Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Seattle Heads-Up

I'm headed to Seattle for a long weekend with Pul-Chevy, ChickenLittle, and Coach. I'll have more reviews for you when I return, but if you have a place I need to eat/drink at, please comment so I don't miss something awesome.

Forepaugh’s – St. Paul, MN

D.Rough had invited me to go to a random banquet with her, but it was an hors d'oeuvres thing only, so we needed to eat. Since we were going to be dressed up anyway for this function, we thought we’d have a night out on the town and hit someplace fancy. I asked her to pick, since I was busy watching the final episodes of Jersey Shore (yes, I’m serious). She chose someplace that neither of us had been, but both wanted to try – Forepaugh’s.

This up-scale restaurant in St. Paul is in a LARGE house/mansion south of the Xcel Energy Center and is a beautiful building. And word on the street is it’s haunted. The valet parked our car and we headed into to check our coats (yeah, it’s one of THOSE kind of classy places). The hostess walked us up three flights of stairs to the top floor of the house in a small dining area. Room for like 6 tables in one room (where a pregnant mistress/maid hung herself when the wife found out about her) and then a larger banquet table in another room that held about 20 people. The lighting is dark and it’s pretty swanky. The music cracked us up since it swelled outlandishly with classical brilliance and then would drop suddenly and you’d realize you were practically shouting at your dinner partner. Hilarious.

The water boy brought us water (obviously) and some bread - white and dark bread. Both were really good, but the dark had some raisins in it, which D.Rough isn’t a fan of. I powered through since the bread tasted pretty good. The white was fine – nothing special, but definitely not store-bought, we were thinking. We scanned the menu which has a variety of “New American” cuisine (which means American standards with some fancy or “out there” flourishes or flavors).

We ordered the Poutine (which had been highly recommended in a review or two), which is actually Canadian street food instead of new American food, but whatever – fries with beef gravy and deep fried cheese curds, but with red chilies and deep fried chilies. The poutine came out pretty quickly and was worth all the rave reviews. It was extremely tasty. I’ve had poutine a variety of ways, and while it may never LOOK good, it always tastes amazing. This was probably the best I’ve ever had. It was spicy without being overwhelming and none of the flavors were overbearing. The cheese curds were mild and not greasy and the gravy was just enough to make things flavorful and not sloppy. It was served in a metal cup with waxed paper (I apologize for the dim photo) and was simple and awesome.

We ordered a couple of pre-drinks as well. D.Rough got a Perfect Lady Martini and I went with the Bay Breeze (pineapple, coinctreau, and cranberry juice). I don’t remember what was in the Perfect Lady, but it was super tasty, though not nearly as tasty (or girly) as my pink Bay Breeze. Both drinks were good and strong and I’d probably order the Bay Breeze again.

The choices on the menu all looked good and, as a word of warning, the chef changes the menu pretty regularly, so don’t expect the same items every time you go. D.Rough and I both wanted the Beef Wellington – beef tenderloin wrapped in a fancy mesh of pastry and spinach in a red wine sauce with wintery vegetables – but we said we’d better both get something different, so we could try a couple different things. I decided on the Roasted Lamb Shank, which sounded perfect since I love lamb chops. We also needed some wine so we both got glasses of Malbec (which just sounded right for the evening).

The food came out without waiting long at all. My dish was a single lamb chop, but honestly, it had a lot of amazingly tender meat on it – my butter knife worked fine on this chop and I almost didn’t need the knife at all. It was a pretty large chop as well, so please don’t think it was just a small portion. The lamb was also in a red wine reduction, which I’m not usually a fan of, and this was a little odd with the meat itself – thankfully the lamb flavor was awesome, so the meal was still delicious. Consequently, the red wine sauce was in the bottom of the shallow bowl it was served in with various winter beans and it was probably the best part of the meal.

The Beef Wellington was pretty amazing as well. Perfectly cooked with pink in the middle and light crispy pastry on the outside. It was a big piece of beef, without being an obnoxiously large chunk of meat, if that makes sense. The waitress forgot the steak knife for D.Rough, and while it was pretty amusing watching her try to saw through the meat with her butter knife, we had to ask for a steak knife to cut it with. But the flavors of the beef with the spinach and pastry were quite good together. The vegetables that came with it appeared pretty nice (unidentified squash and various beans), but since someone ate those first without sharing, I didn’t quite hear the verdict on them.

We watched some of the people around us while we ate and were amused at the white bread people next to us that ordered a cheese and fruit plate for an appetizer and then the exact same thing we did, but they were considerably stiffer. Or the flip side is we’re lamer than we originally thought…

The place had really nice staff, but not fun loving – which is typical for a fancy restaurant. They made sure we were taken care of thoroughly, but they weren’t going to have fun with us, like most restaurant staff are able to do. They were there to serve us food and not to help out with our dining experience. Either way, they still made sure we were well taken care of. No complaints there.

I’m glad we got a chance to try this place. It’s been on my list of places to go to for a while, since they re-opened their doors in the last year or two. It IS upscale and you should expect that from the service to the menu to the check, but it’s pretty darn good as well. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed at all.

Top 5 things about Forepaugh’s
1. Poutine, for sure
2. Winter vegetables/beans in red wine sauce underneath the lamb chop – this should have been a soup all on its own
3. Beef Wellington
4. Lamb Shank
5. Bay Breeze

Bottom 5 things
1. Music was oddly distracting, especially when it stopped and you were yelling
2. Should have gotten a Waldorf Salad since the chef worked at the Waldorf in NYC and is rumored to make it authentic-style
3. Service was a little stiff, but that’s fancy, I guess
4. Hard to eat a piece of beef with a butter knife
5. If you’re handicapped, you’re not making it to the top floor up all those stairs – I hope they have some sort of elevator somewhere

John Hardy’s - Rochester, MN

A few years back, Gerd and I went down to Rochester to visit my friend BatHater. He said we had to eat at Roscoe’s Ribs and Barbeque. He said there was another BBQ place in town, but he wasn’t a fan of it, so we had to eat at Roscoe’s (which was delicious, by the way). Recently, I got a recommendation from TripleAxel and KatieAquatic for the very place that BatHater said was not good. It was time to find out once and for all. I set up the date with all three of them and we agreed to meet at John Hardy’s.

I drove the 1.5 hours in the rain down to Rochester and got their first. I went inside and found us a booth to sit at in the sunroom (even though it was 31 degrees and dark outside). It’s kind of a low-key atmosphere and not all overdone with decorations. I even took a photo, so you know what I’m talking about.

Everyone arrived at the same time and I made the introductions and got sort of a lay of the land from TripleAxel and KatieAquatic – they told us how they got started eating this BBQ and how it compared to Roscoe’s and also some suggestions for what to get. This place has 6 different levels of BBQ sauce as well – mild, medium, and hot; and then three additional levels of increasingly insane hot-full-ness. I was starving, since I had only eaten one piece of pizza at lunch (thanks for buying EnyaFace!) and needed to eat considerable amounts of meat. I ordered a half slab of ribs and a plate of the pulled pork. It comes with two sides, so I went with baked beans and the JoJo potatoes. They also have Pepsi products, so I could get my Dew. Wurd.

The food came out really quickly (like a lot of bbq places since it’s mostly already made). And because I was seriously excited about eating it, I totally forgot to take a photo of it. My apologies. I had BBQ on the brain.

