Friday, December 20, 2013

Fong's Pizza - Des Moines, IA

It was D.Rough’s birthday weekend, so I was determined to do whatever it took to make her happy. She had heard about Fong’s Pizza from an odd turn of events, and she knew she wanted to check it out. You see, Fong’s Pizza makes pizza with Chinese food toppings on them. Is that even possible, you ask? Yes, it is. And the added bonus is Fong’s serves tiki drinks!!!! (That’s basically a requirement of out-of-town roller derby trips.)

This restaurant in downtown Des Moines is sort of a first-come-first-serve kind of place. We were a group of six, so we had to stake our claim on one of the larger tables in the back room and wait for a group to leave. There also happened to be a Santa Pub Crawl downtown this night, so we had to deal with some drunk Santas. But no worries. Once we got the table, our server, Alex, made sure we were all set up.

We started with some tiki drinks, of course. I needed to check out the Smilin’ Samoan – Cruzan dark, Smirnoff, Malibu, Amaretto, and pineapple juice. And it was delicious – obviously.

While we were waiting for the table, we got some recommendations from fellow diners. They suggested we order the Thai Styx. Since A-Wow, D.Rough and I were sharing, we also decided to get a large Crab Rangoon pizza and a Mu Shu Pork pizza. But it was a tough sell with all the other tasty pizza flavors – Happy Family, buffalo chicken, Polynesian, Fongolian Beef, a couple Italian flavors, Mexican flavors, etc. So good.

The Thai Styx were our appetizer for the table, so we divied them up. It’s a thin wheat crust pizza with Thai peanut sauce and bacon, then drizzled with honey. It tasted like peanut butter toast in the morning with a little heat to it. Sooooo darn good. Really, I’m not joking about this. We would get this again without questioning it.

The pizzas came out next. The Crab Rangoon pizza was even better than I expected (and I expected it to be fantastic, for the record). It had a super thin crust and little fried won ton skins, along with asiago and mozzarella cheese bits. It has also been drizzled with sweet chili sauce, which pushes it from being good to great. This was really quite good (and amazingly held up to being microwaved the following morning in the hotel) and I’m going to rave about this for a long time.

Then I needed another tiki drink – this time, an Angry Pirate. Cruzan light, peach schnapps, Malibu, blue curacao, midori, pineapple juice, and Sprite. While not as good as the Smilin’ Samoan, it was still wonderful.

The Mu Shu Pork pizza was also super good. We got a hand tossed crust and they covered it with house and hoisin bbq pork, mirepoix, cabbage, and mozzarella. Then a couple of green onions and drizzled with Mu Shu sauce. The flavor of the pork was what I noticed first – even better than most Chinese restaurants I’ve had it in. Extremely good stuff. The ingredients on the top just added more flavor to the whole thing. I was really surprised how much I liked this stuff.

Before we left, the bouncer had to come back and scoop a drunken passed out Santa off the bathroom floor. THAT’s gonna ruin Christmas, for sure! But hilarious.

I know the others at the table were equally impressed (with the pizza, not the Santa incident) and, though skeptical at first, came to love this place. I’m going to make a point to get here more often, especially since it’s open late. I usually go to Zombie Burger when I’m in Des Moines, but this place might have jumped in front of Zombie Burger on my favorites list.

Top 5 things about Fong’s Pizza
1. Crab Rangoon pizza
2. Thai Styx
3. Mu Shu Pork pizza
4. Smilin’ Samoan
5. Angry Pirate

Bottom 5 things
1. Drunken Santas (hopefully, a once-a-year situation)
2. No reservations
3. I don’t think there’s a parking lot anywhere nearby, so you may have to park in a ramp
4. Weird policy on holding credit cards for tiki drink deposits (I suppose it makes sense with damage/theft and all)
5. The menu has an incredible number of unusual things on it – don’t be an idiot and get something conservative like a pepperoni pizza. COME ON!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chez Arnaud French Bakery – St. Paul, MN

D.Rough’s birthday was looming, so I was trying to figure out where I could take her for a lunch date. I threw out a couple of places and she suggested Chez Arnaud. I hadn’t been there and had heard her talk about it. I was 100% IN!!!

