cream, parmesan and of course golden brown tots to top it off. One bite of this dish and you will want seconds and definitely the type of comfort food anyone would enjoy.
Each and every bite from this dish was enjoyable. The braised beef was exceptional and very tender. That melt in your mouth like butter type of tenderness. Wasn't overly heavy on the cream and just the right amount of veggies to complete the dish.

Tag you're it! Time for you to do some running around the bar which is what my wife was doing with her eyes looking at other patron's drinks wishing she hadn't ordered the Old Fashion. According to her, not worth the money and lacking any flavor and substance. As a former craft beer aficionado (8 months clean), searching high and low for the very best the region has to offer, the craft beer selection is weak at best.

Okay, now you are it! You'll have to check this place out yourself and not everything was a letdown. But, I was expecting a whole lot more out of our visit and left craving the best burger money can buy, a burger form The Parlour Bar.

Gray Duck Tavern
345 Wabasha St. N.
St Paul, MN 55102