Monday, March 29, 2010

Kabuki – Eden Prairie, MN

My friend Charo and her mother were coming into town to do some shopping (yes, the Mall of America, where everyone from out of town goes when they come to Minneapolis). They wanted to do dinner with me and I obviously obliged. I tried to offer up a couple of places to see what might sound good, but Charo assured me her mother was a picky eater so she would do the research and pick a place to eat. Even better – less stress on me to find something for everyone, right?

I got a call from Charo the day before they were to arrive and she said she’d picked a place – Kabuki in Eden Prairie. I had been here before with some former co-workers so I knew it was a Japanese sushi restaurant with a Teppenyaki area. I told her I don’t eat sushi, but I know there are other things I’ve eaten there and had really good luck with in the past. She said it was alright, since she was vegan now and she’d be able to eat something there as well. “Oh…. You’re vegan now? When did this happen?” I asked. “Yesterday,” was the answer. Nothing I could do about it, other than show up where I was supposed to and enjoy dinner with two awesome people.

We showed up at the same time and the place was almost full. We waited around for a table and kind of had to flag someone down to wait on us, since no one seemed to know we were there – despite standing obviously in the entrance by ourselves. We got menus and set about trying to decide what to order. I didn’t see anything remotely vegan on the menu, but Charo assured me they could stir fry some veggies and tofu back in the kitchen. …Which sounded plausible until the waitress came to take our order and told her “no”. The waitress even went back into the kitchen to ask the cooks if they could stir fry some veggies and tofu, and they also said “no”. Apparently, this wasn’t going to happen for Miss Vegan-For-A-Day. She perused the menu further just to be on the safe side, but still ended up ordering a bowl of steamed rice.

Charo’s mother ended up ordering a soft-shelled crab (deep-fried) appetizer and an order of egg rolls. And since I was starving, I ordered a serious meal, despite Charo only eating a bowl of rice – hey I don’t hold back when Coach complains about not being able to find anything on a menu because he’s too picky either – that’s pretty easy for me to get over. I had recently seen the Quentin Tarantino film Sukiyaki Western Django, and decided I was going to live on the edge and order Sukiyaki (beef instead of chicken).

We waited for quite a while for any of our food to come out. My meal came with a small salad with ginger dressing. I offered it numerous times to Charo, but she wasn’t a fan of the ginger dressing (which was really good, by the way). So I ate my salad by myself and listened to (and helped) Charo’s mother give Charo a bunch of crap for turning Vegan. (For the record, I don’t have any issue with Veganism – I just couldn’t do it myself. I like flavor.) Her mother even said, “I wondered why you got Silk instead of real milk and a bunch of vegan things. Wait, didn’t I cook you shrimp this week?” hahahahahaha. Classic comedy – her mother is hilarious. Then she said, “Charo, do something VEGAN!”. Sure it was embarrassing for a third of the people at the table, but the other two-thirds were having a great time!

The waitress finally brought out the egg rolls and crab appetizers for Charo’s mother and my giant plate of food.

I had a quick bite of the egg roll and it was decent (yes, she offered it to me, I didn’t steal it – I DO have tact from time to time). Pretty standard fried egg roll with pork, veggies, and what Kabuki calls “special spices”. A good appetizer, but I don’t think I’d drive to Eden Prairie especially for one.

Since I’ve never ordered Sukiyaki before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I was pretty pleased with my meal. It’s a large cast iron skillet with a beefy broth in it. The meal itself is strips of cooked rib-eye steak, with vegetables (mushrooms, carrots, onions, bamboo shoots, etc), tofu, and noodles. This is the kind of dish you have to eat with chopsticks (like in the ninja movies), so I did so (but it didn’t seem to impress either Charo or her mother, sadly). The noodles were cooked perfectly, as were most of the vegetables. I even ate a couple of mushroom (even though I don’t like them) – I’m sure they were fine and non-offensive to those that like them. The tofu was as good as tofu can be (since it was soaked in beef broth – hahaha) and wasn’t so rubbery that it chewed like an eraser. The rib-eye was the best part of the dish and not just because I’m a carnivore. It actually was quite tender and tasty.

While I’m not going to be a huge fan of Sukiyaki, I did really enjoy this meal. It wasn’t disappointing at all, and I’m glad I got it. I am glad I’m not limited on my menu options at Japanese places (unless they’re entirely sushi), so this is another one to put on the list when I need a lot of food in one sitting. I did also manage to slurp Sukiyaki juice onto my dress shirt – par for the course when I use chopsticks. Oh well… My own fault.

Kabuki as a whole gets a middle-of-the-road score for food and slightly lower for service/flexibility/wait times.

Top 5 things about Kabuki
1. Beef Sukiyaki
2. They have a bar with more than just beer and wine
3. There are things for non-sushi-eaters to order
4. Eating dinner with Charo and her mother was an absolute blast
5. Sometimes a simple iceberg lettuce salad with ginger dressing is enough to stop your stomach from growling

Bottom 5 things
1. Are unable to stir fry tofu and vegetables to accommodate vegans
2. Serious wait times to be seated and to get food
3. Parking isn’t the greatest here, even with a large lower lot behind the building
4. I genuinely felt bad watching Charo eat a bowl of rice for dinner, however, my food was delicious
5. I am generally unable to eat without slopping food onto my clothing – this was no different

Monday, March 22, 2010

El Burrito Mercado – St. Paul, MN

I know I’ve complained about the caliber of Mexican food in the Twin Cities before (and may have just stereotyped it for all of Minnesota as well), but I will humbly eat my words on this matter – as long as I can eat those words with a garnish of El Burrito Mercado’s food. D.Rough had told me about this place when she heard me complaining about my awful experiences with Mexican food over the past two years. She felt it her civic duty to the city of St. Paul to show me that St. Paul does indeed have quality Mexican cuisine (and to shut me up, since I bring it up regularly). She told me El Burrito Mercado would change my mind. Consequently, TheDoctor sent me a message a week ago stating I needed to try this amazing Mexican place called El Burrito Mercado. When I told him D.Rough had already suggested it, he got surly about me taking D.Rough’s words over his – which is probably true in most things aside from playing air guitar/drums to Dillinger Escape Plan.

We went on a Sunday, which is probably a busier day, so we found the parking lot almost entirely full of cars, people, and small merchants selling clothes and roasted corn. When you walk inside, it’s 2/3 grocery store, 1/3 restaurant. We hopped in line for the cafeteria-style restaurant and scanned the menu on the wall above the line. It doesn’t seem like a huge menu, but all of the right things are on there, and they are explained in pretty adequate detail, so you know what you’re getting (you can view the menu boards on the restaurant’s website ahead of time if you don’t want to risk it). While in line, you walk past a refrigerated cooler with soft drinks which you can acquire there in line, of you can order from a smaller (but different) cooler while paying for your order.

Both of us kept going back and forth on what we’d like to eat (really, it was pretty bad on both sides). By viewing the people in front of me, I determined you ordered what you’d like to eat, then you tell them what kind of meat to add to it, and finally, they put the finishing touches on it (lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, guacamole, etc.) toward the end of the assembly line in front of you. I finally decided on a really large Huarache (12” instead of the standard 8”)(twss). It’s actually called a Huarachote Grandote – translated loosely as “big ass huarache”. While standing there, I saw a giant vat of soup. I asked what soups they had and she told me Menudo and also Pozole – ding ding ding!!! That was the magic word. I also ordered a bowl of Pozole. The lady asked me if that would be instead of my giant huarache (how many times have I been asked that?...), and I assured her that would be “in addition to” the previously ordered food. She just smiled and shook her head. D.Rough decided on a meat quesadilla once we were standing in front of the lady making them and seeing how delicious they looked. I asked for spicy pork with my huarache and D.Rough got the spicy beef in her quesadilla.