The place is very modern, clean, and almost minimalist on the inside. There’s a refrigerated case with sandwich kinds of things and then a dessert case. We did some in-depth perusing and finally decided we’d get a small item, a side dish, and split a sandwich (after D.Rough scaled back considerably what I originally wanted to order – sometimes, I get excited about food). We got a foot-long club sandwich with mortadella, provolone, and pistachio butter, a goat cheese tomato basil friand, and these fried potatoes with bacon, cheese, and onions.

We were going to have to go back up to check out the desserts when it was time. There’s no point in rushing into important decisions like this.

The really nice counter person actually coursed our lunch for us. She brought out the friand (like a flaky puff pastry pot pie) first, so we dug into that. Delicious. Very light and flaky crust and piping hot (she had just taken it out of the small oven). The goat cheese was just to eh point of melty and I wanted to eat a much larger version of this (the photo makes it seem large, but it was about 5 inches across – so not small either). Great starter!

The fried potatoes were split into two different bowls (this server is really top-notch) for us. The cheese was melty on the top and when you could get a bite with all the ingredients, it was super tasty. The only thing that would have made these potatoes better would have been if they had some crust on them, but I know it’s difficult and time-consuming to do that. As they were, they were great and I’m not even complaining a tiny bit. I loved them.

The sandwich was great and made me want to go back to Paris and eat outside a café in the blistering cold winter weather. Crusty bread, but not enough to destroy your mouth when you bite it. Great mortadella and cheese combo and the light pistachio butter was a wonderful touch.

It was dessert time. This took an equally long time to decide, especially since I wanted to get everything. The desserts aren’t just appetizing here, they’re beautiful. Beyond “pretty”. So pretty there are parts you’re not sure if you’re supposed to eat. Look at the photo!

After D.Rough shot down my dreams of eating an entire foot long swiss cake roll the size of my leg (I know it isn’t a swiss cake roll, but that’s what it looks like), we got a Moulin Rouge and a Cayenne Chocolate Macaron for D.Rough (since it’s her birthday), and I got a Pombleu – which she told me was a layered stack of custard, mouse and a blueberry-pomegranate mouse on top with some crumbles. I told the girl I would stop eating when I hit the gold part at the bottom of the Moulin Rouge.

The Moulin Rouge stole the show it was incredible. Very light and “happy” tasting. D.Rough always laughs at me when I describe food with non-food words, but it’s true. I wanted more of these, or maybe an entire log of these! How can I order this? In log form? Sheet cake form? Or do I just have to order a hundred of these little guys? I’m willing to do it.

The macaron was really good. I’ve gotten into these little cookies more and more over the past few years. I’ve always liked them, but I’ve had some bad ones, which means I know what GOOD ones taste like. These were really good ones. Just a tiny hint of cayenne at the end, which the girl told us people sometimes mistake for cinnamon. I can see that. Really good and flaky cookie that we both loved.

The Pombleu was really good as well. I like shooter-style desserts (I’m sure D.Rough is rolling her eyes right now). Pudding shooters. Key lime pie shooters. Cake shooters. Cake vodka shots – whatever. I like them all The blueberry pomegranate flavoring was subtle but any more than that would have made the whole thing too sweet. This wasn’t too sweet. It was perfect.

I’d say this was a pretty good showing for my first time at Chez Arnaud. The only thing I was bummed about was they were out of the giant macaron sandwiches they sometimes have. I had my heart set on one and I suppose I’ll have to come back! When this place runs out of things, they are out until the next day. Just a warning.

Oh, and there is a decent parking lot in the back of the building, in case you can’t find parking out front on Grand Ave.

Top 5 things about Chez Arnaud French Bakery
1. Moulin Rouge
2. Goat cheese friand
3. French sandwich on a long baguette
4. Potatoes, cheese, and bacon
5. Extremely helpful staff who will answer all of your questions!

Bottom 5 things
1. They were out of the giant macaron sandwiches
2. Some of the clientele can be pretty uppity at a French bakery, even in St. Paul. I would likely have “words” with some of the customers we saw this day…
3. Get there early during the lunch hour or you run the risk of them running out of things you want (and you WILL want everything)
4. It was a tiny bit pricey for our lunch (but cheaper than flying to Paris for lunch!), but still reasonable
5. ZERO pencil thin mustaches, berets, and tiny cigarettes here!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Funky Desi Indian Restaurant and Lounge – Moline, IL

D.Rough were in Illinois visiting my family for Thanksgiving and thought we’d try out a new Indian restaurant in downtown Moline. I remember this place being some sort of dance club or banquet hall back in the day, so I was curious what it would look like inside. Plus the name includes “Restaurant and Lounge”, so my curiosity was piqued.

