1st- patrick's french bakery and cafe, richfield
2nd- salsa a la salsa, minneapolis
6th- bunny's bar and grill, st. louis park
7th- dino's gyros, shakopee
13th- sophie's embers, st. louis park
14th- loring pasta bar, minneapolis
15th- gluek's, minneapolis
20th- tortilla ria, bloomington
30th- vincent a restaurant, minneapolis and solera, minneapolis
1st- patrick's french bakery and cafe, richfield (a)
there are some days when you just need to treat yourself to a meal.
for me, lunch today was one of those times.
since i was near the dale of south, i went with patrick's french bakery. i've been meaning to have the food there for a while (i've had the pastries and bread, all good).
the sandwiches looked good, but i asked at the counter and they recommended the quiche. i went with the mushroom. i was not sad i did. lovely, eggy, full of mushrooms, tasty. comes with a bit of salad in a vinagrette. it's a plate sized deal, which i was not thinking when i ordered the rest of everything, which was a cup of the best french onion soup i ever ate (with some nice
baguette on the side and in the soup in lieu of croutons). i ended up taking 3/4 of the quiche home.
but i started with dessert, as i am an adult and can do that, and sometimes you just need to. on the recommendation of a review, i went with the pralinée chocolate cake. i am usually not a 'chocolate' person... most of the time i'd prefer a cheese plate to a more sweet dessert, but hey... i'm willing to try new things. anyway, it's a chocolate cylander full of chocloate mousse and has among other decorations, gold bits on top. the dessert was spendier than the soup, but worth it. not too sweet, the inside a perfect texture.
it's all good. though i will say service was a bit... french, even though the servers weren't french. odd. you order at the counter, and then wait for the food. kinda wish they did dinner, i'd like to see what they would do with that...
i felt a lot better when i was done. happier, even. (in as much as i'm ever happy... heh...)
2nd- salsa a la salsa, minneapolis (b)
their salsa is not surprisingly above average by far, both the regular and the tomatillo versions- especially the tomatillo version. the chips that come with it are quite decent, too.
i ordered a special, tamales with chicken in a mole sauce. i got it with black beans and refried beans. though i think that this place is pretty authentic, i've heard, but, i think they toned down a lot to cater to minnesota tastes (on the side of bland). the beans were kind of bland. the mole was well-seasoned, though, and subtle.
service was good, even after a large group of a dozen and a half to two dozen people or so wandered in.
6th- bunny's bar and grill, st. louis park (b)
we've tried to go here before a few times, but apparently wednesdays are big in the sports bar world, and we could not get a parking place for the life of us. mrs. brk and i tried again, and this time we were successful. not sure if it was cause of the smoking ban or what, but the parking lot was still crowded and most tables were full, so maybe not.
it's a cut above the average in bar food. i got the hot turkey sandwich special. they used real turkey, not that processed stuff. it came with decent stuffing and real mashed tatoes, and some cranberry sauce that though canned, was at least whole berry. plus cole slaw (not the best, not the worst). all of it was pretty good (tatoes, turkey) to ok (the bread and the gravy). mrs. brk got the tuna melt, and she also had differences with the bread (both sandwiches reportedly had sourdough, but it was a bit too processed if it was). it came with some pretty good fries with that. since it was a sports bar, all food was big. and since it was a place we had a two for one card for, the meal plus a generous tip was about $10.
service is good, though they appear to be understaffed. atmosphere-wise, if we were still in the days pre-smoking ban, i think it would have been icky even in nonsmoking. now, the main difficulty is the really loud stereo system. 'don't dream it's over' is not it's best with the volume at all. i'd go back to try some of the other things on the menu. if we can ever find a parking spot again.
7th- dino's gyros, shakopee (b+)
it's not like i've not been here since the last time i mentioned the place, but this would get really boring really quickly if i mentioned every time i ate here. most worker bees have their favorite lunch joint, this is mine (though it was dinner i had this time).
craving comfort food, i went with the chicken mushroom swiss pita, as always. i wonder how they get the cheese to the molten texture they do... you have to open that one and let it cool unless you want severe mouth burns. knowing that, i got a few spanakopita... er... spinach puffs. since it's been a longass time since i had them here, i forgot they weren't that good last time, they have not gotten better. i should've gone with the baklava. and oddly, i didn't get the fries with that, even though they typically are the best fast food fries (say that 12 times in a row fast) around. just wanted to do something different.