While paying for our food (mine was particular pricey, but only because I basically was bringing back two entrees just for myself – like an idiot), I noticed the fridge behind the counter containing Jumex nectars. One of my all-time favorite drinks is Guanabana Jumex – and they had it here. Cha-ching!!! I was already liking this place and I hadn’t even sampled anything. There’s a small salsa bar with some peppers and grilled veggies after you get your food, so you can stop by and top off your entrée with whatever toppings you’d like. The dining room near the cafeteria part was full, so we went into the back area which is more of a full-service restaurant – with lots of seating and a bar or two.

The food was simply amazing. I will start with the Pozole, since a lot of people don’t know what that is. It’s basically pork soup. There is a thick green (in this case, but some places also have red) broth with pieces of pork in it. And by pieces, I mean chunks of meat, bone, and yes SOMETIMES tongue (in this case, there was and I ate around it after D.Rough told me to hide it). There is also hominy in the soup (that’s just puffed corn – don’t be scared of hominy, white people). It’s usually served with radishes and lettuce for you to add to your soup, but I didn’t get them this time, since I figured I’d go with it plain, so D.Rough could get a good feel for this soup. The soup is usually served with tortillas for eating with – I chose flour this time around. The broth was spicy and delicious and D.Rough’s favorite part. The hominy always adds great texture and the pork meat was fantastic and tender. Really excellent soup.

The Huarache was the best I’ve had, I admit it. It’s a cooked corn meal (masa, actually) tortilla-sort of. It’s long and oval shaped and named after the word for “sandal” since that’s kind of the shape. It’s covered with beans, red sauce, the spicy pork that I ordered, and then lettuce, tomato, guacamole, and cheese (or whatever toppings you like). The masa foundation was perfectly cooked (and lightly pan-fried) and not greasy, the toppings and sauce were great, but the real winner on this entrée was the spicy pork. It fell apart with the fork and had some heat to it. Tremendous dish and I’m really glad I went with this thing. And yes, to answer your question, DID finish all my food (Aside from some tongue and bones I left in the soup bowl.

The quesadilla that D.Rough got was really really good. The spicy beef inside was really tender, and while not as spicy as the spicy pork, was still a really good flavor. I know people think of quesadillas as plain things to get, but this one was really not. It was delicious. Served with beans and rice, it was plenty filling and not the slightest bit plain.

As we found out, if you’re sitting in the restaurant side, there is a waitress and they will bring you a menu and serve you at the table, so don’t be afraid to try that if cafeteria-style isn’t your thing.

The supermarket part of the place was really cool as well. We walked around to try to work off some of the food (oh yeah, and to find some flan). There’s a large Mexican bakery in the center of the store with all kinds of home made delights. There’s some prepared food coolers with delicious looking things you can take home and heat up. There’s a full-service butcher in one part f the store with all kinds of full pig heads in coolers and other random bits I couldn’t look at for very long. Lots of Mexican candy, cooking supplies, fruits, vegetables, and dry goods. It’s got a lot of fun stuff to look at, and a handful of things that scare the hell out of me. It’s worth a look if you’re there eating, though!

And for the record, we did take a full-on siesta after this meal. Viva la Mexico!!!

Top 5 things about El Burrito Mercado
1. Huarachote Grandote
2. Pozole
3. Spicy Beef Quesadilla
4. Guanabana Jumex
5. Lots of things to choose from aside from the menu board

Bottom 5 things
1. Slightly confusing flow if you haven’t been there before
2. You may not know about certain foods if you don’t look at the full-service menu
3. No Mt. Dew
4. It’s hard to be in denial about various tongues in your soup
5. D.Rough felt intimidated by the surly-looking waitress guarding the full bar, which had a pitcher of water on it – she stole some anyway, since she’s a ninja

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lemongrass Thai – Brooklyn Park, MN

I haven’t been on a culinary adventure with RubyVita in MONTHS, so we decided to make it happen. I know she’s been here before, but I had been meaning to make the trek up north to Lemongrass one of these days. When she suggested it, I didn’t put up much of a fight. It’s in kind of a strip mall set back from the road, so the place isn’t easy to find. Thankfully, I had the GPS machine and it took me right there.

There’s a very energetic host that greets you at the door. He’s super friendly and good at what he does. After scouring the rather lengthy and diverse menu, RubyVita and I had it narrowed down. We wanted some appetizers and some major meal fixins. The menu itself has a ton of things on it. Not just Thai stuff, but some rice dishes, but some Pho as well. It’s pretty diverse and it was difficult to decide.

We waited for a pretty long time to get waited on after we got initially seated, so I don’t think they’re in a big hurry here. RubyVita wanted a Diet Coke and it took almost 15 minutes to get it – very weird and frustrating. I wanted to try the Fresh Spring Rolls, but so did RubyVita. So I let her get those (under the condition that I get a piece of one) and I got the #8, which is Sai-Oua E-Sane (a fresh homemade sausage filled with ground pork, chopped lemongrass and spices). I’m curious what E-Sane actually means since there’s an awesome and deadly Thai place Called EE-Sane in Milwaukee and I love it. I decided on the Buddha’s Belly for my entrée and RubyVita went with the Lemongrass Spaghetti.

The Spring Rolls came out first and actually looked well wrapped and fresh and colorful. They came with the thinner sauce (not the usual hoissin sauce) with crushed peanuts in it. I was given my allotted one piece and dove right into it. It was really good. Better than a lot of places I’ve tried recently. It was well wrapped – tight but not bursting – and I couldn’t have been happier.

Another 5 minutes went by and the Sai-Oua E-Sane came out. This sausage had a really tough casing on it and was filled with pretty course pork meat. I know those are two things people have issue with when eating sausage. I don’t have issue with it and I loved it. These things are really spicy too, so be prepared for that. RubyVita had warned me that this place doesn’t mess around with the spice-levels. They don’t realize they’re in Minnesota and no one can handle the heat. But these sausages were really good. Honestly, I could have done very well with about half of the amount they brought out, but I wasn’t going to complain since it meant I got to take some home with me. It comes with a dipping sauce that has all kinds of cilantro and chili pepper seeds floating in it. Again, RubyVita warned me (what would I do without her!?) that this sauce is incredibly salty, and she was dead right. Probably one of the saltiest sauces I’ve ever had. Not even sure what it was. It was good, but I like salty things. Normal people don’t.

The main dishes came out and we beamed like kids on a snow day. The Buddha’s Belly is spinach pasta on steamed vegetables and chicken breast pieces topped with a sweet and spicy curry sauce and covered with crunchy noodles. I commented that it looked like a blonde head sitting in a bowl with all the noodles. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it would be hot – there was a pepper next to it on the menu – a sure sign you’re in for a treat. It was fantastic. One of the best Thai dishes I’ve ever had. I really liked the flavor, the crunchy noodles, the soft noodles, the spice level, the chicken pieces, and the amount of food. Everything about this dish was great. I let RubyVita try some and she agreed (through some sniffles) that it was fantastic.

I know I make fun of Minnesotans and their aversion to spice, but to offer spaghetti in a Thai place is almost an insult. Or so I thought. But honestly, it was really tasty. It had a spicy garlic ground beef marinara sauce, shrimp, mushrooms and basil. I thought it would be boring spaghetti, but it really wasn’t. It had some kick to it, but it wasn’t plain spaghetti at all. I stand corrected. You win, RubyVita. I won’t mock you for your ordering prowess… however, it’s clear mine was leaps and bounds better than the Lemon Grass Spaghetti.

