Friday, July 3, 2015

Bukowski’s Tavern – Boston, MA

I needed a lighter lunch than I had yesterday, so I popped over to a restaurant that came up in some of my food research near the hotel. Bukowski’s is a down and dirty slightly better than dive bar in the Back Bay area. It’s a cash only place, so be ready for that. The restaurant is in a corner of a parking ramp so, it’s about 15 feet wide and 150 feet long.

I was bummed to find out they don’t have the same menu items as the Cambridge location, but I was only bummed because I wanted to get the Poe Tots (pork belly tater tots) that sounded amazing. I got over it pretty quickly when I looked at this menu. I found plenty of burgers and dogs and sandwiches to not starve during my quick lunch break.

I went with a Chili Cheese Mad Dog and I even upgraded my side dish to some sweet chili glazed brussel sprouts. I also ended up with a Anderson Valley Boont Amber to drink. Sometimes that happens.

Obviously, it doesn’t take long to pan cook some brussel sprouts and cook a hot dog, so the food arrived really quickly. The brussel sprouts were cooked perfectly, so they still had some body to them, which I was thrilled about. I wished they had more chili glaze on them, but I know that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. They were still delicious and I was glad I got them. I just love super coated sprouts – it’s a weakness of mine.

The Mad Dog was really tasty. The new England style buns never seem to hold up to the juicy dogs, like a traditional bun would, but the flavor of the NE buns are almost always better, especially when they toast it with butter like this one was. The chili was a pretty good ground beef and bean chili, though it didn’t have much heat. Still delicious, especially with the shredded cheese on top. The bun fell apart while eating it, so once you pick it up, you really aren’t going to put this thing down – structural integrity, and such. Thankfully, I really enjoy a sloppy hot dog, so I didn’t complain one bit. I ate the entire thing. And, now I know why they ask you if you want two dogs. I assume they mean a second entire bun and dog, not just a second link on the same bun, but I’m not sure. I absolutely could have done a second dog, but I’m glad I didn’t – otherwise, I would have gone back to work and fallen asleep.

This is a great little divey bar with some fantastic food. They also have some really craft-y beer taps. All of the food looked really appealing that I saw come out of the tiny kitchen, so I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of bad food items here.  It’s definitely worth a check-out.

Top 5 things about Bukowski’s Tavern
1. Chili Cheese Mad Dog
2. Sweet Chili Glazed Brussel Sprouts
3. Really interesting menu, complete with hilarious swearing and tell-it-like-it-is sass
4. For such a small place, I was surprised how many seats it had
5. The staff were extremely nice and helpful

Bottom 5 things
1. No pork belly tater tots at this location
2. Cash only – not really that big of a deal
3. Except it isn’t a cheap place – I ended up paying $24 for lunch (including tip)…
4. I’d say there’s no parking, but it’s IN a parking ramp
5. Wish there was more spicy glaze on the brussel sprouts

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Boston Burger Company – Boston, MA

I was in the mood for something ridiculous for lunch, so I tracked down some food options worth my time. The Boston Burger Company in Back Bay was one of those places with creative burger combinations, so I headed over there. They even had a patio seat available, so I got to sit out in the elements and people watch – a great thing to do less than half a block from Berklee College of Music.

The menu has a ton of burgers on it (obviously), but I kind of already knew which one I wanted. The 420 Burger. This monstrosity has American cheese, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, mac & cheese, BBQ sauce, and potato wedges. Like I said: ridiculous.

It came to my table pretty quickly, and looked impressive. I even got a few nods of approval from passers-by. This thing has so many ingredients on it, no matter how hard you smoosh it down, you’re still not going to be able to get your mouth around this thing. It’s massive. Thankfully, that also means there some awesome ingredients in every bite. The meat was super flavorful, and you could still taste it even with all the other ingredients. The coleslaw, sadly, was pretty boring. Mostly mayo and just not a lot of flavor. If I had something spicy and needed to cool my mouth off, it would have been amazing. Sadly, no heat-quenching was needed.

The side of house-made thick-cut potato chips were pretty delicious, however. No complaints on these things. I even tucked a few chips onto my burger for another layer of awesomeness.

Overall, this place was pretty fantastic and I’d recommend this to a lot of people. They’ve got a burger special each week or month and you should look for that burger before you decide on something on the menu. Sometimes specials sneak up on you and ruin your plans for ordering. Lots of good beers on tap, as well, so it’s definitely worth looking up if you’re in town.

Top 5 things about Boston Burger Company
1. 420 Burger
2. Wonderful burger ideas
3. Solid beer list
4. Servers were extra friendly without being annoying
5. Outside patio for people watching

Bottom 5 things
1. Coleslaw
2. I didn’t even notice the adult milkshakes until I was halfway through my meal
3. There were tons of people going to the boring places on either side of this for some reason – WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?
4. I wanted everything on the menu – I know that isn’t technically THEIR fault
5. Please don’t refer to this restaurant by its acronym or you might confuse people about what you put in your mouth at lunch

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Newton’s Paradise Café – Waterloo, IA

D.Rough and I had the pleasure of driving through Waterloo, Iowa, one evening and we needed to grab a bite to eat before we continued north to the Twin Cities. We took a quick look at Trip Advisor to see what was rated highly in the town, or anything that wasn’t a chain restaurant. Newton’s sounded good and we were pretty close, as well.