I’ll start with the pulled pork – it was a little drier than I expected. I guess I thought it would be a little juicier. But with a dousing of hot bbq sauce, it tasted REALLY good. I’m a fan of this stuff. The ribs, which I was really looking forward to, were kind of a disappointment. They had good meat flavor, but the gristle and cartilage didn’t thrill me. They were a little tough and chewy and very difficult to eat. A LOT of gnawing which doesn’t usually make my day better. The sauce didn’t thrill me either. There wasn’t much body to it and it seemed like it was just a liquid mechanism for heat, without flavor. It worked well in the pulled pork, but on the ribs, all it did was run off the meat and all over my hands. The baked beans had a good flavor, despite being onion-y, so I was happy with those. But the JoJo potatoes (basically circular-sliced fried potatoes) were just ok.

As a whole, I thought John Hardy’s was much better than I expected and even BatHater changed his thinking on it (since it was NINE years ago the last time he had their food). I’d steer clear of the ribs, but the pulled pork was really good and you can decide what level of spice you want with it (you WILL need the sauce though). I’m still a bigger fan of Roscoe’s for multiple reasons, but I was glad we went there. I always have a good time with those guys and I don’t get to Rochester often enough to visit. And next time I WILL find a way to pay for your meal, BatHater.

Top 5 things about John Hardy’s
1. Pulled Pork
2. Baked Beans
3. They have DEW
4. Variety of heat levels for sauce
5. It’s a down-home BBQ place without being dirty or sketchy

Bottom 5 things
1. It’s too far out of the TC to be part of the Twin Cities Rib Quest
2. The location on US-52 is tricky to get to after you see it from the highway
3. Ribs aren’t the best texture
4. The sauce wasn’t the best in the world – lacked some body
5. I’m still a little let down by the JoJo potatoes (but that’s just me – everyone else liked them)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fuji-Ya – Minneapolis, MN

I can’t go into the depth that I owe favors to Trash, but suffice it to say, it’s a lot. I’m slowly working towards paying off my favor-balance by taking her out to various restaurants. The only requirement is they must have cloth napkins – which apparently, Taco Bell does NOT have. Weird. Since M.Giant was out of town, she needed to be entertained. I’m a poor substitute for the brilliance of M.Giant, but I gave it my best shot and took her to Fuji-Ya. I also got to listen to her serenade me with Nelly Furtado’s Promiscuous Girl most of the ride there – hilarious.

I’m not a sushi guy, but I know I can always find something to eat at Japanese restaurants, so I wasn’t terribly concerned. We checked out the drinks menu first, and decided on some plum wine for the lady and a Lychee Cosmo for the other lady (that would be me…). If you didn’t know I have a powerful addiction to lychees – the tastiest of the eyeball-shaped fruits.

The menu has a huge list of appetizers. Like an entire page of hot and cold small plated thingies. We decided on some edamame, since it was the least offensive to me and also edible for vegetarian girl. I went back and forth between two different things and then when I told the waiter to decide FOR me, I completely changed my mind and went with something completely different – Reiko’s Bento Box. Trash ended up getting three different kinds of sushi, but since I don’t eat sushi, I couldn’t even tell you what it was – no wait, one was a Philly roll and the other was a California roll. They’re locations, so for some reason it stuck with me. The other one, I have no idea.

The waiter, Dan, brought us our soup. My dinner came with Miso soup, which is a cloudy broth with seaweed, tofu, and green onions. My soup was really good, but not my favorite soup in the world. Trash got the Sumashi, which is a fish broth with mushrooms and scallions. She didn’t care for it as she thought it was too fishy for her pallet, but I honestly didn’t think it was that bad (my soup was clearly better though). And I got a small salad with ginger carrot dressing, which I always like a lot. I know it’s super simple, but I REALLY like this dressing a lot.

We waited a bit for our food, but it was fine, since we had a lot to catch up on and a considerable amount of inter-friend-smack-talking to get through. Our food came out and I snapped a photo, so I didn’t forget. It looked very beautiful and tasty. We then noticed our edamame hadn’t come out and the waiter was super embarrassed. We weren’t mad at all or anything, and in fact, hadn’t really noticed until we went to make room for our food on the table and noticed we were missing something. The waiter felt super bad and ran back and made the cooks whip some up (which I’m assuming isn’t that big of a deal since it’s basically Japanese bar food). We told him not to worry about it, since neither of us gets bent out of shape for stuff like that. Super nice guy.

My food was absolutely delicious! Two Yakitori skewers (seasoned teriyaki chicken), Shrimp and vegetable tempura, New York Strip and rice. I impressed Trash with my chopstickin’ skillz and managed to not drop or spill anything. The tempura was really light and crispy and didn’t seem at all greasy (normally I’m a fan of super greasy deep fried stuff, but not with Japanese food). The yakitori was really good and the New York Strip was cooked perfectly and juicy. Trash tried to convince me to eat some of her sushi, but I wasn’t having it. I took her word for it that it was really good, but I’m not ever going to review sushi nor become some sort of expert in the field, so you’ll have to go elsewhere for a sushi review. It looked really tasty, until she told me the ingredients, and then I lost interest.

The food is really delicious at Fuji-Ya and I know it’s not M.Giant’s favorite place to eat, so I’m glad we went there. As usual, trash and I solved all of the world’s problems through our brilliantly enlightened conversation – that’s what we do – we’re givers. I would go back here again gladly.

Top 5 things about Fuji-Ya
1. Reiko’s Bento Box
2. Lychee Cosmo
3. House salad with ginger carrot dressing
4. Super awesome waiter, Dan
5. Apparently, the sushi was good (so says Trash)

Bottom 5 things
1. We always talk about how we miss going to eat with Gerd. I’m sure Fuji-Ya wouldn’t have compared to Sopporo in Scottsdale (Gerd’s favorite restaurant in the world), but she would have made it fun, for sure.
2. Trash didn’t like her Sumashi soup
3. Even though I love lychees, I still prefer fresh ones in my girly drinks, not canned ones – I still ate the thing with a smile though (twss)
4. The waiter forgot our edamame, but it SERIOUSLY wasn’t a big deal – he made up for it
5. You have to pay for parking there

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Trieu Chau Vietnamese Restaurant – St. Paul, MN

D.Rough has been talking about this Vietnamese place in St. Paul for a couple of weeks, and claims it’s the best Pho in the Twin Cities. With a boast like that, I had to go there. And since I’m not (that) rude, I told her she had to go with to listen to me complain if it was terrible. It actually wasn’t at all. It was awesome.

The menu is pretty comprehensive with a lot of standard Generic-Asian fare (and I mean the food is generic to the Eastern Empire, not the people themselves are generic or look the same – that’s racism). Noodles this, fried rice that, etc, etc. But on the back of the menu are the Vietnamese specialties – soups, Pho, sandwiches, bun, and salads. Lots of stuff to choose from.

I was feeling adventurous so I planned to order the Pho with everything, even though it had tendon and tripe in it. I don’t even know if I like those things or would be able to pick them up in a line up. When I mentioned this, D.Rough’s face turned inside out in disgust, so I quickly changed my mind. She said one of her friends gets it with that gross stuff in it, but normal people don’t eat those parts. Instead, I went with ingredients I recognized – brisket and rare beef. Pho #142. D.Rough went with Pho #146. Apparently she’s the “Norm Peterson” of Trieu Chau and they prepare her food the moment she walks in the door most times. They saw she was with a hairy sasquatch, which probably threw off their game plan a bit, so they actually took her order.