We ended up waiting a while for a lot of things, refills, how our food was, to-go containers, a bag for the to-go containers, etc. So aside from the slow and inattentive service (which I can generally deal with for this good of food), the meal was great. RubyVita and I got caught up on our lives, which is always fun, since she’s hilarious. I’ll try to get back into the regular rotation of going out for fun food with her soon, especially now that the school semester is winding down. We’ll see how that goes. I will be back to Lemongrass Thai, without question.

Top 5 things about Lemongrass Thai
1. Buddha’s Belly
2. Fresh Spring Rolls
3. Really diverse and large menu
4. Lemongrass Spaghetti
5. It’s really nicely decorated inside

Bottom 5 things
1. Super slow service
2. It’s in Brooklyn Park, which is halfway to Canada, I’m certain
3. Bad location set back behind a bunch of other buildings
4. They close at 8pm most nights. Seems early
5. Be READY for the spiciness, Minnesota. I loved it, but I have to warn you – they’re serious

W.A. Frost and Company – St. Paul, MN

This will be a long review – I just warning you now… It was St. Patrick’s Day and D.Rough and I didn’t feel up to dealing with amateur drinkers this night. We had both purchased Groupons for W.A. Frost and were looking forward to going there and using one. We had been to Frost for some afternoon drinking (and she had gotten a sandwich from there for lunch once), but we hadn’t experienced the dinner atmosphere there and we heard it was pretty nice. It was a beautiful night, so we walked from her place (after pounding a couple of Jameson and Baileys each – yeah, mixed together – told you we weren’t in the mood for amateurs).

The inside of W. A. Frost is really nice. Not swanky snooty nice, but classy and warm nice. Dim lighting, without being mafia-dark or happy-cheery. Just elegant. I ordered a scotch while D.Rough powdered her nose and scanned the menu while I waited. Glenrothes 1991 – one of the best scotches I’ve ever tasted. I will be buying a bottle or three of this – wow. I already knew what I wanted food-wise, which I will explain in a second, but I wanted to see what other things they had, check out the specials, and see if I could figure out what D. Rough would order. There are lots of tasty sounding things on the menu, but I kept looking at the "Chef's tasting menu". 6 courses of amazing-sounding food. When D.Rough returned, I casually mentioned she should at least LOOK at the chef's tasting menu before deciding on something.

The reason I knew what I wanted was due to the fact that D.Rough e-mailed me earlier that day with an excited message about one of the dishes containing Kabocha Squash – my favorite squash in the world. What? You’ve never heard of kabocha squash? Weird. Hahahaha. We came across kabocha squash in a bag of Terra Chips (those dehydrated vegetable crisps that are marginally good for you). I loved them and they’re super colorful. Well, one of the dishes on the menu was a variety of pork served with pureed kabocha squash. SOLD!

D.Rough went back and forth on the 6 course meal and we were worried I’d be eating by myself for a part of the meal (and that it would be a lot of food). We asked the waitress (Elise, who is awesome) when she came back if they could space out my meal pieces to align with the 6 courses and she assured me they do it all the time. So to make things simple, D.Rough got the chef's tasting menu (which I will go into detail on)(and which we knew we would be sharing most of anyway) and I ordered the Potato Wrapped Quail Roulade, a salad of Winter Lettuces (NOT pronounced Lay-TOO-chays, despite my insistence), and I ordered the Trio of Minnesota Duroc Pork (since 2010 is the “Year of Three”). I commented on how excited I was to have the kabocha squash (yes, I’m THAT guy), and Elise said she’d never heard of it before seeing it here and was surprised that I even knew what it was. We explained the Terra Chips thing and she wrote it down and is going to try them herself. We rule. A nice glass of Malbec (Argentina) for the lady, and a nice glass of Pinotage (South Africa) for myself.

The first course arrived and apparently, we both got one, so I was excited. It was a tiny cup of soup, but it was really quality. It was an Apple-Celery Root Soup with Smoked Star Prairie Farms Trout, Julienne Radish, and Dill Oil. I’m not normally a seafood guy of any sort, but I love to try things. D.Rough assured me smoked fish is more palatable to haters like me and she was dead on – she’s a foodie and knows things about things. I really liked the soup as a whole and even the fish bits (which weren’t large or numerous). Very good texture, and the dill oil was a nice finishing piece to this soup. Excellent starter to the night (actually, the amazing scotch was the best starter, but we’re talking about food now).

The next dish was my Potato Wrapped Manchester Farms Quail Roulade and D.Rough’s Crisp Roasted Duck Confit. Mine first. First off, beautiful presentation on the plate. I don’t usually notice, but it was masterful. Three quail pieces wrapped up in a thin crispy potato roll (again, the Year of Three). I’m not sure if it’s a strip of potato that’s been fried or what, but it was delicious. It came with oven roasted grapes, tangerine-frisee salad and a ruby port reduction. Amazing flavor wrapped in a crispy bacon-inspired wrap. Seriously good appetizer.

The duck confit was even better though, if you can believe it. Medjool Date and Stickney Hills Farms Chevere Tartlet and Moroccan Vinaigrette. It appeared small on the large plate, but I remembered she had 4 more courses coming, so I wasn’t too alarmed. She had one bite and proclaimed “This is F’N GOOD!” She gave me a bite and I reluctantly agreed hers was better than mine – and mine was delicious. Really juicy duck with all kinds of other flavors going on from the chevre tartlet. The best duck I’ve ever had was in Paris… until now. W.A. Frost, you win.

The next course came out and looked great. Mine was a selection of winter lettuces, sliced pears, glazed walnuts, Stickney Hills goat cheese, medjool dates, and sherry vinaigrette. This was a serious salad (even though I got the smaller size). It was also really delicious and a great mix of flavors and textures.

D.Rough’s next dish was Pan Roasted Diver Caught Sea Scallops with Crispy Hidden Streams Farms Pork Belly Confit, Apple-Madeira Puree, Broccoli Rabe, and a Jalapeno Vinaigrette. D.Rough tried the pork belly confit first and really liked it a lot. Then she tried the scallop next and really liked that. Then she tried both and I recall hearing even more swearing about how amazing the food was. I was fortunate enough to get a couple bites of this dish and it truly was awesome. Great mix of flavors with the soft insides of the scallops and the crispiness of the seared part and then combined with the saltiness of the pork belly confit – simply brilliant.

The big meals came out and we probably heard some sort of “Eye of the Tiger” theme music in our heads as the fanfare (actually, D.Rough probably heard Lady GaGa in her head, but we won’t judge, will we?...). D.Rough’s dish was a Duo of All Natural Angus Beef – a grilled New York Strip Steak, Braised Short Ribs, Yukon Gold Potato Puree, Sauteed Escarole, and Beet Jus. She started with the NY Strip and we were both pleasantly surprised at how good this was. Really tender and juicy and pink without being bloody or chewy. Great pieces of meat. The better part was the short ribs – absolutely fell apart when you touched it with a fork. We didn’t get steak knives here and now we know why. You don’t need them to cut anything. Perfectly cooked short ribs and we’d both order these again anytime.

I will try not to ramble on about my own dish, but it’s going to be difficult. The reason I got it was clearly the kabocha squash portion. In fact, I don’t even think I looked to see what the different pork dishes were going to be. I just now realized that… hmm. Anyway, here’s what I got – Roasted Tenderloin, Belly Confit, Crispy Pulled Pork Strudel, Cassoulet of Giganda Beans, Kabocha Squash Puree, Sauteed Escarole, and Sherry Gastrique. This was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had. Everything about it was brilliant. The tenderloin was amazingly moist and tasty. The pork belly was cooked to perfection – crispy with a tiny bit of fat for flavor. And the small wrap things (which “someone” referred to as Taquitos! – which was hilariously accurate) were the pulled pork strudel. I’ve never had pork prepared this way and I don’t think anything will ever compare to it. It was exactly how pork should always be prepared now. Light crispy shell on the outside with super flavorful meat on the inside. Simply amazing.

