Monday, September 28, 2009

Moscow on the Hill – St. Paul, MN

I have had Moscow on the Hill on my list of places to eat since I moved to the Twin Cities. Callous-gave the ok on the vegetarian offerings on the menu (I don’t know why she even asked – I guaranteed they had beets). We called ahead to see if we needed reservations and the person on the phone told me there was a good chance you’d get in without a reservation. Which we did.

They seated us on the patio, and like thoughtful Minnesotans (or Russians, for that matter), they provided blankets to people sitting on the patio in case the fall air got too cold for people. Very cool. You can’t see the patio from the street, but it’s a very quaint and fun patio with (cough…) German (…cough) beer umbrellas on the tables. Much larger than I expected from the front of the building. And there was a strolling accordion minstrel walking about..

It’s an odd set up, but they have multiple people helping out each table. There’s a bar guy that comes out first to offer you cocktails. Then a water girl brings you water, and then the waitress/waiter shows up to discuss food options with you. Not overbearing at all and kind of maid you feel a bit pampered. Nice touch.

One of the reasons I had heard about this place and wanted to go here was because they have hundreds of bottles of vodka. They offer 5 or 6 different varieties of vodka flights as well. We decided on the Flavored Vodka Flight which was six shots of vodkas from around the world with different flavors infused.
We got, in order of MY personal favorites:
  • Honey (Old Krupnik – Poland)
  • Cucumber (Square One – America)
  • Raspberry (Citadelle – France)
  • Chocolate (Three Olives – England)
  • Bison grass (Zubrowska – Poland)
  • Ruby red grapefruit (Absolut – Sweden)


We tried to intersperse these throughout the meal so we didn’t get too terribly loaded. Every time we’d take a shot, Callous-un would shout some toast in a random language (either this girl drinks a LOT or she’s an international traveler). But on the final one, she couldn’t think of one, so I shouted out “To Boobies” and before she could offer a rebuttal, I threw the shot down the hatch. No takebacks.

I ordered the Fried Chebureki Pastries, Georgian lamb pastries deep fried, served with rice and sautéed vegetables and this amazing tomato-cilantro-garlic-parsley dipping sauce. It was amazing. The pastries were light and fluffy and the lamb was tasty without being too meaty for the rest of the dish. The rice was kind of plain, but the vegetables were crispy cooked and but still tender and chewable. Fantastic dish.

Callous-un got the Vareniki – Ukrainian dumplings stuffed with some sort of potato filling. I managed to finagle a couple of these dumplings and they were pretty good. More flavor than I expected form a potato-based dumpling without any sort of tasty flesh inside. The dumplings were a bit rubbery for my taste, but I’m not an expert in Ukrainian cooking, so they may have been perfect. The flavor was good and that’s mostly what I care about. We both definitely got full on our meals.

Callous-un had tried some Fig Vodka in Chicago and began firing questions at the waitress about if they had any available. The waitresses headed to the bar three or four times getting Callous-un’s questions answered, but didn’t seem at all annoyed by the interaction. The waitress was very helpful and gracious and described the bottle and label to us so we could try to track it down on our own.

This was a fantastic meal. I’m looking forward to going back here again, and I’ve already recommended it to four or five people!

Top 5 things about Moscow on the Hill
1. Having a classy dinner with Callous-un and laughing like idiots (mostly about what an idiot I am, oddly)
2. Fried Chebureki Pastries
3. Flavored Vodka Flight
4. Super service at this place
5. Vareniki

Bottom 5 things
1. Dealing with nasty text messages from friends who hate St. Paul when they found out I was there
2. I don’t know what Bison Grass is, but I hope I don’t eat/drink it again
3. Because I tricked Callous-un into toasting boobies, I got tricked into toasting penis-es at the next night dinner. Rude
4. Coach is going to yell at me for not trying Chicken Kiev or Borscht and ordering food from non-Russia
5. They had no Fig Vodka

www.moscowonthehill.com

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Red’s Savoy Inn and Pizza – St. Paul, MN

My friend Callous-un is in town this week for a conference, and she’s my captive audience for a few days. I was giving her the grand tour of St. Paul (just to anger M. and Trash Giant), and we realized we were starving. I had heard Red’s Savoy was pretty good, and in fact, I recommended it to a fellow Illinois native, WiseCracker, and he said it was good pizza. We found it pretty easily using the GPS so we headed inside.

It was the middle of the afternoon, so it was nice and sunny outside. We walked inside through a door with the word “PIZZA” over it. We assumed this was the proper entrance. We walked into a cave. Seriously, this was the darkest building I’ve ever been in. Callous-un had to grab the backs of chairs and the booths just to take tentative steps forward. Amazingly dark in this place. There was a super dimly-lit bar on one side and then a restaurant side with more tables than I expected. And there were plenty of people inside on a Saturday afternoon. We grabbed a table and hoped our eyes would adjust.

We perused the menu and decided on a regular pizza. Callous-un is a vegetarian, so we got half cheese and half Sausage and Pepperoni (for me, obviously). We asked about a random sandwich on the menu called the “Hot Dago”. Apparently, this sandwich is an Italian sausage patty between two pieces of French bread and then covered in spaghetti sauce. I guess the French bread makes it non-racist. I might end up getting this next time, since it sounds pretty good, but this time, we were going with the pizza.

The pizza took a LONG time to come out. Meanwhile we were treated to some of the local flavor – mainly a PWT family screaming swear words at their adorable little girl because she spilled her soda on the table. It was pretty sad actually, but the fact that it blew up so fast was pretty amazing to witness.

The pizza finally showed up and looked amazing. TONS of cheese on this thing.

And this is the second restaurant that Callous-un and I went to together where the food is served directly on a cafeteria tray. The pizza is cut into square pieces and somehow the cook in back managed to find the perfect dividing line down the middle where none of my tasty (and by tasty, I mean meaty) bits got on her cheese side. The pizza was really good – way better than I even expected, and despite the wait. There was a perfect amount of pepperoni and sausage on there and I didn’t have hardly any bites without meat in them. The crust wasn’t thin, but it wasn’t this either. Just in between. The sauce wasn’t boring ole’ Chef Boy-Ar-Dee or anything, it was a really tasty marinara with a little bit of kick to it.

We both ate more than we should have, and got good and full. We got the leftovers in a to-go box, paid and headed out into the super blinding sun. I will definitely go back to Red Savoy. I was extremely happy with it and I might even try to smuggle some of their pizza over to M. and Trash Giant’s house soon (since they hate St. Paul).

Top 5 things about Red Savoy Inn and Pizza
1. Hanging with Callous-un on my home turf
2. Perfect amount of topping
3. Pizza sauce had some zip to it
4. Crust
5. Food served directly on trays

Bottom 5 things
1. There’s no inn to take a nap in after you eat too much
2. PWT family yelling at their kid
3. It took a long time to get our pizza and it wasn’t terribly busy
4. It was incredibly dark inside. INCREDIBLY
5. I have a long drive to keep this pizza hot to make it to M. and Trash Giant’s house

Red’s Savoy Inn & Pizza
421 E 7th St
Saint Paul, MN 55101

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pizza Cruise and Happy Hour – Minneapolis, MN

This ended up being a super-long post. Sorry about that.

My friend RubyVita e-mailed me and told me she had a gift certificate she needed to use for a Pizza Cruise put on by Paradise Charter Cruises – would I be interested in joining her? Dur. I do love pizza and if you add happy hour and paddleboats to the mix, there’s nothing to add that would make it any more awesome (besides boobs, of course). I hopped on the website and made reservations for myself on one of the nights they weren’t sold out. Yes, I said sold out. I wasn’t sure how many people these cruises held, but three weeks in a row, they were booked solid. This sounded like it was going to be out of control.

I had no idea what to expect with this whole thing. Was it a booze cruise? Was it going to be like MTV Spring Break? Beer bongs? Frat boy fights over scantily-clad whores? Or was it going to classy and refined wine and cheese (and pizza) with tuxedos and snooty people? No photos on the site, so ZERO indication of what might happen.