We ordered fresh spring rolls, as well, as many of you know about my addiction to spring rolls. D.Rough warned me the food comes out super fast here and I was pleasantly surprised when the spring rolls came out in just a handful of minutes and then the Pho came out with a plate of sprouts and basil - everything was on our table in less than five minutes. Amazingly fast.

The spring rolls were decent. Not the best I’ve had, but clearly not the worst. There was a pretty significant strip of pork in them which can be overpowering and change it from a light appetizer into something too heavy. The insides for some reason didn’t taste as fresh as some places and just didn’t crunch right. But the flavor itself was pretty good. But with enough hoisin sauce, sriracha, and peanuts, EVERYTHING tastes better!

I’ll only comment on my food, since I didn’t dip into D.Rough’s Pho or anything – that’s just rude. But I WILL comment on the amount of extraneous additives she put in her bowl. Chili sauce, Sriracha, fish sauce, soy sauce, basil, and other potions and powders available at our table. The only thing she didn’t put in were salt and pepper as far as I could tell. I went commando and dove right in without adding anything. It was delicious, truly. It had a faint hint of cinnamon in the broth, which normally turns me off, but this was more of a hint and made it even tastier. There were onions and rice noodles along with the rare beef and the brisket (which I couldn’t tell apart, honestly). The portion was absolutely huge and I struggled to finish it (but I conquered about 85% of it – I didn’t want to embarrass myself or anything – next time it’s ON though).

D.Rough also got some sort of smoothie thing made with Soursop. It was delicious. She said she usually only gets it in the summer since it’s pretty light, but she was feeling saucy, so she got it anyway. She kept offering some to me, but I only got two bites. Next time, I’ll just get my own. Hahaha.

This place is good and worth recommending to people. I’d like to try other things on the menu, but the Pho was really good, so I’ll probably stick with that. The staff was super nice as well, but it might have been because D.Rough is a regular there. Go here and get the Pho – you’ll be glad you did.

Top 5 things about Trieu Chau
1. Pho, without a doubt
2. Soursop smoothie
3. Amazingly fast
4. Really nice staff
5. Extra cheap

Bottom 5 things
1. Tons of stuff on the menu, so it will take you a while to decide
2. Someone hoarded the soursop smoothie… hahaha. kidding
3. I’ll have to go here with someone who eats tripe and tendon so I can see if I like it without committing too heavily
4. It’s a long haul for those of us who don’t live in St. Paul
5. It’s a bitch to look up if you don’t know exactly how it’s spelled

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Newt’s – Rochester, MN

My friend, Tekmet, was in Rochester with family and I told him I’d be happy to drive down to have dinner with him some night. He agreed and I told him I’d check out where to eat. I came across this award-winning burger place called Newt’s, so I suggested that. He was game, as long as they had beer. They did.

It’s a little confusing before you even get to the place, you have to go down this alley next to the City Grille, then up some fire escape stairs to get inside. Once inside, if you’re lucky, there will be someone standing there taking your name for a table. We weren’t lucky and the place was packed. Some other people waiting told us someone would be around to take our name, but no one showed up for about 10 minutes. Yikes. We put in our name and grabbed a couple drinks from this bartender who might have been Yanni’s lesser talented older brother – long flowy grey mullet and looks like he loves Skynrd. Right after someone stood up from the bar and we sat down, they called our name and seated us less than 5 feet from where we were sitting.

The really nice waitress brought us menus and made sure we were alright drink-wise. She said she was going to bring us popcorn, but she never did, sadly. Oh well, she knew we’d be getting full enough, apparently. The menu has like 20 burgers on it, and they all sound delicious, and apparently, they’re all award winning. I was torn between two in particular, but ended up going with Todd’s Burger – 2 fried eggs, 2 strips bacon, ½ pound burger, cheddar on a grilled bun. It came with fries, so that’s what I stuck with.

We chatted about life in general and got caught up and talked about the band we were in, back in the day. And a VERY short while later, our burgers came out. They were serious burgers. There’s a photo on the website that looks tasty, and the burgers in front of us looked EXACTLY like the photo in the ads.

I know I throw out the term “Top 5” from time to time, but this burger is in the Top 5. It was delicious and juicy and all of the flavors of the toppings were perfect. There was just the slightest hint of pink inside the meat, and the bacon was perfectly cooked. The fries were slightly above average as well, so no complaints there. Somehow I got talked into a second Strongbow, but since I’m a tubby guy, I could handle it and still be able to drive back to the Twin Cities afterwards. Seriously, these were both amazing burgers.

The next time I go there, and I sincerely HOPE there is a next time, I’m getting Mike D’s Fatty Melt – two grilled cheese sandwiches act as buns to a burger with onion rings, bacon and Dijon mayo. Best patty melt ever. Now, I’m hungry all over again after typing that description.

The signs on the highway don’t lie. There’s a reason these burgers have won awards. They’re really quite good.

Top 5 things about Newt’s
1. Todd’s Burger
2. Marvin’s Burger
3. Super friendly staff after we got seated
4. Really thorough menu and everything looks good
5. Talking about band stuff from way back when had us both rolling

Bottom 5 things
1. Waited a long time to even get our name on the list to be seated
2. Waitress forgot our popcorn
3. A bit confusing to get to from the street
4. Worst music selection ever
5. I miss Tekmet something fierce. Seriously

Quang - Minneapolis, MN

TheDoctor called and invited me to lunch with a friend in from Chicago, Paulio. He suggested Quang, which both of them have eaten at previously, but I had only heard people talk about it. Thankfully, those people I’ve heard talk about Quang have all said really good things about it. Of COURSE I was game. Don’t be silly.

It’s much bigger inside than I pictured, so there’s plenty of seating and most of the seating was full during the lunch hour. That’s always a good sign. I perused the menu and was forced to decide between the noodle dishes and the Pho. Both sounded delicious at the moment, but I was leaning heavily towards the Bun Thit, Cha Gio - Grilled Beef and Egg Roll Salad. I discarded the other 10 options I was considering, and got the Egg Roll Salad (number 310).

The food didn’t take long to appear, which was good since I was starving. The sauce/dressing thing the waitress brought out didn’t offend my senses, so I dumped it all over the salad, which had strips of beef, the egg roll, kind of a cucumber/carrot salad, some cilantro and crushed peanuts served on a bed of vermicelli noodles. Everything in there was fresh-tasting and crunchy (minus the noodles, which you want floppy). Seriously, this is one of the better Vietnamese dishes I’ve had. I actually ordered exactly what I wanted and it was perfect. That doesn’t always happen.

I tried a bite of TheDoctor’s Com Ga Xao - lemongrass caramelized chicken. It was also really good. Right up there with the Egg Roll Salad. Paulio said it best when he said the flavors of the two dishes don’t exactly work well together, but we both agreed the next time we went to Quang, we’d both be getting… wait for it… just what TheDoctor ordered. (I’ve been waiting forever to use that…)

I’ve always been a fan of Saigon (in Uptown) for Vietnamese, but now I think I’ve been converted. Although word on the street is there’s an even better Vietnamese restaurant in St. Paul – Trieu Chau. It’s on the list officially now and I’ll let you know what I think (obviously).