The next course for D.Rough was a cheese plate that we split. It was Fourme d’Ambert, with a Bitter Orange Marmalade, Micro Greens, Lavasch, Glazed Walnuts, and Garden Farme Honey. It was almost a mild bleu cheese and tasted really quite light and good. I preferred to eat mine with the micro greens (which were a cross between clover and sprouts) and flat bread, but D.Rough liked hers with the honey and marmalade. This was a nice light refresher before dessert. Yes, we still have one course left.

The dessert was a Trio of Mini Desserts (again, the Year of Three – sense a pattern here?). There was an Organic Carrot Cake, Classic Crème Brulee, and Chocolate Fudge Cake with Coconut Ice Cream on top. We split the Crème Brulee between the both of us as we are both fans. It was awesome and of course the most fun part is bustin’ through the crystallized sugar on the top – which D.Rough does a splendid job at. I got more of the carrot cake and was really happy with it. It was quite good (although, the carrot cake that D.Rough’s mother made may have been slightly better). D.Rough seemed to like the chocolate fudge cake more than I did, so she took care of most of that.

The wait staff was very attentive to us the entire time. The water boy/server reminded me of Justin Timberlake and was pretty good at explaining what each dish he brought us was made up of. He was a very good server. On the downside, whenever he would come back and take our plates, he’d make comments about how impressed he was that we finished everything on the plate. EVERY TIME. It’s not like we’re gluttonous sows or anything, but comments like that are cute once, then they’re borderline rude. Still amusing, but rude. The waitress seemed genuinely glad to serve us (probably because we’re not stuffy old white people) and said so after the meal. She was really good herself and made sure we had everything we needed. Thank you, Elise!

I’m REALLY glad we walked to dinner as we were absolutely stuffed to the gills after this enormous meal. Yes, like uncomfortable-stuffed. It was worth it though. We went home and kept complaining about how much we ate and how it would be months before we could eat that much again. Then we’d talk about how awesome the food was and how we’re looking forward to going back with the other Groupon that we have – hahahaha. Seriously, go to W.A. Frost and Company. It doesn’t matter if it’s for an afternoon drink In the bar or lounge downstairs, or for lunch on the awesome patio, or for a painfully large gorge-session in the dining room. You will not be disappointed at all. It is top notch.

Top 5 things about W.A. Frost and Company
1. Trio or Minnesota Duroc Pork
2. Crisp Roasted Duck Confit
3. Potato Wrapped Manchester Farms Quail Roulade
4. Duo of All Natural Angus Beef
5. No drunken d-bags dining with us on St. Patrick’s Day

Bottom 5 things
1. It’s a tad pricey, even with a $50 Groupon, we still hit well into the triple-digits – still worth every cent
2. Comments about us finishing everything on the plate – doesn’t everyone? Why would we leave awesome food?
3. The snooty people behind us talking complaining about his wife sitting in a box at the Wild game or about his crotch scar from his angioplasty, or any number of annoying loud conversations
4. The patio is ALMOST ready to be opened for eating
5. D.Rough lives too close to W.A. Frost for us to adequately walk off the amount of food we consumed by the time we got home. If she lived in Wisconsin, we might have been comfortable when we got home

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Jason’s Deli – Eden Prairie, MN

To celebrate my new gainful employment (and to mock the fact that my Tiger Woods 2010 Wii skillz are going down the toilet), EnyaFace! set up a lunch for some fellow coworkers. Yes, I now work in the same office as EnyaFace!, DeltaForceCommander, Trash, and Smallz. Weird. DeltaForceCommander was expected to ditch out on us, so EnyaFace! and I began throwing lunch ideas out to decide between. I drove past Jason’s Deli from time to time and wanted to try it. We opted to go there.

DeltaForceCommander DID decide to go with us, thankfully – we love her and her picky-eating ways. She also brought a coworker and we headed over to Jason’s Deli. The layout of the place is really weird. There’s a separate door for takeout orders and then there’s a group of menus at the front for people to peruse before they get in line. Once in line, you’re unsure if you’re going the right directions, since the cash registers are right at the front, rather than the end of the cafeteria style line (which you don’t actually use). You can watch them make your sandwich if you want, but it doesn’t make sense since they’re going to bring it to your table anyway. There’s a weird salad bar and a drink station at the end as well. Just be prepared to be a little confused when you get there the first time. Some major signage would help, I think.

We figured it out, eventually and ordered our food. They give you those numbered flags for you to put on your table so the servers know where to take things. It’s one of those kind of places. It was also weird since about half of the staff were really rude and half of the staff were super nice and helpful. Kind of a Jeckle and Hyde situation. There was a problem with some guys order when we arrived. He had ordered online and expected to eat it there in the restaurant. The staff couldn’t comprehend why someone would do that and got all bent out of shape. Eventually, the manager came over and helped smooth things out.

I got an Italian Cruz Po’boy sandwich. Ham, hard salami, Italian dressing, Italian peppers, roma tomatoes, lettuce and asiago cheese. It is served with pickle and ridged potato chips. And it came out pretty quickly. The sandwich was good. It seemed very fresh and the meat was flavorful. It was served on a French roll/bun but cut like a hot dog bun, so it was kind of weird. No real issue with it, but it was just kind of a standard sandwich. Maybe like a 6 or 7 out of 10. Just a decent sandwich without any complaints.

Since DeltaForceCommander is a wee human, she ran out of steam with her chicken alfredo – cha-ching!!! I got to finisher meal, and it was good. There was a weird spice on the chicken, but not a bad weird. Just unusual. The alfredo sauce was good and creamy and not gritty like some places. So I guess it’s a slightly better than average chicken alfredo, especially for a non-italian place.

Jason’s Deli only serves Coke products, so I was majorly bummed. I got spoiled in Green Bay where it’s Pepsi country when I was there last weekend. So I settled on a Dr. Pepper to tide me over for lunch until I could get back to my Dew.

Top 5 things about Jason’s Deli
1. Italian Cruz Po’Boy
2. Chicken Alfredo
3. Very new clean atmosphere (no signage though)
4. Big parking lot for the building it’s housed in
5. The food comes out pretty fast

Bottom 5 things
1. Super confusing layout
2. Half rude staff
3. Don’t try to order online and expect to eat it inside
4. Stupid Coke products
5. They offer no parmesan cheese, which is weird, since they have pasta

Namaste Café – Minneapolis, MN

I had a particularly bad day for a number of reasons and D.Rough thought maybe I just needed to eat my way through this stressful time. It’s amazing how fast people realize you are a comfort-food eater in times of trouble. Which also explains a lot about me and why I write a food-focused blog... She suggested Namaste Café, since she had been talking about it for a couple of weeks. I waffled a bit, only because I was really indecisive. Eventually, I looked at the menu online and thought it sounded good.

The restaurant is in Uptown and is in a large house, very similar to a Key West sort-of feel. There are probably tables out on the porch and in the yard during the summer, but it just has a very quaint homey feel to it. It serves Southeastern Asian food, which may not help pinpoint the style if you’re not geographically inclined. But think of it as Indian with some different spices and you’ll get the picture.

The menu has a lot of interesting items on it. A lot of them have curry in them and all of them look delicious, even the vegetarian ones. I had it narrowed down to two items and let the waitress decide. Did I want the Hot and Tangy Lamb with Potatoes or did I want the Squash Curry with Bison? She steered me away from the hot and tangy lamb when she said it’s REALLY vinegary. I’m still wanting to try it, but I wanted to really like this place, especially in the mood I was in. I opted for the squash curry with bison – spice level 4 out of 5. D.Rough already knew what she wanted, so she got the Almond Curry Chicken – also spice level 4 out of 5. We also needed some sort of appetizer, so we got the Paapri Chaat.