I parked in the lot at Boom Island Park – this is where the cruises begin. There’s a parking pay station at one end which will run you 75 cents an hour. There were two girls in front of me complaining that the machine didn’t print their parking stub for the dash board. They used a credit card, so I suggested I’d use my cash and see what happened. It took my money, but printed no receipt for the dash. Nice. The girl called the number on the pay station for when you have problems. Not only was the place closed for the night, the voice mail box was entirely full so she couldn’t leave a message. We stood next to it and told people that came up to pay. Some people didn’t believe us and tried anyway, but we warned them. We all ended up putting notes on our dash board that said we paid but got no receipts.

The Captain popped on the loudspeaker and told us he’d be checking people’s names as they got on board (which was good since I didn’t bring any confirmation at all). One of the shipmates (I won’t call him a seaman, despite my 12-year old mentality encouraging me to) handed us a card that said 2-for-1 drinks. I followed RubyVita past this gentleman and to my delight, she headed straight to the bar. First ones there! Suck on THAT, frat boys! Actually, there were very few frat boys on this cruise, so it ended up being alright. About 70% young-ish people and 30% older people. And no beer bongs.

We grabbed some drinks – Capn and coke for me, since I was on a ship; vodka diet with grenadine for RubyVita – and walked around the boat. It was a quick trip since the upper deck was just a skinnier version of the lower deck, but had an outside seating area at the back. We headed back downstairs so we could be closer to the bar and grabbed a table. We talked about music and movies and all kinds of stuff while the captain (of the boat, not from my drink) told us about the buildings we were passing and the history of the river channels.

We headed downstream first and went into the lock system there. RubyVita said, “Uh, we’re getting kind of close to that wall” and “Why does it look like we’re sinking?” I will hearken back to my previous post from San Antonio when I mocked people for not being familiar with the lock and dam systems that I grew up with. So I got to play science teacher and explain how it all worked. Thank you 8 years of lock and dam #15 visits. I just looked it up and the St. Anthony Falls Lock is the first one on the Mississippi. Wurd.

The boat didn’t go very far south on the river before we spun around and headed back into the lock. We grabbed a couple more drinks – I got a Gilligan’s Island from the fancy drink menu – and since they were 2-for-1. It was pretty peach schnapp-y though; I’ll pass next time on the GI. Then they opened up the pizza buffet. People swarmed (there were only like 30 people on board, but it SEEMED like a swarm. I asked the bar tender where they got their pizza from. I won’t reveal to you what she told me but it rhymes with romino’s. She said they used to have a mom and pop shop make them all but they went out of business. Bummer. However, the cruise people made every effort to thwart naysayers by putting the pizzas out on large wooden pizza paddles as servers – fresh out of the oven, right? Good idea, but it still tasted like the company we aren’t mentioning.

They also had signs up that said we were limited to 2-3 pieces per person. Seriously? I could have sworn I saw something that said unlimited, but apparently, I was wrong. So I grabbed a few pieces and started chowing down.
RubyVita hates having her photo taken. Too bad.
Once everyone was through the line, I hopped back up into line again to do my janitorial eating maneuver (I’m all about the clean-up).

Since I didn’t get yelled at for that, I ate those and then went up again for more (and ordered another girly drink). In your FACE, Paradise Cruises!! Yeah, I’ve been known to put back a slice or two in my day.

The drink I had was odd – sounds like it might be good, but wasn’t great. Disarono Disarita (basically a margarita with amaretto in it). Neither the pizza nor drink went to waste. And apparently, the 2-for-1 drink tickets are only good for two drinks, not unlimited. Super bummer. I thought this was Amurka – home of unlimited ridiculousiosity.

We watched these older people bust out this soft-sided cooler with salad and pasta and fruit to accompany their meal. Ah, old people. I’ll be there soon, but it will probably be a cooler full of bacon and pineapple-mixed drinks. I wonder if they got that cooler ok’d by the Captain. Makes you wonder what else you could smuggle onto the river boat – like the old days.

We hopped out on the deck and took some snapshots of the Minneapolis skyline (which didn’t turn out well), and then headed back to the docks to make sure our cars weren’t all towed because of the broken pay station.

Alas, our cars were still there when we arrived. RubyVita tried tricking me into going out for additional drinks and maybe some Thai food (did she not see me eat 9 pieces of pizza?) at this new place she found in North East. I had considerable homework to do, so I did the responsible thing and headed home to read about financial accounting. Lame.

The cruise was pretty boring, but thankfully I had good company to talk to. Otherwise, it would have been a bust. This cruise might be fun if you got together like 20 of your friends and got all crazy, but short of that, I’d probably not recommend it to people under the age of 60.

Top 5 things about the Pizza Cruise and Happy Hour
1. I love to do fun spontaneous quirky things like pizza cruises
2. Hanging with RubyVita is always fun, especially when she’s concerned she talks too much
3. I super exceeded the standard pizza allotment (but considering where it was from, it might not be a top 5 item)
4. The Minnesota Queen (the boat, not RainbowBryte) is a pretty slick little paddleboat (if you watch carefully, the paddlewheel spins the opposite direction, defying the laws of physics)
5. Dropping 30 feet in a lock is way different than dropping 12 feet in a lock. Pretty slick, especially when I got to be all Mr. Science-guy and explain it all to RubyVita

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd and I talked about doing a dinner cruise when we first moved here. She would have been amused by this little venture. When we floated by the Federal Reserve Bank, I did get pretty sad, since that’s where Gerd worked…
2. Domino’s pizza is NO MATCH for Carbone’s, which EyeHeartPizza, Trash, and M.Giant had while I was on the cruise – jerks
3. I’m not sure what I expected by way of entertainment, but there wasn’t much
4. 2-for-1’s were not unlimited
5. Music selection on board

www.twincitiescruises.com

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Brawl of America Roller Derby Northern Region Championship – St. Paul, MN

As many of you know, I’m totally hooked on roller derby. Gerd and I were huge fans last year and went to almost every bout at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Every region has a championship tournament and this year, it was held in Minneapolis – The Brawl of America. The Twin Cities has two roller derby leagues (Minnesota Roller Girls and the North Star Roller Girls), and both of them made it to the regional championships.

The tournament was three days of derby, but I had things going on during Friday’s bouts and also during Saturday’s bouts. But Sunday was my day of derby – plus it was the final day, so there was going to be excellent derby. I will try not to go into too much detail so I don’t blow way over people’s heads, but I get excited talking about it, so I’ll try to reign it in.

First bout – Minnesota Roller Girls vs. Grand Raggidy (Grand Rapids, MI) – for 9th/10th place
This bout was extremely close with lots of lead changes. It’s been a few months since I’ve seen MNRG skate, and they looked really solid. Honeydew Fellon laid some serious smackdown on Grand Raggidy which is always nice to see. MNRG saw some serious penalty box activity which hurt them, but not enough for them to blow their lead. MNRG wins over GRRG (91-75).

Second bout – North Star Roller Girls (MN) vs. Arch Rivals (St. Louis, MO) – for 5th/6th place
This bout started out all North Star. Lots of big point jams (two 19-point jams) put NSRG up 51-8 at the half. After the half, ARRG looked like they had more of their act together, but the point spread was too great for St. Louis to come back. This was the first time I’ve seen North Star skate – they’re REALLY good. I can’t wait to catch them this season! Plus my friend Ginger McInjure skates for this league, which will be fun to watch. NSRG wins over ARRG (85-43).

