Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ted Cook’s 19th Hole Barbecue – Minneapolis, MN

Since HotGirlsBrother and I are still on a mission to find the best BBQ places in the Twin Cities, we decided to hit up a place that was recommended to him - Ted Cook’s 19th Hole Barbecue. He didn’t know anything about it except its location, so we were going in blindly. I picked him up after we freaked out about the same time because the other person hadn’t called yet. Hilarious moment of panic when we both called each other at the same time to make sure we hadn’t gone without the other one. Ha ha ha.

TC19HB is one of those places where there’s no seats inside – you get what you need and get out. I’ve decided if that is your business plan then your BBQ has a 93% chance of being better than a sit down place. Just my own calculation, of course. This place was even better. There were like 10 framed photos on the wall – that was the menu. Ribs and sides (also peach cobbler for dessert). And when you order your food, you shout it over the counter to a guy in a little window (like an African American Keebler Elf) who writes it all down and makes sure you get what you asked for. Then to pick up your food, someone comes through the doors in the back (which are about 3 feet off the ground) and leans down and hands you your food. If you still need to pay, he’ll hop down the 3 feet and man the register for you. Very unbique customer interaction at this place.

Hot GirlsBrother and I always get the same thing, so we both ended up with a half slab of pork ribs (medium-spicy), Jo-Jos, and cole slaw. I’m not a slaw guy, so I ordered an additional side of Black Eyed Peas. And as a bonus, the peas come with cornbread – wurd. HotGirlsBrother was impressed with the amount of food I ordered, but I really wasn’t scared. I don’t have a mouse stomach like some people… The meals also come with two slices of bread (one white, one wheat – no bread racism here).

The orders came out and the guy hopped off the pedestal to take our money. HotGirlsBrother and I were anxious to get in the car and start eating. Yes, we planned to eat it in the car and listen to metal. We opened our Styrofoam containers and both said, “there’s no way we can eat this in the car.” It was simply too saucy and messy and would have been disastrous. So we headed back to his place to consume these awesome looking meals.

Seriously, these were some good ribs. The sauce was really tasty, and just the right amount of spice to get your lips tingling, but no tears. The fries were circle-cut potatoes deep fried and were delicious. The black eyed peas were decent, but a little gritty for my taste, not like grandma used to make. Not bad though, don’t get me wrong. We gorged ourselves while watching The Soup and then 30 Rock, while the dog looked longingly at our dinners. The food was really good. I’m thinking the next couple of places have a pretty high bar to surpass TC19HB. I’ll be going back here, for sure.

Top 5 things about Ted Cook’s 19th Hole Barbecue
1. Medium BBQ sauce - wonderful
2. Ribs were pretty tender
3. Jo-Jo potatoes
4. General ambiance of the place with the Keebler Elf window
5. Eating ribs and watching The Soup

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd loved BBQ, and would have made me buy a T-shirt
2. Didn’t get to metal out in the car eating handfuls of meat
3. Black eyed peas were a tad gritty
4. The slogan is “BBQ as Tender as a Mother’s Love” is kind of creepy (besides, the ribs didn’t leave a handprint on my face – ha ha ha)
5. I would have thought this place would be near a golf course being it’s the 19th hole

Sunday Brunch with the Jensens – Liquor Lyle’s – Minneapolis, MN

I’ve driven by Liquor Lyle’s hundreds of times, but just thought it was a dive bar – which it is, but it’s a fun dive bar that serves food as well. The regular brunch crowd decided to go to Liquor Lyle’s, and when I got there I figured out why – two-for-one specials.

Since I slept too late to go to pre-drinking at the VFW, I got to Liquor Lyle’s before everyone else. So I sidled up to the bar and prepared to get caught up with the others before they got there. I didn’t realize how quickly I’d be getting caught up until I saw the bar tender was making me two drinks. Two really strong, like 75%-liquor-strong, drinks. When he charged me for just the one, I caught on why this place was chosen for brunch.

I overheard someone ask about a table for the Jensens and spun around to see people I knew. I followed them to our large group of tables in back and grabbed a spot on the red vinyl bench. Red vinyl seems like a brilliant idea, until your back sticks to it from the sweat accumulating from lack of air circulation. Then you realize, your sweat is mingling with other people’s sweat from before you and you need a stiff drink to help you forget. Luckily, Liquor Lyle’s has plenty of that.

We needed to get food when everyone showed up, so menus got passed. The menu was much larger than I expected it to be – they had actual good breakfast food on it, including a “messy bennnie” – eggs benedict chopped up and served like a big slop pile. Go LLs! I went with a bacon, sausage, and pepperjack omelet with some tater tots. Low and behold, the breakfast specials come with a free drink!!! This place may be my working its way to the top of my breakfast place list. Some people didn’t realize the included drink or the two-for-ones, so when their food came out with three drinks, they were kind of scared a little. Light-weights.

The omelet was good, and the sausage was not breakfast sausage, so it had a unique (but awesome) quality to it. Add in the pepperjack for a little zing, and you’ve got the makings of a quality breakfast. The tots just added to the ensemble, and even though there were some tot-thieves at my table, I managed to eat most of them myself.

I’ll definitely go back to this place. I’m sorry I didn’t go try the restroom for photos though. Bar restrooms generally make for great photo ops. I ate for cheap and had a couple of free drinks. What’s not to like about this place (except the mingling back-sweat of course)?

Top 5 things about Liquor Lyle’s
1. Two-for-ones
2. Free drink with meal
3. Sausage, bacon, and pepperjack omelet
4. Hilarious conversations about drinking games
5. Lots of red vinyl and mirrors

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd would have loved this place – she liked weird ambiance combined with good food
2. Parking lot has 10 spaces (you shouldn’t be driving anyway)
3. Weird front door/door back thing (TWSS) and the bouncer jumps up to card people who use the non-standard entrance
4. Red vinyl seems like a good idea, but I don’t like sticking to it
5. Really eclectic mix of jukebox songs on random

Friday, March 27, 2009

House of Kai – Eden Prairie, MN

I’ve gotten over my fear of external appearances since I’ve moved to the twin cities. Maybe I was biased living in Illinois and anything that’s in a strip mall or gas station is second only to cardboard. But not so in major cities (and the surrounding areas). I was hungry for some Asian food for lunch and I utilized the ol’ google-box to figure out what was near me at work. House of Kai, you’re the next contestant! (And I got complaints about the lack of photos on the site, so I'll be trying to put in more for those who can't be expected to read non-stop without photos breaking up the monotony - ha ha ha, I'm totally kidding.)

I’ll refer you back to the first line of this post when I tell you every fiber of my being told me to try another place when I pulled up to this place. Not only is it in a PDQ gas station, it’s BEHIND the PDQ gas station in a service hallway lined with cinder blocks like a hallway at a YMCA. Seriously.

But I thought back to my brilliant meal at the Rice Street Deli and powered through. I was glad I did.

