Monday, February 29, 2016

Born of Osiris, Veil of Maya, and After the Burial – Skyway Theater – Minneapolis, MN

I was in the mood to check out this fashion-core/metal-core/prog-metal/skeedle-dee-dee show, since I’ve been a fan of these bands for a while. I wasn’t expecting the hour-long line to get into the place, nor was I expecting the guy yelling through a bullhorn about Jesus to accompany me while I stood in line, but I eventually made it inside JUST in time to see After the Burial begin playing.

I like most of what I’ve heard from After The Burial (ATB). They’ve got some good breakdowns and chug parts, but watching them live was pretty disappointing. The drummer looked bored while playing some pretty awesome parts – he’s a fantastic drummer, but seriously boring to watch. The entire band was a little finicky and didn’t show any passion or stage presence at all. The band had a TON of prerecorded parts in the background, so you really couldn’t tell who was playing what – which was hilarious because the guitarist played only the solos and the chug parts, the rest was all pre-recorded. Makes me wonder why they don’t have a second guitarist (but I think I know…). They were working in a new bass player, so they swapped  between two different guys. The newer guy kept looking at his left hand while playing, which made me laugh because he’d even watch his left hand while playing the chug patterns (which is all right hand stuff). All of these guys did a lot of standing around for such a huge stage – lots of toe-pointing and posing (skinny jeans and comb-overs all around). I’d much rather listen to these guys on CD than watch live. Pretty disappointing, overall.

I’m a big Veil of Maya fan, even though they get a little sing-y from time to time. They make up for it with talent, creativity, and time changes. When they started out, they had some sound/PA problems, but they kept playing right through it like pro. Well done! They moved around the stage a ton, including the guitarist who was really… uh… spinny. Loved it. The drummer played with an earpiece in to stay in sync with the pre-recorded background, but he did it flawlessly. Sometimes when that happens, the drummer audibly speeds up or slows down to keep with the track. This guy nailed every entrance and beat and totally played with flair. He also played hard, which is something I’m a fan of – he made it look like he was absolutely killing it – difficult to do when you’re playing amazing tracks with your hands and feet. Fantastic performance (despite also having lots of skinny jeans) (I’m just kidding about the skinny jeans – it’s my way to be an old guy and complain about things that don’t matter at all). Seriously fantastic.

Born of Osiris is one of those bands that I can’t get enough of. Yes, I know they get sing-y and yes, they’re noodling around on their guitars, but seriously, they have mad skillz. I’ve seen  them a few times, but this one was the weirdest time. They had a pre-recorded background (sense a theme here?) that started before the actual song and then ran past the end of the song. The downside of this was people had NO idea when the song was starting nor when it was over. The band would quit playing, but then there would be this outro part playing so no one would clap or cheer. VERY weird. The songs would roll in and then never quite end. Again, you couldn’t tell what the guitarist was playing because of the soundtrack. Sometimes, you’d look at him during the solos and he’d be strumming chords. The same went with the keyboard player – there would be a killer keyboard part and you’d look over at him and he’d be holding out chords. I guess he already played the fancy part in the studio and didn’t want to risk it live – kind of a waste. The lighting was REALLY weird on the band, as well. There wasn’t a single light facing the band. Every light on stage (above and behind) was facing the crowd from behind the band. Their faces were always in the dark and you couldn’t see what they were doing very well. I’ve never seen anything like that before. Also, mad props to the guitarist who was dressed in impeccable Nordic metrosexual knee-length sweater with a big cowl and black skinny jeans with a precise tear in the left knee. He had black calf-length boots (nice ones)  and was sporting a beautifully styled and manicured large red beard. CLASSY. Overall, this band is still amazing to listen to and to watch, but some of the stage stuff probably didn’t work as well as they had intended them to.

I had a good time at this show, but aside from the combovers and skinny jeans (and me being 20 years older than anyone there), there were a couple of other things I can point out about this show:

  • There were a lot of first mustaches
  • The newest thing, apparently, is crowd surfing while selfie-video-singing
  • Finally, if you’re going to shoot video or snap photos with your phone, don’t splay your fingers as widely as possible like the Wu-Tang/Batman logo. Just be a little more discreet and polite

Monday, February 22, 2016

Tanpopo Noodle Shop – St. Paul, MN

I’ve been trying to get D.Rough to go to this place with me for at least two years. It isn’t that she didn’t want to go, I was simply asking at all the wrong times. Like when we had just eaten or had our hands full from shopping or because they’re only open for dinner. But somehow, the stars aligned and we found ourselves there. I was tremendously excited about it. The wall decorations are sparse inside, but the tables re reclaimed wood by a local artists and each one of them is a piece of art. They’re beautiful. And the atmosphere in the restaurant is… um… quiet. There’s no other way to describe it. It is like museum quiet in there. The servers all whisper. Even the family with kids in there was silent. It’s a little unnerving, but again, I’m there to eat.