Third Bout – Detroit Derby Girls vs. Cincinnati Rollergirls – for 3rd/4th place and trip to Nationals
This was a bout I was seriously looking forward to. I had heard Detroit is a great team, but they can play dirty. Since they have certainly all lost their jobs, I assumed they’d be extra pissed off, but that wasn’t the case. It was the exact opposite – Cincy played kind of dirty and Detroit walked all over them and had fun doing it. I started out cheering for Cincy (as the underdog), but then when I saw the skill that Detroit had, I quickly changed. I saw my first ever (HAS to be a league record) 30-point jam. Also known as a sextuple slam. Detroit was up 73-18 at the half. Detroit kept mopping the floor with the Cincy girls throughout the remainder of the bout. DDG wins over CRG (126-62).

Final bout – Windy City Roller (Chicago, IL) vs. Mad Rollin’ Dolls (Madison, WI) – for the championship
I was really surprised there weren’t more people watching this bout. It was for all the marbles, and two of the best teams in the northern region. It was amazing to watch. Chicago was on fire, claiming lead jammer on almost every jam. Madison showed great blocking, but couldn’t stop the amazingly fast Chicago jammers. The score of 90-19 at the half seems like a blowout, but it wasn’t boring derby, like you’d think. It was still full of really hard hitting blocking and finesse jamming. I was fortunate to be sitting trackside with some of the skaters from St. Louis and North Star, so they were giving me updates on things to watch and screaming right along with me. Super fun sitting trackside with derby girls – I would highly recommend it. We had to save our drinks a number of times as skaters flew into the crowd (rule number one of derby is NEVER spill your drink). Second half was more of the Chicago domination. Again, still worth sticking around for. WCR win over MRD (150-56)

I still think the Roy Wilkins Auditorium is one of the best venues I’ve been to for roller derby. Perfect size, amenities, and it’s easy to get to. They have a great EMT staff (which came in handy a number of times as things got super competitive out there – blood all over the track is never good) and they are genuinely glad you’re there to watch derby. Kudos to those people.

Top 5 things about Brawl of America
1. Seeing a 30-point jam was awesome
2. Watching Chicago’s top-level skill, made even more awesome because you can clearly see how good Madison is
3. Changing my mind about the Detroit Roller Girls (my throat still hurts a little)
4. Best venue ever for roller derby – The Roy
5. Sitting trackside with smoking hot roller girls

Bottom 5 things
1. Roller derby will never be the same without Gerd. I get really sad at these bouts thinking about her screaming along with me and making fun of the fans (who were probably making fun of us)
2. The concession stand had a beer leak and my shoes were sticky and noisy all night
3. My thumbs actually hurt from sending regular updates to ChickenLittle and Slutnik in Seattle, and Callous-un in Chicago, and PalmMapper in Michigan
4. The trackside cement doesn’t get any more comfortable after 2 full bouts
5. I know Saturday it was a full house (without John Stamos), but Sunday’s crowd was WEAK!

www.brawlofamerica.com

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Experimental Food Night (Cottage Pie Edition) – Minneapolis, MN

Trash, for some reason, loves it when I review her food. Then she can yell and pretend to be defensive and claim to cook other “good” foods, according to her. Honestly, everything she cooks is awesome, so I don’t know what she’s talking about. Maybe the vegetarians are considering revoking her card or something and it’s a defensive move. Whatever.

During this week’s experimental food night, Trash found something she thought would horrify M.Giant and I, but was saddened to hear we were both looking forward to it a great deal. EyeHeartPizza also thought it would be good, but she had made a comment about becoming a vegetarian, so I shot down her opinion right away. Trash wanted to make us Cottage Pie (also known as Shepherd’s Pie).

I’m not sure what part she thought we’d hate because the whole thing is one delicious layer after another. In fact, I’ve had tons of Cottage Pie, the best of which has been from my lovely friend Mandolin in sunny London. She made a Cottage Pie for me a while back, since this is the country that invented Cottage Pie), and was horrified that I ate the entire thing by myself. It was delicious.

This is basically an old timey sort of casserole (something Minnesotans EXCEL at) with a layer of meaty goodness (mixed with some veggies) on the bottom and then a layer of smashed potatoes on the top of the whole thing. Seriously, what’s not to like in this thing. I’ve decided it’s better that Trash makes things she thinks we WON’T like because I’m worried what we’d be eating if she made something she thought was tasty. This is one of drawbacks to having vegetarians make meat dishes for you. Thankfully, and to Trash’s highest credit, she is an amazing meat-cooker, and I appreciate every dish she’s ever made (even the beer-marinated steaks that were awful).

And to pay Trash back, I whipped up one of my (vegetarian-friendly) cheesy corn casserole (again, that’s what happens in Minnesota) for her as payment. This of course is always brilliant (thanks to my sister PalmMapper’s secret recipe – and owed to doubling the amount of cheese called for in the recipe – a little trick I learned from Gerd), so we all fought over it and ended up leaving almost none of it in the pan.

The Cottage Pie was fantastic. Honestly, it was layer after layer of awesomeness. The potatoes were slightly golden on the top of the thing and the layers were well defined. The dish didn’t get dried out or anything and, if I do say so myself, the corn casserole was a great compliment to the whole thing. I think Trash and I make a pretty good team. It’s odd that she cooks the meat and I cook the vegetarian stuff, but that’s beside the point. Both M.Giant and EyeHeartPizza said everything was perfect, and that’s high praise – they’re a tough audience.

I also got to try Sunkist Cherry Lime-ade, which is freaking incredible. I need to pick up a pallet of this stuff.

Go ahead, I dare you – ask Trash to make you something horrific. You won’t be disappointed at all.

No top 5 list. Deal with it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

MN Wild vs. Columbus Blue Jackets – St. Paul, MN

My roommate EyeHeartPizza gave me a call on Wednesday saying she had scored four tickets to the hockey game on Friday night (15th row). It was the season opener – pregame, but still the season opener. I haven’t been to an NHL game since I was 8, so I was itching to go. I was put in charge of finding two other suckers to come along to the game so the tickets didn’t go to waste. I got on the phone and e-mail machines and started asking. Turns out SB and EJens were free and willing to go. They’re always fun. We accidentally told them the tickets were free, otherwise, we might have been able to get $90 each out of them. Dang.

We trekked over to the Xcel Energy Center (cutting it close on time), but got SB picked up and met EJens at the door. We sat down and 3 minutes later, the skaters came out and this old guy made a strong attempt at the National Anthem.

EJens was distracted by various lights and shiny things, continuing his long streak of never seeing an opening faceoff (oddly enough, NOT called the Puck-Off, like I assumed). Usually, it’s because he’s late for the opening of the game, but this time it was because he was distracted.

The game was pretty slow to start with, until EyeHeartPizza complained about it being slow. Then the fighting started and the pace really picked up. The passing for the Wild was much better than the Blue Jackets, but I won’t claim to be an expert at hockey, so I won’t get into any analysis of the skills or strategy. However, I did spend a good portion of the game on my phone/internet trying to figure out why Columbus were called the Blue Jackets. Turns out it's all Civil War-y and I filed it under "still don't care" in my head.

I went up and grabbed some deep fried cheese curds and a lemonade for the game. When I got back, SB borrowed some of my curds. She’s from Sconsin, so she can’t help herself. But then she got some mini-donuts and I borrowed some of those, so we were all even.

EJens decided he needed some refreshments, so he got up and punted my lemonade. It was pretty funny, honestly. It was pretty messy and we were sticking to the floor by the end of the game.

We saw more blood than I’ve ever seen at a hockey game before. One guy took a shot to the face and just gushed blood all over. When he skated off the ice, there was a line of blood – NOT a dotted line of blood, a LINE of blood. It was flowing pretty badly. Then we saw one of the Blue Jackets, Jason Chimera, get knocked out in a really bad situation. We waited 5 or 6 minutes for the EMTs to get him on a stretcher and off to the hospital.

All in all, super game. The Wild won 2-0, so that makes it one of the first winning games I’ve seen in almost 3 years. The Xcel Energy Center is a great venue, and the huge crowd is nice to see – MN is known for having slim crowds at its sporting events (except for hockey).