I was greated by a super friendly Asian couple who seemed genuinely glad I was there. (I was the only one there, so this is a definite possibility.) She brought me a lunch menu with a pretty good selection of items on it. I went with the Szechuan beef after deciding last night randomly that I always get chicken when I do Asian food, so it’s time to branch out. It comes with choice of egg roll or cream cheese puffs (both are fried, so it’s hard to mess this one up). Egg roll.

The food came out immediately. Seriously, I typed a quick txt message on my phone and then my food was there. I could not have microwaved it any faster. Maybe the cook is from the future and just knew what I wanted. It was really bizarre. But the food was pretty good as far as gas station lunches go. I wouldn’t drive out of the way to go here, but since it’s close enough for lunch, I’ll go back, for sure. The meat was really good (though the pieces were a tad large and had to be cut), and the veggies were cooked but still crunchy – amazing since they spent 12 seconds on any sort of heat source in back. The egg roll was also good – not phenomenal, but good.

Other people did come in while I was there. One group of guys came in and asked them to rush it since they were in a hurry. I don’t think they needed to tell the lady that. Or maybe she shaved like 3 more seconds off their cooking time or something. IF it were any faster, the lady would have been putting a forkful of food into your mouth as you finished the last syllable of your order.

Then another guy ran in and went straight to the cash register and said, “give me something I can eat with my hands.” This caught my attention. I didn’t even know you could order that vaguely and still get results. The lady was like, “Can you be more specific?” He explained he would be driving and couldn’t eat with a fork. So she recommended appetizers. He demanded to know how long they would take to cook. I almost shouted “12 seconds” but the lady had already told him they were very fast – which they were. He paid and before he sat down to wait, he had his egg rolls.

I also crack up when I get fortune cookies with ghey implications…”You will enjoy doing something different this coming weekend.”

Top 5 things about House of Kai
1. Fastest restaurant ever
2. Fairly diversified lunch offerings
3. Really friendly staff
4. You can order food by pinpointing which extremity you’d like to utilize
5. Decent food

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd would have wanted to go here, based solely on my experience there
2. Initial impression before you go inside
3. Those Chinese cat thingies with the paw in the air creep me out
4. The ice machine was broken on the fountain dispenser, so the lady had to climb a ladder and dip it out of the top of the machine - classic
5. I didn’t notice the Dew in the refrigerated case until I was leaving

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

El Gordo - St. Louis Park, MN

A coworker and I needed to escape for lunch, so we decided to have a “guy’s lunch.” DawgMan was feeling all Mexican and had been to El Gordo a few times and had good luck there. I’m still on the hunt for good meskin food up here in the Twin Cities, so I was definitely game.

It’s in a confusing strip mall in St. Louis Park, but we eventually made it – it was close for a while though. Got seated right away and the servers were very friendly (and appeared Hispanic, which is usually a good sign). The offered to get us drinks and then said the magical four words I long for at restaurants, “We have Pepsi products.” Dewski for me, gracias señor!

DawgMan got the lunch fajita and I opted for the chimichanga. It’s not really my favorite dish, but it’s one of those things that I can kind of gauge the caliber of restaurant by when I’m new there. They brought out some chips and salsa which were pretty good, and we chatted about work. A short while later they brought out our food. Not 10 seconds later, another waiter came by and asked us how everything tasted. I assured him we would let him know after we had actually tasted something. He laughed and left.

The fajita looked good, but since DawgMan is rude, he didn’t offer to share like any normal lunch date would have. Rude. (But it was guy’s lunch, so I could get over it, since I didn’t offer to share mine either – we’re guys, come on.) My chimichanga was good. Not fantastic or great or unbelievable. Just good. I love the creamy melty white cheese they used. It was just a little small and bland compared to some other places. However in the Twin Cities, this still probably would rank as a 7, sadly. It came with beans, rice, and some salady things, so I got full. No complaints there. It wasn’t a huge meal, but it was a decent lunch. I promise I won’t complain about it (though a bite of fajita sure would have been nice…)

If you’re in the neighborhood, check it out. I wouldn’t make a special trip though.

Top 5 things about El Gordo
1. Dew
2. Guy’s lunch should be mandated – get it? Man-dated. ha ha ha
3. Chimichanga
4. Chips and Salsa
5. It loosely translates to “The Fattie”

Bottom 5 things
1. Confusing to get to in the strip mall
2. Portion was a little small
3. Decorated like it’s in a strip mall (because it is)
4. It got good reviews online, but maybe I got my hopes up
5. Lunch companion was selfish (does not reflect poorly on El Gordo)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Original Pancake House – Edina, MN

My father is retired, but drives a delivery truck for a forwarding company when they need him to deliver random things at random times to random parts of the country. My father, being random himself, is perfect for this job. I got a call yesterday that he’d be delivering in the twin cities and wanted to know if I wanted to grab a bite to eat. Of course I did. Then he told me it would be breakfast at 6am. Ouch.

He asked where we could meet for breakfast that was close to the interstate and on my way to work. I picked the Original Pancake House for these reasons. Also, Gerd and I went there once when we first moved and decided that despite its old people flowery wallpaper, it had pretty decent food.

When I woke up at oh-god-o’clock, I thought to myself, I probably should have checked the hours of this place before we get there. Just then my father called and said they were closed. But they opened up at 6:30, so we could wait. Whew. After I drove him around for 20 minutes looking for a Wells Fargo ATM, I gave up and found him a nice BP station where he would be forced to pay some service fee to get money out. Hey, when you’re scoring the super senior discount at a random hotel in Savage, MN, to save 3 dollars, this might push your budget over the edge. Ha Ha Ha. I love my father.

Back to breakfast. We were the first one seated in the entire restaurant and got super fast service. Dad decided on the pancakes (he probably knew Coach would yell at him if he ordered anything other than what the name of the restaurant’s claim to fame was) and bacon. I opted for the basted eggs and bacon (and pancakes, so Coach wouldn’t yell at me either). Apparently bacon is a hereditary gene. Also, I didn’t know what basted eggs were and had to ask. I’m a scrambled guy, but will basically eat them any way you put them on my plate.

Basted eggs are simply over easy with some butter on top. Whatever. They were good and the bacon is super thick and really tasty. Not sure who their bacon supplier is, but don’t ever switch. The pancakes were great as well – kind of cinnamon-y, but that might have been the pool of syrup I drowned them in…

We both ate for under $16, so it wasn’t outlandish – I even paid (out of guilt for making him pay a service fee for the ATM). It’s good food, and I never complain about paying for that. Especially if it involves bacon.

Top 5 things about the Original Pancake House
1. Top-notch bacon
2. Immediate seating
3. Basted eggs are now my friends
4. Pancakes soaked in syrup
5. They have a Dutch baby on the menu – I wasn’t up to knifing into a baby at 6:30am

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd didn’t get to have breakfast with us (but she would have complained BIG TIME about 6am)
2. Only got to see dad for less than an hour (but still super glad I got to see him at all)
3. Apparently this is not the original original pancake house
4. Old people décor
5. All breakfast places forget to bring me my milk (yes, I’m 5 – what about it)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Groveland Tap – St. Paul, MN

A group of librarians gets together on a semi-regular basis to have a small happy hour every once in a while here in the twin cities. Gerd and I made it to a couple since we moved to the area, and we’ve sort of been on hiatus for a while. But one finally got arranged at the Groveland Tap, which features cheap tacos on Thursday nights, so I was in.