Top 5 things about Quang
1. Bun Thit, Cha Gio- Grilled beef and egg roll salad (yes, even though the word “salad” is in it)
2. Com Ga Xao- Caramelized lemon grass chicken
3. You can get full for under ten dollars here
4. The menu is really large, so you’ll be able to find something here AND there are photos for some things
5. It’s a very short drive from my house for awesome Vietnamese food. wurd.

Bottom 5 things
1. Soooo many delicious looking things on the menu to decide from
2. I was confused that they brought out the sauce long before our food. I almost ate it like soup
3. There really were no bad things about Quang, to be honest
4. I almost made Paulio choke when an ill-timed wise crack forced water into his lungs – sorry, brother
5. We were forced to talk about Avatard (intentional typo, btw)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Gold Nugget - Minnetonka, MN

FireRetarded wanted to grab some lunch, so we decided to go to the Gold Nugget. It came highly recommended from RubyVita, so I was looking forward to it. The inside is a standard full-service restaurant without a theme – sort of plain, like Granite City or Houlihans (what Ruby compared it to). The hostess that seated us was super nice and let us pick where we’d like to sit.

The waitress brought menus over and I noticed a sign for Sprecher Cream Soda, so I already knew what I’d be drinking. If you’re unfamiliar with Sprecher, it’s the best cream soda in the world – it’s made with vanilla and honey. They also do amazing rootbeer and beers, but for my money, it’s the cream soda.

Everything on the menu looked delicious. And for a double-sided single-page menu (maybe they have a larger one for dinner, I don’t know), it had a lot of delicious-looking stuff on it. It was really difficult to decide. FireRetarded was feeling a burger and, based on their descriptions, I figured I’d do the same. I got the Smokehouse Burger: choice of cheese, then bbq sauce and bacon. I also needed onion rings, so I got those, as well. You get your choice of a bunch of various cheeses and they have fancy cheese for an upcharge. Very impressive. In fact, FireRetarded ordered a cheeseburger and added his own favorite cheeses – which I of course can’t remember. He also caved and ordered the Mac and Cheese for us to share. I guess “someone” was feeling hungry.

The food came out a little later and I knew this was going to be a winner. We started with the Mac and Cheese, which was probably not the thing to start with because it was absolutely amazing – super cheesey (sharp cheddar, gruyere, and parmesan) and bacon-y and had bread crumbs on top. One of the best I’ve had. The burger was delicious, though it can never live up to the mac and cheese. The burger itself was awesome. Maybe not Top 5 material, but really quite good. Perfectly cooked with the right amount of toppings to be good yet not sloppy. The onion rings were good, but not great. Mostly because when I tried to pull the onions out, they didn’t come out smoothly and I had to get quite messy dismantling them. They were good though. FireRetarded was thrilled with his burger as well, but the best part about the meal was the mac and cheese.

The Gold Nugget was so good in fact, we went back the following week. Neither of us were feeling particularly hungry, so we opted out of the mac and cheese (which was the wrong decision) and just got burgers. They had a special hot sauce-infused burger with jalapenos, cheese and bacon on it (called the “En Fuego”), so I got that.

It was also a delicious burger, to be sure, but not nearly as much heat as either of us would have liked. However, next time we go back, we decided we’d both be getting our own order of mac and cheese and splitting some sort of burger. That’s the way to go at the Gold Nugget.

Top 5 things about the Gold Nugget
1. Mac and Cheese
2. Sprecher Cream Soda
3. Smokehouse Burger
4. En Fuego Burger
5. Onion Rings

Bottom 5 things
1. Again, Gerd would have loved to have lunch with FireRetarded and I, especially for delicious burgers
2. The floor was super slick and I almost bit it walking through the door
3. It’s a tad pricey for lunch (especially if you get mac and cheese in addition to an entrée…)
4. There were so many delicious-looking items to choose from on the menu
5. I keep calling it the Golden Nugget, but that’s a whole different thing

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Stabby’s Café – Minneapolis, MN

After eyeopeners, most of us are usually hungry. Today, Stalone said we should head over to one of his favorite places and grab some awesome breakfast. It was right by his house, so we could go hang, and kill the rest of the day watching football and talking about metal. We all piled into various cars and headed over to Stabby’s.

The place is a small mom and pop place without the mom and pop. It’s more like mom and pop’s grandkids. The menu was decent for a breakfast place and they stop serving at 3pm, I think. So mostly breakfast and lunches here. I was dying for an omelet and they had one with my name on it: MEAT! (yes, in all capital letters and with an exclamation point right there on the menu). This three-egg (2010 is the year of three, remember) has polish sausage, breakfast sausage, chorizo, bacon, and ham inside. I even ordered pepperjack cheese for the inside of it. How could you go wrong with that? The server asked if I wanted regular hashbrowns or Cajun hashbrowns, and the answer to that question is always “Cajun”.

The food came out pretty quickly while we chatted about roller derby and metal and football while Sweets and I were completely blinded by the sun coming through the window. I dug right into one of the meatiest omelets I’ve ever had. It was delicious. Lots of peppery cheese inside and plenty of meat. Loved every bite of this thing. I was, however, disappointed with the cajuniosity of the hashbrowns. I really couldn’t tast the Cajun spice in them, so I was kind of bummed about that. The wheat toast was pretty straight forward toast, so I won’t bore you with those details.

If any of you are Michiganders, they serve Flint-style coney dogs – with a dry sauce (sounds contradictory to me, but what do I know?). They also serve whatever brand of dogs they serve there, since some people are really excited about that. I am blanking on the name of those dogs and I’m too lazy to actually look it up right now. Maybe later. If my sister, PalmMapper, comes up for a visit, I’ll take her and her husband there and see how they really compare.
Due to the awesome omelet I had and the super nice waitress, I’d go back to Stabby’s anytime. I wonder what their lunch time food is like. I might have to try it sometime and report back. I don’t think you’ll do too bad here if you know it’s a small diner. You won’t get cloth napkins and wine, but you’ll get good home cooking here.

Top 5 things about Stabby’s Café
1. MEAT! Omelet, spelled showing the proper respect for the meat
2. Server was super good to us
3. They have a tv, so if you’re into watching football, you can do that here
4. Decent sized breakfast menu and delicious looking lunch menu
5. Breakfast with roller girls – cha-ching!

Bottom 5 things
1. I know Gerd loved her greasy spoon diners – this one isn’t particularly greasy, but she would have been down with it anyway, I’m sure of it.
2. Cajun hashbrowns weren’t nearly Cajun-y enough
3. I was completely blinded by the sun where I was sitting
4. I really wanted to try one of their coneys or burgers, but I was too pumped up for breakfast
5. No restaurant biscuits and gravy compare to my Alabama recipe

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ethiopian Cottage Restaurant – Milwaukee, WI

A couple of years back, FunHater tricked me into going to get Ethiopian food with him in Milwaukee. I absolutely loved it and have been dying to get back to an Ethiopian place ever since. So when I found myself back in Milwaukee, I knew I had to go back to where he took me to eat… oh yeah, and take Callous-un there too. Hahaha

I shot FunHater a txt and told him I was going back to Ethiopian Cottage Restaurant and he sent me back what we got last time. The hilarious part is he misspelled some things, so I had no idea what he was talking about even after I had the menu in front of me. Like last time, the place was almost dead inside. I have no idea how this place is still open, but I’m glad it is. It’s amazing food.

