February 22, 2020

Tortillas and Protein (Best Tacos)

No matter where you are in the Twin Cities, there is a taco shop or Mexican restaurant that claims to be serving "Authentic Mexican Food". Unfortunately, most of what is out there is far too Americanized and hardly worth enjoying. One of our favorite, yet simple dishes found all over Mexico is a perfectly made Street Taco. Warm corn tortillas, flavorful protein of your choice, onions, cilantro and a little salsa. That's it! Nothing more, nothing less!

It's the little hole-in-the-wall spots in Mexico that always caught our attention when traveling, not the chain establishments scattered throughout Mexico and the Caribbean. You know, like Senior Frogs, Margaritaville or some other millionaire who decided to open a restaurant. Thankfully, there are places right here in good ol' Minnesota that are putting in the effort to provide authentic food, especially some downright amazing street tacos. 

We've set out to find some of the best the Twin Cities has to offer and thus far, we would recommend our readers check these 5 places out first and in no particular order;

Head over to Richfield and enjoy not only the street tacos, but all the grub at Andale Taqueria & Mercado. Their carnitas and pollo are some of the most flavorful protein creations we've come across in our travels and cravings for more are always present when traveling through that area. This place is a must try, but just know that the parking lot fills up quickly and you may be parking across the street at Menards. Yes, it does get that busy, because it's that good! 

If you're ever in the Rosemount area, Las Tortillas is yet another place to never drive past. This is the place where you will find the best tasting carnitas in the Twin Cities, period! Their Elote is killer and the burritos can be shared by 2 people or 1 if you're super hungry. Chef Ricardo, one of our favorite chef's is doing things right at Las Tortillas. If tacos and burritos aren't your thing, Chef Ricardo's other creations will certainly satisfy your taste buds. 

With multiple locations to choose from, Taqueria La Hacienda is our next spot worth checking out. Because of this, it's easy to fulfill those taco cravings throughout the week, especially on a taco Tuesday. You simply can't go wrong with any of their protein options, but my favorite tends to be their carnitas.

Spending some time in the west metro? Somewhere around New Hope and surrounding cities? Then you need to stop into AZ (Arizona) Taco Co. I'm a huge fan of perfectly made carnitas, but at AZ, it's the Carne Asada that is to die for. Wow is that some fantastic cow anatomy. Nothing bad to say about their other protein options, it's just that the Carne is that darn good! And the salsa creations? Yes, please!

Next up is El Taco Riendo located in the Nordeast neighborhood and serving up some super tasty authentic tacos and some of the best salsa in the Twin Cities. There isn't a protein on the menu not worth ordering and the the salsa is drinkable. 

If none of those seem to make your mouth water or you're not close to one of them, you could consider these spots as well;
  • Nico's Taco Bar with 2 locations has some outstanding tacos, especially their barbacoa, tynga and fish tacos. However, the salsa needs a little work, the steak was too dry and the margaritas aren't worth the money (according to my wife).  
  • Catrinas has a couple of locations and serving some outstanding tacos and their salsa creations are exceptional as well. 
  • Casa Lupita in White Bear Lake has some pretty tasty tacos.
  • La Palma in St. Paul's Eastside is doing things right. 
  • La Costa Mexican Sports Bar in St. Paul's Westside kills it with their carnitas, but has been inconsistent.  
  • El Super Taco in Burnsville can hold their own, it's their salsa that you will want to go back for the most. 
  • El Tequito Taco House in West St. Paul used to be a top favorite of ours and still producing some decent street tacos.
While we would much rather be in Mexico eating street tacos from the little cart on the corner, these places will have to do. Well, at least until we plan another vacation....

February 15, 2020

A Slice Of 'Zza (Best Pizza)

What would we do without the genius people of Italy coming up with a simple, yet effective way to stuff our faces with delicious ingredients? How did people survive before there was a pizza to devour? Ok, so it's not a serious question to ask yourself, but I sure am thankful for their creativity and addition to the culinary world (in more ways than 1).

There are multiple ways to prepare the perfect 'zza and the only one I'm really not a big fan of is the Chicago deep dish. Aside from that, I'm not going to say no to a tasty slice of pizza. I certainly have my favorite style and I think you'll quickly pick up on that as you start to read through my picks for the best pizza this side of the Atlantic AND Mississippi. 

There is no reason to separate the best pizza into their respective styles, you can either make a solid pie or you can't. Let's start making your mouth water and help you figure out where you're getting your next pizza from.

We're going to start at a place located in the Nordeast Minneapolis neighborhood called Young Joni. Owner, Chef and James Beard award winner, Ann Kim is doing things right with her exceptional pizza. There is something absolutely special about these wood fired masterpieces and a place that you'll crave on a regular basis. My go-to is their YOLO - house red sauce, mozzarella, fennel sausage, Nueske’s bacon, pepperoni (pictured above). Check out Ann's other spots - Pizzeria Lola and Hello Pizza. 