The organizer decided being sick was a good enough excuse to bail on us all, but a handful of us still managed to find our way into the place after work. I ordered a Jack and something-or-other and was kindly informed they only had beer and wine. Bummer. Not a good start. Then I overheard the bartender tell one of the patrons that happy hour ended at 5:30. It was 5:35 when I got there. Double bummer.

As it turns out, the taco special ran all night, so I was safe there. Had some lively conversation while people filed in to watch the basketball game. Apparently this is some sort of big time period for basketball or something. Ha Ha. I’m such a sports tard. Just don’t care. So I ordered a taco (to kind of size it up) and a Strongbow. You can get beef or chicken, soft or hard shell. One of the other librarians yelled out “Beef! Hard!” and then realized what she said loudly in public. To many people’s surprise, I kept the comments to myself (until later during dinner and I couldn’t hold back any more). The taco that came out was pretty sizeable. I was kind of impressed actually. Lots of chicken on this thing and a bowl of sour cream and a bowl of salsa. The meat was especially good, better than a lot of the Mexican food I’ve had in the twin cities, in fact. Ha ha.

I ended up eating three of these things, and should have gotten a fourth, but I had to bail out to go see a show (which I ended up missing the band I wanted to see, so it was a complete bust anyway). But I was pleasantly full after eating three. And EnyaFace! got some deep fried cheese curds, which ruled as well. I should probably pay her for them, since I ate waaaay more than my share of them. Hard to pass up fried grease wrapped around cheesy goodness. We had some hilarious library-related conversations as well, which always makes me think of Gerd. She loved a good happy hour with awesome people.

I’d go here again for happy hour, but it’s a tad far to drive across town to get there just AFTER happy hour ends. Oh well, I still might anyway.

Top 5 things about Groveland Tap
1. Super good tacos for a bar
2. Pretty cheap
3. Normal regular people inside
4. Cheese curds
5. Nice atmosphere and room to move around in there

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd couldn’t hang with our librarian friends
2. No hard liquor
3. Happy hour ends at 5:30
4. Ultra-super attentive waitress (seriously)
5.It’s about an hour from where I work

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Brunch with the Jensens – Minneapolis, MN

As I mentioned in a previous post, Gerd and I have some friends who meet regularly for brunch on Sundays. The Jensens are a group of girls who are completely unrelated, but share the same exact last name – weird. But the Jensens invite all their friends with differing last names and it’s a rip roaring time. I went last weekend and kicked myself for not going over the past few months. It’s soooo much fun talking with smart people about books, politics, music, aMURka!, films, sports we hate and everything else that comes up. (I would love to give everyone a hilarious nickname, but I’m truly just not that creative.)

This week, the adventure started at the VFW for drinks at 11:30, and then we would head to the Country Bar for eating. And yes, that’s 11:30am. First off there’s all kinds of signage about being a member only (not the sweet jacket from the 80s) and you had to buzz a buzzer to get in. Seriously, it was kind of intimidating, I’ll admit it. They let us in anyway. Many of us. We threw back 3 or 4 or 5 drinks each and played some darts and talked about the most hilarious stuff. The drinks here are dirt cheap – they’re called “eye openers”. I think I spent 7 bucks buying a ROUND of drinks. Why? Because this is aMURka!

Some highlights from the VFW include the people that had to call a cab to drive them home when we arrived. Did I mention we got there at 11:30am? This brought our own conversation around to “did these people get there at 11 when they opened and pounded like 10 drinks, or were they still there from last night? If they got there at 11, they were drunks. If they were continuing their evening, then they were animals. BIG difference. Also, we had a Cujo conversation and I got to defend Lea Thompson for being hot. HotGirlsBrother played darts with a girl and somehow managed to finish the round by scoring two bullseyes but accidentally for the other girl. It was hilarious because he was genuinely angry about his turn of fate. Ha ha.

We headed to the Country Bar down the block to eat something (we walked, don’t worry). This was my first time in the place, so it was a little odd for me. This is a country bar staffed by Asians and they serve Mexican and Cajun breakfasts. It’s definitely country though. Here’s a shot of the inside, which has never seen a swiffer duster since it’s opened.

We ordered more drinks (dur) and our breakfasts. I got a Cajun breakfast which was really quite good, though a bit oniony. A couple of eggs, some hashbrowns, scrambled with Cajun sausage, peppers and onions. Not really spicy, but had good flavor, so I won’t complain. Don’t get me wrong, this is a bar that just happens to serve breakfast, but it’s a pretty good breakfast. The table ordered the jalapeno cheese curds, and they were absolutely delicious. I might go back, just to get those sometime. People will fight over these things. In fact everybody’s breakfasts looked good and people talked about how good the food was. I don’t think you could get anything bad here for breakfast. It is all good food.

There was again, more hilarious table conversation and yelling and drinking of beverages, comic book-to-movie talk, and stealing of food – these people know how to have a good time. HotGirlsBrother ended up playing darts with some of the locals and one of the Asian cooks. But not until two of the locals put Dio’s Holy Diver on the jukebox. Seriously, in a country bar. That rules on 34 different levels. The other locals were well into the drinks and it was sooo hilarious to watch not-drunk-enough-HotGirlsBrother try to comprehend what the drunk local was talking about. At one point, I heard drunk local yell, “You tryin to re-gull-ate like Bill Clinton, brotha.” Everyone seemed confused. Really hilarious though.

Since I love reviewing restrooms, I thought I’d do this one for you. Let’s just say it’s a restroom for five. Let’s also say it’s a restroom I might think again about using. Room for four at the trough and then one throne. It’s kind of difficult to see, but there also isn’t any toilet paper. Apparently this is a regular thing as a number of people, including the locals and the staff, commented on it. Like I said, I might just hold it if I were you. Yes, that is a bucket under the trough. Yes, that is a kerosene space heater next to the non-functional steam heater. I’m glad you asked.

Seriously, this is a fun place to hang out with a crowd of people or if you want a cheap and easy breakfast, especially if said breakfast includes spicy cheese curds. Gerd, you would have been horrified, but loved every minute of this brunch!