Top 5 things about the Wild vs. the Blue Jackets
1. EyeHeartPizza screaming “freedom” during the national anthem
2. EyeHeartPizza scored us free tickets
3. EJens and SB are hilarious to go to screaming events with
4. Deep Fried Cheese Curds – duh
5. Hockey Whores

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd bought us tickets to the Wild last year just before all the bad stuff happened. I didn’t end up going to the game last year and I thought about it a lot at this game.
2. There’s no Chuck-A-Puck contest (does anyone know what I’m talking about?)
3. Sure would have been nice to finish my lemonade… sigh… (kidding, EJens)
4. I’m deaf now because of the airhorn when the Wild scores goals
5. We paid for parking at the Dairy Queen, but they were closed by the time we got out. Bummer

http://wild.nhl.com

Friday, September 18, 2009

Honey Garden – Eden Prairie, MN

I had an awful morning through and through, so when FireRetarded sent me an email about going to lunch, I pounced. FireRetarded is just what I need when I’m feeling down. He wanted to go this Vietnamese place he used to go to called Mr. Q’s. And when I say “used to”, I mean when he lived in Eden Prairie TEN YEARS AGO.

Oddly, when we pulled up to the place, it wasn’t Mr. Q’s anymore. But alas, it was still a Vietnamese/Chinese place, so we decided to give it a shot. Honey Garden had a sign out front saying they had a buffet, so we figured why not – at least we’ll get full. And we did.

We got seated right away and right next to the buffet. The buffet was pretty good sized and had about 10 entrees on it, two soups, appetizery things, some salady things, and kimchee – which I thought was out of place. But who am I to say, it’s not like I’m totally Asian or anything.

We loaded up our plates with everything imagineable. They had sesame chicken, hot and spicy chicken, beef broccoli, beef and mushrooms, emperor dinner (chicken, beef, and shrimp), teriyaki chicken, crab rangoons, egg rolls, fried dumplings, sweet and sour chicken, egg drop soup, hot and spicy soup, and probably a few other things I can’t remember. We weren’t going to leave hungry.

We wolfed this food down. FireRetarded said it wasn’t as good as Mr. Q’s, but he still liked it. I thought it was pretty good as well, especially for buffet Asian food. The Emperor Meal was great, but the sesame chicken was the best I’ve had. Great breading and awesome consistency of the sticky gooey sauce all over it. The egg rolls were pretty good, but the crab rangoons were even better. I’m pretty picky about my egg drop soup, but this was one of the better ones. It was still what I call “snot based” rather than chicken broth-based, but it had a great flavor. The only thing I didn’t really care for was the sweet and sour chicken. It was a little too puffy in the breading department for me.

We had multiple plates and definitely did not leave hungry. And what even funnier is now that I’ve eaten Asian food with FireRetarded a number of times, I think I have passed the torch of homosexually-suggestive fortune cookie messages to him. His was hilarious and mine was pretty plain jane. I wonder what I’ll end up with if he’s not eating lunch with me. I’ll have to check it out and report back.

All in all, this is one of the better buffets in Eden Prairie, and now that I know I can drive there from work for lunch, it will happen again. And thanks for cheering me up a smidge, FireRetarded.

Top 5 things about Honey Garden
1. Sesame Chicken
2. Egg drop soup
3. Crab rangoons
4. Emperor Meal
5. Hot and Spicy Chicken

Bottom 5 things
1. FireRetarded and I always end up talking about Gerd and we both miss her. She would have loved to do all these fun lunches with FireRetarded and I
2. The crotchey old Santa Claus guy that stormed out because he didn’t think there was enough food on the buffet
3. Sweet and Sour Chicken wasn’t stellar
4. I’m pretty sure kimchee is Korean
5. FireRetarded took a back way to the restaurant, but I still think I can figure it out, since he took the easy path out when we left!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

India Spice House – Eden Prairie, MN

EyeHeartPizza had been complaining that we hadn’t gone out to lunch this week – apparently she’s instituting this weekly lunch thing for me that I don’t have a say in. Yes, this IS a pattern, thanks for asking. She hadn’t had enough Indian food since she moved to the Twin Cities, so we stopped by the India Spice House. The last Indian food I had was really good – at the India Palace, so I figured we’d give this one a shot and see how they stacked up.

The place is a little confusing when you walk in. There’s a restaurant on the left and a small market on the right (that’s not the confusing part). I was unsure of where or when to pay for the buffet and the silverware and napkins were at the beginning of the line instead of the end. I like to have my hands free to wield serving spoons and tongs and such, not deal with silverware. That’s just me though. The guy behind the counter smiled and told us we could pay afterwards when I asked him about the process.

The buffet has quite a few things on it, and many of them looked good. I’m still new at Indian food, but I recognized some things and remembered some of the names. Eventually, I’ll remember these things enough to order off of a menu, but until then, I’ll need to visit a couple more buffets.

I piled on various tastiness: what I can remember… chicken Korma, curry goat, curry chicken, veggie cutlets, goat biryani, tomato dal, red pepper and mushroom orange mush (not its technical name), rice with stuff in it, and nan. There were some sauces and watermelon and pepers and such at the end of the line, but I’ll give it a few more chances before I get too adventurous with the sauces.

There was a culligan water jug in one corner for water and I didn’t see anyone else drinking anything except water. I guess you’d better like water if you come here. Thankfully, I’m a fan.

The food was decent. It didn’t overwhelm me and change my mind about Indian food like the last place did. It was good, though there were a LOT of bones on my plate when I finished. More than I remember picking out before. Some of the lamb was gristly, but the curry chicken was awesome – probably the best dish there. The chicken korma had too many bones and cartilage to be much fun to eat, but the curry was perfect. The goat biryani was probably second best, but I was able to pull the bones out of the meat before I started eating.

The guy working the counter brought out these crepe-looking things. I’m still not sure what they were made of, but they weren’t sweet like crepes. They had some sort of potato based filling on the inside. EyeHeartPizza didn’t like hers, so she quit after one bite. I didn’t mind it, so I powered through and finished one – no complaints. It wasn’t stellar, but it wasn’t disgusting. Maybe I just thought it would be sweet because it looked like a crepe or because it came out after we had already started eating, indicating it was some sort of desert. It was just ok.

Overall, the place was just kind of meh. It didn’t kill me and I liked a couple of the things there. We didn’t have time to check out the little grocery store next door as work was anxiously waiting my return. It was ok, but for my money, next time, I’ll go to India Palace.

Top 5 things about India Spice House
1. Chicken Curry
2. Goat Biryani
3. Tomato Dal
4. Veggie Cutlets
5. EyeHeartPizza paid for my lunch

Bottom 5 things
1. I found myself wondering if Gerd would have liked the food or not. Sometimes, she got really vocal about not liking food, the same volume as if she DID like the food.
2. Feel like the food was bland
3. LOTS of bones and gristle (bordering on high labor food)
4. No Dew
5. No clear directions on what to do when you walk in. Am I the only one who ever has issue with this at restaurants? I feel like I am sometimes

www.indiaspicehouseep.com

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BBQ Carwash (J.J.’s BBQ) – Eden Prairie, MN

[Author's note: J.J.'s BBQ has closed its doors. I went there for lunch on 7/5/2011 and it was no more - sadface)

Last week, HotGirlsBrother and LowVee and I were supposed to go to the BBQ Carwash – the greatest idea EVER- but due to time constraints, we were unable to go. I had waited months to go here and was devastated. So after that fell through, I set up a lunch date at the BBQ Carwash with DawgMan, just to spite my Rib Quest companions. I drove through every puddle I could find and drove fast on the interstate through swarms of bugs, specifically to build up a significant layer of grime on my car this weekend.


