Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Loon Café – Minneapolis, MN

A-Wow and I needed to grab some food before Chikara Pro Wrestling, so we popped into The Loon Café right around the corner. I knew it was a sports bar of some sort, and that’s pretty much what you’d expect – lots of TVs showing sports and sports memorabilia hung on the walls. And beer specials – cha-ching.

The menu is pretty expansive, compared to what I was expecting. There’s like 8 pages of things – lots of appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, salads, and pastas. They’re known for their chili, so A-Wow ended up with the Texas-style chili. He thought it was a pretty good showing – which says a lot since his family is from Texas and they know their food (and heat levels).

I got the Walleye Tacos. They were about average, so I wasn’t disappointed or anything. I was hoping for more heat in them, since they said they were habanero-breaded, but didn’t taste much heat in them. The salsas were pretty good though – regular salsa and pineapple-mango salsa. They came with a side of tortilla chips, so obviously, all the salsa found a home. With all the things on the menu, I’d definitely get something else on the menu next time I go to wrestling. Hahaha

Not enough for a top 5 list.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Eat Street Social – Minneapolis, MN

D.Rough and I did an impromptu traditional date night (movie and dinner) and ended up at Eat Street Social for dinner. I’d been there before for drinks, but hadn’t even glanced at the menu. We were taking a gamble by showing up on a Saturday night at 7, but we were feeling lucky. And thankfully, even though it was busy, they were able to get us in without any wait at all.

The inside is very dark and intimate. It’s also decorated with paintings by our favorite Minneapolis artist – Nicholas Harper, so we were pretty excited about that. This place also has a private tiki bar room for special occasions and for rental (called The Torpedo Room), but it wasn’t open at the time.

The first thing of note is the cocktail menu. This place is known for its craft/vintage cocktails. Some craft cocktails means “old guy drinks” – not so, in this case. Yes, they do have a special Old Fashioned on their list, btu they have a ton of other delicious sounding things. I ordered a Gold Rush – Bakers 107, honey syrup, and lemon. It was one of the best drinks I’ve had – absolutely brilliant. And it comes with the leftover pour in a small carafe. So it’s like a two-for-one. D.Rough for a Tea & T – green apple fig tea-infused Broker’s Gin, cranberry-oleo tonic, lime, and seltzer. She REALLY liked this cocktail.

We thought we’d split a small plate and also an entrée, but it was difficult to decide which ones to order. We settled on the Truffled Corn Gnocchi and a nice Sirloin. I’ll interrupt here to explain that the service at this restaurant is top-notch. Our server – Ari – was super attentive without hovering or being annoying and was extremely easy to chat with and ask questions. We had at least 4 people fill our water glasses when they got below the halfway point and this place is happy to swap out dirty silverware between courses. It’s one of the best service experiences we’ve had in a really long time.

The Truffled Corn Gnocchi looked really good. Yes, it’s a small plate, but it IS in the small plate section. That being said, it was REALLY good. It’s plenty of gnocchi in it, along with corn, sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, cippolini, onions, garlic, and summer corn consommé (like a broth). D.Rough was a little intimidated by the whole cloves of garlic in the dish, but I cut them up into smaller pieces and ate all of them. The broth was fantastic, and the fresh vegetables had a lot of bite to them, so they clearly weren’t overcooked. It was wonderful.

The Sirloin was really impressive looking on the plate. I apologize this photo doesn’t do it justice at all. The sirloin itself was one of the best steaks we’ve had in a while – super tender and medium-rare like we ordered. A nice crust no the outside and not overseasoned. No gristle at all and not tough. It was an amazing steak . The steak was great, but the other things on the plate were what really made the meal shine. It comes with blue cheese scalloped potatoes, bacon-roasted broccoli, and a sour cherry demi glace. We need to figure out how to make these potatoes since they were fantastic. The bacon-broccoli was also spectacular and the sour cherry sauce made everything even more tasty. We recommended it to the table next to us when they asked how it was (they were impressed with the presentation), and we’d recommend it to anyone (who isn’t a vegetarian). Get the sirloin – even though I’d guess everything else on the menu is wonderful, too.