Top 5 things about this week’s Jensen brunch
1. Cheese curds
2. Lost track of how many drinks I had before 1pm - hilarious
3. Cajun breakfast
4. Intelligent but drink-infused conversation deserves Pulitzer prizes all around!
5. Dio at a country bar run by Asians serving Cajun food

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd would have complained and then told everyone how awesome it was
2. Country Bar restroom
3. Watching someone clean their fork in a pitcher of beer – don’t ask
4. I found out gay guys do not automatically think construction workers are erotic – blew my mind!
5. Fort Knox of VFWs – actually this was more funny than frightening

Sunnyside Up Café – Minneapolis, MN

Gerd’s parents were up this weekend and I was trying to make sure they got to eat at a couple of Gerd’s favorite places. Even though there are about 50 places Gerd said, “We’ll take my parents here when they come up,” we could only go to a limited number of places in the short time they were here this weekend. (Actually, her parents would have to live in the Twin Cities for at least 2 years for them to be able to go to all the places Gerd wanted them to. Ha ha).

Gerd and I love to try new breakfast places, but we always end up back and the Sunnyside or the Uptown on a regular basis. It’s a lively eclectic crowd of people and they actually have unique breakfast foods, rather than standard eggs and toast. If you get there before like 10am, you can usually get in without too long of a wait. Gerd’s parents and I got there about 9, and waited maybe 5 minutes for a table – no problem.

We waited a bit for some service, but they were apologetic about and took care of us with coffee and water and such. The best things to get at the Sunnyside are the French Toast (might be like Santa Fe French toast or some such name, I can’t remember) or the blue corn pancakes. The French toast claims it is the best French toast ever. Because it is.

The French toast is covered in cinnamon cornflake crumbs and is amazing. Crunchy goodness, mixed with a pool of maple syrup makes for the perfect combination. Seriously it’s really good and really filling. GerdsMom got the French toast after I told her it was one of Gerd’s favorites, and she found out why. Gerd had a bit of a sweet tooth, but also liked things to taste GOOD, not just sweet. These were perfect for GerdsMom. Gerd’s Dad got a standard egg, bacon, hashbrowns, and toast breakfast, which is always good, just about any place you go. No problem.

I ended up foregoing the blue corn pancakes (first time I think I’ve gone there and NOT gotten them, in fact), and went with the Combo – something Bitter turned me on to the last time we went there. It’s usually a mini waffle of some sort, a slice of the world’s best French toast, eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns. Everything I wanted (except for the blue corn pancakes) on one plate. My only issue with it was the syrup pool tended to get into the hashbrowns and seemed a bit odd in the end. I managed to power through it – ha ha.

I’m surprised I haven’t reviewed this place before since we’ve eaten here so much. It’s really good, and worth a wait if there is one. Again, Gerd should be pleased that I took them to two of our favorite inexpensive restaurants!

Top 5 things about the Sunnyside Up Café
1. French Toast
2. Blue corn pancakes (even though I didn’t get them this time)
3. I got to take Gerd’s parents to one of our favorite places
4. No wait
5. Blueberry mini waffle was surprisingly good

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd’s favorite place to eat just isn’t the same without her
2. It was really cold in there – people had their coats on while eating
3. Service was a tad slow
4. Parking is usually a pain at the Sunnyside
5. Doesn’t have bloody marys and screwdrivers like other breakfast places we like to go

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Carbone’s Pizza – Bloomington, MN

Gerd’s parents came up to the Twin Cities this weekend, and despite it being really emotional for all of us, I love them to pieces and it was really good to see them. I also won’t give them rude nicknames out of respect (not that I don’t respect everyone else I’ve given rude nicknames to, but it’s different), although I KNOW Gerd would have picked out some winners.

We needed a quick bite, so we hit up the only pizza place that Gerd and I ever found with pizza she would have recommended to her parents. They have a refined pizza palette and most of the places we’ve tried in the Twin Cities have not been up to snuff to Gerd’s discerning taste. But Trash and M.Giant turned us on to Carbone’s when we moved up from Illinois, and it withstood Gerd’s strict pizza scrutiny. Also, when Trash and M.Giant find out I went there without them, I’m going to hear about it for a long time.

There are a bunch of locations in the area for Carbone’s, so we picked one that I thought I knew where it was. Apparently, I was wrong. I called the store before we left to make sure they weren’t packed. The guy said, “We don’t get a lot of sit down customers. The dining room is almost empty.” Weird, but now I know why. This place is unfindable. The GPS took us straight there, but we drove past at least 4 or 5 times without seeing it. That’s because it’s behind a building and there’s no sign to indicate where it’s at. Brilliant! Once we realized where the place was at, we pulled into the wrong parking lot and still couldn’t’ get to it. Maybe your dining room is empty because NO ONE CAN FIND YOUR RESTAURANT!!! (Just a hunch, I’m not a pizza real estate expert.)

GerdsDad commented as we walked in, “Zero points for atmosphere.” Hilarious. And he was right. 4 booths and maybe 2 tables. Actually 4 booths for dwarves, not normal sized people (or tall people like Gerd’s family). We all piled in and decided what we want. There were also some signs (outdoor-type signs) leaning against the wall behind our booth, so that added to the atmosphere. We scanned the menu – I realized then that I had never seen a menu – Gerd or Trash always got the pizza for me and I just ate it. I was hoping the pizza would make up for the atmosphere, and I was right.

We got a large meat lovers, which thrilled me to death. I do love a good meaty pizza. If Trash wasn’t a vegetarian, M.Giant and I would have been eating this for the past year multiple times a week. Way to hold us back, Trash. Super thin crust pizza with all kinds of meat and cheese on the top. Even served on styrofoam plates with plastic silverware and pop in cans (Gerd would have had issue with the canned pop, as you know), the pizza is glorious. Gerd’s parents were very impressed. I think we all ate more than we thought we would. Thankfully, Carbone’s came through for us. Seriously this is top-notch pizza, even for choosy taste buds.

We decided to leave two pieces for leftovers for me, so I went to the counter and asked for a box. I thought I’d get a styrfoam container, but since it’s a pizza place, they only have pizza boxes. They gave me a small one, which was nice of them. However, this thing was like the rubik’s cube of boxes. I’ll pat myself on the back and say I’m pretty good with spatial relationships and putting things together, but this box was clearly created by a mentally challenged person who didn’t pass the Ikea entrance exam, but had just seen Hellraiser. There were perforation marks to fold, but nothing actually fit together or had tabs. I had to sit down and give it a good think. I ended up putting part of the box together and sliding the pizza into the side and then holding the side closed so my pieces wouldn’t slide out. Not sure what’s up with that, but it was frustrating/amusing.

Just go here, or go pick it up from any of the Carbone’s. They’re all good, but some are easier to find. I need to find out where Gerd and I used to get it from. I never went there the same route, so I have no idea where to find it now. Just another reason I’m helpless without Gerd around. I know I did her proud by taking her parents there!

Top 5 things about Carbone’s
1. Awesome toppings and plenty of them
2. Perfect size for three healthy eaters
3. They had Dew (in a can)
4. The pizza made up for the atmosphere
5. Got to bring home leftovers (but not many…)

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd didn’t get to eat her favorite Twin City pizza with her family and I
2. The place is near impossible to find
3. “Zero point for atmosphere” - GerdsDad
4. Outdoor signage leaning against the inside walls
5. Super tiny booths

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mr. B’s BBQ – Minneapolis, MN

My friend HotGirlsBrother and I like to eat BBQ, so we’re always on the lookout (like Dio) for rib joints. HotGirlsBrother found one close to where he used to work and has been raving about it for some time, despite the fact that no one remembers him saying anything about it when he mentions it – ha ha ha. Mr. B’s on Nicollet was a place we HAD to go try.