Since these kinds of adventures aren’t ones you can do alone, we piled PageantLady and CurlyWillow into the car and headed down Flying Cloud Drive to the BBQ Carwash. I was a little unsure what to do when I got there, so I dropped the others off at the front door and drove around to the entrance to the car wash. I pulled in the garage bay and the woman working flagged me down when I needed to stop. They have three options for car washes, starting at $17.99. I picked the cheap one and got my receipt and headed down the hallway to the BBQ part of the carwash.

I paid for my wash at the carwash counter (there’s a $2 upcharge for SUVs/vans/trucks), and it totaled just over $21. I’ve had cheaper car washes, but I was paying for the novelty of eating ribs while my car was being pampered. The car wash area has windows where you can watch the action from inside. There are also tables near the windows so you can eat ribs while keeping an eye on your car. There’s a little shop with car accessories and such if you need nick knacks or smelly things.

A little bit further and you come to the BBQ part. J.J.’s BBQ to be more specific. J.J. himself is working the counter and he’s quite a character. Super friendly and talkative and really glad to see us in there. There were other people eating besides us, though there were a handful of people JUST waiting for their cars – kind of defeats the brilliant purpose of the BBQ Carwash, doesn’t it?!

The menu board is pretty straight forward and I was a little surprised at how cheap it was, compared to other rib places. He gave us a sample of the Southern Style Pork Loin meat, which I thought was pretty darn good. Good sauce and good flavor. Oddly, none of us ordered it – but I might next time. A half slab of ribs will cost you $9.99 and you get two sides and cornbread.

DawgMan asked J.J. to tell his story, and he came back with, “Well, it’s a story filled with turmoil and bitterness…” CurlyWillow ordered a half slab of ribs and J.J. called her a “real woman” and then told her “I like the cut of your jib.” J.J. is my new hero. He’s like a customer service pirate. He’s a smoothy.

J.J. ran around back to the kitchen and grabbed a slab of ribs. He brought it out front and cut it up for us right there. They’re dry cooked, so no sauce, but as we know, that’s perfectly acceptable. I ended up getting Mac and Cheese and Smokey Baked Pork and Beans. It all looks delicious. I grabbed a can of Dew out of the fridge and got all paid up – not expensive at all. Totally unrelated, there’s an awkwardly empty pie case in front of the cash register that looked like it had a couple to-go things of cole slaw of potato salad in it, but it looked kind of out of place and empty.

Everything comes in a styrofoam to-go box and you grab your plasticware on the way to the table. There’s a little island with sauce, roll of paper towels, sanitizer, and small cups in the dining room. We got all situated and started to eat.

I always try the first rib without sauce, so I knew where I’m starting at. The meat was pretty tender and the meat came off the bones without too much work. They had a decent smoky flavor and not much fat or gristle. I added the sauce (which I’m blanking out on the name of right now, but I’ve seen it in stores) and this actually helped tremendously. Pretty tasty ribs, J.J. The Mac and Cheese was average, but waaay better than some school cafeteria kinds I’ve had. The baked beans were also average, even though they had bits of meat in them. The cornbread muffin wasn’t hugely corny and tasted more like a cupcake muffin than cornbread, but it still went well with the ribs.

My car finished up and I had to go retrieve my ride, park it, and the n come back in to finish my meal. I thought that was kind of weird.

J.J. checked on us and made sure we were doing alright and we assured him we were. He gave us coupons for free sides the next time we’re in, so I told him I’d be back for sure (since now I’ll have to bring HotGirlsBrother and LowVee this time. J.J. said he liked to lock in customers and I’m pretty sure I can spread the word about this place. Carwash AND Ribs! Who would have thunk it?!

The wash was decent (they even got most of the dog hair out of the back seat) my 4Runner looks sparkly new, even though it looked kind of overcast outside. Oh well. If it rains, I can always go back to BBQ Carwash!

Top 5 things about BBQ Carwash
1. Seriously, it’s a BBQ CARWASH!!!!!
2. Ribs were dry cooked but still tender
3. J.J.’s super service!
4. My car is now bug free
5. It’s pretty affordable, as far as ribs go

Bottom 5 things
1. Car wash was more expensive than I thought it might be
2. A little confusing for first timers who want their car washed and eat lunch
3. Only open until 7 (which I guess makes sense)
4. Cornbread was slightly lacking
5. I still had to go get my car when they were finished, interrupting my meal. I think they should drive it around front and bring your keys inside

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Punch Pizza – Eden Prairie, MN

I’m going to apologize to my coworker, JainDoh, in advance for this review. JainDoh has been talking about Punch Pizza for a number of months now. So when Trash called me to do lunch (now that she works less than 5 minutes from me), I thought, JainDoh is a vegetarian, Trash is a vegetarian – this should be perfect! I told Trash I’d pick her up and we’d head over there.

When we got to the place, I was glad I had looked at the menu online. The menu board behind the cashier had a list of pizza names without any explanation as to what is on them. They have a stack of to-go menus up next to the cash register with more detail in them (the same as the online version), but if you didn’t know this, then you hold up the line behind you. Trash hadn’t been there before, so she simply said, “Give me a pizza with a lot of cheese on it.” The lady rang her up and moved her along. I ordered a Milanese pizza which is ham, gorgonzola, roasted red pepper, and basil. There didn’t seem to be any problem with my order.

I made some comment about Trash being a vegetarian, and then the cashier said to me, “I don’t know why I didn’t recommend the four cheese pizza then.” Yeah, I don’t know why you didn’t, moron. It’s a tad late now.

As I was walking over to put my stuff on the table Trash had commandeered, I saw her get physically checked into the counter by a worker restocking cups and lids at the drink station. I sort of played it off like I saw Trash fall into the guy, but he checked her, plain and simple, and then gave her a look like she was in his way and he couldn’t get the lids restocked with her standing there patiently waiting for him to finish. (Honestly, it was hilarious, but I’m pretending to be outraged for Trash’s sake since she reads this blog).

The place is known for making authentic thin crust pizza in a super hot wood fired stove. “800 degrees & 90 seconds” is their tagline on their menu (that you don’t see unless you’re at the counter holding up the line). So the pizza came up super fast. I was thrilled by that part. The pizzas looked (sort of) like the ones I’ve eaten in Italy, but they were still pretty Americanized.

The first bite of this pizza really surprised me. I’m no connoisseur of pizza, but I know I’ve had some real winners in my lifetime. This pizza challenges the lowest of the worst pizza I’ve ever had. I’ve even had bad pizza here in the Twin Cities that I would put on a standing order before volunteering to go to Punch again. I really thought it was difficult to mess up pizza, but this was awful. I’m not sure if the gorgonzola was “off” or what, but the whole thing tasted like feet. The ham had no taste, I never tasted any of the basil or red pepper that I could plainly see, and I’ll say it again, it tasted like feet (with dirty socks on the feet). The crust was doughy and tough to cut, but I’m not sure that would have helped anything with the feet taste.

I waited until I was about three bites in before I confessed to Trash this was the worst pizza I ever had. She sighed and agreed adamantly this was truly terrible pizza. She put her fork down and told me her pizza tasted like ass. There you have it: feet and ass. If either of those appeal to you, then Punch is your place.

We even swapped bites, just to make sure we didn’t have some wacky palette mix-up, like in the movies, but no, both of us agreed with each other’s review of these pizzas. Sadly, the Milanese pizza (mine, with the ham) was slightly better than the plain cheese pizza, but that doesn’t mean it was at all good.

Trash asked if she should throw her (more than) half pizza away, and I stopped her, thankfully. I told her her husband, M.Giant, needed to experience how terrible this pizza is. She agreed whole-heartedly. (Wow, just think what w would do if we DIDN’T love M.Giant!?!?)

Don’t worry, JainDoh, I won’t hold it against you. We’ve gone to some good places together for lunch, so I know you have good taste.