13th- sophie's embers, st. louis park (b+)
hard to do breakfast wrong. so after having had a dinner here once, i went with breakfast. i had a fiesta chicken omelet, which was like the one i had at perkins long ago that they stopped doing, though possibly better. and i even got it with fake eggs. it had that, and lots of roasted veg, and well-seasoned chicken in it. a bit of cheese on top, some salsa, all good. comes with ok hashbrowns, and standard toast. got tea with it, and for once, it was enough liquid for me. weird.
14th- loring pasta bar, minneapolis (b)
here's a place i never would have paid to eat at again after the last time. however, i won two tickets to the show here and dinner for two beforehand from a local radio station, so i thought... hey, free dinner... i'm there.
i'm confused as hell as to why this place is still in business as it's probably the most disorganized restaurant i've ever eaten at. very few people seem to know what the hell is going on, or what anyone else is doing. some of the stuff i will leave for my encounter with famous story.... this'll just be the eating part of it.
when i won the prize, i was told to make reservations in advance, which i did. when i got there, they at least had the reservations. i did tell them i was on the list of winners from the station. they did not ask for id then, or at any point, really. while we were being seated, we asked the host what the free dinner entailed. they didn't know, but said the server would.
the server didn't know. they went to ask someone else (manager? random person?) who also didn't really know, but had the authority to decree it to be anything within reason (i.e. we couldn't order the entire menu and 4, 5 bottles of wine...). we played it by ear.
bread was served with a nice whipped herbed butter. we got the artichoke ramekin, which lacked enough cheese and some cohesiveness but was generally nice enough, to start. my dining companion got a glass of wine, i got a nice champagne. apparently the wine list is very very reasonable, with many bottles being $15-20 over retail, even on the high end stuff.
for dinner, i went with the goat cheese ravioli in a tomato sauce. on the menu it came with sausage, but i got it without. most of the menu can be de-meated (which makes sense, probably more than the average number of vegetarians per square mile in the u environs than in a lot of the rest of the city, parts of uptown excepted). my companion got the duck confit with potato and carrot hash. and of course we had to try the pommes frites with aioli.
which we should not have, as they were fries, not pommes frites, and the aioli wasn't that great. disappointing, really. but the ravioli was lovely. the tomato sauce was nice, you usually see a cream or buttery sauce with this kind of dish (if i recall correctly), which sometimes makes it a bit rich, but the tomatoes, sundried ones, were subtle and enhanced the goat cheese. i would've liked the cheese on top to be more shredded than the curls it was in, but hey, minor detail. the duck confit was also quite nice, the hash was, well, potato and carroty.
so once we finished dinner, we wanted to see a dessert menu. so we waited. and waited. and waited. and eventually the server reappeared. (between every course, the length of time between server sightings grew exponentially). when the menu arrived, we went with the cheesecake, which came with strawberry sauce not mention on the menu, but was a better rendition of cheesecake than i've had in ages. i also got a mocha. we were thinking of getting the tiramisu, which was good, as apparently it sucked last time and still does, if the table next to ours is to be believed.
after dinner, we eventually got a bill (for the extra glass of wine my companion got). when the credit card was handed over and returned, the bill for the entire dinner was on it. being that this was bad and wrong, we waited for the server to return. and waited. and waited for maybe 15, 20 minutes (it may have just seemed that long, but i think it actually was that long).
we finally flagged what we perceived to be the only person in the place who seemed to be on their game, a nearby server, to take care of things. which they did. we actually wanted to tip them instead, they deserved it for doing that kind of thing with not only our table, but other nearby tables (like the one who's server never showed up for 10 minutes or so after they were seated). that eventually was taken care of.
the atmosphere in the place is still interesting, but i don't like the no locks on the bathroom doors still, and it's no place for pee shy people with the open construction on the tops of the restrooms. and i know it was a nice day and all, but when it starts to get to be evening and it's april and you leave the doors and windows open, it gets cold and stays that way. we were clutching warmed bread plates for their heat. even the owner looked to be cold.
(late breaking news, apparently there are locks in the bathroom door. they're just not in a logical place... 'they're in the middle of the door, you turn a handle and little posts go down into the floor and up into a locking mechanism attached to the door frame.' they are not where the brackets that look like they hold locks are, however. and the curtained stall... probably does not have a lock.)