Heading east into downtown St. Paul near CHS Field sits our next pizza superstar, Big River Pizza. Another wood fired spot where the pizza is so good, there's typically not much leftover for taking home to enjoy the next day. Chef and Owner, Steve Lott and his team have never failed to deliver a great tasting 'zza and a regularly visited spot. This happens to be my wife's favorite spot. Nothing better than their classic sausage and pep. 

Next up is a place found in the Maplewood called Tono Pizzeria & Cheesesteaks. I've reviewed these guys for their outstanding Philly's and currently topping the charts over on our Philly List and  finally ordered up a pizza. This culinary family that has been fused together with love from Sicily and Philly is making some delicious hand tossed, brick oven pizzas that anyone can enjoy. 

Time to head into the north woods of Minnesota, Baxter to be more exact. Wait, did you think this was strictly a list for the Twin Cities? Not a chance when the pizza is as good as the pizza is at a place called Boomer Pizza. Owner and Chef, Chris Moran knows the pizza world in the Twin Cities having lived here before heading back home and knows how to make some insane tasting wood fired creations. Planning your next vacation to the Brainerd Lake's Area anytime soon? Make sure you add Boomer's to your must try list.

After that stop in the north woods, we're back in the Twin Cities and making a trip over to.... We're going to leave this spot open for now... There are some places that are on the radar that could easily take down the next place that would have most likely been placed in the top 5. Where are those places you ask? Glad to share with you - Pig Ate My Pizza, Pizzeria Lola and Maverick's.

Those are the places you should consider spending most of your time at, but there are others out there that are certainly worthy of a visit as well and those places are;
  • Vivo Kitchen in Apple Valley has some delicious wood fired pizzas. My kids never have leftovers. 
  • Mama's Pizza in St. Paul and serving up some of the best tasting classic oven baked thin crust. 
  • Cossetta's on West 7th in downtown St. Paul is serving over-sized slices that could be enjoyed by 2 people. Definitely staple in the city.
  • Old World Pizza in Inver Grove Heights has had a cult following before the name change from a Pizza Factory and a mile east of the current location. 
  • Red's Savoy Pizza with multiple locations and another classic thin crust out of the oven. 
  • Pizza Luce, another with multiple locations has a decent brick oven pizza and is absolutely not Minnesota's Best Pizza according to their website. 
  • Punch Pizza has plenty of locations to choose from. Enjoy the flavors, but tends to always be a soggy center!
With plenty of other options out there, we will continue to explore the offerings and report back to our followers. Until then, enjoy the 'zza!

February 14, 2020

Golden, Crispy Bird Anatomy! (Best Chicken Wings)

Like the love for bacon, there is something so wonderful, delicious and special about fried, baked, grilled or smoked chicken anatomy that has been perfectly prepared for the masses to consume. Thanks to the brilliant minds at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, establishments all across this great country are serving their version of a chicken wing.

Unfortunately, not all chicken wings are prepared equally and there are plenty out there that just can't cut it. Since this is one of the greatest additions to the food pyramid, we set out to find the very best "Sota has to offer. While most places will be found throughout the Twin Cities, we do come across masterpieces outside the hustle and bustle of the busy city.

So, what makes an awesome chicken wing? Glad you asked the question friendly reader. And remember, I always order my wings extra crispy!
  • Preparation of wings - are they cooked or under cooked? 
  • How well the sauce/dry rub adheres to those tasty little wings.
  • Flavor quality and uniqueness - Better not just be Frank's Red Hot! 
  • Size matters! Or so they say.... 
We start off with Inver Grove Brewery and Lakeville Brewery (they're related). This place hits all of the requirements for the perfect chicken wings and I am never able to put them down once I start consuming them. Their House Dry Rub has the perfect blend of spices and heat, and a quick dip into some blue cheese or ranch compliments them perfectly. Sometimes, I think 10 wings just isn't enough and I should order another batch so my belly is happy for a longer period of time... 

Next up are the wings at Hickory Hut in the frog town neighborhood. It's not the safest of neighborhoods and probably one of the reasons why distance has been kept when people constantly recommend them, but we should have listened earlier. If scary parts of cities don't bother you or you're a firm believer in your 2A rights, these are a must try! Yet another place that hits all the requirements and their House Dry Rub is just ridiculous. 

Moving on to B52 Burgers and Brew (2 Locations). When they are on their game, the wings at B52's are one of my all-time favorite wings ever. The combination of spices and house made buffalo sauce is just insane together. And, during my most recent visit, they were spot on and the way they should always be served. It was like a match made in food heaven! 