This place is packed into a small building with about 30 other 6-table restaurants (all of which I want to go try). When we got there, there was no one inside, except the cash register lady and a cook in the back. The place is sparsely decorated, but really clean. There’s a hand drawn caricature of Mr. B on the wall and also a large photo of Obama. Honestly, those are the two things I remember about the décor.

HotGirlsBrother and I ordered the exact same thing. Half slab of ribs with Fries, Mac and Cheese, and Baked Beans. They didn’t have Mt. Dew, so that part isn’t worth mentioning (which I just did). The giant platter the lady brought out to our table looked delicious. Serious meat on the ribs and swimming in sauce (if you’re a dry rib guy, I’m not sure you can order it without the sauce, but it’s worth asking about). Tons of fries and small styrofoam containers of beans and mac and cheese. And also buttered toast, which is a staple for a good rib place.

I started with the mac and cheese, since I knew once I started with the ribs, I’d be so covered in sauce I wouldn’t be able to go back and use my fork for anything else – rib-eating is all about strategy. The mac and cheese was really good, but I wish there was more of it. The beans were sweet and had a hint of cinnamon in them – I’m not used to that, but they were good. HotGirlsBrother said they weren’t nearly as spicy as usual and the sweet part was weird, but it didn’t seem to slow him down any. Again, the portion was really small. As for the ribs, the meat was not the most tender I’ve eaten, but it came off the bone clean, which is all I really care about. It wasn’t tough, but it wasn’t fork-tender. At least I knew I was eating something, right? Plenty of meat (HotGirlsBrother was impressed by my rib eating style) on this plate.

The fries were average, but dipped in the extra sauce, they were pretty darn good, and I’m not even a fry kind-of-guy. Now the toast is another story all together. It’s slathered in butter. I looked in the kitchen and saw the cook applying copious amounts of butter to a slice of bread with a large paintbrush – seriously, a paintbrush like for the outside of your house. It was lightly toasted, so it was still infused with butter. HotGirlsBrother said, “It’s not even buttered toast, it’s moved beyond that to crispy butter.” You’re a culinary genius, Mr. B.

Mr. B stopped in the restaurant a little later and yapped with us a bit. HotGirlsBrother mentioned the beans weren’t as spicy. Mr B made a comment about how observant he was and said he had to tone them down a bit. Lots of “Scandinavian people” (and he looks right at ME and smiles) can’t handle the kick. Then he started laughing. I told him to bring it on. So next time, we can ask for them spicy, and he’ll whip them up for us. The guy was super nice and friendly.

I’d go here again for sure. I know HotGirlsBrother said he liked it better than Big Daddy’s Saturday BBQ, but it’s been a while since I’ve eaten there with him. So I’ll need to eat it again to compare more closely (I’m only saying that so I can go back to Big Daddy’s). I’ll reserve judgment for now.

Top 5 things about Mr. B’s
1. BBQ sauce, sweet but has some zip
2. Crispy butter (also known as buttered toast)
3. Mac and Cheese
4. Rib quality
5. Baked beans, even though they were sweet and not spicy like usual

Bottom 5 things
1. Mac and cheese portion was small
2. I forgot to get the cornbread (my own fault)
3. No Dew
4. It's easy to miss while driving past
5. My hands were sticky for about two hours, even after I washed them – ha ha

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Civet, H2O, Dropkick Murphys – Myth Nightclub – St. Paul, MN

I had bought tickets to this event a couple of months ago, and was surprised at how expensive they were. Well, I’m happy to say I think others agreed with me because this is the only time in my own personal history that I can remember Ticketmaster saying they overcharged for a show and refunded me some of the money. The people that *I* know that listen to Dropkick Murphys aren’t in any position to shell out 35 or 40 bucks for a ticket.

I’ll review Myth first – I love seeing shows here. There’s multiple levels and all kinds of railings and bars to lean on and you can see in most spots. They have the telescreens so you can see more of what’s going on around the stage, which is cool. And the sound quality is always top notch. Not sure if it’s a good room or a good sound engineer or both, but this place has got amazing sound quality every time I’ve gone. They also have whores walking around pouring shots into people’s mouths for two dollars which makes it more trashy, but whatever. [I'll add the caveat of punk rock shows should not be seen here, since it's way too polished. Punk should be in a basement or dirty bar, not a nightclub.]

Civet is an all-girl punk band from L.A. Lots of energy and lots of three-chord punk. The only thing I have issue with is that they’re punk rock, but they look like they spent hours on their hair. That being said, they’re pretty hot. The drummer was really good and really fast and had killer endurance. Being a drummer, I know how hard it is to play that fast for an entire set, and she didn’t miss a beat. Some cool fills and stage antics from her. Decent as punk rock goes.

H2O is one of those bands that has paid its dues and served its time and all of those other cliché things you say when a band has been around for like 15 years. I’ve never really liked these guys at all, but I appreciate what they’ve done for punk and hardcore, so I’ll give them credit for being old guys who are still giving it their all. They have great energy on stage, which is awesome since they’re my age (I hope). But after 15 years, you’d think they’d put in more than three or four chords per song – I know, I know, it’s punk rock. It’s just not my style of music. Lots of clapping, and lots of singing, and lots of “you say X when we say Y.” They begged for crowd participation, which always annoys me, and they also started War Pigs and put their own cornball lyrics to it – annoying. Kudos to the singer for grabbing someone’s flyer from the crowd and reading the details of the event on stage. Very DIY.

Dropkick Murphys (if you don’t know) are a sort-of-irish-punk-band. What I mean is they’re all Irish through and through, but they only sort-of play punk (no Mohawks, but still punk – and no, not Green Day punk either). It’s got tons of traditional sounds, melodies, and instruments from Ireland put in. And they have TONS of energy! They’re also an older guy band, but these people really brought the fun for the crowd. Started with a traditional Irish ditty and went right into punk rock. It’s really nice to see people have fun playing music they are passionate about. This may be the one exception I’ll give to the limit of 5 people on stage for a band. They had 6 or 7, but they all kept switching instruments, different guitars, accordion, bagpipes, flutes, traditional Irish guitars, banjos, etc. They had fun and so did we. Also, the drummer was incredibly fast, creative and sang at the same time on a couple songs – that’s serious talent, especially for a punk band. All kinds of older stuff and a couple of new ones. I think that was what the crowd wanted. There’s a reason these guys have a huge following (and it’s not because everyone’s Irish when they’re drunk).

