1st- famous dave's bbq, minneapolis
2nd- vincent a restaurant, minneapolis
8th- big ten, hopkins
10th- panzanella bread co., shakopee
11th- annie's parlour, minneapolis
15th- tejas, edina
17th- boca chica, st. paul
18th- moscow on the hill, st. paul
20th- arezzo ristorante, minneapolis
26th- big ten, hopkins (takeout)
29th- panera bread, edina
1st- famous dave's bbq, minneapolis (b)
dear famous dave's bbq, please rid yourself of the sad corn bit side that comes with platters. go back to the sweeter corn muffins. get more meaty chickens. however, keep the fries and the coleslaw.
(that's why i keep going back, fries, mostly. steak-fry style. i also like the bbq sauces. it amuses me to have two or three kinds to dip in on the plate... but then again, i'm so very easily amused. the rich and sassy and the mustardy one work well when blended. the roast chicken that i swiped off someone's plate was a lot meatier and jucier than the bbq chicken i got. not that it was bad, it was scrawny and stuff like it needed to eat its wheaties. )
2nd- vincent a restaurant, minneapolis (a)
if i could marry cheese, i would. some cheeses more that others (that's cheese with an s, mind you, not so much cheez). so i'll start at the end of the meal. my intrepid dining companion (thanks again, btw... ) and i split the cheese plate, of which there were 5 cheeses that we got to choose from a list (though i think if you don't ask, i believe they'll pick the cheese).
ah, what cheeses. camembert, brillat savarin (which i always think i am spelling wrong when it comes up), a blue cheese (for me a bit strong for the plate, but it was our choice... would have been most excellent in a salad or paired with apples or pears or something), a cheese that was like a nutty, mild one (somehow i associate the taste with switzerland, though it wasn't swiss cheese and i've never been there...)...
er... anyway... and a robiola, which i've not had before, but must have again. soon, in fact. now would be good, if not every single day (goat, sheep and cow's milk, fresh, mild, creamy...ahhh... where was i again?...). it was all happy, nicely arranged on a marble platter, with clover, honey, balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkling of nuts.... and it came with lots and lots of tasty bread. i will say that some of the cheeses could have used a bit more time to warm up, but i suppose that's hard to work around.
before the cheese came dinner, of course... after we settled into peruse the menu with our kir royales (always good to start a meal with the champagne, n'est pas?) i am always amused at my advanced age (bring me my ear trumpet and cane, ya whippersnapper) to be carded for alcohol, my companion was also carded. must be our clean living... heh. anyway, my companion started with what they usually get, carpaccio of red beets, whipped goat cheese, and frisée greens. why can't all food look that good... they even made the goat cheese into quenelles.
that was followed with roasted chicken breast with purple potatoes, lobster mushrooms (pardon me while i go add that to the good band name list), swiss chard and tarragon-infused crayfish sauce. very nice indeed. and yes, i am doing some cutting and pasting of some of the menu items. if i can't remember all the names of the tasty cheese, less important (i.e. non-cheese-related) details will escape me.
however, i had no menu regrets at all, as i went with the duck l'orange. i figured that they'd have this one nailed. i was right. best duck (quack) i've ever had. the skin was crispy, and the duck was, well, perfect. juicy, tender, not stringy. mmmm. it came with what on the menu was called potato boulange, which looks like it should come out baked potato when you've had all the high school french that i did (boulangerie=bakery, so boulange... baked?). instead, it was kinda like scalloped potatoes only better. it came with snow peas, too.
service was excellent. water was filled a nice pace, even near the end of the evening we ran into the ice crowding out the water space problem. we were given lots of time to check the menus, the main course wasn't rushed out. i was especially impressed when a server that was not our main one brought the main dish plates to the table to the right people without asking. that's a sign of kickass service there. the table we were given was kind of funny, in a remote corner, not near the other tables that had people at them. but it worked. it was nice to see the place fairy busy at 7,8, 9 pm on a thursday, especially since it's not such a holidazzle sort of crowd.
it's fifth time i've been here, and 4 a's and an a-/b+. all the way mad, all the way hyped.