Top 5 things about Punch Pizza
1. Super fast for lunch
2. It’s close to work
3. Upon leaving this place, Trash and decided to go to the Vietnamese place across the street for lunch next time
4. I saw a hot girl from work there (which means she has bad taste in pizza)
5. You can get wine (but we didn’t since our work frowns upon it)

Bottom 5 things
1. Plain Cheese Pizza
2. Milanese Pizza
3. Body-checking staff
4. Non-helpful cashier
5. Why wouldn’t you explain your pizzas BEFORE you get to the non-helpful cashier?

www.punchpizza.com

Sunday, September 13, 2009

King’s Place – Miesville, MN

A couple months back, I found a fellow food blogger’s website and ended up exchanging some food recommendations with her. RubyVita, author of Boullabaisse Brain, recommended King’s Place right out of the gate and said I had to go there. In fact, she was so excited about it, she said we should meet there and have some amazing burgers. I’m always game for food adventures, so I agreed and we made it happen.

I found an article on line that mentioned this place and the owners wanted to be the masters at one specific thing. They chose that thing to be burgers. They offer like 25 burgers on their menu with different toppings. Some normal, some not so normal.

I knew this place was in the middle of nowhere, but I wasn’t exactly sure HOW in the middle of nowhere. It’s southeast of the Twin Cities, almost to the equator. I drove through towns I have never heard of on these wild backroads. I drove through Coates, MN (population 163)(seriously). I drove through New Trier, MN (population 116). And I got to Miesville, MN (population 135). Does this give you any indication as to what you’ll be dealing with when you go here?

It’s a hometown bar, so you won’t be at all surprised when you walk in to find lots of wood work, beer signs, rolls of paper towels on the tables, and home town folk. We got seated and made our introductions and small talked while trying to figure out what we needed to eat. We had to pause our conversation to actually focus on the menu, since these are some serious burger topping choices. Each one of the burgers has a baseball themed name – which I find hilarious since I loathe baseball (sorry, Gerd). Miesville has a local team which are a pretty big deal – they’re called the Mudhens. Not even sure what that is, but I probably don’t want to find out. So in support of the Mudhens, King’s Place named all their burgers baseball-y things.

The waitress came to take our orders and after discovering King’s Place doesn’t have Pepsi products, I got some lemonade. RubyVita ordered some waffle fries since she liked thenm last time she was here. They came out and were greasy bar fries, but had some decent seasoning on them. I refrained from eating any of her fries (for now), since I knew I was not going to be able to just get ONE burger. And I was right. The best part is these burgers are really affordable. Anywhere from like $4-6 for a burger – well played, King’s Place.

The list of things to choose from is immense. They have a large section of wildly adventurous burgers, and then they have the top 10 list, which seemed much more tame for people like Coach and my father. I ended up with two different burgers after serious deliberation. The Bases Loaded burger: salsa, jalapenos, sour cream, pepperjack, swiss, and cheddar, and of course bacon. And I also go the Bullpen: a hot dog, a fried egg, cheddar, and of course bacon. RubyVita got the Dugout: Peanut butter, mayonnaise, and lettuce.

Some of the other ingredients you’re not going to find at most places include sauerkraut, ham, cottage cheese, olives, seasoned potatoes, mushroom and a couple of other things I’m blanking out on. These people are not afraid to put some wackiness into their burgers.

The burgers came out fairly quickly and the cameras flew (well, the camera phones, anyway). We both love to take shots of our food, so we took photos and then swapped photos. The buns were kind of puffy and moist, so despite the burgers looking smallish, you could tell they really weren’t. I was pretty sure at this point, I was going to be full tonight.

We cut our burgers into smaller portions so we could share food – it was the best way to facilitate both of use trying to eat three burgers without going to the hospital, truly. The Bullpen was really awesome. The hot dog flavor really came through and the egg on top made it seem like a breakfast sammich from heaven. And of course, the bacon tied everything together like a tasty high-cholesterol ribbon. RubyVita’s Dugout was a risky gamble, but well played, I think. I have heard people talking about burgers with peanut butter on them, and I just have been adventurous enough to try it. I’m glad she was, because when I took a bite, it was really amazing. It’s odd, I can assure you , but it’s odd in a way that makes you crave more. It’s a fantastic combination, so don’t be afraid to try this if you ever see it on a menu. You’ll be weirded out, but two bites in, you’ll be raving about it.

The champion of the night (in my humble opinion) was the Bases Loaded. I was really surprised at the zing in this burger. It was like a super cheesey cheese burger with a Mexican kick in the face. I don’t normally like to eat jalapenos on their own, so I was a little skeptical. I figured if I hated it, I could pick them all off, but I wanted to at least give the chef in back the benefit of trying his creation as he intended it to be. I didn’t have to pick anything off at all. The jalapenos added a great deal of zip, especially with the salsa added on, but the sour cream kind of took some of the edge off of it. And did I mention there was bacon – nature’s medicinal food. RubyVita even claimed she liked this burger for the same reasons, so I know my tastebuds aren’t too far out of whack.

I eventually caved and grabbed one of RubyVita’s waffle fries. They were pretty good. Still just seasoned waffle fries and not stellar, but perfect reasonable in a place like this. I liked them, but I’m glad I didn’t get an order of them.

I think we did a pretty good job of devouring this burger feast.

I’m about this (………) close to putting these burgers in my top 5 list of best burgers of all time. I feel like I’ve thrown around that moniker too often lately with various foods, but I really think they’re up there close, if not IN the top 5. Really, these are fantastic burgers. I’ll stress, it’s not just the variety of topping available, but the burgers themselves are REALLY quality burgers and juicy and flavorful without being greasy or getting the super fluffy buns all soggy.

I’m glad RubyVita and I decided to do this. We bonded over some good food, both classy food and down-and-dirty favorites as well. Told some hilarious stories, talked about her impending move to the suburbs, laughed about Coach being the world’s pickiest eater, and in general had a great dinner. Look for more adventures of the colliding food bloggers in the future.

Top 5 things about King’s Place
1. Bases Loaded Burger
2. Dugout Burger
3. Bullpen Burger
4. Hanging out with fellow food lovers who also take photos of food
5. Being able to try three burgers instead of one – much better way of doing things. Next time, we’ll invite 10 friends and turn this into a tapas burger party!

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd would have loved RubyVita. Oh yeah, and these incredible burgers. I’m bummed Gerd missed both of them
2. No Dew
3. It’s a haul, but I truly think it’s worth it (tell that to my family when I drive the out to Deliverance-ville then next time they’re in town)
4. I REALLY think they need to offer a sampler platter with 5 or 6 mini-versions of these burgers. I wanted to try like 10 of these burgers, but knew I would go home on a stretcher
5. My GPS refuses to believe in the existence of Miesville

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Minnehaha Falls Park Disc Golf Course – Minneapolis, MN

KingDavid told me the other day at lunch that his 5 year old son, Johnny5, was hooked on disc golf. Apparently a friend of Johnny5’s had them play at a park on e day and he loved it. That’s what I like to hear. So KingDavid and I set up a play date for us this morning to check out a local course. We found one that was a short 9-holer (thank you PDGA.com.

When both of us got lost trying to find the course this morning, we determined that SURELY it was faulty directions and not our faults at all. We found the course eventually – after KingDavid’s entire family watched me help a little old lady pump gas at the gas station because she was too weak to both push the button to choose her grade of gas and then too weak to hold the handle on the pump. Maybe she was Mr. Burns’ lost wife…

I’ll make this a quick review. The course is really short. It even says so on the description of the course. Drivers not needed. And they are right. Each of the 9 holes is a straight shot with a giant mature oak tree trunk in the way. I’m not complaining at all. In fact, it’s nice to see courses like this that get people and kids hooked early. Simple and straight forward with no water hazards, poison ivy, or treacherous terrain.

