Thursday, November 18, 2010

SugaRush – St. Paul, MN

D.Rough has me hooked on this doughnut place in St. Paul and I pretty much look for any opportunity to go there, even though I live on the southwest side of Minneapolis. It is 10,000% worth the drive. The people that work there are super nice and chat you up while you can’t decide between the 25 varieties of doughnuts they have. They place has wi-fi, so you can camp out for a while and do some work – I’m tempted to “work from home” much more often as this means I could “work from SugaRush”.

They have the best raised doughnut holes – even better than Dunkin Donuts – and pretty much everything there is delicious. You can get a free dozen doughnuts if you buy a dozen after 1pm (fantastic way to clear out inventory!), and you can even get a Vietnamese Coffee there (something D.Rough is a big fan of).

This particular trip, I scored a bear claw to eat there in the dining room, and then got a vanilla frosted doughnut for the road. D.Rough got a Bavarian Cream-filled chocolate doughnut and didn’t opt for the road doughnut.

Keep up the great work, SugaRush. You are the best doughnut place in Minnesota!!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mt. Fuji – Minneapolis, MN

D.Rough had been talking about sushi for about two weeks straight and on an indecisive food night, we decided to make Mt. Fuji happen. This part won’t be funny to anyone else, but M. and Trash Giant and I have tried to go there to use a Groupon, but have been shot down for various reasons – I KNOW she’ll be furious when she finds out I went without her. It didn’t matter, we needed sushi and we needed it right away.

It’s a pretty modern Japanese restaurant and has a great menu. Lots of sushi (which I now eat – my Japanese cousins will be very proud of me) and appetizers. …. And amazing girly drinks. It was difficult to decide what to get, but D.Rough decided on the Tropical Passion – Passion Fruit Vodka, lime juice, Grand Marnier, pineapple juice, and a lime. I had a tough time with this, but I got the Fuji Volcano – this is a drink for two people hahahaha. It’s basically a vat of rum and brandy with a flaming 151 shot in the top of it.
This drink made me think of the glorious times I’ve had at Psycho Suzie’s with TheDoctor drinking girly rum drinks out of ceramic vats. Cheers to D.Rough and I!

D.Rough had been to Mt. Fuji before, so she kind of knew a couple of the things we should get. The first thing we ordered was the Kani Salad – this is a sort of seaweed salad with some crab meat and cucumbers mixed in with it. I was totally skeptical of this when D.Rough ordered it, but she said it was her favorite, so I didn’t think I’d eat much of it anyway. We also got the Treasure Island, the Crazy Tuna Roll, and the #9.

The food came out in shifts, which was nice for us to get started on something and then have a new flavor to add. All of the food at a sushi restaurant looks amazing, even if you don’t like sushi. It’s beautiful, all of it.

The Kani Salad looked pretty and I figured I should try it just to be on the safe side. To my great surprise, it was absolutely brilliant. I loved this salad and ate way more of it than I expected. Not very fishy at all and the seaweed salad was very fresh tasting (unlike some other seaweed salad we’ve tried at other local places). There was some sort of eel sauce reduction and an additional random sauce on the plate that just enhanced the flavor. This dish blew me away (and I still had three more to try!!!).

The next dish out was the Crazy Tuna Roll – spicy tuna, cucumber, crunchy insides, black pepper tuna, avocado, and the chef’s special sauce. D.Rough and I split this so we both ended up with half. The tuna wasn’t very spicy, but this is Minnesota. The flavor of the spice and the black pepper was fantastic though. Even with the dark sauce it was in, the dish was still amazingly light and pretty sweet. It had these crunchy white shredded things on top that looked like jicama, and when you added it to any bite you took, it was great. I liked this dish a lot. This was my second favorite of the night.

The next dish to come out was the Treasure Island – yellowtail tuna, tuna, kanpyo (don’t ask – I don’t know what it is), crunchy insides, spicy blue crab, and 4 colors of roe on top. This was my third favorite of the bunch, but I think it is D.Rough’s second favorite. It is also delicious and I loved it. It looks simple, but has a lot of flavors going on in it. Again, when the menu says “spicy” take that with a grain of salt – it probably isn’t at all. You can make it spicier with the wasabi they put on your plate if that’s your thing. Each one of the four blocks of sushi was cut in two, so we got to split each color of the roe – which is hilarious, since they all taste exactly the same. But all were delicious and light (at least until you dip it in soy sauce – then it heavy’s it up a little bit. Hahahaha).