8th- big ten, hopkins (b-)
i so did not expect to be eating here on my birthday, but frankly i wasn't feeling well enough to go out to a nicer place and dress up in things that were not sweatclothes, or something along similar lines (first real trip out of the house in two days, unless you care to count the urgent care trip). so here it was.
so after fifty million times here, i get something different, the chicken sandwich, which i chose with swiss cheese and mushrooms. mistake. the chicken breast isn't good, the mushrooms were minimal, the cheese ok. it was ok. not great, not bad. greatly improved with mayo, but a lot of things in the sandwich world are. as are fries, which here usually run above average. so i dipped mine.
got a free brownie sundae for the birthday treat. a generous portion. also ok. service was ok, too. it's getting a bit higher than ok in the grade, however, as mr. bad restaurant karma actually said (hold on to your hats).... he liked the mini-meatloaf.
mr. hates everything liked the mini-meatloaf here.
that almost never happens, him admitting out loud he likes something. so there you go. you may want to try it the next time you're there.
as for me, back to the turkey half-sub. unless the menu is changed.
10th- panzanella bread co., shakopee (b+)
half a pesto chicken panini and a side of minestrone. pretty tasty, but the soup was a bit... well, i think it was missing some seasoning. but otherwise, pretty tasty. eaten next to the fire. too bad the booths and tables are a bit plastic for the whole fire vibe, it would've suited. more cozy and stuff. i still like the sandwich. i like they have a toaster so you can toast the bread that comes with the soup.
while driving off to the next place down the line, i saw a bagel place really proud (big letters on the window) that they have toasted sandwiches now. yep, toast. they were all excited. which is just a bit... odd as a marketing device. imho and all.
11th- annie's parlour, minneapolis (a-)
flirting with cute server=free beverages sometimes, and this was one of those times (in my defense, it wasn't just me... does that make it any better? maybe? quick, write in your ethical concerns today...).
anyway, the food was all good. fries were hot, salty, and tasty (side of mayo makes them pretty darned good... mmm, grease and fat....), grilled cheese better than they've been doing it for a while.... i wasn't fond of the blueberry shake, but that was probably 'cause i had the taste of coffee in my mouth and that's not so good with the shake.
i wish they would lay off the kq for the background noise, however.
15th- tejas, edina (b)
a belated birthday dinner (originally scheduled with mr. and mrs. bad restaurat karma last week was postponed due to inner ear infections... which i'd like to not have ever again, please, especially not on my birthday). since mr. brk will only go to restaurants in a certain range, i couldn't get to the ones i really wanted to go to for my birthday, so i chose this, never having been there for some reason. it seems like the kind of place i should have gotten to before. but obviously didn't.
anyway, after their house trail mix (spicy and interesting blend of nuts, dried fruit, honey, and er... cumin? some chipotle? i forget things...) we started with an appetizer of black bean and goat cheese "fondue," which was more of a bean dip with peppers and goat cheese in it. could've used a lot more goat cheese, and a few more tortillas and chips on the side to scoop it up, but was pretty tasty. i think i'll try to recreate that one at home. however, for the price, it had a lot of beans and not much cheese, so seemed a bit spendy for what you got.
after, i had the duck breast (off the 'small plates' menu), mrs. brk had the chicken (ditto), and we split the whipped purple peruvian potatoes, which yeah, i admit, i ordered most for the name and the pleasure of saying purple peruvian potatoes out loud. the tatoes were most excellent, however.
can't say the same about the duck. the inside was nice and rare, the outside... well, oddly cold (inside it was warm) and could've used a crispy skin. it was on a bed of quinona with pomegranate seeds, and other random things and served with a side of the jus. it was plated beautifully, however. the chicken was a quarter chicken served in a citrus sauce (not my favorite, i didn't order it, however) that was a bit on the juicy side, but hey, they served it on a bowl, so they knew. it was decent.