The inside is a weird cross between a nice Indian-decorated restaurant, a neon-lit dance club, and a sports bar (sooo many TVs above the bar). I’m not sure what the designer was going for here, but they’ve covered many bases here – I’m not sure that’s a good thing. But this also allows for plenty of seating – booths along the walls, tables in the dance floor area, and a nice private large dinner table for large groups in the front. It isn’t gaudy, it’s just confusing inside.

We went and checked the buffet out and it looked really good, so we both went with that plan. There were plenty of things up there, as well. Too many to name, and I’d butcher the names of the things if I tried. Veggie pakora, butter chicken, tandoori chicken, matter paneer, and a bunch of other things. I loaded up my first plate and when we got back to the table, the server lady had brought a nice basket of naan bread.

The food was above average, compared to many Indian buffets I’ve eaten at. The paneer was quite good and there was also a noodle dish that I didn’t catch the name of (I’ve never seen noodles at an Indian place, so this one stuck in my head), but it was very delicious. It wasn’t very spicy, but had good flavor. I wish the vegetable pakora hadnt’ been in a covered chafing dish, since that makes it soggy (not that it stopped me from eating about ten of them). The butter chicken was also above average. Overall, a pretty good showing from this restaurant.

I even had to go back up for a second round…. No one is surprised by this, I’m sure.

I generally try not to call people out on customer service unless it’s bad, but there was a younger server there with plugs in his ears (behind the bar a lot, so he may have been a bartender) who crossed a lot of lines with customers. I know HE felt he was being sociable and fun, but he did a few questionable things, including asking two Indian gentlemen why they weren’t drinking after he had tried to push some cocktails on them at lunch. “Is it for religious reasons?” – he ACTUALLY asked these guys this and then wouldn’t let it go. These guys were not regulars or anything, there was no camaraderie here, just invasiveness. Then, he badmouthed our server to the table behind them, saying she didn’t know how to do things and that was why she was screwing up. It was all a bit more than he should have been saying. It wasn’t funny, it was inappropriate and made people feel uncomfortable. Maybe we should have said something at the time. I wasn’t in the mood to be confrontational. If the food wasn’t so good, I may have, just to vent, but I was enjoying my lunch.

Aside from the too-many-televisions-showing-sports and “that” guy, the food was decent and fresh and plentiful. And from the looks of the DJ equipment, speakers, and spinning neon light-y things, I’m guessing it turns into an equally weird dance club at around 8 or 9, when the cocktail happy hours start.

Top 5 things about Funky Desi
1. Butter chicken
2. Matter paneer
3. Our server girl was extremely nice and very competent should not have been bad-mouthed
4. The buffet area was really classy and clean
5. The unnamed noodle dish

Bottom 5 things
1. Invasive and inappropriate server/bartender
2. Odd combinations of environments
3. Too many televisions for a non-sports-bar
4. Covered chafing dishes make battered food soggy
5. Some of the booths were taken up with DJ equipment, which we thought was odd…

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Michael’s Pizza – St. Paul, MN

We’ve driven by Michael’s Pizza a few hundred times going to or from our house and had always wanted to try it. The main reason for that is because Michael’s Pizza is where D.Rough’s parents had their first date. I don’t think this is the exact location, since it was a *few* years ago, but we knew it held some sort of nostalgia reason for eating there.

The inside is dark and probably hasn’t changed much since it opened. It’s got old timey wallpaper, dark wood paneling, and dim lighting. But as soon as we walked in, the staff was chatting us up and interacting (not in a bad way, thankfully). Very personable bunch and sort of a family-run unit. We scanned the menu and decided on the Super Special – if you’re there, you might as well get something that a lot of people order, right? The Super Special has cheese, onions, Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, black and green olives, green peppers, and shrimp. Sound like a lot of toppings? Sure. But it still sounded really appetizing!

The place wasn’t busy, so we grabbed a booth and hung out until the pizza showed up. During that time, the delivery guy came and collected pizzas for the next set to be delivered. This place does killer delivery business, AND we found out they deliver until like 2am most night! Now we can’t wait to capitalize on that!