The last dish to come out was the #9 – deep fried soft shelled crab, lettuce, salmon, and avocado. I’ve never actually eaten a soft shelled crab before, but D.Rough assured me you just eat the whole thing. Honestly, I was a little freaked out by the thought of it. But never to be called non-adventurous, I dove right in. Thankfully, she warned me that soft shelled crab is a bit chewy, because it really is. Not in a bad way or anything, but there were a lot of different textures going on in this thing. The flavor was quite good and the deep fried part obviously appealed to my particular palette, so after I got over the initial shock of eating a whole crab, I really enjoyed this one a lot. Again, the eel sauce reduction and pinkish sauce were a fantastic complement to this particular sushi.

I promised I wouldn’t mention how messy the table was afterwards due to SOMEONE spilling soy sauce all over the table when the lid fell off the little pouring kettle that was on the table. Hahahaha

Overall, this was the best sushi meal I’ve had to date. I’m not an expert in sushi (just yet), but I’ve had enough to actually be able to put together a list of sushi restaurants to try. I’ll definitely go back here – in fact, Trash has already booked a lunch meeting there for this Friday! – and I’ll also send many people here. And when I go back (which will be soon), I’ll also get the Fuji Volcano which is one of the best girly drinks ever (because it tastes just like Hawaiian punch – dur). Finally, I can’t recommend our waiter enough. Brandon was a gem and we will ask for him by name the next time we go there. He’s a very good server and makes delicious drinks as well – give this man a raise!!!

Top 5 things about Mt. Fuji
1. Kani Salad
2. Fuji Volcano!!!
3. Crazy Tuna Roll
4. Treasure Island
5. #9
6. Brandon, the waiter
7. Great photos of the food on the menu so you know what you’re getting

Bottom 5 things
1. It’s pricey – like most sushi – so just be ready
2. It’s in Uptown, so the DBag factor is high
3. Website is very confusing and needs some help
4. Still weirded out by the chewiness of eating an entire softshelled crab – but I’m getting over it.
5. I should have had D.Rough drive, so I could have had another Fuji Volcano!!! (Insert TheDoctor yelling “Let’s get ready to rum-bowl!!!!”)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chicago Bagel Authority (Take 2) – Chicago, IL

I’ve already reviewed this place, but if I give it enough publicity, maybe some of my readers will cave and go there. This place is simply amazing and has a TON of different things they can do for your bagel. Remember they, only steam these things, NOT toast them, so don’t even ask.

What you’re seeing here is the Bluegrass Bagel. Turkey, pepperoni, salami, Italian dressing, provolone, and smoked cheddar – all on a delicious steamed bagel.

People I tell about this place seemed weirded out by a steamed bagel – I seriously don’t know why. It’s the greatest invention since the sliced bagel and it will make you spit on toasted bagels the next time you see one. Amazing and I will continue to take TheDoctor’s advice and go here EVERY trip to Chicago I make.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Miller’s Pub – Chicago, IL

I have to admit, the only reason we went to this place was because it was on the same block as our hotel (The Palmer House – very classy) in Chicago. We had a large group with us that needed beverages and food – mostly beverages – and we were unsure we could find a spot on a Saturday night. It wasn’t easy here, but we managed it.

The inside is really dark and I’m guessing used to be seriously smoke-filled before 2009. It’s got that kind of vibe to it. There’s lots of room and a long bar on one side cranking out drinks. We headed there first to properly lubricate ourselves while waiting for some tables to open up. There were 12 of us, so we ended up getting three tables of four and split up. I grabbed another cider.

The menu actually has quite a few things on it, more than I expected. Plus they all looked delicious – even better. At the recommendation of our waitress, I went with a half slab of ribs. I was suspicious when she told me a half slab really means a full slab (then why didn’t they put that on the menu?), but I got it anyway. And the fries. I also got the Amaretto Carrots as my other side, which the waitress assured me were quite amazing.

We continue to drink, since I noticed they had Chambord Caipirinhas…oooooh yeaaahhhh…

The food came out after a short wait – about what you’d expect on a Saturday night – and I was proven wrong. It was definitely a full slab of ribs. I’m glad I didn’t order a full slab, or an entire pig might have been wheeled out for me. I jumped right into the carrots – which were probably better than the waitress made them out to be – super sweet without being buttery or syrup-y. I’m going to have to find a recipe for these and sneak them into my mom’s house where alcohol is strictly forbidden. I won’t tell her until AFTER I get her hooked on them… hahahahaha. The fries were just ok – nothing stellar, but a lot of fries are.