The appetizer came out and D.Rough told me this dish was basically Indian Nachos – probably the best description there ever was. She’s a foodie, so she knows what she’s talking about (and when she doesn’t, she convinces you that she does anyway). Here’s the description from the menu of the dish: House-made crunchy flour chips topped with boiled chick peas, spiced potatoes, yogurt, mustard seeds, tamarind chutney, mint chutney, coconut chutney, chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and chaat masala. I don’t even know what some of those things are, let alone am able to pronounce them, but it was incredibly good. If they made this into a larger dish, I would probably get this. All the different sauces/chutneys added up to an awesome appetizer.

The entrees arrived and originally they looked like small portions. This is always the case and then when you’re about halfway through and think you’re going to die, you realize these people know what they’re doing. The bison (raised locally) had an amazing flavor. I’m a big fan of bison meat (and most meats, for that matter), and it surprised me to see it on the menu here, but there’s a reason it’s there. It’s delicious, especially with some extra spice in it. The squash was perfectly cooked with some texture, but lots of flavor and the ginger and garlic were perfect in this dish. It’s served with rice and eventually all of the rice ended up in the meat bowl to soak up the curry and other juices. Delicious. Really.

The Almond Curry Chicken isn’t much to look at (a lot of Indian dishes end up looking like poo, but are absolutely awesome), but was REALLY good. The chicken was very flavorful and wasn’t overwhelmed by the curry or ginger or garlic (or almond). The texture was good, as was the spice level. Actually, both of our dishes could have been kicked up another notch on the heat level. 4 was fine, but I think both of us would have been good with a 5. Next time.

We were really surprised at how inattentive the staff was. We waited around for water refills and silverware and D.Rough was going to order Chai (Namaste was voted best Chai in Minneapolis in 2007 and people still talk about it), but the people never showed up to ask us if we needed anything else. This was the only real let down of the place. Well, that and how few people were here to eat dinner – which is a shame because it’s really amazing food. Maybe people got fed up with the service and stopped showing up. As good as the food was, I’d serve myself if I had to, just to eat here again. I can get over service issues when the food is worth eating.

If you get a chance, go here and eat (or drink Chai if they finally take your order). Not only is the menu very interesting and has some surprises on it, you’ll also get really well-prepared food that’s not terribly outrageously priced. I think you’ll like it if you try it. Plus, if it matters to you, they are all about natural, local, and organic foods – Go them.

Top 5 things about Namaste
1. Paapri Chaat – Indian Nachos
2. Squash Curry with Bison
3. Almond Curry Chicken
4. Awesome menu selection
5. Fun restaurant atmosphere

Bottom 5 things
1. Inattentive staff – big time
2. Too many things I wanted to try on the menu
3. The inside isn’t very large, so I’m guessing on busy nights, it’s difficult to get a table (you can drink next door at Duplex while waiting, I would think)
4. Visually small portions that fill you up long before you get to the end of it
5. I was surprised the 4 out of 5 spice level was so wussy – thank you Minnesota hahaha

Kafe 421 – Minneapolis, MN (Dinkytown)

GingerVitus had more hilarious stories to tell me before I started my new job, so we decided to meet for lunch again near her work. She chose Kafe 421 and fortunately, I had never been there before – I’m always up for trying new restaurants. This place is kind of a mash of different styles and is borderline upscale, maybe a high-mid-scale environment. Not snooty, but definitely classier than Buffalo Wild Wings.

The place seems kind of small and narrow inside, but it looks like the dining area goes back further into the restaurant than I would have imagined. The menu isn’t terribly large, but is reasonable for a lunch offering. I found a couple of things I wanted to try. There’s a lot of sandwiches, salads, and pastas on the menu. I got it narrowed down to 5 things, then down to three, then finally decided on the Pork Tenderloin Sandwich – roasted pork tenderloin, swiss cheese, thick cut bacon (dur…), spinach, avocado, and scallion may on whole grain bread. I asked for the mayo on the side, since I’m weird about my sauces. It comes with salad or fries and I went with the Caesar salad this time around.

The food arrived quickly, and I was pretty happy to see my sandwich and salad looking delicious. It was now that I realized I had forgotten my camera in the car and politely asked GingerVitus if I could borrow her camera phone to take a photo and e-mail it to myself. Thankfully, she only gave me the briefest of hard times about forgetting things like this, and eventually took out her phone. Thanks GV! The salad was a pretty standard Caesar salad. Nothing to write insane amounts about, but it was very good.

The sandwich was pretty awesome though. I was really happy with it. The meat was really good and the cheese and avocado seemed perfect for this thing. I even started using the weird mayo with the sandwich and it made it better – hooray! The bread was one of my favorite kinds (the kind with all the stuff on the outside of the bread – you know – the seeds and weird bits of stuff) and was lightly toasted. Not like Quizno’s blood-inducing toasted, but just enough to give it some texture. The bacon was delicious as it’s very difficult to screw up and the veggies on the sandwich were very fresh and tasty.

There were enough things on the menu that look appetizing that I’ll likely be back soon. Even GingerVitus’s Spinach Salad looked delicious – strawberries, spinach, pears, gorgonzola, cranberries, walnuts, and orange-sesame dressing – yeah, really. It looked awesome.

Top 5 things about Kafe 421
1. Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
2. Spinach Salad (according to GingerVitus)
3. Really diverse menu with a lot of styles
4. GingerVitus has the most hilarious stories. Everytime.
5. Upscale without being snooty

Bottom 5 things
1. It’s slightly pricey – not outlandish, but not cheap
2. Some of the wait staff looked REALLY surly, enough to comment on
3. There really isn’t anything else bad

Baja Sol Cantina – Eden Prairie, MN

Some of my former coworkers called an emergency Friday lunch gathering and since I had nothing going on, I thought I’d better show up. See how easily I cave? I’ve never been to Baja Sol, but it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I think I got it confused with Baja Fresh, which is a Chipotle/Panchero’s style burrito place. This is more of a sit down restaurant with a chip and salsa bar.

The menu has a lot of things to choose form and the pictures look pretty good, although extra-white, if you know what I mean. I wanted something rather large, so I finally decided on the Smothered Baja Burrito with spicy chile verde. The picture of it looked really good, plus it looked pretty substantial, so I went with it covered in chile verde at the suggestion of our helpful waitress. I also got two sides with mine – I went with the black beans and also the steamed vegetables since they’re healthy, right? And since I wasn’t working, I got a margarita. I love afternoon drinking!

The margarita was decent – I’m not sure if I’d drive here specifically for one, but it was palatable. While we waited, we went up to the chip and salsa bar. You can fill your plate with chips and then mix and match different salsas. I got the mango and peach salsa and the one with season ingredients. The Habanero salsa was good and had a good flavor with plenty of kick. The mango and peach was probably my favorite though. I really liked the sweetness with the heat it had.

The food came out rather quickly and I was impressed. The burrito is placed a super long skinny plate and smothered with the chile verde. It also has the two sides in small ramekins at either end. This was going to fill me up, I could tell. The black beans were fine and I enjoyed them. Then steamed vegetables were just alright. They didn’t thrill me to be honest and were pretty oniony. But the burrito was really impressive, both the size and the flavor. I didn’t expect much, so I was pleasantly surprised. It had a ton of beef inside and beans, onions, and peppers. For a white-bread kind of Mexican place in Minnesota, this place is alright. For some sort of comparison, it’s like a more flavorful Chi-Chi’s when those were still around. Maybe like a Chevy’s or something.

The waitress seemed impressed I ate the whole thing, but I told her the burrito really wasn't that large. She seemed horrified. Oh well.