15th- gluek's, minneapolis (b)
here's a case where service brought the grade up. i don't recall seeing a large group of people, about 16 or so, at a place handled so efficiently by one server before. they completely rocked. and even though parties of a certain size are supposed to have their service included (a policy i don't like), we all got indiviudal bills without it. most excellent service. mad props. especially since there were a few other groups in the place about that size.
i recall eating here since i met the suicidial tendencies here years ago (though this is the first time i was in the same room i did that, way in back). they had a fire a while back, but still look about the same, german-pub like with many dead animal heads on the wall (some of them more creepy than others). the lights kept flickering while we were there, which always makes me a bit nervous.
so bar food with a german theme. most of the people went with the burgers and chickenwiches. i had to sample the fries with that, which were below average and needed mad seasoning. i went with a chicken tarragon salad, more or less going against my general policy of trying to stick with house specialities, but i've had some pretty decent salads here before.
like the fries, it needed seasoning. the tarragon was perhaps on vacation that day, and i don't think there was any salt or pepper used in creating anything in the dish. the grapes were not halved, making them difficult to eat. the portion was generous, however, and the chicken was real chicken, not processed deli meat. portions are generous.
i also tried someone's blue cheese from their salad, which was not as good of a cheese as i recall from last time (it tasted cheap and was too cold to enhance the salad featuring strawberries and walnuts). the other thing i tried i was impressed with, the feta dip from the mediterranean plate. it was tasty, but what impressed me is the level of heat- many red pepper flakes lost their lives to this dish. you don't see that level of heat in minnesota often without a warning usually. tasty.
parking kind of sucked for many because they were not anal renentive like i am and didn't check the target center (there was something there that eve) and baseball (not a home game) schedules or gluek's web site (they validate parking from the 'do the town' lots). i went with the traditional ramp formerly known as dayton's, and ended up with free parking after validation.
20th- tortilla ria, bloomington (b-)
order at the counter mexican place, one of the few in the hood of the 494 strip in that area that is not a chain. (we ate in the area as we were going to pick up my car that was ostensibly fixed at the nearby metro mitsubish. long story short, after 15 years of owning said cars, i've not received crappier service from any dealership or car repair place ever. and of course it still wasn't fixed when i went to pick it up. so yeah, i'd recommend avoiding the place.)
anyway, food's decent enough (a bit on the mild side for me), service is quick, the chips and salsa served with your food are nice. fajitas come all assembled, which was odd. but hey. wasn't great, wasn't bad, which this month feels good enough for me. does seem a bit spendy, though, for what you get.
30th- vincent a restaurant, minneapolis (a-) and solera, minneapolis (c+)
math is hard day, apparently.
i went to vincent as i wanted to celebrate the fact that the crappy month i have been having is over, mainly by eating french fries and having a kir royale (makes a lovely dinner, it does). it didn't occur to me that orchestra hall would probably be having a show that night, and that vincent would probably be crowded because of the pre-show apps and dinners being served there, so i waited a few minutes for a spot at the bar. i will say the bartender there was... odd. like absent in a way. competent, but... just kinda odd there. anyway, fries were lovely as always, kir royale excellent. math point of fact- if you order a tiny bottle of champagne, it's about $2.50 *more* that a kir royale, which is the tiny bottle of champagne plus cassis. and a lemon peel.
the math is hard factors the bill. i got the check, handed over the credit card, and when i got the slip back, there was an entirely different amount charged to it. sigh. they rerang it.
the next stop is not listed above, as all i had was water. i was meeting people at brit's, and i am generally not wanting their food. even if i was at the time, the server never took food orders, though some people i was with were wanting to get some of it. bad sentence, but you get the idea. math is hard- someone handed over a $20 for a drink that was about $4 and got about $11 back. they had to ask for the other $5. they could use a few more servers to cover the weekend crowd. they didn't seem to be suffering from lack of smoking.
solera. what am i going to do with you? i went with someone for dessert. i got the cheese plate. what was on it? well, i can tell you some nuts and honey (not like the cereal), quince paste, a goat cheese, a blue cheese, machengo, and... something else. i really wish i could tell you, and it's not even due to my lack of memory that i can't do so. it's that every time i tried to ask the server, they had already taken off, and they hadn't bothered to inform me when they set it down. i keep thinking that solera should rock. but alas, maybe i have to give up on it for a while.
math is hard. we still had one of the menus (late night happy hour, it was), and when we got the bill, it was easy to see that the prices were more on the bill than the menu ($2.50 higher in the case of the cheese plate). when the server finally got around to checking in with us on the bill, they had to go discover what was up... and my guess of they hadn't set the prices to the late night happy hour ones was right. which we found out 15 minutes or so later, when the bill was finally returned to us with the corrected prices. would've been nice to find out before having to wait that long for it...
maybe i'm too pickyass about service and stuff. i dunno.
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