I’m really glad Eat Street Social worked out even better than we expected. We’ll be going back here soon.

Top 5 things about Eat Street Social
1. Sirloin
2. All the “other things” that come with the sirloin
3. Truffled Corn Gnocchi
4. Gold Rush
5. Service was worth mentioning, for sure (thank you, Ari)

Bottom 5 things
1. A meal can add up here, if you’re not careful, but it WILL be worth it
2. Seemed to fill up after we arrived – probably worse when the outdoor patio isn’t open
3. We wished the Torpedo Room was open so we could check it out
4. There’s no parking lot, but they do have a valet and close-by on-street parking
5. I’m really struggling trying to find anything bad about East Street Social

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hot Plate – Minneapolis, MN

I have the best boss in the world. She lives out of town, but she comes into Minneapolis pretty regularly to keep our team in top shape. The hotel she usually stays at is halfway between my house and the office, so sometimes I pick her up on my way into work … and sometimes she buys breakfast. Today we had a lot to talk about, business-wise, so I suggested we try Hot Plate – I’ve heard people talk about it, but had never been. There’s a huge cedar tree blocking the sign, so we drove past it twice trying to find it – it’s in the same building as an old radio repair shop, so if you see that, you’re in the right spot.

The inside looks more like a jumbled antique shop than a restaurant, but in a home-y way, not a hoarder way. There are tons of paintings on the walls. Not fancy paintings either, the old paint-by-numbers kind. There’s also a lot of Precious Moments style little statues with phrases at the bottom (not actually Precious Moments though, since some of the sayings are a bit off-color for some people’s taste). It’s kind of awesome and overwhelming at the same time. 
We grabbed a booth and checked out the menu. It’s got some typical breakfast items that you’d expect, but then some of them have been given some special treatment. Plus, there’s a “south of the border” section that has really wonderful items that include various salsas and tortillas. I’ve heard the Pumpkin Pancakes were really amazing here, but I kept going back to the South of the Border section. Despite changing my mind about 5 times before finally ordering, I got the Carnitas Scramble. 

The food arrived and looked even better than I had suspected it would. A really generous portion of eggs and carnitas with jalapenos, and a pile of fried potatoes. The carnitas were actually quite good and the jalapenos gave it some pop. I like pretty much anything mixed with eggs, so it’s hard to go wrong there, as long as you throw in good ingredients. Hot Plate totally did that. My boss got the peanut butter pancakes and a plate of bacon – and she raved about everything. 

On our way out, we noticed a sort of game corner. There were board games and even some old school electronic games like football and Simon, and even MERLIN (I had to control my excitement for that one). Then I saw a Speak N Spell and also a Speak N Math – I was such a nerd kid, I geeked out hard over these two finds. Very impressive, Hot Plate, if there weren’t already 10 reasons to come back, I would totally come back here and relive my youth.

5204 Bloomington Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55417>

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Big River Pizza – St. Paul, MN

D.Rough and I usually have an agreement where if we both want to eat at a newly opened restaurant, we won’t go there without each other – unless exceptions are discussed ahead of time. We wanted to check out Big River Pizza and we both had a free night, so we headed downtown to check it out. 

You need to read some of the directions on chalkboard signs to figure out how to order. They have a step by step process detailed out. You can choose your size, you can choose your toppings (your own style, or one of their concoctions), you can even choose how you want your pizza cut (triangles or squares). We finally decided on a St. Vincent Pizza, a 12” one, and a Caesar salad, which I’ve heard are delicious. 

This place also has beer and wine, so don’t leave that off your order. 

The salad came out and they brought out extra plates so we could share. The Caesar salad had great dressing on it. You can taste the anchovies, but you don’t see them. Some people like this version, since they’re in denial about eating anchovies. It was a great salad. A friend of mine raved about the salads here, and I of course mocked her for getting the salad at a pizza place, but she’s actually proved me wrong in this case.

The pizza is cooked in a clay oven and we got to watch the whole process. It arrived as we finished our salad and looked fantastic. The St. Vincent has red sauce, provolone, thick-cut bacon, fresh garlic, black pepper, and red chili flakes. The cheese on this pizza is serious – seriously good. 