mr. brk i think didn't read the menu so closely, and it turned out he was allergic to an ingredient in the chicken tortilla soup he ordered. they offered to remake it and have a new one on the table in a minute or two, but of course he said no. it's what he does. though i think he didn't quite hate the food he tasted as much as he planned to, which i guess is something.
the breadbasket was interesting. the blue corn bread would've been better with food than alone with butter. i liked the white bread they had in there, it had a crispy crust and a squishy inside.
service by the main server was on the good foot, especially as the place seemed busy, but when the people dropping off the food left the table, we realized that they had made out with the bread plates which we were not done with, and my knife, which made it a lot more difficult to cut mr. duck. the atmosphere is a bit on the dark and noisy side... the room seemed a bit cavernous in a large way for it's size and the feel of the restaurant (southwestern). i wonder how it is at lunch. the $17 three course dinner (salad, main course, dessert) looks an interesting proposition too.
(in case you all were wondering, no one mentioned it was a birthday thing, so we didn't get cake).
17th- boca chica, st. paul (c-)
i'm upgrading for service. a table of a dozen was well served by one person, who kept track of stuff, pitchers were on the table, most of the drinks were refilled at a good clip. though they did throw in one of those tip added things for the large group. i didn't see that listed anywhere on the menu. and when i first got there and asked for a reservation for 7:30 or 8 for the party i was with, i was told there was none. (there was... hrm.)
the c was for the food and drink. as cheap date girl drink imbiber that i am, i felt the margaritas were pretty much slushees. i detected no alcohol what so ever, nor did i have any red-faced reaction to it. and they layered up into ice and flavoring right quickly. the nonblender versions were better.
i had a plate with two chicken soft tacos (kinda sad ones, really, with nothing to make them at all interesting), beans or rice on the side. i had the beans, which were nothing to write home about. (i don't like spanish rice... and a question for the ages... why do mexican themed restaurants serve spanish rice?) and a choice of one of three other things. i picked the chicken enchalada in mole. the mole was pretty decent. it didn't have the depth of some, but was probably the best thing i had all eve. the guac was decent enough, but was served by the ice-cream scoopful, which struck me as a bit odd.
they do get points for putting not minnesota-mild salsa on the table with the chips, but it wasn't really great salsa. from what i gather this place used to be a lot more authentic (compared to other district del sol places, there were a lot more swedish folk, say, than hispanic folk). it's a step up from nationwide chains (and i'm not talking the bell), but that is not saying much. if anything.
18th- moscow on the hill, st. paul (a-)
yeah, the herb garlic butter served with the bread was still all that, though i would ask why white bread and not pumpernickel or a nice dark rye? that would seem more russian. anyway, they've expanded the joint now, too, so it was way less crowded (it seems the same amount of people were there, but in twice the space. that's a happy thing, i recall it as way squishy). they also perked up the decor, but still have those creepyass bigheaded dolls. everything seems a bit improved.
i had the vareniki, which is a ravioli-type pasta deal stuffed with potatoes that had sour cream (not surprisingly, i would have liked a bit more) and sauteed onion on top. on a freezing-ass winter night in minnesota, lovely as a comfort food. since i wasn't that hungry, that's all i had besides bread and butter. i did sample the dessert blini, filled with cream cheese with chocolate and warm nuts (hey, just quoting the menu) on top. very tasty and rich.
it was better than my choice from last time i was here, chicken julienne. i'm not a big rice pilaf fan, and it seems to come with most things. the beef pirogi appetizer, rack of lamb (koreika), and the chebureki (is the menu online so i can cut and paste these things? you bet, as they say here in minnesota, don't ya know... anyway, think empanadas stuffed with lamb for those) were also highly regarded. the pomegranate sauce with the lamb was a hit, as was the carmeltini (tastes like chocolate coffee).
since i've been missing my russian-born grandma's cheese blintzes since she passed away some years back, i keep hoping they'll pop up here. but they've not yet. they have a chicken one, and a caviar one on the menu, and the aforementioned cream cheese ones on the dessert menu (not the same thing, the cheese ones are more savory, with more of a cottage-cheese filling). so what can ya do but keep hoping. but i will say the menu and experience brought me back some of the stuff she used to make, even if i didn't order it.
anyway, service was mostly helpful (if not even a bit too helpful) and friendly. the only miss there is they forgot to replace a knife that had fallen on the floor. they were right there with the water when the glass got to a quarter full. there seemed to be a lot more families dining here than i recall from last time too. the accordian guy was still there, even if he was playing some less than authentic tunes (i think i heard some kid's songs, a slow polka, and some french tunes slipped into the more russian sounding fare).