We got in there and out of there pretty quickly since people had to get back to work. It was a pretty good lunch, and I’ll probably go back here for lunch again. It wasn’t terribly expensive, but it’s more than taco bell (which is on the next block and soooo tempting for me). It’s worth checking out if you’re into Minnesota Mexican food.

Top 5 things about Baja Sol Cantina
1. Smothered Burrito
2. Mango and Peach Salsa
3. Habanero Salsa
4. Super friendly staff
5. All you can eat chips and salsa

Bottom 5 things
1. It’s still extra-white Minnesota Mexican food
2. The steamed vegetables were pretty bad
3. Didn’t feel like I should order 4 margaritas and rub it into the working people
4. It got kind of loud in here during the lunch crowd
5. I had to set the alarm to get up in time for lunch – hahahaha, suckers.

Experimental Food Night 3854 – Minneapolis, MN

For tonight’s experimental food night, Trash found an amazing-sounding recipe (which sadly, she always thinks if horrifying), and the bonus is that the dish sounds incredibly sexually inappropriate. M.Giant and I both voted a resounding YES on this dish for the evening. It is called “Tijuana Pie”. Yeah, seriously.

Here’s how it breaks down. Throw some browned (and super garlicked if you’re the Giant family) ground beef, garlic, tomato sauce, chili beans, shredded cheese, canned corn and enchilada sauce into a crock pot between layers of flour tortillas. Turn it on and wait for the awesomeness. There’s nothing about this recipe that sounds gross (only because the gratuitous olives between every layer were excluded – hahaha).

What happens is the tortillas on the bottom of the crock pot absorb all the liquid and turn into a sort of mushlike noodle substance (and a delicious one, at that!). Then the rest of the ingredients trade awesomeness with each other and form an exponentially more awesome filler ingredient. Finally, the tortilla on the top acts as sort of a flavor shield, keeping all the awesomeness contained within the layers beneath. The top tortilla ends up getting dried out and difficult to cut through, but it’s worth it. And then if you serve it with cornbread, for some reason, it makes it even better!

The thing is actually quite tasty. I will issue a tactful and polite disclaimer here: This dish was eaten and enjoyed in Minnesota. This means it is severely lacking in mexican-style flavor. The dish is good, but if you added some spicy salsa, some jalapenos, and maybe swig tequila while eating, it would be a thousand times better. It was slightly on the bland side, but as I said, in Minnesota, this was probably an 8 out of 10 at any restaurant. So if you decide to look this recipe up on line and make it yourself, please do yourself a favor and add in some spicy zing to it. It will make it sooo much better (unless you live in Minnesota, then leave it the way it is).

The best part about the night is while we were eating dinner, I was trying to get M.Edium (who is five years old) to say Tijuana Pie. I can’t tell you how many times I said the phrase hoping he’d pick up on it. I flat out told him, “Now you can tell all your friends at school, you’ve had Tijuana Pie.” This caused considerable laughter from M.Giant and considerable dirty looks from Trash Giant. If M.Edium gets sent home from school this week, I’ll call it a success.

Once again, a winner of a recipe! And hopefully, one that will make it back into the rotation when we can’t find anything to throw into the crock pot last minute. Thanks again, Giant family.

Fishman’s Kosher Deli – St. Louis Park, MN

As many of you know, I LOVE to go out for lunch with FireRetarded for a number of reasons. The most hilarious one is the fact that he never tells his wife, DeltaForceCommander, how much he actually spends when we gorge ourselves during the day and she’s not around. I had heard about Fishmans for a couple of years and just never made it there. I’d been to Cecil’s in St. Paul, and I wanted something a little closer to home. This was my suggestions when FireRetarded called and said he was starving.

Fishman’s is a kosher deli/restaurant/store in St. Louis Park and is a pretty slick place. The store is MUCH larger on the inside than I ever suspected and the deli is pretty substantial. The restaurant is in the front of the store and sort of curtained off. When we both got there, we checked out the menu. I was a little surprised at how expensive the sandwiches were, but that’s probably because they offer two sizes – regular and basically double stuffed. Since I’m a big eater, I’d have to go with the big one, but we both found an alternative. If you order the deli plate, you get your choice of four meats and it comes with bread, so you can put together your own sandwich – all for cheaper than the double-stuffed sandwich.

So that’s what we both got: the Deli Plate – salami, turkey, pastrami, and corned beef. I got pumpernickel bread, since I was feeling sassy. FireRetarded got the same deli plate, but with bologna, hard and regular salami, and maybe the pastrami? I also love Matza ball soup, so I got that and FireRetarded got us an order of fries to share. See why we never tell DeltaForceCommander how much we spend at lunch?

The Matza Ball soup was absolutely delicious. Lots of chicken and carrots and the ball itself was pretty sizeable. One of the best Matza Ball soups I’ve ever had.

The waitress also brought the fries for us. I’m not sure if they were battered or breaded or what, but they were some of the best fries I’ve ever had – and I’ll repeat to you people: I’m NOT a fry guy usually. Don’t skip on the fries at Fishman’s – you won’t be disappointed.

The deli plates were pretty significant. The meat itself was awesome. I’d definitely put it up there with Cecil’s quality and flavor. I was slightly disappointed we only got two pieces of bread each. That means one sandwich or two open-faced sammiches (which is the route I took). I did think about putting all four meats onto one sandwich, but decided against it to make sure I could taste each meat. The meat and bread were fantastic though, so no complaints. Both plates also come with coleslaw, which FireRetarded ate for me and called me stupid for not liking. Hilarious. We were both stuffed when the dust settled – a fantastic lunch.

The food itself is really good and there is lots to choose from. It’s not cheap by any stretch. I think both of us paid $30 (but don’t tell his wife that – if she asked, it was $11 each…) Yeah, it’s THAT pricey, but we did eat a LOT of food as well. Seriously, if it weren’t for the price, I’d eat here a LOT more often. Maybe when I feel like splurging for lunch, I’ll head back here.

Top 5 things about Fishman’s
1. All of the meat, actually
2. Matza Ball Soup
3. French Fries, and I’m not kidding
4. Really friendly servers
5. You can gorge yourself and then go grocery shopping – bonus round!

Bottom 5 things
2. Could have been more bread on the deli plate
3. The small restaurant fills up fast
4. Lots of stuff has sauerkraut, of which I’m not a fan
5. Sever lack of pork products (yes, I’m kidding. Geeeesh, some people are so sensitive)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thanh Do – St. Louis Park, MN

TheDoctor and I went to celebrate some recent victories in the job hunting arena (or so we thought). GingerMcInjure had talked about Thanh Do in a positive light I thought we should try it. In fact, I’ve had the phrase “You’ve got that Thanh Do attitude” stuck in my head for about two months now. My solution to getting it out of my head was to go here.

I rolled in to meet TheDoctor and scanned the menu. He’d been waiting and already knew what he wanted. I decided on the Bangkok Noodles but had them throw in some extra spice. TheDoctor got the Singapore Street Noodles since he’s from the streets (…of Edina…). He also got extra spice because he’s a real man.

The meal comes with soup of some sort and we both got Egg Drop soup with ours. I’m a big fan of egg drop soup, and this one impressed me a little bit. I don’t like the egg drop soup that has the consistency of snot. I like the brothy kind with LOTS of eggs in it. This was the latter and I liked it a lot. When I get a cold or respiratory ailment, now I want Thanh Do Egg Drop soup. Not that anyone asked to baby me when I’m sick or anything, but just pretend to make a mental note for me.