The pizza was pretty massive. TONS of toppings and cut into squares, like typical Minnesota pizza. I haven’t had shrimp on a pizza before, but it wasn’t bad, honestly. A little odd at first, but then you get used to it. But they didn’t hold back on any of the toppings, which we were happy to see. Great thin crust that stayed crispy. While this isn’t the most mind blowing pizza in the world, it IS really good pizza. I wouldn’t hesitate to go here again and since I drive by it so often, it is extremely likely that will happen. Plus, when you need that 1:30am pizza after a roller derby bout, they may be getting a call from C and D.Rough!

Thanks for the solid pizza, Michael’s!

Michael’s Pizza
441 S. Robert St.
St. Paul, MN 55107
(651) 222-5252

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Taco Bell Triple Steak Stack – Eden Prairie, MN

I enjoy trying the new products that Taco Bell test kitchens launch to the general public. Most of the time, I’m pretty pleased with them, and I’ll stand behind the fact that these guys are one of the most regular new product champions in the fast food industry. The Triple Steak Stack is something they launched back in 2011 and apparently have brought back.

First off, this thing isn’t cheap – it’s $4.99, but I figured since the commercials make the thing look like it is the size of a baby, it might be worth it. It is, in fact, smaller than a baby and even smaller than the marketing advertises. That isn’t to say it’s small – it isn’t. It’s close-to-a-foot-long flat bread filled with lots of steak. Not as full as the commercials let on, but it IS full. I can’t remember that far back, but I feel like this Triple Steak Stack is longer than the one they rolled out a few years back. Maybe I’m making that up in my head.

Aside from cheese, there isn’t anything else in this thing. Just steak and cheese. I’m not complaining, but most of Taco Bell’s inventions have some sort of sauce or sour cream in them. This has none. I’m glad I got a couple packets of fire sauce to jazz it up. The steak in Taco Bell’s products always surprises me. I expect gristly and overcooked pieces of pseudo-meat and I have always gotten flavorful thinly sliced restaurant quality steak. I really don’t want to like the steak at Taco Bell, but I do, I’m sorry. There is also a lot of cheese on this thing. Maybe they figured the melty cheese could replace the sauce.

I’ll be honest, this sandwich is better than I expected it to be. I’d recommend biting both ends off first, to ensure you’re getting a consistent level of meat throughout. And make sure you put some sort of sauce on it for another flavor component. The flatbread isn’t my preferred method of holding ingredients to push into my face, especially at a Mexican place, but it works in this case. It isn’t messy and it holds up just fine (better than some of their taco shells, honestly).

Yeah, I’d recommend this Triple Steak Stack. But be warned, some people will get bored eating it about halfway through. It’s kind of a one note pony without any sauce or lettuce or tomato or anything. So try this – put one flavor of sauce on one half and then another flavor of sauce on the other half, then you’ll feel like you’re getting two different sandwiches. Trick yourself into not getting bored.

I tried to look at its price and compare it to things I usually get. Would this same $5 sandwich fill me up like five items on the value menu? In this case, I would say it’s pretty close. I generally don’t eat FIVE of anything at Taco Bell, but I was as full at the end of this sandwich as I usually am when I get multiple things. I’m going to say the price is worth it for the size and quality of the sandwich. Again, just my opinion.

Not Taco Bell’s best showing (it doesn’t have any bacon – dur), but it’s a solid performer and something I’d get to fill my guts.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Foundation Tiki Bar – Milwaukee, WI

When D.Rough and I are out of town for roller derby trips, I try to find the local tiki bar in the area and bring a handful of fun people there to drink fruity cocktails. I had done some research before we left and found out Milwaukee has two such tiki bars. I had considerable luck with the scheduling of the perfect double date night the previous night, so I think my crew was willing to give me the benefit of the doubt for this one. It pays to do your travel research ahead of time. D.Rough, CorpseKitten, TheLatvian, LooseChange, PopeJim, and I headed to Foundation.

As we drove up again, D.Rough asked, “Is every bar in Milwaukee in someone’s house?” (The previous night’s bar looked like it was someone’s house, as well.) Foundation looks pretty unassuming from the outside, but thankfully, there were strings of lights hung from the front of the building announcing it was a step above a residential house.