I realized two things at this show – Dropkick Murphys bring in an UGLY crowd – guys and girls. Seriously REALLY rough looking. Also there were far too many utili-kilts in the crowd for my taste. My friend Chicken Little claims Seattle invented the utili-kilt, but not the douche-bags that wear them. Apparently, there’s a d-bag club in the Twin Cities that just received their order.

And you always hear about how violent Dropkick Murphys shows are. I think this one was toned down a bit due to their recent mainstream popularity brought on by movie soundtrack recognition (good for them, seriously). But there were of course those that chose to bring the beatdown. When I left the show there were multiple guys in wife beaters laying on the frozen cement in handcuffs face down with girlfriends crying and police jotting down notes. That stuff brings a smile to my face – cause I’m glad that’s not me.

Top 5 things about the show
1. Dropkick Murphys are awesome live
2. Civet girls are smoking hot
3. Old guys rockin hard (TWSS)
4. Instrument changes for the Murphys
5. Civet’s drummer is awesome

Bottom 5 things
1. Dirty ugly people
2. Civet’s fashionable time-intensive hair
3. Black Sabbath embarrassment
4. Punk rock is really singy sometimes
5. 3-chord songs in general

Sunday Brunch with the Jensens - CC Club – Minneapolis, MN

A group of Gerd and I’s friends get together some Sundays to have brunch at various places around the Twin Cities and we’ve never gotten to go. Well, I actually went this time, just to shock them all. The place was the CC Club, which is kind of a dive bar that serves some decent breakfast and lunch bar food.

I was actually the first one there, which I should have anticipated. Eventually, about 20 of their/our friends showed up, and we had a great time. Add in a couple of screwdrivers or bloody mar’s and you’ve got yourself a real breakfast.

The breakfast I got was awesome. The meat omelets was filled with sausages and ham and bacon, and the American fries were perfectly seasoned – in fact three other people ate most of my potatoes. I know most breakfast places are difficult to differentiate, but this was pretty good bar food. Not too much, not too little, and very flavorful. What else can you ask? (aside from a couple of high octane drinks..)

I’d recommend this place, but realize you’re going to get bar food breakfast. Quality bar food, but it’s still eggs, bacon, and toast. Also, I’ll be hanging with these guys more. For not being librarians like Gerd and I, they sure read a lot of books and hang out with book clubs.

Top 5 things about the CC Club
1. American fries and their awesome seasoning
2. Screwdrivers for breakfast (even though it was after noon)
3. Super meaty omelet
4. They have room for 20 people in a group
5. Super awesome jukebox full of metal

Bottom 5 things
1. Still bar food in a dive bar
2. They seemed to have taken a lot of the appetizers off the menu (poppers, cheese sticks)
3. I heard the restrooms were scary
4. There is a water/coffee server, and also a drinks/food server. They don’t do things the other one does
5. I wish I knew what “CC” stands for

Fogo de Chao – Minneapolis, MN

Gerd and I had arranged to have a quintuple date before Roller Derby with some of our friends. I decided to go through with it and keep the date since a lot of our friends had never eaten there and were looking forward to it. I think it was the right decision.

For those of you unfamiliar with Fogo de Chao, here’s the jist of the thing: Fogo is a Brazilian Steakhouse with a twist – they bring out hunks of meat on swords and cut it onto your plate – and it’s unlimited. You have a coaster with one side green and one side red. If you want more meat, you flip it to green and the waiters show up with meat swords. When you’re good on meat, you flip it to red – it’s all about timing. They also have an immense salad bar which is more than iceberg lettuce and dressing – it’s all kinds of vegetables and meats and randomness. On top of this, the wait staff brings out unlimited cheesy mashed potatoes, fried polenta, and fried bananas. It’s heaven, really.

We had reservations at 4:30pm but didn’t start eating until closer to 5. When I looked at my watch, it was close to 7 and we had to get to roller derby. So we ate meat for 2 solid hours without breaks. It was an immense amount of food. All of the meats were especially tender and whether you got chicken, pork, beef, or lamb, you were going to be happy with it. I think everyone had their own favorite (none of which are pronounceable), so there wasn’t a way to pick one over the others.

The place is pricey, but if you consider your dollar to meat intake ratio, I think you’ll be pleased. The drinks are a tad overpriced, but you get that at downtown Minnie restaraunts anyway. The service is top notch, and I think everyone in the group was very impressed and talking about when they’d be back.

Top 5 things about Fogo de Chao
1. Unlimited meat
2. Meat on swords
3. Salad bar and everything on it
4. Super service
5. Fried polenta

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd would have loved this place
2. A tad pricey
3. The place gets packed, so get reservations
4. I don’t believe in meat overload, but this may be as close as it gets
5. It took much longer to eat 50+oz of meat than I thought it would

Birthday Cake at Work – Eden Prairie, MN

I’ve never really been known as a big dessert eater. Which has worked out well for me in the past – I’ve gotten fat eating other things aside from sugar. If I liked desert, I would weigh 500+ pounds. But with my birthday coming up, everyone gravitates toward cake, except me.

My boss knew this, so she decided she was going to do something special for me for my birthday. She had talked this up at work for a week, so I was beginning to think it was going to be a pantless mariachi band or some sort of fight club or something. Thankfully, it wasn’t. She made me a cake. So what’s the only way I’ll eat something that I don’t really care for? …

Wait for it…

Put bacon on it.

She made a red velvet cake with piggy pink frosting and then it was topped with bacon bits. I know it sounds horrific, but it’s truly not. Remember the chocolate covered bacon I had at the State Fair this summer? (boy I sure do...) It’s like that – you have to think of it as a salty-sweet snack, not a culinary horror. It was honestly one of the best desserts I’ve ever had in my entire life.

And it wasn’t just me. Many of my coworkers tried it hesitantly, and said they loved it, after they got over the weird factor. It truly was really good.

I think my boss may have moved up a notch in my book…

Top 5 things about bacon cake
1. Seriously, it had bacon on top
2. It had pink frosting
3. I didn’t have to make it
4. I got out of work for a half hour to eat
5. Bacon on cake traumatizes people

Bottom 5 things about bacon cake
1. It’s still cake (but it’s now a new mechanism to get bacon into my mouth)
2. I wanted to eat more of it
3. Leaving a piece of it on my desk drew all kinds of distracting attention from passers-by
4. I’m not likely to find it at any restaurant
5. My boss took the leftover part home to horrify her husband and son

Pastrami Jacks – Eden Prairie, MN

My work folks took me to Pastrami Jacks for my birthday lunch. I’d heard of it, but never been there. After this experience though, I’ll be back for sure.

I ordered a “Triple Play Sandwich Combination” – Corned Beef, Pastrami, and Brisket on a roll with Swiss cheese. Sounded monstrous and expensive, but since the boss was paying, what the heck?! It comes with a side, so I got some wild rice soup.

When this thing came out, I was shocked. It was three separate sandwiches. Three separate LARGE sandwiches. So I got one of each meat. Even though this wasn’t what I thought I was getting, it ended up working out very well, since I took one sandwich home for dinner.