The downtown area of Waterloo is pretty dead after 7pm, but we were happy to see Newton’s was open for a little while longer. It’s bright and shiny, almost like an old timey dining car, but the inside is actually modern and clean. The menu has better items on it than a greasy spoon diner, so it didn’t take me long to decide what to get. A breaded pork tenderloin. For some reason, there aren’t any place in Minnesota that serve breaded pork T’s, so I usually order one every time I see one on a menu. D.Rough got a pulled pork po’ boy.

Since it wasn’t busy at all, our food came out pretty quickly. The pulled pork po’ boy was really delicious. Great bbq pork flavor with a generous helping. Then some basil coleslaw and fried onions to top it off. Really a great sandwich. The fries were pretty standard, so not much to say about those.

The breaded pork tenderloin was monstrous. You can tell this is hand breaded and not from a freezer like some places I’ve been. It’s so huge it makes the large bun seem like a tiny bun. D.Rough is always amazed when I send her photos of these pork T’s that I eat, but they’re usually pretty large. That being said, this one was SUPER large. I ended up pulling the edges of the tenderloin off and putting it in a to go box for tomorrow’s lunch. But the part with the bun was magical. Great flavor without tasting like a sponge of grease and fantastic crunch on the outside. I would have gone right to sleep if I had eaten the entire thing (like I usually do). But I’m glad I saved some for the next day!

Newton’s is really worth the stop-in if you’re in Waterloo. I wouldn’t have driven by it, since I don’t go downtown there much. So I’m glad Trip Advisor ranked it really well.

Top 5 things about Newton’s Paradise Café
1. Breaded Pork Tenderloin
2. Pulled Pork Po’ Boy
3. Diner food, but kicked up a notch
4. Really nice folks working there
5. They DO serve been here

Bottom 5 things
1. Even though it’s downtown, normal travelers won’t accidentally drive past it
2. I’d guess with the John Deere factory right there, it is mobbed at lunch time
3. Fries were just ho-hum
4. N/A
5. N/A

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tiny Diner – Minneapolis, MN

My friend A-Wow got back from a trip to Scotland, so we decided to go have some dinner and check out some of the photos he took. We waffled about a place to eat, but he suggested we hit up Tiny Diner in the Powderhorn area. I had heard of it, but knew very little about it. This place is getting quite a name for itself, due to its farm-to-table/sustainable menu ingredients. They source a lot of their ingredients from local farms and animal farms to keep things very close to home. Obviously, not all items can be grown in a Minnesota garden year round, but they have a pretty substantial garden on-site and you actually eat in the garden if you are lucky enough to sit on the covered (with solar panels) patio. This also makes the Tiny Diner a little less tiny.

Each month (or at least every few weeks), the focus of the menu changes, so you won’t always be able to get the amazing dish you had last time you were there – just a warning. This month, the menu had a New Mexico theme. Throw in some chilies and some southwestern seasoning and you would be surprised the menu items you can come up with. We decided to get some chips and three salsas to split. Then we both ended up ordering the same thing, since they sounded so good – the NM rock shrimp tacos. Tiny Diner also has a pretty good craft beer selection, so be sure to check that out, as well.

The chips are hand cut thick and hand fried, which I love. Some blue corn chips and some yellow corn chips. Each salsa was completely different and delicious. Our favorite was the avocado crema, but the roasted salsa verde and the salsa chipotle were also fantastic.

The tacos were much better than I even imagined. They were doubled-up corn tortillas (some white and some blue) and filled with New Mexico dry-spice-rubbed rock shrimp, cabbage and radish slaw, avocado crema, salsa chipotle, and cilantro. Each of these flavors could be identified in each bite, which doesn’t always happen. There was plenty of shrimp in each taco, so you had some in every bite, and the avocado crema won the show, just like with the chips we had earlier. There are three tacos on your plate, so it’s a safe bet you aren’t going to go home hungry. The tacos are served with a small mixed green salad on the side, but once I had a bite of the tacos, I lost interest in the salad.

This place does take reservations, but if there’ a spot on the patio when you get there, they will make some adjustments and sit you outside – which I’d recommend. The staff are all super friendly and know the menu inside and out. They’ve also got a nice happy hour, so be sure to get there in time for that. Overall, one of the better garden-to-table meals I’ve had in a really long time.

Top 5 things about Tiny Diner
1. NM Rock Shrimp Tacos
2. Hand-made chips and salsas (especially the avocado crema)
3. Really unique slightly-themed menu items
4. Great craft beer list
5. Really fun space to dine in (great for a first date, pretending you care about the environment)

Bottom 5 things
1. It’s pretty small; some might say… tiny
2. The place fills up fast around dinner time, so either get a reservation or get comfortable
3. I’m guessing there may be a more limited menu in the winter months (not confirmed)
4. Some people have complained about the prices, but I honestly thought it was pretty affordable for the quality of food you get – people just like to complain
5. I personally wish there were more of the city-themed menu items, but a handful in each section of the menu is still alright. Especially since they ALL sounded fantastic.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Taste of Scandinavia – Little Canada, MN

I wasn’t sure what to expect when D.Rough said we needed to grab lunch at Taste of Scandinavia. She remembered the place being a little Swedish store that had coffee and candy in it back in the day. But when we got inside, we were very impressed with everything they had to offer. I was also very impressed that all of the girls working there looked like there were Scandinavian – tall, fair skinned, and long braided blonde hair.