The menu is actually very simple. Very basic meats and vegetable options, some spicy and some regular. We clearly were going to go with the vegetarian combo:
Yemisir Wat – Red lentils in spicy onion sauce
Kick Alicha – Split peas cooked in a garlic, ginger, and onion sauce
Gomen – Chopped collard greens simmered in garlic and onions
Dincha Alicha – Potatoes and carrots cooked with onions, garlic, ginger, and other spices

And I needed meat of some sort (obviously). So I got the Tibs Wat: tender beef pieces sautéed in a spicy ginger, garlic, and onion sauce. I’m all about spicy, don’tcha know.

While we were waiting for our food, Callous-un made a comment that they were playing the same song over and over again. So I called her out on it: “RACISM!!!” Might have yelled that a tad too loud, thankfully, it was completely dead inside (like girls), so no one heard it.

If you’re not familiar with Ethiopian food, it’s eaten with Injera (sort of a crepe-like bread). You don’t use utensils. You tear off a piece of bread and then use it to scoop up various piles of tasty mush organized on another piece of injera. It’s awesome. I think there are customs where you feed each other, but there was no way I was letting callous-un anywhere near my mouth with her skill at dropping and spilling food. You’ll find that most of the piles of food generally look like mush (because they ARE) and they’re just different colors. However, you’ll also find that each pile of mush is freakin delicious. At least at Ethiopian Cottage Restaurant they are.

The pile in the middle is the red lentil mush, the pile on the right is the beef (dur), at the top is whatever mush comes with the beef (lentils of some sort), the bottom is the split pea mush, the left is potato and carrot mush, and the bottom left is the collard green mush. I absolutely love everything on this plate (my mother would be proud, considering what a picky eater I was as a kid). Obviously the meat is my favorite even though it isn't nearly as spicy as I had hoped, but the lentil mush piles are a close second. Callous-un and I put the smack-down on this platter of food and got totally stuffed. It was awesome.

If you get a chance to try this place (or any Ethiopian place), do it. You won’t be disappointed. I don’t know how you could screw up a pile of mush (I guess my sister NotMomsFavorite could burn it…), so you’re likely to go home super full and super happy.

Top 5 things about Ethiopian Cottage Restaurant
1. Tibs Wat (the spicy beef)
2. Yesimir Wat (red lentils)
3. Whatever the mush is that comes with the beef
4. Kick Alicha (two bowls of split plea soup, please – quit making me laugh)
5. Dincha Alicha (potatoes and carrots)

Bottom 5 things
1. We shouldn’t have eaten twice before coming here. There are starving people in Ethiopia… wait… inappropriate in this situation…
2. The water that Callous-un got might have been from Ethiopia. It was fine after she got a refill
3. We ran out of injera towards the end (I claimed that was the reason I stopped eating)
4. Eating here without FunHater mad me a tiny bit sad, but I also know if he had been there, Callous-un and he would have smack talked me the whole time
5. I’m completely at a loss when trying to work the word “injera” into some sort of awesome Ethiopian Roller Derby name

Palomino Bar – Milwaukee, WI (Bayview)

While looking for fun places to eat in Milwaukee that cater to vegetarians, I came across the Palomino Bar. What intrigued me was the fact that it was voted highly by a number of vegetarian sites and many other websites raved about the number of deep fried items on the menu. Normally those things are exclusive, but this had my curiosity piqued.

We walked in and heard “Wildboys” by Duran Duran on the jukebox. We knew this was going to be an adventurous afternoon snack. We grabbed a table and looked around at the decorations: bowling pins, signs on the ceiling with devils on them and shotgun shells, paintings of horses with glowing eyes pulling chariots with gladiators, a motorcycle with xmas lights on it, a pool table in back. And there were signs for bingo on Monday nights.

The waitress gave us menus and took our drink orders. I saw a couple of girly drinks on the table top menu that I wanted. I decided on one: The Chocolate Pony – Van Gogh Chocolate Liquor, cherry vodka, Bailey’s Irish Crème, and cream on the rocks. Callous-un got the Mango Rita – Three Olives Mango Vodka and fresh squeezed limes. Both of our drinks were extremely good, especially the Mango Rita. I will have to try to recreate these at home, clearly. And oddly enough, they have jello shots as well. We opted not to get any, but it was REALLY tempting.

The waitress knew the menu very well, including the various sauces you can add to things. The menu actually had a ton of things on it. About half of the menu is vegetarian or vegan fare, so Callous-un was in heaven. There were entrees and sandwiches and pizzas and appetizers and all kinds of fake meat things. I decided on the pulled chicken and pork sandwich with bbq sauce. I ordered the tots and red beans and rice for my sides. You get to order a dipping sauce as well, so I got the red pepper chili sauce. Callous-un was absolutely torn between about 10 things, but finally got the southern fried tofu sandwich with hush puppies and sweet potato casserole. Callous-un got the Cajun crème sauce for her hush puppies.

The food came out rather quickly, and I snapped a couple of photos.

This is one of the better pulled pork sammiches I’ve had. The shredded pork and shredded chicken were all mixed together and covered in a really tasty BBQ sauce. The tots were super crispy and soft on the inside and went really well with the red pepper chili sauce, although the red pepper chili sauce was not nearly as spicy as it should have been. Actually, Callous-un’s Cajun crème sauce made them phenomenal, so I stole as much of her sauce as I could sneak. The red beans and rice were actually TOP NOTCH – better than Popeyes and not soupy (if you know about my Popeyes infatuation, you’ll know this is a pretty big deal).

Callous-un’s sandwich was not as good as she had hoped, but was decent. The tofu patty was filled with herbs (to give it SOME flavor) and it was dipped in soy milk, flour, and then deep fried. I thought it was decent and edible, which means a lot coming from the person that compares tofu to eraser. The red pepper chili sauce that came on her sandwich went really well with the herbed patty on a bun. The hushpuppies were a big hit, according to Callous-un, but I’m not a hushpuppy guy. With the Cajun crème sauce, she said they were even better. I had some of the mini sweet potato casserole and it was good. Probably the perfect size for a side dish without filling you up.

We hung for a short while, but we were still going to eat one more time that night, so we couldn’t get all loaded or full up on food either. The place is a great neighborhood bar and I’m upset with FunHater for never taking me here. I’d live at this bar if I lived in the Bayview area).

Top 5 things about the Palomino Bar
1. Pulled Chicken and Pork Sandwich
2. Red Beans and Rice
3. Cajun crème sauce
4. Mango Rita
5. Chocolate Pony

Bottom 5 things
1. Amazing number of items on the menu – all of which look delicious
2. Southern Fried Tofu sandwich wasn’t all it was cracked up to be
3. Red pepper chili sauce was sort of bland
4. It kept reminding me of an inappropriate Wesley Willis song
5. I would have loved to try some more of the girly drinks there

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hi-Fi Café – Milwaukee, WI

I knew about the HiFi Café in the Bayview area of Milwaukee for a couple of years because FunHater’s girlfriend Tank was a co-owner of the small coffee shop. I knew the HiFi had breakfast as well (not sure what time that stops, but I knew they had breakfast). And it was a safe bet there were vegetarian options since Tank is a veggie, herself. We headed over to the HiFi to check things out. (Note we forgot Wisconsin hasn’t gone to non-smoking establishments yet, so this place can sometimes be a little smoky. It wasn’t too bad this time around, thankfully.)