Johnny5 had a blast. He is really quite a thrower for his age and beamed every time he raced us to the basket. He’s all about speed, not about score. I truly wish I had started that young. Thanks for holding me back, mom and dad. Hahaha. Their younger daughter, FireStarter, lost interest after a bit and began collecting firewood for a fire KingDavid and QueenRachel didn’t know they were going to have. She’s a kindling-finding machine. Hilarious. KingDavid and QueenRachel both played pretty well for being new to the game. I always get worried playing with new people that I’m going to be playing with the next hidden Tiger Woods of disc golf and they’ll be surprised how wimpy my arm is when they can throw 500 feet with a putter. Thankfully, both of these guys reined it in for my dignity and played at the appropriate beginner level. Thanks, guys.

The local teamsters were setting up for a picnic, so there were lots of people in the park. No one was in the disc golf area, but one couple were setting up a tent and asked us about the game. Hopefully we talked them into going back home, grabbing some Frisbees out of the garage and coming back out to try it. I love getting people hooked on this sport, especially 5-year-olds.

No top 5 list for this one. Sorry, friends.

Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den – Minneapolis, MN

Since I have ties to the library industry, a few of the cooler librarians get together and go out for drinks. You might have some preconceived notion of what librarians do after hours, but I’m guessing, unless you know a cool librarian, you have no idea. These people can drink.

We started out at Psycho Suzie’s Motor Lounge and Tiki Bar, but since I’ve already reviewed that a few times, I won’t bore you with a recap. But it’s awesome and my favorite bar in Minneapolis (and probably the entire world for that matter). Here’s some photos of how that went down though. And yes, all the girly drinks were mine.

And I will say, the Sunny Buick pizza is pretty darn good. EnyaFace! finally showed up to one of these, so we split some cheese curds and the Sunny Buick. Fresh basil, pine nuts, roasted garlic provolone, mozzarella, and white-wine sauce. Wurd.

Some of the librarians bailed after Psycho Suzies, but some of us wanted to check out Donny Dirks Zombie Den, since we’d heard so much about the place. It is fairly close to Suzie’s, but you still have to drive to get there. Luckily, we knew we’d be headed there early enough to pace ourselves enough to be able to drive over there. THEN, it would be “go time.”

I’d heard a lot of people say what a change it was from “Stand Up Franks”. And from the sound of things, that is a very good thing. Sounded like a lot of bad stuff went down there – drugs, prostitution, gun fights, etc. Fortunately, they’ve put some development into the area where Donny’s moved in and it’s well lit, had good parking, and seemed pretty safe (for being so close to the “not so safe” part of town. Donny Dirk’s is owned by the people who own Psycho Suzie’s as well, so you know they know how to do theme bars. This place is super fun.

We rolled up and the bouncers (dressed in bloody lab coats) told us we had to wait. They were at capacity and we’d have to wait for a few people to come out before we could head in. No problem at all, since it was such a nice night. And the bouncers were really good guys. Very chatty and talked to us about random stuff. Cool couple of guys. They told us they were making sure the capacity remained at a level where people could chat and not have to push their way through crowds or lean over people at the bar to order. They were trying to make sure this place stayed open, basically. Smart move, considering the hoops they had to jump through to get this place opened up where Stand Up Franks had been.

As it turns out, our group was already inside waiting for us. So we strolled in after a couple of people left. Oddly enough, Norwegian Mafia (of Minnesota Roller Girls fame) was just vacating the booth our group was slowly commandeering, so I chatted with her for a bit about going out to Denver for the bout and about the upcoming Brawl Of America” Northern Region Championship tournament next weekend – you should all be there. She was very cool to talk to as was the guy she was with – Steve or Michael or something.

We grabbed the large booth and surveyed the place. There’s so much kitsch to this place, it’s going to be difficult to describe. It’s a zombie themed bar, so it’s got a chainsaw in a glass case that says “In case of Zombie attack, break glass.” The bartenders (and bouncer) wear bloody lab coats, behind the bar, there are all kinds of apothecary bottles and tubes with liquids in them, they show old movies on the TVs inside – we watched some of Godzilla and also Freaks (which horrified the people at my table for some reason). The carpet is tiger skin patterned and the walls are mirrors. There’s a neon sign above the bar that reads “Undead Frank Lives”, a shout out to the previous owner, I’m assuming. And for some reason, there is a GIANT set of bull horns over the doorway. So large, I’m not sure they’re real, but sadly, I think they are. It’s got a fun vibe – not everything is truly zombie related, but still, it’s kitschy, like I said. And what’s even more weird is this place is MUCH more swanky than I expected. I don’t mean high-brow expensive swanky, I mean like Vegas Swingers swanky. The fun kind of swanky!

They have a ton of wild drinks on the menu as well – bubblegum infused vodka (which RubyVita assures me is amazing), cherry vodka, various martinis, multiple shots, and the thing many people talk about: Weird Science. This is a make-your-own drink kit. They bring out a laminated 8.5x11 page of drinks and instructions on both sides. You mark what liquors, mixers, syrups, and sprinkles you want, then you write the recipe on the included index card with your name and the name of the drink. This will all cost you at least $9. IF you get anything fancy, they upcharge you. You can have at least 3, but you have to have less than 9 for the thing so 3-8 is your range.

I was REALLY amazed at the amount of liquors they have on this list. Tons of things on here I had never even heard of, and they were really nice and gave some indication of what flavors some of them were in parentheses after the names, just in case. So some would say (almond) or (vanilla) or (coffee) after them.

I of course had them whip up the black forest cake for me. I won’t divulge the secret ingredients on this one, but it’s really tasty. And I had them line the glass with chocolate syrup before they poured the drink in the glass. I’m used to making these girly drinks in large pitchers, so I was bummed that the drink was as small as it was, but still, it was good, so I won’t complain. Plus everyone at the table that tried it really liked it, reassuring me that I truly AM as brilliant as I tell people. (I’m sooooo kidding – I’m not THAT guy).

They serve draught beer in these super large goblets called “schooners” (You dumb bastard. It’s a schooner, not a sailboat – hahaha). These are basically drinking vessels which require two hands to operate. They’re pretty serious. So I saw a lot of people drinking out of those – I’m not a beer drinker, so you’re on your own with that one.

This place does get a line of people outside it about 8:30 or 9pm, so if you’re going to show up, get there early enough to grab a booth with some friends and spend lots of money. You won’t be disappointed. If you get hungry while you’re pounding home-made girly drinks, you can use their “bat phone” and call Psycho Suzie’s – they deliver REGULARLY to Donny Dirk’s, so you can have it come to you and not worry about getting pulled over. Just go to the Zombie bar. It’s fun and you can tell your friends.

Top 5 things about Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den
1. Librarian Happy Hour is always tons of ridiculous fun
2. Weird Science – great idea, Suzie/Donny
3. Atmosphere
4. Super friendly bouncers
5. I love explaining to my friends what pinheads are and then having them look at me in horror

Bottom 5 things
1. This place would be to Gerd what Psycho Suzie’s is for me – the perfect bar. I’m super sorry she missed out on this one
2. This place will fill up fast and you’ll be standing in a few feet of snow in the next few weeks
3. It’s more scary monster or mad scientist-themed than zombies, but let’s not split hairs here
4. For having tons and tons of liquor, they still didn’t have some of my staple girly drink fixin’s
5. It’s not a place for a cheap drink, but they seem to be doing a pretty solid business

www.facebook.com/pages/Minneapolis-MN/Donny-Dirks-Zombie-Den/135214722779

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rooster’s BBQ Deli & Catering – St. Paul, MN

To continue the 2009 Twin cities Rib Quest, HotGirlsBrother, LowVee, Smallz, and I hit the road for Rooster’s in St. Paul. We tried to go here a few weeks back, but in keeping with our regular nightmare of trying to get ribs, we got to the place and it was closed. We checked the website this time and even called to make sure this was going to happen. We pulled up outside the place and no one changed the sign from open to closed, so we thought this was a good sign.

We strolled in and there were people inside waiting for orders, and all of the booths (by “all”, I mean “both”) were open. The guy behind the counter greeted us pleasantly and asked what we needed. We were scouring the very large and comprehensive menu sign (not even handwritten – these people are classy like that), and eventually made our decisions. I got a BBQ spare rib dinner (with the spicier sauce) and an order of deep fried cheese curds. Oh yeah, and a can of DEW!!!!