There are tons of things in the display cases – everything from desserts, cakes, and cookies, to soups and sandwiches. Then the menu boards have even more options. It isn’t easy to figure out what you want from here. D.Rough and I decided we need to split a couple of things. We got an order of Swedish meatballs and also a Norwegian Chicken Lefse Melt. I really wanted to get soup, but I’d have to wait until the next trip here. They all looked so good!

The Swedish meatballs were some of the better ones I’ve had (sadly, I’ve had a lot of Swedish meatballs in my day). Sometimes they can be bland tasting with no seasoning, but these had actual flavor even in addition to the flavoring in the gravy that they’re coated in. They were served on some delicious lingonberries and mashed potatoes, which made the whole thing heavier than I expected them to be. Really quite good. (but now it’s nap time…)

The Chicken Lefse Melt was so much better than I expected it to be. There was chicken, red pepper, spinach, mushrooms and multiple cheese inside of this thing. IT was really too big and messy to be eaten like a sandwich, so I attacked it with a fork. Oddly enough, the little dish of salsa provided with the wrap made the whole thing pop. I really enjoyed this completely heavy sandwich a lot. The lefse/potato pancake was cooked perfectly and even had a bit of sweet flavor to it. Great sandwich!

Looking forward to our next trip back here. Especially now that I know what to expect. Plus, I’m sure I’ll be getting one of the many soups they have there. Hooray!

Top 5 things about Taste of Scandinavia
1. Norwegian Chicken Lefse Melt
2. Swedish Meatballs
3. All of the soups look delicious
4. Much bigger menu than expected
5. Everyone is so nice here!

Bottom 5 things
1. Even the light things are heavy here
2. From the outside it looks like a tiny coffee shop
3. Couldn’t have wine because we were going to grandma’s house
4. My stomach isn’t big enough to try everything on the menu in one sitting
5. We went there to get D.Rough a coffee, but we were so distracted with the awesome food that we forgot to get her some coffee!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

2015 Get In Gear Half Marathon - Minneapolis, MN

Yes, even chubby guys can run a half marathon. How else do you think I am able to eat 10,000 calorie meals!!???

Plus, at the end of the race, my friends were grilling out!!! Ribs, bacon, pork shoulder! I'm a winner, despite being in the Clydesdale division.

Editors note: I have to post things like this so my mother knows I'm not COMPLETELY abusing my body. hahaha


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Morelos Mexican Restaurant – West St. Paul, MN

D.Rough and I were pretty bummed when our favorite near-by Mexican restaurant (Los Arcos) closed its doors. But we were also excited to find that a new operation was moving in after a quick remodel. We headed to Morelos with high hopes!

 The menu is actually quite different than its predecessor, much to our surprise. There are a lot of things on Morelos menu that piqued my curiosity, but I had to buckle down and order something. I finally decided to get the Alambres Morelos and D.Rough got the Barbacoa & Carnitas dinner. And of course, we got a couple of beers. Duh.

The server brought out a basket of tortilla chips and two salsas for us to snack on while we waited. We were pretty happy that the two salsas were the very same as the ones that we found at Los Arcos. A more jalapeno/tomatillo flavored green sauce and a smoky red sauce. Both are delicious.

There wasn’t much of a wait before our food arrived. D.Rough felt like her barbacoa & carnitas were pretty standard. They didn’t blow her mind, frankly (just being honest). They weren’t bad, by any stretch, but they didn’t really hit the mark like she had hoped. I also tried some and agree with her – they were fine and all, but nothing to hang your hat on. The portion size was pretty impressive, however – I hope you’re hungry!

The Alambres Morelos, on the other hand, were way better than average. I was really happy with this item. Lots of green and red peppers and plenty of meet. The tortilla bed the food was sitting on actually held up pretty well, unlike other places I’ve been where the whole thing is a soggy mess. There was enough cheese to hold everything together, but not enough to be a blanket covering the entire plate. I loved this dish!

Overall, I liked mine a lot and D.Rough was sort of meh on it all. I have a feeling we’ll end back up at Morelos either way for a rematch. I’m looking forward to it quite a lot, actually.

Top 5 things about Morelos
1. Alambres Morelos
2. They have beer
3. Red Salsa
4. Green Salsa
5. It’s reallllly close to our house

Bottom 5 things
1. Still don’t serve Pozole during the week
2. Barbacoa & Carnitas were underwhelming
3. Lacking in margaritas
4. OurManFlip wasn’t with us on our maiden voyage to Morelos
5. Was hoping for karaoke… (I’ve been working on my Jose Jose songs)

Morelos Mexican Restaurant
360 Bernard St.
West St. Paul, MN 55118