The counter girl took our order and told us she’d bring out our stuff when it was ready. I got a three-egg ham and cheese omelet (since 2010 is the “Year of Three”) (dang, I should have gotten three insides too!) with some wheat toast, and yeah, a milk – what about it? It does the body good. I can’t remember for the life of me what Callous-un got. It’s a safe bet it didn’t have meat, though.

The omelet was really good, much better than our previous breakfast at the Comet Café, thankfully. Real cheese (it IS Wisconsin, after all) on the thing and plenty of ham. I was really happy with this omelet and it filled me right up. Which was a bad thing, since we knew today was going to be a significant eating adventure. We were running out of time and still had multiple restaurants on Callous-un’s iron-clad agenda.

I’ll skip the top 5 list on this one, but it’s a fun little coffee shop (although a little slow the morning we went…)

Tenuta’s – Milwaukee, WI (Bayview)

Callous-un and I wanted to go someplace nice to eat for NYE, but not so nice that we went broke eating there. We scouted the Internet to see what we could find as far as decent Italian food. Tenuta’s kept popping up and had really good reviews, so we booked a reservation there late.

When we got there, a guy greeted us at the door and asked us if we had reservations, he found our name on the list at the host stand and then started laughing. He was just a random waiting for his coat, didn’t work there at all. He was hilarious when he told us it would be a short wait for our table.

We were amused by the real hostess when she finally talked to us about 5 minutes after we came through the door. She was wearing an extremely tight and extremely short leopard print shiny mini skirt and 5 inch stiletto heels. She was actually hobbling in stiletto heels and was clearly in pain and complaining about her feet to people at the bar. She could have VERY easily passed for a girl on Rock of Love or that show with the Sluts on a Bus. I’m not saying she didn’t have nice hair or a nice figure, but she reminded me of the people on Jersey Shore who complain about working 3 hours a week because they’re such high maintenance trixies. This girl was NOT friendly nor even borderline nice.

While we waited for our table, we grabbed a bottle of wine at the bar. A nice Zinfandel for dinner. I also saw they had Balvenie Doublewood 12y, so I got a glass of scotch as well. I love that stuff. The bartender that helped us was very willing to let us try a couple different wines until we found one we liked. It only took us two bottles, so I think that’s good. We were amused by the guys at the bar (including Mr. Tenuta himself) that were playing dice. That’s seriously old school. Additionally, there was a guy there who looked like he was made of plastic, including his hair, and trying to play dice with the big boys. Like Callous-un says, “If you can’t have those chincy chianti bottles with candles at your table, then you’d better have Italians playing dice somewhere.” Truer words was never spoked.

Our server was quite awesome and a normal person, so we had a good time with her. I feel empathy for people working on NYE when they’d rather be out drinking with friends. I feel fortunate this year to have lost my job and can actually enjoy the holiday. She brought us a basket of really delicious bread and we got to fill our plates with olive oil and their homemade balsamic vinegar. We might have put butter on our bread, but we saw that it was kept next to the front door in a plastic to-go container (just thought it was really odd place for it) and we didn’t ask for it. We checked out the menu and came up with some ideas for our dinners.

I decided on the Strauss Veal Chop with truffle-infused mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables. And a Caesar Salad to start with. Callousun went with the Gnocchi alla Funghi with a regular salad to start. The hostess headed back to the kitchen to coerce the staff into making our food and I untangled my hair from the garland on the wall that I had gotten too close to. I’m an idiot.

The salads came out quickly and were just ho-hum salads. Nothing flashy here. They were good, just not anything you wouldn’t find at any other Italian place. We scoured the room for people to mock (that’s what we do) and found some winners. Of note, was a table of two couples. A super drunk Italian guy with his shirt unbuttoned to his stomach with his pretty smoking hot wife (we checked to see if they had rings – I guess it doesn’t mean they’re married to each other, just married – you never know). The guy didn’t look at her once. He only looked at and spoke with the guy across from him while he cackled like a witch (one of the most painful laughs ever to come out of a man’s face). The other couple talked loudly about trannies, which we thought was hysterical. Then the wife of the other guy went to the restroom at least 6 times that we noticed – geesh, I wonder what she was doing in there – we could only guess. There was also a random guy with his wife at another table who had super awesome sideburns/chops. Kudos to that guy – I notice these things.

The food came out and we were starving. It wasn’t that long of a wait, but we were already well into the bottle of wine and hadn’t eaten in a while. It was pretty dark in there, but I took a photo with the flash anyway, so you could see how awesome it was.

The veal chop was one of the best I’ve ever had. I’m a big fan of veal in most formats, but a simple chop cooked perfectly is one of the best. Every bite was great and there was simply no fat on the cut. The truffle-infused mashed potatoes were really excellent as were the vegetables (squash and wintery vegetables). I would get this again here. Callous-un’s Gnocchi was above average. She didn’t rave about it, but I thought it was pretty good. They were little potato dumplings in a mushroom cream sauce. I polished off her plate when she got full, so I was really stuffed.

The server brought out complimentary champagne for us after we were finished with our meal and the champagne was the sweetest either of us had ever tasted. I’m not a huge champagne fan, but this sweet stuff was like candy. WURD.

After we were finished and waiting for the check, a guy came out of the kitchen with this hilariously awesome Hawaiian shirt on. People in the place (including customers) were making comments to him about it. He took it all in stride and proudly wore the thing. It was awesome.

Overall, this was a really excellent meal and a fun time. The staff (minus the hostess) were all really friendly and helpful. It’s kind of in a residential area, so you’ll have to look for this place, but it’s well worth going to and won’t break the bank.

Top 5 things about Tenuta’s
1. Strauss Veal Chop
2. Gnocchi alla Funghi
3. Homemade bread and balsamic vinegar
4. Super sweet complimentary champagne
5. Really awesome staff

Bottom 5 things
1. The hostess (though she ranked high for comedy factor)
2. We never got butter, but could plainly see piles of it next to the door
3. Carnivorous garland on the wall
4. Plastic man trying to be a high roller
5. The salads were ho-hum, but I hesitate to even put it on the list (they’re weren’t bad or anything)

Comet Café – Milwaukee, WI

I’d been to a pretty awesome breakfast place in Milwaukee with FunHater and Chicken Little and Rat City Roller Girls – the Comet Café. It’s kind of a punk rock diner that caters to vegetarians and such. With Callous-un’s love of things without parents, I tried to make things easier for her by picking places she could eat.

We waited a bit for a table and checked out the variety of people. Families with kids, tattooed and pierced folk, hipsters, and people with giant beards. We checked out the small breakfast menu and decided on a couple things. I went with the Bacon Pancakes. Callous-un thought the Breakfast Burrito sounded good. The waitress told her they had just run out of ranchero sauce, but they could just throw on some extra pico de gallo (vegetarian cat-nip).

We waited a bit for our food and were simply whelmed when we saw it. Not overwhelmed, not underwhelmed. The pancakes were large, but it was hard to see the bacon in the two large pancakes and the breakfast burrito actually looked like it was missing the ranchero sauce. Visibly missing something with color.

The pancakes were decent. The bacon pieces were hidden on the bottom of the pancakes and I wish there had been more pieces. The flavor was good, but I’ve never been a huge fan of eating a monstrous stack of puffy bread with syrup. I actually got bored eating about halfway through.