Let's continue with the wings found at Sak's Sports Bar located in Vadnais Heights. A wing that should be consumed at all times. A buttery, crispy outside with some house made buffalo is the perfect starter to your meal or main dish if you're me. I would get them a little extra crispy, but man was their buffalo sauce and breading legit. 

Rounding out our top list are the Swedish Wings (pictured above) that can be found ONLY at Willards in Cambridge, MN. Besides an exceptional burger that happens to be on the top of our Burger List, they have a menu full of dishes that will catch the eye and appetite of anyone. Chef and Owner, Erick Harcey has quickly become one of my favorite chefs and his Swedish Wings are darn tasty.

While these may be our preferred places to consume some delicious bird anatomy, there are plenty of other places that are worth checking out should these be a little out of you way. We would recommend the following places as well;
  • Bennett's Chop and Railhouse in St. Paul has some pretty solid wings worth checking out.
  • Trailstop Tavern in Eagan has some delicious dry rub wings and a regular spot for us when craving wings and being close to home. 
  • Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub in South Minneapolis is serving some fantastic smoked wings.
  • Nutmeg Brewhouse in Burnsville where you will enjoy ANY of their 4 creations. 
  • Tamarack Tap Room in Woodbury has a delicious tasting Chipotle Dry Rub. 
  • Shamrocks on West Seventh in St. Paul and their Mn Wild Wings. 
And, if these were places near you, I wouldn't necessarily say no to them;
  • Blue Door Pub
  • D-Spot
  • Doolittle's
  • Porter Creek Hardwood Grill
  • Jake's City Grill
  • Jersey's Bar and Grill

January 30, 2020

Smashed Burger (Twin Cities Best Burgers)

There is no hiding it, I am a sucker for a perfectly made burger and there is only one way to enjoy a solid burger. That's fresh ground cow anatomy, smashed on the flat top, seasoned perfectly and assembled with the finest ingredients. And, while there are plenty of burgers to choose from in this world, they're not all created equally.

While most of the local, major media outlets find it necessary to categorize burgers - "Cult Burgers", "Power Lunch Burgers", "Beer Hound Burgers" or whatever - I find that to be nonsense. Listen, you either have the skills necessary to make a quality burger on the flat top or you don't, it's that simple. There is no need to categorize them!

The burgers that I enjoy the most have morsels of goodness falling off the burger and making a mess in my hands while I'm trying to eat. We've got a great list of the 5 best burgers to start off your 2020, followed up with some burgers not to overlook and because it's 2020, participation awards as well.

We start with the insane burger creation found at Parlour Bar. With locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul, we encourage you to check out Parlour Minneapolis first, but St. Paul's will still defeat the competition. Parlour's Double Double is a house blend of chuck, brisket and ribeye, perfectly seasoned, white American cheese and perfectly grilled egg bun. If ever there was a perfect burger to consume, this is absolutely one of them! It's a burger that is often craved on a weekly basis and often finding others doing the same. Keep an eye out for their all new Food Truck.

There is absolutely no reason to ever look past this next place, unless you really dislike perfectly made burgers. And, that place is Stewart's near the University of St. Thomas on Cleveland. Their 70/30 Double Double, prepared with Peterson's Beef, American, griddled onions, mustard aioli and perfectly grilled PJ Murphy's bun should be enjoyed by every burger loving carnivore. A melt in your mouth burger creation that has me wanting to go back for seconds, thirds, fourths.... You get the picture! And that mustard aioli should something of condiment royalty.

You'll have to make a special trip north to Cambridge to find our next place called Willards and their simply named, Perfect Burger (Pictured above). Seriously, if you're not willing to go try one of the best burger found north of 694 all the way to the boarder, you're missing out. Go for a single, or grab a double double if you're hungry enough to take one down. House made buns, house made mayo, house made pickles and with the perfect pressed 80 blend and American cheese. A seriously delicious burger that is always cravable.

Next up is Revival, another multi location selection.While they are very well known for some of the most amazing fried chicken, the Revival Burger is another exceptional burger that is available in a single, double or triple patty option. And, you should absolutely add the bacon - you'd be a fool not to. Go with friends and have them get some chicken so you can all make your belly's happy with their outstanding menu options.

Heading to a Saints game or night out on the town in Lowertown, St. Paul? Saint Dinette should be on your list of places to check out. Their Cheeseburger, a simple double double with classic American and pickles is an outstanding burger that plenty of people having told me that it's better than the Parlour. A unique burger in its own right that should be enjoyed by all.