The bacon on it is super thick, which stands up to the cooking process very well and there’s plenty of it on the pizza. We were really happy about this decision and we will plan to go back to Big River Pizza very soon.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mi Patria – Des Moines, IA

D.Rough and I were taking our time driving back from Omaha and decided to have dinner with Rita and TheGuardian. They suggested Ecuadorian food and we were totally on board. There’s a place in a strip mall called Mi Patria that they have gone to and it was really close to where D.Rough and I were. 

I will warn you, everything on this menu looks delicious, so it isn’t going to be easy to choose. There were a couple of things I recognized from Minneapolis’ Chimborazo, so I decided to get something I hadn’t had before. We started with some Beef Empanadas (despite the server telling us the cheese ones were his favorite) and an order of Llapingachos. We did our super-secret-ninja-move where we eat as much of an appetizer as possible before our dinner guests get there. Hahahaha. 

So, we had most of the llapingachos gone before Rita even showed up. We saved the last one for TheGuardian, since he was running late. They were crazy good. They’re like a pan-fried potato patty with cheese inside covered in a delicious peanut sauce. Seriously, these were killer. 

The empanadas were huge and good, but nothing to rave about. We really liked them, but we’ve had empanadas before. Go for the llapingachos first.

When Rita and TheGuardian arrived, they already knew what they wanted. Basically, they ordered a meal for two (which is actually meal for four quantity-wise). D.Rough ordered the Lomo Saltado – kind of an Ecuadorian stir fry with beef, peppers, tomatoes with rice, avocado, and plantains. I ordered the Hornado con Mote – pulled pork with hominy, with rice and a potato patty. 

The food arrived quickly, since it was RIGHT after work and there were only four other tables filled. D.Rough was really extremely happy with her dish. The meat was very flavorful and not stringy at all. The sauce that it was cooked in had some kick, but nothing tear-worthy. Just really delicious food. 

The Hornado con Mote was also really delicious. The shredded pork was amazing and the hominy and rice filled me up quickly. I was actually worried about driving home another 3.5 hours from Des Moines afterwards, but I made it.

This place is top-notch and I look forward to going here again sometime. Sometime soon… very soon…

Top 5 things about Mi Patria
1. Llapingachos
2. Hornado con Mote
3. Lomo Saltado
4. Fantastic menu items
5. We seriously love hanging out with Rita and TheGuardian

Bottom 5 things
1. It isn’t anywhere near our house
2. I can’t stop eating everything
3. There’s nothing on the menu that I don’t want to order
4. Why can’t I stop eating?
5. (As you can see, there really isn’t anything bad about this place)

Friday, November 13, 2015

La Buvette – Omaha, NE

When two different unrelated sets of people recommend a restaurant in Omaha, you should probably go there. La Buvette is in the Old Market area and it’s a perfectly snooty French wine bar where all the servers act as if you’re inconveniencing them and you should be happy they’re even helping you. I’m only exaggerating a little this time. My friend NoPants had a hankerin’ for some wine and cheese, and who am I to complain?...

The place is more like a wine shop with some snacks. There are wine bottles all along the walls that you can pick out and they’ll uncork for you – for an additional fee. Not uncommon, frankly, but interesting nonetheless. The server brought us a menu which is a lot of snacks and smaller plate items, and some of their more popular wines, both glasses and bottles. 

We skimmed the menu and eventually turned around and grabbed the nearest bottle off the wall behind us – I’m 100% not kidding. It was just easier, and we both like Cotes du Rhone. (It was a 2013 Luberon from Dauvergne Ranvier – very tasty) The wine here isn’t outlandishly priced, which was actually very nice. Much more affordable than I even expected, even with the corkage fee.

Eventually NoPants caved and ordered a bunch more cheese, even though we had been eating copious amounts of cheese up to this point in the day. But when you share a bottle of wine between two people, sometimes you need some snacks.

This place is worth a check-out if you’re in the Old Market area of Omaha. Even if you stop in for a quick glass, you won’t be disappointed with the quality nor the prices. Very fun visit!