This is the first thing we saw when we sat down. This is the BEST idea for a pepper shaker EVER!!!

We grabbed one of the booths and sat down to wait. The guy brought us out some free appetizers – little fried squash raviolis. They were quite tasty. He told us this should tide us over while we waited. They were in a waxed paper boat with a bowl of red hot sauce in the middle. These things didn’t last long.

My cheese curds came out pretty quickly and we all helped ourselves to those. They were white cheddar – the best kind of cheese curd, and were really good. Almost as good as the ones at the fair booths. Again, these things didn’t last long.


We didn’t wait long for the dinners to come out. These things were piping hot and really large. The ribs came in a large boat and the fries, coleslaw, and roll came on a separate plate. No room was left on the table at all.

Here’s a close-up of the ribs – super thick and saucy.

The ribs were VERY meaty and tender. The meat came off the bone pretty easily. The sauce really wasn’t that hot, or so I thought, but by the time the meal was over, my face was tingly a bit. And I’m not sure how many actual ribs are on a pig, but I feel like a half slab of ribs here is more than the usual half slab I get. But I was pretty happy with them. Not the best ribs no the quest, but I think I’d eat them again without a single complaint.

The guy behind the counter came back out with some shredded cabbage of some sort in a boat and told us it’s kind of like kimchee and is good on the pork. We all took a couple forkfuls to try. It was pretty spicy, but I’m not a fan of kimchee, so I passed after the first bite. Some of the others put it on their ribs or sammich and liked it, so I think it was pretty tasty for the rest of the group.

The fries were super seasoned (you could see the seasoning on them) and were really tasty. They were also very crispy, which I know is a personal preference, but it’s MY personal preference. Again, I’m not a huge fry lover, but they were pretty darn good. I asked about the coleslaw and got word that it was super good. Why? I asked. The response came back, “Because it tastes like KFC’s.” So apparently, the Colonel is the grand wizard of coleslaw and if you can copy his, you’re gold.

I had a bite of Smallz pulled pork sandwich, and it was pretty good. Not as good as Psycho Suzie’s or Bryant Lake bowl, but it was still really good. Might have been even better with the spicy kimchee and all.

We had a great eating experience here. The food was above average and the customer service was out of this world. The guy either knew we were new and was making sure we came back, or he was just a really awesome guy that makes sure his customers are happy (and full). Go to this rib place when you get a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

Top 5 things about Rooster’s BBQ Deli and Catering
1. Customer service – no question about it. Amazing and lots of unexpected free stuff!
2. Fries with seasoning
3. Ribs with the super sloppy sauce
4. They had a sit down space invaders game (booth or game? Booth or game? Let’s have the game!)
5. They have DEW!!! (oh. also, the coleslaw is good)

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd loved her some ribs and would have liked being pampered at a BBQ joint. I’m’ sure she would have added this place to the list of 731 places we needed to take her parents when they came up to visit
2. The BBQ sauce could have been spicier
3. There’s not a lot of room to eat inside, so get there early or be prepared to take your food away
4. It got REALLY smoky in there a couple of times. Not sure if that’s a regular occurrence or not, but it was pretty funny
5. I wish I had asked if I could substitute beans for coleslaw. The guy probably would have said yes. My own fault

www.roostersbbq.com

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tong’s Thai – San Antonio, TX

After a long hot round of disc golf, we all needed to hop in the pool. And since we had waterproof cameras, we took some photos because we’re morons (well, mostly DeliveryBoy). Yes, he IS diving off the sign that says "no diving"...





Coach and I needed to catch our respective flights back to our respective homes, and we needed to eat lunch before we left. We also needed to run downtown and buy an Alamo T-shirt for EyeHeartPizza. We raced downtown and then headed back towards the airport and stopped at one of DeliveryBoy and Amanda Hugginkiss’ favorite Thai places for a late lunch.

Tong’s Thai is a really cool place. Like a lot of San Antonio restaurants, there’s outside seating (with an awesome waterfall/face fountain on one wall) and various inside seating rooms. We grabbed a spot inside and DeliveryBoy warned us we may not be able to understand a single word these people said – and he wasn’t far off.

The waiter was very polite, but super difficult to understand. I think he took our drink orders and then came back for appetizer orders. I love to get fresh spring rolls at places – these were called white spring rolls (why do they have to be white? – That’s for you, FunHater) , and the others got fried spring rolls. The waiter then took our entrée orders and I went with the Pad Se-Ew (made spicy) – always a winner in my book.

The appetizers took a while to come to our table and I started to worry about the timing of my flight. It was fast approaching and we hadn’t gotten our entrees yet. The white spring rolls looked pretty tasty though. Also notice the fancy folded napkins that look like dinner jackets - classy!

The rolls were about average compared to some I’ve had in the past. They were pretty small rolls and not a lot of filling. There seemed to be more room in these than I expected, or they just weren’t tightly rolled. The hoissin sauce was really good, but was really thick, like peanut butter rather than liquidy. So I had to get over that texture block before I could truly enjoy them. They were good, and I’m not complaining at all. But they didn’t make me swear out loud like Belcher used to do when she got a good spring roll. I tried a bit of the fried spring roll and was surprised at how pungent it was. Coach said he could smell it (he must have a nose like a dog), and as soon as I tasted it, I knew what he smelled. It wasn’t a bad smell/flavor, it was just super strong. Maybe a bit vinegar-ey.

We waited a bit more and I realized I was going to seriously be pushing this flight thing. Oh well, I knew there were other later flights if I missed this one.

My food came out and really impressed me. I’ve gotten Pad Se-Ew at other places and have been happy with it, but this looked better than the other places.

Fortunately, it was just as amazing as it looked. This is one of the best I’ve had. The pieces of chicken were perfectly cooked and not stringy. There was a n appropriate amount of egg in it and the perfect amount of spice. The flat noodles were super tender without being mushy and the broccoli was firm and tasty. AWESOME dish.

I tried DeliveryBoy’s Pad Thai and it tasted good, but after y spicy dish, it was a bit bland. I’m sure it would have been much better had I tried it first. But overall, I’d say the Pad Thai is a keeper. It’s not the best (that’s at the King and I in Minneapolis), but I’d recommend it if someone didn’t know what to get at Tong’s.

Coach’s dish was a little weird. He got some sort of beef dish with peppers and asked them not to put onions in it. Plainest meal ever (not unusual for Coach). Because of his special order, the chef didn’t put in garlic into his meal either but put it in a little cup on the side in case he did still want it. We were all impressed by this and Coach gladly dumped all of the garlic into his dish. His food was good, but they used some sort of weird fish or oyster sauce on it, which I’m not used to. It just added a weird after taste to his. Not bad or anything, just an unusual combination.

Over all, I think everyone was happy with their meals and we all took off to the airport. We left the restaurant within an hour of when my flight was supposed to take off. With some weirdness with the checkin process (apparently you can’t check baggage when your plane leaves less than 45 minutes from now) and some boarding pass issues, I somehow made it through security, was able to sue the restroom, and still make it onto my plane in time. Apparently, the San Antonio airport isn’t really that large, so I managed a quick escape back to the cooler temperatures of Minnesota.

Top 5 things about Tong’s
1. Pad Se-Ew
2. Pad Thai
3. Super friendly, yet unintelligible) staff
4. Atmosphere in the restaurant
5. I’m glad I got my nephew hooked on Thai food. I’m the best uncle ever

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd loved Thai food second only to Mexican food. This would have been right up her alley
2. There was a drunk military guy slamming drinks (literally slamming them down and spilling them all over his table)
3. Kind of slow, not just because we were in a hurry
4. Weird fishy sauce with the beef
5. Weird texture of the hoissin sauce

www.tongsthai.com