The inside is incredibly dark – not just dim, DARK. There are a couple of bare outdoor bulbs hung on the ceiling and some candles on the tables, so you’re starting to see (well, NOT see, as the case may be). After your eyes adjust, it’s pretty awesome inside. Surfboard on the ceiling, tiki masks on the walls, lots of bamboo and fun decorations. It’s pretty small inside with maybe 10 tables of varying sizes, and of course there’s bar seating.

There are two guys in Hawaiian shirts working the bar who were super friendly and helpful if you have questions. Basically, you read the menu you should grab from the bar before seating yourself, and that will explain everything. There aren’t any servers, so once you decide on the drink you want, just go to the bar and tell the bartender and you can pay or start a tab – I recommend starting a tab. Many of the drinks include the touristy tiki cup in the price, but surprisingly, it still isn’t what I would consider pricey. And don’t forget on the back of the menu is where you will find the volcano drink that’s on fire.(We forgot to look at the back of the menu until after we had ordered our first round of drinks.)

Foundation also serves bar frozen pizza, but I didn’t see anyone eating those this evening. But otherwise, there isn’t any food here. Make sure you eat ahead of time, or these mostly-rum drinks will not treat you well.

Foundation is a really fun bar, even if I hadn’t been there with five of my favorite people. But, it always helps having some fun people to swap stories with and sample everyone’s drinks. As is par for the course for most derby weekends, we rolled out of there close to bar close. We were tempted to hit up the hookah bar across the street, but we weren’t sure if they were also required to close at bar close, even though they don’t serve drinks. It really didn’t matter, we were all dragging by that point. It was sleeping time.

I will for sure go back to Foundation and have a couple more fruity drinks. I wouldn’t bring an entire roller derby team, but I think a small group would have a great time here. I plan to do that when we head back to Milwaukee next May for the Midwest Brew Ha Ha roller derby tournament.

No Top 5, but there’s no downside to this place anyway. Everything is in the top portion of the Top 5.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Koz’s Mini-Bowl – Milwaukee, WI

D.Rough and I were in Milwaukee (one of my favorite cities in the US) for the 2013 World Championships of Roller Derby. Our friends CorpseKitten and TheLatvian from Kalamazoo, Michigan, also met us in Milwaukee for a weekend hangout and we had a great weekend. I had heard about this “mini bowling” alley from a few websites and thought we’d make a double date out of it. I had a very rough idea of what was going to happen in this particular bar on the South side of Minneapolis, but the other three were going in blindly, and only trusting me a little bit on this one. Probably smart on their part.

As we drove past what the GPS told us was the address, D.Rough sounded dubious – “this looks like someone’s house…” I retorted, “But there’s a beer sign in the window!” TheLatvian replied, “This is Wisconsin. Everyone has a beer sign in their window.” Fair enough. But, we went in anyway.

I’m soooooo glad we did. The place is dimly let, but in a home-y way, not a seedy scary way. And it IS NOT a house – it’s an actual bar. There’s a full bar, a pool table, a juke box in the front room. And in the back room is the bowling. Duckpin bowling to be precise.

My father taught me about duckpin and candlepin bowling when I was a kid – my family has a pretty serious bowling legacy (I’m not kidding). If it helps you visualize it, take a standard bowling pin and squash it down about half way, so it’s short and fat. Duckpin bowling is traditionally a west coast thing, but they’re also in Milwaukee and Indianapolis. You throw a small bowling ball with no finger holes (about like a softball or bocce ball) and it’s an extra short lane – about 20 feet.

Picture skee-ball, but with pins.

The guy behind the bar was super nice, which we appreciated as first-timers. He told us a lane was actually open and ready to rock. He grabbed us a score sheet, told us how much the games were each, and reminded us to tip the pinsetters. There are actual human pin setters that kick the pins out of the way after each frame or reset up the pins in a triangle format. Manually. None of this automated machinery stuff. Then, the bartender recommended some drinks. I knew I liked this guy.

Two bonuses at Koz’s: they don’t have low ball glasses. Mixed drinks are in a pint glass, the way I make them at home. Also, the mug of beer I ordered was $1.50. Thank you, Wisconsin!!!