The ribs were really good. For pub ribs, which generally means not as much meat, they were flavorful and cooked well. Just a little bit tougher than I usually like, but the meat came off the bone without too much fighting. And with a full slab there, I wasn’t going to leave hungry. Sure, based on what I am ABLE to eat, this might have been a snack, but I was going to be doing additional drinking and you don’t want to fill up your guts on meat before filling up your guts the rest of the way with girly drinks. It was the perfect amount. I was completely satisfied with these ribs. (I still long for Carson’s Ribs when I’m in Chicago, but these will tide me over until I can get back to Carson’s…)

All in all, a good place to drink and have dinner. It isn’t boring bar food at Miller’s – they take pride in their cooking quality. You won’t go wrong here.

Top 5 things about Miller’s Pub
1. Half slab of ribs is actually a full slab
2. Chambord Caipirinha
3. Amaretto Carrots
4. Really large and tasty menu
5. Food until 2am, drinks until 4am – cha-ching!!!!

Bottom 5 things
1. The place does great business, which means you’ll likely wait for a table a while
2. Was surprised to see a “sharing charge” of $7.00 per person. Crazy talk.
3. It was loud enough we had to yell our conversations
4. Didn’t get to sit with our whole group (which is understandable since there were 12 of us)
5. The waitress told us we should read the history of the place on the back of the menu, then came back a minute later and snatched our menu away before we had read a thing.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

BD’s Mongolian Grill – Burnsville, MN

D.Rough and I were headed into an exhausting weekend, so we thought we’d head out for a date night. I’m a big fan of Mongolian grills, and I had heard about one in Burnsville. Yeah, it’s a little out of town, but it’s a nice drive and I’ve been in that neck of the woods before. Plus I had a coupon – which also helped in our decision!

We got to the place and had to wait a little bit for a table. Nothing major and nothing we didn’t expect on a Friday night. We headed into the bar area and grabbed a cocktail, like we sometimes do. D.Rough got their signature drink which is a Mango Madness (a frozen drink like a high-octane Slurpee). If D didn’t get it, I was going to. It looked delicious. It’s orange vodka, triple sec, mango puree, orange juice, and grenadine – you KNOW this things was delicious. They also have it in the super fast serving machine like in Vegas, so it takes less than 60 seconds to get your drink – cha-ching!
I got the Hawaiian Volcano – a non-frozen drink with Absolut Mandarin, amaretto, pineapple juice, cranberry juice, and grenadine. I liked mine way better than D.Rough’s since it took me back to my college drinking days. And yes, I took photos of the ingredients on the menu so I could recreate this at home in a five gallon bucket. I love my girly drinks.

The inside of this place is much brighter than most Mongolian grills I’ve been to (And I’ve been to a few…). In fact, it’s borderline sports bar-ish with a couple of big flat screen TVs showing various sports. Thankfully, it isn’t a dbag-sort of sports bar feel. D.Rough says it’s more like Buffalo Wild Wings – I hope this isn’t an insult, since we both really like BWW. But it’s got that kind of feel – even the menus, signs, and fonts reminded me a little B-dubs. And a lot of the appetizers at BD’s are chicken related, including some buffalo wings, which made me smile. Again, not a bad thing at all – I’m just letting you know what you’ll see when you get there.
We got seated in about 15 minutes, so it wasn’t a bad wait at all. The waiter came immediately to our table and asked if we had been there before. We told him we hadn’t and he explained it all for us. Walked us through the menu and everything! I ordered an Orange Fanta since my girly drink got finished before I headed to the table – sometimes that happens. We ordered an appetizer since we were really hungry today. Potstickers sounded really good, even though we had to narrow it down from about 5 appetizers we wanted (that’s a good sign). While waiting for our ap, we headed to the soup/salad bar since it’s all included in the price. We didn’t want to load up, so we got some small, simple salads. The soups looked good, but we weren’t in a soup mood. Everything on the salad bar looked fresh and tasty and there were plenty of things to choose from.

When we got back to the table with our salads, I got mocked for making mine too pretty. It was totally accidental, but seriously, my salad could have been in a cook book photo.
The salad was fine and fresh and no complaints. The potstickers came out about the same time as we finished up our salads – perfect timing! The potstickers were delicious. Crispy on the outside, hot and flavorful in the middle. Sometimes these things get rubbery, but these weren’t at all. The dipping sauce had a little zing to it, which made it all better. I think we chose wisely on the appetizer.
The waiter brought us our red bowls, which we were to take to the buffet line and fill with things for the cooks to stir-fry for us. The bowls are smaller than I’m used to at many Mongolian places, but I didn’t take this as a bad thing. This meant I got to come back for multiple bowls of differing things (Now THAT’s a silver lining). There’s a display on the wall with all kinds of different cards on it with sample recipes on them for people who aren’t adventurous. So if you want pad thai, you can make it. If you want beef broccoli, you can make it. If you want sweet and sour pork, you can make it. It’s a good idea when people aren’t used to these kinds of places.