The breakfast burrito did have extra pico de gallo (which means extra onion) on it. It had a lot of onions at the end that Callous-un started, but when I ate a few bites from the other end, it was full of cheese and no onions at all. I was happy with my end of the burrito (twss). Sadly, Callous-un was less than impressed with this breakfast. I was really surprised this meal wasn’t as good as it has been previous times. On a positive note, the hashbrowns were really quite good.

My previous trips to the Comet Café were good, so I’m hesitant to steer people away from this place. So I’ll suggest you give it a shot and see if you’ve been as happy as I have been the PREVIOUS times.

Top 5 things about Comet Café
1. Hashbrowns
2. Waitress was super helpful and perky
3. Bacon makes everything better
4. This place is non-smoking – wurd
5. Previous experience at this restaurant mandates I put this in the positive section of the list…

Bottom 5 things
1. Small breakfast menu
2. Breakfast Burrito without ranchero sauce
3. Bacon pancakes should have more bacon
4. Non-uniform burrito filling is a little misleading
5. I think I may have ruined Callous-un on the Comet Café. Bummer

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Café Manna – Brookfield, WI

Callous-un had been talking about this vegetarian restaurant for a while, so I curtailed my carnivorous hankerin and we headed to Café Manna to eat some sticks and grass. Hahahaha. I joke.

The hostess that seated us was way out of control happy and chatty. Not in a bad way, just in a super noticeable way. It made me feel like the rest of us were at a wake or something. She was THAT happy. She walked us through the bamboo-floored room, past the non-toxic paint and foyer partitions of recycled plastic, to our bamboo table. The server came over and asked what we’d like to drink: Organic Pinot Grigio for both of us. When the server brought over the wine, she also brought pita chips and Baba Ghanouj. I haven’t had a lot of Baba Ganouj before, but this was a delicious appetizer. Very smooth dip to start our meal out.

I was surprised at the number of items on the menu of this vegetarian place. I expected various combinations of sticks and grass, nuts and berries, and joy-less tofu crumbles, but the menu contained a whole bunch of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, sandwiches, and desserts. I actually had to decide between a handful of dishes. I finally decided on the Spiced Tempeh and Glazed Soba Noodles. Callous-un opted for the Peace Bowl with Curried Cashew Crunch. Both of our dishes were vegan, according to the menu, so my vegan friends can shut their non-dairy pie-holes now.

The food came out rather quickly, I’m guessing because there was a severe lack of meat that needed to be heated to e.coli-killing temperature. The food looked beautiful on the plates. My Tempeh was one of the best vegetarian dishes I’ve ever eaten, and probably one of the only vegan dishes I’ve ever eaten. It’s pan-sautéed cumin and ginger spiced with buckwheat noodles, asparagus, sugar snap peas, and stir-fried veggies in a sesame tamarind-sake glaze. Seriously, this was delicious. The noodles were firm and tasty and the tempeh was perfectly cooked and not soggy.

Callous-un was less pleased with her meal, the Peace Bowl with Curried Cashew Crunch. Her meal looked like some sort of landscape from Egypt. It had two pyramids surrounded by a delicious-looking curry. One pyramid was made of basmati rice and the other was made of quinoa (it’s like bigger couscous). The coconut curry was filled with a variety of vegetables and topped with a “curried cashew crunch” – still not sure what that was. Callous-un took issue with the vegetables mostly – they weren’t cooked enough for her taste. She expected a bit more smoosh and a bit less crunch. The handful of bites I had were quite good and I liked the crunch, but Callous-un is a veteran vegetarian food consumer and knows better than I. So I guess the moral of this story is if you’re a vegetarian you might not like it, but if you’re an incognito carnivore, you might like this.

The hostess talked Callous-un into getting dessert (all it took was handing her a menu). The hostess talked up the Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Brownie. As the hostess was saying the word “vegan”, all I could hear was M.Giant’s voice in my head replacing the word “vegan” with “joy-less”, and I started chuckling. I had to explain the outburst after the hostess left. Thanks for getting me in trouble in another state, M.

The dessert arrived and looked pretty good. After the first few bites, Callous-un announced she wasn’t thrilled with it as it wasn’t very sweet and was very dense. Upon my own tasting, the top raspberry portion was very good, but the brownie part was just too flavorless for me. The raspberry sauce was good and the green goo (I found out it was mint of some sort) was also delicious. The three blood oranges went to me, since I’m a veteran blood orange eater from way back. This dessert this didn’t win me over to the dessert brigade or anything, so don’t expect to be wowed.

While we were eating, we noticed this lovely family from India sitting nearby. The young girls ordered this horrific looking green drink that made me gag if I saw them drinking it. But the hilarious part was everyone at their table had their own pepper mill, including the father’s pepper mill which was about two feet tall. We were unsure if the family had brought their own individual mills or what. We didn’t see any other tables with peppermills nor saw any staff carrying them around with them. We can only assume this family travels with their own seasoning implements.

I popped (not pooped) in the restroom before I left and was amazed to find a cabinet filled with all kinds of after dinner accoutrements: mouthwash (all organic), crap-spray, lotions, potpourri, etc. I’m not sure if this is a regular vegetarian restaurant thing (you know how… uh… odiferous... vegetarians and vegans can be) or if this is just their thing.

After dinner, we headed downtown to the bar that Coach and I used to hit up that we could never remember the name of. In the past, it’s been Marshall Steve’s, Admiral Gregory’s, and our favorite Captain Magillicutty’s. The actual name is Major Goolsby’s and it’s a decent sports bar that serves girly drinks and standard bar food (which we weren’t interested in). Then we walked around the corner to the Old German Beer Hall, a place where Chicken Little and I hung with the Rat City Roller Girls in 2008. Had another beer there and called it a night.

Top 5 things about Café Manna
1. Peace Bowl with Curried Cashew Crunch
2. Spiced Tempeh with Glazed Soba Noodles
3. Baba Ghanouj
4. The top portion of the Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Brownie
5. Awesome stuff in the bathroom cabinet

Bottom 5 things
1. Significant lack of meat at this place… hahaha
2. Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Brownie
3. Organic Pinot Grigio is not impressive
4. Crunchy vegetables (so says Callous-un)
5. Apparently, it’s rude to laugh when you hear the waitress say “joy-less”

Bier Stube - Moline, IL

Pul-Chevy and I went to see Sherlock Holmes with my nephews. Not to ruin it for you, but this movie has nothing to with the lesser talented brother of a certain 1970’s adult film star, just in case you were wondering. Afterwards, we wanted some sort of meaty substance (no relation to the aforementioned adult film star), so we decided on the Bier Stube in Moline. It’s an awesome German place for a drink and they have great food as well. Plus our friend TinyDancer works there part time, and I haven’t seen her in a while.

We were surprised the place was as slow as it was on a Saturday night, but whatever, we got the pick of places to sit. We perused the menu a bit and unfortunately, there are like 10 things I like here, so I finally decided on the Hindenburger – a pound of ground beef on texas toast with cheese, bacon, and a fried egg. Hard to go wrong. I also got onion rings and German Potato Salad, since I was feeling sassy. Pul-Chevy got some sort of Blue Cheese Portobella Burger. And because Pul-Chevy was feeling manly, we got an order of cheesy fries as well to start off the meal in proper form.