I’d love to tell you how awesome this evening was, but it’s difficult. It’s super fast paced and there’s lots of mocking and high-fives. Plus the awesome juke box kept getting stocked with awesome 80’s and 90’s music. You can ask the bartender what the standard tip is for the pinsetters, since these guys are dodging balls and pins flying around behind their protective shield. Dangerous and back-breaking work, for sure. But waaaay more fun than standard bowling, in my opinion.

And did I mention this place has a taxidermy lion and other creepy taxidermy??? BAM!

You really need to check this place out. They are open until bar close so around 2am, which is even better. I think you can call ahead and reserve a lane if you want, but we rolled right in on a Saturday night and got an open lane. Perfect night.

[Note: I found out we were supposed to be throwing three balls per frame, but we only threw two like standard bowling. Bummer for me, since I would have bowled higher than the 238 I bowled!]

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fireside Lounge – West St. Paul, MN

D.Rough, and a number of other people, highly recommended the Fireside Lounge to me. Everyone said it had amazing breakfasts where you could have some adult beverages to wash down your steak and eggs. It wasn’t breakfast time, but I had heard there were other good things to eat there. We walked in and they were decorating for Halloween. As in, they had to move boxes of decorations off of tables when people came in to sit down. The staff were very apologetic and made sure they got things hung quickly and weren’t in the way. It was actually sort of fun, hearing them banter and razz each other’s decorating skills.

Deciding on something to eat wasn’t easy. They have all kinds of things I wanted. Turkey dinner special, burgers, tenderloins, fried chicken, spaghetti, salads, and a bunch of other things. D.Rough and I finally decided we wanted burgers. She got a Black and Bleu Burger – Cajun seasoned burger with blue cheese crumbles – and I got a Pulled Pork Burger – BBQ pulled pork on a burger. And, we had been talking about cheese curds for some time, so we got an order of those.

The photo here is two good buddies watching the baseball game on the television and drinking heavily. They were pretty hilarious with their bickering about sports and laughing about all kinds of things. It’s hard to see, but there is a cell phone on the table and they are on speaker phone having a conversation with another of their buddies who wasn’t able to make it to their appointed regular drinking session. It had potential to be annoying since they were both yelling loudly into their phone, but it was more touching that they missed their friend and were making sure he still felt included. That’s the kind of fun and friendly atmosphere this entire place has.

The cheese curds were quite tasty. A tad bit overfried, and still no match for the Minnesota State Fair cheese curds at the mouse place, but still delicious. They weren’t fried so much that the cheese had oozed completely out of them, which we’ve had before, but they were just a little crunchier than many places. That being said, we still devoured these things in lightning quick fashion and wanted another order (but we were responsible and didn’t…sigh…)

The Black and Bleu Burger was one of the better blue cheese burgers I’ve had. The presentation didn’t look like much, but the flavor of the cheese was a perfect match for the Cajun seasoning in the burger. A lightly toasted bun made the whole sandwich well above average. The Cajun fries that came with it were also good – a nice double fry on them gave them a nice crust and it was more seasoning than heat in the spice. Really good.

The Pulled Pork Burger was also top notch. More pulled pork than I expected on top of the burger and it was nice and tender. It came with a side of BBQ sauce that I think might have been Sweet Baby Ray’s (which I love) and when slathered all over the pulled pork, it was even better than I expected. The burger itself was pretty good, but the combination was even better. And I’m glad I went with the onion rings. They were clearly not from a frozen bag and had a lot of batter on the rings.

This was a great dinner at a local lounge. I won’t even call it a dive, since it’s nice inside, but it is a nice homey lounge that I’m looking forward to going back to. I’m guessing a nice substantial breakfast here, with A.M. adult beverages, would be just the thing for a weekend morning.

Thanks everyone for recommending this place. I’m just sorry it took me so long to get here.

Top 5 things about Fireside Lounge
1. Black and Bleu Burger
2. Pulled Pork Burger
3. Onion Rings
4. Super friendly staff
5. Atmosphere I could hang out in

Bottom 5 things
1. I didn’t get the coleslaw that was supposed to come with my pulled pork burger
2. Slightly (seriously not that much!) overfried cheese curds
3. I’m not even sure if the patio they have (in warmer weather) would be a better atmosphere than hanging inside with the locals
4. N/A 
5. N/A

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Teque Arepa – Eden Prairie, MN

I’m a big fan of arepas. I’ve had arepas from maybe ten different places, so I’m not an expert or anything, but I know what I like. For those not familiar, arepas are sort of like tacos, but on a corn starch circle of bread that looks like a large English muffin or a pita. They’re hold-able sandwiches filled with a variety of toppings. Arepa shells (are they called shells? that, I don’t know, actually) are either deep fried in oil or cooked on a flat-top.