I got the Tori Udon noodles, which is pan-fried chicken breasts, some wakame seaweed, and scallions. I was really interested to try something very basic to see how the flavors hit me. I love Japanese food, but I like to start simple and move up to more and more flavors – that’s just me, though. D.Rough got something with a little more action in it – Nabeyaki Udon noodles – shrimp tempura, chicken, shiitake mushrooms, fish cake, tomago-yaki (a type of Japanese omelette), wakame, and scallions. We also heard one of the specials was sumi gyoza – pork dumplings with a light fire oil drizzled on top.

The gyoza was even better than we expected. Sometimes dumplings can be a bit bland – these were NOT bland at all. I’m not sure if it was the pork filling or the fire oil, but they had great flavor. Top-notch.

The noodle soups were absolutely wonderful. A lot Japanese cooking relies on the flavor of quality ingredients and doesn’t’ use a lot of seasoning or sauce, but both of the dishes we ordered had wonderful flavor. The Tori Udon that I got was wonderful. The broth was simple, but had flavor, and the chicken was perfectly cooked. D.Rough’s was a bit more advanced, but was also quite amazing. PLUS, hers was presented and looked like a smiley face in her bowl.The one odd thing about her disch was that the tempura shrimp was in the soup, which meant the breading on it wasn't crispy at all. We thought it odd, but who's to say what is regular practice?

I’m glad this first time we went here was so amazing, now it will take far less convincing to get D.Rough to go back there with me (or maybe I’ll sneak down there every time she goes to roller derby practice). I’m so glad this place is even better than I expected!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Gogi Bros. House – Eden Prairie, MN

Sometimes, I get a hankerin’ for Korean food. But I don’t come across very many Korean restaurants where I spend most of my awake hours. When I heard there was a foodtruck-turned-brick-and-mortar-shop right by my office, I definitely perked up. It was even close enough to walk – even better.

The inside has a very unusual and data, yet fun, retro feel to it. The mustard yellow booths line the walls and then the garden area has an odd vibe to it. But I’m not there to absorb atmosphere, I’m there to EAT. The menu has really good descriptions of each menu item, so you aren’t taking that much of a gamble. I kind of had a few dishes in mind that I was in the mood for, and was happy to see them on the menu. That being said, I still struggled a bit to narrow down my order to just one thing. I got the lunch bento box, and because I Couldn’t decide, I got it with two meats in it – the Galbi (Korean-style short ribs) and Daeji Bulgogi (spicy bbq pork).

If you know much about Korean culture, these people love their drinks (and not just tea). Soft drinks and sodas are off the charts with their flavor combinations. I was in the mood…    

So, I ordered a melon-flavored carbonated milk drink. It sounds like a freak show, but it truly isn’t. I like melon. I like milk. I like carbonation (within reason). Put them together and make it not overwhelming and you’ve got a Milki. Yes, it’s weird, but it’s also fun and delicious!

The bento box came out and had lots of fun surprises in it. It has some glass noodles and rice, it had some steamed broccoli, it had some kimchi, and then it had two different sauced cubes of some vegetable in it. I tried to figure out what they were and I couldn’t do it. And then I was so excited by how awesome the food tasted that I forgot to ask what they were. They were great though. 

The bbq pork was by far my favorite. Really tender and not spicy bbq, just about perfect. The Korean bbq beef I find difficult to eat with chop sticks, because it’s usually a little more touch and stringy (due to the cut of the meat, not the quality) (that’s just how Korean beef is). So I ended up eating these delicious beef ribs with my fingers so I could keep my shirt clean. The beef was fantastic, but the pork was soooooo good.