The meat was incredibly tender on the pastrami and the corned beef. Juicy without being sloppy and served on a soft roll with a slice of swiss cheese. Really a quality sandwich. Actually, two quality sandwiches, as I’ve only eaten two of them. I’m looking forward to eating the last one on the way home this evening. Ha ha. [BTW, the third sammich was awesome as well - sorry to leave you hanging.]

The wild rice soup was also excellent. I am not sure what I expected with this, but what I got was something totally different. It was thick, like a chowder, and had chunks of chicken in it as well as a couple other veggies (and wild rice). It was waaay better than I expected.

Pastrami Jack’s is also much larger than I thought it was when I saw the front of the building. It’s kind of in a strip mall, but there’s a huge pond / small lake behind it, so it’s quite picturesque if you sit in the back of the restaurant and look out the large windows. They also have very classy flat screen TVs behind the register, showing you photos of their food and listing specials and such. Very nice touch and very modern without being tacky.

Just go here.

Top 5 things about Pastrami Jack’s
1. Pastrami sammich
2. Wild Rice soup
3. Corned Beef sammich
4. Super service people
5. Brisket (I’m just assuming since I haven’t eaten it yet)

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd loved going to Delis and would have loved this meaty place
2. No Dew
3. Pickle and cole slaw bar – neither of which I eat
4. Portions are enormous (not really a bad thing in my book, but I heard complaints from my co-workers)
5. Hilarious signage about having Jack for breakfast – liquid breakfast anyone?

Seven Steakhouse – Minneapolis, MN

Gerd and I had driven by Seven a couple hundred times and always talked about going to this place. We had made reservations to go here the day after Valentine’s Day to celebrate the holiday. A lot of bad things have happened between then and now. To make a long story short, my nephew, the Delivery Boy, was going to be in town and I asked him if he would be weirded out by going to this place with me. He thought it would be a good idea.

Gerd loved steak. Any and all steak. She would pay (meaning she would make me pay) top dollar for steak if it was rumored to be good. I’m sorry she didn’t get to go here with me. She would have loved it.

The inside décor of this place was awesome. Attention to detail in the design and architecture really stood out. The bar is lit from the inside – through the marble. It’s VERY classy. The two-story vertical wine cellar is very eye-catching as well. Great use of uplighting and dramatic windows and curtains (I sound like an idiot, but it was truly top-notch).

We got greeted by a team of servers. The woman was very chatty (in a good way) and her assistant was super-service conscientious. Delivery Boy and I started with a couple of girly drinks. I stuck with the Flirtini and he got the Raspberry Teardrop or something. Both very good. I will also mention the bread they brought to the table. It was awesome, and I don’t even know what kind it was. Dark and sweet.

We asked our waitress if we should go with appetizers or salads. Depending on how hungry we were, she said to go with the salad. I chose a Steakhouse Cobb salad and my nephew got the Grilled Caesar salad. The Caesar was awesome. Whole romaine lettuce grilled slightly and covered with dressing and croutons. The Cobb was a perfectly displayed series of rows of romaine, tomatoes, bacon, hard-boiled egg, avacados, blue cheese, and chicken. Very filling but very tasty as well.

Here is the word of warning – due to an unexpected run on holiday diners the previous night (actual Valentines Day), and due to the fact that this was Sunday and butcher shops were closed, Seven had to bring in some cuts of meat from their sister restaurant. So very few items were actual “Seven” cuts.

Delivery Boy wanted the filet, but he said only to bring him one if it was actually one of THEIR cuts. No problem, she assured him. I wanted either a porterhouse or a Kansas City strip. Neither of which were “Seven” steaks. It didn’t matter. I knew what I wanted, so I went with the 21 oz KC strip. We also thought we at least needed to TRY the Mac and Cheese side since it was cooked in truffle oil.

I’m not even going to begin to explain how awesome these steaks were. We were laughing because we were cutting the meat delicately as if we would hurt it. If my steak wasn’t “Seven” branded, then I’m not sure how it could have been any better. Perfectly cooked, without sauce, and a sprinkle of sea salt on top. My nephew kept referring to some sort of magic seasoning they must have used, but I really don’t think there was anything on either of our steaks. Each bite was awesome and juicy. Almost no fat at all on these pieces of heaven. I could go on and on about these, but I shouldn’t.

The Mac and Cheese was in the top 3 I’ve ever eaten. It smelled delicious scooping it out onto your plate and tasted even better. Deliver Boy is convinced they hired Malaysian children to fill each piece of macaroni with cheese in a sweatshop out back (but he didn’t seem to be bothered by that, strangely). But it was awesome. Like I said, if you see Mac and Cheese on a menu in a fancy restaurant, order it because you know the chef has worked some magic on it.

Since you know I love to review restrooms, I took a quick peek. The bathroom is seriously dark, but in a really cool way. Large black tiles on the floor and halfway up the walls. Recessed sinks with classy hardware. Black urinals set into a hall-way-like alcove. Small video screens for adverts above the urinals so you don’t get bored. Little rooms for stalls with frosted glass doors. Wicker basket for a garbage can. This bathroom was pretty awesome.

If you go here, you’re going to pay. However, you are not likely to regret paying when you taste your first bite. Take my word for it.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Gerd. My nephew and I talked about how much you would have loved this place.

Top 5 things about Seven
1. Kansas City Strip
2. Filet
3. Truffle Mac and Cheese
4. Décor and Service (snuck in two on this line)
5. Restroom

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd wasn’t here to make that face she always did when she took the first bite of something awesome
2. Price, but you’ll get over it
3. I’ve had better Flirtinis, but it was decent
4. Out of their own brand of steaks
5. ZERO room for desserts and they actually looked good to me, the anti-dessert person

Buca di Beppo – Minneapolis, MN

My nephew, the Delivery Boy, was in town so we decided to try some restaurants we’ve never been to. I’ve been commanded to go to Buca di Beppo since before I left Illinois, but never got around to going. I heard about the huge portion sizes and thought, “who better than to gorge myself with than my bottomless-pit-nephew?”

We had not made reservations, so we were told we had a 1.5 hour wait. Not a problem. The two most patient people on the planet (after my father, of course) were not going to be denied good food just because we had to wait. We sat down and got comfortable. Once the party of 18 was seated, the number of people in the lobby diminished considerably – as did the wait time. We got seated in about 45 minutes.

The waitress explained that everything is served family style – so large portions. The “small” served 2-3 people and the “large” was closer to 4-6 people. We got some bruschetta for an appetizer and ordered some things to split. The prosciutto-stuffed chicken breasts looked good as did the chicken carbonara. Why not? And guess what? ANOTHER restaurant with Mt. Dew. I think I’m on a roll.

The bruschetta was awesome. Plain, but awesome. Big loaf of bread cut into four pieces and covered with olive oils, tomatoes, and green things (someday I’ll figure out the names of various green things – wait, I looked it up, it’s basil). Of course this filled us up more than we expected.