We will certainly be checking out some more spots and have some on the radar, and while you're checking these places out, don't forget about some of these other great spots to try;
  • Brunson's Pub on Payne. Their classic double and Schwietz Burger are some solid creations.
  • Birch's Lowertown Taproom in St. Paul is serving up another solid burger creation and if you're a beer consumer, they're making excellent brews as well. 
  • Kendall's at Bunker Hill during the summer at the outdoor patio grill. Grab one of their outstanding double-doubles on the turn.
  • King's Place in Miesville. More burger options than you know what to do with and they always taste awesome. 
  • Lyn 65 on Lyndale Ave. in Richfield has a pretty solid tasting double double or if you're really hungry, check out their triple. 
  • Pepper's and Fries on Lake Street has a menu full of burger creations that are super tasty.
  • Tipsy Steer in Blaine has a delicious group of blended burgers from Revier Cattle Company that sports fans visiting the National Sports Center will definitely enjoy! Check out the Aged Cheddar and Bacon Double Double with a Truffle Aioli. 
If one of the picks mentioned above isn't close by, the following spots could be considered as well;
  • Burger Burger inside the MOA
  • Busted Nut in Hastings
  • Hazelwood Food and Drink in Bloomington (Check out their Lobster Bisque)
  • JL Beers in Burnsville
  • Shantytown Bar & Grill in Bloomington
  • St. Paul Tap off 35E and Jefferson Ave.
  • Tamarack Tap in Woodbury

Remember, if it's not made on a flat top, it's not worth eating! 

January 7, 2020

On The Streets of Philasota (Best T.C. Philly's)

So what if Philasota is a made up word... It's an accurate word to describe the fantastic Philly's that are being made right here in Minnesota. Besides, I'd rather be here consuming some of the best Philly's over being in Philthadelphia any day of the week.

My wife and I have had some of the most unpleasant creations, but after experiencing dozens of Philly's, we have found some of the very best that Minnesota has to offer. And, while some people claim that the only true authentic way to experience a Philly is with whiz on it, it's truly just a myth and whiz is disgusting. 

So, who has the best Philly's? We'll start with the top 5, followed up with those that shouldn't be overlooked as well.

Our current champion belongs to Tono Pizzeria + Cheesesteaks located in Maplewood across from Maplewood Mall on White Bear Ave. We stopped by this place thanks to a recommendation from our readers and we're thankful for their input. We were a little hesitant to stop by and recently learned it's under the same ownership as Frank From Philly. Tono's Original Philly had a ton of steak, the right amount of onions, the perfect amount of cheese and the roll was perfect - soft and warm. Their Philly's should definitely be consumed by the masses and I pray they open a location in the south metro, preferably Apple Valley. Now I need to check out this pizza thing they have going on as well and see how those compare to my favorite spots.

Coming in with the silver medal is O'Malley's Irish Pub, a delicious little pub situated in Woodbury. I am always preaching consistency, consistency, consistency and O'Malley's never fails and delivers awesome Philly's every time we stop in to have one. While they have some other delicious tasting food on the menu to choose from, it's the Philly that keeps us returning for more. Definitely not a place you want to keep driving past.

In the heart of Dinkytown on the U of M campus is our third place finalist - Frank and Andreas Pizza and Philly, a place worthy of feeding your Philly craving. I didn't have the best experience my first go-round with Frank's and there were plenty of people that weren't all that happy with what we had to say. I gave it a little time between visits and finally decided to give it another shot. Glad I did! As previously mentioned, this place is under the same ownership as our top spot Tono's. The Philly here had solid flavor, plenty of steak, peppers onions and cheese, and the bun was super soft and warm, not as rock hard as I remember it being my first time visiting.  (Pictured above)

Once sitting atop the list, our fourth place Philly spot is definitely not a place to pass by while driving down West 7th in St. Paul. Goody's Hot City Pizza is serving up some solid Philly's and a big shout out to our friend Jeff C. for guiding us to this awesome establishment. Just a little hole-in-the-wall spot and it's all you need to enjoy one of Goody's Philly's. 

Rounding out our top 5 list are the Philly's found at TOPS Tavern in the small town of Rosemount. Another Philly that was once sitting in the top spot, their Philly's are definitely consistent. We happen to reside in the South Metro and when a Philly craving hits, this is not only the best option in the South Metro, it's close as well. Always overloaded with meat, chopped onions and peppers, and tons of melted cheese. All of this deliciousness on a 9" or 18" Philly style baguette.

Other notable Philly's that should be considered while you're out and about on your Philly journey can be found at;
  • Pappy's Chicago Style Eatery, with a couple of locations and a while very tasty, a little smaller than most of the competition. 
  • Saint Paul Saints and CHS Field. The next time you're at a game, head over to the third base line and check out one of these bad boys. 
  • Jersey Mike's Subs. Yes, I know it's a chain, but holy crap their Philly's are good. 
  • Lumberyard Pub in Afton is where you will find a more unique take on the classic Philly, but delicious and can hold its own. 
  • Dominick's Pizza in IGH/Eagan has a pretty solid Philly if you're going to be in the area. 
Enjoy the journey and eat some Philly's. If you come across a solid creation that you think we should check out, let us know. We would love to try it....