We strolled up to the meat buffet (I like the sound of that…). Here’s where we got a little confused. The sign above the meats/seafood says something like “choose one meat”. I didn’t know if they restricted it or if that was just how they said to pick a meat. So I ignored it and went with two different kinds of chicken they had on the buffet. We moved to the next station, which was all vegetable-type things. I loaded up my bowl with peppers, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, zucchini, broccoli and probably some other things. If you look confused for even a second, there is a staff person right there making sure you get straightened out – not in a pushy way either.

I was unsure about the sauce area and a girl stepped up and told me how the sauces were organized and how to put sauces and seasonings into the small black bowl provided. It gets spicier from left to right and finish with the seasonings on top of the sauces. Perfect. I got it all put together and walked to the giant circular flat-top grill. One of the cooks told me where to stand and took my bowl for coking. He was very charismatic and loved his job. Singing songs on the speaker system and joking/flirting (tastefully) with the ladies in line. Tall red-headed guy – you’ll recognize him if you see him – made waiting in line fun. Also fun is the fact BD’s has various games at the counter while you wait. Connect Four, Rock ‘em Sock ‘em robots, and a couple of other things like a pink magic 8-ball. The food gets cooked most of the way, then your sauce is dumped on to finish it off.

The food was delicious, actually. Both D.Rough’s and mine. Everything was perfectly cooked and there was very little gristle or fat in the meat. And because you get to do the sauces and seasonings yourself, it turns out pretty well on the spice level. I’m a veteran Mongolian griller, so I know my spices and sauces. It was perfect. So perfect, I went up for a second time to the buffet.

One of the funny things about this Mongolian grill is they are catering to the extra white suburban crowd (I don’t mean that completely in a bad way). If you can get boring eaters into your restaurant, especially in suburbia, then you’ll make out like a bandit. BD’s does this by putting pasta on the buffet, so you can literally make up a bowl of penne pasta with meatball and add alfredo or marinara sauce to the bowl. They’ll cook it right up for you. Odd, but probably a good strategy (that I didn’t exercise, sorry). The restaurant also seemed to be pimping Octoberfest, so they had odd German fare on the buffet as well including sausages (sauerbraten – awesome), and some German sauces.
The second plate I made was similar to the first, but I changed up the sauces a little bit and got different meat. It was delicious, as well. However, I forgot to take a photo until I was most of the way through it – I was a little excited to have more. Hahaha.

We had a tough time deciding on dessert, since there are some really awesome looking ones. We were really full though and all of them sounded like too much. So we went with the old stand-by: a giant rootbeer float. Everybody loves them, and they fill in the gaps you still have in your stomach. This one was no different, especially since D.Rough and I split it. And I got to take home the souvenir giant mug – awesome!
A couple of comments about the atmosphere: the music on the speaker system was an amazingly awesome flashback to the 80’s. Duran Duran, Bonnie Tyler, whoever sings Smooth Operator – stuff like that. The guy cooking food was rocking pretty hard – thankfully he had a great voice and could pull it off. There are also lots of tables that can be pulled together for larger parties and families. There were a lot of groups here, which is probably a great place for them to go since you don’t have to wait for your food or anything. The staff were super helpful and the manager was working the room, making sure everyone had what they needed. We will be back to this place.

And to convince you to go to BD’s for dinner, the company sent me a PDF for my readers to print out and get $5 off a meal there. It’s a really good deal and I’m hoping you guys will use it. It’s only good until November 15, 2011, so print it and use it!!!

Top 5 things about BD’s
1. Fresh food and lots of it (you’re the assembler, so it’s hard to screw up)
2. Lots of delicious appetizers to choose from
3. Fantastic girly drinks!
4. Super helpful staff
5. Games at the counter so you don’t get bored

Bottom 5 things
1. Totally forgot to get one of their flavored teas or lemonades
2. Confusing sign on the meat area (which I ignored and now am probably in violation of some health code)
3. The sauce area can get messy, but usually the staff are right there cleaning up spilled stuff – just be careful when you set your bowl down since you’ll pick up all kinds of stuff
4. It can add up if you get appetizers AND dessert – just a heads up
5. Sauces may have had MSG (not confirmed, but D.Rough got a MSG-like headache afterwards)