A new Arepa place opened up in Eden Prairie in the old Roly Poly (which I was super sad to see leave) and I was dying to try it. I pulled into the parking lot and there was a car next to me with the menu held to the dashboard with a band-aid. That guys is SERIOUS about trying everything on the menu. I like your style, good sir.

The menu on the wall of the restaurant is comprehensive (the photo is from the small take-home menu). Lots of different fillings for your arepa, lots of sides, and lots of juices and drinks. A very nice gentleman at the counter welcomed me and asked if I had had Venezuelan food before. I told him I had had arepas before but not some of the other items, and I was looking forward to trying them. I ordered a Pabellón arepa (he said they were his best seller) and some Queso Blanco Empanadas. Sadly, the man told me the fryers weren’t working right now and I couldn’t get those, nor the fried plantains, nor the fried desserts (tequeños). He seemed as bummed as I did. But he did suggest, “maybe you just order two arepas!” – and that, I did, my friends. So I went with the Rumbera arepa. I had heard people raving about the lemonade with sugar cane in it, so I got one of those as well – called a Papelón con Limón. He asked if I wanted hot sauce or garlic sauce, and then he said, “maybe I just put them on the side. You can choose how much.” Great idea and thank you!

I was a worried when the order came out because the drink looked like a tamarind drink I saw some people drinking. Thankfully, it wasn’t – I’m not a fan of tamarind, no offense. But this was like a lemonade I’d never had before. Very sweet without being sickeningly sweet. The sour of the lemon balanced it all out – I was extremely pleased with this beverage choice. Although, next time, I want to try the soursop shake and pretty much every juice smoothie and shake they have.

The Arepa Rumbera was packed full. Sliced roasted pork and cheddar cheese busting out all over the place. I tried a bite to see if it was as good as it looked. The shell wasn’t greasy like some of the arepas I’ve had before at other places. Very light and just slightly grilled on each side, leaving marks. Crunchy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. The meat was extremely tender and flavorful and I just couldn’t get enough. I tried some with the garlic sauce – Winner. You need to use the garlic sauce. I tried some with the hot sauce – Winner. You need to use the hot sauce, as well. It isn’t like a salsa, it’s like a South American version of Frank’s Red Hot. Vinegary with heat, but also good flavor. Fantastic arepa!

The Pabellón was even better. I think this one is more traditional, based on others I’ve had. It has black beans, shredded beef, white cheese, and sweet plantain slices. I loved that with every bite, there would be this delicious sweet plantain flavor right at the end of the chewing. This one got a little messy, but only because it was packed full, like the first one. Again, the garlic sauce and the hot sauce jazzed it up (not that it needed it) just right.

There was a Venezuelan guy sitting behind me explaining all things Venezuelan to his coworker. Normally, I would have been annoyed, but he was extremely knowledgeable and thorough. I soaked it all up. He talked about how he makes arepas the easy and fast way for his kids every Sunday morning, but Teque Arepa makes them the traditional and better way. They were also playing Venezuelan music on the speakers inside and he commented that what they were actually playing was traditional Christmas music in Venezuela – he was amused.

There were tons of Spanish-speakers eating lunch here, which I was really happy to see. The dining room was decreased since Roly Poly moved out, but there are still 6 or 7 small tables to sit at – all of which were full. Man, I hope this place stays open forever!

I think I just found my new favorite lunch place.................

Top 5 things about Teque Arepa
1. Pabellón arepa
2. Rumbera arepa
3. Lemonade with Sugar Cane - Papelón con Limón
4. Really friendly staff
5. Very generous portions

Bottom 5 things
1. Bummed about the fryers not functioning – but totally forgivable
2. I wish I had a fork. None was brought out and none were provided near the counter
3. Very small dining room
4. So many things, it’s hard to decide – just keep going back!
5. This place is far from my home, but very close to my work. Dang it, now I’m going to want to go to work ALL THE TIME…

Teque Arepa
7733 Flying Cloud Drive
Eden Prairie, MN 55344
(952) 405-8092