The Spring Rolls came out and were tasty, but not tightly wrapped so the insides kept falling out. Really enjoyable and fresh though. They were some of the better ones I’ve had flavor-wise, so no complaints really. But there was no SriRacha anywhere, and by the time I realized it, we were mostly done with them. So I had to forego the spicy joy of rooster sauce for this trip…sigh…

The actual food came out and wasn’t what I expected. My dish was an unholy shade of green. I wasn’t scared (since unholy things don’t particularly frighten me) though. I could see the spice in there indicating it would have the proper amount of zing to it. I really liked it. The green stuff was apparently Bangkok-style curry, and then there were tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and noodles. It was exquisite.

TheDoctor’s food was also really good. I had a couple bites of his and approve highly of his choice, especially with the added spice. This dish had egg, vermicelli noodles, bean sprouts, onions, carrots, and curry – sort of a perfect storm for ingredients. And again, my dish was much better than his, so that just blows up TheDoctor’s theory about me being a submissive bitch and letting him order my food for me.

I was really impressed with the level of service here. Very good people and very attentive. But I was really REALLY impressed with the food we got more than anything else. I will be back here again. It was delicious and makes me want to try a ton of other things on their extensive menu.

Top 5 things about Thanh Do
1. Bangkok Noodles
2. Singapore Street Noodles
3. Egg Drop Soup
4. Good spring rolls
5. Very good service

Bottom 5 things
1. The menu (even the lunch menu) is really immense
2. Is it pronounced dooooo or doh? No idea
3. Odd clientele – yes, I’m a judger
4. Severe lack of SriRacha
5. It is $2.99 to add peanuts to anything. Really? $2.99 worth of baseball park peanuts will kill a small child. Just saying…

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Los Andes – Minneapolis, MN

The last time TheDoctor and I went to lunch at Popeyes Chicken, I mentioned I wanted to try this Ecuadorian and Colombian restaurant across the street from Popeyes. TheDoctor said to include him when I went and we’d check it out. I had no idea what to expect since I was unfamiliar with the cuisine from those countries. Would it simply be Mexican food with some minor changes or would it be completely different? No idea. I sent TheDoctor a text message with the address and name of the place and reminded him it was directly across from Popeyes. What’s really hilarious is I sent him the wrong address and the wrong name of the restaurant and we still both managed to show up at the correct place and sent each other messages at the same time laughing that I totally got the name wrong. I’m an idiot.

We perused the menu and I found a lot of familiar looking things on it. Some of the items had pictures associated with the dishes, which is super helpful at an ethnic restaurant people are unfamiliar with. The menu was in English and Spanish, which is also helpful. We found an appetizer that sounded delicious so we ordered that while deciding on food. The Humitas con Queso were traditional corn cakes with cheese on them – how could that be bad? The answer is… It couldn’t.

TheDoctor and I both wanted the same thing on the menu, but caved and ordered something seafood-y since he’ll eat that and I tend to steer clear of those things. Then we could share. I decided on the Picada “Los Andes” – basically a plate full of meat – and I got a pineapple Jarritos, as well. TheDoctor got Arroz Marinero – seafood with yellow rice. Neither of us were sure what would come out, but we had high hopes.

I was absolutely intrigued by an item on the menu. There was something called Cuy and also a photo of it. I thought, “wow, that looks vaguely animal-shaped.” Oddly enough, it IS animal-shaped, since it’s a guinea pig cooked with corn and yellow potatoes. Like a WHOLE guinea pig. You need two hours to order it (so they can “prepare it” – aka go to the pet store down the street), otherwise, it might hhave been tempting. The only issue (well, not the ONLY issue) is that I was unsure how to eat one. I don’t even know what’s inside of one. I heard Anthony Bourdain eats Cuy on his trip to Ecuador, but I haven’t seen the episode, so I don’t have any idea what guinea pig etiquette is yet. I’m not sure if I could do it or not, but I’ll see the episode and then decide. Maybe next time.

The food arrived pretty quickly with the appetizer first. The corn cakes were really tasty – not a lot of variety on the flavor (as far as complexity), but the cheese was enough flavor to give it some depth. It may not have been the most amazing thing in the world, but it was still good enough, I’d probably order it again (a couple of times). There was enough for TheDoctor and I to each get a corn cake with plenty of cheese, so we were both happy with the amount before the entrees came out.

First, the waiter brought out this orange creamy sauce kind of thing to our table. We were unsure of what it was so TheDoctor put a small dab on his finger and popped it in his mouth. He smiled at first and then started coughing. Which of course made ME want to try it. The same thing happened to me. Really good flavor and then straight fire. Amazingly spicy sauce but with really good flavor. We would be putting this on anything they brought o our table at this point, and we didn’t even know what it was for. It was awesome though.

TheDoctor’s food was kind of a disappointment, visually. It was basically shrimp-fried rice from a Chinese restaurant. I don’t mean that in a bad way, since it was actually pretty good. But it was distinctly non-south-american. Very unique menu item. It had peas and cubed carrots in it, so it really looked like the frozen vegetables you get at the grocery store, sadly. But it did have red and green peppers in it as well, so it had some other flavors helping it all out. I don’t think TheDoctor was overly impressed with his, but I did actually like his (enough that I took his left-overs home with me and ate them the next day – thanks, Doctor). It had only the faintest of fishy flavors in it and the shrimp was mostly perfect (though there were a few tails still left one, so you had to be a bit cautious).

My food was, as I said earlier, a big plate of meat. It had grilled beef, pork loin, some sort of sausage, and cracklin (which I’m pretty sure is like fatty pork bellies….mmmmmm…fatty pork bellies.). It also had fried green plantains (or tostones) and a grilled sweet plantain. It was basically the Andean version of Fogo de Chao. The grilled beef was awesome. The pork loin was equally awesome (probably the best parts). The sausage was really good, but if you don’t like gristle-y bits in your sausage, you probably won’t like it – thankfully I do. And the cracklin was pretty good as well. Some parts were fried hard and others were a bit soggy (it’s kind of like how people cook bacon). It was good, but there were some pieces that were entirely fat (only a few, though, so don’t think I’m complaining). And yes, everything got dipped in the orange creamy fire sauce I had globbed on my plate. The tostones were really good as well. I’ve had them before at other places and I like them better than American potato chips, so you should probably make sure you get to try these if given the chance. The grilled plantain was just alright. It was a big soggy and had some tewxture issues, but it was fine for a few bites. It just appeared to have some sort of spinal column running down it that was indestructible – weird.

Overall, I had a pretty good meal here. It didn’t blow me (or TheDoctor) away, but it was a good meal and I had very few complaints at all about it. The wait staff was very friendly and helpful and there was a decent crowd there eating, so the place appears to be doing a pretty healthy business. I would eat Colombian food again without a doubt. I know there are a couple of other places like this in the Twin City area, so I might have to try those as well. It’s worth checking out if you’re in the area and don’t own stock in Popeyes, like *I* do. Hahahahaha.

Top 5 things about Los Andes
1. Picada “Los Andes”
2. Humitas
3. Amazingly hot orange creamy sauce
4. Menu has awesome descriptions and photos!
5. Really nice wait staff

Bottom 5 things
1. Some of the cracklin was inedible
2. Frozen veggies in TheDoctor’s food
3. No room for amazing sounding Andean desserts
4. Parking isn’t the greatest on Lake Street
5. I’m curious/horrified by eating a guinea pig

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Burger Jones – Minneapolis, MN

When TheDoctor calls for lunch, I find it difficult to pass up, which is why we’ve done lunch twice this week (so far). My lunch plans with KingDavid had just been canceled like 2 minutes before he called, so I jumped at the chance to eat copious amounts of food with TheDoctor, especially when he told me he had a hankering for burgers. I suggested Burger Jones since our friends BloodCar and EyeHeartPizza had raved about it.