Overall, a huge success, in my book. I’m looking forward to going back here again, especially since it’s close enough to walk to (even when it’s 10 below zero). Great work, Gogi Bros! I ave a feeling if you can get some people through your doors, that word of mouth is going to spread quickly. I plan on doing my part!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Pub 819 – Hopkins, MN

On weekends, sometimes it’s difficult to get up for breakfast. That’s why brunch is such a great idea. I had seen a few reviews and some photos of this new-ish place in Hopkins that had delicious looking breakfast and brunch items. D.Rough and I got out of bed early enough to make this brunch thing happen.

The inside of the place is cut in half by the bar. One side has booths and the other side has lower tables for larger groups. We got a booth with a couple of drink menus and started perusing cocktails. I found one that intrigued me more than the others and ordered it – A New York Sour: Hochstadlers Slow and Low whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, and a pinot noir float. Sounds weird, but it was fantastic. Truly incredible, to be honest. D.Rough had something with gin in it and what appeared to be part of a Christmas tree. She liked it just fine.

The menu has a lot of really unique things on it, all of which sound good, but I finally narrowed it down to two things: the stuffed French toast and the donut breakfast sandwich. I think you guys all know which one I chose – the donut sandwich. I really ordered this thing because it sort of sounds like a monstrosity. To my surprise, it was actually absolutely delicious.

It’s a maple glazed donut from my favorite donut shop (Yo-Yo Donuts)  cut in half like a bagel. Then they load it up with scrambled eggs, bacon (or sausage), hashbrowns, and cheese. The maple is about the perfect level of sweetness for this sandwich – not too heavy on the sweet ,but a nice maple flavor. And the fillings were plenty generous. This was definitely the right choice.
 D.Rough got the brisket grilled cheese. A good-sized sandwich with lots of delicious brisket and tons of onions (if you like that sort of thing). She was really happy with this choice and was even happier that the fries were worth raving about. They were really good.

Note: I'd steer clear of the housemade BBQ sauce. This may sound weird, but the flavor of it doesn’t go well with the sandwich. It immediately changes the sandwich into something you’d get at Sonic or some other fast food joint. Don’t use the BBQ sauce – it stands on its own just fine.

We were both really happy with this brunch outing and we look forward to going back here. There are plenty of other breakfast and brunch options for me to get, and I need to work my way through the whiskey menu they have there.

Great showing, Pub 819!!

Top 5 things about Pub 819
1. Donut Breakfast Sandwich
2. Brisket Grilled Cheese 
3. New York Sour 
4. Delicious fries 
5. It has a comprehensive whiskey list and great local beer options

Bottom 5 things 

1. Housemade BBQ sauce 
2. Cocktail menu isn’t on the website 
3. The rampant use of apostrophes in the phrase “Bloody Marys” 
4. Weird that they put children on one side of the bar and drinkers on the other side of the bar 
5. It’s on the opposite side of the Twin Cities from us (but we’ll still go there!)

Friday, February 12, 2016

Junior’s Café and Grille – Eagan, MN

It’s been far too long since I’ve had a lunch date with EnyaFace!, but after many postponements, we made it happen. She works in Eagan, so she suggested Junior’s. I had never heard of it, but she said the food is pretty outstanding. Apparently, there are two locations (one in Burnsville), but we obviously chose the closer location.

The inside is like an old 50s diner. Lots of checkerboard patterns, photos of old gas stations and movie stars, lots of diamond plate, and red sparkly tables. The menu is much more expansive than I would have suspected plus they serve breakfast all day, so that was tempting. It took me a really long time to figure out what I wanted, but I finally decided on the Handyman Burger. It’s two hamburger patties, thick cut peppered pork belly, cheddar, swiss, and all the fixin’s. EnyaFace! got the fish n chips blue plate special, which I also had my eye on.

The place gets really packed at lunch, so you either need to plan ahead for that, or show up early/late. Just warning you in advance. Thankfully, the food was awesome. The burger is immense – double patties always make it larger, but it was still large, despite that. Lots of juice, without being greasy and the burger meat tasted good – I always check this to make sure they’re not masking inferior meat with a bunch of toppings. This place had high quality everything. I had to cut this one in half to make sure it fit in my face better. Seriously a great burger.

EnyaFace! was really happy with her fish n chips. She liked the fish flavor a lot, but the breading, she said she’d had better, but was still pretty happy with it.

Overall, I Think everyone was quite happy with the decision to eat here. I have a feeling I’ll be back here pretty soon. There are a ton of burgers and breakfast items I’d still like to try!

Not enough for a top 5, but obviously the Handyman Burger would be on there!