The chicken carbonara came out and we dug in. Super tasty spaghetti with alfredo sauce with chicken, prosciutto, and peas. Everything about this dish was phenomenal. We thought it was going to be the best part of the meal… Until they brought out the prosciutto-stuffed chicken. Wow, this is one of the best Italian dishes I’ve had (and yes, I’ve been to Italy). Two giant chicken breasts with mozzarella and prosciutto, covered with marinara and sitting in a bed of pesto cream sauce. Each bite was more tasty and filling than the previous bite.

We didn’t finish all of our meal – we really thought we could, but then as we slowed down, it caught up to us. So now I’ve got a bunch of food in my fridge at home. We did manage to eat more than half of our meal, so I feel pretty good about that. We ordered enough for 4-6 people (by ordering two smalls entrees and an ap) and did some damage.

They were also having a free dessert special, with it being valentine’s day (the worst valentines day ever). So we got free chocolate-dipped strawberries. The waitress said we didn’t have to feed them to each other if we weren’t comfortable with that. Thanks, lady.

Now I know what everyone was talking about with this place. It’s really good and I won’t be scared to go back, but now that I know about the portion sizes, I’m better equipped to order next time.

Top 5 things about Buca di Beppo
1. Prosciutto-stuffed chicken
2. Chicken carbonara
3. They have Dew
4. Bruschetta
5. Portion sizes were… uhhh… generous

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd wasn’t there to share this meal
2. Scary wait time – it was valentine’s day, so our fault
3. Really cramped dining rooms
4. Really loud atmosphere
5. Spelling – is it two Cs or two Ps? dang

Meshuggah, Cynic, The Faceless – Station 4 – St. Paul, MN

For those that don’t know, I’ve been a Meshuggah fan since day one, since their early EP and stuff that got re-released with better quality later. They are amazing musicians and I would have paid a lot more money than I did to see them at Station 4.

I missed most of The Faceless, but what I heard I liked. Although when I walked in, there was some pretty fruity singing going on. The sound quality was sub-par as usual for Station 4, but you could still hear the drums enough to know the guy was talented. When the drums stopped, you could hear the guitarist noodling about so I know those guys are pretty good as well. Everything else got lost in the mix. They’ve got some heavy breakdowns which got the crowd all keyed up, which is nice to see as well.

I found my friend HotGirlsBrother after The Faceless and we talked about how we, as musicians, SHOULD like Cynic, but just can’t bring ourselves to do it. This wasn’t going to be the show that changed our minds either. The singer had one of those weird octivator things on his vocal mike so he sounded like Cher in “Do you believe in love”. That got really annoying after about the first 10 seconds. The guitarists didn’t move around all that much and when they did, I would think, “Well, that’s an odd time to be banging your head.” The bass player was amazing though. Fretless 5-string and he used all of it. VERY fun to listen to. The guitarist played Steinbergers (the guitars without headstocks that I loathe just on principle – how can you spear people in the face without a headstock?). They were both really good and played some difficult and full chords. However that was kind of lost in the mix and the extra-fruity singing. At one point, I think the guitarist was singing over and over about a spaceman – what the heck is that all about? The drummer was amazing, both feet and hands. Here is how I described Cynic to HotGirlsBrother – “It sounds like The Mars Volta ruined by blazing guitar solos and double bass.” If I want to hear the Mars Volta, I’ll listen to them. In fact, I love them. I don’t love Cynic. NEXT!

Meshuggah was brilliant as always. Fortunately, we stood on the side of the stage near Frederick Thordendal, the lead guitarist of this band. At Station 4, you’re only going to get to hear one guitar and we chose the correct side of the stage to hear the main guy. Brilliant playing and weird but appropriate solos. The drummer is a freak of nature. I don’t know how he does what he does and so effortlessly and flawlessly, but he’s incredible. The bass player often gets overlooked, but he was dead on. The vocalist is, in my opinion, one of the best front men ever. He’s a minimalist on stage, so he’s not running around. But when he sings and even when he’s letting the band do their thing, he is an imposing force on stage. He might weigh all of 150 pounds, has a shaved head and a manicured beard. But he looks mean and HUGE on stage, even though he’s not. I would see Meshuggah again and again. They had some technical difficulties during their last song - Future Breed Machine. They gave the beginning a couple of attempts (since it’s kind of a weird talk-box sample thing) and when it didn’t work, they just started where the actual music started. True professionals. They played a lot of newer stuff which is amazing and fast and the older stuff is slower and technical – it was a good mix.

Top 5 things about this show
1. Meshuggah
2. Cynic’s bass player
3. The Faceless (what I could hear)
4. I love HotGirlsBrother and his friends
5. Drummer for Meshuggah

Bottom 5 things
1. Cynic in general
2. Sound quality at the venue
3. Show was sold out so hundreds of dirty sweaty metal people
4. One of the Meshuggah zip-up hoodies was SEVENTY dollars
5. Did I mention Cynic?...

Laredo’s Tex-West – St. Louis Park, MN

Gerd and I always wanted to go here, so with my family in tow (they’ve been baby sitting me) we thought we should try this place. My family loves Mexican and Tex-Mex food, so it was easily agreed on.

We waited a short while for a table, and got our menus. There’s a lot of stuff on this menu. Texas-sized portions of things, Mexican dishes, steaks, margaritas (including a 60 oz giant with Swedish fish in it – called Fish in a Barrel), and burgers. Our server brought us out a bucket of chips and some salsa, which we demolished and had to get a second. I come from a long line of veteran chip and salsa eaters.

It came down to two dishes for me and I let the waitress decide. We went with Chilaquiles for me. My sister got a BBQ chicken quesadilla, my nephew got a Juicy Julio (Mexican version of the juicy lucy), and my mother got fish tacos. And this is one of 5 restaurants in the Twin Cities that serves Pepsi products – Mt. Dew – cha-ching!

The chilaquiles were some of the best I’ve ever had. If you’re not familiar with these, it’s kind of a Mexican casserole – cheese, tortilla chips, chicken, an egg or two, and tomatillo salsa cooked together until it’s mushy and crunchy at the same time. Really awesome. The BBQ chicken quesadilla was a bit weird for me. Didn’t seem Mexican, but didn’t seem bbq-y either. Weird, but not bad. My nephew raved about the Juicy Julio with beans but he was rude and didn’t offer me a bite, so I’ll take his word for it. The fish tacos were apparently good, but my mom isn’t a walleye fan and that’s all they have in Minnesota.

Waitress was kind of funny and pretty efficient although some things took longer than expected. She was chatty in a bi-polar sort of way though, so we liked her.

Top 5 things about Laredo’s
1. Chilaquiles
2. Mt. Dew
3. Juicy Julio
4. Texture of the table top was mesmerizing
5. Unlimited chips and salsa

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd wasn’t there
2. Fish tacos
3. Some time issues
4. Mom wouldn’t let me order a 60 oz margarita with Swedish fish in it
5. BBQ Chicken quesadilla