We gabbed a bit and drank some beers (I kind of drank a beer)(don’t ask). TinyDancer chatted us up as much as she could without getting in trouble. I miss her a ton and she cracks me up.
Our cheesy fries came out first. These things are seriously covered in cheese and bacon. Best cheesy fries ever.

Our burgers came out pretty quickly as we wrapped up the fry activity on our table. The burger is monstrous and delicious. Perfectly cooked and covered with cheese and an egg. The thing is hard to fit in your mouth (twss), but I made it happen and finished the entire thing. It’s a man-sized sammich, to be sure. The onion rings are pretty good for bar onion rings and the potato salad is decent. I’m not a huge fan of potato salad, but it sounded right. I think it’s good, but I’m the wrong person to rate it.

Pul-Chevy killed his mushroom burger after a long battle with it, and we were totally stuffed. Wow, that was a lot of food. This place is pretty awesome to hang at and you’re guaranteed to get great food as well. Just go here if you’re in the Quad Cities – there are now three locations (all of which are good).

Top 5 things about Bier Stube
1. Hindenburger
2. Cheesy Fries
3. Onion Rings
4. Portabella Blue Cheese Burger (so says Pul-Chevy)
5. Hanging out with TinyDancer

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd loved the Bier Stube and Pul-Chevy, too. She should have been here smack talking Coach with us - hahaha
2. Everything on the menu is delicious and too difficult to narrow down
3. Apparently whatever beer I ordered (Erdinger) takes a while to pour (seriously) – freakin’ story of my life…
4. How can the parking lot be entirely full and the inside is almost dead?
5. I got so full, I hurt (I realize this is MY fault and not the Bier Stube’s)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mango Thai - St. Paul, MN

EnyaFace! scored a job after 8 months of not working, so she invited me out to dinner to lord it over me that I’m unemployed and poor (which means she was planning to pay for my dinner). I, of course, agreed. We decided to go to Mango Thai in St. Paul, since it’s one of her favorites and I had heard good things about their food.

I showed up waaaay too early since rush hour traffic was really nice to me. I showed up so early that I felt I needed to go the Muddy Pig around the corner for a drink while I waited for EnyaFace!. I got a text from her saying she was there, so I finished my drink and headed back around the corner to Mango Thai.

The inside is much smaller than I expected. There are four 4-top tables, which oddly MT feels they can cram 6 people into. A 2-top, and then three tables along the wall where two people can sit on pillows on the floor (right next to the door). It’s small, quaint, and actually quite charming inside. Luckily we got there early enough we beat the rush and got one of the 4-tops all to ourselves. The lighting is pretty low (as you’ll see from the photos), but it doesn’t take away from the décor.

We perused the menu and, of course, both found 20 things we wanted to try. I was surprised how small the menu selection was, but thankfully, everything on the menu looked delicious, so no worries. The waitress ran through the specials for the evening, most of which were seafood-based and all of which were curry based. We ordered two appetizers: the Mango Spring Rolls and the Regular Egg Rolls. I ordered the special our waitress discussed: duck breast in a red curry sauce, served over bokchoy. I asked the waitress to add some extra zing to the spice level since I was trying to burn this cold out of my sinuses. EnyaFace! ordered the Spinach and Peanut Curry, which I was also eyeballing.

The appetizers came out and looked delicious. The regular egg rolls were lightly fried and flaky and had an awesome flavor and came with a light sweet/sour dipping sauce. I really liked these rolls a lot. The mango spring rolls were also delicious, but I wished you could taste more of the mango inside them. The spring rolls came with a spicy peanut dipping sauce and the light sweet/sour sauce also. EnyaFace! and I fought over the peanut sauce and when the waitress came to clear our appetizer plates, we wouldn’t let her take the peanut sauce. The presentation on both of these sets of rolls was beautiful, with shaved carrot curls and bean sprouts and all kinds of lettuce. I feel bad that a lot of the extra stuff went to waste after we finished the rolls. They were both awesome though.

The entrees came out as we were finishing up the appetizers and had beautiful presentation. Both had fancy plates and the rice was served in a bowl shaped mold on a separate plate. My plate was sort of a flat glass square and was piled beautifully with delicious looking food. To my delight, there were pieces of pineapple and also LYCHEES!!! Lychees are the tastiest of the eyeball-shaped fruits and are one of my favorites. They were the perfect complement to the spiciness of the red curry. The spice level (thankfully, the waitress kicked it up a notch) was absolutely perfect – enough to make my face numb, but not enough to bring tears. The duck meat was really flavorful, though there was more fat than I care for on my duck (just a tiny complaint there), and the bokchoy was delicious with the basil and pineapple flavor. This was exactly what I had hoped for.

EnyaFace!’s spinach peanut curry was also delicious. I scored a couple bites of it and though it wasn’t spicy, it was very peanuty and delicious. You’re not going to have a bad meal here, based on either of the dishes we tried, including the appetizers. Mango Thai may not take the place of my favorite Thai place (King and I), but it’s up there on the list. Thanks EnyaFace!

We headed back to the Muddy Pig for Peppermint Patties after dinner – the perfect finish to the night!

Top 5 things about Mango Thai
1. Duck with Red Curry
2. Surprise lychees on my plate
3. Egg Rolls
4. Mango Spring Rolls
5. Spinach and Peanut Curry

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd loved Thai food and would have had a blast with EnyaFace! and I. I’m super sorry she’s missing out on all this amazing food I’ve found in the past year.
2. It’s super small inside, and if you get stuck by the door, you’re going to freeze
3. I wish you could taste more of the mango in the spring rolls
4. Surprisingly small menu
5. Felt like some of the decorative food went to waste

Stashu's and Sons - Moline, IL

One of my favorite places to eat calzones in the world is in Moline, IL. I’m sure part of it is because I was raised on this place and my father used to take me here when we were kids. Flash forward years later and Coach and I used to eat here at least once a week when we worked up the street from the place. Still, this place is at the top of the list. Since I was home and Coach was working, I talked him into having lunch with me at Stashu’s, for old times’ sake.

Coach called in the order for us. The usual: Mini Regular Calzones for both of us. If you’re a regular customer like we are, you figure out what you like and then you call it in, especially if you’re on a time schedule like those people who actually have jobs. Ha ha, suckas. And yes, we order minis for two reasons: the minis are plenty big enough for one person’s lunch (even me) and they’re also much cheaper than the regular sized. Stashu’s is also cheaper than any calzone place in the Quad Cities, which is convenient because they are also the best calzones in the Quad Cities. We arrived about the same time, got our drinks (they have DEW), paid, and sat down. 2 minutes later, our food appeared.

The food is always awesome here. They make their own dough and hand toss it (they also do pizza and some other things like Stromboli and sammiches). Our calzones were perfect, as usual. Awesome crust and crumbly sausage on the inside with ricotta and mozzarella cheese inside and slices of ham. The sauce is good, but I’ve heard SOME people complain about it not having enough flavor – those people are obviously crazy – but I feel I must give them a voice here so they don’t complain to me.

Stashu’s is also a meat/butcher shop. So you can pick up packages of brats or Italian beef or barbequed meat, or half baked calzones and pizzas. It’s hard to go wrong here. If you’re throwing a party of any sort, consider swinging by here and grabbing some brats or various meats you can throw in a crock pot and throw together the perfect carnivore party. You won’t be sorry.

I’m too biased to give an accurate Top 5, so you’ll just have to deal with it.