I got there a little early, since I was so excited about lunch. I checked out the menu and ordered the Tri-Fry Tower – hand-cut russet fries, maple-bacon sweet potato fries, and parmesan waffle fries with three different dipping sauces – seasoned sour cream, bourbon BBQ, and Chipotle Aioli. I figured TheDoctor would sit down and be able to start shoveling food into his mouth. I heard he’s a fan of that. I checked out the drink menu and had ordered a strawberry shake. I flipped over the menu and saw a bunch of wildly delicious-looking shakes I missed during the first pass. I called the waiter back and asked if it was too late to change my shake order. I needed the Revenge of the Nerds shake – vanilla milkshake with Cruzan Raspberry Rum, strawberry, vanilla and LOTS of Nerds. Seriously, it’s like this place was made specifically for me.

TheDoctor showed up finally and took a look at the menu as well. I warned him there were fries coming, so not to concern himself with that. We both found a couple of things we liked and decided we’d just order two burgers and cut them into halves. I love it when a plan comes together. I decided to go with the White Trash Burger – chicken-fried bacon, fried cheese curds, and velveeta. TheDoctor got the Green Chile Cheeseburger – spicy green chile salsa, pepperjack, and a giant onion ring. I ask again, was this place made specifically for me? I think yes.

There’s also a small tab clipped to the menu for a lunch deal they’re running called the BJ Nooner – Yes, I think they know what they’ve put on paper there, if you’re wondering. It’s a cheeseburger and fries for $7.99 M-F 11-3. Decent special. And the name is hilarious.

The fries came out on what looks like some sort of metal sacrificial altar. They were delicious, honestly. Even the regular fries were pretty good, but the maple bacon sweet potato fries and the parmesan waffle friea were equally good. I wish the sweet potato fries were a little more bacon-y, but you can’t have everything. They were fantastic, especially with the dipping sauces. I’m not always a dipping sauce kind of guy, but all three of these were fantastic. Well played, Burger Jones. And what the hell happened off-camera that TheDoctor is so horrified at? You’ll never know…

The shake was delicious. I’m still a little weird about mixing alcohol with milkshakes (and believe me, I’ve tried dozens of times), but this was pretty good, especially with the nerds thrown in. Just a faint hint of strawberry/raspberry in it, and occasionally, you’d suck a nerd through the straw too hard and it would hit the back of your skull like a bullet, but whatever. It was a great lunch girly drink.

The burgers came out and we were both impressed with them. The patties themselves seemed a little small, but I think there were enough toppings on there to make both of us happy. And looking at the photos now, the patties were NOT small, there must have been a boatload of toppings and illusionary stuff going on. Seriously – chicken-fried bacon and cheese curds on a burger? Brilliant. I got a little photo happy, since I was pretty excited about these burgers.

Here's both burgers together, cross-sectional-style:

I even got a photo of TheDoctor forgoing all tact and couth and putting them both together and taking one giant bite.

The chicken-fried bacon was stellar, as were the cheese curds. Even the Velveeta cheese was an addition (it isn’t usually) to the flavor of this thing. Great burger flavor and great toppings. The green chile cheeseburger took the crown though. It was seriously awesome. I was even able to extract the entire onion out of the onion ring while still on the burger. That move right there made the burger officially perfect. The green chile wasn’t that spicy, but was great with the pepperjack. And now I’m going to have to listen to TheDoctor remind me that he should order for me from now on, since I always like his food better. Maybe next time, I’ll let that happen. He does have a pretty good track record for one of my heterosexual friends (supposedly).

If you get a chance, go here. I think you’ll find a few different things you’ll like and you’ll probably recommend it to as many people as I’m going to. I was very happy with it. Awesome waiter, huge beer list with some girly beers for people like me, and some awesome girly fun drinks.

They have cloth napkins, so I can take Trash there for dinner.

Top 5 things about Burger Jones
1. Green Chile Cheeseburger
2. White Trash Burger
3. Tri-Fry Tower (and dipping sauces)
4. Revenge of the Nerds shake
5. Really good staff

Bottom 5 things
1. The place isn’t cheap, but then again, I didn’t eat a tiny bit of food…
2. You can’t get alcoholic shakes to go. Sadface
3. Eating here reminded me of my awesome roommate EyeHeartPizza before she moved back to Denver
4. There are no more bad things!!!

Steve-O’s – Crystal , MN

We went to watch some roller derby with Karen192 and Charlesworth a few weeks back and Charlesworth mentioned a bar in Crystal that has an 8am happy hour for third shirt workers (and drunks). It’s called Steve-O’s. From what he heard, 8-9am they serve three-for-ones and from 9-10am, they serve two-for-ones. We tried to do the math on how much drinking we thought we could do, but we were already into our current cups so the math wasn’t coming out very smoothly at that point.

Being unemployed, I convinced TheDoctor to go to Steve-O’s with me the very next Friday. And no, it didn’t take THAT much convincing. He DID go to Arizona State, after all. We drove out there and were the first ones in the parking lot. While waiting and enjoying a PB&J sammich (thanks, Doctor), we saw a random guy walk through the door. Guess they were open! We headed in to watch the last of the night shift cleaning crew finishing up with the mopping and cleaning (at least we know they clean this place, right?). It’s a dark bar, but not a scary dark bar. It’s got all kinds of pool tables and games (no darts that we saw) and actually is a pretty welcoming place – even if you don’t like country music on your juke box.

The barkeep, Linda (she’s awesome) welcomed us graciously and took our orders. Canned beer and rail drinks were three-for-ones. I ordered rum and cokes and TheDoctor ordered Premiums. She whipped up three of each and handed them over. It was 8:05am and we were on our way.

People started rolling in to Steve-O’s at this point. Like lots of people. People getting off work, a bunch of old guys, and some regular guys that were just there to drink. Interesting mix of people. There were, of course, some stereotypical bar drunks there. A guy with an oxygen tank sitting next to me. A guy without vocal chords using one of those voice box thingys. And a random uber-talkative baseball fan who kept trying to talk to TheDoctor. There was another guy talking about strip clubs while showing photos of his kids to his neighbor. And of course the guy that comes in every Friday and pounds two shots of J ägermeister and drinks a beer. Like I said, this place was hopping at 8:30am.

We polished off the first round and ordered a second. I think it was about 8:20am.

We listened to some people arguing and I heard one of the best lines ever come out of an old guy’s mouth. “I’d kick you in the ass but I don’t want to hurt your gerbil.” Who the hell says that?!?!?! Obviously an angry old guy says that. It was brilliant.

I polished off another round of drinks and ordered a third set. It was about this time that TheDoctor realized someone was going to have to drive us home. So he quit drinking after two rounds. He also confiscated my phone when he realized I was drunk txting people at 8:45am. Apparently, people don’t believe you when you drunk txt them that early, since I got responses back like, “You’re so silly” and “WTF are you talking about?”

And then, because TheDoctor is nothing if not generous, he ordered me a set of two more drinks when 9:00am rolled around – that’s when they switch to two-for-ones. (I would have taken a photo of these two, but my phone was missing, along with my digit functionality.) I tried with all my might to get through both of those drinks because I hate to waste alcohol... I mean diet coke. But it wasn’t going to happen. I made it through one full one and half of the other.

This brings the total number of drinks to 10.5 in the space of 1.5 hours. Not my smartest move ever, but I can cross 8am happy hour off my list. Additionally, I can cross a multitude of other things off my list that I didn’t even know were ON the list. Some of those things being: puking straight rum in TheDoctor’s driveway at 10am, passing out in TheDoctor’s chair with his dog at 10:30am, and having a fresh hangover at 2 in the afternoon. Who would have known my list of stupid things to never do again was so extensive?!?!

And while I would highly recommend hanging at Steve-O’s to anyone, especially since they do karaoke there, I probably won’t be attending 8am happy hour again. It was fun while it lasted (which was about an hour and a half), but I don’t need to prove myself to an ASU grad ever again.