20th- arezzo ristorante, minneapolis (a-)
a slight downgrade for one little service quirk. after we were seated, we had to wait 5+ minutes to get menus and water, but after that things picked up a lot.
we were here for mrs. bad restaurant karma's birthday. it's a place that mr. bad restaurant karma would rather not eat at, in that things on the menu are more than $5, and you can't get spaghetti and meatballs, even if it is an italian restaurant. having said that, however, he seemed to very much enjoy his pasta, as did mrs. brk.
i got the gnocchi in four-cheese sauce on the advice of a friend. i very much enjoyed the sauce, but i'm a take it or leave it person when it comes to gnocchi (it's usually not something i consider ordering), but they were good, for sure. i would have loved the sauce over some pasta. hell, i would have loved just a bowl of the sauce, for that matter. it's all about the cheese, baby.
fontina, blue, parmesan reggiano, and... one other cheese are the ones i think are in the sauce, but since i can't remember things, some or all of that may be wrong, except there were four of them, and the one i can't name technically can't be wrong. tomorrow i'll have leftovers, we'll see how those go. i'm predicting a certain squish factor. and then on wednesday, i may get to eat dinner at home for the first time since december 11th. weird. anyway....
anyway, service was good after the first lapse, and they did throw in a free dessert for the birthday person. she chose chocolate mousse, which came with fresh whipped cream and strawberries. pretty good. though the dessert prices seemed a bit out of line with the more reasonable entree prices.
we were a bit surprised it was quite full on a monday night at 7 pm or so. we also discovered that they have secret parking lots in the back of the places in the 50th and france stores. who knew? arezzo has a back door, pass it on. so does edina creamery and most of the stores in the area.
26th- big ten, hopkins (takeout) (b+)
mr. bad restaurant karma must've really liked the minimeatloaves (minimeloaves would'be been funnier, but less truthful), as they make an in home appearance (i was over updating the software and such at the bad restaurant karmas. such is the life of a geek). this time he liked them (again, as much as he likes anything) a bit less, but still was pretty enthused. the mashed potatoes and green beans with it... eh. oddly good gravy, though.
i was also happier with my meal not just because i am not taking anti-vertigo meds, but because, yes, i got the half-turkey sub (see above for more). and the next time i go back there, i will get it also. so there. ha, ha. you can't stop me (and you know who i am talking to).
did i get the fries? no. i know that if you take those suckers home and they get cold, they won't be tasty anymore no matter how much you warm 'em. i split the salad that came with said loaves with mrs. bad restaurant karma. the salad didn't thrill me, but we threw in stuff to make it decent.
29th- panera bread, edina (c+)
it's no panzanella, that's for sure. though i like all of the breads there that i have had, i think the rest of the stuff is pretty average. unlike panzanella, the sandwich filling is lunch meat slices, not slices off, say, a chicken breast. i had the frotega (or something like that, there may have been an 'n' in there somewhere) panini half... chicken, mozzarella, tomato slices, basil. the bread was charred but ok. but it wasn't a melty cheesey hot goodness of a sandwich, which is what i like in paninis. the turkey sandwich on asiago had good bread to recommend to it, not much else. ok, not great.
i was kind of hoping for cheese based soup, but was out of luck. i went with the forest mushroom. lots of mushroom, lots of salt (a bit too much). could've used some crackers or something to thicken it. decent. the chicken wild rice was also competent but not great.
hey, i'd rather eat at this place over mc do's, as the french call it, and lots of other fast food places. other fast casual... well, maybe not. i mean, i tried the salad last time, that didn't work. perhaps next time i will just order a loaf of bread and eat it.
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